2024 Hackaday Europe Call For Participation Extended

Good news, procrastineers! A few folks asked us for a little more time to get their proposals together for our upcoming 2024 Hackaday Europe event in Berlin, and we’re listening. So now you’ve got an extra week – get your proposals for talks or workshops in before February 29th.

[Joey Castillo]’s awesome custom touchpad
Hackaday Europe is a two-day event taking place April 13th and 14th in Berlin, Germany. Saturday the 13th is the big day, with a full day of badge hacking, talks, music, and everything else. We’ve got the place booked until 2 AM, so get your sleep the night before. Sunday is a half-day of brunch, lightning talks, and showing off the badge hacks from the day before. And if you’re in town on Friday the 12th, we’ll be going out in the evening for drinks and dinner, location TBA but hopefully closer than where we ended up last year!

The badge is going to be a re-spin of the Supercon badge for all of you who couldn’t fly out to the US last November. There are no secrets anymore, so get your pre-hacks started now. We’ve seen some sweet all-analog hacks, some complete revisions of the entire firmware loadout, and, of course, all sorts of awesome hardware bodged onto it. Heck, we even saw Asteroids and DOOM. But we haven’t seen any native Jerobeam Fenderson-style oscilloscope music. You’ve got your homework.

What to Bring?

A few other people have asked if they could bring in (art) projects to show and share. Of course! Depending on the scale, though, you may need to contact us beforehand. If it’s larger than a tower PC, get in touch with us, and we’ll work it out. Smaller hacks, projects in progress, and anything you want to bring along to show and inspire others with, are, of course, welcome without any strings attached.

What else might you need? A computer of your choice and a micro USB cable for programming the badge. There will be soldering stations, random parts, and someone will probably be able to lend you nearly any other piece of gear, so you can pack light if you want to. But you don’t have to.

If you’d like to attend but you don’t have tickets yet – get them soon! Space is limited, and we tend to sell out. Or better yet, submit a talk and sneak in the side door. We’d love to hear what you’ve got going on, and we can’t wait to see you all.

Our Home Automation Contest Starts Now!

Your home is your castle, and what’s better than a fully automatic castle? Nothing! That’s why we’re inviting you to submit your sweetest home automation hacks for a chance to win one of three $150 DigiKey gift certificates. The contest starts now and runs until April 16th.

Home buttons project, simple home automation display
[Matej]’s Home Buttons gets the job done in open-source style.
We love to play around with home automation setups and have seen our fair share, ranging from the simple “turn some lights on” to full-blown cyber-brains that learn your habits and adapt to them. Where is your project on this continuum?

Whether you’re focused on making your life easier, saving energy, gathering up all the data about your usage patterns, or simply stringing some random functions together and calling it a “system,” we’d like to see it. Nothing is too big or too small if it makes your home life easier.

Home is where the home automation is!

To enter, head over to Hackaday IO and start documenting your project there. We are, of course, interested in learning from what you’ve done, so the better the docs, the better your chances of winning. And if you need some inspiration, check out these honorable mention categories.

Honorable Mention Categories

Thanks again to DigiKey for sponsoring this with three gift certificates!

Wireless All The Things!

Neither Tom Nardi nor I are exactly young anymore, and we can both remember a time when joysticks were actually connected with wires to the computer or console, for instance. Back then, even though wireless options were on the market, you’d still want the wired version if it was a reaction-speed game, because wireless links just used to be too slow.

Somehow, in the intervening years, and although we never even really noticed the transition as such, everything has become wireless. And that includes our own hacker projects. Sure, the ESP8266 and other WiFi-capable chips made a big difference, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the nRF24 chipset, which made at least point-to-point wireless affordable and easy. Others will feel the same about ZigBee, but the point stands: nothing has wires anymore, except to charge back up.

