Hackit: Community Hacking Project?

By popular request, I’ve added a hackit category. Today’s hackit is one of my coffee shop creations. Considering the quality of work we’ve seen, I can’t help but wonder… If the Hack-A-Day community were to come together and produce a joint collaborative hardware project, what could it build? A modular robotics platform? A digital I/O platform for other projects? If you could harness the power of thousands of hardware hacking geeks, what would you ask them to do?

Got a better idea? Let’s hear it.

154 thoughts on “Hackit: Community Hacking Project?

  1. How about a universal data recorder.That can record any kind of data including from a webcam.Imagine 4Gb low power memory attached to a simple webcam. can any one do that?dump the data from webcam into pendrive with some interfacing using hobby electronics? would almost kill the handy cam market at low level. or even better human interface devices.

  2. I think it would be great if there were a wiki-like community with the sum knowledge of all of the different fields represented by each of us, including personal experiences, ebooks, tools, platforms, etc. It would be a great reference for data sheets and schematics.

  3. @27c. Bluetooth isn’t very good at creating a network of more than a few (eight) nodes. ZigBee would be a suitable alternative. Simple mesh networking.

    Or the easiest solution would be to go to a music store and get some wireless microphones.

    I like the idea of a modular robotics platform, but I feel many people would fall into two camps: PIC and AVR.

    I’m sure there is some software out there that does this… but porting between PIC and AVR code would be neat.

    I like the USB scope/logic analyzer idea. Even running on a cheap 20MHz micro, it would be sufficiently useful to most all of us. The signals I deal with are never more than 100kHz.

  4. i vote for a more elaborate kind of “instructable” [ see http://www.instructables.com ] or some kind of ebook, manual, or howsoever you might consider packing some sort of hacking intro, with everything one might need to know for the basics of hacking. that way one might try to do something more creative than “modular” stuff, instead of struggling to understand just how stuff works.

  5. “I like the idea of a modular robotics platform, but I feel many people would fall into two camps: PIC and AVR.”

    And this is a bad thing why?

    “I’m sure there is some software out there that does this… but porting between PIC and AVR code would be neat.”

    Abstraction layers. Instead of banging hardware directly abstract them out. More platforms could be added without anyone noticing. If done right you could have your cake and eat it. Make a good modular platform and use it as a digital storage scope.

  6. I think a simple open source CNC router, about the size of an a4 sheet of paper. Made out of commonly avaialable parts, and with the ability to reproduce it’s self, in a limited fashion. i.e the main structure could be made from perspex, and the router could cut out the required shapes to build another one with the addition ofthe control electronics and stepper motors.

    it could be used to route PCB’s and build enclousers, people could openly share projects they have creted using it, and with the same piece of hardware people could reproduce the projects /improve upon them.

    Also +1 for the USB oscilliscope. Tht would be hella wicked.

  7. I would like to help with the oscilloscope .I haven’t been able to replace my old one that went out a long time ago. Make it cheap and easy to build .

    Any type of tools would be good .The more contributors the better.

  8. First time post here I think ^^
    x2 on the cheap scope/logic analyser. I’m lucky enough to have a powerful Tektronix bench scope with USB output on my bench, but a cheap build-your-own like one of the old Heathkits would be fantastic.
    Could be done for a US$200 or so, if you were smart about the design.
    Or a general purpose I/O board with a PIC on it. I designed one of these based on a PIC16F877A and it has many GPIO pins and can be used to drive an LCD or an LED array or some other device, et cetera. I’d be willing to share it if people are interested :)

  9. I third the wiki idea. Lots of people are asking for some sort of place to get started or a dvd? A wiki could be that place. (wiki.hackaday.com?) It could have different sections for getting started on different types of hacking. (ipods, cnc’s pic’s, etc.)

    And as bonus, you could get your o-scope ideas on there!

  10. Why don’t some of you guys figure out how to hack the digital cable tuners, since the DIY community built their own HTPCs, and now the big companies are trying to make it harder for a computer builder to get DVR capabilities on their home computers.

  11. Ok, if someone else will build the hardware for the usb o-scope, I’ll start coding. It would also be helpful if someone fairly competent at frontend coding could make it look nice. I can make it functional if someone else can make it pretty.

    Post here a time to meet in whichever IRC channel and server, and we’ll talk about it “in person”

  12. I’d say the best thing the community could do if it were to come together for a project is an open source HDCP stripper. Besides striking a mighty blow at the pro-DRM crowd, it would help a lot of people out. I have a monitor that is HDCP compliant and I still get occasional weirdness when switching sources with bad handshakes, etc. I end up having to power cycle my monitor and equipment to get everything working again. Its rubbish.

  13. A poweder based 3D printer. Then we can build whatever else we like.

    Parts are about $100 (ink jet printer, some gears, and some wood) , but it would require a bunch of geniuses to make it work well.

    The idea is to fill a box with powder (there are a million types of plaster) and print a single layer with regular ink, then add a layer, print a layer, etc. . Depending on the powder used, the resulting models can be very detailed and quite tough.

