Introducing The Hackaday Calendar Of Virtual Events

For many of us, the social distancing procedures being used to help control the spread of COVID-19 have been a challenge. We can’t go to our hackerspaces, major events have been postponed or canceled entirely, and even getting parts has become difficult due to the immense pressure currently being placed on retailers and delivery services. For even the most stoic hacker, these are difficult times.

But you don’t have to go through it alone. We might not be able to meet in person, but that doesn’t mean the exchange of thoughts and ideas has to stop. Hackaday has started up a calendar of events you can use to keep track of virtual classes and hangouts that you can take part in from the comfort of your own home. You don’t even need to wear pants (but you should, just to be safe).

Hacker Check-in returns tomorrow at 5pm Eastern time and this weekend is packed with must-see entries. You can start your Saturday by taking part in a KiCad/FreeCAD meetup, sit in on the BSides Atlanta security conference, jump over to a hardware show and tell in New Delhi, and then cap things off with an introduction to quantum computing presented by Kitty Yeung.

Looking to be more than an idle participant? If you want to teach a class, host a show and tell, or put together a round-table discussion, drop a line to superconference@hackaday.io. Pretty much anything of interest to the hacking and making community is fair game, and who knows when you’ll ever get another chance at a captive audience like this. When you haven’t left the house in a week, there’s not a whole lot you won’t watch online.

It’s easy to see social distancing as an overreaction, but the numbers don’t lie. Things are serious out there, especially in the dense population centers where hacker events generally take place. By staying home and taking part in events virtually, we can do our part to control the spread of this virus and hopefully return things to normal that much sooner.

Get Organized With This Raspberry Pi E-Ink Calendar

Like many hackers, we love e-ink. There’s something mesmerizing and decidedly futuristic about the way the images shift around and reconstitute themselves. Like something from Harry Potter, but that you can buy on Alibaba instead of from a shop in Diagon Alley. But as anyone who’s used the technology can tell you, the low refresh rate of an e-ink screen limits its potential applications. It works great for reading books, but beyond that its struggled to find its niche in a world of cheap LCDs.

But [Zonglin Li] has recently wrapped up a project which shows that e-ink has at least one more use case: personal calendars. You can get way with only updating the screen once a day so the refresh rate won’t matter, and the rest of the time it’s going to be static anyway so you might as well enjoy the energy savings of leaving the screen off. With a Raspberry Pi behind the scenes pulling data from the Internet, it can populate the calendar with everything from your personal schedule to when your favorite podcast drops.

In practice, [Zonglin] is actually updating the display every hour as he’s included the current weather conditions on the top left of the screen, but even still, this is a perfect application for the very unique properties of e-ink displays. The display is a 7.5 inch 640×384 model from Waveshare that retails for about $50 USD, so between the display, the Raspberry Pi, and something to put it all in (here, a picture frame) this is a pretty cheap build compared to some of the large format e-ink displays out there.

The software side is written in Python 3, and [Zonglin] has documented how others can easily plug in their own information so it can pull schedule data from Google Calendar and local conditions from Open Weather Map. The MIT licensed source code is also very well organized and commented, so this could serve as an excellent base if you’re looking to create a more comprehensive e-ink home information display.

If this seems a little too pedestrian for your tastes, you could always put together an e-ink movie player, a surprisingly functional Linux terminal, or a very slick ESP8266-based name tag. If you’ve got the better part of $1K USD and don’t know what to do with it, you could even get an e-ink license plate.

DIY Perpetual Flip Calendar

Flip calendars are a neat little piece of history. Sold as tourist trinkets, they sit on your desk and show the current day of the month and, depending on the particular calendar, month and year. Each day, you rotate it and it shows you the current date. At the end of February, you rotate it a bunch of times to get from February 28th (or 29th) to March 1st. [measuredworkshop] always had fun flipping the dates on his parents’ flip calendar, so decided to build his own wooden one.

The calendars consist of a series of tiles with the dates on them inside an enclosure. Rotating the enclosure allows a new tile to slide down in front of the old one. Once you know how many tiles you are going to use, you put a different date on the back side of each tile. In [measuredworkshop]’s case, there were 15 tiles to hold 30 dates (he created one with 30/31 on it for the end of the month) so the 1 has a 16 on the back, the 2 a 17, and so on. Tiles of different colored wood were cut and sanded and then the numbers drawn on by hand.

