Mitch Altman Mentors Manufacturing With Hackaday Prize Expert Session

For whatever you have built, there is someone who has done it longer, and knows more about it. That is the basic premise of expertise, and for this year’s Hackaday Prize we’re rolling out with a series of mentor sessions. These are master classes that match up experts in product development with the people behind the projects in the Hackaday Prize. We’ve been recording all of these so everyone can benefit from the advice, guidance, and mentorship presented in these fantastic recordings.

The DrumKid, a random drum synthesizer

Mitch Altman is someone who should be very familiar to all Hackaday readers. He’s the inventor of the TV-B-Gone, that wonderful device that simultaneously turns you into a hero and a villain in any sports bar. He’s the President and CEO of Cornfield Electronics and co-founder of the Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco. Mitch is an author and teacher, and seems to be at just about every conference and workshop around the world promoting hackerspaces, Open Source hardware, and mentorship where ever he goes.

The first hardware creator to meet Mitch is Matt Bradshaw, creator of the DrumKid. This is a pocket-sized drum machine that is heavily inspired by Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operators. Years ago, Matt built a web app that generated drum tracks, and this project is simply taking that idea into the physical realm. For Mitch, this is well-tread territory; years ago, Mitch also built an Arduino-based synth, and for the most part, both Mitch and Matt’s projects are remarkably similar. There were, however, some improvements to be made with Matt’s circuit. The power supply was two AAA batteries and a switching regulator that introduced noise and added cost. Mitch suggested that the ATMega328 could be run directly from three AA batteries reducing the cost and the noise.

eAgrar, a system for monitoring conditions of plants and weather conditions at agricultural fields

The next project up for review is eAgrar, a system for monitoring conditions of plants and the weather in fields. This project comes from Slaven Damjanovic and Marko Čalić. They’ve been developing this device for almost two years building the entire system around the ATMega328. Slaven ran into a problem with this chip in that he didn’t have enough inputs and outputs. The firmware is already written, but thanks to the Arduino IDE, there’s no reason to keep using that ATMega. Mitch suggested using an STM32 or another ARM core. That’s what he’s using for one of his synthesizer projects, and you get more than enough inputs and outputs for the same price as an ATMega.

Finally, we come to Joseph, with his project, the Pilates Reformer. A Pilates Reformer is a bit of exercise equipment that’s only made by three companies and everything costs thousands of dollars. Joseph is bringing that cost down, but there’s a problem: how do you build a hundred or two hundred of these? Mitch suggested simply finding another manufacturer that could build this design, and not necessarily one that builds Pilates machines. This makes sense — if all you’re doing is cutting and connecting structural beams, any manufacturer can do this, that’s what manufacturers do.

This is the third in our series of Hackaday Prize mentor sessions this year, and we have far more we need to edit, and many more we need to record. That doesn’t mean you can’t get help from experts from your prize entry; we’re looking for people who need help with their project and we have a lot of mentors willing to dispense advice. If you’re interested in having someone look over your shoulder, sign up your entry.

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Next Week’s Bay Area Meetups

Next week we’ll be at a few awesome hardware meetups around the Bay Area, and we want you to head out and join us.

The first meetup will be the Silicon Valley Hardware Meetup at the Evil Mad Scientist shop in Sunnyvale. It’s going down Wednesday, December 6th, from 6:30 until 9:30. At least some of the Hackaday/Tindie/Supplyframe crew will be there, and the night will be filled with lightning talks, demos, and the cool hardware people you know and love.

Speakers for this meetup will include [Mitch Altman], hacker extraordinaire and owner of far, far too many TV remotes. He’ll be talking about hardware successes and failures in his own businesses. Also headlining the event will be [Clarissa Redwine] from Kickstarter. She’ll be talking about crowdfunding hardware, and the fact that making a thousand of something is a million times harder than making one of something.

The day after, on December 7th, we’re also going to be opening the doors at the San Francisco Supplyframe office to host the Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic. These Didactics are fun and popular, and you don’t need to go to the South Bay. Food and drink will be served, and there’s a sweet Rick and Morty mural in the alley across the street.

On deck for this month’s Didactic is [Tiffany Tseng], lead UX designer at Autodesk. Her work involves creating and implementing the design decisions that go into Eagle CAD. If you’re wondering why the icons changed a few years ago, she is not the person to talk to; that happened before the Autodesk mothership bought Eagle. If you’re wondering how the awesome push and shove routing actually works, [Tiffany] is the person to talk to.

Also at the Didactic will be [Asaad Kaadan]. He’s a robotics engineer working on cinematic tools for his day job and is currently exploring a very, very cool modular electronics project called Hexabitz. He’ll be talking about Hexabitz and designing for modular electronics.

Celebrating The Omnibus Launch

On Thursday night Hackaday hosted an event in San Francisco to commemorate the launch of the 2014 Hackaday Omnibus. Our first print edition, compiled to commemorate some of the finest original content which we published last year should begin shipping as early as today. To celebrate the occasion, we were graced by a full house of amazing guests. Is it lame to say some of the people I respect most in the world were there?

