Superconference Badge Hack Chat

How fast can you make 500 of something that doesn't exist?

Wednesday, December 20, 2023 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Elliot Williams and Voja Antonic will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, December 20 at noon Pacific.

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There's a lot to get excited about when October rolls around and you know Supercon is right around the corner. Catching up with old friends, making new ones, hanging out in the alley, catching the talks, and of course the food. But at the top of everyone's list has to be The Badge. Finding out what cool bit of technology is going to be built into the badge and figuring out exactly how you're going to hack it once you get your greedy mitts on it -- now that's excitement!

The 2023 Supercon badge was quite a hit, at least judging by all the cool hacks that people came up with. But what exactly went into getting this badge into everyone's hands? A lot of work, that's what, along with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. And while there was plenty of work to go around and a lot of shoulders to the wheel, a lot of the work fell to Elliot and Voja. They're going to be hopping into the Hack Chat to talk all about this amazing badge, from concept to conference, and all the hellish steps in between.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Page 1

    Tom Nardi12/21/2023 at 03:15 0 comments

    Andy Geppert  2:39 PM
    Questions for the queue: What dev environ did you guys use (Linux… tools)? What magic automation was being used when Elliot walked around with the [vintage] laptop and micro USB connection to make “keyless updates” happen on the powered and unpowered badges?
    Elliot Williams  2:46 PM
    Hey Andy! (Fires up laptop to see if he still has that script on it.)
    Andy Geppert  2:54 PM
    Elliot, not sure if you caught the expression on my face when you upgraded my badge Friday night, but it was along the lines of a Keanu Reeves “Woah.”
    Voja Antonic  2:59 PM
    Hi everyone!
    Elliot Williams  2:59 PM
    That was super fun to walk around like the badge fairy waving my magic wand. (Ignoring that the initial bug was of my own making...)
    Dan Maloney  3:00 PM
    Hi everyone, welcome to the final Hack Chat of 2023. I'm Dan, I'll be modding today along with Dusan as we welcome Elliot Williams and Voja Antonic to talk all about the 2023 Supercon badge.
    SimonAllen  3:01 PM
    Looks like it is time
    Dan Maloney  3:01 PM
    And my apologies in advance if my fingers throw a y into Voja's name -- they have a mind of their own
    Voja Antonic  3:02 PM
    It's OK, I had to change it to Voya on the Uber account, now it's properly pronounced!
    Dan  3:02 PM
    How do i join the chat or see the video?
    Dan Maloney  3:02 PM
    We usually do a tell us about yourself bit here, but I don't think either Elliot or Voja need my introduction
    Boian Mitov  3:02 PM
    Hello everyone :-)
    fid  3:03 PM
    Greetings everybody.
    Voja Antonic  3:03 PM
    I didn't contribute much, just a visual design and PCB project...
    Dan Maloney  3:03 PM
    Hi Voja, welcome aboard! Elliot, are you out there too?
    Voja Antonic  3:04 PM
    well, a few PCB bugs too... :))
    Dusan Petrovic  3:05 PM
    Hi Voja!
    Dusan Petrovic  3:05 PM
    Long time...
    SimonAllen  3:06 PM
    @Dan, unless I am mistaken, I think this session is Text only. I'm sure others will jump in if I am wrong.
    Dan Maloney  3:06 PM
    Bugs are important too -- they keep us humble ;-)
    Elliot Williams  3:07 PM
    Alright! Voja's probably on his way over. I'll start up with Andy's question, b/c it was fun, and b/c there's some good last-minute hacks. :)
    Tom Nardi  3:07 PM
    @Andy Geppert The updates were done with mpremote -- basically the script just waited for a new device node to pop up, waited a second for it to settle down, and then pushed out the fixed file. The badge automatically would reboot after the copy operation completed, so it made it easy to tell when it was done.
    Voja Antonic  3:07 PM
    Yes, I'm in digital hardware and firmware for a long time, and I can say that a few decades ago there were much less bugs
    Voja Antonic  3:08 PM
    but today they are a normal thing
    Thomas Shaddack  3:08 PM
    Then we die and the bugs eat us. Circle of life.
    Dan Maloney  3:08 PM
    What do you think is behind that? Maybe the ease and low cost of producing a board make it more likely to ship off a design that's not ready?
    Andy Geppert  3:08 PM
    You’ll be remembered for the features, not the bugs!
    Elliot Williams  3:08 PM
    So the short version is: between Al's operating system and my demo code, there was a race condition. Both were calling the garbage collector, which pauses everything until it's sure which bits of memory aren't being used and cleans them out. This includes disabling all interrupts.
    Dan Maloney  3:09 PM
    IOW, it's all PCBWay's fault...
    Elliot Williams  3:09 PM
    But when my code _and_ Al's OS ran the GC at the same time, which happened every so often, but totally randomly, it would never wake up.
    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Page 2

