Hackerspace Tour: Syn Shop, Las Vegas

While we were at DEFCON, we had the chance to visit a few places in the area that are of interest to the Hackaday readership. We made it over to Syn Shop, the Las Vegas hackerspace.

Years ago, this area of town was home to the Greyhound bus depot, complete with all the adventures associated with that. Since then, Zappos set up their HQ nearby, massive amounts of money flowed in, and gentrification got a big thumbs up from the decaying casinos in the area. Syn Shop is just down the street from the Denny’s with a bar and the twelve story tall slot machine with a zip line, making this space perfect for the community outreach that is lacking in so many other hackerspaces. In the hour or so I was there, no fewer than two groups of people took a gander through the plate glass asking themselves if this was ‘one of those makerspaces or something’. It’s a far cry from hackerspaces found tucked away in business parks, and something that has worked well for the members of the shop.

[Andrew Bogerri] took me around the space, first showing off the PDP-11/23 which you can drive around with a remote control. Yes, it works. No, not Unix. Yes, the entire stack should weigh about 500 pounds, but the guts of the RL02 drives were replaced with something considerably more modern. Just think of it as a 200 pound remote control car, with the momentum that goes along with that.

Syn Shop has a huge space for classes, and the tutors to go along with it. Classes range from CAM design and CNC operation, to tutorials on how to use the huge ShopBot in the space. There’s also a craft night, plenty of help available for running the laser cutter, and enough electronics paraphernalia to work on anything in the sub-Gigahertz range.

Even though most of the Syn Shop members were away at the Rio getting geared up for the con when I went through, you could still tell the space is constantly buzzing with energy and spurious emissions. I caught up with a few of the other regular members at the Hardware Hacking village at the con, but that’s a subject for another post.

Pics below.

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Retro Chaser Sign Lights Up Your Life

lighted-sign

[Gnsart] builds props often used in the film industry. He’s created an amazing retro Vegas style light chaser sign. The sign was started as a job a few years ago. While [Gnsart] could handle the physical assembly, the cost of a mechanical light chaser pushed the project over budget. The sign project was cancelled back then, but he never forgot it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. [Gnsart] happened upon the Arduino community. He realized that with an Arduino Uno and a commonly available relay board, he could finally build the sign. He started with some leftover cedar fence pickets. The pickets were glued up and then cut into an arrow shape. The holes for the lights were then laid out and drilled with a paddle bit. [Gnsart] wanted the wood to look a bit aged, so he created an ebonizing stain. 0000 steel wool, submerged and allowed to rust in vinegar for a few days, created a liquid which was perfect for the task. The solution is brushed on and removed just like stain, resulting in an aged wood. We’ve seen this technique used before with tea, stain, and other materials to achieve the desired effect.

[Gnsart] then built his edging. 22 gauge steel sheet metal was bent to fit the outline in a bending brake. The steel sheet was stapled to the wood, then spot welded to create one continuous piece. Finally, the light sockets were installed and wired up to the Arduino. [Gnsart] first experimented with mechanical relays, and while we love the sound, we’re not sure how long they’d last. He wisely decided to go with solid state relays for the final implementation. The result speaks for itself. LEDs are great – but there is just something about the warm glow of low-wattage incandescent lights.

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CES update: January 6th, 2010

It’s just about time for CES (as we’ve mentioned once or twice), so we thought we would update you on our latest goals and ideas for the show.

This year [Caleb Kraft], [Nick Caiello], [James Munns], [Devlin Thyne], and [Brett Haddock] will be covering CES. We are currently looking for some good places to go if we get a chance to break away from the show, and while we won’t make any guarantees, we’d love to meet some of our readers! Please direct all ideas for your favorite eatery to our Contact Page. Keep an eye on our Twitter page (@hackaday) for CES updates and what your favorite writers are up to, where we are eating, and other possible chances to meet up with us.

We are also still looking for Las Vegas Hackerspaces to visit, so let us know and we would love to cover it!

Be sure to check out our updated interest list after the break, and keep sending in what you want to see!

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CES update: January 5, 2010

As you already know, we’ll be attending CES this year. We’re still looking for ideas on what you, our loyal readers, want to see. We’ve gotten some good feedback, and came up with some ideas of our own. Keep sending in your ideas. Remember, it doesn’t even have to do with CES. Are there any hacker groups in Vegas that we could meet with? Any locations of interest? Let us know.

So far, we have the following requests:

  • Google Nexus
  • Notion Ink tablet w/Pixel-Qi display
  • Instinct Engineering – Suitcase XBOX 360, Fold out gaming couch
  • Car that can drive itself (most likely Toyota or Honda)
  • PSP 4000
  • Transparent OLED display from Samsung
  • Neuro/EEG Devices; Neurosky Booth

Hackaday at CES

Hackaday is going to the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This year’s show runs January 7-10 and we’re going to use every minute to scout out hacking’s past and future. We’re looking for hacks from the past that have made it into new, commercially available electronics. We also want to get a look at the products that we’ll all be cracking open at some point in the future.

Do you know of something being exhibited that we shouldn’t miss? Tell us what to look out for in the comments.

Black Hat 2009: Powerline and optical keysniffing

sniff

The 2009 edition of the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas has just begun. The first interesting talk we saw was [Andrea Barisani] and [Daniele Bianco]‘s Sniff Keystrokes With Lasers/Voltmeters. They presented two methods for Tempest style eavesdropping of keyboards.

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DENCON

dencon

Defcon, the world’s largest hacker convention, is this coming weekend in Las Vegas. While the convention generally focuses on breaking new technology, digital archivist [Jason Scott] has an interesting surprise for attendees this year. With some help from VintageTech, he’ll be assembling a massive den of retro computing machinery. They’ll have fully functional systems like the PDP-11/70 for people to play with. It sure to be one of the more unique things to see at the con.

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