35C3: Biggest Communication Congress, Yet Little Chaos

Every year for the past 35 years, the German Chaos Computer Club has met just after Christmas for a few days of “Spaß am Gerät” — having fun with the machines. And that’s everything from trying to bring an old PDP-8 back into running condition to forging new software to replace the old and busted social media platforms that permeate our lives. The sum total of around 17,000 people doing the nerdy stuff that they love, and sharing it together, is both amazing and inspiring. Four days of little sleep and much socializing later, I bet there was still another four days’ worth of stuff to see.

The official theme this year was “Refreshing Memories” which honestly sounds a bit too much like a cola slogan, but was a great opportunity to think back on the hacks of the past that got us where we are. Assemblies put up shrines to their hacker heroes of the past. Retro computers were everywhere, in the talks and on the floor. This year’s Congress was a great time to look back and remember, but also to create new memories for the future. On that front, it was a total success.

But the unofficial theme this year was “Smooth Running”. Everything went very well, which is no small feat considering that the infrastructure, decoration, security, and even the medical response teams are from the Chaos community. It’s the depth of engagement that makes this work: of the 17,000 people who showed up, just over 4,000 of them volunteered for “angel” shifts — meaning they helped guard the doors, staff the info desks, or build up or tear down. It was the largest ever CCC, and you could feel it, but they pulled it off, and then some.

The angels are geeks just like you and me, and since everything went so smoothly, they had time to play. For instance, the phone operations people offer DECT phone service so that attendees can bring in their home phones and use them at Congress. In years past, the lines to register and enroll phones were painfully long. This year, it all happened online, and the result is that the phone ops crew got bored. That explains how they had time to establish roaming home-phone wireless service in some of the normal Leipzig city trams. Wait, what?

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We’re Hiring: Come Join Us!

You wake up in the morning, and check Hackaday over breakfast. Then it’s off to work or school, where you’ve already had to explain the Jolly Wrencher to your shoulder-surfing colleagues. And then to a hackspace or back to your home lab, stopping by the skull-and-cross-wrenches while commuting, naturally. You don’t bleed red, but rather #F3BF10. It’s time we talked.

The Hackaday writing crew goes to great lengths to cover all that is interesting to engineers and enthusiasts. We find ourselves stretched a bit thin and it’s time to ask for help. Want to lend a hand while making some extra dough to plow back into your projects? We’re looking for contributors to write a few blog posts per week and keep the Hackaday flame burning.

Contributors are hired as private contractors and paid for each article. You should have the technical expertise to understand the projects you write about, and a passion for the wide range of topics we feature. You’ll have access to the Hackaday Tips Line, and we count on your judgement to help us find the juicy nuggets that you’d want to share with your hacker friends.

If you’re interested, please email our jobs line and include:

  • One example post written in the voice of Hackaday. Include a banner image, at least 150 words, the link to the project, and any in-links to related and relevant Hackaday features. We need to know that you can write.
  • Details about your background (education, employment, interests) that make you a valuable addition to the team. What do you like, and what do you do?
  • Links to your blog/project posts/etc. that have been published on the Internet, if any.

What are you waiting for? Ladies and Gentlemen, start your applications!

Hackaday’s London Meetup Was A Corker

Upstairs at the Marquis Cornwallis pub in central London, around 75 Hackadayers convened, ate well, drank well, and were generally merry. Nearly everyone in attendance brought a hack with them, which meant that there was a lot to see in addition to all that socializing to be done.

I spoke with a huge number of people who all said the same thing: that it was fantastic to put faces to the names of the writers, hackers, and other readers. As a writer, I finally got to meet in person some of the people who’ve produced some of my favorite hacks, in addition to most that were totally new to me. I can’t say how often I heard “Oh you’re the person behind that project. I loved that one.” A real sense of the Hackaday community was on display. Continue reading “Hackaday’s London Meetup Was A Corker”

The Wrencher On The Road In The UK

Here at Hackaday, we are a team of technical writers who spend our days keeping abreast of the wonderful world of hardware as we write up the interesting things that cross our timelines and serve them up everyone to enjoy. That is however only part of the picture, the other half of the Hackaday family is you, our readers and our community. You are a wonderfully diverse group of people who do some fascinating things, and you are what gives us life.

From time to time, Hackaday makes it out on the road, we have events, we host meetups, and we spend time with you, the community of which we are a part. Of course, our world can be an annoyingly big place at times, so for a lot of us these meetups are too far away. As a Brit, for example, the upcoming Hackaday Superconference in Pasadena, California, is a somewhat unattainable dream without shelling out a significant chunk of the old hard-earned on travel.

In the very short term we must continue to disappoint many of our worldwide readers because we can’t have meetups all over the world and all at once. But we can at least provide succour to our British readers this month, with more than one opportunity to get to know Hackaday writers as we go out on the road.

In the first instance, I’m going to be in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire this weekend. I’ll be giving a couple of talks, one on Friday at the Wuthering Bytes festival, and the other on Saturday at the Open Source Hardware Camp. I’ll be bringing along the remainder of my stock of Hackaday stickers left over from SHA Camp, and I’d love to see what you’ve been getting up to.

But worry not if you can’t make it to Yorkshire, for there is another chance for Brits to meet us this month. Our London Unconference on the 16th of September may have been a speedy sell-out, but because we have no wish to disappoint those of you who missed out on a ticket we’re also running a bring-a-hack meetup the night before. We’ve hired the Drawing Room at the Marquis Cornwallis, a pub not too far from Russell Square Tube station in London, so come and have a pint with us and show us what you’ve made. Get your skates on, it’s not much more than a couple of weeks away!

How to Do Beautiful Enclosures with Custom Fiberglass

There are times when I feel the need to really make a mess. When I think of making messes with a degree of permanency, I think of fiberglass. I also really like the smell, reminds me of a simpler time in 8th grade shop class. But the whole process, including the mess, is worth it for the amazing shapes you can produce for speaker pods and custom enclosures.

Utilizing fiberglass for something like a custom speaker pod for a car is not difficult, but it does tend to be tedious when it comes to the finishing stages. If you have ever done bodywork on a car you know what kind of mess and effort I am talking about. In the video below, I make a simple speaker pod meant for mounting a speaker to the surface of something like a car door.

You can also use a combination of wood and fiberglass to make subwoofer cabinets that are molded to the area around them. You can even replace your entire door panel with a slick custom shaped one with built in speakers  if you’re feeling adventuresome.

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Compiling a $22 Logic Analyzer

On my way to this year’s Hackaday SuperConference I saw an article on EE Times about someone taking the $22 Lattice iCEstick and turning it into a logic analyzer complete with a Python app to display the waveforms. This jumped out as pretty cool to me given that there really isn’t a ton of RAM on the stick, basically none that isn’t contained in the FPGA itself.

[Jenny List] has also written about the this application as created by [Kevin Hubbard] of Black Mesa Labs and [Al Williams] has a great set of posts about using this same $22 evaluation board doing ground up Verilog design using open source tools. Even if you don’t end up using the stick as a logic analyzer over the long haul, it’ll be very easy to find many other projects where you can recompile to invent a new purpose for it.

Continue reading “Compiling a $22 Logic Analyzer”