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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.

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”

Supercon SMD Challenge Gets 3D Printed Probes: Build Your Own

This year was the second SMD challenge at Supercon, so it stands to reason we probably learned a few things from last year. If you aren’t familiar with the challenge, you are served some pretty conventional tools and have to solder a board with LEDs getting progressively smaller until you get to 0201 components. Those are challenging even with proper tools, but a surprising number of people have managed to build them even using the clunky, large irons we provide.

During the first challenge, we did find one problem though. The LEDs are all marked for polarity. However, since we don’t provide super high power magnification, it was often difficult to determine the polarity, especially on the smaller parts. Last year, [xBeau] produced some quick LED testers to help overcome this problem. This year we refined them a bit.

As you can see, the 2018 model was a very clever use of what was on hand. A CR2032 holder powered the probes and the probes themselves were two resistors. If you can get the LED to light with the probes you know which lead is the anode and which is the cathode. A little red ink makes it even more obvious. Continue reading “Supercon SMD Challenge Gets 3D Printed Probes: Build Your Own”

Competitive Surface Mount Soldering Comes To Supercon

Who will show the best soldering skills at the Hackaday Superconference next week? We have a little — in fact, a very little — challenge for you: solder surface mount components down to a tiny 0201 package. This is the SMD Soldering Challenge and successfully finishing the board at all shows off the best of hand soldering skills, but during the weekend we’ll also keep a running leader board.

Ballpoint pen for scale

For the event we’re using the SMD Challenge board by MakersBox which utilizes a SOIC8 ATtiny85 to drive LED/resistor pairs in 1206, 0805, 0603, 0402, and 0201 packages. There will be a 5 minute inspection time at the start of the heat to open the kit, get familiar with the board, and confirm that you have all of the components and tools you need. We suggest not sneezing while placing that 0201 part down on the board — there is a spare set of 0201 parts only in the kit so you might get one extra chance with the smallest parts if you need it, but replacements will not be provided for parts lost during the heat.

There will be eight heats of six people participating so make sure you get signed up as soon as you get to Supercon. You can only compete once and you must use our soldering iron and solder. We will also have magnifiers, tweezers, flux, and desoldering braid on hand. You can bring reasonable tools and other support materials; Supercon staff running the challenge are the arbiters of “reasonable” in this case.

Scoring is based on time, completion, functionality (of the circuits you attempted to complete), neatness, and solder joint quality. If the top score is a tie, the fastest time across all the heats will be the winner. The official rules are on the event page so take a moment to look them over.

Don’t think it is going to be easy. Here’s a quote from the SMD Challenge board project page:

Be warned that trying to hand solder a 0201 package, which is just slightly larger than a grain of sand, may be considered evidence of insanity and get you committed to bad places by your loved ones and/or arch nemesis

The real prize is the bragging rights of being the Hackaday soldering virtuoso. Do you have what it takes? Someone reading this right now will be. But the first step is to show up at the Hackaday Superconference. See you there and good luck!