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”

A Slew Of NYC Meetups With Tindie And Hackaday This Week

This is a busy, busy week for Tindie and Hackaday. We’re going to New York, and we have a ton of events planned.

First up is the monthly Hackaday meetup. This time, we’re teaming up with Kickstarter for a pre-Maker Faire Meetup. We’ll be hosting this at Kickstarter’s HQ, and already we have an impressive line of speakers set up to talk about Assistive Technology. These speakers include:

  • Anita Perr and R. Luke Dubois from the NYU Ability Project
  • Andrew Chepaitis from ELIA Life Technology

Also on deck for the for the Hackaday x Kickstarter meetup are live demos from WearWorks, who are developing the WAYBAND, a haptic navigation device and from Elia Frames, a tactile reading system.

The Hackaday x Kickstarter meetup will be Thursday, September 21st, starting at 6:30pm. Here’s the link to RSVP.

This weekend is also World Maker Faire New York and Tindie will be out in force showcasing all the wonderful bits and bobs developed by the Tindie community.

On deck will be [Jasmine] and [Brandon] from Tindie, and of course we’re inviting Tindie sellers to drop by the booth throughout the weekend and showcase their wares.

Also on deck for the World Maker Faire will be [Shulie], [Shayna] and myself. We’ll be tossing brand new Tindie stickers into the audience and giving out Tindie Blinky Badges. If you’ve ever wanted to show your enthusiasm for DIY hardware, now you can with an electronic blinky lapel pin. Solder it up and listen to Benchoff rationalize why it doesn’t need a current limiting resistor! Such fun!

Eclipse 2017: Where Will You Be When the Sun Goes Away?

In less than a month, on August 21, 2017, the Moon will cast its shadow upon the Earth, a relative pinprick at only 60 miles across. The shadow will begin in the Pacific Ocean off North America, make landfall south of Portland, Oregon, and rake diagonally across the United States. Charging southeastward at about 2000 miles an hour, the path of totality will touch 12 states before racing off into the Atlantic Ocean around Charleston, South Carolina.

Those are the dry facts of the eclipse, the wheres and the whens of an event that hasn’t been visible to a majority of the US population in 47 years. But beyond the science and the natural wonder of the celestial alignment lies a simple question: Where will you be when the sun goes away?

An Eclipse from a Volcano

Bullseye! The center of totality passes right through North Menan Butte in Rexburg, ID.

For me, the answer is simple: I’ll be smack dab in the middle of totality on top of an extinct volcano in eastern Idaho. To see an eclipse is pretty cool; to watch the mechanics of the heavens work above you while standing in a unique geological feature will be far cooler.

It will take me eight hours to drive to Menan Buttes with my family from our home in the Panhandle; Idaho is an enormous state. We’ll be camping on private land outside the southern butte, probably in pretty rustic conditions and without a lot of rough camping experience. OK, none. But I don’t care because I want to see totality, and the 92% totality we’d see if we stayed home just won’t cut it.

While most people will likely have their eyes cast heavenward with their cheap cardboard and plastic eclipse glasses or shade 14 welding lens when the big moment arrives, my eyes will be locked on the ground to the west of our vantage point. Menan Butte stands about 500′ above the flat, featureless Snake River plain, and I intend to watch the moon’s shadow racing across the planet toward us. That’s the draw for me, and I hope I get to see it.

That’s not to say I won’t look skyward once the shadow is upon us, gazing in wide wonder at the incandescent dance of our sun’s atmosphere against the suddenly dark sky. I’ll bask in the unnatural twilight, listen to the gasps and cheers of my fellow watchers, and feel the sudden temperature drop, which should be quite marked in the east Idaho drylands. We’ll have about two minutes of totality before the shadow races east toward the vast majority of the US population, and I plan to enjoy every second of it.

Hackaday Eclipse Meetups

Aside from just watching the eclipse, there’s plenty else to do. Hackaday.io members across the country are hosting Hackaday Eclipse Meetups, where like minded folks can mix and mingle before the eclipse. If you know where you’ll be to watch the eclipse — like an extinct volcano, for instance — and you don’t mind sharing the experience with some of your fellow enthusiasts, be sure to post a meetup on the Eclipse Meetups page. Make your event page and we’ll send you some eclipse glasses with the Jolly Wrencher on the side of them for you and your guests.

Have you started thinking of what you’re going to bring with you to the viewing? There are a lot of eclipse projects, from pinhole cameras to watch the eclipse safely, to the Ham operators who will be taking advantage of localized ionospheric changes to make long-distance contacts. Those of us with telescopes might want to build a low-cost solar filter. Someone will likely be trying to prove General Relativity somewhere along the path of totality, and we’d love to see the rig for that. And there will no doubt be petabytes of photographs and videos taken with everything ranging from smartphones to professional cinematic cameras. We’d love to hear what you’re planning and see your setups. And even if you’ve got something cool that’s not eclipse related, bring it along. It’s always a good time to talk shop for hackers.

