– New VHS forum

We have implemented a new forum system built with
Its has all the features that you would expect from a modern forum system and its available now!

  • SSL to prevent NSA from spying on our forum traffic
  • Email notification and replies
  • Login with OAuth, Google, Twitter, Facebook (yuck), Github, etc…
  • Image upload support for Animated gif responses. (Paste to share images)
  • BadgesMarkdown, Realtime updates,
  • Remembers what you have read and what is new to YOU
  • Comprehensive API – If its missing something YOU! can add it.






Monday September 22: Join us for Knitting and Sewing Night




















Join us for a fun night of knitting and sewing.  FREE and open to everyone.

When: Monday, September 22nd, 7:30 – 10:30 PM
Where:VHS 270 E 1st Ave
What to bring: your own yarn and needles, or fabric and thread
Cost: FREE
Register:  Let us know you’re coming (we have space for 20 people)

Join us for a night of knitting and sewing where you can:

  • get help from people experienced in knitting and sewing.
  • use our sewing machines, yarn winders, and other cool gear.
  • get inspired by other crafters.

Note: This isn’t an evening of formal instruction, just a fun night of hanging out with other knitters and sewers. Please bring your own knitting or sewing project. Beginners welcome!


The Conductive Ink Challange

Recently Newark Canada organised a competition where contestants needed to create a project using Conductive Ink. Our very own Robert Butterworth had a crack at it and this is what he came up with.

You can check out the full blog post and videos at

Membership rates are going up in 2015 – Get in before then!

As some of the more astute among you have already noticed, VHS’s membership rates are going up.

This was decided (unanimously) after taking a look at our budget. Simply put, in January 2015, our rent will go up by about 10%, and at our current rate and membership numbers, we can’t afford this.
Accordingly, our rates will go up to $30/$60 on January 1st, 2015.

What we have done, though, is put in a grandfather clause**. Anyone who is a member(either regular or keyholder rate) on or before December 31st, 2014 will be locked in at that rate.

What does that mean for current members?
Nothing, if you’re happy at your membership level. Anyone who is considering upgrading to keyholder should do it before then.

For prospective members:
Now is the time to join!
We’ve considered the implications of the ~4 months before the deadline, which is that if you want to become a keyholder at the old rate, you have to join VHS immediately! Remember that you must be a regular member for at least 3 months before you are eligible to upgrade to keyholder.

For current members, prospective members, and all other Friends of VHS:
Spread the word!
Tell your friends, call your mom, get your boss in on a Tuesday night! Without a membership bump, we’re still in trouble!
If they join before January, they still get the low low rate that the rest of us have.
If they join RIGHT NOW, they could become a keyholder and get the low low keyholder rate before January.

Have I given enough of a sales pitch, yet? Join us!



**The exact wording, as passed in the motion at the Quarterly General Meeting is the following:
“Members before Jan 1, 2015 will be grandfathered at their current rate, to be reviewed at a future meeting.”
 The subtext of this clause is that if this promotion isn’t successful at pulling in enough new blood, membership rates could be raised for all members at a future QGM to ensure VHS’s survival. So again: tell your friends.

AGM/QGM, Vancouver Hack Space Society: Sunday, Aug 17 2014

Time again for our Annual General Meeting (AGM)! As with last year, we’re splitting off a separate Quarterly General Meeting (QGM) so that anyone who is very time-limited will hopefully be able to attend the entire AGM.

Who: All members of the Vancouver Hack Space Society

Where: VHS, 270 1st Ave E, Vancouver

When: 11 AM, Sunday August 17, 2014.


AGM: (Short and sweet!)

  • Electing a Secretary, and Chair to host the meeting.

  • Adoption of rules of order – Explanation of how the meeting will be operated.

  • Approval of previous AGM’s minutes

  • Report of the directors/members of the previous year.  (NO NEW BUSINESS)

    • Treasurer – John C

    • Membership – Bruce F

  • Election of directors

QGM to follow immediately afterwards

  • Electing a Secretary, and Chair to host the meeting.

  • Adoption of rules of order – Explanation of how the meeting will be operated.