    Tom Nardi12/21/2023 at 03:14 0 comments

    Elliot Williams  4:02 PM
    I've always really liked the badge culture b/c it's fully DIY, and because making a badge -- at least just for yourself and/or a couple friends -- can be a low-stress entry into PCB design.
    Elliot Williams  4:03 PM
    And in that vein, the SAO badge add-ons are even easier to make, being largely ornamental, but still give you the full-stack PCB experience.
    Elliot Williams  4:03 PM
    Everyone should make an SAO, right Tom?
    Thomas Shaddack  4:03 PM
    Thanks, that makes significant sense!
    Tom Nardi  4:04 PM
    Yeah, definitely glad I took plunge and did an SAO this year. It's an awesome community-within-a-community.
    Voja Antonic  4:04 PM
    A lot of people build their own non-official badges. I see it as a recreational sport.
    Dan  4:04 PM
    Okay. Another dumb question: What is SAO?
    Elliot Williams  4:04 PM
    fid  4:04 PM
    @Tom Nardi 's SAO is an awesome one. Loved the Gibson part.
    Dan  4:05 PM
    Ah! Thank you
    Elliot Williams  4:05 PM
    Anyone have a picture of this year's SAO wall?
    fid  4:05 PM
    Yes. I took a couple of them.
    Voja Antonic  4:05 PM
    Later they replaced Shitty with Simple. But I prefer Shitty :)
    Tom Nardi  4:06 PM
    I did a YouTube Short for it:
    Elliot Williams  4:06 PM
    @dan Basically little badge-add-ons. Again, the simplicity makes it easy to dip your feet into, but making it artistic and fleshing out the story makes it possible to go as deep as you want.
    Thomas Shaddack  4:08 PM
    the S could also mean "stinky", and that could be literal if current-nonlimited batteries were used. That, combined with newbies attracted by a pair of GPIOs and one I2C bus, leads itself to frequent magic smoke releases.
    Tom Nardi  4:08 PM
    @fid The original idea was just to have an Attiny85 spitting out the opening to Neuromancer. But in practice I couldn't get more than a few paragraphs on the limited flash, so then I looked into newer MCUs, which meant more pins, which let me then control the LEDs, then I decided to add a button, etc, etc. All spun out of control from there.
    Thomas Shaddack  4:09 PM
    spi flash, and the whole book could fit in. :P
    Elliot Williams  4:09 PM
    @Thomas Shaddack When you make your first SAO, be really careful about the pinout. The pinout for the badge and the pinout for the SAO are mirror images!
    fid  4:10 PM
    One year I made a shitty shitty add-on with LEDs and cardboard. @Tom Nardi I can see how adding just a little more could keep snowballing.
    Elliot Williams  4:10 PM
    This is a bug that I've seen replicated more than once.
    Elliot Williams  4:10 PM
    LED and cardboard! Awesome.
    Thomas Shaddack  4:10 PM
    "Just one more feature" tends to be called recursively.
    Elliot Williams  4:11 PM
    I've seen "shittier". I think Mike Harrison just put one of those self-blinking LEDs in the socket.
    fid  4:11 PM
    Thomas Shaddack  4:11 PM
    I'd call it "minimalism".
    Elliot Williams  4:11 PM
    Hard to beat a parts count of 1.
    Voja Antonic  4:12 PM
    Did anyone ever used I2C in their SAO?
    Elliot Williams  4:13 PM
    That's the $1,000,000 question. I've seen a handful. But 99% just use power and ground. Heck, there are GPIO pins in the six-pin version.
    Voja Antonic  4:14 PM
    Is the a way to correct typos after I send a message?
    Dan Maloney  4:14 PM
    Sorry, no
    fid  4:14 PM
    The cardboard I used was a 'zarf' from Starbucks.
    Elliot Williams  4:14 PM
    I think part of the beauty is the simplicity, though. B/c you'd have to re-write the firmware...
    Read more »

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