Reinventing VHDL Badly

A few years ago, Philip Peter started a little pet project. He wanted to build his own processor. This really isn’t out of the ordinary – every few months you’ll find someone with a new project to build a CPU out of relays, logic chips, or bare transistors. Philip is a software developer, though, and while the techniques and theory of building hardware haven’t changed much in decades, software development has made leaps and bounds in just the past few years. He’s on a quest to build a CPU out of discrete components.

Search the Internet for some tips and tricks for schematic capture programs like KiCad and Eagle, and you’ll find some terrible design choices. If you want more than one copy of a very specific circuit on your board, you have to copy and paste. Circuit simulation is completely separate from schematic capture and PCB design, and unit testing – making sure the circuit you designed does what it’s supposed to do – is a completely foreign concept. Schematic capture and EDA suites are decades behind the curve compared to even the most minimal software IDE. That’s where Philip comes in. By his own admission, he reinvented VHDL badly, but he does have a few ideas that are worth listening to.

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Hackaday At Hamvention

There are a few interesting Hackaday gatherings going on next weekend. The first is the Bay Area Maker Faire. Most of the Hackaday and Tindie crew will be in San Mateo next weekend, and we’re giving away free tickets to the Faire – a $70 value, free to Hackaday readersHackaday is crashing a pub on Saturday night. There’s also a super-secret meetup on Sunday. Don’t tell anyone.

On the other side of the country, there’s an even better convention for people who build stuff.. It’s Hamvention, the largest amateur radio meetup in North America. I’m going to be there. Find me and pick up some Hackaday swag. I’ll be posting to the Hackaday Twitter all weekend.

A wooden modem and proof I can find cool stuff.
A wooden modem and proof I can find cool stuff.

The main purpose of my visit is to document the immense swap meet. There will be over a thousand vendors hocking their wares, from antique radios to gauges and other electronic paraphernalia. It is the biggest draw to Hamvention, and by every account I’ve heard, it’s impossible to look at everything.

It might be impossible to look at everything, but apparently I’ve very good at separating the wheat from the chaff at ham swaps. During my last visit to the W6TRW swap meet in Redondo Beach, I found an UltraSPARC laptop (!), and a wooden modem from the mid 60s. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it will be my job to document all the oddities of Hamvention.

Depending on how many people I meet at Hamvention, there might be a semi-official Hackaday get together after the show. The US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson would be cool, but Ihop or Denny’s would be far more realistic. Look for the guy in the Hackaday hoodie flying a Hackaday flag and he’ll give you some sweet stickers and swag.

Designing a High Performance Parallel Personal Cluster

Kristina Kapanova is a PhD student at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Her research is taking her to simulations of quantum effects in semiconductor devices, but this field of study requires a supercomputer for billions of calculations. The college had a proper supercomputer, and was getting a new one, but for a while, Kristina and her fellow ramen-eating colleagues were without a big box of computing. To solve this problem, Kristina built her own supercomputer from off-the-shelf ARM boards.

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Join Us at the Greatest 3D Printing Festival on Planet Earth

Winter is hanging on like clinical depression, which means it’s that time again for the greatest 3D-printing festival on the planet Earth. It’s time for the Midwest RepRap Festival, next weekend, March 18-20th in Goshen, Indiana.

I can’t explain why, but for some reason the Midwest RepRap Festival is an oasis of building, doing, and hacking right in the middle of the county fairgrounds for Elkhart County, Indiana. It’s free for everyone to attend. The event isn’t choked with vendors, leaving the people who actually do stuff left to fight over a few picnic tables on the outskirts of the venue. It is, by far, the most community-centered event we go to every year.

If you’re wondering what you can expect at a 3D printer convention in the middle of nowhere, check out a few of the posts we’ve published from MRRF over the last few years. We’ve seen 3D printed waffles, resin casting with 3D printed molds, bizarre movement platforms, Bioprinting, and stuff from Lulzbot. That’s just the stuff that has deserved its own Hackaday post: we’ve seen the world’s largest 3D printed trash can, R2D2, battle droids (it’s even money if BB-8 is going to show up this year), a Printer made out of K’nex, and the most beautiful 3D printer we’ve ever seen. There was a T-shirt cannon powered by 300 psi shop air.

Every year I write a post announcing that we’ll be heading to MRRF next week, simultaneously praising the event as one of the greatest ‘maker’ and ‘DIY’ meetups, while pointing out the local WalMart parking lot has a place to park horse-drawn buggies. Both observations are true. For one weekend a year, Goshen, Indiana is the place everyone reading Hackaday should go to, and that is why we are once again proud to sponsor this glorious event.

Announcing Hackaday Belgrade’s Talks and Speakers

Hackaday is hosting a hardware conference in Belgrade on April 9th. This is arguably our first-ever European conference, and for the last few months we’ve been putting together a hackable conference badge, a list of speakers, and a set of hands-on workshops. Now, we’re finally ready to announce the workshops and talks for Hackaday | Belgrade. You can check out the scheduled talks and workshops below.

