Hackaday Links: December 6, 2020

By now you’ve no doubt heard of the sudden but not unexpected demise of the iconic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. We have been covering the agonizing end of Arecibo from almost the moment the first cable broke in August to a eulogy, and most recently its final catastrophic collapse this week. That last article contained amazing video of the final collapse, including up-close and personal drone shots of the cable breaking. For a more in-depth analysis of the collapse, it’s hard to beat Scott Manley’s frame-by-frame analysis, which really goes into detail about what happened. Seeing the paint spalling off the cables as they stretch and distort under loads far greater than they were designed for is both terrifying and fascinating.

Exciting news from Australia as the sample return capsule from JAXA’s Hayabusa2 asteroid explorer returned safely to Earth Saturday. We covered Hayabusa2 in our roundup of extraterrestrial excavations a while back, describing how it used both a tantalum bullet and a shaped-charge penetrator to blast regolith from the surface of asteroid 162173 Ryugu. Samples of the debris were hoovered up and hermetically sealed for the long ride back to Earth, which culminated in the fiery re-entry and safe landing in the midst of the Australian outback. Planetary scientists are no doubt eager to get a look inside the capsule and analyze the precious milligrams of space dust. In the meantime, Hayabusa2, with 66 kilograms of propellant remaining, is off on an extended mission to visit more asteroids for the next eleven years or so.

The 2020 Remoticon has been wrapped up for most of a month now, but one thing we noticed was how much everyone seemed to like the Friday evening Bring-a-Hack event that was hosted on Remo. To kind of keep that meetup momentum going and to help everyone slide into the holiday season with a little more cheer, we’re putting together a “Holiday with Hackaday & Tindie” meetup on Tuesday, December 15 at noon Pacific time. The details haven’t been shared yet, but our guess is that this will certainly be a “bring-a-hack friendly” event. We’ll share more details when we get them this week, but for now, hop over to the Remo event page and reserve your spot.

On the Buzzword Bingo scorecard, “Artificial Intelligence” is a square that can almost be checked off by default these days, as companies rush to stretch the definition of the term to fit almost every product in the neverending search for market share. But even those products that actually have machine learning built into them are only as good as the data sets used to train them. That can be a problem for voice-recognition systems; while there are massive databases of utterances in just about every language, the likes of Amazon and Google aren’t too willing to share what they’ve leveraged from their smart speaker using customer base. What’s the little person to do? Perhaps the People’s Speech database will help. Part of the MLCommons project, it has 86,000 hours of speech data, mostly derived from audiobooks, a clever source indeed since the speech and the text can be easily aligned. The database also pulls audio and the corresponding text from Wikipedia and other random sources around the web. It’s a small dataset, to be sure, but it’s a start.

And finally, divers in the Baltic Sea have dredged up a bit of treasure: a Nazi Enigma machine. Divers in Gelting Bay near the border of Germany and Denmark found what appeared to be an old typewriter caught in one of the abandoned fishing nets they were searching for. When they realized what it was — even crusted in 80-years-worth of corrosion and muck some keys still look like they’re brand new — they called in archaeologists to take over recovery. Gelting Bay was the scene of a mass scuttling of U-boats in the final days of World War II, so this Engima may have been pitched overboard before by a Nazi commander before pulling the plug on his boat. It’ll take years to restore, but it’ll be quite a museum piece when it’s done.

Hackaday Links: November 8, 2020

Saturday, November 7, 2020 – NOT PASADENA. Remoticon, the virtual version of the annual Hackaday Superconference forced upon us by 2020, the year that keeps on giving, is in full swing. As I write this, Kipp Bradford is giving one of the two keynote addresses, and last night was the Bring a Hack virtual session, which I was unable to attend but seems to have been very popular, at least from the response to it. In about an hour, I’m going to participate in the SMD Soldering Challenge on the Hackaday writing crew team, and later on, I’ll be emceeing a couple of workshops. And I’ll be doing all of it while sitting in my workshop/office here in North Idaho.

