The pitch to my wife was simple: “Feel like spending the weekend in Seattle?” That’s how I ended up at the inaugural Vintage Computer Festival Pacific Northwest last weekend, and I’m glad we made the five-hour drive into The Big City to check it out. Hackaday is a VCF sponsor, after all, so it seemed like a great excuse to make the trip. That it ended up being two consecutive days of great Seattle weather was only icing on the cake of being able to spend time with fellow retro computer aficionados and their dearest bits of old hardware, in a great museum dedicated to keeping computer history alive and accessible.
The fact that Seattle, home of Microsoft, Amazon, and dozens of other tech companies, has until now been left out of the loop in favor of VCF East in New Jersey and VCF West in Mountain View seems strange, but judging by the reception, VCF PNW is here to stay and poised to grow. There were 20 exhibitors for this go around, showing off everything from reanimated PDP-11 and Altair 8800 control panels to TRS-80s from Model 1 through to the CoCo. Almost every class of reasonably transportable retro hardware was represented, as well as some that pushed the portability envelope, like a working PDP-8 and a huge Symbolics 3640 LISP workstation.
Continue reading “Great Beginnings for Vintage Computing in Seattle; VCF PNW”
If you are not within ear-shot of your Alexa Echo, Dot or Tap device and need to command it from anywhere in the world, you’d most likely use the handy mobile app or web interface to control it. For some strange reason, if you’d rather use voice commands from anywhere in the world, you can still do it using apps such as Alexa Listens or Reverb, among many others. We’d be the first ones to call these out and say “It’s not a hack”. But [pat dhens] approach is above reproach! He has posted details on how to Remote Control the Alexa Echo from Anywhere in the World. Short version of the hack — he’s using a Raspberry Pi with a speaker attached to it which commands his Alexa Tap using a text-to-speech converter program.
The long version is short as well. The user uses a VPN, such as OpenVPN, to log in to their home network where the Alexa device is located. Then, use VNC to connect to the Raspberry Pi to access its shell. Finally, the user issues a text command which is converted to speech by the ‘festival‘ program on the Raspberry Pi. The output goes to an external speaker via the Raspberry Pi’s 3.5 mm audio out jack. And that’s all there is to it. You’ve just issued a voice command to your Alexa from across the world.
Maybe it will save your vocal chords from damage due to excessive hollering, we guess. He’s even made a short video to prove that it works. Now all it needs is a microphone to listen to Alexa, convert speech-to-text, and then transmit it back to you across the world to complete the cycle.
We’re not sure, but he thinks this hack will lead him to world domination. Good Luck with that.
Continue reading “Control Alexa Echo from anywhere in the World”
Finding your tent at a music festival is a tricky endeavor – not only are there miles and miles of tents exactly like yours, you most likely have a few beers or other substances in you that affect your sense of space and/or time. [James] came up with a great solution to finding your tent by illuminating it with Christmas lights and a cell phone.
The basic idea of [James]’ build is having Christmas light flicker whenever he calls a phone. One feature in nearly every phone that can be exploited to accomplish this task is the backlight turning on when a call is received. Add a phototransistor, a little bit of circuitry, and some Christmas lights, and you have a fully functioning tent finder.
[James]’ circuit is a simple relay driving the Christmas lights, triggered by a phone right on top of the phototransistor. It’s a simple circuit that can be built on a piece of veroboard, and with a few pieces of plastic forming the enclosure, provides a reasonably bulletproof device that will survive the rigors of a music festival. As a bonus, there’s no need to modify the phone to trigger a remote circuit. Video of the device in action below.
Continue reading “Call A Cell Phone, Find A Tent”
Have you ever wanted to send a quick message to your HAM radio buddies over the air but then realized you forgot your radio at home? [Troy] created Oinker to remedy this problem. Oinker is a Perl script that turns emails into audio.
The script monitors an email account for new messages and then uses the Festival text-to-speech engine to transform the text into audio. [Troy] runs Oinker on a Raspberry Pi, with the Pi’s audio output plugged directly into an inexpensive ham radio. The radio is then manually tuned to the desired transmit frequency. Whenever Oinker see’s a new email, that message is converted into speech and then output to the transmitter.
The script automatically appends your HAM radio call sign to the end of every message to ensure you stay within FCC regulations. Now whenever [Troy] runs into some bad traffic on the road, he can send a quick SMS to his email address and warn his HAM radio buddies to stay clear of the area.
Guess what next weekend is? It’s the Midwest Reprap Festival, in Goshen, Indiana. We’ll also be there keeping tabs on an absurd amount of new RepRaps and other 3D printers, new filaments, and distributing a ludicrous amount of Hackaday swag.
The highlights of the fest include the folks from Lulzbot and UltiMachine, [Prusa] showing off his i3, [Nick Seward] and the Wally, Simpson, and Lisa RepRaps, and hundreds of other RepRappers showing off their latest projects and printers.
Here’s the best part: it’s all free! It would be cool if you register before making the trip out, but any way you look at it, it’ll be an awesome weekend. It’s also the largest US gathering of 3D printer aficionados that isn’t on the east or west coast.
One month from now, Goshen, Indiana – deep in the land of Dairy Queens – will become one of the premier sites for RepRapping, 3D printing and everything involving open source manufacturing. It’s the 2nd annual Midwest RepRap Festival to be held March 14-16. Oh, Hackaday will also be there, cavorting around, distributing some swag, and doing some live videos and posts of the event.
Highlights of the Festival include [Prusa] giving a talk on the state of open source printing, [Sonny Monicou] discussing the challenges of his RepRap workshops, a roundtable discussion of the RepRap project, [Nicholas Seward] and his creations – the Wally, Simpson, and Lisa, along with a few folks from Lulzbot and UltiMachine. Basically, the only way to go to a bigger RepRap convention would be to visit a Maker Faire, and even that would only add a few hundred 9-year-olds astounded by printed Minecraft figurines.
If you’re willing to make the drive, there’s no fee to attend; just register, show up, and you’ll get a table for all that up-til-midnight RepRapping. There’s also a waffle breakfast on Sunday, along with me walking around makin’ it rain Hackaday stickers.
We’re a US-centric site, but aside from events in New York or California, we don’t see many hacker, maker, or 3D printer events aimed at the parts of the country filled with corn and WalMarts. The 1st annual Midwest RepRap Festival aims to change that with enough events, speakers, and activities to make Elkhart, Indiana look like the hoppingist place around.
Officially, the festival started yesterday but the schedule of events really ramps up today. [Josef Prusa] will be taking the stage talking about the state of the RepRap, and a ton of 3d printing vendors will be there showing off their wares and selling some really cool stuff. There’s also tons of experienced RepRappers available to help you tune your machine to perfection; just as well, because the festival is going for the world record for the greatest number of 3D printers printing simultaneously.
If you’re around northern Indiana, you might want to check out the festival and send us a few pics or videos.