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. an o-scope would be pretty cool, but i’d have to vote for some form of a data base, including pinouts for some of the more commonly used stuff. with all the time i seem to spend trying to find/map pinouts for my projects, i could be done already.

  2. #6 please. noobs build generations. that said, i see that the majority of noise is for the o-scope so why not do both? don’t hackers love to have multiple projects to satisfy short attention spans?

  3. How about hacking the Leapfrog LEAPSTER educational game console…it’s a neat little handheld game console that uses FLASH apps. It would be awesome to be able to make games for my kids much more easily than one can on something like the Gameboy.

  4. Organic garden minder. Analog signal-filtering using plastic F/O or found materials, or audio as a mesh network PHY. (Bug activity patrol, maybe sensor dust of typed bug traps for above and belowground vectors.) Also a seed saver and logger thing? It can winter as way/grotto lighting and POV political signage (down with cutworms!)

    Pine aphid killer w/ macro camera or ‘skycam’ counterpart to transmit to local low-power ATSC-OTA relay. (Or other such suburban flora disease mediation…and PETA horror show.)

    NTSC/ATSC (-OTA) DAB (descriptive audio broadcast) micropower voice/data insurrection and forwarding architecture. (MST2.008K? A Party Line for the 2010s?)

    Unattended yet human-powered mulcher/tiller for the 1/4 acre commons yarden?!?

    Robot with 23-ton press that can cannily separate trash (metal rims from plastic bowls, etc.) to recyclables and mulch and stuff; crank out proper billets for recycling rather than giant unwieldy mildewy bags; open child-safe lids when child busy at sports; make stuff from _Gunm_.

    Trunk that goes KRNK!bbrbbr without music, or to a’ capella.

    Interpretive X11 (virtual/GLX screens) for those EeePC screens that’ll make ya blind otherwise, and for PSPs/Nintendo-DSes/Wii.

    Frameworks for PnS camera reprogramming….

    Analytic FM tuners. Dolby 6.1 for cellphone broadcasts….

    Doggie electronic-distraction-collars (ZZZzzap!) which teach harmony. 4-part. Pentatonic.

  5. First and foremost, I agree with what others have said before me. I think that hackaday should have a both a wiki and a forum. This hardly constitutes community hacking project though…it’s more of the garden bed from which the community projects are going to grow out of, mutate, and take over the world…muhaha!

    No seriously, I don’t think you have a hope in fostering any serious community project without the right tools to get the collaborative juices flowing. A wiki for the documentation and a forum for the discussion.

  6. Oscilloscope/Signal Analyser with USB. Definitely.

    As encouragement for this community: yes, it can be done. And fairly cheaply. Similar projects (as linked in previous replies) have already been completed and are in continued development. All it takes is for us to actually do something about it. Let’s get moving.

    @88: I realise that the zcorp printers are hardly affordable for any individual to afford. I was just making a pointer to application of the discussed technology, and providing an example of successful execution of the idea. The system they use to control it should be easy enough to implement without incurring their legal wrath, and as you said, it would simply be a print head modified to shoot glue or some other kind of bonding agent (followed up by a colouring agent, if necessary), a few basic scanner/printer motors and belt drive systems, and a couple of servos, including a little bit of control hardware, two tubs full of a white powder (Anthrax, Cocaine, take your pick) and a fan and/or air compressor/shopvac. Should I start drawing up plans?

  7. coment on #3 if somone who is handy with programing and sound we could use a usb sound card. use the input from the sound card to analyze the prob input. if you are really lasy you could just use somthing like audacity to do some very simple analyse but you would be limited to about 3 volts p2p. well anyway it is just an idea…

  8. this is my fourth post here, and I’ve been reading this thread for a while and considering it…

    I really like the idea of a hacking wiki, why not make it a home for hackaday’ers and other.
    It could have a begineers guide, request page, personal hacks page, and they could all be linked via relavent meta tags.

    Call it the hacker’s mecca or whatever, but a single website coalescing every hacker out there, that could make a difference, and be the launching pad for future projects… o-scope EV spaceship transformerrobot whatever your heart desires.