Continue reading “Eclipse 2017: Where Will You Be When the Sun Goes Away?”

Look What People Brought to Breakfast at DEF CON

Sunday was our Breakfast at Hackaday meetup and a swarm of folks showed up, take a look at the hardware they brought with them! Vegas can be a tough place to set up a meetup — especially if you don’t want to rent a room. We filtered into a Starbucks across the street from Caesar’s and ended up packing the high-top table areas. It turns out you get a really funny look from the baristas when you go through the coffee line and ask for four dozen pastries and a few buckets of coffee.

The size of the space made it hard to get a picture of the entire crowd. I did manage to get a posed photo with the people who showed up about a half hour early. Once it filled up all I got for crowd shots were people with their back to me and heads down comparing hardware projects — that might actually be more appropriate for DEF CON where people generally don’t want to be photographed (case in point our bandanna wearing friend).

 

There was a ton of different hardware on hand. If you look at a picture of the swag and pastries tables, look closely at the high-top behind that. There were a couple of people hacking on RTL-SDRs before we arrive (which means they were at least 45 minutes early).

I’m a fan of wearing your hardware projects at events and this year was really great for that. First, a Captain Phasma helmet from The Force Awakens. It’s 3D printed in ABS, using an acetone/ABS slurry to glue (actually to weld) the parts before sanding and painting to finish the job.

Most of the hacks on hand were unofficial hardware badges built specifically for DEF CON. I was at the Badge Build’s meetup and have a megapost on everything I saw there coming out a bit later. But here we get a look at the dragonfly badge which [Kerry] brought along with him as well as the rectangular PCB that was the prototype. The AND!XOR crew was in the house and I decided to bug [Hyr0n] about the password hashes I was trying to crack from their badge’s firmware. He pulled up the app and it wasn’t surprising to see so many of the Bender on a bender badges in the area. Their botnet was a huge hit this year!

At some point, I was handed this book-like box which had been laser cut and etched out of plywood. It’s a beautiful piece and I had no idea what I would find inside. Turns out it’s a complete quadcopter-badge fun kit. I must have been so enthralled with the electronics when we covered this badge a few weeks back that I completely missed the beautiful box they built for it.

Inside the box, you’ll find two versions of the badge (one that flies, the other that blinks and has a red PCB handkerchief), a separate PCB that is the controller, and a goodie bag with extra batteries and charging hardware. We didn’t fire this up at the meetup, but we’ll have it at the Hackaday Superconference for you to play with. It was really great to get a group picture with so many of the people who worked on making this badge happen.

There was one high-top over in the corner that had been mobbed with people all morning and I only got a look at it when the crowd started to clear out around noon. [Brian McEvoy] built a custom controller for OpenSCAD and did a great job of bringing along a demo. A tablet is running the software, with the controller connected via USB. There are 3 knobs on the right that allow you to adjust height, width, and depth. The fourth knob is for adjusting precision. That precision is displayed in a very clever way. You can see the LED strip with has a red dot on the right (the decimal point) and three colored pixels to the left of it. These are the tens, hundreds, and thousands, but just turn the crank until the red dot is at the other end of the strip and you’ll be setting precision to tenths, hundreths, etc. [Brian] even added a button you can hold down to 10x the precision without making a permanent adjustment. The project is driven by a Teensy LC board.

Is wonderful to see the Hackaday Community turn out for a meetup like this even though so much other stuff is going on at DEF CON. Thank you to all of you for coming to say hi, share your stories, and show off your handy work!

Sunday: Breakfast at DEF CON

Nurse your hangover by having Breakfast at DEF CON with Hackaday this Sunday. You’re invited to our yearly ritual by marking the beginning of the end with coffee and pastries at 10:30 am.

Choosing an exact location in advance is always tricky (anyone who’s been to DEF CON understands). We’ll pick a place once we hit town later this week. For now, head over to the Breakfast at DEF CON event page and hit the “join the team” button on the bottom left so we can let you know when we’ve found the perfect location for the breakfast meetup.

Extra internet points go to those who bring some hardware to show off… and especially for anyone who is making this the end of their Saturday rather than the beginning of Sunday. [Brian] and [Mike] will be there, joined by our friends [Jasmine] and [Shulie] who are on the scene for Tindie, a sponsor of the IoT Village this year. See you on Sunday!

Hackaday Eclipse Meetups

Hackaday is all over this eclipse. There are thousands of members of the Hackaday community headed to a narrow swath of the United States on August 21st to revel in an incredibly rare, scientifically predictable life experience: a total eclipse of the sun.

