Hackaday Unconference this Saturday (in Triplicate)

This Saturday we’re hosting the Hackaday Unconference — three live events in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco that are going to jumpstart the idea engines and enthusiasm of everyone who attends. We can’t even tell you what the Unconference is about; it’s the people who participate that make the schedule and guide the discussion. Everyone there will be ready to give a talk of at least eight minutes on something that excites them right now. As the day goes on, ideas will feed off of each other and people will give talks and lead discussions they hadn’t even thought of before hearing other presentations of the day. It’s an atmosphere that you’ve never experienced unless you’ve been to an Unconference.

If you are located near one of these events it’s not too late to sign up. We’ve expanded the RSVP limit for Chicago and Los Angeles. And San Francisco has a waiting list that will likely be released at some point this week. So sign up now!!

Those not located nearby can still peek in to see what’s happening. We’ll be covering all three events on Hackaday Twitter,  Hackaday Facebook (including some Facebook Live blips throughout the day), and Hackaday Instagram using the #HackadayUncon hashtag. While you’re looking through all the ways to stay connected with us, you should sign up for the weekly Hackaday.com newsletter to pick up any stories you might have missed and get a few hints of what is ahead.

San Francisco Tapped for Hackaday Unconference on March 18th

We want you to make the next Hackaday live event great. This is an Unconference in San Francisco on Saturday, March 18th and it depends completely on you. Get signed up now!

You’re in Control of the Hackaday Unconference

An unconference is a live event where you decide the topic, guide the discussion, and generally make it an epic Saturday. We have a handful of speakers lined up to help get things started. But we also want you to be ready to give a talk. Everyone that shows up should be prepared to stand up and deliver eight minutes on something they find exciting right now.

Kicking off the night we’ll ask each person to tell us the title or topic of their talk and approximate length of the presentation. Once all the titles are written down we’ll hammer out the schedule right then and there. If you haven’t been to an unconference this is the time to sign up, collect your thoughts, and jump into an afternoon of extemporaneous idea-sharing. If you have been to an unconference we’re guessing you signed up as soon as you saw this announcement.

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Millennium Tower is Sinking; and Waiting is the Hardest Part

San Francisco’s Millennium Tower is sinking. Since its completion in 2009, the 58-story, 645-foot tall residential building has settled 16 inches and tilted perhaps 2 inches to the northwest. Since the foundation issues came to light in August 2016, the vertiginous ultra-luxury highrise has become the subject of outrage, ridicule, and at least two pieces of pending litigation.

Nothing that we build is static. Our office towers, apartment complexes, and single family homes move in response to loads applied by the environment. Buildings sway in the wind, expand and contract in response to temperature changes, and shift with the land upon which they rest. In most scenarios, these deflections are so minuscule that the occupants never even notice. Millennium Tower happens to be a large enough project with a severe enough problem that the whole world can’t help but gawk.

Millenium Tower located in San Francisco's SOMA, near the Financial District
Millenium Tower located in San Francisco’s SOMA, near the Financial District.

In foundation design, not all terra is firma. While a one or two story wood-framed building can be built safely with a shallow foundation on crummy soil, a major skyscraper requires a foundation that can transfer extremely high loads into the earth. But the strata below our city streets can consist of anything from sand to clay to solid rock, and many cities, including San Francisco, have infilled former marshes and bays with soil in order to expand their coastlines and generate valuable real estate. Millennium Tower was built in South of Market, a neighborhood that mostly used to belong to San Francisco Bay.

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When You Get Serious About Selling A Project, Consider an Accelerator

I was visiting San Francisco, scratching my head for something cool to cover for Hackaday. When it hit me: this is one of the leading cities in the world for starting new companies. It’s known for its software, but with Tesla, Type A Machines, Intel, Apple, and more within an hour’s drive of the city, there’s got to be a hardware scene as well. Silicon isn’t a software product after-all. But where do you find it, and how do you get a hardware start-up going in one of the most expensive cities in the world?

That’s where hardware accelerators or incubators, whichever name they prefer, come in. One-third hackerspace, two-thirds business crash course, they help you skip a lot of the growing pains associated with starting a capital intensive thing like a hardware business. I dropped in, and they kindly gave me a few minutes of their time. I wanted to find out what a hacker could do if they felt it was time to turn those skulls into dollars. What are the requirements. What is the cost? What help does the incubator offer to the burgeoning capitalist in a hacker?

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A Perfect San Francisco for Hackaday Prize Worldwide

Whew, that was a perfect day. Seriously. A few weeks back, on Saturday June 13th PCH International opened their doors for the Hackaday Zero to Product workshop. I don’t live in California, so having two huge glass garage doors making up one entire wall of your office is odd to me. But on a perfect day like this one it was something miraculous.

We opened the Workshop at 9:30am and those lucky enough to get a free ticket before the event was full streamed in. The topic at hand was a transfer of knowledge on professional level PCB design and once again [Matt Berggren] didn’t disappoint. A former Altium veteran, experienced hardware start-up-er-er, and all around circuit design guru, [Matt] has a natural and satisfying way of working with the many questions that arise while also following his epic talk framework. There must be around a hundred slides in his presentation that covers the bases from component selection, to signal routing, to material selection (substrate, copper density, solder mask material) and a lot more.

