Feed aggregator

Gigabyte BRIX GB-BACE-3000 is a fanless mini PC with Intel Braswell

Liliputing - 1 ชั่วโมง 15 minก่อน

Gigabyte’s latest tiny desktop computer is a model with a low-power 4 watt Intel Celeron N300 Braswell dual-core processor and a passive cooling system. In other words, the Gigabyte BRIX GB-BACE3000 is a fanless PC that should operate silently (assuming you outfit it with a quiet solid state disk rather than a noisy hard drive. A few days […]

Gigabyte BRIX GB-BACE-3000 is a fanless mini PC with Intel Braswell is a post from: Liliputing

Matchstick streaming stick to refund Kickstarter backers

Liliputing - 1 ชั่วโมง 51 minก่อน

Nearly a year ago, a team of developer unveiled a Firefox OS-powered TV stick called the Matchstick. It was positioned as an open source alternative to the Google Chromecast, allowing users to stream content from their phones or from the internet to a TV. The developers ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the […]

Matchstick streaming stick to refund Kickstarter backers is a post from: Liliputing

RIP: HitchBot

Hackaday - 3 hours 15 minก่อน

Equal parts art project and social media experiment, with a dash of backyard hackery “robotics” thrown in for good measure, hitchBot was an experiment in the kindness of strangers. That is, the kindness of strangers toward a beer bucket filled with a bunch of electronics with a cute LED smiley face.

The experiment came to a tragic end (vandalism, naturally) in Philadelphia PA, after travelling a month across Canada, ten days in Germany, and yet another month across the Netherlands. It survived two weeks in USA, which is more than the cynics would have guessed, but a few Grand Canyons short of the American Dream.

Professors [David Smith] and [Frauke Zeller] built hitchBot to see how far cuteness and social media buzz could go. [Smith], a former hitchhiker himself, also wanted hitchBot to be a commentary on how society’s attitudes toward hitching and public trust. Would people would pick it up on the side of the street, plug it in to their own cigarette lighters, and maybe even take it to a baseball game? Judging by hitchBot’s Twitter feed, the answer was yes. And for that, little bucket, we salute you!

But this is Hackaday, and we don’t pull punches, even for the recently deceased. It’s not clear how much “bot” there was in hitchBot. It looks like it had a GPS, batteries, and a solar cell. We can’t tell if it took its own pictures, but the photos on Twitter seem to be from another perspective. It had enough brains inside to read out Wikipedia entries and do some rudimentary voice recognition tasks, so it was a step up from Tweenbots but was still reassuringly non-Terminator.

Instead, hitchBot had more digital marketing mavens and social media savants than [Miley Cyrus] and got tons of press coverage, which seems to have been part of the point from the very start. And by writing this blog post, we’re playing right into [Smith] and [Zeller]’s plan. If you make a robot / art project cute enough to win the hearts of many, they might just rebuild it. [Margaret Atwood] has even suggested on Twitter that people might crowdfund-up a hitchBot 2.0.

Our suggestion? Open-source the build plans, and let thousands of hitchBots take its place.

Filed under: Beer Hacks, misc hacks, robots hacks

Looking for digital oscilloscope? – Try DSO138 from Gearbest

MCU Project everyday - 3 hours 55 minก่อน
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

We all agree that hobbyist or engineer should have proper bench oscilloscope for everyday use. They have all standard features including built in screen, interchangeable probes and convenient knob controls. Anyway if you are looking for temporary cheap solution, you can try building your own oscilloscope. Luckily you don’t have to make it from scratch because there are many projects and kits available that are cheap but powerful enough to fit most of basic needs.

Gearbest.com were so kind to provide DSO138 kit to give it a try. First of all it’s a kit which gives you ability to refresh your soldering skills. Most of the parts are through hole and few passives are SMT. Main processor ARM Cortex-M3 processor (STM32F103C8) is already soldered, so no possible mistakes with that. Silkscreen on PCB is very informative, you can easy follow it and solder parts out of the bag.

