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Building the Infinite Matrix of Tamagotchis

Hackaday - 2 hours 36 minก่อน

Tamogachi is a digital pet, living in and cared for through a key-chain size piece of hardware. The mid-90’s toy lives in pop culture, but now it lives well beyond. A limitless network of Tamagachi has been created using some amazing tricks to feed, socialize, and monitor the beast now know as the Tamagachi Singularity.

Last weekend at the Hackaday SuperConference we were graced with a talk by [Jeroen Domburg], a.k.a. [Sprite_tm]. [Sprite] is a favorite of ours and over the years his hacker cred includes everything from reverse engineering hard drive controller chips to putting video games in his keyboard.

[Sprite] is also something of an Architect, and like all Architects he only wants what is best for the system he created. In this case, it’s a Matrix of Tamagotchis. [Sprite] created a hive of Tamagotchis that are able to interact with each other in their own separate world. The best part about this Matrix? There’s no allusions to violating the laws of thermodynamics in the exposition.


Like all good hacks, a Tamagotchi Matrix wasn’t created in a vacuum. A few years ago at 29C3, [Natalie Silvanovich] dumped the ROM in the current generation of Tamagotchis. This is an incredible feat of reverse engineering, that allows anyone to use the full capabilities of the 6502-based microcontroller that controls these digital pets

After [Sprite] figured out how to read and run the code in the Tamagotchi, the next obvious step towards a world of egg-shaped pods containing an entire population of Tamagotchis is virtual Tamagotchis. [Sprite] used a hard-coded state machine that takes care of pooping, flushing, training, feeding, and turning the lights off at bedtime.

With a single Tamagotchi described as a state machine, it’s a simple matter to build another. This is where things get interesting and Matrix-ey. Tamagotchis don’t live alone; they have an IR LED and receiver that allows them to interact with each other, eat, play, marry, and have kids. Emulating a single Tamagotchi is one thing, but controlling multiples is another thing entirely; some sort of protocol was needed to breed Tamagotchis and keep them happy and well-fed.

The Tamagotchi State Machine

Enter the Tamaserver, a bit of code running on a server that keeps track of a dozen or so Tamagotchis. On this server, a small population of Tamagotchis live their entire life not realizing they are just part of a gigantic computer. Here, Tamagotchis live, eat, love, and die, all without the messy violations of the laws of thermodynamics proposed in the Matrix trilogy.

So far, the Tamaserver has been home to 13 Tamagotchis for a little more than a month, playing host to seven generations of digital pets, without any intervention from the outside. Things have gotten dicey recently with twelve females and one male, forcing a slight modification to the Tamagotchi Matrix. [Sprite] has only reset the Tamaserver one time, but he’s still become very efficient at it.

The Original Tamagotchi Hardware Reimagined

Running a world of Tamagotchis in a server is a worthwhile pursuit, but since [Sprite] gave this talk at a hardware conference, this required hardware to show off. A Matrix in an old German bomb shelter / server farm simply won’t do. As such, [Sprite] created the Tamanode, a WiFi-enabled viewer for each of the cells in the hive.

[Sprite]’s highly modified WiFi-enabled Tamagotchi[Natalie Silvanovich] did all the work a few years ago for running arbitrary code on the Tamagotchi through the small little egg add-ons that contain an EEPROM. This happens by writing code to the LCD display, then jumping the CPU to an invalid address. When the CPU encounters an invalid address, it jumps to an address space on the screen. It’s an astoundlingly clever hack, but not really useful if you don’t have the hardware to do something cool.

[Sprite] performed a little bit of surgery on his egg by adding an ESP8266 WiFi module and an EEPROM that contained all the code to connect to a WiFi network, access his hive, and scroll through each of its inhabitants. It’s disruptive Tamagotchi computing, the Internet of Digital Pets, and a cloud-powered Tamagotchi as a service.

By all accounts this is an amazing accomplishment. [Sprite] presented the talk on Saturday night, just before the presentation of the 2015 Hackaday Prize. It was the first thing anyone wanted to talk about when you ran into them on Sunday. We expect this recording will have the same effect on the much wider audience of the Internet. He is not a one-hit wonder. We religiously check [Sprite’s] website for that hit of excitement gained with every project he posts.

