Spacehack upgrades, Just in time!

You may have spotted a little while ago that we got a place at Maker Faire UK for the fourth year in a row.

For the past few years, setting up Spacehack hasn’t been a simple job, mainly because of how the server box (the gold pyramid) was a flimsy cardboard box with various things taped to it. We also had issues with the four consoles. Many LCDs were failing, pots not rotating correctly, switches not working or missing. So we had to do some upgrades.

One of the most ambitious upgrades was the server box upgrade. We wanted to get this one done before the Maker Faire this weekend, to make setup easier. I’m pleased to say that we have completed it on time! You can look forward to seeing the new server box this weekend.

The upgrades have enabled us to make the server more rugged and much more compact. We’ve eliminated the need for three of the five power supplies by making everything run on 5v. We even have a touch-screen GUI for managing the game. The GUI’s written in pascal, of course. 🙂

Just to be clear about why this needed doing; see this picture of the guts of the original server box. Yuk!

Need to etch PCBs? We can help!

Nat needed a PCB recently, so we decided to see if we could make good use of the PCB etching equipment we have in the hackspace. It’s a fairly simple process, print a positive on some laser-printer-acetate, stick it to a pre-sensitised PCB, expose it to UV, dip it in developer, then dip it in etchant.

The UV exposure box

The UV exposure box

At least, we thought it was that simple. We had a couple of failed attempts before we got a good board. We couldn’t agree on the correct time for exposure and development. On our third attempt, with two minutes in the light box and about thirty seconds in the developer solution, we got a decent image.

The first two attempts

The first two attempts

Now we really should have rubber gloves for this next bit, but we couldn’t find any. Fortunately we did have a pair of thick plastic carrier bags for handling the etching chemicals.

After allowing plenty of time in the etchant, agitating it for extra speed, we finally got a good looking PCB out.

Some of the tracks needed a little bit of fixing up afterwards, but this was just a quick test board. If this works, there will be two more done properly.

Now that we know how best to use the kit we have, if you have a project that requires a home-made PCB then why not come along and let us lend a hand?

The Long-Awaited Low-Temperature Tuck Shop.

After having this lovely glass-sided fridge in the hackspace for many weeks, we’ve finally got it to a working state.

We got the fridge for free, in mostly working condition. It really needed a clean and the fan motor was very noisy. It also had a fluorescent light bulb in the top, which wasn’t working. We tried fixing the fan, but couldn’t get it quiet-enough to prevent it being a nuisance to people working in the hackspace. In the end we decided to replace the fan with an old PC cooling fan that was much quieter.

While we had the thing open, we decided to do something about the lighting. We removed the old light bulb and instead fitted some much lower power LED strips inside the fridge. Nick did a great job of wiring these up to the switch for the old light and even added a little microswitch to detect the door opening and turn on the white lights to make it a little easier to see. (As pretty as the blue and red lights are, they’re not ideal for reading labels on things.)

Let us know what we should stock!

 

We’ll be back at Maker Faire UK this year

Despite crashing the USS guppy into the Life Science Centre’s unique exhibition space numerous times, somehow we’ve been invited back for the next Maker Faire UK.

This will be the fourth year that we’ve been at the Maker Faire UK. We will, of course, be taking spacehack. We’ll also be bringing along some other projects too. John’s tetris table shall be making an appearance and we’ll no doubt have some other goodies you can play around with.

Be sure to check out http://www.makerfaireuk.com/ when details of who else is exhibiting are released.

Some photos of our past adventures in the Life Science Centre…

York Hackspace at MakerFaire UK 2014

Another random selection of interesting things

It’s just another week at the hackspace, here’s a few thing that were going on last Wednesday.

We recently had a generous donation of some old tech, it included this intriguing Ferranti Laser. Nat had a go switching it on, it seems to do something, we’re just not sure what it’s purpose is. If anyone knows, help us out by letting us know how to use it. (We’re already fairly sure it’s not powerful enough be used to make a laser cutter.)

