Hackaday Comment Policy; We’re Cleaning Up.

Sit down for a moment commenters, we need to talk.
Yes, you all knew this post was coming one day. We’ve talked about this topic at length internally, and we have decided that we’re going to clean up our act. For some time, Hack a Day has been growing a reputation as the prime source of extremely negative, vulgar, rude, sexist, and inflammatory comments in the hacking community. We’ve had complaints from readers (yes there are readers that aren’t commenters, thousands of them) and fellow members of the hacking community about this problem for a long time. [Eliot] even mentioned it back in 2009 when a job applicant expressed concern. We’ve nicely tried to steer things to the positive in a variety of ways, from suggesting commenters to be more supportive, jokingly making a troll detector, and simply stating that the comments need to stay “on topic and nice”.

When we see things like these  tweets by [Jeri Ellsworth], we hang our heads in shame.

She’s not the only one. We actually get this quite regularly. As our readership grows, we see it more and more often. We get emails explaining that people have done a hack but don’t really want to post it because the commenters will just tear it apart in an unnecessarily aggressive and negative way. We have actually had people ask us to remove their projects and comments due to uncivil behavior. Constructive criticism is good, but insulting and angry deconstruction isn’t helpful to anyone.

We’re better than that aren’t we? We are fast, agile and fairly unrestricted in our content. We should be at the center of this community, not on the outer edges, reviled by many for the behavior of a few. Hackaday should be the teacher at the front of the classroom, not the kid in the back throwing wadded up paper at the kids in the front.

What we’re doing:
First off, as far as we can foresee, we will never close the comments section of our web site down. Hackaday should be a home for the entire hacking community and as such, you will always be able to settle in and have a reasonable discussion. We do not want to implement any sort of G+ integration or similar, nor do we want to require registration to leave a comment. We will if we absolutely have to, but lets try to avoid that.

Comment sections and forums have often been a place where negative comments can get out of hand. There are many theories for why this happens, but the result is usually the same: rules and moderation. Many sites have already laid down the law and are adhering to their goals of keeping things civil. We realize that we are to blame if our image is this poor, so we are doing something about it.

From this point moving forward, Hackaday comments will be civil. If you are posting an empty in-joke (“where’s the Arduino?”), a declaration of “not a hack”, a racist, sexist, completely off topic, platform-hating, or personally insulting comment, your post will be deleted. This will be at the discretion of whichever Hackaday staff member happens to see your comment first.

Can you criticize Hackaday?
You can’t walk into a business and start screaming about how much they suck without being escorted out immediately.  Same thing applies here.

We are always hard at work trying to find interesting hacks, makes, repairs, tweaks, videos, etc. that appeal to a wide spectrum of readers. We put this web site together for you, as well as 200,000 other individuals.  Not everything will appeal to everybody. That would be impossible. However, if you don’t like a post or project, just skip it – we’ll have another one ready in short order. We will feature projects that appeal to the seasoned EE as well as the complete beginner. We were all beginners at one time, and it would have been great to have something like Hack a Day around back then to show us hacks ranging from simple to advanced.

From time to time however, Hack a Day can be a less than desirable place to hang out, especially for those who are coming here for the first time. We don’t want to chase off young, creative minds. As a community, we should be helping those that are just starting to venture into hacking electronics.

If you have a problem, email us. You’ll probably actually get a response that way too.  My email is Caleb@ and you’re always welcome to email me personally. Again, please be civil (yep, I’ve had my share of death threats).

Grammar/spelling corrections and dead links:
No need to comment, just email us. A message to team@ will suffice, but you will probably get a quicker response by emailing the author directly. We know we have issues – we’re often so excited about a hack that some little goof slips by. Email us and we’ll fix it. Don’t write a 3 paragraph comment about how important the oxford comma is, or how we’re obviously incapable of functioning because we accidentally flubbed a word. We promise we will never intentionally screw up some grammar, spelling, or punctuation.

What you can will do to help:
Be constructive.

Every project here probably has an area that could be improved, or a part that was done inefficiently. Support your fellow hackers by offering your expertise. Explain why something isn’t working, or how you would improve it. Don’t slam them for their shortcomings. Also keep in mind that different people go about things different ways. Poster X didn’t build something the way you did?  Offer an alternative without being insulting. If someone chooses to use their brand new Core i7 monster system to drive a few LEDs, that’s their prerogative. Inside, we all know that it is not the most efficient use of money or technology, there’s no reason to beat that dead horse in public.

You know what else encourages hackers to do more projects? A pat on the back. I talk to people all the time who say that they just don’t have any constructive criticism for the projects, so they don’t comment. Well, that and they know they’ll bring the ire of the worst commenters if they happen to ask a silly question. Drop in and say what you like about a project. Those positive posts might just be enough to encourage that hacker to take it a step further. How many projects have you seen dropped simply because people thought there wasn’t any interest? Tons. If you like a project, let them know.

To encourage this, the writers are going to be keeping an eye on the comments. Randomly, when we see someone being exceptionally helpful, we’ll contact them and send them a prize. This will most likely be in the form of a hackaday sticker, but we’ll see if we can’t find some other fun things as well.

Help us make Hack a Day great. Please.