Filed under: cons, Featured, slider

Shuttle launches XPC nano Windows 10 mini PC for $279

Liliputing - 2 hours 36 minก่อน

Shuttle recently launched the XPC nano NC01U line of tiny desktop computers, starting with a $160 barebones model featuring an Intel Celeron Broadwell processor. While that’s a pretty attractive price for an entry-level computer, the barebones model doesn’t include memory, storage, or an operating system. Now Shuttle has a model that comes with Windows 10 […]

Shuttle launches XPC nano Windows 10 mini PC for $279 is a post from: Liliputing

Kano’s DIY HD Screen Kit goes with its kid-friendly DIY computer

Liliputing - 3 hours 21 minก่อน

Kano offers a DIY computer kit designed to teach kids to code and work with computers. The company’s first product was a kit that kids can put together featuring a Raspberry Pi, case, keyboard, and software. Now Kano is also offering a DIY 10 inch display kit. Kano’s computer is relatively easy to assemble, but it […]

Kano’s DIY HD Screen Kit goes with its kid-friendly DIY computer is a post from: Liliputing

The Nvidia Jetson TX1: It’s Not For Everybody, But It Is Very Cool

Hackaday - 4 hours 5 minก่อน

Last week, the Nvidia Jetson TX1 was released. This credit card-sized module is a ‘supercomputer’ advertised as having more processing power than the latest Intel Core i7s, while running at under 10 Watts. This is supposedly the device that will power the next generation of things, using technologies unheard of in the embedded world.

A modern day smartphone could have been built 10 or 15 years ago. There’s no question the processing power was there with laptop CPUs, and the tiny mechanical hard drives in the original iPod was more than spacious enough to hold a library of Napster’d MP3s and all your phone contacts. The battery for this sesquidecadal smartphone, on the other hand, was impossible. The future depends on batteries and consequently low power computing. Is the Jetson TX1 the board that will deliver us into the future? It took a hands-on look to find out.

The Nvidia Jetson TX1 and Carrier Board What is the TX1

The Jetson TX1 is a tiny module – 50x87mm – encased in a heat sink that brings the volume to about the same size as a pack of cigarettes. Underneath a block of aluminum is an Nvidia Tegra X1, a module that combines a 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A57 CPU with a 256-core Maxwell GPU. The module is equipped with 4GB of LPDDR4-3200, 16GB of eMMC Flash, 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth.

This module connects to the outside world through a 400-pin connector (from Samtec, a company quite liberal with product samples, by the way) that provides six CSI outputs for a half-dozen Raspberry Pi-style cameras, two DSI outputs, 1 eDP 1.4, 1 eDP 1.2, and HDMI 2.0 for displays. Storage is provided through either SD cards or SATA. Other ports include three USB 3.0, three USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, a PCIe x1 and PCIe x4, and a host of GPIOs, UARTs, SPI and I2C busses.

The only way of getting at all these extra ports is, at the moment, the Jetson TX1 carrier board, a board that is effectively a MiniITX motherboard. Mount this carrier board in a case, modify a power supply and figure out how to wire up the front panel buttons, and you’ll have a respectable desktop computer.

This is not a desktop computer, though, and it’s not a replacement for a Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone. This is an engineering tool – a device built to handle the advanced robotics work of the future.


No tech review would be complete without benchmarks, and since this is an Nvidia board, that means a deep dive into the graphics performance.

The review unit Nvidia sent over came with an incredible amount of documentation, pointing me towards GFXBench 4.0 Manhattan 3.1 (and the T-rex one) to test the graphics performance.

In terms of graphics performance, the TX1 isn’t that much different from a run-of-the-mill mobile chipset from a few years ago. This is to be expected; it’s unreasonable to expect Nvidia to put a Titan in a 10 Watt module; the Titan itself sucks up about 250 Watts.

What about CPU performance? The ARM Cortex A57 isn’t seen very much in tiny credit-card sized dev boards, but there are a few actual products out there with it.  The TX1 isn’t a powerhouse by any means, but it does trounce the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B in testing by a factor of about three.

Compared to desktop/x86 performance, the best benchmarks again put the Nvidia TX1 in the same territory as a middling desktop from a few years ago. Still, that desktop probably draws about 300 W total, where the TX1 sips a meager 10 W.