Tickets for Hackaday | Belgrade are still available, and tickets for the workshops will open up today. Tickets are also cheap – $35 for a regular ticket, and about $10 and $30 for the robot and DIY musical toy workshops, respectively. The workshop tickets are only to cover material cost, and you’ll get to take your project home with you.

The conference will be a blast. There will be bands and DJs, badge hacking competitions, and ten hours of talks and workshops. If you’re going, or are still on the fence, hang out on the event page to get the inside info on a few Hackaday events that will happen the night before and the day after.


The Workshops

Radomir Dopieralski – Tote, A Walking Quadruped Robot. Build your own spider-like robot and make it walk.

Anastasios StamouHardware Hacking Musical Toys & DIY Electronic Musical Interfaces. Introductory circuit bending workshop teaching all the necessary techniques for designing and making experimental electronic musical interfaces out of recycled material.

The Talks

Voja AntonicHacking the Hackaday Belgrade Badge. The Belgrade conference features its own badge designed by Voja Antonic. Voja will introduce the Belgrade badge and the theory of operation behind the LED matrix, keyboard, power management, infrared transceiver, and accelerometer.

Navid GornallHow To Eat Your Own Face. The story of hacking a 3D printer to print burger selfies with mayo. Printing with a non-Newtonian condiment presents a unique set of challenges which will be explored in this presentation.

Tsvetan Usunov Hacker Friendly OSHW DIY Modular Laptop. Tsvetan is the mind behind Olimex, manufacturer of various embedded development platforms and tools. He will talk about the creation of a modular, hacker friendly laptop based on a 64-bit ARM processor.

Chris Gammell Top Down Electronics

Dejan RistanovicSerbia: Long Road To The Internet. During the 1980s and 1990s, we had to hack the system in many ways just to stay connected, and to reinvent the wheel three times before breakfast. We also had some results, including Sezam, the biggest BBS in this part of Europe

Kristina KapanovaDesigning A High Performance Parallel Personal Cluster. This talk introduces an open source, homebrew mini cluster consisting of a Radxa Pro single board computer based on the quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU. In particular, this talk demonstrates it is possible to achieve very advanced simulations in the field of quantum computing.

Sophi KravitzCreation, fabrication, and application by experimentation of the synchronization of a grid configuration of a light radiation orientation polarization illumination.

Seb Lee-DelisleMaking The Laser Light Synths. The Laser Light Synths are LED emblazoned musical instruments that anyone can play. Along with high power lasers, they form part of a large outdoor installation that switch the traditional roles of audience and performer.

Mike HarrisonRetrotechular : 1950s Video Projection Technology. A talk on the history and technology of the Eidophor, a little known, absurdly complicated, and very expensive product that dominated the large-screen projection market from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Peter Isza Open Source Clinical Grade Electrocardiography. This talk covers the development of a true clinical grade, open source Holter ECG which will be sold for close to its manufacturing cost.

Paulina StefanovicInteractive Digital Storytelling Systems: Generative Interfaces, Authors and the Role of the Audience. This talk will cover the development and design of interactive content and interactive performance that shifts the focus from the creator of the system to the creative involvement of the audience.

BelgradeSpeakers-02-01

Antti Lukats: The Past, Present, And Future of Programmable Logic

[Antti] has gained a bit of a reputation over on Hackaday.io – he has a tremendous number of FPGA projects on hackaday.io, and they’re all open source. If you’re looking for street cred with FPGAs, [Antti] has it. His Hands-on experience with FPGAs and CPLDs stretches back to the very first chips in the 70s. We’re so happy that he’s working to share this depth of knowledge, and that includes this talk he gave a few weeks ago at the Hackaday SuperConference. Take a look and then join us after the break for an overview of the FPGA terrain, then and now.

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Immersive Theatre via iBeacons with Dustin Freeman

Combining backgrounds in math and theater, [Dustin Freeman] works on immersive, interactive theatrical experiences. During the day [Dustin] is a Spatial Interaction Engineer at Occipital, who makes the Structure Sensor. In his spare time [Dustin] works on digital theatre projects that bring the theatre goer far past the traditional row of seats.

The concept of immersive theatre is similar to ‘escape the room’ challenges and choose your own adventure experiences, in that the participants control the outcome of the experience by making decisions from the information supplied to them. [Dustin] explains in his talk that the feeling of trying to beat the clock that exists in escape the room challenges is not helpful in Floodlight’s The Painting. Floodlight is a theatre production company and The Painting is the immersive theatre experience put together by [Joshua Marx], professor of acting at San Jose State and [Dustin Freeman] who presented this 2015 Hackaday SuperConference talk.

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