Friday Hack Chat: Open Source Startups

If you want to found a company, you’ll find pages and pages of advice scattered around the Internet telling you exactly how to do that. What if you want to found an Open Source hardware company? That’s a bit harder — you can’t do hardware as a service, and that Open Source moniker will drive away investors.

[Zach Fredin] is one of the rare founders that are making an Open Source hardware company work. In 2015, he developed NeuroBytes, a system of electric neurons designed in such a way that if you get two hundred or so, you can replicate the brain of a flatworm. NeuroBytes was a finalist in the 2015 Hackaday Prize, the team received an NHS grant, and now these PCB neurons will be on the market late this year.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking to [Zach] about the challenges about creating a company from nothing and doing it the Open Source way. Topics for this Friday’s Hack Chat will include the experience of building an Open Source hardware company, manufacturing, building a community around a product, and business spelled with dollar signs.

This Hack Chat will be Friday, noon, PDT. If you have a question for [Zach]. here’s a spreadsheet we’ll be drawing questions from. Continue reading “Friday Hack Chat: Open Source Startups”

Retrotechtacular: Information From The Days When Colour TV Was New

By the time colour TV came to the United Kingdom, it was old news to Americans. Most of the viewing public on the Western side of the Atlantic had had the opportunity to see more than black-and-white images for years when in 1967 the BBC started transmitting its first colour channel, BBC2.

For Americans and continental Europeans, the arrival of colour TV had been an incremental process, in which the colour subcarrier had been added to their existing transmission standard. Marketed as “compatible color” to Americans, this ensured that their existing black-and-white TV sets had no need for replacement as the new transmissions started.

The United Kingdom by contrast had been one of the first countries in the world to adopt a television standard in the 1930s, so its VHF 405-line positive-modulation black-and-white services stood alone and looked extremely dated three decades later. The BBC had performed experiments using modified round-CRT American sets to test the feasibility of inserting an NTSC colour subcarrier into a 405-line signal, but had eventually admitted defeat and opted for the Continental 625-line system with the German PAL colour encoding. This delivered colour TV at visibly better quality than the American NTSC system, but at the expense of a 15-year process of switching off all 405-line transmitters, replacing all 405-line sets, and installing new antennas for all viewers for the new UHF transmissions.

Such a significant upgrade must have placed a burden upon the TV repair and maintenance trade, because as part of the roll-out of the new standard the BBC produced and transmitted a series of short instructional animated films about the unfamiliar technology, which we’ve placed below the break. The engineer is taken through the signal problems affecting UHF transmissions, during which we’re reminded just how narrow bandwidth those early UHF Yagis must have been, then we are introduced to the shadowmask tube and all its faults. The dreaded convergence is introduced, as these were the days before precision pre-aligned CRTs, and we briefly see an early version of the iconic Test Card F. Finally we are shown the basic procedure for achieving the correct white balance. There is a passing reference to dual-standard sets, as if convergence for colour transmissions wasn’t enough of a nightmare a lot of the early colour sets incorporated a bank of switches on their PCB to select 405-line or 625-line modes. The hapless engineer would have to set up the convergence for both signals, something that must have tried their patience.

The final sequence looks at the hand-over of the new set to the customer. In an era in which we are used to consumer electronics with fantastic reliability we would not be happy at all with a PAL set from 1967. They were as new to the manufacturers as they were to the consumers, so the first generation of appliances could hardly have been described as reliable. The smiling woman in the animated film would certainly have needed to call the engineer again more than once to fix her new status symbol.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Information From The Days When Colour TV Was New”

These Twenty Assistive Technologies Projects Won $1000 In The Hackaday Prize

Today, we’re excited to announce the winners of the Assistive Technologies portion of The Hackaday Prize. In this round, we’re looking for projects that will help ensure a better quality of life for the disabled. Whether this is something that enhances learning, working, or daily living. These are the projects that turn ‘disability’ into ‘this ability’.

Hackaday is currently hosting the greatest hardware competition on Earth. We’re giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars to hardware creators to build the next great thing. Last week, we wrapped up the fourth of five challenges. It was all about showing a design to Build Something That Matters. Hundreds entered and began their quest to build a device to change the world.

There’s still one entry challenge remaining in The Hackaday Prize. Anything Goes is on right now and open to every idea imaginable. If you’re building a computer made of sand, awesome. Quadcopter hammock? Neat. This is the portion of the Hackaday Prize that’s open to the best ideas out there. It’s up to you to explain how your creation makes the world a little bit better place.

The winners of the Assistive Technologies challenge are, in no particular order:

Assistive Technologies Hackaday Prize Finalists:

Continue reading “These Twenty Assistive Technologies Projects Won $1000 In The Hackaday Prize”

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!

