2022 Hackaday Prize: Congratulations To The Winners Of The Climate-Resilient Communities Challenge

Holy humanitarian hacking, Batman! We asked you to come up with your best climate-forward ideas, and you knocked it out of the ionosphere! Once again, the judges had a hard time narrowing down the field to just ten winners, but they ultimately pulled it off — and here are the prize-winning projects without much further ado.

In the Climate-Resilient Challenge, we asked you to design devices that help build communities’ resilience to severe weather and the increasing frequency of natural disasters due to climate change, and/or devices that collect environmental data that serves as hard evidence in the fight for changes in local infrastructure. While several people focused on air quality, which is something we tend to think of as a human need, plenty others thought of the flora and fauna with which we share this planet.

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Japan Wants To Decarbonize With The Help Of Ammonia

With climate change concerns front of mind, the world is desperate to get to net-zero carbon output as soon as possible. While direct electrification is becoming popular for regular passenger cars, it’s not yet practical for more energy-intensive applications like aircraft or intercontinental shipping. Thus, the hunt has been on for cleaner replacements for conventional fossil fuels.

Hydrogen is the most commonly cited, desirable for the fact that it burns very cleanly. Its only main combustion product is water, though its combustion can generate some nitrogen oxides when burned with air. However, hydrogen is yet to catch on en-masse, due largely to issues around transport, storage, and production.

This could all change, however, with the help of one garden-variety chemical: ammonia. Ammonia is now coming to the fore as an alternative solution. It’s often been cited as a potential way to store and transport hydrogen in an alternative chemical form, since its formula consists of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms.However, more recently, ammonia is being considered as a fuel in its own right.

Let’s take a look at how this common cleaning product could be part of a new energy revolution.

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Linux Fu: Atomic Power

People are well aware of the power of virtual machines. If you want to do something dangerous — say, hack on the kernel — you can create a virtual machine, snapshot it, screw it up a few times, restore it, and your main computer never misses a beat. But sometimes you need just a little shift in perspective, not an entire make belive computer. For example, you are building a new boot disk and you want to pretend it is the real boot disk and make some updates. For that there is chroot, a Linux command that lets you temporarily open processes that think the root of the filesystem is in a different place than the real root. The problem is, it is hard to manage a bunch of chroot environments which is why they created Atoms.

The system works with several common distributions and you install it via Flatpak. That means you can launch, for example, a shell that thinks it is running Gentoo or Centos Linux under Ubuntu.

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Reverse Engineering Hack Chat With Matthew Alt

Join us on Wednesday, September 28 at noon Pacific for the Reverse Engineering Hack Chat with Matthew Alt!

Our world is full of mysteries, from the nature of time to how exactly magnets work. There are some things that we just have to accept that no matter how hard we look, we’ll never get a complete answer, especially in the natural world. The constructed world is another thing, though. It doesn’t seem fair that only a relatively few people have the inside scoop on the workings of everyday things, like network routers, game consoles, and even the vehicles we drive. Of course, the companies that make these things have a right to profit from their intellectual property, but we as consumers also have a right to be curious about how these things work and to understand what the software running on these devices is doing on our behalf.

join-hack-chatLuckily, what can be engineered can be reverse engineered, if you have the right tools and the skills to use them. It can be a challenge, but it’s one Matthew Alt has taken on plenty of times. We’ve seen him deep-dive into JTAG, look at serial wire debugging, and recently even try some glitching attacks. In fact, he even taught a HackadayU course on reverse engineering with Ghidra. And now he’ll drop by the Hack Chat to talk all about reverse engineering. Join us with your questions, your exploits, and your ideas on how to go where no hacker has gone before.

Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, September 28 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

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Hackaday Links: September 25, 2022

Looks like there’s trouble out at L2, where the James Webb Space Telescope suffered a mechanical anomaly back in August. The issue, which was just announced this week, involves only one of the six imaging instruments at the heart of the space observatory, known as MIRI, the Mid-Infrared Instrument. MIRI is the instrument on Webb that needs the coldest temperatures to work correctly, down to six Kelvins — we’ve talked about the cryocooler needed to do this in some detail. The problem has to do with unexpectedly high friction during the rotation of a wheel holding different diffraction gratings. These gratings are rotated into the optical path for different measurements, but apparently the motor started drawing excessive current during its move, and was shut down. NASA says that this only affects one of the four observation modes of MIRI, and the rest of the instruments are just fine at this time. So they’ve got some troubleshooting to do before Webb returns to a full program of scientific observations.

There’s an old saying that, “To err is human, but to really screw things up takes a computer.” But in Russia, to really screw things up it takes a computer and a human with a really poor grasp on just how delicately balanced most infrastructure systems are. The story comes from Moscow, where someone allegedly spoofed a massive number of fake orders for taxi rides (story in Russian, Google Translate works pretty well) through the aggregator Yandex.Taxi on the morning of September 1. The taxi drivers all dutifully converged on the designated spot, but instead of finding their fares, they just found a bunch of other taxis milling about and mucking up traffic. Yandex reports it has already added protection against such attacks to its algorithm, so there’s that at least. It’s all fun and games until someone causes a traffic jam.

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Honor Your Hacker Heroes

We recently ran an article on a sweet percussion device made by minimal-hardware-synth-madman [Gijs Gieskes]. Basically, it amplifies up an analog meter movement and plays it by slamming it into the end stops. Rhythmically, and in stereo. It’s got that lovely thud, plus the ringing of the springs. It takes what is normally a sign that something’s horribly wrong and makes a soundtrack out of it. I love it.

[Gijs] has been making electro-mechanical musical hacks for about as long as I’ve been reading Hackaday, if not longer. We’ve written up no fewer than 22 of his projects, and the first one on record is from 2005: an LSDJ-based hardware sequencer. All of his projects are simple, but each one has a tremendously clever idea at its core that comes from a deep appreciation of everything going on around us. Have you noticed that VU meters make a particular twang when they hit the walls? Sure you have. Have you built a percussion instrument out of it? [Gijs] has!

Maybe it’s a small realization, and it’s not going to change the world by itself, but I’ve rebuilt more than a couple projects from [Gijs]’ repertoire, and each one has made my life more fun. And if you’re a regular Hackaday reader, you’ve probably seen hundreds or thousands of similar little awesome ideas played out, and maybe even taken some of them on as your own as well. When they accumulate up, I believe they can change the world, at least in the sense of filling up a geek’s life. I hope that feeling comes across when we write up a project. Those of you out there hacking, we salute you!

Hackaday Podcast 186: Weighing Cats, Slamming VU Meters, Slimmer Skimmers, And Clean Air On The Cheap

Hackaday Editor-in-Chief Elliot Williams took time out from Supercon planning to join Staff Writer Dan Maloney for a look through the hacking week that was. We always try to keep things light, but it’s hard sometimes, especially when we have to talk about wars past and present and the ordnance they leave behind. It’s also not a lot of fun to talk about a continent-wide radio outage thanks to our angry Sun, nor is learning that a wafer-thin card skimmer could be lurking in your ATM machine.

But then again, we did manage to have some fun by weighing cats to make sure they’re properly fed, and making music by pegging VU meters. We also saw how to use PCBs to make a beautiful yet functional circuit sculpture, clean up indoor air on a budget, and move microns with hardware store parts. And we also got to celebrate a ray of international hope by looking back on the year that taught us much of what we know about the Earth.

Check out the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download here!

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