Fight!

Such and Such vs. Uberclocker Advance (credit: Charles Guan)

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of competing at NERC‘s Motorama Robot Conflict with my fighting robot Such and Such – built 100% at Hive76.

Though it might have looked a little boring, that was the most exciting match of the competition for me. After 2 years of on-and-off work, Such and Such, the most ambitious robot I’ll ever build, worked like a charm.

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Giving the Gift of Making

This year I wanted to do something a little different for Christmas gifts. Instead of just getting people electronics or video games or clothes, I wanted to give something that encouraged creativity and making. A lot of people never even think to try to make things on their own, so maybe a little hobby-style gift will give them a taste and spark an interest.

Texas Instruments MSP430 LaunchPad.

To that end, I did two things. First, I bought ten MSP430 LaunchPads. These things are really inexpensive, so they make great stocking-stuffers. If you don’t know what the MSP430 is already (really, we talk about it constantly, where have you been), it’s a 16-bit microcontroller with really low-power consumption needs. They run on 1.8 to 3.6v power supplies at up to 16MHz, making them quite a powerful little beast for only $4.30, which includes the chip programmer. If you were to buy the chips alone, they cost about $0.50 each, with a few different serial communication protocols built in, and requiring only a small selection of external parts (2 resistors and 2 caps if you want to do it right, 1 resistor if you’re living dangerously, and face it, at $0.50, you can afford to live dangerously). It’s something of a long-term project plan of mine to buy 100 of these and try to build a small, physical neural network computer.

A lot of people have shied away from the MSP430 because the Code Composer Studio software–based on the professional-grade Eclipse development environment–is very difficult to use in comparison to the Processing-based software typically used to program Arduinos. But luckily, someone has taken the Arduino cue and created Energia, a Processing-based editor for use with TI’s LaunchPad line of MCUs! If you’re experienced with Arduino, using Energia is a snap, and if you’re not experienced at all, it’s really not that big of a learning curve.

I prefer to call it Serious Putty

Second, I bought supplies to make “magnetic Silly Putty”. About a week ago, I saw this Instructable about kneading some Iron-Oxide powder into a little Silly Putty and jumped on Amazon right away to get a 6-pack of Silly Putty eggs and a 5 lbs bag of black Iron-Oxide pigment. Honstely, 5-lbs is way too much, but there are plenty of other things you can do with it, like make ferrofluids or your own paint, so it’s handy to have around. You will need a fairly strong neodymium magnet, but again, these things are fun enough to have around anyway, so have at it!

Making the putty is really easy. I pooled all 6 eggs of putty together in a non-stick pan. On very low heat, I warmed up the putty until it was just too hot to handle with my bare hands. If it starts to become the consistency of chewing gum and sticks to the pan, don’t worry, it will unstick when it cools down. Don’t heat it further than that though, it will start to smoke and burn. Wearing rubber gloves to give me just enough insulation from the heat and to keep my hands from getting stained black, it’s just a matter of working a large, heaping tablespoon-full of the black powder into the putty. You will need to work the putty like taffy, stretching it and folding it to blend the powder evenly into it. Once the powder is sufficiently kneaded in to the putty, it will not stain anything, so keep testing it on the back of your rubber glove to see if it leaves any marks. I then cut the putty into 6 equal chunks and shoved them back in their eggs. It took 10 minutes total. I thought about taking some photos of the process to show it off, but really, it could not be simpler.

I’m hoping these gifts will be completely unexpected and will inspire people to try something they never would have considered on their own. The MSP430s are just a really easy, cheap, fun way to get into programming, and the magnetic Silly Putty is a great example of something you can’t buy as a product that is also extremely easy to make.

 

Exile: The Family You Choose: The Kickstarter Campaign

ZOMG GUYZ!

One of my first projects here at Hive76 was the Burning Zombie Dummy. A friend of mine had called me, asking me if I knew how to set people on fire safely, and that led into a very stern discussion about what he was trying to do and that I would take over so that noone would get hurt. So I became the Special Effects Design Engineer for Exile: The Family You Choose, and it was one of the best times of my life. I got to do some pretty awesome things (including making an impromptu harness for doing a shotgun-to-the-chest effect), met a lot of really great people, and learned a lot about a hobby that would ignite my passion in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time. Seeing our end result, this thing that we made together, from start to finish, without any adults (of course, we’re all adults, but you never really feel like it) helped to further cement my belief that anyone is capable of doing anything. The hacker spirit is strong in the indie film world. (more…)

Hive76 gets interviewed by CNN

CNN stopped by the space last night, Oct 22nd to interview some of the guys on their projects for a report called “Made in America” which airs Tomorrow, Oct 24th. However, we did shoot some cool video and photos alongside them. There’s a full album available on our Facebook page.  We were also fortunate enough to get some quick shots of our projects at work.

 

Today, several hive members were contacted by a major Philadelphia news organization, asking if they could interview us about hacking.

Unfortunately, their idea of hacking has more to do with unattended Facebook accounts than the hacking we do, and we thought it might be a good time to clear up just what hive is, what our hackers do, and what hacking actually means within the hacking community.

