Badgelife, The Hardware Demoscene Documentary

Last week, tens of thousands of people headed home from Vegas, fresh out of this year’s DEF CON. This was a great year for DEF CON, especially when it comes to hardware. This was the year independent badges took over, thanks to a small community of people dedicated to creating small-run hardware, puzzles, and PCB art for thousands of conference-goers. This is badgelife, a demoscene of hardware, and this is just the beginning. It’s only going to get bigger from here on out.

We were lucky enough to sit down with a few of the creators behind the badges of this year’s DEF CON and the interviews were fantastic. Right here is a lesson on electronic design, manufacturing, and logistics. If you’ve ever wanted to be an engineer that ships a product instead of a lowly maker that ships a product, this is the greatest classroom in the world.

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Theo Jansen Invents A Faster, Simpler, Wind-Powered Strandbeest

[Theo Jansen] has come up with an intriguing wind-powered strandbeest which races along the beach with surprising speed and grace. According to [Jansen], it “doesn’t have hinging joints like the classical strandbeests, so they don’t get sand in their joints and you don’t have to lubricate them.” It’s called UMINAMI, which appropriately means “ocean wave” in Japanese.

There are only videos of it in action to go on so far, but a lot can be gleaned from them. To make it easier to keep track of just a single leg, we’ve slowed things down and reddened one of them in the banner animation. Those legs seem to be providing a push but the forward motion is more likely supplied by the sails. The second video below shows it being pulled along by the type of strandbeest we’re all more used to seeing.

What follows is an analysis and best guess about how it works. Or you can just enjoy its graceful undulations in the videos below.

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Stop Using Python 2: What You Need to Know About Python 3

Though Python 3 was released in 2008, many projects are still stuck on Python 2.

It’s understandable that porting large existing codebases to a new version is a prospect which sends a shiver down many a developer’s spine. But code inevitably needs to be maintained, and so when all the shiny new features that would fix everything are in a new version, is it really worth staying rooted in the past?

We’ll take you through some of the features that Python 2 programs are missing out on, not only from 3.0 but up to the current release (3.7).

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All the Badges of DEF CON 26 (vol 1)

Two or three years back you would see a handful of really interesting unofficial badges at DEF CON. Now, there’s a deluge of clever, beautiful, and well executed badges. Last weekend I tried to see every badge and meet every badge maker. Normally, I would publish one megapost to show off everything I had seen, but this year I’m splitting it into volumes. Join me after the break for the first upload of the incredible badges of DC26!

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Run a Linux Terminal on Cheap E-Ink Displays

If you haven’t kept up with the world of e-ink displays, here’s some good news: they are pretty cheap now. For as little as $15 you can get a small e-ink display that has good enough performance and contrast to actually do something useful. There’s only one problem: figuring out how to drive them in your project.

Tired of seeing nothing but wiring diagrams and sample code when it came to actually putting these e-ink modules to use, [Jouko Strömmer] decided to try his hand at creating a turn-key application for these gorgeous little displays. The result is PaperTTY, a Python program that allows the user to open up a fully functional Linux virtual terminal on an e-ink display.

Of course, there are some caveats. For one, this all assumes you’re using a Waveshare display (specifically their 2.13 inch HAT) connected to a Raspberry Pi over SPI. Not to say that’s the only hardware combination that will work, but it’s the only one that [Jouko] has done any testing on at this point. If you want to try to shake things up in terms of hardware, you might need to get your hands dirty.

The advantage of being able to open a Linux VT on one of these e-ink displays is pretty simple: you can run basically any piece of software you want on it. Rather than having to come up with software that specifically features support for the display, you can just use (or write) standard Linux console programs. [Jouko] mentions a number of popular programs such as vim and irssi, but you could just as easily write a Bash script to dump whatever data you like to the screen.

In the video after the break [Jouko] shows PaperTTY in action for the doubters who think these sorts of displays are no good for interactive use. The display is very crisp and readable, with no signs of flickering. Overall he says the experience is not unlike using a slow SSH connection. It might not be how we’d like to use a computer full time, but we can definitely see the potential.

With the recent progress with Kindle hacking, it seems that interest in e-ink is as high as ever. Despite what the haters might claim, it’s a useful niche tech that still holds plenty of promise.

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Modern PC Crammed Into an Original Xbox

When the original Microsoft Xbox was released in 2001, one of the most notable features of its design was that it used a number of off-the-shelf computer components. Inside contemporary offerings from Nintendo and Sony you’ll see almost nothing but proprietary components, whereas cracking open the Xbox reveals an IDE hard drive, a customized PC DVD-ROM drive, and an Intel Pentium III CPU. Depending on which team you were on, the Xbox’s close relation to PC hardware of the day was either a point of honor or ridicule in the early 2000’s console wars; but regardless of politics, it ended up being instrumental in all of the hacks and mods the console got over its lifetime.

In that light, [P8ntBal1551] managing to jam a modern computer into the shell of an Xbox is like having the last laugh in this nearly two-decade-old debate. Wanting to build an HTPC that wouldn’t look out of place in his entertainment center, he figured the Xbox would make a suitable home for his Intel 4460 powered build. Not to say it was easy: getting all of the hardware and associated wiring inside the case took a bit of cheating, but the end result looks good enough that we’ll give him a pass.

The key to this project is the 3D printed structure inside the Xbox’s case that holds everything together. Painstakingly designed to align all of his components and cooling fans, it took over 58 hours to print just the base plate alone on his CR-10.

Even with all of his primary components installed, [P8ntBal1551] still had to wrestle with an absolute rat’s nest of wiring. He couldn’t find smaller versions of a number of the cables he needed, so he had to resort to some creative wire management to get everything packed in there. In the end, there was simply too much gear for the Xbox’s case to legitimately fit, so he ended up printing a spacer to fit between the bottom and top halves. Though in the end even this worked out in his favor, as it gave him a place to mount the integrated FLIRC IR receiver without having to cut a hole in the original front panel. The end product looks close enough to stock to be almost unnoticeable to the casual observer.

Its been a while since we’ve seen a hack for Microsoft’s original black and green monster, most of the Xbox projects we see are in relation to its significantly more popular successor. It’s always nice to see people keeping the classics alive in their own way.

[via /r/pcmasterrace]

Tariff Expansion Set to Hit 3D-Printing Right in the Filament

Mere weeks after tariffs were put into place raising the cost of many Chinese-sourced electronics components by 25%, a second round of tariffs is scheduled to begin that will deal yet another blow to hackers. And this time it hits right at the heart of our community: 3D-printing.

A quick scan down the final tariff list posted by the Office of the US Trade Representative doesn’t reveal an obvious cause for concern. In among the hundreds of specific items listed one will not spot “Filaments for additive manufacturing” or anything else that suggests that 3D-printing supplies are being targeted. But hidden in the second list of tariff items, wedged into what looks like a polymer chemist’s shopping list, are a few entries for “Monofilaments with cross-section dimension over 1 mm.” Uh-oh!

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