  14. One project with the most far-reaching implications is the RepRap project already in progress at: http://reprap.org/bin/view/Main/WebHome
    It would be an ideal joint project for the hacker community because:
    1) It is already in place.
    2) It is DOABLE.
    3) It is already modular, so individuals can contribute as they see fit, but teams could take on specific problems and solve them.
    4) It presents problems of all types and levels, including hardware and software, both simple and complex.
    5) Solving this problem – to whatever degree the community desires, will change the world is many positive, but unforseeable ways.

  15. I already made my hon board but can get improvement (i just don’t know how :P )

    Multi Purpose PIC (18f8722 & 18f6540) Board
    RS 232 /456
    RF 400MHz Link
    4 H-Bridge
    20Servo Controllers
    Analog and Digital I/O

    Special Connection for VIA Pico-ITX Board (For any SO u can put it together)
    And other
    12x10cm SMD components

    Normally use for Robocup Junior championships but i can use it almost for any of my projects.
    Ps im not spaming but its for sale if any one interested rjsmsampaio@gmail.com

  16. I think a really detailed approach to making a CNC machine for PCB production or light material work would be brilliant. A CNC machine is every hackers dream, but they are VERY heftily priced.

  17. would it be possible to setup a little wiki or something similiar to collect thoughts on these projects? i’m happy so many people are interested in usb logic analyzers/oscilloscopes, because i think they are one of the most important things to debug electronics and microcontrollers, and cheap implementations are rare.
    this implementation is cheap, but lacks some important features: http://www.rockylogic.com/products/ant8.html
    it is fpga based. a sampling speed of 100mhz or more would be nice.

  18. I did it!…on yahoogroups.com

    Group name: hackaday
    Group home page:
    Group email: hackaday@yahoogroups.com

    Join by emailing


    the send email to the list at


    email addresses will be visible to the
    group so that full polls features will
    be available. post accordingly.

    only groups members will be able to
    post–to keep spam down, and to be able
    to block anyone who spams the list.

    only members will be able to access the
    archive, to keep the spam bot harvesters
    at bay.

    replies go to all, no attachments–to
    foster sketches and how-tos being
    deposited into the *files* section.

    police yourselves, boys and girls, and
    have fun,

    (/|\) Peace,

    dr doug

  19. How about a the ultimate resource website (Hackaday is great but could be more powerful). Kind of like a Library of Congress for hackers were you could look up how-to’s, circuit diagrams, programs and source code, and so on. With a site like this I believe you could make enough information available and easy enough to find about USB, attenuators, A/D converters, Data storage, and memory that a decent hacker could build his own USB digital storage o-scope and logic analyser. And he wouldn’t need to duplicate the research another great hacker has already done.

  20. By popularity…

    1) Hacks for noobs.
    2) Oscilloscope / Analyzer watcha-ma-jiggie
    3) Real Transformers already.

    Where are the flying cars I was supposed to be pimping in by now, anyways?

  21. I wrote a huge essay about what I thought we should gather and do, but I decided to “fuck it” and choose this instead:
    we should make an open hardware website. Submission of ideas, and voting along with profiles that list what we can do (merdge into a main thing that shows the groups ability. You opt out by saying you’re currently busy, or available.)


    The group is dynamic, easy to figoure out who can do what, and the greater group decides what we work on. Collective hacking anyone?

  22. Hey great! I was just reading some of the other suggestions and I see that Matt beat me to it at #72 has exactly the same idea! I think a 3d powder printer would have a lot higher definition then the open source reprap/fabathome printer and maybe it would even be cheaper! downside is you can’t mix printing materials for example to create leads for electrical circuits.

  23. I really like the logic analyzer bit. (post #3) But maybe we can think one step higher than a logic analyzer/oscope doo-dad.

    How about an open-source modular test equipment frame? A large (enough)test platform that can accept all kinds of (open source) inputs feed it to various analysis modules which would output to various module like VGA or DVI or a 2D/3D printer or USB or whatever:

    modular input(s) for oscopes, logic analysis, rf analysis, network, wifi, bluetooth, etc. – a couple per frame

    multiple, high/low bandwidth analysis modules – say three or so per frame – that compute/render data from the inputs – so if you wanted a 5Ghz scope, we could build plans for it and it simply would be a more expensive ADC/DAC module problem – not a problem with changing the whole unit. Software

    multiple high bandwidth outputs – standardize the fram outputs with USB/Serial, Video, DVI, VGA, etc. The module will do the microprocessing to render the ouputs – so an upgrade here would also be a (relatively) minor upgrade. Maybe specs for micro-PC options.

    I am game for it. We can use standard communication test equipment protocols and standardize the enclosures for something cheap – NEMA encloseures or similar.

    I say we vote on the top 5 ideas – and get started. How long are we planning to accept comments on this?

