Exceptionally Hard & Soft Meeting #2

pushing the frontiers of open source and DIY
DESY Hamburg site, June 27-29 2014.

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Collaboration between open source and research communities empowers open hardware to explore new grounds and hopefully deliver on the "third industrial revolution". The first edition of the Exceptionally Hard and Soft Meeting featured lectures delivered by international makers, hackers, scientists and engineers on topics such as nuclear fusion, chip design, vacuum equipment machining, and applied quantum physics. Tutorials gave a welcoming hands-on introduction to people of all levels, including kids.

EHSM is back in summer 2014 for another edition of the most cutting-edge open source conference. This year we are proud to welcome you to an exceptional venue: DESY, Europe's second-largest particle physics laboratory!

Previous EHSM lectures may be viewed here (see also 2012 website and 2012 pictures). They wrote about us:

Gold supporter

The German Unix User Group, founded in 1984, is an association of administrators, programmers and IT specialists who use the UNIX operating system. For over 20 years GUUG has held national and international conferences, and publishes a magazine called UpTimes.


Basics of Quantum Cryptography

Quantum Mechanics is the framework for the laws of nature that are relevant when dealing with very small length- and energy-scales. As has widely been popularized, quantum mechanics leads to rather counterintuitive behavior when we consider small (and in special circumstances, sometimes even large) numbers of atoms. Thus far, most, if not arguably all, technology we have still relies fundamentally on classical mechanics. But for the past 35 years, there has been a serious effort to understand what is technologically possible if we try to fundamentally take advantage of the quantum properties of nature.

The first technology to emerge from this line of thinking is "quantum cryptography", which in principle allows for completely secure communication, where the security is guaranteed by the laws of quantum mechanics. In this talk, I will provide an overview of the features of quantum mechanics that are used in quantum cryptography schemes, and will discuss several proposals for quantum cryptography. I will also discuss how quantum cryptography is commercially implemented.

Speaker: Peter McMahon is a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. He works on experimental implementations of quantum information processing technology, in particular optical control and measurement of quantum bits represented by electrons trapped in artificial atoms.

Electron Beam Welding in Low Vacuum

Electron beam welding is a technique for joining metals and alloys that was initially used in the manufacturing of nuclear fuel for atomic reactors around 1950. It has now used many other applications. The principle is to melt materials by heating them using a focused high energy electron beam (usually 6 to 120 keV).

Traditional electron beam welders use a high vacuum – better than 10-4 Torr – that is generated by a rotary pump and a diffusion and/or turbomolecular pump. The electron beam originates from a hot cathode. The focusing of electrons needs magnetic and electrostatic lenses. For those reasons, traditional electron beam welding equipment is complicated and expensive.

Aleksander built something else: a small electron beam welder where a vacuum of 0.01-0.05 Torr is enough. This level of vacuum can be achieved by a cheap rotary pump. It even works better with a noble gas flow that stabilizes the pressure to 0.2-0.4 Torr to improve the emission of electrons from the electron gun. The electron gun is very simple: it consists only of an aluminum cold hollow cathode, brought to a negative potential of a couple kilovolts.

While this electron beam welder is not as good as traditional ones (poor focusing, lower energy of electrons), it is nevertheless possible to weld wires or thin plates of aluminum, copper, nickel and other materials.

Come and see live demonstrations of how to make a thermocouple in Aleksander's electron beam welder, and the effects of electron bombardment on other materials (including dielectrics like mica and glass).

Speaker: In 2006, Aleksander Zawada started his one-man DIY vacuum tube laboratory in Warsaw called "Prywatna Wytwórnia Lamp". Now, having more space, more equipment (mostly from dumpster diving), and cooperating with friends, they created something similar to a small research institute, where they have a mechanical workshop, an electronics laboratory and a vacuum laboratory.

Aleksander is an employee of the Vacuum Measurement Laboratory of the Tele & Radio research Institute in Warsaw, and of the National Center of Nuclear Research in Otwock-Świerk near Warsaw.