Another fabulous little relic included in the donation was this this Vest Pocket Kodak. If anyone has any film that will work with it, come along next Wednesday and try taking a picture! We’d love to see the results.

In other news; Dave found something to do with some of the used bottle caps that are awaiting recycling.

And Bob modernised a ZX81 with a composite mod kit. So there’s even more retro projects going on in the space. No luck with the ZX printer as of yet, but perhaps with some tinkering it could rival the other sinclair-computer-printer project by being even more retro.

It’s good to have places to put things

After much discussion, we finally decided what we needed to do to make better use of the space we have. We haven’t quite got it all done, but we’re most of the way there, so we decided to share some photos of how it’s going.

What we wanted was a shelf above the electronics workbench so that we could put all of the test equipment on the shelf so that it leaves the workspace below free. Most of the wood we used came from old pallets, the shelf is one large plywood sheet that was otherwise going to end up in a skip. In addition to the large shelf, we have most of what we need to in place for some extra smaller shelves above.

Of course this shelf is going to cast a shadow onto the desk, but with an abundance of white LED strips in the hackspace, it’s just a matter of time before somebody sticks one to the bottom of the shelf.

We’ve also addressed the issue of the overflowing bookshelf and cupboard. They now have a friend in the form of a black plastic shelf unit.

Member project: Cameras on quadcopters

Just a quick one;

With the rising popularity of small UAVs for hobbyists, it’s unsurprising that the hackspace has at least one drone enthusiast. Dave has quite a selection of drones in a range of sizes, recently he’s been experimenting with video cameras mounted to them to record the flight or provide a live feed to the operator during the flight.

At our last open evening he had a go at mounting a really tiny camera on tiny quadcopter. With a little help setting up a print on the 3D printer, Dave had a camera mount printed and ready to go before the end of the evening. The design for the mount was a slight modification of a mount for a similar camera and drone found on thingiverse.

Here’s a quick demo video…

2016 was a great year for York Hackspace

Many things happened in 2016. Lots of the people reading this probably have mixed feelings about this past year. But at least we can all agree, I hope, that it was a great year for York Hackspace.

As we, the hackspace went into 2016, we had our own space with 24 hour access. Members could make use of the space whenever they wanted to. This space was in Stonebow house. Sadly we had to leave Stonebow quite early into this year. We knew that this was coming and it helped us by forcing us to keep moving forward. Within six months we had moved into a bigger space with easier access and registered as a company. Our membership has grown and we hope that it continues to grow. If you’ve not seen our new home in Fulford business centre, you should come and check it out!

Our space at Fulford Business Centre

Our new space at Fulford Business CentreOur fifth birthday was this year, and it fell on a Wednesday, so we decided to have a celebration combined with a sort of space-warming party on our open evening. There was lots of food, including this giant cookie…

Our much-loved spaceship disaster game Spacehack has had another spin around the galaxy UK as we took it to four maker events. It was at the UK Maker Faire in newcastle, EMF Camp, Manchester Makefest and the Derby Mini Maker Faire.

Spacehack at Derby

Spacehack at Derby

The hackspace blog is also looking much more active than it did at the start of the year. We hope to engage with makers as much as we can, and sharing the interesting things that go on at the hackspace is something that helps us do that. We even got our fifteen minutes of fame from hackaday this year. Seven and a half of those minutes with a post about Spacehack. and the remaining seven and a half with a post about John’s LED tetris table.

John’s world-famous tetris table

So it’s [almost] time to say goodbye to 2016 and find out what exciting things 2017 has to offer. I hope you can join us and help to make it a good one.

Who’s been labelling things in the space?

It’s very nearly Christmas, but there’s time for us to share one more hack.

Lots of printing, some of it good.

Lots of test prints, one good badge.

