chipKIT: What Now? 1


We recently received a demo board from Microchip with their new PIC-based Arduino-form-factor development board, the chipKit. While reading skimming through the technical specs, it turns out that it’s definately beyond me, hardware-wise.

Photos of the boxes we got here,

The chipKit has a similar form-factor to an Arduino, but it’s major difference is that it is PIC based (not AVR). Additionally, it runs at a different clock-speed and only understands the basic libraries from the Arduino suite. They do indicate that you can plug an Arduino Ethernet shield onto it and it will play ball, but some other boards might not.

But that’s really OK, because they shipped us two other boards to go with it. The chipKit proto-board (a perf-board with some headers) and the Input Board (which has some switches and a small OLED screen). It looks like the perfect brains for a new project.

Any ideas? Show off your grand plans in the comments and I can turn you folks loose on the board at Tuesday’s Hack Night! If you implement an awesome project, you can win the lab $5500 of tools and equipment! We’ve got a couple of months, but only the middle of January!

#SaveWardenclyffe 1

Friends, Hackers, Nerds! Lend me your ears … or at least spare me a few moments of reading.

Nikola Tesla was the father of the electric age. Despite having drop-kicked humanity into a second industrial revolution, up until recently he’s been an unsung hero in history books. If you don’t know who Tesla is, go read this (NSFW).

Suffice it to say, Tesla pioneered Alternating Current, Radio communication, RADAR, Transistors, Hydroelectric power, and myirad other crazy, mad-science sorts of projects. Tesla was the Uber-Geek of the turn of the last century and he has been forgotten. A brilliant scientist and a prolific inventor, his legacy died with him after a rather nasty spat with Thomas Edison over Alternating Current tarred his name in this country. (Edison employed Tesla, failed to pay him for his work, and pilfered a number of Tesla’s original Patents… but that is a different subject).

Tesla built a laboratory in Shoreham, New York called Wardenclyffe where we was going to try and perfect the projects he developed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But due to meddling by Edison and other financial problems, the project fell through. The giant tower was dismantled, but the main buildings still stand, to this day.

The Tesla Science Center of Shoreham, New York has put an offer on the property. If they succeeed in buying it, they will turn the place into a museum dedicated to the works of Nikolai Tesla: The first in the world. It will be placed on the New York register of Historic Places, and it won’t turn into another strip mall. But only if the Tesla Science Center comes up with 1.6 Million Dollars by September.

But you can help. The State of New York has pledged a matching grant if the center can raise $850,000. They started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds, and raised half of the required funds in less than a day.

(At the time of publication, the perks were all sold out below the $1000 level, but an email has been sent to backers indicating that more perks are on the way).

Will you help us #SaveWardenclyffe?

Vote for the IgniteNM Talks that interest you!

Ignite New Mexico is a fast-paced series of enlightening events built entirely on our community’s interests. People from around New Mexico propose a topic they want to enlighten everyone about. The community votes for what sounds interesting. Then the topics are presented at an Ignite New Mexico event.

These talks are 5 minutes long, 20 slides (auto advancing), so you get a nice little datadump of info on a topic, but if per some chance the presenter or topic winds up being boring, you only have to wait 5min and the next cool thing will be up.

At least 3 Quelab connected talks are proposed here, but go over there and vote for the ones you want to see!

Streamlining Android with Peek

Peek is a project to streamline Android to run on lower cost devices, and run more smoothly.
I am an Android user and supporter, but am often embarrassed by the sluggishness of the OS as delivered by my phone carrier. I hope that some of the Peek work will bring user responsiveness to a par with iOS. If you are interested in playing with Peek hardware, they are making older production systems available to hackers.

Join the Forum discussion on this post

BEAM bots 3

Who is interested in BEAM bots? Biology Electronic Aesthetic Mechanics? These are small, simple robots, built from a small number of discrete components. Part of the Aesthetic of these robots is to make a robot from a very simple analogue circuit. This is NOT something people are likely to be able to finish in a single event or hacknight. Two hacknights, perhaps. If we do this as an event, or just a way to increase hacknight participation we would want people to reserve a spot. We may want to order some slightly more expensive parts like solar panels or 555s.

Terry’s Amazing Little Camping Trailer 7

Terry Holt is a local Albuquerque maker who I met three weeks ago. He’s got an extensive background in engineering, but these days he’s working on (among other things) a portable structure he can tow behind his car and use to camp in relative comfort!

