Judge Spotlight: Andrew “Bunnie” Huang

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This week’s Judge Spotlight focuses on [Andrew "Bunnie" Huang]. If you haven’t heard of him you need to pay more attention. His hacker cred goes way back to the original Xbox, which he reverse engineered and laid bare its security flaws. Maintaining his hacker spirit he went on to design and hack the Chumby. More recently he took on the challenge of developing and Open laptop called Novena. All of this while continuing to explore and experiment with all kinds of electronics, posting about his adventures for those of us that care about an electronics ecosystem that doesn’t shut out the user from tinkering with the hardware. Join us after the break for our conversation with The Hackaday Prize judge [Bunnie Huang].

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Making a Dropbox with a Chumby and Bittorrent

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Since the Chumby servers went offline earlier this year, [Huan] found himself with a few of these tiny, extremely hackable internet devices lying around. He’s also getting tired of his NAS and wanted a way to sync folders between all his computers. Combine the two desires, and you can make a personal cloud with a Chumby, thanks to some help from the people at BitTorrent Labs.

[Huan] is using BitTorrent Sync for his Dropbox-like server. After creating a webkit interface for BitTorrent Sync, [Huan] loaded up his Chumby with new firmware, set up a few folders to be synced, and let the Chumby do all the work.

It’s not exactly fast, given the Chumby’s wireless connection and USB 1.1 for an external disk drive, but it’s more than enough to keep your personal project folders synced across multiple computers. As a bonus, it’s also very, very secure, getting around most of the security problems cloud solutions entail.

WebKit on Chumby lets developers avoid Flash

[Huan Truong] was looking for an Internet interface for one of his projects. In this case it’s a temperature logger, but it could be just about anything. He decided to give the Chumby a try, but was turned off by its use of Flash as the app framework. He decided to open up more options by running WebKit via his custom Chumby’s firmware.

In the video after the break he shows the boot sequence and demonstrates his first app. The device runs through a screen calibration as it powers on. When the app comes up it looks and responds much more like an Android or iPhone app than the Chumby interfaces we’re accustomed to. This technique gives you pretty wide range of app development languages. That’s because all the Chumby really cares about is the index.cgi file that serves as the interface. Development and debugging can be done on a desktop (not that it couldn’t before but Flash development under Linux was always a pain).

It looks like this idea isn’t new, but we don’t recall seeing any other projects that used WebKit as an alternative Chumby interface.

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[Phil Torrone] interviews [Bunnie Huang] about chumby and more

Over at Make, [Phil Torrone] has done an interview with [Bunnie Huang]. [Bunnie] has been a major contributor to the pages of Hackaday as far back as we can remember. He started in 2002 hacking X-boxes and sharing his findings with the world. It is this sharing that makes [Bunnie] stand out. He has always shared all his findings and pushed for open source wherever it would fit. We recently discussed how Chumby, a project to which [Bunnie] contributed is coming to an end. In this interview, he talks about what the future holds for himself and how he plans to spend his time. Most interestingly, he plans on spending a year just building things he’s wanted to see built. Be sure to check out the interview to see what he’s already accomplished.

Chumby is no longer selling hardware

Hearing that Chumby will no longer be selling hardware makes us a little sad. We’ve seen this thing used for so many different things, like shooting people with missiles, spitting out composite video, web serving, stomping around bipedially, and being a 3g router. We knew it wouldn’t be long, since they actually stopped manufacturing last year, but we just couldn’t help but feel a tear come to our eye when it was officially announced.  Let us all take a moment of silence.

Chumby’s new NeTV makes almost ‘any TV’ into an Internet connected device

Check out the new set-top box on the block, the NeTV from Chumby Industries. That link will take you to their video demonstration of the device, which is a humble-looking black box with no apparent user interface. You’ll see a few cool tricks that may impress you, like pairing the device with an Android phone through the use of a QR code. Once the two have mated you can do things like share images on the TV and load webpages from addresses entered into the smart phone. There are options for scrolling alerts when you receive an IM or SMS, and a few other bells and whistles. All of this from a device which connects with two HDMI ports to sit between your TV and whatever feeds it a video signal. Read all about the features here.

But its the hacking potential that really gets our juices flowing. The developer page gives us a look inside at the Spartan-6 FPGA that lives in the little case. We don’t often quote [Dave Jones] but we’re certain he’d call this thing ‘sex on a stick’. They’ve made the schematic and FPGA information available and are just begging for you to do your worst. The power for the device is provided by a USB connection but curiously is just above spec when drawing a max of 700 mA. We have a USB port on the back of our TV and would love to velcro this thing in place and power it from that. What would you plan to do with it?

[via Reddit]

Dustbin computer lets you clean and prototype with a Neato XV-11

So you bought yourself a Neato XV-11 and your floors have never been cleaner. The only problem is that you want to hack around with the hardware without losing your floor-sweeping minion. [Hash] found a solution to the issue by building a computer inside of the dustbin module.

You can see at the center of the image above a touchscreen. Normally this is just blank plastic, as it’s the removable container where your floor sweepings go, but [Hash] was inspired by the modular design. Since that bin is intended to be removable, it’s a perfect way to make add-on hardware removable. All he needed to do was find a way to connect to the Neato’s own electronics. The solution was a non-standard USB cable.

Using the guts from an Insignia Infocast 3.5 (he picked several of them up on clearance at Christmas) he  milled an opening for the touch screen, added a cooling fan, and wired up a toggle switch (not pictured above) which powers everything from the 14-17V coming in from that USB cable. The Infocast is a Chumby with a different branding so there’s plenty of Linux-based power and it’s WiFi enabled. Watch [Hash's] walk through video after the break to see all that went into this clever concept.

We haven’t seen too many hacks that make use of the Neato XV-11. [Hash] is the same guy who hacked the Lidar on the unit, but there must be others turning out impressive projects. Don’t hesitate to send in a tip if you know of one.

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