THP Judge: Ian from Dangerous Prototypes

ian-dangerous-prototypesAs we start to get into the swing of The Hackaday Prize we want to take some time to talk to the judges.

[Ian Lesnet] is an accomplished hardware developer. He is, of course, near and dear to our hearts as a Hackaday writer emeritus.

During his time here he came up with an idea for an amazing tool that would let you work with components using a multitude of protocols before heading off to write your firmware. The tool was called the Bus Pirate and [Ian] built an formidable Open Hardware community up around this and several other tools and unique ideas.

[Hackaday] Why do you think people should put together an entry for The Hackaday Prize?

[Ian] There’s never a bad time to hack something together, but with an incentive like SPACE!!! how can you refuse?

[Hackaday] If you could enter, what style of project would you build and where would you try to go with the idea?

[Ian] We like to make electronics hardware that helps debug stuff, but lately we’re rocking more potentially deadly machines that do things. I’d finish up our death chomp robot that slices and dices reels of components into handy kit-sized lengths, while printing values and part numbers on the back paper. Definitely not a winner, but it looks great when it’s chewing parts!

[Hackaday] Is there anything that participants can do with their project write-ups to make your life easier as an adjudicator?

[Ian] Writing and English classes are a special hell for me, but there are some good tips for clear communication. I always start with an overview – “tell them what you’re going to tell them”. This usually means a description of the hack, the major components used, and how they work together. The introduction should have enough info that another hacker can piece everything together without digging through the whole writeup. An overview illustration or hand drawing explaining the methodology is really helpful for visualizing a complex hack.

[Hackaday] You have vast experience with Open Hardware projects. I think one of the tough things for beginners is navigating the Open Hardware licenses available. Do you have any advice for noobs to learn more about licenses and perhaps on narrowing them down?

[Ian] If you want the world to be a better place put all your work in the Public Domain (Creative Commons Zero) for anyone to use however they want. That’s the license with the least bullshit attached. If you have a billion dollar secret idea by all means keep it in your closet and show it to no one, because that’s about the only thing that will protect it from innovators and imitators. Other licenses fall somewhere in the middle, but for our stuff we’ve decided to go Public Domain wherever possible.

[Hackaday] We’ve seen a lot of collaborative projects come out of DP. Do you have any advice you can share for finding collaborators for a hardware project?

[Ian] The best advise I’ve heard (not mine) is to wait until a project is done to decide ownership share. Hackers are quick to settle on equal ownership, but during the project (or the long haul support period) collaborators may loose interest or be unable to continue as planned. With equal ownership remaining team members must finish the whole project just get a portion of the future gains. It demotivates the remaining team members and kills momentum. By waiting to see how things play out you’ll have a much better idea how to divide ownership for a successful long term collaboration.

[Hackaday] Can you name a favorite piece of bench equipment and tell us why it is at the top of your list?

[Ian] For years I used $10 “fire starter” soldering irons, even for surface mount soldering. An adjustable iron is a nice thing to have though, along with a bright light and head magnifier. A hot air rework station is the tool I can’t live without. It’s for fixing mistakes, which I make constantly, and when it dies everything crashes to a halt.

[Hackaday] What do you think of the evolution of the kit and small-run electronics industry over the last decade? Where would you like to see it go, and do you have any insights about what will get it there, or possible barriers that stand in the way?

[Ian] It’s huge now. Crowd source funding sites alone have become home to how many cool hacks, designs, and projects? Local, short-run assembly houses using a fairly standard set of components would make it a lot easier to get into hardware without 1337 soldering skillz.


SpaceWrencherThe Hackaday Prize challenges you to build the future of connected devices. Build the best and claim a trip into space or one of hundreds of other prizes.

Oh, the People You’ll Meet! (at Maker Faire)

 

I might argue that the best thing about Maker Faire isn’t the booths at all, but the people you’ll run into. To that end, I spliced together a series of these impromptu run-ins that I thoroughly enjoyed. What’s remarkable to me is that these people of not weren’t themselves attracting a crowd. If you want to meet the hackers who you respect in the hacking world, you can still have a casual and friendly conversation with them!

