HacDC at the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

A week or two ago it was announced on one of the HacDC mailing lists that we'd been given a pair of tables at the second USA Science and Engineering Festival which was held this past weekend. It was a call to members who wanted to exhibit their work during the festival, and not a few of us threw our headgear into the ring. Rather than hold a Byzantium development sprint this weekend Sitwon, Haxwithaxe, and I met at HacDC to mass-produce demo CDs of Byzantium Linux to give out at our table along with the HacDC stickers, postcards, and …

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ContactCon 2011.

As you've no doubt guessed, the reasons for my radio silence have been many and multi-layered, and now things have calmed down a little. I've been scrambling with the rest of the development team to get Project Byzantium in such a state that it was ready to show off at ContactCon. ContactCon, held late last week, was an unconference dedicated to showcasing and networking the developers of next-generation communication technologies that was driven by the attendees presenting their work rather than gathering to listen to people speak on stage. Most of us who attended are working on technologies that are …

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Radio silence: a sign of the times.

I wish I could say it's been quiet over here, but it's actually been relentlessly busy for Lyssa and I down here in DC. I think I overextended myself a little the weekend of the prototype Spaceblimp launch, which left me fighting off... something.. that kept me at a high fever and feeling run down most of the time. I did a little detail working on my car to cover up the myriad scratches and scuffs that accumulate whenever you park for long periods of time in an urban area. While the speeding edge of an SUV door doesn't actually …

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Electronics projects to make you sit up and take notice.

During my daily morning mainline injection of news on the Net this week, a couple of electronics projects caught my eye that I hadn't seen before. The first is a project from SparkFun Electronics that uses higher voltage than I'm used to working with - a Geiger counter kit with a USB interface. The kit is constructed around the popular ATmega 168 microcontroller, which means that the basic Arduino development kit can be used to write code that pulls samples from the Geiger-Muller tube (powered by a tiny high voltage power supply) and outputs numerical values over USB, where the 'counter …

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Life is so much more interesting when you don't get any REM sleep!

It’s a sure sign that you’re trying to accomplish too much when you start forsaking sleep for other things. Lately, work has been running me ragged so to compensate I haven’t posted (or been writing) for a couple of days. To keep from overrunning myself I’ve been reworking a couple of electronics projects in my spare time and discovered in the process that the circuit diagrams I’ve been working from, simply put, won’t work as advertised. Thankfully, the principles they were supposedly based upon are sound so I broke out the data sheets and …

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Rapid prototyping a violin.

Rapid prototyping and fabrication are one of those technologies that you don’t appreciate (or even know are in use) until you walk into someplace like the Boston Fab Lab at MIT and run into them face-first. Things we buy in the store just sort of pop into being without the consumer knowing anything about how they were made, be it by injecting liquid plastic into a mold or using a robot to mill a block of metal into an intricate shape. Anyway, a student named Mark used a ShopBot CNC machine (the best way to describe one is a …

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Affordable personal satellites now available, launch included.

It is a long standing tradition among the amateur radio community to construct whatever you need to get the job done if you can’t acquire it somehow. In fact, the basic training you need to get a ham license includes some electrical engineering and electronics theory, assuming that you don’t already possess this knowledge. Some hams have even gone so far as to design and construct satellites to facilitate shortwave communication around the planet, helpfully launched by space agencies where they serve as ballast for other orbital insertions. It would seem that negotiating for help from NASA is …

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You're probably wondering where I've been lately.

By and large, work has been, well, work.  Lots of hours at the office, lots of hours stuck in traffic sweating like Kevin Mitnick during a traffic stop.  When I haven't been logging time behind a console, I've either been trying to get my head back into Python coding (try as I might, I just don't understand GUI programming in general or PyGTK in particular), reading data sheets, reading up on the Arduino microcontroller, or pulling a Tesla while pondering the best way to build my latest obsession, a laser synthtar.

You see, it all started at HacDC a couple …

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