Hackaday Links: September 10, 2017

Hackaday is 13! We’re going through a bit of a rebellious phase. There’s hair where there wasn’t hair before. Thirteen years ago (Sept. 5, 2004), [Phil Torrone] published the first Hackaday Post. [Phil] posted a great writeup of the history of Hackaday over on the Adafruit blog — we were saved from the AOL borg because of the word ‘hack’ — and interviewed the former and current editors of your favorite DIY website. Here’s to 13 more years and to [Phil] finding a copy of the first version of the Jolly Wrencher designed in Macromedia Flash.

Hackaday is having an unconference in the UK! Tickets for next weekend’s event went fast, but don’t worry — we’re hosting a Bring A Hack the day before.

Hurricanes are an awesome force of nature. As we learned from Harvey a week ago, livestreamed footage from the eyewall of a hurricane is fascinating. [Jeff Piotrowski] seems to be the streamer of choice. If you’re looking for something to gawk at, here you go.

Another burn is over, and I still have no idea how they moved the fuselage of a 747 from Palmdale to the playa.

You know we’re doing this whole Hackaday Prize thing where we’re giving a ton of money to people for creating cool hardware, right? We’re almost done with that. The last round of The Hackaday Prize is going on right now. The theme is anything goes, or rather there is no theme. The goal of this round is to build cool stuff. This round ends on October 16th, and yes, we’ll have the results for the Assistive Technologies round out shortly.

[Prusa] makes a lot of printers, and that means he needs to make a lot of parts to make a lot of printers. Obviously, a PTFE-cutting robot is the solution to this problem

October 5th is the Open Source Hardware Summit in Denver. Hackaday and Tindie are going, and it’s going to be a blast.  The location has moved in the last week — now it’s about half a mile away from the old venue. The speaker schedule is up, board nominations are open, and somewhere, someone is organizing a Lulzbot/Sparkfun booze cruise the day after the summit. I should be getting a van to add capacity to this trip, so if you’re interested leave a note in the comments.

It’s Time For Anything Goes In The Hackaday Prize

We’re challenging you to make the best whatever. It’s time for the Anything Goes round of the Hackaday Prize. This is your final chance to enter and we’re looking for just about anything! Twenty entries from Anything Goes will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a chance at the $50,000 grand prize and four other top prizes.

Over the last six months, we asked you to Design Your Concept, and then challenged you to build the Internet of Useful Things, Wheels Wings and Walkers, and Assistive Technologies that ensure a better quality of life for the disabled. All things must come to an end, though, but for the last challenge in the Hackaday Prize, we’re going wild. Is there a theme? No, just go build the best whatever you can. Our one bit of advice: the Hackaday Prize is about Building Something that Matters so do find a way for your “anything” to make the world a little bit better place.

The Anything Goes portion of the prize was introduced in last year’s Hackaday Prize. We didn’t want to exclude anyone building something awesome just because it didn’t fit a theme, so we created a challenge anyone could meet. The results last year were phenomenal, with twenty projects each winning a thousand dollars and progressing onto the final round of the Hackaday Prize. Winners last year included an Open Source Two-Stroke Diesel, a beautiful Diode Clock, and Dtto, a modular robot that went on to win the Grand Prize. Do you see a common theme between these projects? There isn’t one. The Anything Goes portion of the prize is a challenge to build the coolest thing.

This entry round is going on right now and ends October 16th. It’s the last chance for any project to make it to the final round with a potential to take home the Grand Prize of $50,000 USD.

Get those project logs in, and start making a video. Be sure you answer the final call to get in on the 2017 Hackaday Prize.

Friday Hack Chat: Elecia White Talks Embedded Systems

The Arduino ecosystem, despite the comments it receives from Real Engineers™, is actually pretty great. There’s no other tool that works with as many varieties of microcontrollers, has as many libraries, and is as easy to use as the Arduino. It’s perfect for getting a project up and running quickly, but when it comes down to getting the last cycles or kilobits out of an embedded system you’ll quickly find the little blue infinity icon just won’t cut it.

Embedded system design goes far beyond the Arduino ecosystem, and for this week’s Hack Chat, we’ll be talking about squeezing the last drops out of tiny pieces of silicon.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat will be [Elecia White], embedded software engineer at Logical Elegance, author of O’Reilly’s Making Embedded Systems, and host of the Embedded.fm podcast.  In this chat, we’re going to be talking about moving beyond the Arduino ecosystem.

Topics for this week’s Hack Chat will include embedded systems ecosystems, how to match processors to projects, choosing IDEs, programmers, and other tools, and actually shipping all those whizz-bang microcontroller projects out to eager buyers. We’re opening up the floor to all questions, so if you have something to add, here’s a spreadsheet to guide the discussion.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. Hack Chats are mostly, usually at noon, Pacific time on Friday. This week is no exception and everything is going down noon, PDT, Friday, September 8th. Are time zones confusing? Not a problem; here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.