[Update: we’re working on a comment flagging system currently]

[Update: threading and comment reporting have been added]

Bass Hero Combines Guitar Hero With Dance Dance Revolution


Standing up to play Dance Dance Revolution type games is sooooo much work. Thankfully, [Jebadiah0001] is taking the strenuous exercise component out of the game by altering a guitar controller to play dancing games.

He’s calling it Bass Hero because the DDR games only use four inputs, reducing the guitar controller to four string buttons like an electric bass would have. His implementation uses a GameCube controller to connect to the console. He took it apart to get at the button connections. Each string button on the guitar is connected on one side to a button on the GC controller, the other side is a common connection. But instead of pulling those straight to ground, he routes that signal through the strumming actuator. This way the player can get the correct buttons ready, then strum at just the right time to complete the circuit.

It certainly makes the harder levels of DDR quite a bit easier. See for yourself in the video after the break.

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Camera Flash Marquee: Real Of Fake?


It’s time for everyone’s favorite comment thread game: Real or Fake? This week’s edition comes in from a tip that [Fabian] sent us about the music video Bright Siren by the band Androp. The video starts by showing bundles of cables being sorted and connected to breadboards. We get a brief shot of a large LED matrix (presumably being used for testing purposes) then footage of a lot of DSLR cameras with external flashes. These are mounted on racks to produce the marquee seen in the image above. The band performs in front of it for the rest of the video.

We’ve embedded the original video, as well as a ‘making of’ video after the break. There’s also a website you can checkout that lets you write your own message on the marquee. That bit could be easily done in flash so there’s no que, you’ll notice there’s no live feed. While we think the theory is real, we’re a bit skeptical about whether this performance is real or video editing magic. In the behind the scenes clip you can see breadboards attached to each camera flash with rubber bands so we’d guess that at least some of the hardware was setup. But we’re wondering if the animated effects were done in editing like that tea light animation. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

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Unlocking Wireless PC Locks

[Mr.Pantz] pointed us to a web page  we thought you would find interesting. It deals with hacking PC lock using a Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) . Following the good practice of logging off or locking your workstation while your not at it, it is darn hard to get users to actually do it. These little gadgets are a 2 piece setup one being a usb dongle, and the other being a badge like device. If the badge is turned off or is a distance greater than ~30 feet, the signal is lost and the pc is locked.

From there all you really need to do is figure out what frequency the 2 are running at and what codes are flying around the air. Some careful eyeballing suggests that this operates in the 434MHz region much like remote lock dongles for your car, and once the device is apart some research of 2 of the IC’s on board confirms it. Using the GNU Radio spectrum analyzer a signal is quickly captured, dumped, and a script is created to send the signal back out, provided you have the correct hardware to do so.

Automated Water Distiller Gets An Overhaul


One thing we love about the hacking community is the drive that most people have to revamp and rework their “finished” projects. A few weeks ago, we wrote about a water distilling rig that [Kyle] hacked together, which allowed him to automate his distillation process. He took his project back into the workshop and tweaked a few things, giving us the heads up when he was finished.

He got his hands on a new distillation unit and decided that he wanted to transfer over his automation setup. He cleaned things up by ditching most of the components from his first distiller, including the toy clock tower dial (which we happened to think was pretty fun). The same relays and Arduino were used in the second version of the still, but he reworked all of his code to make use of his new control interface.

The new model sports an LCD panel that allows the user to interact with the machine via a push button rotary encoder. Now he can easily navigate through a series of menus that enable him to set the distillation quantity and start time, leaving the distiller to do the hard work. The still also does a quick safety check each time it starts up, to ensure that things are in good working order before firing up the heating element.

[Kyle] says he will continue to tweak the distiller, though we think it looks great already.

Continue reading to see a quick video of his Stillduino v2 in action.

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How To Build Your Own Quadcopter, Step By Step

DIY-er [Russell] wanted a quadcopter, and like many people out there, he knew the satisfaction that would come from building it himself. Rather than purchase a kit or follow a set of online instructions, he spent a lot of time researching quadcopters, and eventually put together a thorough tutorial himself.

His Arduino-based quadcopter is named Scout and runs about $1,000 to $1,200 depending on which parts you choose to buy. [Russell] has a complete parts list available on his site, including plenty of alternate component choices for builders on a budget.

He covers the construction process in great detail, discussing frame fabrication and component placement as well as how to program the Arduino for the copter’s first flight. He also takes the time to break down his component list item by item to explain how each piece is part of the greater puzzle, which is great for first time builders.

We love seeing this level of detail when discussing a build process, and as you can see by the video embedded below, his quadcopter looks great!

[Thanks, Willow]

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London’s 44Con Is Looking For A Few Good Hackers


While we see plenty of security-related conferences here in the US, our friends across the pond were apparently anxious to hold a large-scale security conference of their own. At the helm of the first ever 44Con are DEF CON Goon [Adrian] and Penetration Tester [Steve Lord]. The pair are quite involved in London’s security community and are looking to bring like-minded individuals together over four days of security talks and workshops.

While 44Con’s list of speakers has been wrapped up, they are still looking for people to help run workshops on the 1st and 2nd of September. They are requesting that any hackers in the area drop them a line if interested.

Taking a look at their site, you can see that they have a nice selection of talks lined up catering to those on the business side of Information Security as well as deep technical discussions about threats and vulnerabilities. If you plan on hitting up the conference, be sure to let us know in the comments section.