Hive is a hackerspace.  A hackerspace is not full of people who try to break into your computer, steal your bank account info, or send spam.  A hackerspace, or at least THIS hackerspace, is full of people who are trying in very real ways to build, modify, and improve things. Our battle cry is “Make things awesome, make awesome things!” and we take this to heart.  Visit the space on a Wednesday night, and you’ll find people who are excited about the things they are creating both in and out of the hive space, from chocolate chess pieces, to amazing pieces of audio equipment, all the way to organs which could save someone’s life.

The common theme here is that these people that define themselves as hackers are not breaking into your computer.   Some of us write software, to make things work better.  Some of us build things, to make things work better.  And some of us screw around just to see what might be possible, or impossible, just to do it.  Bottom line, this hacking is positive.  What most of the public and the media refers to as hacking, the technical world refers to as cracking, and it rarely is it “as seen on TV.”

So lets hit on a few of the real dangers, and if the media is paying attention, they can feel free to make use of this.   Here are a few things that actually endanger your accounts and computer, which the media often refers to as hacking, but which really are not.

1.) Spammers like to send emails that look real, talking about your phone bill, your bank, or a deposit that needs to be made in your account.  Often these take you to fake sites. Instead of clicking the links in these emails, call the phone company, bank, or other company that claims to be sending the email and verify it that way.  It’s not cracking (or hacking) if you hand over your username and password.

2.) If you use the same password on all your sites, and someone gets that password, they now have access to all of your sites. Likewise, if you use a simple password for your email, and someone gets access to that, it is easy for them to request new passwords for many of your other accounts.   Use more difficult, hard to guess passwords (Good password guidelines), and don’t use the same password for all sites. At the very least, use a different password for your email, a different one for your taxes and other financial matters, and a different one for your online accounts at sites like Facebook. It’s not cracking if someone knows your password, or has access to your email, and gets access to your stuff.

3.)  Don’t leave your account logged on in an unsafe place.  Many accounts get taken simply because someone leaves them logged on in some unsafe place, like a sample machine in a mall store.  It’s not cracking if you’re already logged on and walk away.

None of this is hacking. None of this is cracking. It’s poor security, usually because of a lack of understanding of the technology.  And you know, that’s understandable.  Not everyone is a computer expert or even really a computer beginner, but as long as the media keeps pushing these things as hacking, the public won’t learn. If anyone would like to discuss what this means to Hive76, feel free to e-mail us, or leave a comment below.

 

 

July Scheduled Sunday Security Sessions Meeting

S4 is having it’s July meeting on the 29th at 6 PM. We’ll be going over securing SSH by editing it’s configuration file and by setting up Fail2ban.

See you on the 29th!

 

We will not be hosting an open house on Wednesday due to the Fourth of July. Why not? Hot dogs and fireworks!
We hope to see you next week for our regularly scheduled awesomeness.

 

Meet Mitch Altman!!!!


Next Friday (July 6), Mitch Altman’s nationwide AMTRAK tour of hackerspaces rolls into Philadelphia, and Hive76 will be welcoming him in style. Stop by our space on Friday night for an free lecture and electronics hacking workshop officiated by Mitch himself.  There will be food, drink, merriment, and of course the opportunity to swap ideas and stories with a living legend in the DIY community.

If you haven’t followed Mitch Altman’s career, you probably still know of some of his very cool projects, like his TV-B-Gone remote, or his Brain Machine glasses, and his many cool articles for Make: Magazine. Despite the great commercial success of his inventions, Mitch helped pioneer the Open-Source Hardware movement by publicly refusing to patent his ideas, and continues to inspire the maker community by advocating the free exchange of DIY electronics knowledge.

Come by on Friday, July 6, as Mitch demos his latest inventions and kits, and leads a fun hacking workshop suitable for everyone from total novices to advanced solder-smiths! Its guaranteed to be a great time!

Date: July 6, 2012
Time: 6:00
Location: Hive76 (915 Spring Garden St.)
Price:  ADMISSION IS FREE! (kits for the workshop start around $10)

 

Hackers on a Train

Our neighbors at Make Lehigh Valley are hosting Mitch Altman, Jimmie Rodgers, “and crew” (?) for a day of classes, workshops, and talks over at Hive 4A. Hackers on a Train sounds very exciting, and at only $35, it’s probably one of the cheapest ways you’ll get to meet such popular pirate-makers.

These three hours pack in just about everything you need to explore hobby electronics. As a workshop participant, you will learn the basics of Arduino, electronic components and how they interact. Then you will be instructed in soldering up Adafruit’s BoArduino kit. Your boarduino will be used to build a TV-B-Gone which will include learning to use a USB-to-serial ttl cable, the Arduino IDE, solderless breadboards and reading schematics to get their.

 

Sunday Wargame Wrapup

Well the dust has settled, and one winner has emerged. Out of all 5 players, only Steve Mandelbaum owned the box, and in under 2 hours. Players had to first identify the target server by scanning for available hosts and then using nmap to enumerate services. Then players had a choice between brute forcing the ssh service, or grabbing the passwd and shadow files from the anonymous FTP service, the latter resulting in a faster crack. After that, players needed to find the administrator of the system and use sudo to read the full passwd and shadow files. Finally, the root user could be cracked and full access would be granted.

We all had a good time, and I can’t wait for the next challenge!

S4 is meeting for the first time on June 10th at 6 PM, where we’ll be taking a look at a simple penetration test scenario.

Hope to see you there!