Hackaday Links: Supercon Sunday

This is not your normal Sunday links post. This is Superconference Sunday, and right now there are dozens of awesome projects floating around our conference in Pasadena. This links post will be mostly the projects from Supercon, but before that there’s some stuff we need to clear out of the queue:

Concerning other conferences, the Sparklecon site is up. Why go to Sparklecon? It’s a blast.

Tindie is worldwide! There were a bunch of Tindie sellers at the Maker Faire Adelaide this weekend. YouTuber MickMake is a friend of Tindie and we’re teaming up to give away a few prizes from Australian Tindie sellers. You can check out the full details here.

There’s an Internet of Things thing from 4D Systems. It’s an ESP8266 and a nice small display.

Well, crap. It might have finally happened. [Maxim Goryachy] and [Mark Ermolov] have obtained fully functional JTAG for Intel CSME via USB DCI. What the hell does that mean? It means you can plug something into the USB port of a computer, and run code on the Intel Management Engine (for certain Intel processors, caveats apply, but still…). This is doom. The Intel ME runs below the operating system and has access to everything in your computer. If this is real — right now we only have a screenshot — computer security is screwed, but as far as anyone can tell, me_cleaner fixes the problemAlso, Intel annoyed [Andy Tanenbaum].

With that out of the way, here’s some stuff from this weekend’s Supercon:

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Get Your Hands on a 2017 Hackaday Superconference Badge

We just got the shipment of hot Hackaday Superconference badges in our hands yesterday, and they’re frankly awesome. Due to great manufacturing partners and a fantastic design by [Mike Harrison], we ended up with too few manufacturing defects and too many badges. How’s that for a nice problem to have?

But our gain is your gain! We have enough badges for everyone who’s coming to the con, and we’re selling the rest on Tindie.

In case you missed it, the badge is a digital video camera, or at least that’s how it’s going to start out its life. It’s got a camera sensor, enough processing power on-board to handle the image data, a screen, and SD card storage. It’s also got a good assortment of buttons, and more importantly, prototyping space and an abundance of pins broken out for you to play with. For the nitty-gritty, see the badge’s Hackaday.io project page. We’ve coded up the obvious applications, added in some challenging puzzles, and now we’re handing them off to you.

Hackaday Badge History

What will you do with them? That remains to be seen. The first time we put on a Supercon, we made the best badge you’ve ever seen — a blank protoboard, and a big pile of parts. Add in an enthusiastic and creative crowd, and out pops magic. Last year, [Voja] produced a badge with finesse and more resources, adding blinkies, IR, and an accelerometer, and we saw hacks making use of each of the features. This year, we’ve pushed it even further. Now it’s your turn.

The Superconference is this weekend, and a few hundred Hackaday hackers will get their hands on this lump of open hardware. Something fantastic is certainly going to happen. If you couldn’t make it but still want to play along, now’s your chance!

Conference badges are a fantastic playground for hardware hackers: they’re a small enough project to get done, but large enough to do something interesting. Some badges, like [Brian Benchoff]’s badge for Tindie, are minimalistic. Others, like this unofficial badge for DEFCON, are quadcopters. In between, there’s room for artistry and aesthetics and just plain cleverness. And don’t forget utility. The 2017 Layer One conference badge (here on Hackaday.io) is easily converted into an OBD II CAN bus sniffer or a video game machine — your pick.

Hackaday loves custom hardware and badges like this are more than just a PCB full of components. They’re a piece of the culture from the event where they made their debut. We’re happy we can share that with some of the hackers who couldn’t make it to Supercon this year.

BOM Cost Optimization and Tindie Badge Engineering

For the last few months, I’ve been up to my neck in electronic conference badges. This year, I created the single most desirable badge at DEF CON. I also built a few Tindie badges, and right now I’m working on the logistics behind the Hackaday SuperConference badge. Sit tight on that last one — we’re doing something really, really special next month.

Most badge projects are one-off production runs. This is to be expected from a piece of hardware that’s only meant to be distributed at a single event. The Tindie badge is different. It’s now a thing, and we’re building multiple badges for all the cons and conferences Hackaday and Tindie are attending for the rest of the year. This means I have the opportunity to do hardware revisions on the Tindie badge. Right now I’ve built three versions of the Tindie and we’ve distributed about two thousand of these kits at DEF CON, Maker Faire New York, and the Open Hardware Summit.

After about two thousand units, I think we finally have this down. This is how I designed three versions of hardware in as many months and cut the BOM cost of each badge in half. This is bordering on a marginally impressive piece of engineering, and a great lesson on BOM cost optimization.

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Single Board Relay Computer

We all know you can build a computer out of relays, and if you’re a regular reader of Hackaday, you’ve probably seen a few. Actually designing and fabricating a computer built around relays is another thing entirely, and an accomplishment that will put you right up there with the hardware greats.

The newest inductee of the DIY microcomputer hall of fame is [Jhallen]. He’s built a microcomputer ‘trainer’ out of relays. It’s got more click and clack than the Tappet family, and is a work of art rendered in DPDT relays.

The biggest consideration in designing a relay computer is the memory. You can implement a CPU in a few dozen relays, but even a small amount of memory is still hundreds of additional components. In this computer, [Jhallen] is sort of cheating. The memory is implemented as 256 32-bit words on a microcontroller alongside a controller for the front panel. The CPU is still all relays, with support for self-modifying code, a bunch of instructions for conditional jumps, and an ‘increment and jump if not equal to zero’ instruction.