Since it is featuring ARM cortex microcontroller we can expect slightly better performance than any average DIY DSO. Here is the list of features:

  • Maximum real-time sampling rate: 1Msps.
  • Accuracy: 12Bit.
  • Sampling buffer depth: 1024Bytes.
  • Analog bandwidth: 0 – 200KHz.
  • Vertical Sensitivity: 10mV / Div – 5V / Div (1-2-5 progressive manner).
  • Adjustable vertical displacement, and with instructions.
  • Input impedance: 1M.
  • Maximum input voltage: 50Vpp (1: 1 probe), 400Vpp (10: 1 probe).
  • Coupling modes: DC / AC / GND.
  • The horizontal time base range: 10s / Div – 50s / Div (1-2-5 progressive manner).
  • With automatic, regular and one-shot mode, easy to capture the -moment waveform.
  • Available rising or falling edge trigger.
  • Adjustable trigger level position, and with instructions.
  • Observable previous trigger waveform (negative delay).
  • Can freeze at any time waveform display (HOLD function).
  • Comes 1Hz /3.3V square wave test signal source.

Neat thing of this kit that it comes with 2.4” TFT display which along with control push-buttons is intuitive to use. If you like you can put in to nice enclosure and make it to secondary measuring unit. It can be used for various non intensive tasks like for audio, video synchronization, low-frequency switching power supply, infrared receiver transmitter signal waveform, multimeter, data logging and other purposes. Oscilloscope is open source so you can access all circuit details and firmware updates here.

Next time we will focus more on assembly and testing on actual signals.

Another OnePlus smartphone coming in 2015 (and more OnePlus news)

Liliputing - 4 hours 16 minก่อน

The OnePlus 2 smartphone starts shipping the second week of August. But Chinese startup OnePlus is already planning to launch its third smartphone. Co-founder Carl Pei tells USA Today that the company wants to launch a new phone will be available by the end of the year. Details about the upcoming phone are scarce, but in […]

Another OnePlus smartphone coming in 2015 (and more OnePlus news) is a post from: Liliputing

Deals of the Day (8-03-2015)

Liliputing - 5 hours 30 minก่อน

  Amazon offers a range of low-cost tablets, eReaders, and TV boxes. But if you’re looking for a deal on those devices, Amazon isn’t always the store with the lowest prices. Right now Best Buy is offering up to $60 off a number of Amazon devices. You can pick up a Kindle for as little […]

Deals of the Day (8-03-2015) is a post from: Liliputing

How CMOS Works: MOSFETs, JFETs, IGFETS and More

Hackaday - 6 hours 14 minก่อน

CMOS opened the door for many if not most of the properties needed for today’s highly integrated circuits and low power portable and mobile devices. This really couldn’t happen until the speeds and current drive capabilities of CMOS caught up to the other technologies, but catch up they did.

Nowadays CMOS Small Scale Integration (SSI) logic families, I.E. the gates used in external logic, offer very fast speeds and high current drive capability as well as supporting the low voltages found in modern designs. Likewise the Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) designs, or Very Very Large Scale if you like counting the letter V when talking, are possible due to low power dissipation as well as other factors.

How CMOS is Designed

CMOS, which means Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor, is based on combining two polarities of MOSFETS; Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistors.

Regular transistors, known as Bipolar Junction Transistors (BJT) meaning that they are made from junctions that have a positive and a negative (PN) junction utilize current as the input and create gain by controlling output current. As all of these current flows add up it means that at the end of the day there is a lot of current flowing which results in power being dissipated which ultimately results in heat.

The Junction Field Effect Transistor (JFET) utilizes voltage instead of current on its Gate input, somewhat like the Base on a Bipolar Transistor, to control the output voltage. Since the Gate is not insulated from the other terminals, known as the Source and Drain, there is a leakage current in JFETs that would not be present if the Gate was insulated from the Source and Drain.
Enter the Insulated Gate FET (IGFET) which is the basis for most of the transistor devices found on large scale integrated chips today. Looking at the diagram, the MOSFETs all show a distinct space between the Gate and the rest of the structure. The other two pins are the Source and the Drain.

