Hackaday Links: January 29, 2017

A 3D printer and laser cutter were cited as cause in two deaths. A couple (and two cats) were found dead in their apartment this week. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. Police and the gas company investigated the residence and found no other source of carbon monoxide besides a 3D printer and a laser cutter. Be sure to check out the people who know more about these deaths than the people who actually investigated these deaths in the comments below. In the mean time, get a CO detector. It’s nasty stuff.

At CES last this month, Lulzbot unleashed the MOARstruder. It’s an extruder with a massive, massive, 1.2mm nozzle. [James] from xrobots dot co dot uk just got his hands on the MOARstruder and the initial results are pretty cool. With a 1.2mm nozzle, you can print big parts fast (helpful for [James]’ massive builds), and the parts are stronger. Check out the video for a great hammer vs. printed part test.

We knew this would happen eventually. Pi Blades. Element14 is now offering ‘breakout boards but not quite’ for the full-size Raspberry Pis and Pi HATs. The idea of this product is to package clusters of Pis into an easy-to-use form factor. The Bitscope Blade Quattro, for example, provides power to four Pis. In other news, I own 20% of the world’s supply of vertical SODIMM sockets.

Arbitrary Code Execution On The Nintendo 64. A bit of background is required before going into this. Pokemon Stadium is a game for the N64. It used a Transfer Pak to read the save game data on Pokemon Game Boy cartridges to battle, trade, and organize Pokemon. Additionally, the Pokemon Tower in Pokemon Stadium allows players to play first-gen Game Boy Pokemon games from within an N64 – sort of like the SNES Super Game Boy. By using two Game Boy Pokemon games and two Transfer Paks, arbitrary code can be executed on the N64. Video demo right here. This is really cool, and the next obvious step is a ‘bootloader’ of sorts to allow arbitrary code downloading from controller button presses.

The Travelling Hacker Box is on the move! The original plan for the Travelling Hacker Box was to visit home base for the 2016 Hackaday SuperConference, then depart to foreign lands beginning with Canada, Greenland, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceana, and the other America. After the SuperCon, the box was shipped out to its first recipient in Canada. The box came back. Something with customs. Now, the Travelling Hacker Box is on the move again. The plan is still the same, it’s just delayed a month or two. If you want to check out the future travels of the Travelling Hacker Box, here you go.

The Travelling Hackerbox Is Going International

Over the last year, Hackaday.io has seen an incredible project. It’s a migratory box of random electronic junk, better known as the Travelling Hackerbox. The idea behind this mobile electronic surplus store is simple: receive the box, take out some cool electronic gizmos, add some of your own, and send it on to the next person on the list. It is the purest expression of the hacker aesthetic, all contained in a cardboard box.

The previous travels of the Travelling Hackerbox
The previous travels of the (second) Traveling Hackerbox

Last week, the Travelling Hackerbox appeared at the Hackaday Superconference where it was torn asunder. Its silicon and plastic innards were spilled for a badge hacking competition. The body of the box is gone from this world but the spirit lives on. Parts were collected, pins straightened, the contents of anti-static bags condensed, and now it’s time for the Travelling Hackerbox to leave the nest. It’s going down to the post office, sending in its passport application, and it’s finally heading out into far-flung lands that are not the United States.

Over the last year, and despite some jerk in Georgia, the Traveling Hackerbox has racked up the miles. From Maine to Flordia, and from Alaska to Hawaii, the Hackerbox has distributed parts to dozens of labs and workstations. If you want to get an idea of the box, the last recipient, Carl Smith, put together a great summary and photo log of what he found in this magical box.

I’ve always promised the Hackerbox would go international after racking up 25,000 miles – the distance around Earth’s equator. Now, it’s finally time. This is happening, and I’m looking for volunteers to take care of the box.

How this is going to go down

Right now, the Travelling Hackerbox is sitting at the Hackaday Overlords office in Pasadena. The next trip will be to Canada, hopefully around Vancouver, where it will eventually make it to the Maritimes. From there, the box will travel to Europe (West to East, possibly ending in Russia). The box will then travel through Africa, ending South Africa, and head over the Indian Ocean to Australia. The rest of Oceania, Southeast Asia, India, and China will be next, possibly followed by South and Central America. With any luck, the Travelling Hackerbox will arrive back at home base by next year.

Of course, this all depends on how many members of the hackaday.io community would like to receive the box and where those people are located. If you want to receive the box, this is the sign-up form [the sign up form is now closed]. This form will be open for the next week, afterwards I will look at the responses, consider each of them, and plan this epic trip around the world.

The current state of the box

The Travelling Hackerbox was originally based on a US Postal Service flat rate box. Because flat rate boxes are for US destinations only, the physical manifestation of the box must change. At the very least, this gives me an opportunity to laminate a new box in packing tape and reinforce the edges of the cardboard.

The new body for the Travelling Hackerbox is a 12x12x3 inch (about five liters) cardboard box, lovingly protected and reinforced with stickytape. This does reduce the overall volume of the somewhat, which required the disposal of a few parts that weren’t really cool. I assure you, nothing of great value was lost, and I only removed the larger, bulkier components I remember seeing the last time I had it.

