Live Streams and Hack Chat From The Hackaday Superconference

Want to experience the Hackaday Superconference from the comfort of your own workshop? Just follow us on YouTube or on Facebook as two days of live streaming talks begin this Saturday morning.

This weekend is the Hackaday Superconference, the greatest hardware conference on Earth. While the Superconference is the most amazing gatherings of engineers and engineering enthusiasts, we realize that not everyone can make it out to our ultimate hardware conference. This year, we’re doing something special for everyone who can’t make it out — we’re opening up live streams and live chat to those who can’t attend. This is your chance to take part in the Superconference, even if you’re thousands of miles away.

You are invited to the chat room for the event. Join the Superconference chat right now and be part of the culture of the Hacker Village that springs to life during Supercon.

LoRa Is the Network

We’ve become used to seeing LoRa appearing in projects on these pages, doing its job as a low-bandwidth wireless data link with a significant range. Usually these LoRa projects take the form of a client that talks to a central Internet connected node, allowing a remote wireless-connected device to connect through that node to the Internet.

It’s interesting then to see a modest application from [Mark C], a chat application designed to use a set of LoRa nodes as a peer-to-peer network. In effect LoRa becomes the network, instead of simply being a tool to access it. He optimistically describes peer-to-peer LoRa networks as the new FidoNet in his tip email to us, which might be a bold statement, but we can certainly see some parallel. It’s important to note that the application is merely a demonstrable proof-of-concept as it stands, however we’d agree that it has some potential.

The hardware used for the project is the Heltec ESP32-based LoRa board, which comes with a handy OLED screen on which the messages appear. As it stands a PC connection is required to provide text input via serial, however it’s not impossible to imagine other more stand-alone interfaces. If it interests you the code can be downloaded from the GitHub repository, so maybe this can become the seed for wider peer-to-peer LoRa networks.

There have been no shortage of LoRa projects featured here over the years. Recent ones include a handy local LoRa packet sniffer, and news of an extreme distance record from a LoRa node on a balloon.

Distributed, Open Source Chat with Vector and Matrix

When it comes to chat, you have many choices. Facebook Messenger, Google Talk, Whatsapp, Kik, and Slack are all viable options. However, all of these choices are proprietary, and require you to use servers that you can’t run yourself. They’re highly centralized, closed source tools.

In the open source world, IRC has been the go to solution for chat for many years, and for good reason. Anyone can run a server, there’s many clients, and it’s built on open standards. But IRC comes from a pre-mobile world, and relies on clients to maintain persistent connections to the server. It’s not the best experience on a phone.

Matrix.org and Vector.im aim to be a modern solution to chat. Matrix is a standard for passing messages around, and Vector is a chat solution built on top, with support for iOS, Android, and your browser.

What makes this solution different is the concept of Homeservers. A Homeserver manages messages for users, recording them when they are received and providing them to users when they connect. Homeservers also “federate” to communicate amongst each other. This means anyone can run a Homeserver and connect it to the greater network of Matrix, providing a distributed approach to building a chat network.

Under the hood, Matrix is just HTTP. You send messages into the network with POST requests, and receive new messages by polling with GET requests. This means no persistent connections are required, which is perfect for mobile and low power devices.

On the topic of devices, Matrix is designed for general purpose messaging, not just chat. It should be pretty simple to connect hardware up to Matrix, which would provide a simple way to get data in and out of connected devices. Since it’s all HTTP, a device based on the ESP8266 could hop into your chat room with relative ease.

Matrix and Vector are very much in beta, but are definitely usable and worth a try. To get started, you can create an account on Vector.im and start chatting. We’re awaiting some of the features in the works, including end-to-end encryption, and hope to see some future hacks talking to the Matrix infrastructure.

Talk of the Town: Hacker Channel Tomorrow

Get in touch with Hackers everywhere. Take part in the Collabatorium tomorrow, live!

request-to-join-hacker-channelThings get started on Wednesday, July 1st at 6:30pm PDT (UTC-7). Hundreds of hackers will be on hand discussing what they’re building, all the stuff happening in the hacker-sphere these days, and joining forces for that next great hack!

All are invited to take part. Head on over the Hackaday Prize Hacker Channel right now and click on the left sidebar link that says “Request to join this project”.

We highly recommend adding a custom avatar (if you haven’t already) so that others in the Collabatorium will be able to put a picture to your personality. The interface is ready for chat, links, images, code and much more so bring your questions and share your knowledge.