This is a real gap created by silicon dioxide, the “Oxide” in MOSFET. If that sounds like glass, a really good insulator, I would say well yes it is. If a good insulator sounds like a dielectric, the makings of a capacitor, I would also say that well yes, it is. FET’s come in two major modes of which there are two different types based on polarity. The major modes are Enhancement and Depletion.

An enhancement MOSFET needs a voltage applied to a gate for the device to turn on, it can be thought of as a normally closed switch as opposed to a depletion mode device which needs a gate voltage applied to turn off and can be thought of as a normally open switch.

FET’s come in two different polarities based in part upon the polarity of the Gate signal and how it affects the device: An N-Channel device is activated when a positive voltage is applied to the Gate compared to the Source and a P-Channel activates with a negative voltage.

By combining an N-Channel device and a P-Channel MOSFETs an inverter is implemented. When the Gate is High the N-Channel MOSFET turns on pulling the output Low. Likewise when the Gate is Low, the P-Channel MOSFET is turned on pulling the output High. Note the alternate way to draw the MOSFETs on the right that is a tad more intuitive as the bubble on the P-Channel indicates that a Low on its Gate will turn it on.

Unprotected CMOS Can Be Fragile

The High Impedance on the input, I.E. the lack of a load resistance to a ground, means that a little bit of static charge on something like the human finger, can actually be disastrous for an unprotected CMOS circuit. A simple spark or otherwise invisible charge can ruin a MOS based device by punching holes in the gate insulation. Another problem caused by excessive voltage is what is called “SCR Latchup”, basically an excessive voltage causes the PNPN junctions produced by layout to act as back to back transistors that cascade into full conduction resulting in a short circuit between power rails. The only way to relieve the shorted condition is to remove power from the device which allows all of the energized transistors to turn off. The addition of protection diodes as shown is pretty standard across the board, though sometimes the diode function is really implemented with on board JFETs.

Let’s talk about CMOS logic families. The table below shows the curve between the newest families and obsolescence. Many of the comments on the video on TTL properties mentioned that TTL is for the most part “mature”, old, and/or obsolete. While this may be true in general, the legacy of TTL logic levels lives on in the form of TTL compatible families, usually denoted by a “T” in the family name.


The voltage levels of CMOS based logic are somewhat different from TTL, basically instead of the preset levels of Low(.4-.8v) and Hi(2-2.4v) the input logic levels of CMOS are mostly expressed as a ratio of the supple voltage.

The output voltages are usually within a few tenths of volts of each rail and the input thresholds are generally 1/3 and 2/3 of the supply voltage for Low and High respectively. This has the effect of maximizing the noise margin as the near rail-to-rail output swing (from near ground to near the power supply) ensures that the gate has the maximum output voltage swing.

It’s important to note the CMOS works best and uses the least power when the gates are turned all of the way on or all of the way off, it is very important that the voltage be kept out of the area shown in pink on the table.

CMOS outputs can generally connect to TTL inputs providing that the CMOS output can supply enough current. Feeding a CMOS input from a TTL output is a bit more problematic as the TTL output of 2.4V in a 5 volt system is not high enough to guarantee a High is seen by the CMOS part. Generally a pullup resistor can supply the last little bit of voltage but a cleaner approach is to use a “T” type CMOS part such as an HCT instead of HC, or a AHCT instead of AHC.


Low Voltage and High Speed

The chart below shows the migration CMOS has made over the years as it increased speed and ultimately support for the lower voltages; down to 0.8V as shown. The technology trend ends up with older families in the upper right, the newer and more advanced families down in the lower left. During this time other attributes also improved including output current with 24-60ma drive current becoming not uncommon. Low voltage and higher speed do tend to go hand in hand as the voltage has less “distance” to slew. With the new voltages come some other issues such as translating between them which I will cover just a bit in the next post.

CMOS Family Voltage Vs Speed. Source:TI CMOS Brief Next Time

In the next video I will show some CMOS logic family capabilities that include supply voltage translation such a 3.3v to 5v and also including down to 0.8v, a bus “hold” function, and will try my hand at showing how to lay out a CMOS gate and what some of the various layers and technologies are that are used in CMOS fabrication.

