A Free TV With A Catch: New Normal Or Inevitable Hardware Bonanza?

The dystopian corporate dominated future may have taken a step closer, as a startup called Telly promises a free 55 inch 4K TV with a catch — a second screen beneath the main one that displays adverts. The viewers definitely aren’t the customers but the product, and will no doubt have every possible piece of data that can be harvested from them sold to the highest bidder. There’s even a microphone and camera pointed at the viewer, to complete the 1984 experience. In a sense it’s nothing new, as certain TV manufacturers have been trying to slip adverts into the interfaces on their paid-for smart TVs for years.

Oddly we’re not convinced though, that the eventual outcome of this will be as sinister as readers might expect. Indeed if the past is anything to go by, it could even herald an eventual bonanza of 4K screens for hardware hackers. To explain why, we have to travel back to the late 1990s, when free hardware for adverts startups were last tried. Back then there were a spate of companies using the same model of free or super-cheap hardware, and without exception they ran into the fundamental problem that people who rely on a free product in exchange for adverts aren’t generally high value consumers who can bring in the revenue to support buying a ton of consumer electronics. The “free” hardware from several of these startups then found its way onto the surplus market — or in the case of CueCat barcode scanners, directly into the hands of hardware hackers, and was repurposed for use in the way our community knows best.

So yes. Telly represents all that’s wrong for the privacy of viewers about the current media landscape. But who knows, it might just spawn a hacking scene all of its own. As a final note we think that they’ll have an interesting time protecting their brand name if they ever enter the British market, where “telly” has been slang for television ever since the technology entered the mainstream.

IoT Archaeology Leads To API Resurrection

What happens when someone’s personal project is turned into a startup which becomes something of a publicity darling, then collapses with very little product shipped and takes all its customers’ money with it?

That’s the subject of a blog post from [Kevin Chung], who investigated the legacy of NYCTrainSign, a company whose product was an LED NYC subway sign and which has become a meme byword for a startup scam. Along the way he found himself reverse engineering its API, and eventually even purchasing the expired domain name to resurrect the API for any NYCTrainSigns that may still be out there.

Securing a second-hand NYCTrainSign, he dismantled it to see what made it tick. Inside the handmade wooden case was an array of LED panels, driven by a Raspberry Pi 3 and an Adafruit LED panel HAT. This gave pause for thought, as the component choice gives rise to a very high BoM cost which was unsustainable given their habit of steep discounts.

The software proves straightforward enough to reverse engineer, and since the original domain was for sale he bought it and set up a replacement API. Do you have one of the few signs that made it to customers? Now you can run it again.

The rest of the piece tells a tale that will be familiar to startup veterans: one of far too much marketing, too many bosses, and too little engineering to create a viable product. The founders remain tight-lipped about what happened and where the money went, but since there are few more efficient money pits than a badly-run startup, it’s more likely that ill-advised spending is to blame than someone running off with suitcases of cash.

If you’d like a public transit sign without the dodgy start-up, we’ve got you covered.

The Linux X86 Journey To Main()

Have you ever had a program crash before your main function executes? it is rare, but it can happen. When it does, you need to understand what happens behind the scenes between the time the operating system starts your program and your first line of code in main executes. Luckily [Patrick Horgan] has a tutorial about the subject that’s very detailed. It doesn’t cover statically linked libraries but, as he points out, if you understand what he does cover, that’s easy to figure out on your own.

The operating system, it turns out, knows nothing about main. It does, however, know about a symbol called _start. Your runtime library provides this. That code contains some stack manipulation and eventually calls __libc_start_main which is also provided by the library. Continue reading “The Linux X86 Journey To Main()”

Buoyant Aero MK4 keeps station in a tail wind

Aerodynamic Buoyant Blimp Budges Into Low Cost Cargo Commerce

Before the Wright Brothers powered their way across the sands of Kitty Hawk or Otto Lilienthal soared from the hills of Germany, enveloping hot air in a balloon was the only way to fly. Concepts were refined as time went by, and culminated in the grand Zeppelins of the 1930’s. However since the tragic end of the Zeppelin era, lighter than air aircraft have often been viewed as a novelty in the aviation world.