  9. re: #3
    um in responce to my prior comment there is allready software avalable all over the internet. now the problem isnt getting the signal it is keeping the signal from burning out the soundcard. a friend and i are working on it currently i will update later. or current idea is to run a series of input plugs. each of them set for a certain range. if the input voltage is too high it would just chop off the wave form at a preset voltage.(im thinking voltage regulator of sorts, first i have to check and see how different regulators will react to voltages below their rated voltage.) in any case we’ll work on it and submit the final results. ill try to document with pictures of each step. well luck all

  10. How about we collaborate and make a roll your own linux distro. (a nice hacking distro, not bloated with kde-wants-to-be-vista crap, but good utilities, standard use software included: OO, Firefox w/flash azureus (for legal p2p for downloading free stuff like other linux distros–we do not condone illegal activities) lime wire (for legal stuff only of course) wine (for the windows refugees) and the ability to use a joystick for a mouse (b/c its cool) etc… speed/memory efficient (like damn small linux) and all the “network security” utilities (like auditor) and of course doom (shareware & wad selector–for those of use w/full version). (YAY DOOM)

    willing to contribute what free time i can.
    (as a full-time student realize im limited on time)

  11. @104: if you take the right plaster, ink is already a sufficient bondig agent. There are crazy products out there that are much tougher than the common “plaster of paris”. But of course the choice of material alone could fill a wiki.

    @108: there are currently about 200 Linux distros out there in the wild. None of them matches your taste?

    But I also have to admit that a USB Scope/Logic Analyser is very tempting!

  12. my second post to this thread: It seamse to me that this discussion has exposed several limitations of such a grand plan…
    PC o-scope/logic analyzer – been done several times, to varying degrees of ‘professional quality.’ Also, as it turns out, there are several products in the market with reasonable price tags.

    A lot of people have pointed out that such a project needs to be universally appealing, and if at all possible, something that will help/change the world. Good point.
    Likewise, a lot of others have simply posted their own wish list of projects. Many of them are only appealing/usefull to a select group of people.

    As for a noob book, the question here is not “does anyone know how to hack? The qestion is “what does this noob want to hack?” A proper noob hack guide is only relevent when the writer and the noob have the same goals. Do you want to make robots? Do you want to write software? do you want to make cardboard and duct tape laptop cases? (swing over to make*dot*com for that one.. trust me, its there.)

    More and more it sounds like our own forum is the way to go. Hack-A-Day is great, but its time for the next evolution. It could be *so* much more: A repository for finished hacks (a la current incarnation), a repository for ideas and stubs, as well as feasability discussions, group organization, etc.

    remember: there are no new ideas, only new ways to use the old ones. invinting the bicicyle powered water pump was nothing special. it’s just attaching one to the other. Dropping 1000 of them into remote african villages *is* a good idea.

  13. Community-designed PCB with i.e. ARM9 controller that can run LINUX.

    Possibilities are endless:
    -home made linux computer!
    -multimedia devices
    -home automation
    -and so on.

    In fact it is not as hard as it sounds (people have already done it). However, a PCB that is modular and can be made AT HOME would be great.

  14. I’ll chime in support for the 3d printer idea. The idea, as mentioned, is very similar to the project at http://www.candyfab.org with the exceptions that instead of an inert powder (plaster) with a binding agent (ink), they’re using a melt-able powder (sugar) and a heat projecting print head focused to as fine a point as possible.

    My suggestion would be to change the media from sugar to a suitably cheap/strong thermoplastic as can be found in the form of some plastic based blasting media (a.k.a. sand blasting media). I also suggest using focused light rather than, slowly moving, hot air as candyfab is presently working with. They’ve been having problems with even the lowest velocity print head blowing the powder around, especially as the powder grit increases. By “focused light”, I mean to differentiate it from laser as focused light would only be at it’s full intensity at one, fine, point while a laser powerful enough to work presents a threat to eyesight even at long distances.

  15. Some good ideas,
    BUT I think a software project would be more realistic, as geography doesn’t matter that much when coding…
    How can you make a group work on hardware? Who’s gonna invest anything in a project you’re too far away to even really participate?
    And there’s a lot of options for software projects…
    Would love to chip in for a lil’ soft project if it’s interesting..