  • Approval of previous QGM’s minutes

  • Old business (from our last QGM)

    • Lease extension on 270 1st Ave E

  • New business

    • Proposal (Jon G): nominal Laser Cutter Usage Fee.

    • Proposal (John C): obtain a quote from a licensed electrician for installation of either a 120V 20A circuit or a 240V 15A outlet dedicated for the lathe, and if under $400 to proceed with the work.

    • Proposal (John C): VHS to formally recognize VHS-ARC as a committee within VHS with the role of engaging VHS members in Amateur Radio.

    • Proposal (Garth): Limits on personal laser material storage

      • All personal materials need to be labeled with name and date. If *both* items are not provided or 6 months has passed then the material is fair game for everyone else.

    • Proposal (Jon G, if no-one else will sponsor): Increase Membership Rates

      • If VHS membership income does not increase net membership income by $750 a month by August 2015 (a net increase of 30 (new members / members stepping up to keyholder status), VHS membership rates will increase to: Standard membership: $30 (a $5 increase), and keyholder membership to $60 a month. No changes is implied to the policies of supporting members with financial hardship at the directors discretion. Contributions less than $30 are considered friends of the space, as contributions of less than $25 are now.

DevboardAholics Anonymous Night

a selection of devboards

The first step is admitting you have a devboard.

It’s that time again. Time to admit that you have no power over devboards.  Time to dig them out of your sock drawer, your closet, your hollowed-out books.  Time to collect them all together and bring them down to VHS.  And if you’re lucky, time to say, “whew, at least my stash isn’t as bad as that other hacker’s pile!”

  • When: 7:30PM, Monday Aug 11, 2014
  • Where: VHS (270 East 1st )
  • Who: You’ve read this far, you must be interested!
  • Why: Because breakout headers = unbounded potential
  • Cost: There’s more boards in the vending machine, if you bring the quarters…

GROW Hackathon in Whistler!

* This event is not hosted by VHS, Some VHS members are attending * 

Come Hack in Whistler! The GROW Hackathon presented by Wavefront will be 2 days of Internet of Things innovation and networking at North America’s top resort.

The Goal

Make Whistler the smartest, most connected resort destination in the world. The work you do over the two-day hackathon could end up implemented by the City of Whistler to make this resort a global showcase for IoT innovation and cities of the future.


The city of Whistler is your sandbox for innovation. Over 2 days, designers, developers, project managers and engineers will collaborate with restaurateurs, civic administrators, hoteliers, shop keepers, and resort operations to make Whistler the most connected resort destination in the world.

Accolades & Recognition

Teams will have the opportunity to demo their prototypes to an audience of GROW Conference attendees, Silicon Valley investors, and tech super stars from both sides of the border. Prizes Stay tuned! Prizes will be posted soon.

Toolkit & APIs

You have the opportunity to work with tools from:

  • Recon Instruments
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Arrow
  • Kiip
  • IoT Design Shop
  • Telus

Get the full schedule and event details here and register now!

SMD August – Cooking SMD Stars

For SMD August we’re breaking out the toaster oven and controller to cook some SMD stars.  Participants are likely to end up with a working product but they’re more likely to end up more knowledgable about the electronics fabrication process.

Apparently real SMD hackers only use solder paste and toaster ovens so we’re here to prove them right.

Using a stencil you’ll be applying solder paste, a little better than I did I hope – am planing to add a template to make this easier.


Next you’ll be placing your components by hand.


Finally baking your project to perfection in the toaster oven.


There is only one stencil and one oven controller so I’m spreading the tickets out across the night.  Please make sure you can come at the allotted time or buy a ticket for another time. You’re welcome to come early and watch.

The end product is the smd star project from July’s beginners workshop but the focus is on the process.  The price reflects the need to buy the stencil and paste.

No special skills required except patience and reasonable hand co-ordination.

When: 28 August 2014, times vary
Where: VHS, 270 E 1st Ave, Vancouver
Cost: $8 plus Eventbrite Fee

Eventbrite - SMD August - SMD Star Paste and Oven Workshop (7pm)
Eventbrite - SMD August - SMD Star Paste and Oven Workshop (8pm)
Eventbrite - SMD August - SMD Star Paste and Oven Workshop (9pm)

MakeyMakey Bootloader programming over ICSP

I’ve been asked about how I programmed the bootloader so I’m putting the doco here. For all my AVR work I use a bus pirate v3 with the stk500 firmware. I have a cable I made that adapts the bus pirate to the 6 pin AVR ICSP connector.

