• News 31.10.2011 No Comments

    Wow. Boston Dynamics never ceases to amaze me. I suppose this is the natural progression of their technology but seeing this thing in action is awesome…and a little creepy. There was an earlier video posted in 2010 of a significantly clunkier PETMAN prototype. It obviously has comes leaps and bounds (no pun intended). I’d love to see this bad boy in action some day.

  • News 16.10.2011 No Comments


    Drag around on the schematic above to see the whole thing!

    I’ve been playing around with Upverter for a few days now. I wanted to really use it before I wrote something up about it. It’s a web based Electronics design suite. You can create parts or use existing ones to wire up a schematic which will (in the future) be able to be turned into a PCB design. A Bill Of Materials is also created so you can view the data sheets for the different parts and order them. Over all it’s EagleCAD or KiCAD on the web. The big potential win is the ability to leverage the parts database as it grows and to share your designs with others quickly and easily. I ended up making a schematic for the Sparkfun Mini-Bully PIC24H breakout board which I am using in a project at the moment. All in all it was pretty nice. It took 2-3 hours to copy the design over. Much of that time was spent labeling and creating new parts that were needed. It’s still a very GUI UI which is cumbersome for rapid entry and rigging of nets but that aside it’s a really impressive web based tool. Sadly the API is not open and I could not find a way to export the data from the UI. Being the curious sort I did some poking around in firebug and found the POST that pulls the JSON data for a schematic. It’s pretty simple.

    Look at the url for the design id (http://upverter.com/afosterw/6815/Sparkfun-Bully-Board/) In my case it is 6815.

    Do a HTTP POST with a application/x-www-form-urlencoded body containing {“design_id”:} to http://api.upverter.com/rpc/DesignLoad and blammo! JSON encoded schematic data.

    In linux the one liner is:

    wget http://api.upverter.com/rpc/DesignLoad --post-data "{\"design_id\":6815}"

    I’m hoping to get a chance to build an SVG export and maybe an maybe an EagleCAD and/or a KiCAD converter in Python but I’ve been pretty busy so we shall see. So overall I like Upverter. It’s still pretty useless if you want an actual PCB at the end of the day but they are working on a PCB Editor. Once they have that it’s a great solution for the hobby hacker.

    Update: I’m not sure if I missed it before or if they just added the feature but now you can download the raw JSON of a schematic directly from Upverter using their handy dandy Download button! Awesome!

  • Article, News, Video 13.10.2011 No Comments

    A pretty interesting talk on how bad guys use data. The part about the Mumbai attacks at the end was particularly interesting. I think that people sometimes forget that data and communications are the most important and effective tools in a battle space. Robots with guns are neat but secure communication and accurate real time intelligence is major asset and force multiplier. This video was at the end of an interesting article in Forbes about crime sourcing which underscores the power of free, instant mass communication. It’s unfortunate that this stuff is happening but also inevitable. The best thing we can to to combat a lot of these would be criminals is make the general public aware of the importance of their data and the risks involved with giving it out to third parties.

  • BAE has created a super cool thermal camouflage system called ADAPTIV. As the name suggests it’s basically a screen made of hexagonal thermal “pixels” that can rapidly heat and cool themselves. I wonder if something similar could be made using a heating element and a Peltier heat pump. Another interesting thing I noticed is that it looks like the panels are modular. I wonder if they communicate and self assemble into a “screen” or if there is some central control unit. I would think self assembly would make them more resistant to failure and far more versatile.

  • This project aims to enable de-centralized message delivery by passing messages between devices instead of relying on the Internet or local networks that could be shut down by authorities. It looks like it uses BlueTooth and WiFi for message passing. They are also looking for developers for a dedicated OpenWRT node implementation. I sketched out a very similar idea a while ago but the sketch was as far as I got. It reminds me of FidoNet back in my BBS days. I’ll be downloading their S60 and desktop clients to give them a try.

    Via Global Guerillas

  • I’d never heard of P25 until I saw this video. Apparently it is a digital radio protocol widely used by Local, State and Federal government agencies. As one would expect it is prone to numerous attacks including jamming using a $15 IMME toy. Definitely worth watching. Check out their recommendations here. You can also download their research paper [pdf].

    Via Hack-A-Day

  • It looks like Freescale is getting ready to release a Soft Radio SOC. It’s not Ultra Wide Band but it does provide some pretty awesome functionality in a small (and hopefully inexpensive) package. I would love to see some mesh networking protocols implemented using this chip. I also wonder if this would be a good platform to develop a radio “sniffer”.

    via Dangerous Prototypes

  • A bunch of cool pictures from the Atlantic via Global Guerrillas
    I’ve been out of the country otherwise I would have posted sooner.  This is really pretty awesome stuff.  While these systems are not technically “Open Source” they certainly fit with the spirit of disruptive/free technology being used in warfare.  Not only does this underscore the general trends of super-empowerment via technology, it also brings up interesting questions about what Americans would consider Second Amendment rights.  Here we have a group of people using these technologies to liberate themselves from an oppressive government.  If that isn’t a modern version of the events that caused Jefferson & Co. to include the Second Amendment I don’t know what is.  I particularly like the UGV with a machine gun mounted on it.  While the U.S. has similar robots (iRobot’s Talon) I don’t think any of them have been used in combat.  I would love to find out if it was used.  If it was, it might be the first time a UGV has been used in combat.  Overall this is really exciting and inspiring stuff.

    If anyone in Libya comes across this post and knows some of the folks involved I would love to chat with them via email and write a detailed post.  I’m particularly interested in the design process and the effectiveness of these platforms (lessons learned, most important design aspects, tools that would have helped the process, etc.).

  • As I say in the title of the OpenWarfare blog, “It had to happen sooner or later…” Well it’s looking like it’s going to be sooner rather than later. DARPA is opening up a site called UAVForge for “crowdsourcing UAV innovation”. Personally I think this is extremely cool. The only problem is figuring out if I have enough spare time to put together a team. It’s unlikely but you know I’ll be pondering it. It looks like DARPA wants to get ahead of the curve in open sourced weapons innovation which is fantastic and frankly the best way to deal with the potential negative issues surrounding such technologies. Hopefully this trend continues. The worst thing the government could do would be to try to bottle up this stuff. As we all know the genie rarely goes back in the bottle. I’m particularly interested in what sort of development procedures, frameworks and support will be available to teams. Providing a basic set of tools and technologies will greatly accelerate innovation and production. I can’t wait to see what becomes of this initiative.

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  • This is probably the smallest quad I have ever seen. I really like that the frame is routed right out on the PCB. These bad boys could come off the line fully assembled. Right now all the computing is being done on a computer so it’s not really a standalone package. It’s packing computing power to fly itself so hopefully they’ll port the code to the ARM at some point. I’d love to see how it would fare outside in normal wind conditions. My guess is not that well but since quads are kind of a brute force solution to flight it might be easier to compensate in software. Any way you slice it this thing is pretty awesome. My guess is we’ll see toys modeled after it soon. I want one!!!!

    Via Hackaday