Lightning Talks

Whenever you get a lot of people together, a good rule of thumb is to seize the opportunity to have them speak about what they’re doing. It’s not a big “ask” either; 8-minutes on what you’re passionate about is pretty simple.

[Jonathan Foote] gave a talk on generating RGBY colors from Hue. The project is ongoing but explores the concept of mixing colors of light with one additional source added to traditional red, green, and blue. [Priya Kuber] recently moved to San Francisco. She recently concluded more than a year of standing up the Arduino office in India (relevant but unrelated video). Her talk covered the emerging maker/hacker hardware scene in India which is showing amazing growth. [Chris McCoy] demonstrated his Raver Rings which began a Kickstarter on the same day. [Elecia White] of embedded.fm spoke about the educational opportunities that podcasts and other delivery medium provide and the responsibility we all have to guide our continued learning. [Emile Petrone] talked about an upcoming feature for his site Tindie which will add manufacturer information and ratings to the mix. And rounding things out [Dave Grossman] gave a talk on his Virtual Carl project which used video footage of his grandfather, combined with a Raspberry Pi and peripherals to create a remembrance of the man in virtual form.

Demos

IMG_4602
[Ben Krasnow] shows off the chamber containing supercritical carbon dioxide.
During the rest of the evening there were a few spectacular demos going on. First, [Ben Krasnow] who is well known for his Applied Science series (among a million other accolades), brought at least two demos with him. The first was a pressure chamber made out of two massively thick discs of acrylic separated by a metal ring. Inside the void he had pumped and pressurized CO2. When the chamber is heated it, the contents become Supercritical Carbon Dioxide and the visual transition between liquid and gas disappears.

He also showed off a lens that can be focused electronically. This is not mechanical, there are zero moving parts. Instead a droplet of oil floating in water is the lens. A 75V, AC power supply pulls on the droplet, altering the meniscus to focus the lens. He didn’t fabricate the device from scratch, but the concept is completely new to us and quite interesting.

[Brian Benchoff] poses with Othermill hardware
[Brian Benchoff] poses with Othermill hardware
Othermill is located in the SF area. They produce a desktop milling machine which is spectacular at routing PCBs. The little wonder isn’t limited to that though. Above you can see [Brian] holding up a milled wooden plaque which has milled mother-of-pearl inlays. The table is also strewn with other examples in wax, metal, wood, and more.

Cocktail Hour

The rest of the evening was devoted to conversation on all topics. Get enough hardware geeks in one room and they’ll solve the world’s problems, right? That’s a conversation for another post.

Couldn’t make it to this one but still in the San Francisco area at least occasionally? We held this at the Supplyframe office. They host a ton of great events like the Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic.

[Thanks to Richard Hogben for the photos!]

Watch All Of The Freshly Published Talks From 28c3

The 28th Annual Chaos Communications Congress just wrapped things up on December 31st and they’ve already published recordings of all the talks at the event. These talks were live-streamed, but if you didn’t find time in your schedule to see all that you wanted, you’ll be happy to find your way to the YouTube collection of the event.

The topics span a surprising range. We were surprised to see a panel discussion on depression and suicide among geeks (hosted by [Mitch Altman]) which joins another panel called Queer Geeks, to address some social issues rather than just hardcore security tech. But there’s plenty of that as well with topics on cryptography, security within web applications, and also a segment on electronic currencies like Bitcoins.

There really is something for everyone and they’ve been thoughtful enough to include playlists for all talks, just the lightning talks, and lightning talks categorized by the day they occurred. Get those links from their YouTube channel description, or find them after the break.

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Mitch Altman Hosts A Tour Of Noisebridge

[Mitch Altman] just popped up once again (seriously, this guy is everywhere!) in a video tour of Noisebridge, and hackerspace he co-founded in San Fransisco. The space is 5200 square feet and they’ve managed to cram a lot of different uses into it.  There’s areas for computers and electronics, crafting and sewing, a dark room , a machine shop, a full kitchen, as well as classrooms and other gathering places.

He talks about what a hackerspace is and what goes on in San Fran before going off on a little tour of the hackerspace movement. His recollection pins the Chaos Communications Camp as the impetus behind an initial push for these community spaces popping up in the US. It’s a fun five-minutes to watch so check it out.

[via Boing Boing]

Adafruit Releases New TV-B-Gone Kit

TV-B-Gone
Recently, our friends over at Adafruit released a new version of their popular TV-B-Gone kit. Built in cooperation with [Mitch Altman], the inventor of the TV-B-Gone, the new kit sports four high power IR LEDs, two wide beam and two narrow beam. The four LEDs give the new TV-B-Gone increased range, with a maximum distance of over 150ft. One of the most impressive features of the kit is the fact that the new TV-B-Gone is universal and can now work in Europe and Asia in addition to the US. Users are able to select which region they want to use during the build process by soldering a resistor into the board at their region’s corresponding spot as seen in the picture above. The new TV-B-Gone kit is now available in the Adafruit store for $19.95 plus shipping.