Wednesday, 10 August 2016

TiLDA MKe

At EMF, as well as giving every attendee the new TiLDA Mkπ badge they had a pile of TiLDA MKe badges from the 2014 event on sale.

These are not as nice as the 2016 badge, but given the knock down price a really good platform to mess around with.

It's an Arduino Due, Ciseco SRF data radio, black & white LCD display, LiPo charging circuit, 3.3v LDO regulator, accelerometer and assorted buttons/lights on a single board plus a battery to power it.

Given I already had on my radar that I wanted to build something that was a 'handheld unit with display and some kind of wireless comms' to use as in-game props I snapped some up. I have been using SRF radios extensively already, going so far as to write my own networking protocol for them, so it's almost like these badges were tailor made for me.

Having been professionally designed and made this is far better than anything I could hand solder in my cellar and will save me an absolute ton of time. They do lack WiFi but I have a load of ESP-01 ESP8266 WiFi modules which should be fairly easy to piggyback on and squeeze into the case if I need this.

Somebody has also come up with a 3D printable case for them so I've quickly printed one out. It's not a perfect fit, being slightly too shallow to close with the battery inside, but the source files are online so this has got me  even closer to a finished device.

Now it comes down to writing the software and I'm experiencing version/dependency hell in the Arduino IDE so can't even upload 'blink' yet. The library files on the badge Wiki are made for an old version of the IDE so I suspect downgrading to the version they mention may well fix this. Once it works at all I'll try to rework things into a format/version modern versions of the IDE will deal with.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Electromagnetic Field 2016

This year I went along to Electromagnetic Field, the biggest maker/hacker event in the UK, and it was awesome.

You get something like 1400 like minded people in an environment akin to a music festival.

There's simply so much going on it's hard to get a balance between attending talks, socialising, playing with the various installations people bring and actually doing some making or coding.

To try and inspire everybody to have a go at the latter they produced this fantastic event badge. They've really pushed the boat out with this, it's got a colour screen, Wifi, accelerometer, compass, piezo sounder, LiPo battery/charger etc. etc. It runs MicroPython and you can connect to it as USB mass storage so it's possible to write code directly for it from almost anything with a USB port and a text editor.

Most impressive of all, while it doesn't exactly have an OS they have produced an ecosystem for it. The 'home' app is a menu system for accessing other apps and there's an 'app library' on a server you can install things from and a mechanism for updating them once on. Also people could upload code to the app library while at the event and by the end there were 69 apps in there.

Obviously some of these apps were broken/trivial/stupid but by the end I saw people wandering around with all manner of homebrew stuff on the screens of their badges. Best of all was an old school Elite style line drawing of a 3D cube rotating.

Sadly it's only a biennial event so I can't look forward to it in 2017 but I'm definitely going to make plans to go in 2018.