The Exquisite Badges Of Open Hardware Summit

The past few years have been all about electronic conference badges and this year is no different. Right now, we’re setting up at the Open Hardware Summit at MIT, and this year’s badge is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a WiFi and Bluetooth-enabled e-paper badge, individually programmed for every attendee. The 2018 Open Hardware Summit badge is a work of art, and it was all created over on hackaday.io.

This board is based on the ESP trINKet designed by [Mike Rankin] with additional hardware design from [Alex Camilo]. The badge is based around the ESP32-wroom-32 module with a 2.13 inch e-paper display with a resolution of 250 x 122 pixels. To this, the badge adds an I2C accelerometer and support for add-ons. There’s also pads for an SD card holder — a soldering challenge, if you will — and few additional pads for bits and bobs.

But a badge is nothing without software, and that’s where this really gets good. The ESP32 module is a powerhouse, capable of emulating NES games or serving as a file server. Here, the stock configuration of the badge is rather simplistic: you can start a WiFi AP, log onto a web page, and change the name displayed on the badge. You can also start an FTP server, which is where things get really fun. Drop an application on that FTP server, and you can run Micro Python.

The badge is great, but the programming jig is awesome

The boards were made through OSH Park, and Screaming Circuits took care of the assembly. Anyone who has ever built a badge will tell you it isn’t the assembly that gets you — it’s the programming and provisioning. This is especially true since the Open Hardware Summit badge is distributed with the attendee’s names already preloaded. That’s a few hundred badges, all with unique firmware. This is a nightmare by any definition.

However, there’s always a good solution to a problem, and [Drew] from OSH Park showed me the best programming jig I’ve ever seen during the Summit pre-game at Artisan’s Asylum.

What you’re looking at is a 3D printed box loaded up with a touch-screen display, a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and a few pogo pins. This Raspberry Pi does all the heavy lifting by connecting to the Internet, pulling down the current version of the firmware, and loading that firmware onto the badge. There are a few more options thanks to the touch-screen interface, including provisioning all the badges with the names of the attendees — this can be done by reading a list of attendees and uploading the next one to the badge in the jig. All of this is wrapped up with a nice laser-cut cover that securely holds each badge exactly where it needs to be for the pogo pins to make contact.

This is, without question, the best programming jig I’ve seen. Any badge makers out there should take note: this is how you program a few hundred badges. The badge, itself, is great and just as this post is published there will be hundreds of eager hackers futzing about with this remarkable piece of hardware. If you want to check out the current progress of the badge hacking, check out the updates on Twitter

Hackaday Links: March 4, 2018

Guess what’s happening next weekend? The SoCal Linux Expo. SCALE is in its 16th year, and is the second greatest convention happening this year at the Pasadena Convention Center. The first, of course, is AlienCon this summer, with a special guest appearance by the guy with the hair on Ancient Aliens. What’s cool at SCALE? Tons of stuff! Tindie and Hackaday will have a booth, you’ll be able to check out the new stuff from System 76, and this is where I first picked up my most cherished possession, a Microsoft (heart) Linux sticker. NEED A TICKET? Cool, use the code ‘HACK’ to get 50% off!

[Muth] over on hackaday.io has been working on a very, very, very cool high voltage display. It’s a ИГГ1-64x64M, or a Gazotron, or something. What is it? It’s a two-color (green and red) 64×64 pixel VFD bitmap display. You want the king of all vacuum-based displays? Here you go. Progress on driving this display is slow, but it’s happening, and it will result in the coolest clock ever created.

Need a pick and place machine? Don’t want to shell out thousands for a Neoden? Here’s an Indiegogo campaign for the Open Placer, a machine that works with OpenPNP software. It’s got vision and a 295x195mm working area.

A few months ago, news came from Havana that the US embassy was under attack. Staffers at the US embassy in Cuba were feeling sick and apparently suffered neurological damage. Explanations ranged from poisoning to some sort of non-lethal weapon. Now, there might be a banal explanation. Researchers at the University of Michigan think it could simply be two ultrasonic sensors placed just the right distance apart. Acoustic interference happens, and that inaudible 35kHz signal becomes a maddening audible signal.

Last week, we had a great talk with OSH Park about PCBs. These Hack Chats are getting out of control, but at least we have a transcript. The biggest takeaway? They’re out of jellybeans, but OSH Park is working on new stickers.

Open Hardware Summit is the greatest con for all things Open Hardware. This year, it’s going to be in Boston. The Summit will be held on September 27th, 2018 at MIT Stratton Student Center. If you’d like to get there a week and a half early, the MIT ham flea market is the third Sunday of the month.

Live From Open Hardware Summit 2015

Right now Hackaday and Tindie are in Philadelphia at the Open Hardware Summit 2015. These are the conferences I love; there aren’t many attendees – only a few hundred – but absolute everyone here is awesome. In the crowd is [Mitch Altman], [Johnny] of RAMPS fame, the guys from Parallax (busy programming badges), [Harris Kenny] from Lulzbot, [Joshua Pearce] from Michigan Tech, and pretty much everyone else that’s responsible for all open source hardware.

The talks? They’re great. You’re going to see a lot of reaffirming that tinkering and hacking on electronics and mechanics is a valuable and worthy pursuit, but there’s something for everyone, ranging from open source lab equipment to building true open hardware chips. Here’s a link to the livestream of the conference.

Continue reading “Live From Open Hardware Summit 2015”

An interview with Laen (the force behind Dorkbot PDX)

[PT] recently interviewed [Laen], the man who makes it cheap and easy for hobbiests to have small PCBs manufactured. He created Dorkbot PDX’s PCB group order, a rapid turn PCB service which we see used in projects all the time (pretty much any purple PCB has gone through [Laen]).

Turns out his real name is [James Neal]. He’s a sysadmin by trade but deals in recreational circuitry at night. We were surprised to learn that the service has been rebranded. Its new name is OSH Park and it’s got a purple website with a new submission system. In the interview he discusses the genesis of the service. Inspired by a group parts order (that’s a mouthful!) with other hackers in Portland he saw a need for boards on which to mount them. The service has grown so much that he was spending 2-4 hours per night panelizing the designs. He made the wise choice to include an automated submission service in the new website that takes care of most of this work for him.

The rest of the interview spans a large range of topics. [Laen] shares his feelings on getting the boards manufactured domestically. He speaks briefly on the future of the service, and riffs on why open source hardware has value to him.

SparkFun open-sources latest kits

09205-5

SparkFun has started to release some of their kits as open-source hardware. Projects such as ClockIt, a simple alarm clock, have their schematics, board designs, and source code released under the CC-by-sa license. Although most of their widgets and projects already had example code and schematics available, they are now using an open-source license. They are joining adafruit and EMSL and others in pushing OSH, but it is interesting to see an established company turn to this. Normally, startups do this to encourage early adoption.

[via adafruit]