For your quiz this week, what logic function does the following drawing depict :

Filed under: Featured, hardware

Report: Apple could launch a wireless network too

Liliputing - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 23:59

Apple may be planning to become a wireless carrier. Business Insider reports that Apple is working on a deal that could result in the company becoming an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) in the US and Europe. That means Apple wouldn’t actually build or maintain any wireless towers. Instead, the company would use infrastructure provided by […]

Report: Apple could launch a wireless network too is a post from: Liliputing

Apple wants Siri to transcribe voicemails like Google Voice already has for years

Liliputing - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 23:00

Apple may be working on a visual voicemail service that will automatically create transcripts of your voice messages. How is this different from Google Voice, which has been available for Android users for years? According to a report from Business Insider, Apple’s service will put Siri in charge of the transcription. Apple employees are reportedly already testing this […]

Apple wants Siri to transcribe voicemails like Google Voice already has for years is a post from: Liliputing

The Right Way to Do A Hacker Conference

Hackaday - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 22:31

DEFCON is huge. Last year attendance tipped at about 16k, and we’d wager this year will be even bigger. [Brian] and I will both be among those attending (more on that below) but I wanted to take this time to show you the right way to do a Hacker Conference.

Build Your Own Badge

We met a ton of people at DEFCON 22 last year, but the Whiskey Pirates made a lasting impression. I first ran across two of their crew walking the hallways of the con with this awesome badge. How can you not stop and strike up a conversation about that? Turns out this group of friends have been meeting up here for years. This year they went all out, designing one badge to rule them all. And like any good hacker project, they weren’t able to finish it before getting to the hotel.

Set Up Your Electronics Lab

So, you didn’t stuff your boards before leaving home? For the Whiskey Pirates this is not even remotely a problem. They just brought the electronics lab to their suite in the Rio Hotel.

On the bathroom vanity you find the binocular microscope which was good for troubleshooting an LED swap on the official conference badge. An entire cart with hot-air, multiple solder stations, oscilloscopes, and more was on hand. I populated the surface mount LEDs on the badge the crew gave to me. When I was having trouble seeing my work they called the front desk for an additional lamp. You should have seen the look on the bellhop’s face when he walked in!

A bit of marathon assembly and everyone from the Whiskey Pirates (plus me) had a working badge, demonstrated in the video below. But this isn’t where the fun stops.

Build a Crew

A badge and lab equipment don’t necessarily make a party. The Whiskey Pirates have that covered too. The workstations can be pushed to the side as the party gets going. They open their room at 3pm every day (assuming one of them is on hand), but the party really gets started after hours. There are extra televisions, a coin-op cabinet, and even a phone booth. When I stopped by again at party time the place was crawling with people. Some had even brought their own projects and were showing them off. Once notable hack was a Raspberry Pi driven generative music machine. It used sensors every few feet along the hallway as inputs. Every time people walked by the music changed. The room doesn’t go unused either — at some point they kick everyone out and get some sleep but I was never up late enough to see that happen.

Party at Night, Brunch with Hackaday

We’re definitely going to stop and party with these guys again this year. The room number has not yet been published but check out the seizure-inducing website for updates.

[Brian] and I will also be hosting a Hackaday breakfast meetup. Join us Sunday at 10:00am for some joe and conversation. We haven’t pinpointed the location yet so keep an eye on our events page.

Filed under: cons

Moto G (2015): Root, Bootloader unlock, and custom recovery

Liliputing - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 22:19

Less than a week after the Motorola Moto G 2015 model went on sale, folks have already figured out how to root the phone and install a custom recovery. This opens the door for running apps that require superuser permissions, making complete backups of your device, and installing custom updates, firmware, or even replacement operating […]

Moto G (2015): Root, Bootloader unlock, and custom recovery is a post from: Liliputing

Hacking the Digital and Social System

Hackaday - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 21:01

When you live in a totalitarian, controlled and “happy” society, and you want to be a hacker, you have to hack the social system first. Being just an engineer doesn’t cut it, you have to be a hypocrite, dissident and a smuggler at the same time. That’s the motto of my personal story, which starts in Yugoslavia, and ends in Serbia. No, I didn’t move, I’m still in Belgrade, only the political borders have changed.

