Name that Ware, May 2016

May 23rd, 2016

The Ware for May 2016 is shown below.

Xobs discovered this morsel of technology sitting in the junk pile at his HDB, and brought it into the office for me to have a look at. I hadn’t seen of these first-hand until then.

Despite being basically a picture of two large hunks of metal, I’m guessing this ware will be identified within minutes of going up.

Winner, Name that Ware April 2016

May 23rd, 2016

Really great participation this month in Name that Ware!

The Ware for April 2016 is a “LED-Handbrause” by miomare — in other words, a shower head with LEDs on the inside which tell you the temperature of the water. It has an integral paddlewheel that generates power for the circuitry via water flowing through the shower head, as evidenced by this more complete photo of the ware:

It looks like LW was the first to guess the function of the ware, so congrats! email me for your prize. And thanks again to Philipp Gühring for submitting a ware that sparked so much interesting discussion!

Circuit Classics — Sneak Peek!

May 1st, 2016

My first book on electronics was Getting Started with Electronics; to this day, I still imagine electrons as oval-shaped particles with happy faces because of its illustrations. So naturally, I was thrilled to find that the book’s author, Forrest Mims III, and my good friend Star Simpson joined forces to sell kit versions of classic circuits straight off the pages of Getting Started with Electronics. This re-interpretation of a classic as an interactive kit is perfect for today’s STEM curriculum, and I hope it will inspire another generation of engineers and hackers.

I’m very lucky that Star sent me a couple early prototypes to play with. Today was a rainy Saturday afternoon, so I loaded a few tracks from Information Society’s Greatest Hits album (I am most definitely a child of the 80’s) and fired up my soldering iron for a walk down memory lane. I remembered how my dad taught me to bend the leads of resistors with pliers, to get that nice square look. I remembered how I learned to use masking tape and bent leads to hold parts in place, so I could flip the board over for soldering. I remembered doodling circuits on scraps of paper after school while watching Scooby-Doo cartoons on a massive CRT TV that took several minutes to warm up. Things were so much simpler back then …

I couldn’t help but embellish a little bit. I added a socket for the chip on my Bargraph Voltage Indicator (when I see chips in sockets, I hear a little voice in my head whispering “hack me!” “fix me!” “reuse me!”), and swapped out the red LEDs for some high-efficiency white LEDs I happened to have on the shelf.

I appreciated Star’s use of elongated pads on the DIP components, a feature not necessary for automated assembly but of great assistance to hand soldering.

It works! Here I am testing the bargraph voltage indicator with a 3V coin cell on my (very messy) keyboard desk.

Voilà! My rendition of a circuit classic. I think the photo looks kind of neat in inverse color.

I really appreciate seeing a schematic printed on a circuit board next to its circuit. It reminds me that before Open Hardware, hardware was open. Schematics like these taught me that circuits were knowable; unlike the mysteries of quantum physics and molecular biology, virtually every circuit is a product of human imagination. That another engineer designed it, means any other engineer could understand it, given sufficient documentation. As a youth, I didn’t understand what these symbols and squiggles meant; but just knowing that a map existed set me on a path toward greater comprehension.

Whether a walk down nostalgia lane or just getting started in electronics, Circuit Classics are a perfect activity for both young and old. If you want to learn more, check out Star Simpson’s crowdfunding campaign on Crowd Supply!

Hacking Humble Bundle

April 30th, 2016

I’m very honored and proud to have one of my books offered as part of the Hacking Humble Bundle. Presented by No Starch Press, the Hacking Humble Bundle is offering several eBook titles for a “pay-what-you-feel” price, including my “Hacking the Xbox”, along with “Automate the Boring Stuff with Python”, “The Linux Command Line” and “The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy”. Of course, you can already download Hacking the Xbox for free, but if you opt to pay at least $15 you can get 9 more fantastic titles — check out all of them at the Humble Bundle page.

One of the best parts about a humble bundle is you have a say in where your money goes.

If you click on “Choose where your money goes” near checkout area, you’re presented with a set of sliders that let you pick how much money goes to charity, how much to the publisher, and how much as a tip to the Humble Bundle. For the Hacking Humble Bundle, the default charity is the EFF (you’re free to pick others if you want). For the record, I don’t get any proceeds from the Humble Bundle; I’m in it to support the EFF and No Starch.

If you enjoyed Hacking the Xbox, this is a perfect opportunity to give back to a charitable organization that was instrumental in making it happen. Without the EFF’s counsel, I wouldn’t have known my rights. Knowledge is power, and their support gave me the courage I needed to stand up and assert my right to hack, despite imposing adversaries. To this day, the EFF continues to fight for our rights on the digital frontier, and we need their help more than ever. No Starch has also been a stalwart supporter of hackers; their founder, Bill Pollock, and his “Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead” attitude toward publishing potentially controversial topics has enabled hackers to educate the world about relevant but edgy technical topics.

If hacking interests you, it’s probably worth the time to check out the Hacking Humble Bundle and give a thought about what it’s worth to you. After all, you can “pay what you feel” and still get eBooks in return.

Name that Ware, April 2016

April 9th, 2016

The Ware for April 2016 is shown below.

The ware this month is courtesy Philipp Gühring. I think it should be a bit more challenging that the past couple months’ wares. If readers are struggling to guess this one by the end of this month, I’ve got a couple other photos Philipp sent which should give additional clues.

But, interested to see what people think this is, with just this photo!