The day ran in segments…. sign-in followed by coffee and bakery goods and a talk on Open Hardware from [Ryan Vinyard]. He is the Engineering Lead at Highway1, the well-known hardware startup accelerator which provided a space for the event in the PCH Innovation Hub building. From there we dropped into the first segment of Zero to Product and started riffing on all things PCB design.

A break for salad and pizza three hours later lead into the final two sessions that are broken up by a social pause. Thanks to our Hackaday Prize Sponsors (Atmel, Freescale, Microchip, Mouser, and Texas Instruments) we had plenty of time to discuss the builds each person is planning and to connect them with sponsor-supplied dev boards to help with the prototyping.

We have an album up so that you can check out all the pictures from this event. We’ve held the Zero to Product workshop in Los Angeles, and Shenzhen as well in the recent weeks. Keep watching Hackaday to learn of future opportunities to take part in events in your area!

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

F.A.T. GOLD San Francisco: May 21-31

Two of the ideas we keep at our core here at Hackaday: the free and open exchange of information and ideas; and “why” is the wrong question. These concepts are fully in line with the F.A.T. Lab. The Free Art and Technology Lab lives at the intersection of Open Source and Pop Culture and they’re inviting you to jump into the pool of awesome by joining them for the F.A.T. Gold Show in San Francisco May 21-31.

If you’re unfamiliar with the group, take a look at the video after the break and you’ll easily confirm that you need to check this out. We’ve enjoyed the work of F.A.T. Lab members for years now. [Brian] pointed out part of the importance of the “Open” aspect the group in this post on universal connectors for popular toy blocks. We also covered their collaboration on EyeWriter which shows how to build IR eye tracking for the disabled. The group hosts the Graffiti Research Labs (also a collaborator on EyeWriter); we built their Laser Graffiti project as part of a live Hackaday event in January of last year thanks to the open source code they published.

What will you see at this year’s show? The best work the group has to offer from the last eight years plus some debut exhibits. We wish we could be there but we’re planning to be in LA that weekend for the LayerOne conference.

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Celebrating the Omnibus Launch

On Thursday night Hackaday hosted an event in San Francisco to commemorate the launch of the 2014 Hackaday Omnibus. Our first print edition, compiled to commemorate some of the finest original content which we published last year should begin shipping as early as today. To celebrate the occasion, we were graced by a full house of amazing guests. Is it lame to say some of the people I respect most in the world were there?

Lightning Talks

Whenever you get a lot of people together, a good rule of thumb is to seize the opportunity to have them speak about what they’re doing. It’s not a big “ask” either; 8-minutes on what you’re passionate about is pretty simple.

[Jonathan Foote] gave a talk on generating RGBY colors from Hue. The project is ongoing but explores the concept of mixing colors of light with one additional source added to traditional red, green, and blue. [Priya Kuber] recently moved to San Francisco. She recently concluded more than a year of standing up the Arduino office in India (relevant but unrelated video). Her talk covered the emerging maker/hacker hardware scene in India which is showing amazing growth. [Chris McCoy] demonstrated his Raver Rings which began a Kickstarter on the same day. [Elecia White] of embedded.fm spoke about the educational opportunities that podcasts and other delivery medium provide and the responsibility we all have to guide our continued learning. [Emile Petrone] talked about an upcoming feature for his site Tindie which will add manufacturer information and ratings to the mix. And rounding things out [Dave Grossman] gave a talk on his Virtual Carl project which used video footage of his grandfather, combined with a Raspberry Pi and peripherals to create a remembrance of the man in virtual form.

Demos

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[Ben Krasnow] shows off the chamber containing supercritical carbon dioxide.
During the rest of the evening there were a few spectacular demos going on. First, [Ben Krasnow] who is well known for his Applied Science series (among a million other accolades), brought at least two demos with him. The first was a pressure chamber made out of two massively thick discs of acrylic separated by a metal ring. Inside the void he had pumped and pressurized CO2. When the chamber is heated it, the contents become Supercritical Carbon Dioxide and the visual transition between liquid and gas disappears.

He also showed off a lens that can be focused electronically. This is not mechanical, there are zero moving parts. Instead a droplet of oil floating in water is the lens. A 75V, AC power supply pulls on the droplet, altering the meniscus to focus the lens. He didn’t fabricate the device from scratch, but the concept is completely new to us and quite interesting.

[Brian Benchoff] poses with Othermill hardware
[Brian Benchoff] poses with Othermill hardware
Othermill is located in the SF area. They produce a desktop milling machine which is spectacular at routing PCBs. The little wonder isn’t limited to that though. Above you can see [Brian] holding up a milled wooden plaque which has milled mother-of-pearl inlays. The table is also strewn with other examples in wax, metal, wood, and more.

Cocktail Hour

The rest of the evening was devoted to conversation on all topics. Get enough hardware geeks in one room and they’ll solve the world’s problems, right? That’s a conversation for another post.

Couldn’t make it to this one but still in the San Francisco area at least occasionally? We held this at the Supplyframe office. They host a ton of great events like the Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic.

[Thanks to Richard Hogben for the photos!]