Would I rather be in Pasadena? Yeah, probably — last year, Supercon was a great experience, and it would have been fun to get together again and see everyone. But here we are, and I think we’ve all got to tip our hacker hats to the Remoticon organizers, for figuring out how to translate the in-person conference experience to the virtual space as well as they have.

The impact of going to a museum and standing in the presence of a piece of art or a historic artifact is hard to overstate. I once went to an exhibit of artifacts from Pompeii, and was absolutely floored to gaze upon a 2,000-year-old loaf of bread that was preserved by the volcanic eruption of 79 AD. But not everyone can get to see such treasures, which is why Scan the World was started. The project aims to collect 3D scans of all kinds of art and artifacts so that people can potentially print them for study. Their collection is huge and seems to concentrate on classic sculptures — Michelangelo’s David is there, as are the Venus de Milo, the Pieta, and Rodin’s Thinker. But there are examples from architecture, anatomy, and history. The collection seems worth browsing through and worth contributing to if you’re so inclined.

For all the turmoil COVID-19 has caused, it has opened up some interesting educational opportunities that probably wouldn’t ever have been available in the Before Time. One such opportunity is an undergraduate-level course in radio communications being offered on the SDRPlay YouTube channel. The content was created in partnership with the Sapienza University of Rome. It’s not entirely clear who this course is open to, but the course was originally designed for third-year undergrads, and the SDRPlay Educators Program is open to anyone in academia, so we’d imagine you’d need some kind of academic affiliation to qualify. The best bet might be to check out the intro video on the SDRPlay Educator channel and plan to attend the webinar scheduled for November 19 at 1300 UTC. You could also plan to drop into the Learning SDR and DSP Hack Chat on Wednesday at noon Pacific, too — that’s open to everyone, just like every Hack Chat is.

And finally, as if bald men didn’t suffer enough disrespect already, now artificial intelligence is having a go at them. At a recent soccer match in Scotland, an AI-powered automatic camera system consistently interpreted an official’s glabrous pate as the soccer ball. The system is supposed to keep the camera trained on the action by recognizing the ball as it’s being moved around the field. Sadly, the linesman in this game drew the attention of the system quite frequently, causing viewers to miss some of the real action. Not that what officials do during sporting events isn’t important, of course, but it’s generally not what viewers want to see. The company, an outfit called Pixellot, knows about the problem and is working on a solution. Here’s hoping the same problem doesn’t crop up on American football.

All The Workshops, And The SMD Challenge Happening At Hackaday Remoticon

Last week we announced the first fifteen workshops happening at Hackaday Remoticon, November 6-8, 2020. The weekend really is packed full of these hands-on events, and you’re invited to participate from anywhere in the world. Today we’re excited to announce the rest of the workshops, all of which are currently open for registration.

Can we get a few hundred people to show off their soldering skills (or amusing lack of skills) from their own workbench during the event? We think we can, so we’re running the SMD Challenge virtually this year. All of this, plus keynote talks, demos, a show-and-tell, and more make for one wild weekend. Read on!
Continue reading “All The Workshops, And The SMD Challenge Happening At Hackaday Remoticon”

Remoticon Tickets And Workshops Just Dropped

Hackaday Remoticon happens November 6-8 worldwide! The weekend will be packed with virtual activities, and most of them are hands-on workshops that you can participate in from the comfort of your home, lab, garage, basement, lair, or other socially distanced location of your choosing.

The news today is that everyone should register for Remoticon right now, and that we’re opening up registration for about half of the total workshops. More details on the remaining workshops, demos, and some special events will be available in a future article.

Get a Ticket for Remoticon, Then Register for Workshops

Step 1: Register for the Con. What you want to do right now is head over to the Remoticon ticketing page and register for the conference. We need to get a headcount so that our servers don’t melt down during this massive online social event. You can get a ticket for free, or you can choose pay as you wish — scroll to the bottom of the tickets under “Donations” — and those proceeds go to charities that feed, house, or educate people. In these hard times, if you’re in a position to spare a few bucks, please do so.

