Dave Bullock / eecue

photographer, programmer, husband,
photojournalist, caver, blogger, search and rescuer,
angeleno, foodie, hacker, nerd, geek, human

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Null Space Labs - Los Angeles Hackerspace

Null Space Labs

Recently I joined a hackerspace in Downtown LA called Null Space Labs. What is a hackerspace you ask? A hackerspace is a communal workshop where folks can work on electronics, programming and basically whatever tech stuff they're interested in. NSL was started by a group of people from the local computer security (hacking) scene earlier this year.

Here is the description from the website:

Null Space Labs, a hackerspace in downtown Los Angeles a place for people who do interesting things with tech.

We offer wifi, coworking space, an electronics and hardware lab with soldering stations and rework equipment, a small wet lab, simple wood and metal working tools, public computers, and most of all a creative environment that's open to visitors.

Fields of interest of people you might find at the lab include DIY electronics, hardware hacking, lock picking, game development, entrepreneurship, security, graphics programming, AI, photography, privacy and civil rights, etc....

The group that operates Null Space Labs sees itself solely as an infrastructure provider and exerts little influence over projects and events carried out at the lab. We are trying to be financially independent, and finance our operations through membership fees. The space was opened in May 2010.

I joined NSL a few months ago, and this month I took the plunge and became a keyholder, granting me access whenever I feel like working on my projects. The space is great, there are tons of really knowledgeable people who are always more than willing to assist you with pretty much anything related to electronics, microcontrollers, hardware hacking, network security, and more.

The members of NSL are working on a plethora of interesting projects. You can read all about them on the wiki, but here is a selection of some that are particularly interesting:

We have a ton of great equipment for use by members and non-members alike including over a dozen Metcal soldering stations, hot-air and plate rework equipment, oscilloscopes, function generators, a PCB CNC machine, stereo microscopes and much more. We frequently do group buys on parts and PCBs. We also have a large collection of part in house, available for use in your project (donations appreciated).

If you're in the neighborhood, come by and check out our space. If you want to learn about electronics and soldering we have a fun board you can put together in an hour or two if you're new to SMD soldering. You can tell if we're in by looking at this wiki page or by following the NSL Status twitter stream. Here is our address:

  • Null Space Labs
  • 1015 S Main St - 3rd Floor
  • Los Angeles CA, 90015
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Stellaris Evalbot Review <del>and Giveaway</del> and Winners

TI Stellaris Evalbot

Texas Instruments recently came out with a fun and powerful development robot based on the Stellaris LM3S9B92 microcontroller. The robot, known as the Stellaris Evalbot, is packed with tons of functionality that leverages the LN2S9B92's robust feature set. The Evalbot comes pre-assembled, with the exception of the wheels and bump arms which take just a few minutes to put together.

First of all, let's talk about the function-rich microcontroller at the heart of the Evalbot: the Stellaris LM3S9B92. The Stellaris, created by Luminary Micro (acquired in 2009 by Texas Instruments) is a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 MCU which runs at speeds up to 80Mhz. It sports a wide array of features including:

  • 256 kB flash and 96 kB SRAM
  • 32 Channel DMA
  • 32-bit external peripheral interface
  • ROM preloaded with a boot loader, AES and CRC functionality
  • 10/100 Ethernet MAC/PHY
  • 2 CAN controllers
  • USB 2.0 Full Speed OTG/Host/Device
  • 2 SSI / SPI controllers
  • 2 I2C interfaces
  • I2S interface
  • 3 UARTs
  • 8 motion-control PWM outputs with dead-band
  • 2 quadrature encoder inputs
  • 4 fault protection inputs
  • 3 analog comparators
  • 16 channel 10-bit ADC
  • 16 digital comparators
  • 24-bit systick timer
  • 4 32-bit or 8 16-bit timers
  • 2 watchdog timers
  • Low drop-out voltage regulator
  • Up to 65 GPIOs

The Evalbot is the perfect platform for learning about and developing for the LM3S9B92. It takes advantage of nearly every feature included in the Stellaris MCU. The Evalbot is both battery and USB powered, and automatically switches when plugged in to a computer. It features a collection of analog and digital peripherals along with a large amount of breakout pads and headers for I/O expansion. The Evalbot includes:

  • MicroSD card connector
  • USB Host and Device connectors
  • I2S audio codec and speaker
  • RJ45 Ethernet connector
  • Bright 96 x 16 blue OLED display
  • On-board In-Circuit Debug Interface (ICDI)
  • Wireless communication expansion port
  • Two DC gear-motors provide drive and steering
  • Opto-sensors detect wheel rotation with 45° resolution
  • Sensors for bump detection

The Evalbot comes preloaded with the μC/OS-III real-time kernel. The Evalbot includes a time-limited version of the IDE (from IAR) you will need to get started programming the bot. Also included is the source code for the Evalbot and some handy in-circuit debugging tools. It's fairly easy to get set up, but runs on Windows only. I was able to flash a modified version of the firmware after just a few minutes of tinkering. My only complaint is that the software is quite expensive to purchase once the trial period runs out.

The Evalbot retails for $149 for the robot by itself or $200 for the robot and a book about programming the μC/OS-III real-time kernel. If you're looking to learn more about real-time systems and play with a powerful microprocessor I highly recommend the Evalbot. As I mentioned in the headline, I have five Evalbots to giveaway, click here for more info about the giveaway.

Stellaris Evalbot

Giveaway Info:

Texas Instruments was generous enough to send me five Evalbots to give away. I will be drawing drew names from a hat on Black Friday, November 26th. To be entered in the drawing you must [have] meet the following requirements:

  • Have a project idea for the Evalbot
  • Be a paying member of a hackerspace
  • Be willing to share photos and/or a brief writeup once you have completed your project
  • Be a US resident (I have to ship these on my own dime)
  • Post a comment with your project idea and hackerspace affiliation below

To be entered in the drawing, post a comment below describing your project idea. Don't forget to mention which hackerspace you belong to.

Update:

I drew names out of a hat (literally), here are the winners:

  1. Clarence Risher from Freeside in Atlanta, GA
  2. Daryll Strauss from CrashSpace in Culver City, CA.
  3. Erik Arendall from Makers Local 256 in Huntsville, AL.
  4. flea from 23b in Fullerton, CA.
  5. tilver from DenHac in Denver, CO.
  6. Although not drawn out of a hat, members of Null Space Labs in Los Angeles, CA can use mine.
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Hacker Central, Brazil....

According to experts at a computer conference in Brasilia, the world's "hacking capital" is in Brazil... does this have anything to do with Terry Gilliam? haha [bbc world]