All the coming travels will be planned next week when I get a few submissions to the international sign-up form.

Hackaday Links: June 26, 2016

Solar Freaking Roadways. What is it? It’s technology that replaces all roadways with a smooth sheet of glass and solar panels. You know how asphalt is soooo easy to repair and soooooo cheap? Yes, this is the exact opposite of that. They’re coming to freaking Missouri. A parking lot for the Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, MO will be paved with the solar freaking roadways that netted $2 Million in an Indiegogo campaign two years ago.

There is a National Potato Expo. As far as I can tell, this is a trade show for potatoes and potato-related paraphernalia. As with all trade shows you need a great demo, in this case one involving potatoes. How about a phone charging station powered by potatoes? It’s a bunch of potatoes, copper pipe, galvanized nails (neat design, btw), and a USB socket. Yes, it works, but not well.

The travelling hacker box is a USPS flat rate box filled to the brim with random bits and bobs of electronics, shipped back and forth between dozens of electron enthusiasts. It’s making one last trip around the US, and now the travelling hacker box needs destinations from Idaho to Michigan. Idaho, of course, is a fictional state created in 2004 for Napoleon Dynamite, but that still leaves Montana, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the UP. If you live in one of these states, there’s a travelling hacker box with your name on it. Request to join the project and PM me on hackaday.io.

It’s election year in the US, and that means half of the population hates one candidate, half of the population hates another candidate, and half of the population will vote. Don’t think about that for too long. Here’s an Arduino doing something topical with Twitter.

Hotends for 3D printers are getting more and more robust, but thermistors are fiddly little things. E3D just came up with the solution. It’s a standard, modular temperature ‘cartridge’ that fits in E3D’s heater blocks. You can already change out the heater cartridge on a 3D printer for a higher wattage model, and now you can change out a thermistor for a thermocouple just as easily. E3D sells their stuff in GBP, so considering recent events it might be a good time to pick up a new hotend for that Monoprice 3D printer you picked up

The 8-Bit Generation recently released their documentary The Commodore Warschronicling the stupendous rise and meteoric fall of Commodore. Now they’re working on the Atari version and they’re funding it with a Kickstarter. Rumor has it Hackaday’s own [Bil Herd] has been asked to narrate.

Here’s another Hackaday Retro Edition success story @KetturiFox pulled up the Hackaday Retro Edition on a Texas Instruments TravelMate 5000 laptop. That’s a relatively modern laptop with a 75MHz Pentium, PCMCIA slots, and a nub mouse.

The Continuing Adventures of a Project That Will Be Stolen

Imagine if the Snap-on tool truck wasn’t filled with hand tools. Imagine if that Snap-on truck was a mobile electronics surplus shop. That’s the idea behind the Travelling Hacker Box. It’s a box, shipped from hacker to hacker, filled with weird and esoteric components, enough parts to build a 3D printer, and enough capacitors to stop an elephant’s heart.

If this is the first time you’ve heard about the Travelling Hacker Box, here’s the quick FAQ to get you up to speed. Has this been done before? Yes, yes it has. The Great Internet Migratory Box of Electronics Junk was a ‘thing’ done by Evil Mad Scientist back in the ‘aughts. Hackaday (or rather the old commander in chief Eliot) received one of these boxes, and sent it off to [Bre Pettis]. Keep in mind, this was in 2008. Is there more than one Travelling Hacker Box actively travelling? No. Because I don’t want to organize a second. Either way, the Travelling Hacker Box has two goals: distance travelled and number of people visited. With just one box, we can maximize both objectives. What are the current travel plans? That’s the next paragraph.

US-Trips
The travels of the Travelling Hacker Box Mk. 2

As of right now, the second version of the Travelling Hacker Box – the first box was stolen by some waste of oxygen in Georgia – has travelled at least 21,838 miles around the United States, visiting 11 prolific hackaday.io contributors in Wyoming, New York, Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Florida, Wisconsin, Maine, and California. The goal for the first dozen or so trips across the United States was to put miles on the box. 25,000 miles would be equivalent to a trip around the world using only US Postal Service flat rate boxes. Thanks to [Lloyd T Cannon]’s reinforcement of a medium flat rate box with canvas, foam, Kevlar, and custard, this iteration of the Travelling Hacker Box has held up spectacularly.

The goal for the next two months is to make a trip around the United States to maximize the number of US hackers who contributed to the box. This trip will start in Pasadena, CA, go up the west coast to Seattle, loop around the Canadian border to New England, go down the Eastern seaboard, across to Texas, over the desert, and land back at Home Base in Pasadena. From there, the Travelling Hacker Box is off to England, the EU, Asia, India, maybe Africa, and Australia.

While there are already a few people scheduled for this last trip around the US, more are needed. If you’re interested, check out the project on hackaday.io, request to join the project, send a message on the team chat, and generally bug me on the hackaday.io chat. There are plenty of spaces to fill in this last trip around the US and the current inventory is quite a haul. Not bad for a project that will eventually be stolen.

