The Supercon Badge is a Freakin’ Computer

It hangs around your neck, comes with the cost of admission, and would blow away a desktop computer from the 1980’s. This is the Hackaday Superconference badge and you can get your hands on one for the price of admission to the ultimate hardware conference.

Everyone through the door gets one of these badges featuring a 320 x 240 color display, a full qwerty keyboard, and limitless hacking potential! The stock firmware runs a BASIC interpreter, the CP/M operating system, and includes games and Easter Eggs. It’s a giant playground, and we want to see what you can do with this custom hardware during the three days of Supercon. Get your ticket now, then join me after the break for a demo video and plenty more info.

Continue reading “The Supercon Badge is a Freakin’ Computer”

The Exquisite Badges Of Open Hardware Summit

The past few years have been all about electronic conference badges and this year is no different. Right now, we’re setting up at the Open Hardware Summit at MIT, and this year’s badge is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a WiFi and Bluetooth-enabled e-paper badge, individually programmed for every attendee. The 2018 Open Hardware Summit badge is a work of art, and it was all created over on hackaday.io.

This board is based on the ESP trINKet designed by [Mike Rankin] with additional hardware design from [Alex Camilo]. The badge is based around the ESP32-wroom-32 module with a 2.13 inch e-paper display with a resolution of 250 x 122 pixels. To this, the badge adds an I2C accelerometer and support for add-ons. There’s also pads for an SD card holder — a soldering challenge, if you will — and few additional pads for bits and bobs.

But a badge is nothing without software, and that’s where this really gets good. The ESP32 module is a powerhouse, capable of emulating NES games or serving as a file server. Here, the stock configuration of the badge is rather simplistic: you can start a WiFi AP, log onto a web page, and change the name displayed on the badge. You can also start an FTP server, which is where things get really fun. Drop an application on that FTP server, and you can run Micro Python.

The badge is great, but the programming jig is awesome

The boards were made through OSH Park, and Screaming Circuits took care of the assembly. Anyone who has ever built a badge will tell you it isn’t the assembly that gets you — it’s the programming and provisioning. This is especially true since the Open Hardware Summit badge is distributed with the attendee’s names already preloaded. That’s a few hundred badges, all with unique firmware. This is a nightmare by any definition.

However, there’s always a good solution to a problem, and [Drew] from OSH Park showed me the best programming jig I’ve ever seen during the Summit pre-game at Artisan’s Asylum.

What you’re looking at is a 3D printed box loaded up with a touch-screen display, a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and a few pogo pins. This Raspberry Pi does all the heavy lifting by connecting to the Internet, pulling down the current version of the firmware, and loading that firmware onto the badge. There are a few more options thanks to the touch-screen interface, including provisioning all the badges with the names of the attendees — this can be done by reading a list of attendees and uploading the next one to the badge in the jig. All of this is wrapped up with a nice laser-cut cover that securely holds each badge exactly where it needs to be for the pogo pins to make contact.

This is, without question, the best programming jig I’ve seen. Any badge makers out there should take note: this is how you program a few hundred badges. The badge, itself, is great and just as this post is published there will be hundreds of eager hackers futzing about with this remarkable piece of hardware. If you want to check out the current progress of the badge hacking, check out the updates on Twitter

DrawBot Badge Represents the CNC World in Badge Design

Badges come in all shapes and sizes, but a badge that draws on a stack of Post-It notes is definitely a new one. The design uses three of the smallest, cheapest hobby servos reasonably available and has a drawing quality that creator [Bart Dring] describes as “adorably wiggly”. It all started when he decided that the CNC and mechanical design world needed to be better represented in the grassroots demo scene that is the badge world, and a small drawing machine that could be cheaply made from readily available components seemed just the ticket.

Two arms control the position of a pen, and a third motor lifts the assembly in order to raise or lower the pen to the drawing surface. Gravity does most of the work for pen pressure, so the badge needs to be hanging on a lanyard or on a tabletop in order to work. An ESP32 using [Bart]’s own port of Grbl does the work of motion control, and a small stack of Post-It notes serves as a writing surface. Without the 3D printed parts, [Bart] says the bill of materials clocks in somewhere under $12.

We’ve seen similar designs doing things like writing out the time with a UV LED, but a compact DrawBot on a badge is definitely a new twist and the fact that it creates a physical drawing that can be peeled off the stack also sets it apart from others in the badgelife scene.