His first version was designed out of foam insulation.  He chose it as his material to prototype the design because it is light weight and easy to work, with the plan to eventually make the final design out of plywood.  After several months of use he found the strengths and weaknesses in his design. Ultimately he decided to stick with the light weight foam insulation instead of the plywood. This allows for it to be setup and taken down by himself in under 5 minutes and makes for a structure that is probably better insulated than my apartment!

It’s a little rough looking as he has recycled a good bit of his last version into this one.  I admit, with a quick coat of latex paint it might look a little less like a disposable cooler, but leaving it how it is does make it plain to see how it all works.  He had just finished building it, and I have no doubt that with a little spare duct-tape and care this one will last him a while.

Terry recently demonstrated the structure for Quelab members.  He brought it by not to gloat or show off (he’s really not that type), but as an example of the kinds of things he can do if members have ideas they want help making into a reality!

Below is a link to pictures I took of Terry’s project.


Last Hacknight before the big Event.

Remember the Quelab semiannual yardsale is Saturday!! Even if you don’t have anything to swap, sell donate or show off, we would love to see you and everyone you know down to come pick through the stuff! You wont see stuff like this just about any other place! You can tell your children you were there!!! Its 8am-11ish 04/30/11! Be there!

Tonight is the LAST Hacknight before the event’s! We need warm bodies helping finish projects, test builds, troubleshoot hazards, and sort through our junk!

Anyway I digress.
Tonight we wrap up the ideas and projects we have planned to demo to the public Saturday 2pm-6pm (after the Yardsale). Times like this its always good to reflect over all the ideas, and or supplies that you had but just didn’t have the hu-manpower/time to complete. Some of these projects I’m sure will live to see another day, some probably wont. We had a bout 40 solar yardlights, just begging to be hacked, we had a old portable typewriter and a few novel ideas on how to make it a HID device, stacks of untabbed solar cells just begging to be a panel, as tack of 12v gel-cell batteries, looking for a electric bike, a electric scooter needing a tire, and a new throttle control box wiring. And coultless other projects that just didn’t make the cut.

How can you help out? First off, we need more folks involved! We rarely have more than a few people down for hacknights. and thats not enough critical mass to both keep the place open and to really collaborate (Que-lab-orate)

If you can’t make it down to Quelab, think about your friends and co-workers, is there someone who would benefit from having a tinkering space, a workshop full of tools, a small group of very fun and dedicated problem solvers? If so tell them they need to come down, at least for the events listed above, and ideally for more of our hacknights!

Some thoughts on Sustainability.

I’m not the best spokesperson for Sustainability, I like my gadgets, I like things! I’m a fairly frugal guy, and a pretty conscientious consumer, and an occasional recycler. But like all of you I suspect, when it comes down to the nitty gritty truth. There are a lot of green things I don’t do, or if i do them I don’t regularly do them. I cringe a little when it comes down to being a good steward of this planet. I toss things i should recycle, I buy things I don’t need, I tear things apart to learn about them and often don’t know what to do with the bits. Some of it is laziness. Sometimes its just silly how many hoops one has to hope through to do the right thing, once one has even figgured out what the right thing to do is!

I think we all feel a bit overwhelmed by trying to do the right thing but not blowing our free time to do it. And also the nagging question of what is really the right thing to do comes to mind, what happens to your recyclables once they reach the curb? Once you drop off and pay the $10 fee for that old tv you were given? Even things where the manufacturer takes back the product like printer cartridges? Do you get this feeling that they are just making another buck off of you after the highway robbery of the cartridge you just had to buy? What is the right thing to do?

Today Earth Hacker had an article. Earth Day is Passe…Or is It? And this slideshow of “13 green lifestyle people” Which got me thinking, I do think about sustainability, and shopping local year round, but the Earthday thing is a good reminder to take a little tally of the past year, did you do a little better than last year? And perhaps blogging about my flaws, and successes might take a bit of the bittersweet apathy and fear away.

I know I am, not only am I trying to be more careful with what I buy, and lowering my utility costs. I’m recycling more, I’m buying more locally, More of my house is scheduled, automated, and I’m tinkering more at Quelab, both on renewable things, upcycling things, but just pooling resources and frugally shopping at thriftstores for the needed things helps recycle/upcycle and reuse!

Another thing I’m doing for in the spirit of sustainability, I’m donating a pile of gadgets Gizmos and things to Quelab’s Big Yardsale April 30th 8am-12pm, Come on down, Buy Sell, Trade Whatever! just come and tell all your friends/Clubs/Co-workers. This wont work unless everyone tries a little bit more than last time.(philosophically both for the micro scale (yardsale) and on the macro scale for the planet!)