  16. @118: yes, I tried to implement the sugar melting hot air gun solutuion, but sugar gets blown all over the place. One solution was to use an open flame which melted the sugar nicely, but the resulting model is sticky and dissolves in water. I discovered a plastic coated fine sand. melting point at 200 deg C, but could not get a sufficiently hot bundled light source yet. Promising though.

    The plaster solution has the advantage of being *much* faster and allowing high resolution color models.

  17. #120: I agree with the general idea, but I’ve thought of hacking the vSmile – it’s an Arm7 based video console for kids, available in both console and portable versions with built-in LCD. This could be an excellent platform; they have a joystick, a button, four more buttons, video out, audio out; the later models have built in mic’s. The cartridges use a simple edge connector. And they’re relatively inexpensive.

  18. Although I’m sure the applications of a usb/logic tester/ oscillioscope would be grand and wide, it doesn’t compare (nor fit thematically) with the robot platform. It’s just easier to see that as something a COMMUNITY could contribute and enjoy. And it’s friggin ROBOTS, man!

  19. AVR disassembler/decompiler?

    actually, i like the idea of some sort of automated pcb maker that would allow you to just click print in KiCad/GEDA/etc and out comes a professionalish looking PCB, although i have a bad feeling if that was attempted it would end up being rather “Rube Goldberg”esque

  20. What about home automation?

    The open source vCrib (http://www.vcrib.com)software makes a great control platform. Together we could decide on a common communication approach, perhaps using IP.

    The contribution of individuals would then be to either further vCrib or to build and share devices among the group.

    The only problem with a group effort like this is that we have no central project manager. With a home automation project, once a standard is in place there is no need for a PM.

  21. A -reverse- gear IP block for 3d-printed doomsday machines? Whatever those are?

    Something that can read a knot of faded thermal-printed receipts and put them on the books?

    Liver cirrhosis acupuncture turrets.

  22. If it can be made road legal and built without requiring anything thats hard to obtain or really expensive, I vote for the “alternate energy source car”.

    The “guide to reverse engineering and component reuse” sounds very good too.

    Something else that would be nice would be a universal video capture device that can take inputs from DVI, HDMI, Component, RGB, S-Video and Composite as well as being able to decode both analog NTSC and digital ATSC formats. Bonus points if it can decode PAL and/or DVB-T for those of us living in the other half of the world.

    Could connect to the PC via USB for easy use and would be capable of removing/ignoring/talking HDCP, Macrovision, Broadcast Flags and any other DRM crap.

    It should be built to be 100% open source (hardware and software) so that no matter what DRM Hollywood tries to ram down our throats, this card can always be adapted to defeat it and continue to capture raw video from whatever is available.

    Or go one step further and reverse engineer CableCard and build the first (and only) device capable of supporting CableCard in a way that isn’t locked down. (note that I am not suggesting trying to steal cable service, just access the service you paid for through a device capable of supporting the features YOU want, not the features the cable company have decided you can have)

  23. apparently, you have been listened to. http://wiki.hackaday.com and http://forum.hackaday.com both report “coming soon” messages.

    hacking primer – amazing
    Volume 1 teaches basic skills. Later ‘volumes’ could be released focusing on specifics: robotics 3, reverse engineering 1… allowing those with specific skills to teach others in the community and foster growth. the goal of finalized volumes being key i think.

    modular development platforms –
    setting a standard for interoperability between these may be a good idea. robotics plaform interfaces with communication plaform – robot txts me to say unauthorized entry to my home, breakfast is ready, etc.

    fresh idea –
    robotic bartender – chills liquids, dispenses ice, shakes and/or stirs, adds garnish. (vending machine style keypad code entry for drink creation) self cleaning would be sweet.


  24. I was recently employed at the local library as a page (someone who shelves the books) and pretty much everyday i spend 2 hours looking over the books people checked in the day before and putting them in proper order. When i was looking at the thousand and some odd books the other day, i began to think about it and i think that a giant rig for checking the books in and scrolling around the shelves (if they were all pushed together) putting the books in order would be a tremendous help in library’s across America, making the possibility of having one library for all of the books ever published a reality. I believe this process could be completely automated starting with scanning a barcode on the book (which would check the it in to the system), and ending with putting it in the correct order on the shelf. With enough work i think this would be feasable, and actually quite easy to make with enough of “Hack-a-days hacking community” working on it. Also im not sure that this has been done before, but im betting that it hasn’t on a commercial level but maybe a homebrew model is out there.