Several companies have come forward in the last decade, pitching enormous lighter than air machines for hauling large amounts of cargo at reduced cost. These behemoths rely on a mixture of natural buoyancy and lifting body designs and are intended to augment ferries and short haul commercial aviation routes.

It was this landscape where Buoyant Aero founders [Ben] and [Joe] saw an underserved that they believe they can thrive in: Transporting 300-600 lbs between warehouses or airports. They aim to increase the safety, cargo capacity, and range of traditional quadcopter concepts, and halve the operating costs of a typical Cessna 182. They hope to help people such as those rural areas of Alaska where high transportation costs double the grocery bill.

Like larger designs, Buoyant Aero’s hybrid airship relies on aerodynamic lift to supply one third the needed lift. Such an arrangement eliminates the need for ballast when empty while retaining the handling and navigation characteristics needed for autonomous flight. The smaller scale prototype’s outstanding ability to maneuver sharply and hold station with a tailwind is displayed in the video below the break. You can also learn more about their project on their Hacker News launch. We look forward to seeing the larger prototypes as they are released!

Perhaps this project will inspire your own miniature airship, in which case you may want to check out the Blimpduino for some low buck ideas. We recently covered some other Hybrid Airships that are trying to scale things even further. And if you have your own blimpy ideas you’d like to pass along, please let us know via the Tip Line!

Continue reading “Aerodynamic Buoyant Blimp Budges Into Low Cost Cargo Commerce”

Arm Gives Gift To Startups: Zero Cost

Who hasn’t dreamed of pulling together some gadget in their garage and turning it into a big business? Of course, most gadgets today have a CPU in them, and Arm CPUs power just about any kind of embedded device you can think of. If you just want to use a chip, that’s easy. You buy them from a licensee and you use their tools for development. But if you want to integrate ARM’s devices into your own chips, that’s a different story. You have to pay fees, buy tools, and pay licenses on each chip you produce. Until now. Arm’s flexible access for startups program will let you apply to get all of that free.

To qualify, you have to be an “early stage silicon startup with limited funding.” Normally, flexible access costs about $75,000 to $200,000 a year and that doesn’t cover your license fees and royalties. The plan offered to qualifying startups is the $75,000 package, but that still includes access to nearly all Arm products, technical support, a few introductory training credits, and development tools. After your first tape-out, though, it looks as though you’ll have to pony up.

Continue reading “Arm Gives Gift To Startups: Zero Cost”

Manufacturing In China Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday 10 July 2019 at noon Pacific for the Manufacturing in China Hack Chat with Jesse Vincent!

It started out where many great stories start: as a procrastination project. Open source developer Jesse Vincent decided that messing around with a new keyboard design was a better thing to spend time on than whatever he was supposed to be doing, and thus Keyboardio was born.

Their heirloom-grade keyboards of solid maple and with sculpted keycaps are unique to the eye and to the touch, but that’s only part of the Keyboardio story. Jesse has moved further down the road of turning a project into a product and a product into a company than most of us have, and he’s got some insights about what it takes. Particularly in climbing the learning curve of off-shore manufacturing, which will be the focus of this Hack Chat. Join us to learn all about the perils, pitfalls, and potential rewards of getting your Next Big Idea manufactured in China.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday July 10 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Disrupting Cell Biology Hack Chat With Incuvers

Join us on Wednesday 5 June 2019 at noon Pacific for the Disrupting Cell Biology Hack Chat with Incuvers!

A lot of today’s most successful tech companies have creation myths that include a garage in some suburban neighborhood where all the magic happened. Whether there was literally a garage is not the point; the fact that modest beginnings can lead to big things is. For medical instrument concern Incuvers, the garage was actually a biology lab at the University of Ottawa, and what became the company’s first product started as a simple incubator project consisting of a Styrofoam cooler, a space blanket, and a Soda Stream CO2 cylinder controlled by an Arduino.

From that humble prototype sprang more refined designs that eventually became marketable products, setting the fledgling company on a course to make a huge impact on the field of cell biology with innovative incubators, including one that can image cell growth in real time. What it takes to go from prototype to product has been a common theme in this year’s Hack Chats, and Noah, Sebastian, and David from Incuvers will drop by Wednesday to talk about that and more.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday June 5 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.