VIRAC - Radio astronomy in Latvia

In 1994, the newly independent Latvia took over a formerly secret soviet military installation: The satellite tracking site at Ventspils, consisting of a 32 meter and a 16 meter dish. With its large telescopes in the middle of a huge, quiet, almost uninhabited stretch of forest along the Latvian coast, the Ventspils site is one of the most fascinating observatories to visit in Europe. After years of hard work by scientists and technicians from Ventspils University, the site is now operating again, but is now used as an astronomical observatory.

Roberts Trops and his colleagues will tell about this extraordinary project, starting from the time when this place appeared on no maps. The talk will cover the challenges of renovation and what has been achieved until now, the current applications for the two telescopes and how VIRAC became a partner in the international astronomical community.

Astropeiler Stockert

Parabolic dishes dozens of meters in diameter, tracking systems for moving dozens of tons of mass with arcsecond accuracy, ultra-low-noise receiver frontends, FPGA spectrometers and GPU-supported analysis software – while radio astronomy may sound daunting for a hobby, it is a fascinating challenge.

The team of Astropeiler Stockert e.V. is one of the more active amateur radio astronomy groups in Europe. It runs the Stockert radio observatory near Bad Münstereifel. One 25 meter and one 10 meter radio telescope, formerly operated by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, have been restored back to working order after years of neglect. Now, the telescopes are catching signals again, revealing the Milky Way's spiral structure, and faint, distant pulsars.

This talk presents the project's development from the first site cleanup in 2006 to the latest pulsar measurements only seven years later. Looking inside the machine room, we will give an overview of the entire control, drive and measurement toolchains used at the telescopes. The talk closes with an overview of the amateur radio astronomy scene in Europe and pointers to other interesting projects.

[Tutorial] Bending Glass in Flames

This workshop will demonstrate the art of flame-working as you discover the different properties of glass and how it bends! And we will combine artistic and scientific flameworking techniques to create those wonderful glass beads you see everywhere! Through demonstrations and individual instruction, you can have a go at experimenting with centuries-old glassmaking technique.

Instructor: Nadania Idriss is a PhD candidate at the Free University in Berlin, writing on contemporary art involving glass by artists from the Middle East. She first came into contact with glass while studying at the University of Washington in Seattle. She currently lives in Berlin, working at the Museum of Islamic Art, and founded and directs Berlin Glas e.V., a non-profit public access glass studio.

[Tutorial] Learn to Solder

A large variety of way cool kits are available, all designed for total beginners to complete successfully - and intriguing enough for the hardware geek. Mitch Altman will have kits available for making cool, practical, intriguing, hackable things that you can bring home after you make it.

Plenty of cool kits are available to make, including TV-B-Gone (turn off TVs in public places!), Mignonette Game, LEDcube (animated 3D cube!), microcontroller programmers (program all your AVR family chips!), Arduino clones, Open Heart (animate fun patterns in the shape of a heart!), Atari Punk Console (make cool noise from an Altoids tin!), and many more.

Cost: Instruction is free, we ask that people pay only for the cost of the parts used; kit prices range from 10€ to 30€. Suitable for kids, accompanied minors (-18) do not need a EHSM ticket.

Inside the Genome Sequencing Revolution: Under the hood of an Illumina Sequencer

Since the introduction of 'next-generation' sequencers, the cost of sequencing a single human genome has fallen exponentially; even much faster than Moore's Law. Modern fluorescence-based genome sequencers are complex instruments that can sequence billions of basepairs in a matter of days by sequencing millions of fragments of a genome in parallel. In this talk, I show how we have deconstructed one of the pioneering Illumina instruments, explain how it works, and show how we have managed to reconstruct an automated fluorescence imaging microscope system from scrapped Illumina sequencer parts.

