Orphaned Amazon Dash Buttons Ripe For Hacking

Amazon Dash buttons were the ultimate single purpose networked device; it really can’t get much simpler than a push button that sends a single message to a fixed endpoint. It was an experiment in ultimate convenience, an entry point to a connected home, and a target for critics of consumerism excess and technological overkill.

But soon they’ll be little more than a footnote in the history of online shopping, as CNet reports Amazon will take the order system offline at the end of the month. With the loss of their original intended usage, there’s nothing to stop us from hacking any Dash buttons we can get our hands on.

Of course, this decision should come as little surprise. Amazon’s in-home retail point of sale has graduated from these very limited $5 buttons to Alexa-powered voice controlled devices. Many people also carry a cell phone at all times capable of submitting Amazon orders. While there are many good reasons to be skeptical of internet connected appliances, they’re undeniably finding a niche in the market and some have integrated their own version of a Dash button to re-order household supplies.

But are hackers still interested in hacking Dash buttons? Over the lifespan of Amazon Dash buttons, our project landscape has shifted as well. We’re certainly still interested in the guts an Echo Dot. But if we wanted to build a simple networked button, we can use devices like an ESP8266 which are almost as cheap and far easier to use. Using something intended for integration means we don’t have headaches like determining which generation hardware we have.

Despite those barriers, we’ve had many Dash button hacks on these pages. A to-do list updater was the most recent and we doubt it will be the last, especially as Amazon’s deactivation should mean a whole new flood of these buttons will become available for hacking.

[via Ars Technica]

Breakfast At DEF CON This Sunday

Nurse your hangover with the Hackaday and Tindie crews as we host the 5th Annual Breakfast at DEF CON.

Everyone knows the days at DEF CON are long, and the nights are longer. Whether you’re just rolling out of bed, or walking straight in from the previous night of partying, we want to see you and your hardware show-and-tell projects this Sunday morning at 10:30 AM in Paris Hotel, Las Vegas.

We’re congregating at Le Cafe Ile St. Louis in the front part of Paris. Just walk through the doors coming off of Las Vega Boulevard and it’s in the big open area. A nice touch is that you don’t need to have a DEF CON badge to get in on the Hackaday breakfast.

Regular Breakfast at DEF CON attendees will remember that last year we were squatting in a restaurant space which isn’t open for breakfast. Thankful we’ve secured a location this year and you can score coffee and a pastry on us. We would like to have an idea of how many people to expect so please drop us an RSVP.

A Trillion Trees – How Hard Can It Be?

Data from 2016 pegs it as the hottest year since recording began way back in 1880. Carbon dioxide levels continue to sit at historical highs, and last year the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that humanity has just 12 years to limit warming to 1.5 C.

Reducing emissions is the gold standard, but it’s not the only way to go about solving the problem. There has been much research into the field of carbon sequestration — the practice of capturing atmospheric carbon and locking it away. Often times, this consists of grand plans of pumping old oil wells and aquifers full of captured CO2, but there’s another method of carbon capture that’s as old as nature itself.

As is taught in most primary school science courses, the trees around us are responsible for capturing carbon dioxide, in the process releasing breathable oxygen. The carbon becomes part of the biomass of the tree, no longer out in the atmosphere trapping heat on our precious Earth. It follows that planting more trees could help manage carbon levels and stave off global temperature rises. But just how many trees are we talking? The figure recently floated was 1,000,000,000,000 trees, which boggles the mind and has us wondering what it would take to succeed in such an ambitious program.

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Resin Printers Are Now Cheaper, Still Kind Of A Hassle

Your run-of-the-mill desktop 3D printer is based on a technology known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), where the machine squirts out layers of hot plastic that stick to each other. But that’s not the only way to print a Benchy. One of the more exotic alternative techniques uses a photosensitive resin that gets hardened layer by layer. The results are impressive, but historically the printers have been very expensive.

But it looks like that’s finally about to change. The [3D Printing Nerd] recently did a review of the Longer3D Orange 10 which costs about $230, less than many FDM printers. It isn’t alone, either. Monoprice has a $200 resin printer, assuming you can find it in stock.

The resin isn’t cheap and it’s harder to handle than filament. Why is it harder to handle? For one is smells, but more importantly, you aren’t supposed to get it on your skin. The trade off is that the resulting printed parts look fantastic, with fine detail that isn’t readily possible with traditional 3D printing techniques.

Some resin printers use a laser to cure resin at particular coordinates. This printer uses an LCD to produce an image that creates each layer. Because the LCD exposes all the resin at one time, each layer takes a fixed amount of time no matter how big or detailed the layer is. Unfortunately, using these displays means the build area isn’t very large: the manufacturer says it’s 98 by 55 millimeters with a height of up to 140mm. The claimed resolution, though, is 10 microns on the Z-axis and 115 microns on the LCD surface.

Getting the prints out of the printer requires you to remove the uncured resin. In the video, they used a playing card and two alcohol baths. After you remove the uncured resin, you’ll want to do a final curing step. More expensive printers have dedicated curing stations but on this budget printer, you have to cure the parts separately. How? By leaving them out in the sun. Presumably, you could use any suitable UV light source.

There are a few other similar-priced options out there. Sparkmaker, Wanhao (resold by Monoprice). If you’re willing to spend more, Prusa has even thrown their orange hat into the ring. If you were wondering if you could use the LCD in your phone to do this, the answer is sort of.

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A Tiny Train Departure Board, Just Like The Real Thing

If you travel on the British rail system, you’ll be familiar with the ubiquitous orange dot-matrix departure display boards. At a glance they tell you the expected arrival times of the next few trains, where they are headed, and at the bottom the current time.  [Chris Crocker-White] was inspired by a Tweet to recreate one of these displays in miniature and hang it under his monitor.

The hardware is a Raspberry Pi Zero with an OLED screen, in a custom 3D-printed case. A soldered USB cable takes power from the monitor’s USB ports. Software wise it’s a demonstration vehicle for the Balena cloud service that pulls its data from their transport API, but the choice of dot matrix typeface is perfect and absolutely looks the part.

There is some question as to whether a project such as this one should need a cloud service as its backend, and of course it serves as a demonstration piece rather than a definitive way to enact a departure board. It does however bring a ready-packaged API for transport data, which given that many data sources can be opaque, is a useful feature.

Train time displays seem to be a popular choice on the Eastern side of the Atlantic, here’s another British one, and one from Ireland.

Thanks [Pyrofer] for the tip.