Supercon Talk: Mike Szczys Runs Down The State Of The Hackaday 2019

2019 was a great year for Hackaday. It marked the fifteenth year of the hacker community’s hive-brain, which is essentially forever in Internet Years, and we’re still laser-focused on bringing you the hacks that inspire you to create the hacks that inspire someone else to create the hacks of tomorrow. We’re immensely proud that Hackaday remains a must-read in the worldwide community of folks doing creative things with technology.

At the Superconference, our editor-in-chief Mike Szczys covered the best new developments here at Hackaday HQ in 2019: new weekly columns, mobile-friendly formats for both Hackaday’s front page and the mobile app for Hackaday.io, our podcast, some great new contests, and a ton of great in-depth original articles from our crew of writers. And that’s just what was new last year.

The part of Mike’s talk that I enjoyed the most, though, was his look back fifteen years ago to when Hackaday was just born. In the intervening 5,545 days, we’ve written more than 34,718 articles. (So much for “hack-a-day”, he says, doing the math.) We’re nearing our millionth comment. That’s a lot of Hackaday. So it’s fun to ask what has changed over this time, and track it through the memory of a hardware hacker.

Dig the old image styling! Groovy.

Back in 2008, Hackaday was a spry four-year-old, and we were featuring robot hacks where the brains and Internet connectivity were provided by WRT-54G routers, SMS connectivity was provided by hacking into a Nokia 3100, and the battery weighed more than the motors yet only lasted fifteen minutes. Today’s hacks toss in an ESP32, any old cheap SMS module, and an off-the-shelf Li-Ion battery pack and will run for days. Don’t even get me started on 3D printers. Or the ease of writing software for any of these machines. We’ve never lived in better times!

But that doesn’t mean that every project has to be a superconducting supercollider either; it’s equally important to showcase our simpler projects too, to give new people a foothold into the hacking scene. And it’s similarly crucial to show people how you failed, tried, and tried again before declaring victory. If all of our finished projects look like they were conjured out of thin air, it hides all of the learning that went into them, and that’s where a lot of the real gold is buried.

While we add features, media come and go, and the cutting edge becomes less and less distinguishable from magic, one thing remains constant: showing each other what we’re up to, sharing our best tips and tricks, and pushing forward the hacker state of the art. Long live Hackaday!

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Introducing The Hackaday Calendar Of Virtual Events

For many of us, the social distancing procedures being used to help control the spread of COVID-19 have been a challenge. We can’t go to our hackerspaces, major events have been postponed or canceled entirely, and even getting parts has become difficult due to the immense pressure currently being placed on retailers and delivery services. For even the most stoic hacker, these are difficult times.

But you don’t have to go through it alone. We might not be able to meet in person, but that doesn’t mean the exchange of thoughts and ideas has to stop. Hackaday has started up a calendar of events you can use to keep track of virtual classes and hangouts that you can take part in from the comfort of your own home. You don’t even need to wear pants (but you should, just to be safe).

Hacker Check-in returns tomorrow at 5pm Eastern time and this weekend is packed with must-see entries. You can start your Saturday by taking part in a KiCad/FreeCAD meetup, sit in on the BSides Atlanta security conference, jump over to a hardware show and tell in New Delhi, and then cap things off with an introduction to quantum computing presented by Kitty Yeung.

Looking to be more than an idle participant? If you want to teach a class, host a show and tell, or put together a round-table discussion, drop a line to superconference@hackaday.io. Pretty much anything of interest to the hacking and making community is fair game, and who knows when you’ll ever get another chance at a captive audience like this. When you haven’t left the house in a week, there’s not a whole lot you won’t watch online.

It’s easy to see social distancing as an overreaction, but the numbers don’t lie. Things are serious out there, especially in the dense population centers where hacker events generally take place. By staying home and taking part in events virtually, we can do our part to control the spread of this virus and hopefully return things to normal that much sooner.

Electromagnetic Field 2020 Cancelled

It’s the news we were all expecting but not looking forward to hearing: this summer’s EMF Camp which was to be held at the end of July in Herefordshire, UK, has been cancelled. This is of course due to the ongoing public health measures surrounding the COVID-19 virus pandemic. With the country on lockdown for the forseeable future, this is a responsible decision for a gathering the size of EMF which hosted around 2,500 attendees in 2018.

Existing ticket holders will be refunded, and will be guaranteed a ticket to the next event in 2022. According to the announcement, EMF is in the red to the tune of at least £25,000 ($29,523) because of non-refundable payments associated with booking the event, something to remember in two years time when faced with the choice of a normal ticket or a supporters ticket.

Work on starting conference badge production has been halted, but development continues apace and will not go to waste as it will form the basis of the 2022 item. This will make them the event badge team with the earliest preparation ever, and from what we saw when we had a brief look at an early prototype last year it should be a badge worth waiting for.

