Field Trip! Hackaday Visits Adafruit Industries

While still weary from our TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon, The Hackaday crew had a chance we couldn’t pass up: A tour of Adafruit Industries. Adafruit isn’t open to the public, so an opportunity to see the inner workings of one of the largest companies in the hacker/maker industry was really something special.

Coming in off the hustle and bustle of lower Manhattan streets, we found ourselves in a nondescript white marble lobby. The contrast and colors made me think of a scene out of THX1138. A short elevator ride opens to a second lobby area with a large door. We weren’t alone though – a security camera stands silent witness. Any thoughts of Big Brother were quelled when the door was thrown open by none other than [Phil Torrone], welcoming us to Adafruit.

If you’ve seen any of the photos or videos of Adafruit’s offices, you know what to expect – a large, open space broken by the columns keeping the building’s 10 stories upright. It’s the perfect blank canvas upon which to build a company. Since we were there late on a Sunday afternoon, things were relatively quiet. Only a handful of the 80 Adafruit employees were at their stations. Those on hand were packing and scanning in orders, in preparation for what would be a busy Monday. It’s a bit hard to be standing in Adafruit, knowing that you’re within arm’s reach of every part, module, or device you’ve ever wanted, and not want to jump right in on a project. With 10 of us there that may have made a bit of a dent in Adafruit’s bottom line, though.

The tour started at [Phil’s] desk. Tucked in among a copy of Dune, a very respectable graphic novel collection, and the two most recent editions of The Art of Electronics was United States Export Controls, 7th Edition. Considering the amount of shipping to far-flung countries the company has to do each day, one must stay on top of little things like ITAR and other export laws.

Throughout the tour, [Phil] made it clear that he views his job as a simple one: Do everything possible to allow [Limor] to crank out designs. [Phil] keeps the business running so she can keep on engineering open source hardware. [Phil’s] touches shine through though, in the product logos, and the characters which appear in Adafriut’s Circuit Playground. If those videos strike you as kid stuff, that’s exactly what they are designed to be. During his tenure at Make, [Phil] was one of four people who ran the first Makerfaire in 2006. He still gets e-mails from people who attended it as kids and were inspired to enter the fields of engineering or computer science. Both [Phil] and [Limor] have their sights set on inspiring the next generation of hackers.

Next up on our tour was the wearables department, domain of the one and only Becky Stern. We were all struck by how incredibly neat and organized the area was. There was a well-labelled place for everything, and everything was in its place. On display was a grey hoodie with a bandolier of ninjaflex 3D printed bullets, all lit by RGB LEDs.

Click past the break for the rest of Hackaday’s Tour of Adafruit Industries!

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Review: HUZZAH is the ESP8266 WiFi Setup You Need

A little board that adds WiFi to any project for a few hundreds of pennies has been all the rage for at least half a year. I am referring to the ESP8266 and this product is a marrige of one of those WiFi modules with the support hardware required to get it running. This week I’m reviewing the HUZZAH ESP8266 Breakout by Adafruit Industries.

If you saw the article [cnlohr] woite for us about direct programming this board you will know that a good chunk of that post covered what you need to do just to get the module into programming mode. This required adding a regulated 3.3V source, and a way to pull one of the pins to ground when resetting the power rail. Not only does the HUZZAH take care of that for you, it turns the non-breadboard friendly module into a DIP form factor while breaking out way more pins than the most common module offers. All of this and the price tag is just $9.95. Join me after the break for the complete run-down.

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Laugh Track Jacket is Actually a Blazer

Picture it: your first open mic night at Larry’s Laugh Lounge. You’re up second in the lineup. It’s better than going first, but the crowd is far from hitting the two-drink minimum and your dad jokes are going over like a lead balloon. What now? Time for your secret weapon. You throw out the ‘tough crowd’ line while casually reaching into a pocket of your herringbone blazer. You press a button and the sound of crickets reaches the microphone. Someone chortles near the back. You smile, and remembering that Barbie joke from Reddit, your act takes a turn for the profane and the sweet sound of your first real laugh is forever burned in your memory.

