Lab Update: New Offerings and Direction

Last Updated: 2023-10-08 05:00:00 -0500

Back in May of this year, we made some announcements about more or less spinning down portions of the lab. Now, we’re reversing that decision, and taking the time to announce some other new efforts coming to the lab in the year to come.

A Return to Livestreams

As was gently implied in the previous post, I’ve soft-relaunched the idea of lab livestreams, and began them about a month ago. The idea behind stopping them seemed sound - if I wasn’t distracted by trying to narrate my actions as I took them, I should in theory be able to write more elegant, cleaner code. Instead, I effectively wrote no code for the PETI firmware all summer.

They’ve been well attended on my Twitch Channel since bringing them back, so I’m making an official thing of it. Streams for the PETI firmware (and other ‘public’ Arcana Labs projects) will be taking place on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week going forward, with the start time at 7 PM Atlantic Time. Unfortunately we observe DST here, so right now that is UTC-3, but come november it will eventually shift to UTC-4.

I’m also going to stick with the practice for the future of making small announcements under the @schedule-announce role on the Arcana Labs Discord Server to lay out the subject matter for each of these streams in advance.

I’m hoping this thin extra layer of being accountable to others keeps me honest in terms of making headway on this project, which is now at least three years old. If nothing else, the small amount of revenue twitch happens to share with me for running their ads (which amounts to less than 50 USD annually, so far) will help defray some costs.

New Sponsorship Pathways and Perks

Speaking of returning to Twitch, I am also bringing back the whole concept of “secret projects” with regard to the lab, and to sponsorship. While the [GitHub Sponsors page](( still needs to be updated to reflect it and the messaging surrounding it on Twitch could be better, I’m immediately starting a perk I had never gotten off the ground previously: secret-project streams for Sponsors.

If you are a Github Sponsor, Twitch Subscriber (including Prime Subscribers), had donated to the lab that month through our Arcana Labs Ko-Fi address or through other avenues detailed here, you will be invited to a special lab session that month for working on the secret project. This month, that event is this very night and being held through our discord; our twitch setup also allows us to occasionally host it as a twitch livestream, at least until we get to the size where we are out of VIP tokens to hand out. As long as it is not yet 2200 UTC, it’s not too late to take one of the options described above and be added to the roles that will give you access to the stream.

Coming Soon: PETI “Revision D” Devlopment Kit… Kits

After running my numbers, it’s pretty clear to me that the PETI Development Kit was a worthwhile use of my time, and that the newer revision-D hardware would actually be a profitable investiment if we could just bring it into reality.

It’s my hope that I’ll be able to launch the “Revision D” kits early in the upcoming New Year. The hardware designs are finished and proofed and so are most of the printed materials. What remains is pulling together the necessary investments on my end to have boards produced and parts shipped.

That’s right: parts shipped. Starting with the Revision D boards, the Development Kit DIY Kits are going to come as they currently do (just the boards themselves), or optionally with the parts included. TI still won’t let us resell the actual MSP430 launchpads, but through the magic of Bulk Ordering I can get the parts for the Rear Expansion Board and the Control Daughterboard cheaper than you can, and pass some of that savings on to you. Plus, in addition to a fast and convenient way to contribute to the PETI project, the revenues from the sale of these development kits will help to offset the cost of designing and producing the final PETI devices in their pocket-sized format.

Announcing the Model III “Traveller’s Pocketwatch”

Earlier, I mentioned the secret projects, and I think it’s only fair to reveal publically exactly what the current secret project is. It’s been a while since we took the time to build a proper puzzle, and having recently rewatched a few longplays of the Amnesia games, I have been inspired to create what I’m calling the “Traveller’s Pocketwatch”. This is a somewhat unique gizmo that will include a lower-tech user interface but some higher-tech sensor technology than is currently being used on PETI, built around the same microcontroller, and designed to fill a slightly more artistic niche.

The first stream covering this project is being held tonight, during which I’m going to talk a lot about hardware selection and work my way through that process so that I can try and ballpark the feasibility and final size of the device. I’m really excited about this project as it offers the first chance to take the labs back in a direction I really want to take it - toward creating puzzles and curiosities rather that simpler toys.

Returning Soon: Illuminated Arcana

On which note, after going through a major re-organization of my hardrive and studying the resources available to me at the moment, I’ve decided to re-launch our Illuminated Arcana platform as soon as I can do so safely. For the unfamiliar, Illuminated Arcana was intended to be a series of VMs and other puzzles representing an open-ended, broad-skillset, CTF-style event. IA users would compete against themselves to gather as many flags as possible, being rewarded for their ingenuity and investigative acumen with points for those captures.

I’ve taken the decision to focus on unorthodox ways to add new flags to the game that don’t necessarily rely on ‘true’ hacking ability, as distractions for the veteran hackers and as entry points for those who are still building that skillset. For example, the Traveller’s Pocketwatch and PETI are both likely to contain IA CTF flags in the future. I’ll talk more about the process of re-launching the platform at a future time, as I’m still in a phase of planning. A big pain-point for me with the old IA platform was the difficulty of reliably supplying you with the VM images, so I need to address that before we proceed.

If you wanted to show your support financially for Arcana Labs projects like PETI, but don’t need a virtual pet development kit, your best avenue is via my Github Sponsors account or by making a one-time donation to Arcana Labs via or through other avenues detailed here. Supporters also get access to a special patrons-only section of the Arcana Labs Discord Server as well, and new bonuses are soon to be introduced on the github side!


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