We’re sure all readers will understand the gravity of the situation, and that the EMF team have taken an appropriate response to what is an extraordinary series of events. Organising a hacker camp is a tough job at the best of times, and this must have been particularly hard on them. We thank them for their work on our behalf at previous events and in preparing for this aborted one, and we look forward to the next EMF Camp in 2022.

Corona Cancels Cons

As you read this, the Open Hardware Summit is taking place, but differently than in previous years. This year, it’s taking place in cyberspace! To what do we owe this futuristic development? Unfortunately, COVID-19, the corona virus.

And OHS isn’t alone. Vintage Computer Festival Pacific Northwest was cancelled outright. In Germany, where I live, the national health board has recommended cancelling all events with more than 1,000 attendees, and both the Maker Faire Berlin and the Chaos Computer Club’s 20th annual Easterhegg have been called off.

And just announced yesterday, our own Hackaday Belgrade event is going to be postponed and rescheduled for later this year. It’s truly sad, but we’re still looking forward to seeing you all a little bit later in the summer. If you can’t make the new date, tickets will of course be refunded. We’ll keep you informed when we get a new venue and time.

The best way to slow the spread of a global pandemic, according to the WHO who should know best, is washing your hands and avoiding contact with other people. “Social distancing” is the new catch-phrase, and that means keeping a few meters away from other folks whenever reasonable. And clearly, gathering people from all over the world, packing them into a single auditorium, and spending quality time together doesn’t meet this requirement.

So we’re all probably going to be laying low globally for a little while. On the positive side, this means more time for hacking here in the lab, and I’m excited to be able to watch the online version of the Open Hardware Summit. If you’re working from home, it’s that much easier to keep up to date with Hackaday. Still, I can’t wait to be on the other side of this thing, and it makes me appreciate the various social gatherings that much more.

And of course I have Isaac Newton in my thoughts, who developed the groundwork for his Calculus and laws of gravitation while at home because Cambridge was closed to stop the spread of the Great Plague. Wash your hands!

This article is part of the Hackaday.com newsletter, delivered every seven days for each of the last 210 weeks or so. It also includes our favorite articles from the last seven days that you can see on the web version of the newsletter.

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Hackaday Belgrade Conference Postponed

Due to uncertainties about the progress of the spread of the novel corona virus, it’s with a sad heart that we announce that we’re postponing the 2020 Hackaday Belgrade conference.

We will be rescheduling for later in the year, but for now we’ll be refunding conference tickets. We received a record number of incredible presenter proposals, and once we’ve rescheduled, we’ll get in touch with everyone who entered a proposal to check up on your availability.

In the meantime, come and hang out with us virtually on Hackaday.io’s Hackaday Belgrade page.

We know how much you were all looking forward to Belgrade in May, and it pains us to have to take this step. When we get more details ironed out, we’ll be sure to let you know! See you all a little bit later in the summer?

Welcome To The Open Hardware (Virtual) Summit

Readers are no doubt aware of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it’s having on many public gatherings. Some events have been curtailed, while others have been cancelled outright. Among the events impacted is the Open Hardware Summit, which was set to kick off this Friday in New York. But all is not lost, as the decision has been made to turn it into a virtual event with with speakers delivering their talks to a live online audience.

Full refunds are available should anyone want them, but ticket holders will still receive their swag bags. The schedule for the one day event is expected to remain pretty close to the one that was already announced, and there will also be a Discord chat and #ohs2020Virtual Twitter hashtag for viewers to discuss the presentations. When it goes live, a link to watch the stream will be added to the front page of the event’s website.

With the usual schedule of hacker events stretching out across the year, it’s likely that this won’t be the only major one impacted by COVID-19. Judging by what we have heard from those event organizers among our friends, the planning required for the outbreak is causing a lot of stress on top of the usual worries inherent to the job. We’d like to ask everyone to extend their understanding to the teams behind any events that are cancelled or postponed during these exceptional times. Stay safe everyone, and enjoy the (virtual) Open Hardware Summit.

The Hacker Hotel 2020 Badge

The art of the electronic conference badge has evolved over the last decade or more, such that for an individual example to be of note it now has to include some exceptional features. Perhaps a function that might previously have been considered impossible in a badge, or maybe an unusually beautiful design, an entertaining and compelling functionality, or it simply pushes the capabilities of an otherwise limited device in an unusually ingenious way. The badge from the recent Hacker Hotel 2020 comes from the same badge team that created the software platform derived from the SHA 2017 badge, and it ticks many of these boxes by combining a genuine work of art with a set of delightfully intricate puzzles at enough levels to interest all participants in the event.

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