DefCon 22


Picture taken by Aakin!

Sunday evening I collapsed on the couch with a nice big glass of red wine after having unloaded the very last of our stuff back into the house… thankful that I’m alive, in one piece, and that nothing critical went wrong this weekend. I have more awesome memories for the grey squishy hard drive. Here are the highlights on a few of my experiences :

Our Kids’ Second Big Recital >.<

DELTAS! They were there! This being our second time attending the con, we wanted to participate by bringing our own taste to the medicine. Friday night during the event of random fun and mischief, we had a nice dark sliver of space to set up all of our babies in. The best part being that we didn’t have any rules or restrictions for the space we were showing in like at Maker Faire. We could pretty much do anything we wanted; our own cooler filled with beer was present, our own speakers with music were set up, and we turned the back wall into a looming place of worship for those of us who accept robots into our hearts as personal overlords and saviors. ❤


However, setup left a bad taste in my mouth. We had issues during load-in involving some things we were led to believe would be provided in the room yet weren’t. This in itself wasn’t the problem; the resistance we encountered while trying to fix it was.  A few of the Goons seemed to get off on our dilemma, being purposely withholding instead of doing what they could to help, and then became pissy and annoyed with us once we resorted to taking matters in our own hands to get what we needed. If the people running Defcon expect others to go out of their way to set up art and events at their convention with nothing to show for the effort, the very least they can be is accommodating and maybe a little gracious. The Defcon staff we encountered were all stressed out and moody which might have been due to the lack of organization, or it could stand that in an economy where everyone is being paid with perceived status rather than money, undies will get knotted up… and egos will inflate. =/

Anyhow, once we were ready to go- dismay aside, everything went fucking awesome. We received an excellent response and got great feedback from fellow hardware hackers. It was the most rewarding experience to see people interact and dance around with the robots while radiating that megalomaniacal hype we’re aiming to bring out of people. I had many interesting, insightful conversations with other techie avant-garde, as well as with those of the goons who weren’t ten feet up their own asses. =]


At the end of the night Mark and I got to deconstruct our little ones alone in private. The hallways were silent, dark, and devoid of life, which was surreal in contrast to how congested they were at every other time. In our own zen we packed up the show, unloading at Mark’s place by 4:30 Saturday morning. I slept so hard I forgot where I was when I woke the next day back at the hotel.

Darknet was a huge success!

photo taken by

Photo taken by

Everyone was working until the final hour (minute) on every facet of this event to make sure it was loaded with kickass once Defcon began on Thursday. Of course, Smitty’s highly involved live RPG was all the rage this year. Holly shit. By the time I got down to the HHV in the morning, the DarkNet badge kits were sold out! I heard that on Saturday there were 600+ people in line to fight over the remaining 80!


The few they had left were auctioned off before Crash and Compile for over a hundred dollars a piece! I am SO PROUD of the whole team for the amount of effort they poured into coordinating things this year. It was no easy task, so I’m glad that the Defcon lords recognized this by making Darknet a black badge event this year!


We raised over four-thousand dollars for the EFF… and for me, the great part is knowing that we did it in style 😉 Darknet shirts happen to be sexy. Just saying. Virtual high-five team!


Fellow Makers Rock Defcon with their Laser Robots!

Mark and I met two really cool people at Maker Faire this year, Kathryn and Alvaro. This tech savvy duo of robot wielding awesomeness had a laser shooting gallery in San Mateo. Being their area of expertise, they brought an amped up laser turret with them this year to compete in the DefCon Bots challenge. The goal was basically to create a robot that could scan and find blue balls (teehee!!) moving through a depth of dark space and then aim a laser to shoot at them. That’s no easy task! We came to cheer them on this Saturday and were happy to catch their big win! They were up late making last-minute improvements on their laser baby, but it paid off in the end… =] Great work guys!!!

The best badge is the one you make yourself.

In a pop-up culture of status dictated by the thing hanging around your neck, there is much talk of badges at Defcon. Black badges, human badges, modding, decoding, hacking, and alas… making your own, which a few people did. As for us, Mark and I created a board out of the key I designed for the Darknet propaganda. It’s a nice little memento for this year which we proudly bared as board designers. Purple FTW!



