Red Bull Creation Challenge - Hardware is here

Our package for the Red Bull Creation Contest came in this week. On first glance, it appears to be an Arduino Uno compatible board, with the standard Atmega328 (SMT) and Mega 8u2 chip for USB.
We got it hooked up and running:

 As you can see, it's an odd-format PCB with an Arduino footprint on-board. Some of the parts are not Arduino-standard, such as the glass diode D1. They left the ICSP programming pads for both chips, so we pulled out our tools and started working.

First analysis:

1. The packaging is laser-cut from cardboard. There is a message cut into the bottom that reads:



Visiting this URL takes you to a download link to a Windows INF file called "Bullduino.inf"

2. There do not appear to be any hidden messages on the inner cardboard layers or tape.

3. There is nothing in the packaging that shows up under a long-wave UV lamp.

4. There is a program loaded in the Arduino. It is blinking out a message in Morse code on the LED (D7). According to the guys at Harford Hacker Space, the message is:

‘Wouldn’t lou prefer a good game of chess?

We will perform our own analysis and post the results.

4. I dumped the ROM images and eeprom data from both the Atmega 328 and 8u2 chips. Links to each are below:

Atmega 328 Program File
Atmega 328 EEPROM File
Mega8u2 Program File
Mega8u2 EEPROM File

Update: The Morse message has been confirmed to be same as the other Bullduino that Harford Analyzed.  Thanks to Dynotronix from Null Space Labs.

More to follow...


Crazy Taiwanese locks

Unlike the U.S.A., with it's lock monoculture of Kwikset, Schlage and Master Lock, Asian people seem to like variety in their security products. In fact, every house we visited in Taiwan seemed to have a stainless steel outer door with big rim cylinder lock, an inner steel door and bars. And the locks don't disappoint, either. Some of the locks had round dimple keys, others were triangular, star-shaped or side-dimpled. The exterior deadbolts had combo latch and bolt hardware with 12mm or larger bolts.

And then there were the padlocks, with some of the same features, and $10 knock-offs of the Abloy-style Disc lock.

Check out these locks I bought in Kaohsiung:

The guy at the small shop I purchased these at said that lock picking is a common activity, and I could have ordered manipulation tools for most of the popular locks had I given him some more notice. Something for next time!



A visit to the Hong Kong Hacker Space

I've been touring Asia for the last couple of weeks. The agenda has included Taiwan, Hong Kong and Shenzhen. For today's blog post, here are some pictures from Dim Sum Labs in Hong Kong.

First, the front door. Hong Kong is quite easy to navigate, as there is a very clean, modern subway system with excellent signage in English and Chinese. The metro ticket vending machines have one of the most intuitive user interface (UI) designs I have seen. You just touch the picture of the stop you wish to travel to, and the machine calculates the price and takes your money. Simplicity itself.

Anyway, Dim Sum Labs  is located on Jervois Street, on Hong Kong Island. We followed some other hackers up to the 14th floor and were greeted by a nice etched brass sign:

Here is the space itself - it's rather snug bug contains several soldering stations, a Rep Rap 3D printer, a small CNC milling machine, and various other tools. Real estate is quite expensive in Hong Kong, so it's fortunate that they are able to be in a centrally-located place.

The meeting-in-progress was the tail-end of  an introduction to Arduino class.  Ricky and Shuyh from the Shanghai Hacker Space were next up, presenting their Lophilo Linux platform.  Shuyh is below:

And here is the board. This thing is pretty cool - it's an Atmel ARM CPU with a tightly-coupled Altera FPGA for real-time embedded systems and Linux OS support. They hope to make it the new standard for open-source hardware/software projects for more advanced hardware projects.

That's all for now. Next post will be updates from the Shenzhen Electronics Market.



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Shell Eco-Marathon

machining at 23b shop hackerspaceSome kids from Monrovia High School have been spotted at the shop recently working on their vehicle for the Shell Eco-Marathon.  The goal was to create a vehicle using a weed whacker engine to drive on a track as efficiently as possible.  This unique project was entirely student-designed, with the adults associated with the project acting only as assistants.  They came to us needing some fabrication.  Arclight helped them build frame components and welded them together.  Their vehicle had an interesting drive system, using a bicycle cassette mounted directly to the small gasoline engine, driving a chain connected to the wheels. 

