[Ian’s] Global Geek Tour: New York

[Ian Lesnet], founder of Dangerous Prototypes and Hackaday alumnus, entertains us once again with his Global Geek Tour. This time around he’s visited New York City for the Open Source Hardware Summit, Maker Faire, and a tour of the geeky attractions the city has to offer.

There’s a 25-minute video embedded after the break. [Ian] starts off with an homage to [Anthony Bourdain] but don’t worry, that subsides after a couple of minutes. This year he skipped the hotel and rented an apartment in the village for the same price. After making a survey of the local food offerings he heads off to the OSH Summit. There are interviews with a lot of big names in the industry, as well as a look at some distillery hardware and a mobile hackerspace built in an old ambulance acquired from Craig’s list (go figure). Next it’s a tour of Hack Manhattan, a hackerspace from which the screenshot above was pulled. We loved seeing the box labeled “abandoned projects” and were surprised to see the hackerspace is keeping bees. Are there any other spaces doing this? Before heading over to the Maker Faire [Ian] checks out some of the local shops. There’s a stop a Radio Shack, the Makerbot store where even the display cases are 3D printed, and finally a tour of some local component shops.

We’re always entertained by these world travelling videos. Here’s one he did in Seoul, South Korea.

Checking in with [Ian] from Dangerous Prototypes

Former Hackaday writer and electronic wizard [Ian] from Dangerous Prototypes made his way to the Maker Faire last weekend. He had a ton of cool stuff to show off, and luckily we were able to grab a few videos.

First up is a chainable Nixie module. [Ian], like all gurus of his caliber, had a box full of Nixie tubes waiting to be used in a project. These tubes never quite made it into their planned projects, mostly due to the difficulty of getting these old Nixies working. To remedy this problem, [Ian] created a chainable Nixie tube module – just hook up a high voltage supply to the board, connect it to the microcontroller of your choice, and you’ve got 2 Nixie tubes for your project.

[Ian] also showed off an ingenious solution to one of every maker’s problems. After designing a few cool boards like the Bus Pirate, Flash Destroyer, and Logic Sniffer, he realized he never made two boards that were the same size. This meant it was nigh impossible to have a standardized set of cases for his (and other maker’s) projects. The result is the Sick of Beige standard for electronics projects.

This standard provides PCB layouts in both square and golden rectangle formats complete with mounting holes, radiused corners, keepout areas, and suggested placement locations for USB ports and SD cards. The idea behind Sick of Beige is to get makers and fabbers using the same board dimensions so a set of standardized cases can be constructed. It’s an awesome idea and something we highly recommend for your next project.

Videos after the break.   Continue reading “Checking in with [Ian] from Dangerous Prototypes”

2012 Open 7400 Logic Competition

The Open 7400 Logic Competition is being held again this year. Start thinking about your entries, they’ll need to be finished and submitted by October 31st. As motivation, Digilent has put up two of their Analog Discovery kits as prizes. They can be used as a dual channel oscilloscope, function generator, or 16-channel logic analyzer. Last year was the first time the competition was held. As hype for the event built, more and more prize sponsors signed on and we hope to see the same thing happen this year.

Your entry can be just about anything as long as you show your schematic, explain the project, and use logic. It can be 7400 TTL, 4000 CMOS, discrete gates, or even a CPLD. Last year’s entries spanned a wide range of themes from LED blinkers, to unorthodox 74xx chip hacking, to boards packed full of chips. Good luck and don’t forget to tip us off about your work!

[Thanks Adrian]

What the flux: buy it or brew it yourself

Flux generally makes our lives easier. It’s the best bet when trying to prevent solder bridges with fine-pitch components like you see here. But it is also indispensable when it comes to desoldering components from a board (we’re talking just one component without disturbing all of the others). But have you ever looked at what it costs to pick up a syringe of liquid flux from an online retailer? In addition to the cost of the product itself there’s usually a hazardous material handling fee that is rolled into the shipping cost. So we were happy that [Christopher] sent in a link to the DIY flux page over at Dangerous Prototypes.

The concept is simple enough. Mix some rosin with some solvent. Turns out these items are really easy to source. The solvent can be acetone (which you may have on hand for removing toner transfer from freshly etched PCBs) or plain old rubbing alcohol. And an easy source for rosin is your local music store. They sell it to use on bow hair for String players. Grind it up, throw it in a bottle and you’re good to go. Now does anyone know where we can source needle-tipped bottles locally?

For those that still just want to buy flux we highly recommend watching part one and part two of [Ian’s] flux review series.

[Ian] shops Akihabara

Hackaday alum and Dangerous Prototypes founder [Ian Lesnet] is in Japan and he’s been spending a lot of time at Akihabara Electric Town. For those that don’t recognize the name, this is an electronic components extravaganza with buildings packed full of small shops each specializing in different merchandise. For instance, we love this picture of a shop that carries every kind of protoboard, breakout board, and copper clad sheet imaginable. The stall next door might have nothing but LEDs, or be full of cords for every purpose.

We’ve been following [Ian’s] regular tweets about the trip. Luckily, he just posted a roundup of the Akihabara posts. Surprisingly, he restrained himself to purchasing just a few items. Part of this is a limit on the amount of stuff he can get back to the States with him. The other reason is that the prices are not necessarily less than you’d find in a catalog. He mentions that the nice thing is you can see the parts before buying them. This is useful for sizing knobs, transformers, cases, etc.

The most exciting thing in his bag is a half-dozen nixie-like VFD tubes for just $12. How much would you give to have this shopping attraction down the street from you?

If you’re interested in a video tour of Akihabara check out this one from the Tokyo Hackerspace.

[via @dangerousproto]

Addressing Microchip’s open source problem


Hackaday alum and owner of Dangerous Prototypes [Ian Lesnet] recently wrote an editorial piece calling out Microchip on some of their less than friendly attitudes towards open source.

[Ian] and his company use PIC microcontrollers extensively in their projects, and they have quite a high opinion of their products overall. The gripe that he has (and thinks you should have too) is regarding Microchip’s approach to open source.

You see, Microchip invested in the Arduino IDE and released the chipKIT, a 32-bit Arduino compatible development board, along with big promises of “playing nice” with the open source community. The problem, according to [Ian], is that while Microchip’s compilers are based on GCC, they “keep some special sauce locked up”, which means that certain parts of the chipKIT toolchain are not open. Many in the community, including [Ian] had high hopes for the chipKIT based on the successes seen by Atmel’s open source initiatives, but many things are still locked up behind closed licenses.

An example of this unfriendly attitude towards open source can be seen in Digilent’s recently released network shield. It supports Ethernet and USB features of the chipKIT MEGA, but the TCP/IP and USB stacks are completely closed source. Digilent pushed hard to get the ability to release open drivers for the board, but it was a battle they ultimately lost. This behavior creates roadblocks for seasoned developers of open source products such as Dangerous Prototypes, as well as the curious beginner, which is why [Ian] is making a point in bringing these issues to light.

[Ian] urges Microchip to give something significant back to the community they are tapping, a result which can only be achieved by speaking up. Be sure to check out his editorial, and if after reading it you have any interest in letting your voice be heard, drop Microchip a line and let them know that their one-way relationship with the open source community is something you would like see change.