The Enlightenment Turns Light And Noise Into Sound

We’re all familiar with the subtle sounds of electrical equipment present in daily life. There’s the high-pitched whine of a CRT, the mains hum of a poorly isolated audio amplifier, and the wailing screams of inductors. Typically these sounds go unnoticed unless something is malfunctioning or otherwise wrong. However, Quiet Ensemble decided to capture these noises and turned them into a performance they call The Enlightenment.

The basic setup consists of a series of lights, most of which are theatrical in nature. There are spotlights, a series of neons, and even a few bright strobes. Copper coils are used to pick up the stray electrical noises generated by these lights in operation. These noises are then fed to mixers, amplifiers, and other audio equipment to allow the performers to control the audio as they wish.

The end result is a mechanical, and at times, brutal soundscape that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Homeworld soundtrack. Flashing strobes contribute rhythm while the rest of the lights lend their droning and whining to fill out the ensemble.

If it’s a little too niche for your tastes, the Triforium may be more to your liking. Video after the break.

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GSM Phone Network At EMF Camp Built on Raspberry Pi and LimeSDR

The Electromagnetic Field 2018 hacker camp in the UK will have its own GSM phone network, and as we have already covered its badge will be a fully-functional GSM phone. This is as far as we are aware a first in the world of badges, and though it may not be a first in hacker camp connectivity it is still no mean achievement at the base station side. To find out more we talked to two of the people behind the network, on the radio side Lime Microsystems‘ [Andrew Back], and on the network side Nexmo‘s developer advocate, [Sam Machin].

There are sixteen base stations spread around the site, of which each one is a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ with a LimeSDR Mini. Development of the system was undertaken prior to the release of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s PoE board, so they take a separate 24V supply which powers the Pi through a DC-to-DC converter. This arrangement allows for a significant voltage drop should any long cable runs be required.

On the software side the base stations all run the Osmocom (Open Source Mobile Communications) cellular base station infrastructure package. It was a fine decision between the all-in-one Osmocom NITB package and the fully modular Osmocom, going for the former for its reliability. It was commented that this would not necessarily be the case at a future event but that it made sense in the present. It appears on the network as a SIP phone system, meaning that it can easily integrate with the existing DECT network. Let’s take a look at how the network operates from the user side, and the licencing loophole that makes everything possible.

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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.

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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].

Retrotechtacular: Weston Electrical Instruments

A ‘meter is one of the most important tools on any electronics bench. After you’ve exhausted your five senses trying to figure out what’s happening in a circuit, firing up the old ‘meter is usually the next step. Meters are largely digital nowadays, but their analog ancestors are still widely available. We have a chemist and inventor named [Edward Weston] to thank for the portability and ubiquity of DC measuring equipment.

After immigrating to the United States from England with the degree in medicine his parents wanted him to earn, [Edward Weston] asserted that he was more interested in chemistry. His career began in electroplating, where he soon realized that he needed a reliable, constant current source to do quality plating. This intense interest in power generation led him to develop a saturated cadmium cell, which is known as the Weston cell. Its chemistry produces a voltage stable enough to be used for meter calibration. The Weston cell is also good for making EMF determinations.

Within a few years, he co-founded the Weston Electrical Instrument Corporation. The company produced several types of meters along with transformers and transducers known for their portability and accuracy. In 1920, [Weston & Co.] created this 1920 educational film in cooperation with the United States Navy as part of a series on the principles of electricity.

The viewer is invited to consider the importance of measurement to civilization, most notably those fundamental measurements of length, mass, and time. [Weston] positions his electrical measuring instruments at this level, touting them as the international favorite. We get the full tour of a Weston meter, from the magnet treated for permanence to the specially designed pole pieces that correctly distribute lines of magnetic force. What education film about electromagnetism would be complete without an iron filings demonstration? This one definitely delivers.

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