First up is [Jeremy Blum] who is a long-time friend of Hackaday, author Exploring Arduino, and one-year member of the Google[x] team. We ran into him along with [Marcus Schappi], CEO of Little Bird Electronics in Australia. [Marcus’] crew recently saw a successful crowd-funding run with the Micro-view.

Next up is [Ben Heck] of The Ben Heck Show. He talks a bit about his recent hack of a pair of texting radios using the eRIC radio modules and he riffed on his past robotic luggage project as well.

The rest of the video is devoted to Hackaday alum. I ran into [Caleb Kraft] who recently started as Community Editor over at MAKE, and [Phil Burgess] who now builds gnarly projects for Adafruit. The clip wraps up with [Ian] from Dangerous Prototypes. He’s fresh off of his Hacker Camp in Shenzhen which covered everything from reballing BGA components by hand, to finding good deals on custom wardrobe, and making sound gastronomic choices while in China.

We talked to a horde of people over two days. Perhaps it was the foam Jolly Wrencher that I wore around? But the point is that everyone at an event like this is interesting to talk to, approachable, and well worth the cost of entry. If you haven’t been to a hacking convention it’s time to start looking around for the one nearest you!

Shenzhen Tour and UnHuman Soldering Classes with DP

dp-hacker-camp

If you’re free the first week of April and don’t mind sitting on a plane for a looooong time you should check out the Hacker Camp that Dangerous Prototypes is planning. We’re sure you remember [Ian Lesnet] who is a Hackaday Alum, creator of the Bus Pirate, and geeky world traveler. Now’s your chance to try out what to him is a way of life.

The event is April 3-5 in Shenzhen, China. Although marketed as a “Hacker Camp”, to us it sounds more like training for those interested in running hardware companies that use the Shenzhen manufacturing district as the anchor of their supply chain. Part of the prep-work for the trip includes submitting board files which will be fabbed and ready for you on the first day. [Ian] and his crew will be your guides for the culture of the area; complete with meals and bar time. But there are also soldering workshops as part of the package. Don’t pooh-pooh the idea. This is unhuman soldering… BGA and QFN soldering instruction from the people who repair cellphones and other microelectronics.

This [Rick Steves] style adventure is the first that we remember hearing about that targets the open hardware community. But we must admit, it sounds like a lot more fun than a European river cruise!

[Thanks Akiba]

Any-size SIL connector kit

any-sized-SIL-cable-kit

Etching and populating a board is childs play compared to finding connectors which link several components. But Hackaday alum [Ian Lesnet] and his crew over at Dangerous Prototypes have come up with a solution that makes us wonder why we haven’t seen this long ago? They’re prepping an any-size ribbon cable kit.

So lets say you do find the type of connector you want. You need to cut the ribbon cable to length, crimp on the connectors, then seat those connectors in the housing. We’ve done this many times, and being cheapskates we use needle-nose pliers instead of buying a proper crimper. This solution does away with that grunt work. The kit will ship several different lengths of ribbon wire with the connectors already placed by machine. This way you peel off the number of connectors you need, select the proper house size and plunk it in place. Also in the kit are several lengths of male, female, and male/female jumper cables you can peel off in the same way.

Now what are we going to do with the rest of the spool of ribbon cable sitting in the workshop?

[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.

[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]

Thank you Ian Lesnet

A little over a year ago [Ian Lesnet] joined our hacking team and began cranking out some of the best original how-tos Hack a Day has ever offered. You may remember our popular web server on a business card from last fall and we’re sure everyone is familiar with the Bus Pirate (yes, they’re still on schedule).

It’s a year later and he’s found himself with less time to contribute. [Ian] is stepping down from blogging at Hack a Day, but you’ll find him right where he started: in the comments. You can also reach him directly on whereisian.com. [Ian] will be continuing to develop the Bus Pirate. You’ll find the latest info on the Bus Pirate’s Google Code page. He’s also posted a guide to the on-board pull-up resistors as well as a self-test guide that uses the new v2.0 firmware to confirm your Bus Pirate is working.

[Ian]’s contributions will be greatly missed. We’re always excited when we add contributors of his caliber to our crew.