This is not the board you want if you’re mining Bitcoins, and it’s not the board you should use if you need a powerful, portable device that can connect to anything. It’s for custom designs. The Nvidia TX1 is a module that’s meant to be integrated into products. It’s not a board for ‘makers’ and it’s not designed to be. It’s a board for engineers that need enough power in a reasonably small package that doesn’t drain batteries.

With an ARM Cortex A57 quad core running at almost 2 GHz, 4 GB of RAM, and a reasonably powerful graphics card for the power budget, the Nvidia TX1 is far beyond the usual tiny Linux boards. It’s far beyond the Raspi, the newest Beagleboard, and gives the Intel NUC boards a run for their money.

That huge and heavy heatsink is useful; while benchmarking the TX1, temperatures were only one or two degrees above ambient

In terms of absolute power, the TX1 is about as powerful as a entry-level laptop from three or four years ago.

The Jetson TX1 is all about performance per Watt. That’s exceptional, new, and exciting; it’s something that simply hasn’t been done before. If you believe the reams of technical documents Nvidia granted me access to, it’s the first step to a world of truly smart embedded devices that have a grasp on computer vision, machine learning, and a bunch of other stuff that hasn’t really found its way into the embedded world yet.

Alexnex images processed per second per Watt. No, Joules do not exist.

And here lies the problem with the Jetson TX1; because a platform like this hasn’t been available before, the development stack, examples, and community of users simply isn’t there yet. The number of people contributing to the Nvidia embedded systems forum is tiny – our Hackaday articles get more comments than a thread on the Nvidia forums. Like all new platforms, the only thing missing is the community, putting Nvidia in a chicken and egg scenario.

This a platform for engineers. Specifically, engineers who are building autonomous golf carts and cars, quadcopters that follow you around, and robots that could pass a Turing test for at least 30 seconds. It’s an incredible piece of hardware, but not one designed to be a computer that sits next to a TV. The TX1 is an engineering tool that’s meant to go into other devices.

Alternative Applications, Like Gamecube

With that said, there are a few very interesting applications I could see the TX1 being used for. My car needs a new head unit, and building one with the TX1 would future proof it for at least another 200,000 miles. For the very highly skilled amateur engineers, the TX1 module opens a lot of doors. Six webcams is something a lot of artists would probably like to experiment with, and two DSI outputs – and a graphics card – would allow for some very interesting user interfaces.

That said, the TX1 carrier board is not the breakout board for these applications. I’d like to see something like what Sparkfun put together for the Intel Edison – dozens of breakout boards for every imaginable use case. The PCB files for the TX1 carrier board are available through the Nvidia developer’s portal (hope you like OrCAD), and Samtec, the supplier for the 400-pin connector used for the module, is exceedingly easy to work with. It’s not unreasonable for someone with a reflow toaster oven to create a breakout for the TX1 that’s far more convenient than a Mini-ITX motherboard.

Right now there aren’t many computers with ARM processors and this amount of horsepower out now. Impressively powerful ARM boards, such as the new BeagleBoard X15 and those that follow the 96Boards specification exist, but these do not have a modern graphics card baked into the module.

Without someone out there doing the grunt work of making applications with mass appeal work with the TX1, it’s impossible to say how well this board performs at emulating a GameCube, or any other general purpose application. The hardware is probably there, but the reviewers for the TX1 have been given less than a week to StackOverflow their way through a compatible build for the most demanding applications this board wasn’t designed for.

It’s all about efficiency

Is the TX1 a ‘supercomputer on a module’? Yes, and no. While it does perform reasonably well at machine learning tasks compared to the latest core-i7 CPUs, the Alexnet machine learning tasks are a task best suited for GPUs. It’s like asking which flies better: a Cessna 172 or a Bugatti Veyron? The Cessna is by far the better flying machine, but if you’re looking for a ‘supercomputer’, you might want to look at a 747 or C-5 Galaxy.

On the other hand, there aren’t many boards or modules out there at the intersection of high-powered ARM boards with a GPU and on a 10 Watt power budget. It’s something that’s needed to build the machines, robots, and autonomous devices of the future. But even then it’s still a niche product.