Half a century ago, when I was in elementary school, I discovered the magical world of HAM radio. I became a member of two amateur radio clubs, passed all exams and got my licence and callsign, which was YU1OPC. I was delighted, but after five years, the party was over. What happened? Well, one day the police paid a visit to all registered owners of CB Band equipment and simply took that equipment away. No one knows why they did it, but it was probably off the books, as we never got any written confirmation, and no one ever saw their equipment again.

I wondered why they didn’t take our HAM Radio units as well, which were as legal as any CB unit. I guess they didn’t know how to use it… for their own personal needs. Nothing will disuade me from calling it uniformed robbery.

Actually, I was not too sad about it. I lost only a Japanese 5W CB transceiver, but I was not interested in HAM radio anymore. Since the first commercial HAM radio equipment appeared on the market, the profile of users has changed dramatically – instead of people who could build HAM units with their own hands, now you had people who had enough money to buy them. Maybe I was overreacting, maybe there were still a lot of enthusiasts, but the magic of my own enthusiasm was destroyed and I moved to digital technology. I didn’t know that in just about two decades, the same thing would happen again with computers.

The “Pen and Paper” Development System

The migration from electronic tubes to transistors was fascinating. Such a small tube, with a cold cathode and a low anode voltage, so cheap and simple to use! I bought my first germanium transistors from my pocket money, and built… guess what? The flip-flop! I thought I invented it. How could I have known that it had already been invented fifty years ago?

Just a few years after Intel’s 4004, I was head over heels in love with microprocessors. I had ordered two Z80s from the USA, but soon discovered that one of them was inoperative – I most likely burned it somehow without realizing it. Still, I had the second one, so I could start building my first microprocessor project. What should I use it for?

It was an easy question. I was fascinated with Conway’s Game Of Life, and all the walls in my room were covered by papers with hand drawn cell groups, in hundreds of generations. There were two consequences of my wall art: the fact that my parents and half of my friends thought that I had gone crazy, and my first project – Game Of Life, with a 16×16 LED matrix. The LEDs were so expensive back then that I finalized the firmware with less than half of them, and filled the matrix gradually in the coming months.

I didn’t have a computer, so I assembled the firmware manually, by pen and paper, and then entered the code in my programmer, byte by byte, using rotary switches. However, the debugging process was relatively fast, as I had two 2708 EPROMs – in fact, I had four to start with, but burned (literally) two of them trying to debug my DIY EPROM programmer. So while one of them was in the UV eraser (built from an old sun-tanning lamp), I could debug the code and program another one.

However weird it may seem to assemble the code manually, I didn’t know there might be another way to do it. And when you don’t have a better idea, there is no reason to be unsatisfied with the current one. So, I went on and finished my Game Of Life. Unfortunately, I don’t have it any more, but I replicated it a few years later and it still runs in my workshop after almost 40 years – even the EPROM still keeps its content. Maybe I should describe it at the Hackaday.io projects page, as one of the old MPU DIY projects that still work?

No Computers, Please

The personal computers of that time were pretty expensive, but it was not the main problem. If you lived in Yugoslavia, you simply couldn’t buy them. It was not specifically forbidden, but you couldn’t import anything worth above 50 Deutschmarks. So I asked a friend of mine from the US to split my freshly ordered TRS-80 model 1 into two units and send them to me in separate packages, as inconspicuously as possible. Having to cut the ribbon cable that went between two PCBs (there was no connector) was frustrating but, after some hesitation, he grabbed a pair of scissors and went for it. A good while later, I received them tax-free, labeled as “technical junk”, then “repaired” it. My own computer revolution had started.

The basic model had 4KB of dynamic RAM, so when I saw the commercials for the 16KB expansion kit, I wondered who would ever need more than 4KB! Ironically, I soon found myself using not 16, but 48KB, arranged in three piggyback layers. The main PCB got numerous hardware upgrades: Shift hold, 2×clock, single step mode, speaker, and an additional EPROM with my own disassembler and editor/assembler.