  25. A pocket sized video/audio/waveform test signal generator would be nice to test “out in the field” computer monitors, televisions, audio equipment, etc. before purchasing from used equipment stores.

  26. A simple, upgradeable phone. Bio-friendly, recycled components as much as possible. It’s time we all stopped changing phones every 6 months and keep one for life, or as long as possible. Upgrades from a website, plug it in or update over wi-fi. All unnecessary junk stripped out.

  27. I haven’t been through all the comments but there’s one thing I’ve been dreaming of and will surely become everybody’s reality soon : a trash processing unit for households. The idea’s a bit unrealistic but waste management will soon be everyone’s concern and recycling is such a hassle… So the way I see it, is a centralized process wich accept any type of trash that sorts everything at the end, metals from organics, from plastics, etc. This prject involves many disciplines wich might be out of this site’s range but wouldn’t it be great to never have to worry about trashing anymore ?

  28. I agree with an abstraction system for PIC and AVR, though it should also be designed from the beginning to be extensible to other processors as well. Both PIC and AVR have 32 bit processors so support for them is a must. Within 2 years if not less there will be 64 bit processors so we might as well future proof ourselves and plan for that. It would be great if we could make a tool set that would be able to interface with other compilers and support multiple existing languages so we could for instance have a program that uses libraries written in C and Basic. Also the compiler(or interpreter) should be able to take multiple different languages so that if one hacker wants to write in basic and another prefers C or Python it shouldn’t be a problem.

    I also agree that we should definitely set up a wiki and a forum, I like the idea of a hacking wiki but even before that we at least need a nice place to collaborate on choosing a project, or at least presenting our ideas nicely.

  29. @whoever mentioned wiki.hackaday.com and forum.hackaday.com say “coming soon”, all subdomains which don’t currently exist say that… See p910N,hackaday.com

    Anyway, ideas:
    -A 3D printer, or throwing support behind reprap/fab@home would of course be cool…
    -A hardware mediated reality interface… Set up a cheap (cellphone-style) and a head-mounted display such that one can see the world around them through the display, then set IO to output the camera, and to draw on top of what it already seen.
    -A printer-style fast PCB mill.
    -Extracting aluminum/plastics from recyclables one’s self.
    -Of course the o-scope and beginner docs would be nice… But I have a few misgivings about the oscilloscope (it seems that it would be a long, grueling process… Most would probably lose interest within a week)

    -A Collaborative project where only one model of a particularly complex creation is created with multiple contributors shipping in parts/code. This would let us produce things where cost would otherwise be a barrier.
    -An open competitive project a project where everyone releases their designs to everyone else to compete towards some goal. The ones with the most stolen from them, as well as the best in the competition would win prizes.

    Example collaborative projects (as above):
    -A solar car to compete in solar car (drag) races.
    -A DARPA challenge style autonomous vehicle.
    -A green car built from the ground up.
    -An entry into any competition in which established companies/universities are traditionally the only competitors.
    -A home-made Aibo.

    Example open competitive projects (as above):
    -Battlebots/any other sort of traditional robot sport.
    -Some sort of general survival-based contest… (i.e. robots building fires that last the longest or obtaining the most hotdogs)
    -competitive roomba-cleaning would be cool… (We could probably get some iRobot sponsorship)
    -lego-building robot competition, robots shown a simple picture and must build the what is shown to the best of their ability.

  30. #15 agreed. Though with tuna cats are weak and helpless.

    – I think the “Intro to Hardware Hacking” is a great idea, but more like a community oriented book from everything to the basics to very advanced ideas focusing more on theory and philosophy of Hardware Hacking then anything else.

    – Or, A fleet of large, self sustaining, unmanned aerial vehicle with a radio receiver and encrypted transmitter as well as a pound of explosives rigged to a tamper detecting switch right above the loaded .50 caliber with laser guided tracking system. Hardware hackers could start a new world order!

    – Less evil/maniacal though: Various design of custom IC,Processor,Memory chips built around the fucntion of various theories of AI. i.e Neural Networking, Genetic Algorithms. Then integrating them functionaly into a Controller board.

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