We’re Using the Word Firmware Wrong

I had an interesting discussion the other day about code written for an embedded system. I was speaking with Voja Antonic about ‘firmware’. The conversation continued forward but I noticed that he was calling it ‘software’. We later discussed it and Voja told me he thought only the parts of the code directly interacting with the microcontroller were firmware; the rest falls under the more generic term of software. It really had me wondering where firmware stops being firmware and is merely software?

The topic has remained on my mind and I finally got around to doing some dictionary searches. I’m surprised that I’ve been using the word differently and I think most of the people I’ve heard use it are doing the same — at least as far as dictionary definitions are concerned. My go to sources are generally Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries and both indicate that firmware is a type of software that is indelible:

Permanent software programmed into a read-only memory.

computer programs contained permanently in a hardware device (such as a read-only memory)

According to this definition, I have never written a single bit of firmware. Everything I have written has been embedded software. But surely this is a term that must change with the times as technology progress so I kept digging.

Continue reading “We’re Using the Word Firmware Wrong”

Have Some Candy While I Steal Your Cycles

Distributed computing is an excellent idea. We have a huge network of computers, many of them always on, why not take advantage of that when the user isn’t? The application that probably comes to mind is Folding@home, which lets you donate your unused computer time to help crunch the numbers for disease research. Everyone wins!

But what if your CPU cycles are being used for profit without your knowledge? Over the weekend this turned out to be the case with Showtime on-demand sites which mined Monero coins while the users was pacified by video playback. The video is a sweet treat while the cost of your electric bill is nudged up ever so slightly.

It’s an interesting hack as even if the user notices the CPU maxing out they’ll likely dismiss it as the horsepower necessary to decode the HD video stream. In this case, both Showtime and the web analytics company whose Javascript contained the mining software denied responsibility. But earlier this month Pirate Bay was found to be voluntarily testing out in-browser mining as a way to make up for dwindling ad revenue.

This is a clever tactic, but comes perilously close to being malicious when done without the user’s permission or knowledge. We wonder if those ubiquitous warnings about cookie usage will at times include notifications about currency mining on the side? Have you seen or tried out any of this Javascript mining? Let us know in the comments below.

All the Speakers Plus We’re Heating It Up a Day Early

Things are getting real now. Check the list below for the last round of confirmed speakers to the 2017 Hackaday Superconference. This brings our slate of speakers to 32, but we’re not done yet.

Hackaday is adding an extra day to the Superconference by starting the festivities on Friday. Again this year we have an excellent custom hardware badge in development. It’s hard to pull yourself away during the Supercon for badge hacking so this year you can check in on Friday and let the hacking begin. Since you’ll be in town early, we’re also throwing a party at Supplyframe office (minutes walk from the main venue) for all Supercon speakers and attendees.

But we’re still not done. 32 talks, an epic hardware badge, and an extra day of festivities, what else could there be you ask? Two things: workshops and the Hackaday Prize party. Supercon will play host to eight hardware workshops this year. We’ll announce workshop presenters and topics next week but I can tell you they’re superb this year!

Continue reading “All the Speakers Plus We’re Heating It Up a Day Early”

Huge Names Confirm Their Supercon Appearances

We’re excited to announce the next batch of speakers for the 2017 Hackaday Superconference.

We are especially pleased to welcome Michael Ossmann as a speaker. He presented an RF design workshop at the 2014 Superconference which was sold out, standing room only, and still turned away dozens of people before becoming a hit on the Internet. This year he takes the stage with colleague Dominic Spill as they focus on infrared communications and the uses and abuses of such.

Dr. Christal Gordon threw down an incredible talk on biologically inspired sensors last year and we suspect she will outdo herself this year. Her talk will cover the fanciest of cutting-edge sensors and the trade-offs of selecting the new hotness for your designs. Coming out of this you will know when to go with a suite of tried and true components and when to make the leap to new tech.