A little while ago, John brought an old till receipt printer to the hackspace to be hacked. Recently the temptation to do something with it got the better of me. You may [or may not] remember from the post about all the retro computer projects in the space, that I have a ZX spectrum that I’ve been playing around with lately. It’s a 48k Spectrum and I’ve got a Kempston Centronics E Interface for it. The centronics interface lets it talk to any printer with a centronics connection. John’s printer is actually fairly modern. It certainly wasn’t around in the eighties when the spectrum was. I think it’s probably mid-noughties era. It’s an Epson TM-T88ii. Nevertheless, it’s fairly easy to get the spectrum to drive this modern printer.

After a little bit of trial and error to get all the right escape sequences for text size, boldness, justification and cutting the paper after a print, I was able to get the spectrum to print name badges. I wrote a program that asks for your name and prints a “Hi, my name is…” badge on receipt paper.

If you have a spectrum with a centronics interface and a suitable printer, you can give the program a try! The code is on github in the form of a wav file recorded direct from the spectrum used here.

A word of caution if you do though, you might get carried away with yourself. When it’s as easy as just typing in a string and pressing enter, you’ll print lots of badges. I will leave you with these photos of the many badges I left around the space.

Have a great Christmas.

Dan.

Member project: How not to give away haribos

The free haribo box

Looks inviting?

If you weren’t at EMF Camp this year, then you missed one of the best weekends on the maker/hacker calendar. It’s not often you can get fibre-to-the-tent when camping.

I thought I’d tell you about a project that I took to EMF, you might have seen it if you were there. It didn’t go exactly to plan. The idea was fairly simple, a previous EMF badge was an arduino compatible board that could receive and transmit IR and so I decided to take a box that would unlock if you sent the right IR signals. I hoped that people would be able to use the badge to break into the box. Sadly there was no IR on this year’s badge. By the time I’d figured that out; it was too late. As a result, not many people were equipped to attempt to open the box. Nobody was able to get in to the box, but that’s not all that went wrong…

The box was laser cut from clear acrylic so that you could see the inner workings and the electronics and your potential prize. The prize, as the title of this blog post suggests, was a bag of haribo sweets.

Lock box

The infamous box

The design of the box is fairly simple, there is a latch that prevents the lid sliding open, you just have to push the slider to the left and lift the latch out of the way and the lid will slide open. What makes it tricky is that there is a cam blocking the path of the slider, you have to persuade the servo motor to move the cam out of the way before the slider will slide.

Lock prototype

An earlier prototype for the lock

A slight problem that I encountered was the speed of the transfer over IR and the relatively low reliability of the IR through the perspex that I accidentally made cloudy with superglue. It takes a while to open the box. The same hardware is used for the box and for the key. They each use an arduino pro-mini at 8MHz.

So how does it work?

First, the key sends a command to the box. There is a small set of commands that includes; setting the authentication type (or disabling authentication), pinging the box to test your authentication without unlocking, unlocking the box, forcing the box to unlock permanently, locking the box again after a permanent unlock, and some other commands. If the command needs authentication then the box will send a randomly generated challenge string to the key. In the default authentication mode, the key must then append the private key to the challenge string and then compute a Hashed Message Authentication Code (HMAC) and send that back to the box.

Nobody at EMF had to know all these details to get to the haribos. All of the code was on github and there was a link to it next to the box. I even put the mechanical design on github too. I didn’t provide the private key on github, part of the challenge was to figure out what that was, but that was fairly easy too. I left a small plastic key inside the box. Laser etched on this plastic key was the secret key text, and a misleading set of tabs and dots that looked important.

The biggest problem of all, however, was the sun. Besides making the weather beautiful for the whole of the EMF weekend, for which I am grateful, it melted the haribos in my accidental mini-greenhouse.

Lessons learned, perhaps I’ll try again at EMF 2018.

Dan.

A bag of melted haribos. :-(

Haribo soup

Box and all parts

All the parts, including the haribo token that replaced the melted haribos.

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