Step by step, microcomputers were spreading everywhere, but the government still did not recognize the potential of the new technology. We asked for a new legal treatment of computers, but nothing had changed for an entire decade. Our main argument was that we need the technically skilled people and young software experts, and one politician gave us the famous, widely known answer: “I’ve heard that Americans will create self-programming computers, so we shall need no programmers.”

There was no other way but to continue smuggling, bribing and hiding the equipment deep under the laundry in a suitcase.

Computer Animation from 1979

While I was a student at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in late 1970s, I was enchanted by computer animation. I acted as quite a rookie in here, since I had to start from scratch. I simply had never even seen the equipment that was used for it. First I built the graphical interface, which contained 90 static RAMs 2114 (4×1Kbit), one Z80A and a lot of glue logic. The resolution was 400×300, with a 3-bit monochromatic pixel. I borrowed a 16 mm Bolex camera which could operate in a frame-by-frame mode, and built a solenoid trigger with corresponding computer interface. I also wrote the animation software in BASIC, which could draw geometric shapes in a wireframe mode. Everything was defined in 3D, including the camera, which could move, pan and zoom. All of that, including the amber monitor, was enclosed in a large wooden box, which looked a lot like a coffin, but it did the job of protecting the system from ambient light, and my ears from the noisy solenoids. The animation software was executed on my DIY TRS-80 clone with the 6MHz Z80B microprocessor, so one frame took a mere 10 minutes of rendering time, which translated to 24 hours for an average shot.

I had shown the result to my professor [Marko Babac], who was delighted. He asked me if it would ever be possible to animate human figures, but I said, with a lot of authority and self-confidence: “No way”! He suggested to me that I prepare a short TV broadcast with a few animated examples. I was up for it, but I couldn’t find anyone who was interested in my technological wonder. The only topic being covered by the media at the time was President Tito’s illness.

After 36 years, there are only two short shots left. I never managed to find someone who could digitize them, so I used a flat-bed scanner and improvized backlight to digitize this one.

Galaksija: DIY Microcomputer from 1983

It was not possible to buy a microcomputer legally and nobody was trying to produce it in Yugoslavia – similar problems were faced in all Eastern Bloc countries. Everything pointed to us being stuck in the Stone Age on the matter. We had no computer magazines or other way to educate people about technology, so the media coverage was limited to “a strange contraption called an electronic brain, which can even play chess”.

Regarding microcomputer projects of that time, the most expensive part was the video interface. I knew that the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum had ULA (uncommitted logic array) chips which generated video signals aided by software, but I couldn’t even dream of having that. So I had to hack the microprocessor to make the video controller unit as simple as possible, with the existing TTL chips.

The Z80 microprocessor has one transparent counter, called the R register, which is used for dynamic memory refreshing. It is simply incremented and output to the Address bus after every instruction execution. It could be used to generate the fastest portion of the video signal, and the slower portion of video hardware could be simply replaced by software. So I needed just one shift register driven by a pixel clock and the charracter generator, and I saved on the video address counters, selectors, tri-state buffers and blanking logic. That was a concept worth trying.

Just a few days later it worked perfectly, and I started building the operating system. Memory chips were expensive, so I decided to use only 4KB (expandable to 8K) of ROM, and 3×2K of static RAM. I stole the arithmetic routines from TRS-80 Level I Basic, and started creating my own line editor and a BASIC interpreter.

The resulting price/performance ratio was so good that I decided to publish it as a DIY project in a magazine. As the first issue of the first Yugoslav computer magazine was just about to get published, I met the author [Dejan Ristanovic], and made an agreement with him to let me write the DIY manual. [Jova Regasek], the editor of the issue, insisted that the microcomputer name be “Galaksija” (Galaxy). In August 1983, Galaksija was presented to the readers.

The magazine was named “Računari u vašoj kući” (Computers in Your Home), and the release was scheduled for the very end of December 1983. So I had five months to finalize the firmware, sometimes with Dejan’s help with the general concept. It’s amazing how much you can pack into 4 KB of EPROM space as long as you do your best to optimize the code! One of many ideas I’ve described in my project page is how to use more than 100% of program memory.