Now that you’ve clicked for an invite, while away the hours until it begins by heading over to VOTE in this week’s Astronaut or Not. And soon after you run through your 50 votes we’re sure you’ll also figure out you don’t have to wait for us to get the conversation started in the Hacker Channel ;-)

Achievement Unlocked: Global Virtual Hackerspace

We’ve been riding the runaway train that is Hackaday.io for about fourteen months. With over 60k registered user and  hundreds of thousands of visitors a month it’s hard to remember how we got from humble beginnings to where we stand now. But a big part of this is all the suggestions we’ve been hearing from you. On the top of that list have been numerous requests for more collaborative features. This week we’ve pushed an update that will change the way you interact with your fellow hackers.

alt-dot-hackaday-io-chat

This brand new messaging interface is beyond what we dreamed when we started development. Our goal with Hackaday has long been to form the Virtual Hackerspace, and this is it. Shown above is group messaging for the alt.hackaday.io project. You can see that thread selected on the left among many other threads in progress. On the right is the list of the team collaborators. Each project on Hackaday.io has group messaging availalbe, all you need to do is add your collaborators.

group-messagig-buttonNeed skills that you don’t have to finish the project? Just want to brainstorm the next big project? Jump on Hackaday.io and get into it. Head over to one of your projects, invite some collaborators if you don’t already have them, and click the “Group Messaging” button in the left column.

This is not private messaging and it’s not just chat. This is new. It’s persistent, it’s instant, it’s long, it’s short, it is what you need to work with other hackers. We don’t even know what to call it yet. You can help with that and you can tell us what you find to do with it. We’ve designed it for creative abuse.

Configurable Notifications

When loading up the message page for the first time you’ll see a bar across the top requesting desktop notification access. This feature gives you a pop-up message when the tab with the messaging interface is not active.

If you don’t have the interface open you will receive an email when new messages come in. This can be toggled globally for all of your chats but we do have plans to configure these emails per-chat thread. Thanks to [jlbrian7] for the tip that users of Firefox on Linux need an extension to enable notifications. I’m using Chrome on Mint and it work just fine without adding packages.

Dude, Mobile

Screenshot_2015-04-21-16-57-07This Virtual Hackerspace goes with you and we’re not just talking out of the house. How many times have you been sitting at the bench wondering what the heck you’re doing wrong? Whip out your phone, snap a picture and post it so the collaborators on your team can help out. Right now it’s rock-solid on iPhone. Android requires a very quick double-tap on the image icon to trigger but we’ll have that fixed in a jiffy.

Of course images work from the computer interface as well, and there’s a code tool to embed snippets in your messages.

Team Invites and Requests

The only part we don’t have working is the ability to talk to yourself but that is coming. For now you must have collaborators to enable group messaging and this update makes that simple.

Each project has a team list in the left hand column. You’ll notice that a text box has been added to invite members. Just type their hacker name and click the invite button. They’ll get a private message with instructions for accepting your invitation.

Give it a Spin Right Now

We’ve set up the official Hackaday Prize Hacker Channel so that you can try it out right away. Casual conversation is welcome, but this is also a great opportunity to find team members for your Hackaday Prize entry. We’ll also be hosting regular events on the channel. More on that soon!

Build your own SMS chatroom

While he was organizing a party, [Mike Seese] hit upon the idea of chatroom that would operate over SMS. Not being content with the ‘reply all’ function, [Mike] built a Group Messaging Service that runs on his home server.

The chat room is initiated by sending a text to a server. Your friends then reply, and the chatroom is then opened. The project was written in C++, and [Mike] put everything on github for your perusal. The software does use libraries from /n software’s IP*Works, but if you have any trouble obtaining those libraries feel free to drop [Mike] a line.

The great thing about this project is the fact that it’s platform independent – as long as a phone can do SMS, it’ll work. Seems like a great thing for those of us still using the old Nokia ‘bar’ phones. An SMS chatroom has been done before but this is the first time we’ve seen a build that will run off your server, and not internet-based services.

While it may not be the best idea for people without unlimited texts on their phone plan, it’s a really great idea and we’re wondering why something like this isn’t available via Google Voice.

Chatbox wireless IM client

[Utpal Solanki] wanted to do some text chatting from the comfort of the couch. He built this wireless chat client that he calls Chatbox using a microcontroller, a character LCD screen, and a keypad that he built himself.

The device communicates via an Infrared emitter and receiver. It pairs up with an Arduino using an IR shield that [Utpal] built. The handheld unit flashes a pair of white LEDs whenever it receives a message from the Arduino. You can then hit the Inbox button and scroll through to read what was received. To reply  just type on the keypad the same way you would with a cellphone, then hit the send button to shoot that message back to the Arduino.

On the computer side of things the messages are being relayed to and from the Arduino over a USB connection. Early on in the video demonstration (embedded after the break) [Utpal] shows his Chat Box program communicating via the handheld unit in the same way that other messenger programs work.

Looks to us like he’s built his own non-pink version of what the IM-ME was originally intended to do.

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