Sex and Blinky LEDs At Burning Man

[Bunnie] was at Burning Man this year, and to illuminate his camp members in the dark and dusty nights of the playa, he created a blinky badge. This isn’t just any badge stuffed with RGB LEDs; each of the badges were unique by the end of Burning Man. These badges were made unique not by twiddling dials or pressing buttons; all the color patterns were bred with badge sex.

This social experiment to replicate nature’s most popular means of creating more nature is built around a peer to peer radio. Each badge is equipped with a radio, a circle of RGB LEDs, and a bit of code that expresses the pattern of lights on the badge as a sequence of genes. When one badge gives consent to another badge, they ‘breed’, creating a new pattern of lights. If you’re wondering about the specifics of the act, each badge is a hermaphrodite, and each badge transmits a ‘sperm’ to fertilize the other plant’s ‘egg’. There’s even a rare trait included in the genome of the badge; each badge has a 3% chance of having a white pixel that moves around the circle of LEDs. [Bunnie] found this trait was more common after a few days, suggesting that people were selectively breeding their badges.

Of course, finding potential mates is a paramount concern for any sexual organism, and the sex badge has this covered, too. The 900MHz radio listens for other badges in close proximity, and when any are found their owners are displayed on an OLED display. This came in handy for [Bunnie] more than a few times – there’s no phones out there, and simply knowing your friends are within a hundred meters or so is a big help.

The entire badge platform is documented online, along with the code and spec for badge genes. Badges with some sort of wireless communication have been around for a while, but this is the first time that communication has been used for something more than sharing contact information or implementing a chat room. It’s a great idea, and something we hope to see more of in future con badges.

Report from ESC Silicon Valley 2010

Ah, the heady aroma of damp engineers! It’s raining in Silicon Valley, where the 2010 Embedded Systems Conference is getting off the ground at San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center.

ESC is primarily an industry event. In the past there’s been some lighter fare such as Parallax, Inc. representing the hobbyist market and giant robot giraffes walking the expo. With the economy now turned sour, the show floor lately is just a bit smaller and the focus more businesslike. Still, nestled between components intended to sell by the millions and oscilloscopes costing more than some cars, one can still find a few nifty technology products well within the budget of most Hack a Day readers, along with a few good classic hacks and tech demos…

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The 2009 ShmooBall gun


The registration desk hasn’t opened yet at ShmooCon 2009, but we’re already running into old friends. We found [Larry Pesce] and [Paul Asadoorian] from the PaulDotCom Security Weekly podcast showing off their latest ShmooBall gun. ShmooBalls have been a staple of ShmooCon from the very beginning. They’re soft foam balls distributed to each of the attendees who can then use them to pelt the speakers when they disagree. It’s a semi-anonymous way of expressing your dismay physically. [Larry] has been building bigger and better ways to shoot the ShmooBalls for the last couple years. You may remember seeing the 2008 model. This year the goal was to make the gun part much lighter. The CO2 supply is mounted remotely with a solenoid valve and coiled air line. The pistol grip has a light up arming switch and trigger. The gun is fairly easy to transport: the air line has a quick disconnect and the power is connected using ethernet jacks.

ShmooCon registration opens

November 1st means that registration for ShmooCon 2009 has opened. The DC hacker convention is entering the fifth year. They’re releasing the tickets in blocks; after today’s are gone the next won’t be available till December 1st. Today is also the closing of first round consideration for their call for papers, but you still have another month before the final deadline.

We’ve always enjoyed our time at ShmooCon. In 2008 we saw talks on cracking GSM encryption and recovering data from SSDs.

Maker Faire Austin is this weekend

Maker Faire Austin is happening this weekend, October 18 & 19, 2008 at the Travis County Expo Center in Austin, TX. Maker Faire is a showcase of all things DIY. You’ll see robots, sculptures, live performances, and other wonders including many of the projects we cover here every day. We enjoyed our time in San Mateo earlier this year and the show keeps getting better and better. You can see photos from previous events on Flickr. If you’ve got a chance to go, take it.

ToorCon preregistration ends today

Preregistration for ToorCon San Diego ends today. The current price is $100 and it will be $140. This is the 10th year for the San Diego hacker convention which will happen September 26th – 28th. The schedule for ToorCon X has already been posted. We highly recommend this convention. We’ve attended the last four years and it’s always been a favorite.

SIGGRAPH 2008: The quest for more pixels

Long before we started reporting on [Dan Kaminsky]’s DNS chicanery, he contributed a guest post about one of our favorite sources of new technology: SIGGRAPH. The stars have aligned again and we’re happy to bring you his analysis of this year’s convention. [photo: Phong Nguyen]

So, last week, I had the pleasure of being stabbed, scanned, physically simulated, and synthetically defocused. Clearly, I must have been at SIGGRAPH 2008, the world’s biggest computer graphics conference. While it usually conflicts with Black Hat, this year I actually got to stop by, though a bit of a cold kept me from enjoying as much of it as I’d have liked. Still, I did get to walk the exhibition floor, and the papers (and videos) are all online, so I do get to write this (blissfully DNS and security unrelated) report.

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