For MakeyMakey I made an adapter cable to convert the 6 pin AVR ICSP connector to the MakeyMakey header. I prototyped the cable using individual 0.1″ socket to pin cables and then moved them to single 2×3/1×6 housings to make the cable permanent.

The MakeyMakey schematic decodes the header in two parts


A random ICSP image from google images.

The pin mapping is

orange  MISO   6x1-6   2x3-1
yellow  MOSI   6x1-5   2x3-4
green   VCC    6x1-4   2x3-2
blue    GND    6x1-3   2x3-6
purple  RESET  6x1-2   2x3-5
grey    SCK    6x1-1   2x3-3


Do you like candy? I like candy.

Here’s a very brief overview of the thought process for building something to amuse and frighten your neighbours.

I originally wrote this up on May 31st and posted it elsewhere, but I thought I’d give the VHS regulars time to explore it on their own before I ruined the surprise.

Some of the readers may recognise this big red button o’ fun:


When somebody holds it, it starts up an air raid siren that can get really loud. Unfortunately, it spins up very slowly, so people let off as soon as they figure out what the button does. That results in one tiny little blip of the siren, barely enough to bother anyone. That’s no good at all!


So for this build, I didn’t want to spend very long at it, and attempted to do everything very roughly and as quickly as possible. I found all of the appropriate components kicking around, and designed around those.

Here’s what I came up with:



I found a transformer with outputs that measure at about 12VAC. 10:1 winding ratio, I guess. After rectification and smoothing, it’s a little over 18VDC. On the right side, I used an ALA2F12, a 12V relay. The transistor is a 2N3604, just a very generic NPN BJT because this application doesn’t require anything special.

The original button was just the AC line voltage to the fuse, then through the switch to the load. Very simple.


Okay. Starting from the left:

  • Transformer outputs at 12 volts or so,
  • through the half-wave rectifier diode (1N4007 I think) – results in 12 * root 2, about 18V,
  • big filtering capacitor (200v, 820uF),
  • 1MΩ bleeder resistor so the system doesn’t hold charge indefinitely,
  • original switch (connected to the big red button),
  • 100Ω resistor(to prevent sparks)
  • into timing cap (160v, 220uF) – charges to full very quickly,
  • another bleeder resistor,
  • Rb controlling current going into the transistor’s base (more on this later),
  • BJT  base.
  • At the top: resistor controlling going into the relay coil,
  • relay coil,
  • BJT collector going to ground.


Because I’m abusing a 12V relay by driving it with 18V, I had to compensate for that a little. According to the data sheet, the coil is nominally 272Ω, taking 43mA of current. Ignoring the transistor’s collector-emitter voltage (probably ~0.2V): 18v / 43mA – 272Ω = 146Ω. So I tossed a 150Ω resistor in series with the coil, and it seems to work.


For the base of the transistor, this resistor (along with the capacitor) is what controls the active time of the system. It also controls the maximum current that can conduct through the collector-emitter junction of the 3604. Typically the gain of those are in the 70-100 range, so current going into the base should be Ib = 43mA/100 = 0.43mA. Base-emitter junction is around 0.7v, so the base resistor can be figured out by 18v – 0.7v / Ib when the base cap is fully charged. Overdrive Ib to 1mA to ensure max-on, so I used 18kΩ.

I tested everything to check timing issues, overheating, etc., and it works well. The relay gets latched for about 7 seconds, which is perfect. If I cared about being more precise with that, or wanted to change the timing values, it’s pretty simple to treat that portion as an RC circuit and tweak the resistor or capacitor values.

So I built it.

Perfect! Start to finish, including laser cutting, about seven hours. Not counting the abortive first attempt last week.

So before, when newcomers pressed the button, there was only a very short blip of the air raid siren. Now, the thing latched for a good seven seconds. And it gets very loud in that time.


The real purpose of this hack (and doing a write-up) is to encourage more members to go out and hack something! I haven’t seen anything really cool in a while.