IDES of DEF CON: Badge Post Mortem

Financial transparency

  • $5,000 from Avast. We gave them 11 badges, one of which ended up on Gary Kasparov’s neck(!), one went to the person who helped us get the deal signed.
  • $1,700 from Phobos Group. We gave them 3 badges.

Things we did right

  • Lots of stuff completed on time and on budget. The badge, challenge coin, packaging, and lanyard were great. Great art.
  • Bill’s work on the low-level drivers and updater code was nearly perfect and he even patched a bug while at the con, involving updater issues on different compiler version and the updater itself being overwritten. Amazing.
  • Joining the #badgelife slack was invaluable. Thanks to the incredible organizing by wdm (Whitney Merrill) we all had access to a great Slack (#badgelife) where we were able to coordinate and learn from each other.
  • On Slack we managed to beg for various parts during the con. When Macrofab was forced to send back our batteries on UPS ground (IATA regulations), we bought some from other #badgelife members at B-Sides, making 26 more boards available for sale.
  • Quickly learning SMD reworking (Thanks to watching many, many youtube videos from Louis Rossman) — An excellent rework job rescued the project, but cost us $1,000 for a hot air station, $700 for a stereo microscope, and around $100 for hot air tips. I am fairly certain I leveled up on SMD repair. However, never again will I use a cheap Chinese hot air station. The difference was huge — It was like going from a Radio-Shack soldering iron to a temperature controlled Weller.
  • When it came time to QA the boards for reflow and debugging, I had the bright idea to print out little QA slips and attach them to every board. The QA checklist was invaluable in both triaging repairs (speed = more sales = more money), selling broken boards, and producing a quality product. Do this again!
  • Learned very quickly how to repair boards based on our schematics. It got to the point where we would intuitively know what was wrong with the board within a few seconds. Examples: No display / video noise? Oh, that’s SPI2_SCLK, SPI2_MOSI that need reflow… Radio slow to respond/retransmitting? Reflow VR_PA and RF_DIO. No LEDs? bypass/short and test the chain until you find the last good LED, then replace.
  • Pretty much nailed most of the fight code; Minor bugs persist.
  • People loved it. Graphics were great.
Matt’s Character sheet for all of the fighters (nice, huh?)

Things we did wrong

Manufacturing Learnings / Issues / Concerns





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The Ides Of DEFCON

The Ides Of DEFCON

We made an indie electronic badge for DEFCON XXV. Learn more at , follow us for next year's badge!

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