Hackaday Links: January 17, 2016

The BBC has commissioned a new series of Robot Wars. This is not Battlebots; that show was revived last year, and a second season will air again this summer. Robot Wars is the one with the ‘house’ robots. We would like to take this opportunity to remind the BBC that Robot Wars is neither Scrapheap Challenge nor Junkyard Wars, and by virtue of that fact alone is an inferior show.

[Fran] is a favorite around these parts. She’s taken apart a Saturn V Launch Vehicle Digital Computer, visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum warehouse, and is the occasional host of the Dinosaur Den with [Bil Herd]. Now, she’s relaunching her line of guitar pedals. ‘Boutique’ pedals are a weird market, but with the help of a few manufacturers, [Fran] is bringing her Peachfuzz pedal back to life through Kickstarter.

Want to be an astronaut? Here’s the application.

Here’s your monthly, ‘WTF is this thing on eBay’ link. It’s a clamshell/toilet seat iBook (c.2000), loaded up with an Intel i5 Broadwell CPU, 128 GB of Flash storage, 4 GB of RAM, a 12″ 1024×768 LCD, Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, and runs OS X El Capitan. I might be mistaken, but it looks like someone took the motherboard out of a 2015 MacBook Air, crammed it into a sixteen year old computer, and put it up on eBay. I’m not saying that’s what it is; this is from China, and there are people over there making new improved motherboards for a Thinkpad x61. Weirder stuff has already happened.

In the last installment of the Travelling Hacker Box, I asked if anyone can receive mail in Antarctica. A person with friends in the British survey team emailed me, but nothing came of that. It’s summer, so if Antarctica is going to happen, it needs to happen soon.

This Project Will Be Stolen Again

The Travelling Hacker Box is the physical implementation of the hackaday.io community. While most of what happens on hackaday.io happens online, sometimes the activities leak out to the real world. One such activity is a box, filled with random electronics stuff, shipped around to different members of the hackaday.io community.

hackerboxIt’s a great idea in theory. In practice, people are bastards. The first Travelling Hacker Box was stolen by a member of the hackaday.io community. After travelling 14,167 miles through Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, New York, Boston again, and the middle of Texas, the first travelling Hacker Box met its fate along the Georgia border, two hours outside of Atlanta. Who is responsible? We’re not going to talk about him. He knows who he is and what he did.

All is not lost, even though hundreds of dollars in electronic doo dads are. There’s a new Travelling Hacker Box already on its way around the US. It’s slowly being filled up with goodies, and has already visited Wyoming and upstate New York, and is currently somewhere around Anchorage, AK. The latest update shows this box is filled with goodies including a mini CRT assembly from an old camcorder, stepper motor drivers, and other weird electronics paraphernalia.

The travels of the current Travelling Hacker Box
The travels of the current Travelling Hacker Box

The current plan for the Travelling Hacker Box is the same as the old box: put 25,000 miles on the odometer while taking advantage of the economics of a USPS flat-rate box. From there, it will go further afield, travelling the circumference of the Earth a second time, hitting stops in Europe, Africa, Asia, India, Australia, and South America. If you’re a subcontractor for Raytheon, part of the NY Air National Guard, or are otherwise able to receive mail in Antarctica, you are encouraged to email me.

Feel like you’re up for adding a few hundred miles to the Travelling Hacker Box? There’s no set process to get on the list; destinations are chosen by distance from the current node, trustworthiness, and distance to the next node, if planned. The best way to get on the list is to click the ‘Request to join this project’ link on the Travelling Hacker Box project. Then, hang out in the Hacker Box chatroom, and you might have a chance at receiving a magical box of random electronics.

This Project Will Be Stolen

What do you get when you take a flight case from Harbor Freight, fill it up with random electronics junk, and send it off to a stranger on the Internet? The travelling hacker box. It’s a project I’m putting together on hackaday.io to emulate a swap meet through the mail.

The idea is simple – take a box of random electronics junk, and send it off to a random person on hackaday.io. This person will take a few items out of the box, replace those items with something sitting on their workbench, and send it off to the next person. This is repeated until the box is stolen.

Has something like this been done before? Yes, yes it has. The Great Internet Migratory Box of Electronics Junk was a thing back in the ‘aughts, with Hackaday (via Eliot) receiving a box (code name: Rangoon) from [John Park], before sending it off to [Bre Pettis]. The box subsequently disappeared. There were many migratory boxes of electronics junk, but most didn’t travel very far. Already the Travelling Hacker Box has 2,525 miles on its odometer, and plans are in the works for travelling 25,000 miles – the circumference of the Earth – before heading out of the United States.

If you’re wondering what’s in the box, here’s a mostly complete inventory. With the exception of a few items from the swag bag from the Open Hardware Summit last weekend, it’s mostly random electronics stuff I’ve had sitting around on my workbench and desk. The first recipient grabbed a few dev boards and replaced them with a Teensy LC and enough tubes to make a small amplifier.

The current plan for the Travelling Hacker Box is to bounce across the United States for the circumference of the Earth until departing for more exotic lands. There are people queued up to receive the box from across the world, and the box will eventually be hitting Europe, India, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Everyone is welcome to participate as it is passed from hacker to hacker as a migratory box of electronic toys.