  24. I have lots of programming experience, but no hardware experience. I would love seeing a small DIY tut on how to get started with programmable chips.
    I think a series of “how to get started in….” would be nice…
    Programmable chips
    Hardware hacking
    O-scope reading
    Chip reading(decompiling/decoding)

  25. @72: there is a powder-based 3D printer already, by zcorp (zcorp.com). There we have a design to go on. It uses a kind of glue to hold layers of corn starch powder together. finishing move is cleanup, then layers of epoxy resin to keep it from crumbling.

    Also, if any main members in the hackaday community are willing to help out, I have 600GB of webspace leased for two years into the future. I’m probably only ever going to use 10 of them. That leaves 590 GB of space. Subdomains are unlimited in number, got full FTP, etc. Hostmonster.com is my host. Anyone interested in setting up this wiki/forum hybrid we keep mentioning, feel free to contact me at dash.merc [gmail(dot)com]. Fill in the rest yourself (spambots will never touch me! HAHA!)

    …and here’s my vote for #3. Prohibitive cost is, well, prohibitive. Let’s fix that.

  26. …Let me correct myself. I have 1,500 GB of space, not 600. I think there’s more than enough space for ANYTHING we might want to do. (sorry for double-posting, but it seemed important)

  27. I’d like to second the idea of a comprehensive guide to hardware hacking. While I am familiar with basics, I have little idea of how to select components and established methods of developing common circuits.

  28. …and zcorp is the same brand as contex, thus proving why I should have *watched* that youtube video *before* posting. I suck at forethought.

    I am in a similar position as [sevets], in that I have enough basic knowledge to get me going, but I suck at everything else. There seems to be a lack of intelligent help on the topic of learning electronics without taking a class (for the price of a class, I could buy an o-scope).

  29. robotics would be easier to distribute to different teams – i would love a bot that vacuums/mops my floor, mows the lawn, does laundry, acts as a security device, greets people (recognize IR sigs!), can go up/down stairs, avoids people/pets, heck–sinchuwas up get me a beer!

  30. #82: Yes, there is Z-Corp with a $60k printer. Just as there are many companies selling expensive (or very cheap and bad) USB scopes. The hack is using a $80 off-the-shelf printer, mounting the horizontal bar on gears and a track ($10) and using some thread and wood to lower the powder box ($10). Rapid prototyping for $100.

    #80: yes, you can compine both methods. Create the groves with ink in the powder, use a stream of air (pipe attached to printhead) to blow the powder from the grove, then fill the grove with wahtever you can push through a pin hole. Tadaaa, wires.

  31. I always wanted to hack the bluetooth on my Old Motorola razor phone and transmit a video feed of the camera to a remote location, wireless of course. We need a spy hack section on this site. Please. And then a counter-spy section…

  32. How about a coffee roaster interface module – the hardware would have outputs for fan speed and heater element (possibly relays), and input from a thermocouple. Heck, throw an input on there for a scale to weigh the beans.

    This interface would connect to a host computer via USB and have a simple protocol and set of open programs to drive it. A PID can be implemented in software;

    The user puts the green coffee on the scale, enters the variety into the program; then puts the beans in the roaster, selects a level of roast and hits GO. The software can drive the roaster from a profile based on the bean, pre-roast weight, and desired level of roast. The software drives the roaster. Once done, the user puts the beans back on the scale to measure the post-roast weight and all is logged in a database, ready for the cupping notes.

    Other sensors could be added, such as an audio input with DSP for detecting the cracks, and a colorometer. With a simple interface, a variety of commercially available or homebrew roasters could be hacked up;

    By moving all the software to a host computer, a simple kit could be assembled by Joe Homeroaster with no embedded programming required; Desktop software for unix would easily interface to a library to drive the roaster. Simple programs would be easy to write, complex ones possible, leading to an integrated database for automated notekeeping and reproducibility of roasts.

    And it would be an enabling technology for more hacking.

  33. Since most DIYers are probably night persons and have a hard time getting out of bed, like me ;), i would suggest an open ALARM CLOCK project.

    Some IOs for different sensors and actuators like:
    weight sensor beneath the bed, which only turns off the alarm when you get out of bed.
    Outputs for different kinds of wake up machinery,
    like big 250W lamps above your head, some big electrical bell, etc.
    Special features like RC5 (IR) interface for controlling your amp to slowly turn up the volume
    of your radio.
    Input of heartrate to monitor your sleeping state
    in order to only wake you up when you are in the state of light sleep and dont have a hard time getting out of bed.

  34. I really like the idea of the modular robotics platform but the problem that I think is harder is a cheap local telemetry platform.

    In my opinion the greatest hindrance to robotics is a detailed positioning system. If you could make a Local Positioning System(LPS) for under 150$ that would be revolutionary.

    I’m talking about +- 1″ don’t want to be mowing the neighbor’s flower bed.

    My current idea would be to tune to multiple radio stations(6-8) and get power ratings and map the change in power across the area. I don’t know how technical feasible this is but I think that the problem would be a great challenge for the community.

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