We met someone who made an “Impostor” badge through OSH Park, which was the most snarky and creative rendition of the Defcon 22 badge at the entire con as far as I’m concerned :


All of the text negated everything on the original, for example saying “light arc” instead of “dark tangent” on the back, and “found” instead of “1o57”. Tehe. In love. The UV SMT LEDs were a nice touch too.

Then there is sharpie and gaff tape :


Because the better things in life are neon yellow.

Crash and Compile


Glitter. What? Nah… it wasn’t me. =]

So I didn’t wear a big penis this year. To change it up a little, my strategy was to annoy and systematically emasculate all of the competitors with dolls. I built a “Barbie bandolier” which held my many personas through which I communicated during the event. This got easier to do the more hopping drunk I became. – I was sure to make a doll-sized strap on as a throwback :


Though I spent a lot of time trying to derail team Frink, the defending champions, I poured twice as much effort into bothering the team who won this year… Sprechen Sie Dick Picks. No one could get these dudes to make eye contact with them. They had the purpose of a bullet train and though they did a good job of kicking everyone’s ass, I think they missed one other very important aspect of the whole event : by the end it should feel like a circus on stage… and everyone seemed more sober than I remember last year (but that might just be because I was more drunk than the rest). Congrats to all of you for competing! (and for putting up with our shenanigans)

Jeff and his crew did a fantastic job of preparing for the event again (Jeff is a rock star, as he also designed the board in the Darknet kit again this year in addition to preparing for the contest). Between the contest holders and the teams programming, we polished off three kegs of beer over four hours. It all went by so very fast. Here is the sexy trophy he made this year, a shiny head-sized D12 :


SYN Shop Teaches Soldering to the World

I’m happy to say that our local Hackerspace, SYN Shop, had a presence in the hardware hacking village this year! Brain along with several other volunteers manned the tables of tight and person soldering stations, happy to show those who had picked up a kit in the vendor area how to melt lead like a pro.

When Everything is Said and Done

The child-like wonder of falling down the rabbit hole was gone, but I felt like I found my own niche in the big picture this year. I’m proud of all my friends and the work they put forth to make the event what it was. =] Time to get back to work. We’ve got robots to ship and the rest of the world to take over.

This is another notch in our belt… or shiny thing on our wall. It’s all about enjoying the journey!



The Road to DefCon 22

It’s that special time of year again (already!?). Summer is swiftly coming to a close and I’m stupid busy planning for that infamous weekend of mayhem known as DefCon. This conference is a good opportunity to learn something new while also bringing your own flavor to the stew. Here are a few ways I’m getting involved (and you can too!) :

The Darknet Project

Last year Jeff’s friend, Smitty, started a new type of competition called the Darknet Project, loosely based on the novel, Daemon. This event is a live RPG meant to lead you around the convention following clues, learning new skills in order to solve puzzles and ultimately progressing a quest line. Due to chance, he recruited me to develop his brand and make a bunch of spiffy propaganda to help promote the project. Long story short, the contest is going to span more this year and we had a larger budget for visual stuffs.

So far I’ve revamped the site… rebuilt the logo… and have prepared flyers, stickers and shirts for the occasion! The tangible forms of the digital images are looking sharp so far. I’m also relieved all of this is done well ahead of time.


If you didn’t know about the contest last year, I strongly encourage you to check it out. There will be a kit to assemble in the Hardware Hacking Village that will yield a spiffy badge which will allow communication with other Darknet participants. There will also be a ton of other stuff to get involved with… so much that I shouldn’t attempt to scratch at the details of its scope.