A few days before the deadline, I was at the editorial, talking to Jova and Dejan. Jova asked the intriguing question: How many readers will build the microcomputer? I said “maybe 50″, Dejan said “I think that there will be at least 200″, and Jova said “Dont be silly, there will be more than 500″. We laughed at him, as it seemed too much. But we’ve had more than 8000 letters from people who built it. The computer revolution had started in my country.

In the same year, my friend [Zoran Modli], a famous radio host, started broadcasting programs for all current microcomputers in his weekly show on the FM radio, and even on TV! There were no floppy nor hard disks at that time, so the only magnetic media were compact cassettes. Data coding was performed in audio range, which made it convenient for broadcasting. So we had the wireless network (or at least its predecessor) in 1983!

You might think only the pirated video games were broadcast, but actually the vast majority were original programs written by enthusiasts. Zoran even created a digital magazine, which was broadcast in digital form.

In the next few years, there was approximately one new microcomputer in Yugoslavia every year. Most of them were in limited production, and they were predominantly Apple II clones with Microsoft Basic.

War and No Peace

Starting in 1991, Yugoslavia was disintegrated in the bloody war. When I saw the military Jeep under my window, I knew that I had no choice but to take my toothbrush, razor, walkman and some garments and let those guys take me to the quarters outside of town. Tomorrow morning, my officer asked me about my current job. When I said that I deal with computers, he sent me to the headquarters, to check out an old Apple II: “It’s inoperative for more than a year, nobody could get it back to life”. I offered to try to fix it back at my workshop, and thus was given a ride back by the same Jeep.

Home again! It took me a few minutes to see that the only problem was in the video monitor. I disassembled it, replaced a burned diode, and everything worked fine. The next day the officer gave me back my ID and sent me home, saying the words which I remember to this day: “Take care of yourself, I need you alive. Who knows when this peace of shit might get broken again”.

Feeling like I woke up after deep sleeping, I joined several anti-war and anti-Milosevic campaigns, writing articles against terror.

In 1995, after a few tragic events in my family, I was left alone with my two-year-old son, no money, and three days during which we had to leave our flat. Then I did a very stupid thing: I threw away almost all of my projects, including the documentation and five prototypes of the Galaksija microcomputer.

Hope and Punishment

Living during war time was very stressful, so I sunk deep into my work to pull myself together. In 1998, I built a small hand-held instrument with a single-chip MCU design. Using a PIC16F84, it was a logic probe, single channel logic analyzer, 50 MHz frequency counter, RS 232 analyzer and a battery charging manager – all that in only 1K of code. I sent mail to Microchip and offered it as an Application Note. The answer was very encouraging: “We are very impressed with the level of integration that you have achieved with the PIC16F84…”. First they asked for one, then for three more samples, so that they can use them as a demonstration tool during their conferences.

They promised me not only to publish the Application Note, but also exposure in US and European magazines, together with an official consultant status. Asked about the compensation, I refused money and said I’d rather have their in-circuit emulator.

I prepared an article and soon the project appeared on Microchip’s site as AN689. At last, there was a hope that finally I shall rise, after all the pitfalls and disappointments. But only a few weeks later, I received the following message from Microchip:

“Evidently, the United States has some type of a trade embargo against Yugoslavia…” and so on. They were apologetic but were still certain that some kind of an arrangement could be made…

No magazine articles, no consultant status, no in-circuit emulator. Even the Application Note was removed from the site.

I was thinking that my luck couldn’t be any worse than this, but only a few months later Serbia was attacked by NATO and intensively bombed for 78 days. Without a single day off, 24 hours a day, we were listening to the war sirens, supersonic blasts, guided missiles and frequent detonations over the city.

Technology and the Legacy of Five Decades

In 2006, after several mails, I have finally received my In-Circuit Debuggers from Microchip and the Application Note was put back in place. I strongly believe they did everything they could, so I can’t really blame them. I stilll like the PIC platform and I’ve never stopped using it for my medium-scale projects.

For a long time, I was listening to “experts” telling me my Galaksija computer is X times slower than the modern PC and Y times slower than their smartphone. Lately though, it seems like we entered a sort of a renaissance of technological culture. People grow nostalgic and more appreciative of older stuff. Now there are numerous retro computer emulators for PC, including a Galaxy emulator, and also the single chip FPGA replica named μGalaksija, created bu [Dušan Grujić].

