Supercon 2023: Exploring The Elegance Of The Voja4

When you design an electronic badge, the goal is to make a device that’s interesting and has enough depth to keep your attendees engaged for the duration of the con but not so complicated that they can’t become proficient with it before they have to head home. It’s a difficult balance to nail down, and truth be told, not every Supercon badge has stuck the landing in this regard.

But if you’ve really done things right, you’ll create a piece of hardware that manages to outlive the event it was designed for. A badge that attendees continue to explore for months, and potentially even years, afterward. If the talk “Inside the Voja4” by Nathan Jones is any indication, we think it’s safe to say that goal was achieved with the Supercon 2022 badge.

During this forty-minute presentation, Nathan discusses what makes the 4-bit badge so fascinating from a technical standpoint and how it could theoretically be expanded to accomplish far more complex tasks than one might assume at first glance.

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Supercon 2023: Building The Ultimate Apple IIe, Decades Later

The Apple II was launched in 1977, a full 47 years ago. The Apple IIe came out six years later, with a higher level of integration and a raft of new useful features. Apple eventually ended production of the whole Apple II line in 1993, but that wasn’t the end. People like [James Lewis] are still riffing on the platform to this day. Even better, he came to Supercon 2023 to tell us all about his efforts!

[James]’s talk covers the construction of the Mega IIe, a portable machine of his own design. As the name suggests, the project was based on the Mega II chip, an ASIC for which he had little documentation. He wasn’t about to let a little detail like that stop him, though.

The journey of building the Mega IIe wasn’t supposed to be long or arduous; the initial plan was to “just wire this chip up” as [James] puts it. Things are rarely so simple, but he persevered nonetheless—and learned all about the Apple II architecture along the way.

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Supercon 2023: MakeItHackin Automates The Tindie Workflow

Selling your hardware hacks is a great way to multiply your project’s impact, get your creations into others’ hands, and contribute to your hacking-related budget while at it. If you’re good at it, your store begins to grow. From receiving a couple orders a year, to getting one almost every day – if you don’t optimize the process of mailing orders out, it might just start taking a toll on you.

That is not to say that you should worry – it’s merely a matter of optimization, and, now you have a veritable resource to refer to. At Supercon 2023, [MakeItHackin]/[Andrew] has graced us with his extensive experience scaling up your sales and making your shipping process as seamless as it could be. His experience is multifaceted, and he’s working with entire four platforms – Tindie, Lectronz, Etsy and Shopify, which makes his talk all that more valuable.

[MakeItHackin] tells us how he started out selling hardware, how his stores grew, and what pushed him to automate the shipping process to a formidable extent. Not just that – he’s developed a codebase for making the shipping experience as smooth as possible, and he’s sharing it all with us.

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Supercon 2023: Jose Angel Torres On Building A Junkyard Secure Phone

If you ever wondered just what it takes to build a modern device like a phone, you should have come to last year’s Supercon and talked with [Jose Angel Torres]. He’s an engineer whose passion into investigating what makes modern devices tick is undeniable, and he tells us all about where his forays have led so far – discovering marvels that a Western hacker might not be aware of.

Six years ago, he has moved to China, having previously been responsible for making sure that their Chinese subcontractors would manufacture things in the right ways. Turns out, doing that while being separated by an ocean set up more than just the timezone barriers – they were communicating between different worlds.

[Jose] tells us of having learned Chinese on the spot, purely from communicating with people around him, and it’s no wonder he’s had the motivation! What he’s experienced is being at the heart of cycle of hardware life, where devices are manufactured, taken apart and rebuilt anew. Here’s how he tapped into that cycle, and where he’s heading now.

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Supercon 2023: Alex Lynd Explores MCUs In Infosec

The average Hackaday reader hardly needs to be reminded of the incredible potential of the modern microcontroller. While the Arduino was certainly transformative when it hit the scene, those early 8-bit MCUs were nothing compared to what’s on the market now. Multiple cores with clock speeds measured in the hundreds of megahertz, several MB of flash storage, and of course integrated WiFi capability mean today’s chips are much closer to being fully-fledged computers than their predecessors.

It’s not hard to see the impact this has had on the electronics hobby. In the early 2000s, getting your hardware project connected to the Internet was a major accomplishment that probably involved bringing some hacked home router along for the ride. But today, most would consider something like an Internet-connected remote environmental monitor to be a good starter project. Just plug in a couple I2C sensors, write a few lines of Python, and you’ve got live data pouring into a web interface that you can view on your mobile device — all for just a few bucks worth of hardware.

But just because we’re keenly aware of the benefits and capabilities of microcontrollers like the ESP32 or the Pi Pico, doesn’t mean they’ve made the same impact in other tech circles. In his talk Wireless Hacking on a $5 Budget, Alex Lynd goes over some examples of how he’s personally put these devices to work as part of his information security (infosec) research.

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Adding Cellular Connectivity To The Hackaday Supercon Badge

Did you manage to make it down to Hackaday Supercon 2023? Maybe you did, and maybe you had a great time hacking away on the badge. [Dan] and ex-Hackaday alumnus [Mike Szczys] certainly did, with the guys from Golioth adding cellular connectivity to the hardware and developing a community art project.

The badge was hooked up over I2C to a Golioth Aludel Mini, which is a prototyping platform featuring a Sparkfun nRF9160 cellular modem. A custom Micropython implementation was compiled for the badge so that the badge could act as an I2C peripheral to be queried by the Aludel Mini. The sketch app on the badge was tweaked to allow the small pictures it created to be be uploaded to a cloud site called Badgecase, programmed in Rust. Amusingly, it turns out the sketch app uses a rectangular workspace, though you only see a circular section of it on the Supercon badge’s awesomely round display.

Much of the hack is happening off-board from the badge itself, but it’s a neat piece of work that shows how easy cellular connectivity is to implement these days. We’ve seen some other great feats with the Vectorscope badge, and it looked great if you happened to 3D print a case for it, too. Video after the break.

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Add Some Blinkenlights To Your Supercon Badge

We’re not sure what is more amazing here: the glow of the blinkenlights themselves, the tedium involved in creating it, or the fact that [makeTVee] soldered 280 microscopic WS2812 LEDs while at Supercon.

This hack began before the con when [makeTVee] designed the LED-diffusing frame in Fusion 360 and printed it in clear resin. Rather than solder the LEDs straight, the frame has 280 teeth that support each one at a 55° angle.

Not only does this look cool, it makes the bridging of DOUT to DIN much easier. That leaves GND and VCC to be painstakingly connected with 30 AWG wire. How, you might ask? With a little help from 3.5x magnifying glasses and the smallest soldering iron tip available, of course.

But that’s not all. Since 280 addressable LEDs need a lot of power, [makeTVee] also designed a holder for the LiPo battery pack that fits into the existing AA holders.

Want to see more awesome badge hacks? Check out the compendium.