Open Source Verilog HDL Synthesis with Yosys

Yosys is the first full-featured open source software for Verilog HDL synthesis. It supports most of Verilog-2005 and is well tested with real-world designs from the ASIC and FPGA world.

Learn how to use Yosys to create your own custom synthesis flow and discover why open source HDL synthesis is important for researchers, hobbyists, educators and engineers alike.

The presentation covers basic concepts of Yosys and writing simple synthesis scripts. There will be also a workshop covering advanced topics.

Yosys is the first step towards a fully open FPGA/ASIC toolchain, and is currently used with vendor place-and-route tools.

Speaker: Clifford Wolf writes open source software and is active in the open source and Linux community since the mid 90s. His prior projects include the Linux distribution build kit ROCK Linux and the 3D CAD modeller OpenSCAD. Since 2012 he is working on Yosys.

Principles of Mass Spectrometry

Mass spectrometry is a very useful tool in solid-state physics research and material analysis.

The presentation will cover three spectrometry techniques: Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS), Glow Discharge Mass Spectrometry (GDMS) and Spark Source Mass Spectrometry (SSMS).

It will explain the principles of operation and the construction of example devices and their "hearts" - quadrupole and double focusing mass spectrometers.

For a mass spectrometer to work, the analyzed material needs to be ionized first. The talk will show how that happens in SIMS, GDMS and SSMS.

Finally, the presentation will show sample measurement results.

Speaker: Maciej Miśnik is affiliated with the Vacuum Measurement Laboratory of the Tele- and Radio Research Institute in Warsaw, and the Gdańsk University of Technology.

Many other presentations and tutorials will be announced later!

Watch this space, and there is still time to submit yours (see below).

Attend without presenting

Attendance is open to all curious minds.

EHSM is entirely supported by its attendees and sponsors. To help us make this event happen, please donate and/or order your ticket as soon as possible.

Prices are:

EHSM is a non-profit event where the majority of the budget covers speakers' travel and transportation of exhibition equipment.

Buy tickets

Speakers: submit your presentation

Is there a device in your basement that demonstrates violations of Bell's inequalities? We want to see it in action. Are you starting up a company to build nuclear fusion reactors? Tell us about it. Does your open source hardware or software run some complex, advanced and beautiful scientific instruments? We are eager to learn about it. Do you have stories to tell about your former job manufacturing ultra high vacuum equipment in the Soviet Union? We want to hear about your experiences. Do you have a great design for a difficult open source product that can be useful to millions? Team up with the people who can help implement your ideas.

Whoever you are, wherever you come from, you are welcome to present technologically awesome work at EHSM. Travel assistance and visa invitation letters provided upon request. All lectures are in English.

This year, we will try to improve the conference's documentation by publishing proceedings. When relevant, please send us a paper on your presentation topic. We are OK with previously published work, we simply expect high quality and up-to-date content.

To submit your presentation, send a mail to team@ehsm.eu with typically the following information:

If you need us to arrange your trip:

We will again have an exhibition area where you can show and demonstrate your work - write to the same email address to apply for space. If you are bringing bulky or high-power equipment, make sure to let us know:

Tutorials on any technology topic are also welcome, and may cater to all levels, including beginners and kids.

We acknowledge receipt of all submission emails; if you have not heard from us one week after your application, it means we have not received your message. Write again or call +4917639295103.

We are counting on you to make this event awesome. Feel free to nominate other speakers that you would like to see at the conference, too - just write us a quick note and we will contact them.


We thank EnjoyDigital and Goldorak for their financial support.

Key information

Conference starts: morning of June 27th, 2014
Conference ends: evening of June 29th, 2014
Please submit lectures, tutorials and exhibits before: May 15th, 2014 (sooner if you have complicated travel requirements)

Conference location:
Notkestrasse 85
22607 Hamburg, Germany

Looking for a hotel nearby? Here is a list. Unfortunately, staying at the DESY guesthouse is not possible.

We are looking forward to welcoming you in Hamburg!
/ EHSM e.V.

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