This laugh track jacket from Adafruit’s [Becky Stern] is based on their own audio FX board, a standalone unit that can store and play WAV and OGG files. The board is also available with 16MB of flash for extended pre-recorded Foley artistry. This is an easy solder-and-sew project with a lot of wearable applications, and all of the components are available in the Adafruit store. There are plenty of places to get free sound effects that are already in WAV format, as the board does not support MP3s. As always, [Becky] has provided a clear and thorough guide with plenty of pictures and an introduction video that you can see after the break.

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Hacklet 29 – Altoids Mint Tin Projects

Altoids – they’ve been around since King George III was on the throne. These curiously strong mints have had a storied history, a copy of which is included in every tin. They taste pretty good, but most hackers and makers are more interested in the pocket-sized tin than the mints themselves. It may have been the ham radio operators who first used Altoids tins to hold their sensitive transmitter and receiver circuits. The metal case makes a perfect electromagnetic field shield. It wasn’t long before the tins found their way into thousands of projects. This week’s Hacklet features some of the best projects with Altoids (and other mint) tins on Hackaday.io!

meeting-timerWe start with [Chad Lawson] and the Networking Group Timing Light. [Chad] has a networking meeting where each member has two minutes to introduce themselves. As is the case with most meetings, people tend to be a bit long-winded, running well beyond their allotted two minutes. The timing light contains an RGB LED which changes from green to yellow to red as a speaker’s time ticks away. The timer is reset by simply tilting the mint tin. [Chad] is hoping that the timer will serve as a gentle reminder to keep everyone on track time-wise.

 

radio2Next up is [Rjpope42] and his AM/FM Transmitter Pair. [Rjpope42] loves vintage tube radios, and wants to send his own signals to his amber glowing projects. Wiring an external audio input to a tube radio is pretty easy, but nothing beats a simple AM transmitter for convenience. Small FM transmitters are commonly available to add an MP3 player input to cars without an AUX audio in, but their AM counterparts have become rare. [Rjpope42] has built AM and FM transmitters, each of which will fit in a Mint Tin case. The AM transmitter can run on 9V or 12V, and even includes a USB power output for charging an MP3 player or phone!

da31k[John Hamann] entered Distance Analyzer 3000 in the Trinket EDC contest. While he didn’t win, it was still a great project, especially since this is [John’s] first serious Arduino project. The idea is to use a rotary encoder with a wheel to measure distances. Think of it like a mini version of a surveyor’s walking wheel. The Pro Trinket counts the pulses from the rotary encoder, then converts this to a distance in feet. We’d love to see [John] continue on the project. An ultrasonic distance sensor would be a great addition for multi-sensor distance reads!

 

ttotpFinally, we have [colonwq] with TTTOTP, a pro trinket Time based One Time Password (TOTP) generator. [colonwq] used the trinket to implement the well-known time based one time password algorithm. To implement a project like this, you need a stable time source. The ATmega328 isn’t very good at this, so [colonwq] used a Dallas DS1307 clock chip to keep track of things. The actual code is displayed on a 4 digit 7 segment display. When the button is pressed, the first half of the code is displayed. Once the button is released, the second half of the code is displayed for several seconds.

 

Need more mint? Check out our curiously awesome mint tin project list!

Hackaday.io Update and MeArm Giveaway

Hackaday.io has a few new features, including @username and #projectID. If you mention someone’s username with an @ in front of it, that user will get a notification in their stack. The same goes with mentioning a project ID with a # up front. To celebrate this, we’re giving away a pair of  special edition MeArms. All you have to do is leave a comment using the features on this project log. Huge thanks to [Jasmine] for setting all this up, and to [Ben] for letting us hijack his project for the week!