The enclosure was cut using a Morso Guillotine, a machine which uses sharp blades to do precise mitre cuts in wood. One side of the enclosure was covered by wood, the other by clear acrylic, so that you can see how the mechanism works as it is rotated. Finally, a stand was cut from wood as well and the final product assembled.

As you can see in the video below this is a great showpiece, and because of the design gives a view into how flip-calendars work. At the end of his write-up, [measuredworkshop] shares a link he found to a 3d printed flip-calendar on Thingiverse. Check out some of the more techie calendars posted at Hackaday, like this e-ink calendar, or this Raspberry Pi wall calendar.

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IoT Chore Reminder For The Serially Forgetful

The secret to domestic bliss often lies in attention to detail, an area in which we can all do a little better. But if paper notes and smartphone reminders are not enough to help you remember to knock jobs off your list, perhaps this IoT task reminder will give you the edge you need to keep the peace at home.

As [Andreas Spiess] points out, his best intentions of scheduling recurring tasks in Google Calendar were not enough to keep him on on top of his share of chores around the house. He found that the notifications popping up on his phone were far too easy to swipe away in favor of other distractions, so he set about building a real-world reminder. His solution uses a WeMOS D1 Mini in a bright blue 3D-printed box with from one to four LED switches on the front. Each box is linked to his Google Calendar, and when a task comes due, its light turns on. Sprinkled about the house near the task, like the laundry room or near the recycling, [Andreas] can’t help but see the reminder, which only goes out when he cancels it by pressing the task button. Simple but effective, and full of potential for other uses too.

Of course, the same thing could be accomplished with a Magic Mirror build, which we’ve seen a lot of over the years. But there’s something about the simplicity of these devices and their proximity to the task that makes sense — sort of like the Amazon Dash concept. We might build a few of these too.

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Bossy Calendar Tells Visitors When To Go Away

So here’s the scenario. You’re the boss and everyone needs to kiss up to you speak with you about important project details. You need a receptionist, or a creative employee who will build a calendar display the lets people check if you’re free to chat. It works by querying a Microsoft Exchange server for the guy’s calendar. The hardware within doesn’t deal directly with the full Exchange API, but relies on a server-side script that feeds it info on request. This is a nice touch since you can do a lot of filtering on the server and keep it simple with the embedded electronics

Speaking of embedded hardware, this uses Gadgeteer modules. You probably don’t remember, but these are Microsoft’s electronic modules aimed at C# and .NET programmers. It uses the main board, and LCD, USB host, and Wifi modules. This is the first project we remember seeing since the hardware was announced.

We wonder if this will change the boss’ behavior? Will he start scheduling creatively so that he gets more time without interruption?

[Bob] Shows Us How To Make DIY Calendars For Vintage Computer Geeks

nixie-tubes

[Bob Alexander] wrote in to share a hobby of his that we thought was pretty timely considering the new year is quickly approaching. For several years now he has put together a custom calendar for himself, including both dates he finds important along with sweet pictures of vintage computer equipment. Friends and family found his calendars so intriguing that they asked him to make some for them as well.

Each year his stack of calendar requests grew, and he found that no outlet – online or otherwise could produce exactly what he wanted. Instead of settling, he wrote a small application that lets him customize and print calendars to his heart’s content.

We think this is much cooler than buying one at your local bookstore, and we’re guessing that our readers likely agree. If you were creating your own custom calendar, what cool vintage computer hardware would you choose to display? What if you were designing a Hack-a-Day calendar? Let us know in the comments – we’re itching to find something interesting to look at while we count down to New Year’s Eve!

Parts: I2C Real-time Clock Calendar (PCF8563)

pcf8563

The PCF8563 is a real-time clock/calendar/alarm chip with an I2C interface. This would be useful in projects where the primary microcontroller doesn’t have enough resources for an interrupt driven clock.

We demonstrate the PCF8563 using the Bus Pirate after the break. For a limited time you can get your own Bus Pirate, fully assembled and shipped worldwide, for only $30.

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