My Own Personal Disruptions

With Smitty now running Darknet, Jeff picked up the torch last year and took charge of DefCon’s more classic contest, Crash and Compile. In addition to designing visuals for him, I was asked to be a part of the team whose role during the contest is to “distract” the competitors who are drinking… and simultaneously attempting to write code. As a means to do this effectively, I wore the “strap-on” Mark and I developed for our art project, Lick. It’s basically a fat piece of tubing attached to a thick belt that has a lollypop poking out of a gem encrusted 3D printed mushroom… which rotates on a stepper motor :


I prompted competitors to lick the lollypop… and towards the end of the contest when they were good and drunk, some actually did. =]

This year I have to do something different of course, but how on earth do I one-up a flashy licking apparatus such as this? Well, I have an idea worked out that’ll do the trick… which I’ll reveal a build log for closer to the event. ::evil snicker:: It has to do with voices and ponies.


I updated the logo for the Crash and Compile pint glasses again =] Jeff went ahead and got pilsner glasses this year for a change of pace. I think they look sharp! Everyone competing (or distracting) will get one of these :


Our Name Badges

Last year I created name badges of working artistic circuitry for our immediate group. I drew the designs by hand and added SMT pads in Eagle, then etched them at home :




This year Mark and I had our badge designs professionally fabricated with OSH Park. I can’t wait to document them… Pictures of the finished product will come in my next post (the unfinished boards alone look fabulous but they’re a secret for now)!

Robot Army @ Defcon

One of my biggest frustrations all summer has been in keeping our army of robots on the back burner. The project is still in a fetus stage of development due to the fact that most of our time has been spent in the fulfillment of our Kickstarter. Never-the-less, I’m trigger happy about showing the damned things off…


As such… Mark and I will have a presence at DefCon this year on Friday night, which in the end, I’m quite excited about. The prospect of setting up and babysitting the display until 2am is sort of daunting, but having a chance to maraud around in a space all our own in an environment where anything goes is quite enticing.

At some point next month, Mark and I are shipping our little disassembled babies out into the world. We can’t wait to get feedback from our supporters, not to mention seeing what cool stuff people do with our design. By September we can return to our effort of completing the collective. From then on… it’s all about preparation for the next big thing (100+ robots strong).

We’re at no loss of crazy stuff to prepare for in the next week. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and some of the new ones we made at Maker Faire this spring. Conventions are just an excuse to travel and drink, right? Cheers to that! See you all in a week!

Defcon 21 : Down to the Wire


So it’s Wednesday now. I’m sipping my coffee while admiring last nights war zone, which is still strewn across the dining room table. Red dixie cups filled with components, plastic bins of surface mount parts, discarded chunks of tape,  lap tops, empty margarita glasses and more are all stacked on top of one another like the abandoned scene of a rape. The brutal part is that we aren’t even half way done and the gigs up tomorrow.

The wild card was drawn this past Sunday. Jeff and I went out for a nice breakfast so that we could fill out tummies before starting down our long check list of things to do for the day. When we arrived home, about an hour and a half later, upon walking through the front door I heard something no one should hear inside their house. Rain. I ran through the kitchen and into the living room to find water pouring from the ceiling onto the coffee table and couch below. It was one of those things that made no sense to me, so I stood in silent wonderment trying to process what was going on.

It turned out the bathroom upstairs flooded… long story short, amidst frantically finishing up the darkNet kits, Jeff’s own trophy for Crash and Compile, and about a dozen other things, we had to come to a grinding halt and address the situation. We vacuumed up the water and put fans on the wet areas… but by Monday the smell from the damp padding beneath was nauseating. With little options, Jeff peeled back the carpeting. We abandoned the house to let it dry out and brought everything we needed to finish kits over to my parent’s place and have since been seeking refuge here where it’s dry.


Yesterday we recruited our friends Kermit and Genny to help with assembly. At first it was just a matter of sorting the components into cups and then putting each collection of parts into mini static baggies. Then at some point we realized we were putting the wrong instructions in these baggies and had to open them all up and switch them out, putting us in the negative at around eleven at night.


The tedious part was left to Mark and Kermit. They were in charge of laying the surface mount bits onto little labeled squares of paper, then rolling tape over them so they’d stay in place. Jeff is programming chips still, and after all this is said and done there are still the through-hole kits to knock off to the tune of another 300.


The wind was thoroughly taken out of my sails. I sense tonight will be a repeat of the last… but fuck it. Tomorrow the party starts and I intend to enjoy myself!