All the Badges of DEF CON 26 (vol 3)

I tried my best to see every badge and speak with every badge maker at DEF CON 26. One thing’s for sure, seeing them all was absolutely impossible this year, but I came close. Check out the great badges shown off in volume 1 and in volume 2 of this series. The game is afoot, and if you are headed to a hacker conference there’s never been a better time to build your own hardware badge — whether you build 5 or 500!

All right, let’s look at the badges!

Continue reading “All the Badges of DEF CON 26 (vol 3)”

2018 Electromagnetic Field Badge: It’s an Entire Phone!

As is always the case with a significant hacker camp, we’ve been awaiting the official badge announcement for the upcoming Electromagnetic Field 2018 hacker camp with huge interest. These badges, for readers who may have been on Mars for the past few years, are part of a lively scene of wearable electronics at hacker conferences and camps, and can usually be expected to sport a fully-fledged computer in their own right along with other special functionality.

The announcement of the 2018 badge, dubbed the TiLDA Mk4, does not disappoint. We’d been told that there would be an on-site GSM network for which the welcome packs would contain a SIM, and the well-prepared among us had accordingly dusted off our old Nokia handsets alongside our DECT phones. What we hadn’t expected was that the SIM would be for the badge, because the Mk4 is a fully-fledged hackable mobile phone in its own right. The network will be fully functional for  calls and texts within the camp, though since it does not explicitly say so we expect that external calls may be an impossibility. Afterwards though it will remain a usable device on any GSM network, giving it a lease of post-camp life that may see more of them staying in use rather than joining the hacker’s dusty collection in a drawer.

Beyond the party-piece phone it appears to follow the lead of its 2016 predecessor, with the same Python environment atop a TI chipset including an MSP432E4 ARM Cortex M4F microcontroller running at 120MHz with 256kB of internal and 8MB of external RAM, a CC3210 WiFi processor, and the usual battery of sensors, LEDs and GPIOs. Importantly, it also has a Shitty Add-on connector. The 2016 badge was remarkably easy to develop for, and we expect that there will soon be an impressive array of apps for this badge too. If any reader would like to put together a Hackaday feed reader app, we can’t offer you fortune but fame such as we can bestow awaits.

We’ll bring you more information as we have it about the TiLDA Mk4, as well as a hands-on report when one lands in front of us. Meanwhile you’d like to see a retrospective of past EMF badges as a demonstration of where this one has come from, have a read of our coverage of the 2016 and 2014 badges.

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.

Continue reading “Badgelife, The Hardware Demoscene Documentary”

Hackaday Links: August 19, 2018

If you want to creep everyone out, [Hunter Irving] has your back. He found a weird, creepy knock-off Thomas the Tank Engine toy and mounted a servo to it. This animatronic face is really, really creepy and has the aesthetic of a pastel plastic hell of the forgotten toys destroyed in a day care in 1991. It probably smells like a thrift shop. This rosy-cheeked locomotive shall derail your soul. It sings karaoke.

Like badges? Sure you do. Ph0xx is the badge for the upcoming Fri3d Camp, a family hacker, maker, and DIY camp in Belgium with 600 attendees. The badge features an ESP-32, two 5×7 LED arrays, accelerometer, an 18650 battery with protection and a charger, expansion headers, and this badge is compatible with Lego Technic. Oh yes, they went there.

We’re filing this under ‘but why’. It’s a custom Mercedes-Benz motorcycle, with a sidecar, that looks like an early 80s Benz convertible. [Maarten] stumbled upon a few pics of this, but the google-fu is weak in trying to get some information about this build. Who built it? Why? Does it run?

Here’s something near and dear to my heart: my greatest contribution to humanity so far. The Shitty Add-On spec for this year’s batch of Def Con badges is the reason badges now have their own badges. Now it’s time for a slight upgrade to the standard, and I need your help. The SAO standard 1.1bis will retain the VCC/GND/SDA/SCL layout of the first revision, but to increase mechanical stability and decrease the complexity of populating the headers, we’re adding two pins. Here’s the question: what should these two extra pins do? The current options are adding TX and RX to the standard, or two GPIOs that are undefined, but able to be utilized by each badge team for their own purposes. Those are the two options, but I’m looking for your input in the comments. Hurry up, because we have Superconference badges to build.

You should know the Primitive Technology channel on YouTube. This week he made another step towards the iron age. The basic idea behind this channel is a guy in Australia playing Minecraft in real life, building everything he can, starting with the technology of punching trees. The latest video shows his process for smelting iron. The iron comes from iron-bearing bacterial sludge found in a creek. The geologic disadvantages of northeastern Australia notwithstanding, he’s doing everything else right. He’s making charcoal, and turning that sludge into something that could be a bloom of iron.