Below, you can check out a very in-depth video of the relay computer in action, starting off with some satisfying click and clack of Euclid’s algorithm and a demonstration of the variable clock rate. The video goes on to demonstrate the assembly language of the relay computer itself and a bit of the overall architecture. This is really one of the most educational demo videos for vintage computing we’ve ever seen.

[Jhallen] assembled a few of these boards and he’s selling some of the extras. If you have $600, you can pick one up over on Tindie (standard Hackaday / Tindie disclosure statement). Considering the amount of soldering required to assemble this board, we’re going to guess that’s a very fair price.
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Building a DEF CON Badge in Two Weeks

DEF CON is starting right now, and this is the year of #badgelife. For the last few years, independent hardware wizards have been creating and selling their own unofficial badges at DEF CON, but this year it’s off the charts. We’ve already taken a look at Bender Badges, BSD Puffer Fish, and the worst idea for a conference badge ever, and this is only scratching the surface.

This is also a banner year for the Hackaday / Tindie / Supplyframe family at DEF CON. We’re on the lookout for hardware. We’re sponsoring the IoT village, [Jasmine] — the high priestess of Tindie — and I will be spending some time in the Hardware Hacking Village, praising our overlords and saying the phrase, ‘like Etsy, but for electronics’ far too much. We’ll be showing people how to solder, fixing badges, and generally being helpful to the vast unwashed masses.

Obviously, this means we need our own unofficial DEF CON badge. We realized this on July 10th. That gave us barely more than two weeks to come up with an idea for a badge, design one, order all the parts, wait on a PCB order, and finally kit all the badges before lugging them out to DEF CON. Is this even possible? Surprisingly, yes. It’s almost easy, and there are zero excuses for anyone not to develop their own hardware badge for next year’s con.

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Friday Hack Chat: Making Electronics for Education

For this week’s Hack Chat on Hackaday.io, we’ll be talking with AnnMarie Thomas about making electronics for education. There’s a huge intersection between electronics and education, and whether you’re designing robots for a FIRST team or designing a geometry curriculum around 3D-printed objects, there’s a lot electronics can teach students.

AnnMarie Thomas is an associate professor at the School of Engineering and the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas. She’s the founder of the Playful Learning Lab, and along with her students she’s created Squishy Circuits. AnnMarie is the author of Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation. Basically, if you’re looking for someone who knows how to make an educational product, you can’t do any better.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’ll be talking about how to define how technology and education can intersect. There are ways to define a concept, build and sell an educational product, and how to find a market for a product. If you’ve ever wanted to know what goes into getting students to dive into electronics, this is the Hack Chat you have to sit in on.

Oh, AnnMarie is also a judge for this year’s Hackaday Prize. Neat.

Also on deck for this week’s Hack Chat will be Tindie. Tindie is Supplyframe’s (Hackaday’s parent company) answer to the question, ‘where should I sell my hardware product’. Think of it as ‘Etsy for electronics’, but with less furniture made out of pallet wood, but paradoxically more products that require a California prop 65 warning. Isn’t electronics fun?

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat will take place at noon Pacific time on Friday, July 21st. Confused about where and when ‘noon’ is? Here’s a time and date converter!

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Hackaday Links: July 9, 2017

Doom is now running on the ESP32. This is some work from [Sprite_tm], and the last we heard about Doom on the ESP32 is that there was a silicon bug or something. Now we’re knee deep in the dead on a tiny WiFi and Bluetooth-enabled microcontroller.

Loading animations have a long and storied history. What originally began as an hourglass quickly turned into a hand counting to five and progress bars. There were clocks, the Great Beach Ball of Death, and now loading animations are everywhere. However, the loading animation has still not been perfected — until now, that is. This is a fidget spinner loading animation. It’s beautiful.

Just a quick reminder that a Minecraft scholarship exists. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but there is a scholarship from the Klingon Language Institute for studying any language, and last year’s winner built a redstone computer from scratch,

[8bit generation] recently released a documentary, about the rise of Atari. Easy to Learn, Hard to Master is about the rise of Atari under [Nolan Bushnell]. Now [8bit generation] is working on a new documentary: Firing Steve Jobs. The [Steve Jobs] story is fascinating, and no matter what you think of him, he probably knew what he was doing.

Want to build and sell some hardware? Over on Tindie, we’re taking a look at some of the most successful designers of custom crafted hardware. This time it’s [Albertas Mickėnas] of Catnip Electronics who has sold five thousand soil moisture sensors.

You can just go out and buy a CNC machine, but that doesn’t quite underscore the difficulty in getting a CNC machine running. Our ‘ol pal [Jeremy] recently picked up a Romaxx CNC machine and put together a video of its commissioning. There’s a lot of work here, from building a shelf/stand for a rather beefy machine to cutting into the bed for t-tracks, and figuring out how dust collection is going to happen.

Before there was KiCad and Eagle and a ton of web-based PCB design tools, there was Autotrax. Want to know what PCB design and GUIs look like in DOS? I did a walkthrough for designing a small PCB in the DOS version of Autotrax late last year. There are thousands of designs locked up in discontinued EDA suites, and [Erich] has a way to revive them. He’s developed an Autotrax/Easytrax layout import/export plugin for pcb-nd. Now legacy Protel designs can be imported into software released in this century. This is really cool, and you can check out some screenshots here.