I have massive amounts of respect for Jeff for staying motivated and focused in spite of any speed bumps that have tried to throw him these past few weeks. He’s taken on a lot and is so close to making this a success. ❤ You are an unstoppable force and are completely amazing to me.

…and you slaves, you did alright yourselves for helping 😉 Danke.

What is this super cool project we’re all working on? Read more here : The DefCon DarkNet Project

The Road to DefCon 21


I have been so busy this past month in preparation for Defcon that my deltas have gathered a thin layer of dust and my mannequin torso, Tiberius has started sneaking off at night in search for what I’ve been neglecting to give him. It seems like we all put too much on our plates these past couple months, but I’m glad I was given the chance to help out as I have and can’t wait to experience the fruits of our labor (in less than a week!!).

So here’s what Jeff and I have been up to…

Crash and Compile


This year, Jeff (Krux) is in charge of the infamous drinking while coding game that I’ve been hearing stories about since last summer… that’d be Crash and Compile. Jeff has spent pretty much every night at his computer working in preparation for this event, from overseeing registration to welding together the awesome trophy he will be giving out to the contest’s winner later this week. The only way I could participate (as I don’t code) was by designing a snazzy new logo for the event… which is now immortalized on the pint glasses we’ll be giving out to the teams competing.

The competition will be held at 3pm the Saturday of Defcon. The nine teams selected will be pinned against one another in six different hour long rounds. In each round there will be three different problems of varying difficulty. The first three teams to write code that generates the correct answer will receive points corresponding to the difficulty level of the problem they chose to solve. The challenge is that any time a team fails to output the correct answer or their code doesn’t compile, they have to take a drink. So as the afternoon progresses… everyone gets juicy.

The qualification round ended about a week ago, but awesomely enough Mark was one of the nine teams to be accepted into the contest. He’ll be a one man army, team “Burn it Down”. I will participate this year on “team distraction”, where my job will be to annoy the crap out of the competitors and keep them from solving problems and scoring points. Luckily I have just the TOOL for the job (which I’ll be poking Mark in the lower back with a good portion of the time).

Oh, and as a teaser… the trophy for Crash and Compile this year is being surfaced as I type this; hand made by Krux himself :


I want one of these things… ❤ Go sweetie go!!!!!

The DefCon DarkNet Project


The former event organizer of Crash and Compile, Smitty, will be orchestrating a new quest-based event inspired by the novel Daemon which both Jeff and I have been helping out with in our varied areas of expertise. Without disclosing a whole lot, this project has taken a lot of cooperation from many people with different skill sets to make possible. As someone behind the scenes it’s been exciting seeing what people can make happen when their incentive is simply to be a part of something great.

Among the recruited, Jeff helped out by designing the board which will be in a soldering kit sold at the Hardware Hacking Village.

The kit in proto-board mode :


The home etched prototype :


It working! :


One of the test batch from OSH park :


Along with designing the board…Jeff also is in charge of ordering all the parts and assembling them into actual kits…


…which means we’ve been getting huge orders in the mail from Mouser and DigiKey. The largest I’ve ever seen.

So far we’ve had four or five fun nights of cutting surface mount reels into single components, sandwiching those tiny bits onto card stock with shipping tape, and detaching all the boards from the batch panels so that they too can be placed along with their properly sorted component kin into 300 or so static free baggies!

We drugged Mark and tied him to the couch so that he had no choice but to help. While he sorted and wept, I forced him to listen to a brainwashing mp3 that has given him the uncontrollable desire to come back this weekend and help us do it all again. He’ll be here in about an hour with beer…

flyerP1 flyerP2

The soldering kit aside, I have been tasked with designing the web graphics and promotional imagery for the project. This has been a blast. The site is live as of yesterday, so if you want more information about the event, check it out : DefCon DarkNet Project.

I figured I’d at least give an update about all this while I’m still in the moment. There are at least four other unpublished entries on my list I need to push out before I’m caught up……. blogging can be like constipation sometimes. More to come on the name badges we made in a day or so!