My Career As A Spammer, And Other Stories From The Sneakernet

A large hacker camp is in microcosm a city, it has all the services you might expect to find in a larger settlement in the wider world. There is a telecommunication system, shops, bars, a health centre, waste disposal services, a power grid, and at some camps, a postal system. At Electromagnetic Field, the postal system was provided by the Sneakernet, a select group of volunteers including your Hackaday scribe under the direction of the postmaster Julius ter Pelkwijk. I even had the fun of delivering some chopped pork and ham. (More on that later.) Continue reading “My Career As A Spammer, And Other Stories From The Sneakernet”

Electromagnetic Field: A Cyberpunk Headdress To Be Noticed In

At the recent Electromagnetic Field hacker camp in the UK, one of the highlights was the Null Sector, a cyberpunk-themed zone best described as something close to the set of Blade Runner made from shipping containers, clever props, and lighting. Our community rose to the occasion with some truly impressive costumes and wearable electronics, lending the venue a real authenticity.

Among the many creations on show there was one that stood quite literally head and shoulders above the rest. [Chebe]’s colour stealing sound reactive LED headdress is a confection of Neopixels, organza, and transparent floor protectors on a wire frame, driven by a Lillypad wearable microcontroller board with a microphone and colour sensor attached. The resulting sound-and-colour-reactive display stood out across a crowded venue full of hackers who’d all made their own efforts to produce similar outfits, which is really saying something!

The Lillypad and LEDs are standard fare, but the wire part of this project isn’t, and that’s what makes it rather interesting from our perspective. Anyone can make something that goes over their head, but to make something that’s comfortable takes a bit of effort and thought. Have you ever tried a set of ill-fitting sunglasses? If you have then you might understand. In this case stiff garden wire is used, bent to shape and joined with rolled-up tape, before being covered with wound-on ribbon for extra comfort. A Hackaday scribe travels the field at a hacker camp, and though [Chebe]’s cranium is a little more petite than the Hackaday bonce it was certainly an enveloping fit when we tried it.

Anyone can attach an LED to an item of clothing and call it a wearable. But to be noticed like this one it has to be done with style. If you’ve not had your fill of this topic, we suggest you continue with the Hackaday Belgrade talk from our friend [Rachel “Konichiwakitty” Wong].

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.

Looking Forward To Electromagnetic Field 2018

There is an air of excitement among the hackerspaces of Europe, because this month is hacker camp season. In Denmark they have Bornhack beginning on Thursday, in Italy IHC was held earlier in the month, while here in the UK we are looking forward to Electromagnetic Field. We’re excited be at Eastnor Castle for Electromagnetic Field at the cusp of August and September for several days under canvas surrounded by our community’s best and brightest work. We’ll even have a Hackaday Readers’ Village this year!

If you’ve never been to a hacker camp before, this is one that’s not to be missed. Technically this is camping, but where every structure from the smallest tent upwards has mains power and gigabit Ethernet. It’s the equivalent of a music festival if you replace the music with technology and other cool stuff from our world. There are talks on a huge variety of fascinating subjects, the chance to see up close some of the things you’ll have read about here on Hackaday, and best of all, a significant proportion of Europe’s hackerspace communities all together in one place. They are a uniquely stimulating and exciting environment.

Continue reading “Looking Forward To Electromagnetic Field 2018”

The Electric Vehicles Of EMF Camp

There is joy in the hearts of British and European hardware and software hackers and makers, for this is an EMF Camp year. Every couple of years, our community comes together for three summer days in a field somewhere, and thanks to a huge amount of work from its organizers and a ton of volunteers, enjoys an entertaining, stimulating, and engrossing hacker camp.

One of the features of a really good hacker camp are the electric vehicles. Not full-on electric cars, but personal camp transport. Because only the technically inept walk, right? From Hitchin’s Big Hak to TOG’s duck, with an assortment of motorized armchairs and beer crates thrown in, these allow the full creativity of the hardware community free rein through the medium of overdriven motors and cheap Chinese motor controllers.

This year at EMF Camp there will be an added dimension that should bring out a new wave of vehicles, there will be a Hacky Racers event. Novelty electric vehicles will compete for on-track glory, will parade around the camp, and will no doubt also sometimes release magic smoke. There is still plenty of time to enter, so if you’re going to EMF, get building!

We have an interest in these little electric vehicles, not least because there may well be a Hackaday-branded machine on the tarmac. We’d like to feature some of them over the weeks running up to the event, so if you are building one and have a write-up handy, please tell us about it in the comments. Charge your batteries, and we’ll see you there!

Header image: [Mark Mellors], with permission.

Got a Burning Idea For An EMF Camp Presentation? Now’s Your Chance!

Sometimes the world of tech conference presentations can seem impossibly opaque, a place in which there appears to be an untouchable upper echelon of the same speakers who pop up at conference after conference. Mere mortals can never aspire to join them and are destined to forever lurk in the shadows, their killer talk undelivered.

Thankfully, our community is not like that. There is a rich tradition of events having open calls for participation, and the latest we’d like to bring to your attention comes from the British EMF Camp, to be held at the end of August. EMF, (standing for ElectroMagnetic Field) is a 3-day festival that bills itself as “for those with an inquisitive mind or an interest in making things“. In their call for participation, they are seeking installations and performances as well as talks and workshops, and it’s worth saying given the very quick uptake of their early ticket sales, that a couple of tickets will be reserved for purchase by each person with proposals that are accepted.

EMF Camp like other hacker camps is an extraordinary coming together of people from all conceivable backgrounds and interest groups to share a field for three days. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, what the subject is that you would like to present, or what installation or workshop you would like to bring, there will be a section of the EMF audience who would be very interested to see it. They list a few previous topics, from genetic modification to electronics, blacksmithing to high-energy physics, reverse engineering to lock picking, computer security to crocheting, and quadcopters to brewing. Assuming that certain submissions are accepted, you may also see a Hackaday scribe delivering a talk.

While you’re thinking of what to submit for 2018, whet your appetite with a look at the goings-on from EMF 2016.

Image: Nottingham Hackspace [CC BY-SA 2.0].