I can’t wait to see a community pop up around the TX1. With a few phone calls to Samtec, a few hours in KiCad, and a group buy for the module itself ($299 USD in 1000 unit quantities), this could be the start of something very, very interesting.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, reviews

Deals of the Day (11-24-2015)

Liliputing - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 23:37

The Microsoft Store Black Friday sale kicks off on Thanksgiving, while Best Buy is already offering Black Friday pricing on many products, and some stores have been running Black November sales all month. Anyway, you don’t need to wait for a sale with an official-sounding name to score a pretty good deal. The Microsoft Store […]

Deals of the Day (11-24-2015) is a post from: Liliputing

“Hello Barbie” Under the Knife

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 23:31

In February, Google and Mattel introduced their Hello Barbie Internet-connected toy. This Barbie has an internal microphone, a WiFi connection to Google’s voice recognition services, and a speaker to carry on a “conversation” with the targeted child.

Like the folks at Somerset Recon, we’d say that this is an Internet of Things (IoT) device that’s just begging for a teardown, and we’re totally looking forward to their next installment when they pore through the firmware.

On the hardware front, Barbie looks exactly like what you’d expect on the inside. A Marvell 88MW300 WiFi SoC talks to a 24-bit (!) audio codec chip, and runs code from a 16Mbit flash ROM. There’s some battery management, and what totally looks like a JTAG port. There’s not much else, because all the brains are “in the cloud” as you kids say these days.

From day to day we alternate between the promise of IoT and being anti-IoT curmudgeons, so it should come as no surprise that we’re of two minds about Hello Barbie. First, there’s the creepy-factor of having your child’s every word overheard by a faceless corporation with “evil” in their mission statement (see what we did there?). Next, we’re not sure that it’s OK to record everything your child says to a toy and listen to it later, even if you are the parent. Hackaday’s [Sarah Petkus] summarized this neatly in this article.

But mostly, we’re curious about how well the thing actually works and what it will do with naughty words. And who will take on the task of reviving the Barbie Liberation Organization? Now we totally want to go out and buy one of these things.

Filed under: teardown, toy hacks

Dell support tool poses security risk, company issues a fix

Liliputing - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 22:31

Some recent Dell computers have included a root certificate called eDellRoot that was designed to help Dell support staff identify a computer when users requested support. Unfortunately eDellRoot also posed a pretty serious security risk. Now Dell has responded with instructions for manually removing eDellRoot from an affected computer. The company also says it will […]

Dell support tool poses security risk, company issues a fix is a post from: Liliputing

The Junk Bins of Akihabara

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 22:01

Akihabara, Tokyo has transformed over the years. In its present form Akihabara emerged from the ruins of a devastated Tokyo after World War 2 when the entire district was burnt to the ground. The area was rebuilt in the shadow of the Akiba Jinja (dedicated to the god of fire prevention), and a new breed of street vendors began to appear. Huddling under the protection of railway bridges, and dealing mostly in Black market radio parts, these vendors set a new tone to what would become Japan’s “Electric Town”. And as Japanese manufacturing prowess grew so too did Akihabara.

Maids touting for business

Now of course Akihabara is also home to Otaku culture, and is perhaps best known in this regard for its maid cafes. Streets are littered with maids touting their cafes, somewhat incongruously among computer outlets and precision tooling stores.

My interests however lie squarely in Akihabara’s glorious junk bins. Of all places I think I’m happiest  digging through this mass of discarded technology from Japan’s manufacturing past.

A tour through the junks bins is like an archaeological dig. And in this article I will present some recent finds, and ponder on their relevance to Japanese manufacturing.

A 1960s era Japanese phone

The posterboy of early Japanese consumer electronics is the transistor radio. Unfortunately, these are increasingly hard to find in Akihabara and never in the junk bins. The oldest piece of consumer electronics I’ve discovered discarded, and largely unloved is this 1960s telephone.

The phone cost a rather extortionate 1980 Yen (16USD). There are some great sites by Japanese collectors documenting the various colors and configurations of these handsets.

By the 1960s Japanese economy had well and truly boomed, having grown to the second largest in the world. Japan was pumping out transistorized consumer electronics. Companies having acquired licenses from AT&T for their production.

The phones internal layout

This telephone of course uses purely passive components, but still bears some of the marks of miniaturization that came with this era of electronic development. The image to the right shows the phone’s internal layout. Particularly in contrast with a British design of the same era. Amazingly, and a testament to international standardization, I was still able to make a call with this phone. 6000 miles away from its intended point of use, and 55 years later the pulse dialing system still works on British Telecom’s network.