Do not do it in solitude, get together and celebrate! Check out the Hackaday Eclipse Meetups page which shows where meetups are happening. And adding your own is simple. It’s a great day to meet up with other Hackaday readers and celebrate the day that the moon passed perfectly between you and the sun.

You can’t just stare directly at the sun, you need some eclipse glasses. We’re printing up some in black, adorned with the Jolly Wrencher and sending them out to all organized meetups, so get your event page up today and you’re on the list for a little bit of sweet swag. Look for the button on the Eclipse page that says “Host a meetup”.

I’m Too Cool to Watch an Eclipse

If you don’t get what all the hubbub is, you’re missing out. A total eclipse of the sun is an amazing life experience in so many ways. First off, they’re incredibly rare. There hasn’t been a total eclipse visible in the continental United States since 1979. The majority of the North American readership hasn’t even had the chance to see one in their lifetimes.

This eclipse shadow visualization is incredible. See the entire transit and learn how they produced this from available data

But of course it goes beyond the value of mere scarcity. Being able to understand, and predict an eclipse conveys a great deal about the progress of humanity. For millennia, a solar eclipse was a shocking (perhaps horrifying) experience. But through the scientific process of observation, the advances of record keeping, and the work of untold numbers of early astronomers we learned. Solar and Lunar eclipses were events that challenged thinking and became some of the earliest scientific discoveries.

This type of advancement hasn’t stopped. Even this year the application of the newest technology is present. Just one example that will turn your head is the shadow simulation that we saw in January. The moon isn’t a perfect sphere, and the combination of its landscape and that of the Earth means the outer fringes of totality will not be straight lines, but an undulating path. It’s a small detail realized in a profound way by a citizen scientist so that we may all enjoy it. Isn’t being alive now absolutely stunning?

Boil it Down for Me

So no, watching a rock cast a shadow won’t blow your mind. But understanding that the movement of this shadow isn’t random, that we didn’t always understand it, and that there are huge forces at work here will humble your modern brain and leave you awestruck. It’s a rare chance to observe with your own senses the evidence of huge masses governed by gigantic gravitational forces at incomprehensible distances through the simple act of a shadow racing across the landscape.

Be there, and make it a celebration of science, humanity, and your own life experience. Share your eclipse meetup now!

Hackaday Links: July 2, 2017

A few months ago, we had a Hack Chat with Chip Gracey, the guy behind Parallax, the Basic Stamp, the Propeller, and the upcoming Propeller II. Now we’ve finally got around to editing that transcript. There’s a lot of awesome stuff in here, from learning a Hardware Design Language to the actual costs of fabbing silicon.

Rigol, the manufacturers of every hackerspace’s favorite oscilloscope, announced a new chipset. The current lineup of Rigol scopes top out at around 1GHz. In a prototype scope based on this chipset, Rigol demonstrated 4GHz bandwidth and 20GS/s with one Billion point memory depth. What this means: Rigol will be making very powerful scopes in the near future.

Hackaday had a meetup this week in New York City. The June workshop at Fat Cat Fab Lab featured speakers involved with twitter bots, 8-bit art, one of the guys behind Beautiful Soup, and a talk on a completely self-sustainable record label. Want to attend one of these meetups? Check out the calendar.

Repairs of retrocomputers are always interesting, but usually the same. Wipe off some dust, possibly replace a cap or two, retrobrite the case, and you’re done. This is not the usual retrocomputer repair. [Drygol] found a C64 that was apparently stored in a swamp for several years. The power switch fell off when he touched it. Somehow, miraculously, the circuit worked and [Drygol] rewarded the board with a new enclosure, dyed keycaps, an SD2IEC mod, and a kernel switch mod.

Guess what’s back? A pen computer with a color sensor on one end, and an ink mixer in the other. The Scribble Pen is the Internet’s infamous crowdfunded color-sensing pen, and the scammer behind it is looking for another funding round. Has anything changed since we tore this thing apart three years ago? No, it’s still a scam. I’ve been keeping tabs on the guy behind it, he’s still not in prison, and there are still idiots on this planet.

The ‘A’ stands for ‘Arts’.

The Benchy is everyone’s favorite tugboat and 3D printer benchmarking tool. They usually float, sideways. However, [MakeShift] somehow figured out how to add weight to the keel and turn the cutest little tugboat into a real, remote controlled boat. You could probably model a proper hull for the bottom of this boat, and it would be one of the few 3D prints where the actual design would be subject to US Copyright.

Is the fidget spinner fad dying? Square, the startup built around turning old AUX to cassette adapters into POS terminals seems to think so. They’ve been graphing their sales figures for fidget spinners, and there has been a marked decline since school let out for the summer. Will the trend pick back up in September? Who cares.