The reason? As this experiment comparing the latency of many different wireless connections bears out, wireless data links have just gotten that good, to the point that the latency in the radio is on par with what you’d get over USB. And the relevant software ecosystems have made it easier to go wireless as well. Except for the extra power requirement, and for cases where you need to move a lot of data, there’s almost no reason that any of your devices need wires anymore.

Are you with us? Will you throw down your chains and go wireless?

One Project At A Time, Or A Dozen?

We got a bunch of great food for thought in this week’s ask-us-anything on the Hackaday Podcast, and we all chewed happily. Some of my favorite answers came out of the question about how many projects we all take on at once. Without an exception, the answer was “many”. And while not every one of the projects that we currently have started will eventually reach the finish line, that’s entirely different from saying that none of them ever do. On the contrary, Tom Nardi made the case for having a number of irons simultaneously in the fire.

We all get stuck from time to time. That’s just the nature of the beast. The question is whether you knuckle down and try to brute-force power your way through the difficulty, or whether you work around it. A lot of the time, and this was Dan Maloney’s biggest bugaboo, you lack the particular part or component that you had in mind to get the job done. In that situation, sometimes you just have to wait. And what are you going to do while waiting? Work on Project B! (But take good notes of the state of Project A, because that makes it a lot easier to get back into the swing of things when the parts do arrive.)

Al and I both weighed in on the side of necessity, though. Sometimes, no matter how many attractive other projects you’ve got piled up, one just needs to get out the door first. My recent example was our coffee roaster. Before I start a big overhaul, I usually roast a couple days’ worth of the evil bean. And then the clock starts ticking. No roasting equals two unhappy adults in this household, so it’s really not an option. Time pressure like that helps focus the mind on the top-priority project.

But I’m also with Tom. It’s a tremendous luxury to have a handful of projects in process, and be able to hack on one simply because you’re inspired, or in love with the project at that moment. And when the muse calls, the parts arrive, or you finally figure out what was blocking you on Project A, then you can always get back to it.

Hackaday Europe 2024 Is On, And We Want You!

Hackaday Europe is on again for 2024, and we couldn’t be more excited! If you’re a European hacker, and have always wanted to join us up for Supercon in the states, here’s your chance to do so without having to set sail across the oceans. It’s great to be able to get together with our continental crew.

Just like last time, we’ll be meeting up in Berlin at Motionlab, Bouchestrasse 12 for a weekend of talks and workshops. On paper, the event runs April 13th and 14th, but if you’re in town on Friday the 12th, we’ll be going out for drinks and socializing beforehand. Saturday starts up at 9 AM and is going to be full of presentations, with food throughout and our own mix of hacking and music running until 2 AM. Sunday starts up a little bit later with brunch and as many lightning talks as we can fit into the afternoon.

And as always, we want you to bring a project or two along to show and tell. Half the fun of an event like this, where everyone is on the same wavelength, is the mutual inspiration that lurks in nearly every random conversation. It’s like Hackaday, but in real life!

So without further ado: get your tickets right here! We have a limited number of early-bird tickets at $70, and then the remainder will go on sale for $142 (plus whatever fees).

Call for Participation

So who is going to be speaking at Hackaday Europe? You could be! We’re also opening up the Call for Participation right now, both for talks and for workshops. Whether you’ve presented your work live before or not, you’re not likely to find a more appreciative audience for epic hacks, creative constructions, or you own tales of hardware, firmware, or software derring-do.

Workshop space is limited, but if you want to teach a group of ten or so people your favorite techniques or build up a swarm of small robots, we’d love to hear from you.

All presenters get in free, of course, and we’ll give you an early-bird price even if we can’t fit you into the schedule. So firm up what you’d like to share, and get your proposal in before Feb 22.

The Badge

Part of the fun of an event like this is sharing what you’re working on with a rare like-minded crowd. True story: we came into last year’s Hackaday Berlin event with a raw idea for our own Superconference badge, that we needed to have done by November. Talks with [Schneider] about the lovely badge for the Chaos Communications Camp inspired us to use those sweet round screens, and a chat with [Stefan Holzapfel] convinced us of the possibility to run an audio DAC at DC.