Our next item I found in the aptly named “SuperJunk“. One of my favorite junk shops. Superjunk carries an assortment of passive and active components including discarded SMD reels. Along with this, more traditional, surplus Superjunk also hosts a small pile of curios. And this is were I found the Vidicon camera shown below.


A “National” (now Panasonic) Vidicon camera

With the widespread adoption of CCD and CMOS imaging ICs Vidicons have long been forgotten. But for many years Vidicon tubes were the only way of electrically acquire images. A vacuum tube has a flat photoconductive surface. And electron beam is scanned across this surface, much like a CRT TV in order to measure the conductivity across the surface and acquire an image.

This tube bares the Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. brand. A company now better known as Panasonic.

Boxes upon boxes of Laserdiscs

The Vidicon camera represents a relic from the full analogue world of 70s and early 80s electronics. Akihabara is littered too with abandoned digital cameras (like this Ixy 60). But they add little to our manufacturing story. More interesting perhaps are those items produced right at the cusp of the analogue to digital transition.

Forgotten Digital-ish Formats

Junk shops like Hardoff are full of discard Laserdiscs. While you might think of Laserdiscs as purely “big CDs” they are actually a very different technology. Like CDs, the information was encoded using pits read by a laser head. However, the video encoding mechanism used a form of pulse width modulation, encoding and reproducing a purely analogue signal.

“The Repeater” a curious artifact of 90s technology

Hardoff was also home to our next item. Another hybrid analogue storage/digital playback device called “The Repeater“.

When I first bought The Repeater I had no idea what it was. A curious slot appeared to accept a magswipe card, but I had nothing much else to go on. After some headscratching I deduced that the device plays back analogue audio encoded on a magswipe card. It appears that special flashcards were sold as a learning aid. Swipe a card on which a question is printed and the device will playback an audio recording of the answer. The Repeater is interesting to me because the audio is stored as an analogue recording, which is immediately digitally sampled by the device for playback (so that it can be repeated if required). This is really the only point in time when this approach would have been taken. Digital systems not quite cheap enough for storage, but able to effectively manipulate and playback datasets with ease. In the video below, you can observe this technological curio in action:

The Repeater is also notable as the last piece of consumer electronics on our junk bin trawl manufactured in Japan. These days the vast majority of consumer electronics for sale in Akihabara are manufactured (and often designed) in China. And while the transistor radio was emblematic of the rise of Japanese consumer electronic manufacturing, I found it impossible to find a single new consumer radio in Akihabara manufactured in Japan.

The Anritsu comms analyzer acquired for a few hundred dollars Test Equipment

Outside of consumer electronics Akihabara is home to test equipment store Keisokuki Land. Here you can find both domestic and foreign surplus test equipment often at very low prices. To date I’ve picked up and repaired 3 500MHz +5GS/s oscilloscopes for on average 200USD. All faulty in some way, but easy repairs.

Sometimes more curious pieces of domestic equipment pop up too. Like the Anritsu communications analyzer shown to the right. It’s a bad sign for Japanese manufacturing perhaps, that these high performance items seem to get sold off very cheaply, with little local demand.

Akihabara has shifted focus over the years, and Japanese manufacturing is no doubt currently in decline. But Akihabara still feels strong and vibrant. There’s a love of technology, for technologies sake here that I’ve seen nowhere else. While the markets of Shenzhen now dwarf Akihabara a thousand fold, Shenzhen is all business. Akihabara is filled with Otaku driven by the desire to hack. One can only wonder what the future will bring.

Filed under: classic hacks, Featured

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is a $140 smartphone with a fingerprint sensor and a big battery

Liliputing - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 20:56

Xiaomi’s Redmi Note line of smartphones are known for their big screens and small price tags. That latest model is no exception… but the new Redmi Note 3 also has a few special features to help set it apart from the older Redmi Note 2. The new model has a MediaTek Helio X10 octa-core 64-bit processor, […]

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 is a $140 smartphone with a fingerprint sensor and a big battery is a post from: Liliputing

Xiaomi’s Mi Pad 2 tablet runs Android or Windows, starts at $156

Liliputing - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 20:33

Xiaomi’s second tablet looks a bit like its first: both models have 7.9 inch, 2048 x 1536 pixel displays and a more than passing resemblance to an iPad mini. But while last year’s model was powered by an NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor and had a plastic body, the new Xiaomi Mi Pad 2 features an Intel […]

Xiaomi’s Mi Pad 2 tablet runs Android or Windows, starts at $156 is a post from: Liliputing

Pip Boys As A Service

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 19:01

A few weeks ago Fallout 4 was released, and like all future games of the year, productivity has fallen through the floor, cosplayers are busy crafting outfits, and modders are busy tearing the game to pieces. As with all big game releases, Fallout 4 has a super-deluxe, ultra-collectible edition, and this version comes with its own Pip Boy, the in-game wrist-mounted user interface that manages stats, inventory, and quests.