That’s it for this Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Trinket EDC Contest – The Deadline Approaches

We’ve got just under 2 days left in the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest. With 79 entries, and t-shirts going to the top 50 entrants, you’ve got pretty darn good odds of getting a shirt out of all of this! The design is great too, [Joe Kim] really did a great job with it!

shirt-low

 

The idea is simple: Build small, pocketable projects which are useful everyday.

We explained everything in our announcement post, and the full rules are available on the contest page. But just as a reminder, the main requirements are

  • The project Must use a Pro Trinket, or a board based on the open source Pro Trinket design.
  • The project must have at least 3 project logs
  • The project must have at least one video
  • The Hackaday.io project must include enough documentation to allow an average hobbyist to replicate the project

There are already some awesome entries vying for the top prize, but who knows – someone may come out of nowhere and walk away with a sweet Rigol ds1054z oscilloscope!

 

The contest deadline is January 3rd, at 12:00 am PDT. The clock is ticking, so stop waiting, and go build something awesome! Good luck to everyone who enters!

TRINKET EDC CONTEST ENTRY: Lazydoro

[Vasilis] has entered Lazydoro in the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest.  Lazydoro is designed to get him up off his backside, and walking around. Recent medical research has determined that sitting too long is a bad thing. In fact,  Dr. David Agus has been quoted by Nike as saying that sitting for several hours is as bad as smoking (wayback machine link). While we’re not exactly up on the latest medical trends, we can definitely see that getting up and walking around a bit never hurt anyone. Lazydoro will alert [Vasilis] once every 20 minutes or so to get up and stretch his legs a bit.

[Vasilis] plans to pair a Pro Trinket with an accelerometer module, specifically an ADXL377 from Analog Devices. The accelerometer will allow Lazydoro to determine if [Vasilis] has moved around. If 20 or 30 minutes go by without major movement, Lazydoro will nudge him to get up and take a walk.

Since shipping to Greece takes awhile, [Vasilis] is developing with an Arduino Uno and a ADXL345 while he waits for his parts to arrive. He’s hacked this into a wrist mounted device for testing. One thing  [Vasilis]  hasn’t figured out yet is how to alert the user to move around. A small vibrating motor would probably work – but we’d suggest electric shocks. A good zap always puts the spring in our step!

There is still plenty of time to enter the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest.  The main contest runs until January 2, but we’re having random drawings every week! Don’t forget to write a project log before the next drawing at 9pm EDT on Tuesday, December 23. You and all of the other entrants have a chance to win a Cordwood Puzzle from The Hackaday Store!

Trinket EDC Contest Entry: Shame On You!

[BDM] is helping others keep WiFi safe with “Shame On You!“, his entry in Hackaday’s Trinket Everyday Carry Contest. We all have that family member, friend, or neighbor who just can’t seem to get their WiFi locked down. Shame On You will show them how easy it is to detect such a hotspot, which hopefully will motivate them to correct the issue. [BDM] was a bit worried when he learned that Adafriut already has an open WiFi detector as one of their Pro Trinket example projects. However, we think he has added more than enough features to make his project stand out.

shame2Shame On You is using a Pro Trinket running at 3.3 volts, along with an ESP8266 WiFi module. Power comes from a LiPo battery and is handled by an Adafruit LiPo backpack. Like several other EDC contest entries, Shame On You is using a cell phone shell as a case. The display is a 1.27″ color OLED with an SD card. A disc style vibrator motor will also help get the user’s attention.

[BDM] hasn’t made much progress this last week, as he’s been battling some Christmas light cutting bandits. Logging each week’s work doesn’t always have to be technical, sometimes life intervenes!

We’re heading into our third week here in the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest, but there is still plenty of time to enter! The main contest runs until January 2, but we’re having random drawings every week! Don’t forget to write a project log before the next drawing at 9pm EDT on Tuesday, December 16th. You and all of the other entrants have a chance to win a BusPirate 3.6 from The Hackaday Store!