Step 2: Buy your workshop ticket(s). A workshop isn’t a workshop unless you can ask questions and get help along the way. Workshop tickets are for attendees who want to participate live, interacting with the presenters and other attendees via video chat. We’ve made all workshop tickets $10 as “skin in the game” to help ensure that these limited slots go to good use. Proceeds from workshop tickets will be used to offset the costs of hosting Remoticon.

If there is one request that we get every Supercon, it’s to film the workshops. This year, we can! If you can’t attend a workshop that you’re interested in we plan to record, edit, and publish them all so everyone can follow along at a later date.

The registration page has workshop descriptions listed when you select your ticket, but here are the titles whet your appetite. Thank you to everyone who submitted a workshop proposal, none of this is possible without you, naturally.

  • Basics of RF Emissions Debugging
  • Crowd-Controlled Robots
  • The Hackers Guide to Hardware Debugging
  • How to 3D Print onto Fabric
  • Introduction to Firmware Reverse Engineering
  • Introduction to Modular Synthesis using VCV Rack
  • KiCad to Blender > Photorealistic PCB renders
  • Learn How to Hack a Car
  • Live Breaking into Encrypted 3D Printer Firmware
  • MachineChat – JEDI One – A Universal Sensor Hub
  • PCB Reverse Engineering
  • Prototyping to the Max
  • Soldering, Nothing To Be Afraid Of!
  • Tiny ML
  • Zero to ASIC in Two Hours

Hackaday Links: September 13, 2020

Like pretty much every other big conference, the Chaos Communication Conference is going virtual this year. What was supposed to be 37C3 has been rebranded as rC3, the remote Chaos Experience. It’s understandable, as a 17,000 person live event would have not only been illegal but a bit irresponsible in the current environment. The event appears to be a hybrid of small local events hosted in hackerspaces linked with streamed talks and a program of workshops and “online togetherness.” rC3 is slated to run in the week between Christmas and New Year, and it seems like a great way to wrap up 2020.

Speaking of remote conferences, don’t forget about our own Remoticon. While it won’t be quite the same as everyone getting together in sunny — historically, at least — Pasadena for a weekend of actual togetherness, it’s still going to be a great time. The event runs November 6 to 8; we’ve had a sneak peek at the list of proposed workshops and there’s some really cool stuff. Prepare to be dazzled, and make sure you keep up on the Remoticon announcements — you really don’t want to miss this.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: September 13, 2020”

Hackaday Remoticon: Our 2020 Conference Is Packed With Workshops And We’re Calling For Proposals

We’re proud to announce the Hackaday Remoticon, taking place everywhere November 6th – 8th, 2020. It’s a weekend packed with workshops about hardware creation, held virtually for all to enjoy.

Update: Tickets are now available for 2020 Remoticon!

But we can’t do it without you. We need you to host a workshop on that skill, technique, or special know-how that you acquired through hard work over too many hours to count. Send in your workshop proposal now!

What is a Remoticon?

The Hackaday Remoticon achieves something that we just couldn’t do at the Hackaday Superconference: host more workshops that involve more people. Anyone who’s been to Supercon over the past six years can tell you it’s space-limited and, although we do our best to host a handful of workshops each day, those available seats are always in high demand.

We’re sad that we can’t get together in person for Supercon this year, but now we have an opportunity to host more workshops, engaging more live instructors and participants because they will be held virtually. This also means that we can make recordings of them available so that more people can learn from the experience. This is something that we tried way back during the first Supercon with Mike Ossmann’s RF Circuit Design workshop and 140,000 people have watched that video. (By the way, that link is worth clicking just to see Joe Kim’s excellent art.) Continue reading “Hackaday Remoticon: Our 2020 Conference Is Packed With Workshops And We’re Calling For Proposals”