So it’s fitting that we’ll be bringing the Vectorscope badge to Berlin, with some new graphics of course. If you didn’t catch it at Supercon, it’s a emulation of an old-timey X-Y mode oscilloscope and a DAC to drive it in software. Folks had a great time hacking it at Supercon, and you will too. It’s analog, it’s digital, and it’s got room for a lot of art. We’d love to see what you bring to it!

Thanks and See You Soon!

Of course, we can’t put on an event like this without help from our fantastic sponsors, so we’d like to say thanks to DigiKey for sponsoring not only the stateside Superconference, but also Hackaday Europe 2024. And as always, thanks to Supplyframe for making it all possible.

April is coming up fast, so get your proposals in and order your tickets now! We can’t wait to see you all.

In Praise Of “Simple” Projects

When I start off on a “simple” project, experience shows that it’s got about a 10% chance of actually remaining simple. Sometimes it’s because Plan A never works out the way I think it will, due to either naivety or simply the random blockers that always get in the way and need surmounting. But a decent percentage of the time, it’s because something really cool happens along the way. Indeed, my favorite kind of “simple” projects are those that open up your eyes to a new world of possibilities or experiments that, taken together, are nothing like simple anymore.

Al Williams and I were talking about water rockets on the podcast the other day, and I realized that this was a perfect example of an open-ended simple project. It sounds really easy: you put some water in a soda bottle, pressurize it a bit with air, and then let it go. Water gets pushed down, bottle flies up. Done?

Oh no! The first step into more sophistication is the aerodynamics. But honestly, if you make something vaguely rocket-shaped with fins, it’ll probably work. Then you probably need a parachute release mechanism. And then some data logging? An accelerometer and barometer? A small video camera? That gets you to the level of [ARRO]’s work that spawned our discussion.

But it wasn’t ten minutes into our discussion that Al had already suggested making the pressure vessel with carbon fiber and doctoring the water mix to make it denser. You’d not be surprised that these and other elaborations have been tried out. Or you could go multi-stage, or vector-thrust, or…

In short, water rockets are one of those “simple” projects. You can get one basically working in a weekend day, and then if you’re so inclined, you could spend an entire summer of weekends chasing down the finer points, building larger and larger tubes, and refining payloads. What’s your favorite “simple” project?

Hardware Should Lead Software, Right?

Once upon a time, about twenty years ago, there was a Linux-based router, the Linksys WRT54G. Back then, the number of useful devices running embedded Linux was rather small, and this was a standout. Back then, getting a hacker device that wasn’t a full-fledged computer onto a WiFi network was also fairly difficult. This one, relatively inexpensive WiFi router got you both in one box, so it was no surprise that we saw rovers with WRT54Gs as their brains, among other projects.

Long Live the WRT54G

Of course, some people just wanted a better router, and thus the OpenWRT project was born as a minimal Linux system that let you do fancy stuff with the stock router. Years passed, and OpenWRT was ported to newer routers, and features were added. Software grew, and as far as we know, current versions won’t even run on the minuscule RAM of the original hardware that gave it it’s name.

Enter the ironic proposal that OpenWRT – the free software group that developed their code on a long-gone purple box – is developing their own hardware. Normally, we think of the development flow going the other way, right? But there’s a certain logic here as well. The software stack is now tried-and-true. They’ve got brand recognition, at least within the Hackaday universe. And in comparison, developing some known-good hardware to work with it is relatively easy.

We’re hardware hobbyists, and for us it’s often the case that the software is the hard part. It’s also the part that can make or break the user experience, so getting it right is crucial. On our hacker scale, we often choose a microcontroller to work with a codebase or tools that we want to use, because it’s easier to move some wires around on a PCB than it is to re-jigger a software house of cards. So maybe OpenWRT’s router proposal isn’t backwards after all? How many other examples of hardware designed to fit into existing software ecosystems can you think of?