The Weirdest Hack

I was on the FLOSS podcast (for the Episode of the Beast no less!) and we were talking all about Hackaday. One of the hosts, secretly Hackaday’s own Jonathan Bennett in disguise, asked me what the weirdest hack I’d ever seen on Hackaday was. Weird?!?!

I was caught like a deer in headlights. None of our hacks are weird! Or maybe all of them are? I dunno, it certainly depends on your perspective. Is it weird to build a box that makes periodic meowing noises to hid in a friend’s closet? Is it weird to design new and interesting wheels for acrobats to roll themselves around in? Is it weird to want a rainbow-colored USB DIP switch? Is it weird that these are all posts from the last week?

OK, maybe we are a little bit weird. But that’s the way we like it. Keep it weird and wonderful, Hackaday. You’ve got enough normal stuff to do eight hours a day!

31 thoughts on “The Weirdest Hack

  1. I poised my fingers above my keyboard, ready tor toe out my one weird hack, and I ran into the same issue: they all seem normal to me.
    Build a python dropper to get ssh access to an industrial robot? Standard stuff.
    Build a “field expendient” microphone from old headphones and an op amp? High school electronics.
    Finally I get down the list and the best I got for “weird” is one time I used a shovel as a lever to get an alternator free from this stupid Pontiac my friend had.

    In retrospect I shoulda just hit my friend with the shovel until he bought a new car though.

      1. I mean sure that’s a bit weird to me, but I didn’t build it – it’s not my weirdest hack.

        And I bet that guy thought it was a perfectly logical thing to do when he built it.

    1. I love this game.

      My first project at my first job out of college was to build a PoE 12-channel solenoid controller with a web UI, the constraints being that it needed a wide temperature range (-80C to 150C IIRC), needed to be entirely hand-solderable (no BGA, nothing smaller than 0805), and needed to fit in a 3″ circular PCB outline, all on a 4-layer PCB. I pulled it off. The hack comes in where the boss looked at the prototype, said it was really nice, but now they needed the same functionality in a 1″ square PCB, but I was allowed two PCBs. The MCU I was required to use was almost 1″ by itself.
      I went to the lab and started pulling off decoupling caps until combining pull-up/pull-down resistors until I worked out the bare minimum needed for the MCU to run reliably across temperature. Probably the greatest engineering miracle I ever accomplished.

      At the same job, I was tasked with replacing the incorrect scope screenshots in over 200 reports that had already been prepared as PDFs. I had to open each PDF, scroll down to the page with the incorrect image, delete it, and paste in the correct image. Each image was a unique o-scope screenshot, too. My manager was very reasonable and gave me a week to do it. Monday morning I sat down with the AutoHotkey docs and by lunchtime I had a script that would open each document and simulate the keystrokes needed for the edit, including selecting the correct screenshot for each document. I let the script run over lunch, and informed my manager that I was done at end of day.

      Once I had the issue of an older o-scope without modern software support unless you shell out for LabView. It does have a USB VISA interface and Ethernet for a web interface that requires a Java applet. An afternoon of poking around and I’d worked out a Python script that tells the scope to save a screenshot over VISA, and then downloads it via HTTP because the Java applet has the most recent screenshot at a static URL.

      And then there’s an anti-hack: I spent a week in the lab setting up different experiments to prove to a very high-profile aerospace client that our product wasn’t drawing 5A on startup when it was spec’d for 100mA max and never got over 75mA in my tests. After a whole bunch of e-mails back and forth, they finally send a scope plot showing a 500mA current… for ~5ns. Instead of leaving power connected to the unit, they tied the logic input to VCC and connected those to 12v or GND depending on how they wanted the unit to latch. It technically worked, but all the internal decoupling caps were getting drained to GND and then taking 12v for inrush again, and apparently this was enough to foul up a plane’s power supply, and was also our fault somehow.

      1. While there’s one or two things I didnt get, its been an enjoyable read, twice! And I do feel u bro, the preasure, the challenge, the satisfaction (over successfully done it) and even the frustration including the last one over the “technically correct” but somewhat ridiculous test spec 😅.

  2. Hey, we’re kinda the Cheshire Cats of society, you know…? We’re just a *little* strange — unlike the whole rest of the world that just doesn’t realize quite how absolutely batcr*p crazy it’s got out there.

    A little strange. Maaaybe a little crazy. But not a *lot* crazy, which is the point… that, and that — as I always like to remind folks (especially in my own case) — it’s the good kind ;)

  3. Being esoteric is not weird – just rare. What you’re looking for is something completely different that defies rational explanation.

    I nominate the Lego robot that builds cucumber log houses.

    1. Yeah, I think “esoteric” better captures the “odd” or “humerus” hacks rather than the word “weird”. Now I’m sure many of the hacks here on HAD are weird to other people but there not “weird” to hackers.

      For me the most esoteric in recent times was the Turing complete computer synthesized on an analogue synthesizer. The most esoteric part being that the analogue synthesizer was an application running on a desktop computer.

      And perhaps the most humerus wasn’t on HAD but rather a real life thing. In an outback town 250km from anywhere and that was so small that you could see all five abandoned houses and the public phone box. The phone had been ripped out of the phone box and replaced with an empty tin on the end of a piece of string tied to the original phone wires.

  4. I have often thought that, to the “outside world”, those who carefully cut/sand/dissolve away the top of chips just to peer at the tiny square of silicon inside must seem a bit weird. Big respect from me though.

    Oh, and fancy designing a highly techy web site designed by techies for techies that allows you to enter comments but not edit them :-P

    1. I just looked through all those projects tagged with “wand” and they’re all awesome.

      A couple involve learning or playing with AI / neural networks. At least one involves administering actual electrical shocks! Half of them are not beyond the “breadboard strapped to my wrist” stage, yet are essentially magic to those not versed in the arts.

      Those hacks, taken together as a small microcosm, are so _typically_ Hackaday.

    1. I don’t think it meant to bust up the door frame?

      This is the one piece of Joe Kim’s art that I never really understood, but I totally love. It just captures that “I’ve built a robot kitten that’s too big to get out the door” moment so perfectly. Wait, what?

  5. Didn’t I think it would break the jamb?

    It’s part of Joe Kim’s art, I don’t understand, but I like it. He only described the moment when “I made the robotic kitten too big to walk out the door.” What’s new?

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