This Pip Boy is actually functional, relying on a smartphone to mirror the display in-game Pip Boy. This, of course, means there must be some sort of communication between the game and a phone. [Kyle] found this somewhat interesting and decided to dig into these communications to see what else could be done with the real life mirror of the in-game Pip Boy

With a simple swipe of nmap, [Kyle] discovered two ports open on his PS4. By creating a relay to listen in on whatever is passing through these ports, [Kyle] built a tool that allows anyone to dump data from the in-game Pip Boy to any other service.

The library and command line tool work with PS4 and PC and are able to dump stats and data from the in-game Pip Boy to the outside world. It will be interesting to see what kind of mashups could be created with this; especially interesting would be a leaderboard for an entire office of vault dwellers, but a TV-sized Pip Boy would also suffice.

Yes, that is a challenge.

Filed under: Network Hacks

Doc Brown’s Security Briefcase Needs Speed

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 16:01

If you just wait around long enough, the future becomes the past. And that’s happened to the “Back to the Future” future, as you probably all remember. But BttF-themed projects are still pouring in.

[ossum] sent us the link for his build of Doc Brown’s briefcase that only opens above 88 mph. His writeup is fantastically detailed, and worth a look if you’re interested in working with a GPS unit and microcontrollers, driving seven-segment LEDs with shift registers, or just driving too fast in an old Jetta. And there’s a video demo just below the break if you’re not a believer.

We’ve seen a lot of reverse geocaching lock boxes that only open up when you’re in the right place. This hack is the first that we’ve seen taking the first derivative. See where we’re going with this? Who will be the first to build a GPS acceleration-based lock? (Don’t get us started on jerk.)

Filed under: gps hacks, how-to

Laser Cut Mechanical Logic Gates

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 13:00

When you create logic circuits using ICs or FPGAs, you can’t easily visualize their operation without special tools. But if you’ve ever seen a mechanical computer (like the Computer History Museum’s Babbage engine) operate, you know you don’t have that problem. Just like it is fascinating to watch a 3D printer or CNC machine, watching mechanical logic gates work can be addictive.

[Anthony] wanted to build some mechanical logic gates and set out designing them using Inkscape. Unlike some common mechanical gate schemes, [Anthony’s] gates use gears to implement the logic operations. He sent the designs off to a laser cutter service and got back parts cut from 3mm acrylic.

A little adjustment and a lot of hot glue resulted in working gates (see video below). [Anthony’s] site has some good animations showing the operation of each gate type. You can also find downloads of the SVG files for all the components.

We talked about rod logic and its promise for microscopic gates before. If you want to go all out with mechanical computing, you might try your hand at a Turing machine.

Filed under: misc hacks

The Ommatid Is an Awesome “Thing”

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 10:01

[Jonathan Foote] made a really cool device: the Ommatid spherical display and controller. Part woodworking craft project, part art, and part tremendous hack, the Ommatid is something that we don’t really have a name for. But you can watch it in action, running demo code, in a video below the break.

The sphere design started out with a “20-sided regular polyhedron” with which D&D players should be familiar, and then divided each triangular face into four more triangles. An 80-sided die? Almost. One triangle’s worth was sacrificed for the part that mounts to the base.

Each facet contains an RGB LED and an IR sensor so that it can tell when a hand is nearby. All of this input and output is run through a Raspberry Pi, so both the sensing and display interactions are easily modified. [Jonathan] runs us through the electronics, programming, and interactivity in a separate Instructable. We really like [Jonathan]’s idea of turning this device into an OSC controller / display.

Kudos to [Jonathan] for the craftsmanship — from the work on the wooden parts to what must have been quite some trial-and-error in getting the 3D-printed sphere’s exterior to look just right. Here are some more videos of the Ommatid in development.

Thanks [drnjr31] for the tip.