Several of this year’s Hackaday Prize Judges will be on hand and presenting talks. In addition to Christal Gordon and Danielle Applestone (announced as a speaker last week), we’re thrilled to have Anouk Wipprecht — internationally known for her work in fashion and engineering, pushing the boundaries of how technology can interface with humans — as a speaker. Nadya Peek from the Center for Bits and Atoms who spoke at Supercon in 2016 with a harrowing tale of an impromptu engineering challenge in Shenzhen has confirmed that she will speak this year.

The ever-popular Sprite_TM will be at Supercon. He has a reputation for bringing the house down with fantastic presentations, be it the Tamagochi Matrix or the Tiniest Game Boy. And we are proud to present the Art Director for Hackaday — Joe Kim will be speaking about the curious connection between art and technology and how developments in one push the other forward.

Ever wonder about the air you’re breathing in the house or at work. So does Natalia Mykhaylova whose work begins to monitor and catalog that information. She will discuss the state of our HVAC systems and what it looks like to bring them into the information age.

Below you’ll find the confirmed speakers we’re announcing today. We’ll have more, as well as a list of confirmed talks next week. Get your ticket now, they will sell out.

Continue reading “Huge Names Confirm Their Supercon Appearances”

Superconference Speakers Revealed

You’ll find the best hardware talks at the Hackaday Superconference. This year, we received over 140 proposals for a few dozen speaking slots. Although we’re still working through the proposals, today we can announce a few of the accepted and confirmed speakers so far. Below you’ll find about a third of the total slate of speakers.

Get Your Ticket to the Hackaday Superconference — they’re almost gone!

Continue reading “Superconference Speakers Revealed”

Hackaday London Meet-up this Friday

Hackaday takes over London at the end of this week. Join us on Friday night as we host a meetup at the Marquis Cornwallis, a pub in Bloomsbury.

This is a Bring-a-Hack style meetup, so grab something you’ve been working on to get the conversation flowing as you enjoy food and drink with members of the Hackaday community from the area. Also on hand from the Hackaday Crew will be [Mike Szczys], [Elliot Williams], [Jenny List], [Pedro Umbelino], and [Adil Malik]. We’re consistently delighted by the many and varied projects that show up — we want to meet you and hear about your project no matter how trivial, or involved. We do suggest you bring something handheld though, as tabletop space will be limited.

DesignSpark LogoWe’ve rented the upper floor of the pub and ordered food and fine beverages for all who attend. This is possible thanks to the support of DesignSpark, the exclusive sponsor of the Hackaday UK Unconference.

Tickets for that event have been sold out for ages now, so we’re glad to host a meetup to involve more of the UK Hackaday community. There are still a few left for this Friday Meetup so claim your free ticket now!

Visual Futurist Syd Mead will Keynote at Hackaday Superconference

What does the future actually look like? Chances are what you see in your mind when presented with that question is heavily influence by Syd Mead. He is an industrial designer, but his body of work — which includes some of the most iconic Sci-Fi movies ever filmed — built a much more interesting job title for him: Visual Futurist.

Meet Syd Mead as he presents a keynote talk at the 2017 Hackaday Superconference this November 11 and 12 in Pasadena, California.

Philip K. Dick wondered Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but when it came time to build those sheep and the world they live in, director Ridley Scott looked to Syd Mead to determine what the future in Blade Runner actually looked like. He invented a world, one that was actually built through the practical sets and props widely used in the days before computer graphics became the norm. Syd’s work is also seen in Star Trek: The Motion PictureAlien, and the iconic designs for the movie Tron. And his prolific work has continued to appear on the silver screen ever since, with Elysium and Tomorrowland as some of his more recent work.

How does one invent the future, even through decades of progress? That’s the role of hardware creators — to envision what we want and need tomorrow, not today or yesterday. Syd Mead is a hardware creator and his hardware has been built time and again to inspire all of us for where we’re going with technology. Take that ride along with Syd at the Hackaday Superconference. Get your tickets now.

[Main image credit: Blade Runner concept art by Syd Mead]