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Notacon call for papers

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Notacon has just announced their first round of talk selections. The Cleveland, OH area hacker conference will be celebrating its sixth year April 16th-19th. When we attended this year we saw talks that ranged from circuit bending to the infamous TSA bagcam. Self-taught silicon designer [Jeri Ellsworth] presented on FPGA demoing. [Trixter] covered his demo archiving process. You can find a video archive of this year’s talks here.

We’re really looking forward to the conference. [SigFLUP] is already on the schedule to cover Sega Genesis development. Get your talk in soon though; they’re already handing out space to the knitters.

Hacker conference videos


Almost every security conference we’ve attended in the last year has uploaded videos from their speaker tracks. Explore the archives below, and you’re bound to find an interesting talk.

[thanks, Dan]
[photo: ario_j]

Notacon 2008: Dropping humanity in non-places


[Nate Graham] gave a presentation on what he considers ‘new media art’, the convergence of art and technology. He covered quite a few great examples of what new media art is from many categories: a mower that creates pixel art, Cory Arcangel’s famous Super Mario Clouds hack, a whale hunt whose photo capture rate depended on the participant’s heart rate, the bike based SMS printer for protests.

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Notacon 2008: Circuit bending will get you laid


[Pete Edwards] and [Fred Owsley] openly admitted that the title was the most thinly veiled audience-bait ever constructed. Nevertheless, they poured through a great talk covering the basics of circuit bending and some of the pieces they had built over the years. Fred said that what attracts him to circuit bending is the hands on approach to something very scientific i.e. he can figure out how to construct an interesting circuit by rubbing his finger along the back of the board. As far as where to start: always a battery powered device and use the toy store as a last resort. You’re going to tear the thing apart so why pay for it? Dumpster diving, garage sales, swap meets, and flea markets are all places to look. Parts don’t need to be anything better than grab bag either. They suggested an easy first step is dropping the operating voltage of your device and seeing how it reacts. Pete and Fred had several examples of devices they’ve modified: Speak & Spells, Casio SA keyboards, Barbi karaoke machines, and the voice changing gas mask pictured above.

The Bent Festival for circuit bending is coming up soon if you’d like to see more. You can also check out these links for more information on circuit bending.

Notacon 2008: Last-mile wireless


[Mark Doner] presented on how the WISP he works for near Toledo is set up. His most important point was that 802.11 is garbage when it comes to the type of installations WISPs do. 802.11 expects the clients to adjust based on the traffic from other clients, but when all your clients are directional they won’t see each other. Mark uses Motorola’s Canopy equipment, but he also mentioned Trango and Redline as other vendors. The radios operate in the 5.7GHz band which doesn’t have any power restrictions so they can use refurbished Dish Network dishes when they’re doing long shots. For customers that are nearly at the edge of service, they have 900MHz equipment as well. Heavy fog and freezing rain have proven to be the only weather that really affects the service. For back-haul between their towers they use Dragonwave equipment. Each of the radios costs ~$350 and features GPS to determine distance and maintain sync with the AP. It was interesting to see how a good WISP operates as opposed to the flakey ones we’ve had to deal with in the past.

Notacon 2008: The TSA Bagcam


[algormor] gave one of the more controversial talks at Notacon. After receiving a few too many inspection slips and destroyed baggage he decided to find out what was going on behind the scenes. First, he purchased a cheap bag from Walmart with a zipable liner. To record the video, he purchased a SwannGUARD MicroDVR. It’s a palm-sized device that records 128×128 15fps video. It comes with a plastic cover that he mounted to the inside of the bag. A hole was cut for the video camera right above the badge holder. Since the camera is motion triggered, he could slide the badge up, covering the hole, to deactivate the camera. He’s taken the bag on at least four trips. So… what did the footage show?

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Notacon 2008: Circuit bending intro


The first talk we went to at Notacon was [Sam Harmon]‘s great introduction to circuit bending, the process of modifying sound generating electronics to create new musical instruments. Reed Ghazala is considered the father of circuit bending for his pioneering work starting in 1966. Sam pointed out that a “prepared piano” could be considered the non-electric precursor to circuit bending. It involves the musician placing different types of material on the piano’s components. Sam presented many different examples of where to start with circuit bending: the Casio PT-10, PAiA Theremax, Atari Punk Console. He also mentioned a couple AVR projects: AVRSYN and todbot’s Arduino work.

The session ended with [Thom Robertson] showing off the Weird Sound Generator he built and his GHX software for playing real music with a Guitar Hero controller.