Filed under: led hacks, misc hacks

Easier PCB Vias with Drill Trick and Conductive Ink

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 07:00

If you’ve ever made double-sided PCBs without professional equipment, you had to deal with connecting one side of the board to the other. You have a few obvious choices: 1) Rely on component leads to connect both sides (and solder both sides); 2) Create vias and solder wire to both sides of the board; or 3) Use through hole rivets. [Diyouware] had a different idea: use conductive ink. After a few false starts, they found a technique that seemed to work well.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of people trying conductive ink with varying degrees of success. The biggest problem, usually, is that the ink wants to run out of the hole. [Diyouware] has an interesting solution for this problem: Don’t drill the hole all the way thorough.

To do this reliably, [Diyouware] modified a drill press to get a signal when the bit makes contact with the bottom layer of copper. The result is a blind via that forms a well. It is a simple matter to fill that well with conductive ink later. Although you could fill the vias by hand, [Diyouware] used a dispenser robot and controlled it with output from an Eagle user program to convert the via pattern into machine instructions. You can see the creation of an experimental board in the video below.

It is worth noting that when you have a PCB made professionally, they often drill a blank board and then plate it, so the pins and vias conduct through with no difficulties. In addition to the plating, this also makes it challenging to get the artwork exactly lined up with the holes. There are other professional processes, too, that plate boards after drilling and the plating part is possible.

LPKF has a method for faking plated through vias, that also uses a conductive paste. Of course, one easy way to get nice plated through vias (and holes) is to just go ahead and have the boards made professionally.

Filed under: tool hacks

80/20 Extrusion Goes Main Stream

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 04:00

We had to do a double take when we saw this kickstarter campaign video – and we bet you will too. It seem as if some company called [Infento Rides] took generic 80/20 aluminum extrusions and built a viable commercial product out of it – that’s not something you see everyday. 80/20 is meant to be something that engineers use to build things like test rigs and manufacturing fixtures. It’s not exactly an item designed for the consumer or end user. But we think the DIY/teaching aspect of this idea really has legs wheels.

If you’re looking for [Santa] to put this under the tree this Christmas, you might be disappointed as it’s not exactly on store shelves just yet since the kickstarter campaign just ended – but we wish them well, and hope they come through.

If you’re old enough you may remember Erector Sets (they were mechanical equivalent of the 200-in-1 electronics kits) back in the day. Well, this type of product brings back memories of both. It’s a perfect tool for getting kids interested in making – sure, they aren’t “making” much, but we all start somewhere.

The one thing we would like to see is a more open-source type kit like the Chibikart. That and something a little less then the $300-$500 price range.  But can you really put a price on teaching a child to build something, and starting that fire inside of them?  Maybe not.


Filed under: transportation hacks

Opera Max can cut music streaming bandwidth by half

Liliputing - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 02:42

The makers of the Opera web browser launched a service called Opera Max last year, enabling Android users to cut their mobile bandwidth usage. It does that by routing your internet traffic through a remote server which compresses data before sending it to your phone. At launch Opera Max was able to reduce file sizes for images, text, […]

Opera Max can cut music streaming bandwidth by half is a post from: Liliputing

New Magnetic Semiconductor

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 02:31

When you think of South Dakota you generally think of Mount Rushmore and, maybe, nuclear missiles. However, [Simeon Gilbert] will make you think of semiconductors. [Simeon], a student at South Dakota State University, won first place at the annual Sigma Xi national conference because of his work on a novel magnetic semiconductor.

The material, developed in collaboration with researchers from the nano-magnetic group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is a mix of cobalt, iron, chromium, and aluminum. However, some of the aluminum is replaced with silicon. Before the replacement, the material maintained its magnetic properties at temperatures up to 450F. With the silicon standing in for some of the aluminum atoms, the working temperature is nearly 1,000F.

Although many magnetic materials (like magnetite) are also semiconductors, their properties are not generally comparable to traditional semiconductors like silicon. This has led to more research on combining magnetic materials and semiconductors to produce semiconductors that also exhibit ferromagnetism.

In theory, a control device made out of magnetic semiconductor would allow switching by charge carriers (as in a traditional transistor) but also provide control of spin state and polarization. A practical “spin transistor” could allow higher storage densities and lower power for non-volatile memory. Higher temperature devices can also reduce cooling requirements which can have important size and power savings.