We sat down together, discussed their designs and started cranking handles.  These kids have never operated shop equipment bigger than a drill press, so after a quick demonstration they were making chips on their own.  After a few hours of work, we had some functional parts.  An interesting part of their experience was speaking to the kids about awareness of our MacGyver'd design, which could very well fail catastrophically.  While no one was injured, there were definitely some terminal illnesses with their design during the testing phase. 
23b MIG fabrication Lincoln Power Wave

After going back to the drawing board, the kids returned with a desperate need to redesign, with two weeks to go until the competition.  We discussed the failure mode of their design, realizing that we had not taken into account the accuracy needed to mount the bicycle cassette directly to the weed whacker output shaft.  The easy solution was to scrap the entire drivetrain (along with all of their hard work!) and go to an electric design, avoiding all the messy steampunk power transmission parts.  Sourcing a small electric motor from Harald's Meatspin Rock Tumbler, they quickly redesigned a successful drivetrain, and didn't even have to leave the building for the components.

New summer hours for machine shop

 Good news, everyone!

I decided to take the summer off, and what better of a way to spend it than here at my favorite Hackerspace.  That being said, there's generally someone here everyday after noon until close (sundown or later).  Come by and brush up on your welding skills, or take some time and do some machining lessons from myself or one of our members.  Need something fabricated?  You can do it yourself, you can seek the guidance of others around you, or you can bribe me to do it for you with a worthy donation.  We can handle everything from large steel frames to wooden arcade cabinets, retrofitting Ford hubs, building quadrotors, or network address teledildonics.  You'll have to ask Dano about the last one, that's beyond my expertise.

Here's some of the parts we've machined lately:

6061-T6 aluminum flanges by machinist at 23b

These are 6061-T6 aluminum fittings for a phase-change beer chiller that was entered into the DEFCON Beverage Chilling Contraption Contest last year.  Hearken and myself collaborated on this project together and came up with a surprisingly effective project.  Turns out that aluminum performs very well under cryogenic conditions, so much so that NASA uses aluminum for liquid oxygen storage tanks.  The wall thickness was .125" (3mm), it only needed to handle 175 psi, so we figured what the heck.  It worked VERY well, chilling a beer from 100 F to 40 F in 4 seconds, as long as it took for the beer to travel down the tube into the cup. 

machined sleeves for alpine tripod
Erik Burrows dropped by the shop with an interesting project a few weeks ago.  He had the bright idea to adapt a camera tripod to work with hiking poles, a brilliant weight-saving adaptation.  Instead of bulky, extendable legs on a normal tripod, he only needs to carry one extra pole.  With two in his hands, he is able to reduce the weight of his setup from 7 lbs to 3 lbs, and also transferring most of that weight from his pack to his hands.  Erik, like Hearken, had a great idea that seemed within reason.  Both very smart guys, they both also lacked experience working with the materials.  When we put our heads together and worked on these projects, they came together elegantly, efficiently, and on the first time too. 

Working with metal is definitely an art form, it takes time and patience and lots of practice.  It's too bad that technical and trade skills aren't emphasized nearly enough in today's society.  A generation or two ago, everybody had exposure to auto shop, welding, and metal shop while they were in high school.  The focus of public education today has shifted from learning things you can make a living with, to being effective standardized test takers.  Where DOES one go to learn a trade like this?  Even better, where does one have a place to go to learn such a trade, free of restrictions of teachers, of bosses breathing down your neck?  At 23b, there's only one catch: you have to deal with Goons in their natural habitat.


Mobile club graphic tool BMP2HEX

I built an Excel 2010 spreadsheet* that turns pixels into hex code in the right format to feed the Mobile Club its images.  You can use it to make 224x8 frames for the mobile club LED display!

Put a 1 (or any character) in a cell to turn on that pixel. Clear the cell (or put a 0) to turn off that pixel.  It makes a magical hexadecimal string!

Copy the hex string out and send it to us at 23bshop@gmail.com, and we will write it in 400-mile-high letters of flame on the top of Mount Olympus!**

Here's a link to the spreadsheet:

*This is a very primitive tool written with what's at hand. No warranty. Flames will shoot out of your computer and I don't care.

**No we will not.  We might display it on the scrolling message sign on the club though.