Too bad that just when [Dan Maloney] finally got magnets figured out, [Simeon’s] going to add a new kind of material. If you haven’t run into the idea of spin transistors before, you might enjoy the video from National Cheng Kung University, below.

Filed under: chemistry hacks, news

MIPS Creator Ci40 dev board hits Kickstarter for $53 and up

Liliputing - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 01:08

The MIPS Creator Ci40 is a single-board computer for developers working on projects involving Internet of Things applications and low-power MIPS processors. Imagination Technologies unveiled the board in October, and now the company has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to bring the Ci40 to market. You can reserve a board with a pledge […]

MIPS Creator Ci40 dev board hits Kickstarter for $53 and up is a post from: Liliputing

Swans, Pigs, and the CIA: An Unlikely Radio Story

Hackaday - อังคาร, 11/24/2015 - 01:01

Shortwave radio is boring, right? Maybe not. You never know what intrigue and excitement you might intercept. We recently covered secret number stations, and while no one knows for sure exactly what their purpose is, it is almost surely involving cloaks and daggers. However, there’s been some more obvious espionage radio, like Radio Swan.

The swan didn’t refer to the animal, but rather an island just off of Honduras that, until 1972, was disputed between Honduras and the United States. The island got its name–reportedly–because it was used as a base for a pirate named Swan in the 17th century. This island also had a long history of use by the United States government. The Department of Agriculture used it to quarantine imported beef and a variety of government departments had weather stations there.

You might wonder why the United States claimed a tiny island so far away from its shores. It turns out, it was all about guano. The Guano Islands Act of 1856 allowed the president to designate otherwise unclaimed territory as part of the United States for the purpose of collecting guano which, in addition to being bird excrement, is also important because it contains phosphates used in fertilizer and gunpowder. (Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.)

However, the most famous occupant of Swan Island was Radio Swan which broadcast on the AM radio band and shortwave. The station was owned by the Gibraltar Steamship Company with offices on Fifth Avenue in New York. Oddly, though, the company didn’t actually have any steamships. What it did have was some radio transmitters that had been used by Radio Free Europe and brought to the island by the United States Navy. Did I mention that the Gibraltar Steamship Company was actually a front for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?

Swan Island (From Google Earth (c) 2015 DigitalGlobe, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Google)

In 1960 the United States and Cuba were not very happy with each other. Castro’s revolution had booted United States companies off of the island nation (while keeping their assets) and was friendly with the Soviet Union. Not that Castro didn’t have his reasons (see the Kahn Academy video below if you want some context). The CIA decided to use Radio Swan (which is just south of the western tip of Cuba) to broadcast propaganda into Cuba, although its 50,000 watt AM transmitter and 7,500 watt shortwave transmitter also carried commercials.

In 1961, however, the station announced it would no longer carry political broadcasts and switched to an all news format on multiple frequencies. The news, however, carried coded messages, presumably to Cuban dissidents.

Then on April 17, 1961 the United States attempted to start a revolt against Castro using a CIA-sponsored military group known as Brigade 2506. Radio Swan played a part. Depending on who you believe, Radio Swan either broadcast the coded order to start the uprising or it sent a mystery message to confuse the Cuban government into thinking there was more to worry about from internal dissidents. What isn’t in question is the message was something you wouldn’t normally hear on the radio:

Alert! Alert! Look well at the rainbow. The fish will rise soon. Chico is in the house. Visit him. The sky is blue. The fish will not take much time to rise. The fish is red.

After that, Radio Swan issued explicit instructions for Cubans to join the revolt. None of them did, the invasion was a disaster, and the United States’ involvement became clear.

After the fiasco, The Gibraltar Steamship Company transformed into Vanguard Service Corporation and Radio Swan eventually became Radio Americas. It ceased transmitting in 1968.

So next time you think listening to shortwave radio is boring, just remember you never know what you might hear. A ship in distress, an intrepid operator in Antarctica, or a spy starting a revolution. You never know.

The video below is a good discussion of the Bay of Pigs and the context that surrounded it. The Bay of Pigs directly pushed Castro to be more mistrustful of the United States and cemented his relationship with the Soviets. This would eventually lead to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which could have easily escalated into a global nuclear war (especially when Charles Maultsby accidentally flew a U-2 spy plane into Soviet airspace; but that’s another story).

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, radio hacks
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