I was honored by the Muzej Nauke i Tehnike (Museum of Science and Technology) in Belgrade, when I was asked to donate a sample of the Galaksija computer. How can I donate it, if I don’t have it? Fortunately, I found one forgotten prototype in my cellar, cleaned it and now it is a part of the museum exhibition.

The last decade of the 20th century was a disaster for my country, but the worst damage was done to the people’s minds. Corruption spread, social values suffered the most. Not unlike in the Middle Ages, various clairvoyants, prophets, quacks and pseudoscientists flooded the media, and there was not a single voice from the side of reason.

So I thought I could try to hack the system again. I wrote and published two books and a lot of newspaper articles and light fiction, promoting a skeptical view on the paranormal phenomena. And it worked, at least partly. I was invited to many TV shows, and a certain number of intellectuals started to raise their voices against the modern superstition. Some deceivers and quacks were even jailed, I like to think, at least partly as a result of my efforts.

Unfortunately, the ’90s crisis left us with some serious consequences. A lot of young scientists and experts, which were the better part of the generation, left the country. One prominent politician said that there’s no harm done, as during the period we also received an equal number of refugees. Numerically speaking, we are the same.

Here is how I see the consequences of that brain drain. In 1960, Yugoslavia was one of six countries which had its own computer, CER-10. It was created by our engineers at the Mihailo Pupin Institute, which is just a few hundred meters from my home. Guess what those “scientists” are producing today? Magnetic slippers! Well, you may have pseudoscience in your media, but we’ve gone a step further – we have the pseudoscience in our science!

Still, one gets used to everything. At this point I would be surprised if things turned out any better. As for myself, all I need are four walls and peace, so I can do my work and create. I don’t need a lot of money, that’s why my projects are open. I never counted them, but I guess that I have between 50 and 100 open projects published in computer magazines.

Last year I met [Mitch Altman], who is known not only for TV-B-Gone, but also for teaching introductory electronics workshops around the world. When we were talking about the creative work in general, I told him my problem is that I fall in love with each of my projects, and he laughed and said “What a nice problem to have”! He was right, it’s the best possible problem, and that’s why my projects are open – when you’re in love, then you want to tell it to the whole world and to show the object of your love to everybody. Maybe you won’t get rich that way, but you will surely spend the life worth living.

[Illustration by Bob Zivkovic]

​​Voja Antonic works as a freelance microcontroller engineer in Belgrade. His first microprocessor projects, based on Z80, date back to 1977, just a few years after the appearance of the first Intel’s 4004. He assembled the firmware manually, by pen and paper. In 1983, he published his original DIY microcomputer project called Galaksija, which was built by around 8000 enthusiasts in the former Yugoslavia. To date he has published more than 50 projects, mostly based on microcontrollers, and released all of them in the public domain.

Filed under: computer hacks, Featured, slider

Sony Xperia C5 Ultra, Xperia M5 phone sport 13MP front cameras

Liliputing - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 20:38

As expected, Sony has officially launched two new smartphones, including one model with a 6 inch display and super-thin side bezels, and a smaller model with a mid-range price tag, but a few unusual features. One thing that both both the Sony Xperia C5 Ultra and Sony Xperia M5 have in common is their selfie-friendly, front-facing […]

Sony Xperia C5 Ultra, Xperia M5 phone sport 13MP front cameras is a post from: Liliputing

Virtual Physical Rehab with Kinect

Hackaday - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 18:01

Web sites have figured out that “gamifying” things increases participation. For example, you’ve probably boosted your postings on a forum just to get a senior contributor badge (that isn’t even really a badge, but a picture of one). Now [Yash Soni] has brought the same idea to physical therapy.

[Yash]’s father had to go through boring physical therapy to treat a slipped disk, and it prompted him into developing KinectoTherapy which aims to make therapy more like a video game. They claim it can be used to help many types of patients ranging from stroke victims to those with cerebral palsy.

Patients can see their onscreen avatar duplicate their motions and can provide audio and visual feedback when the player makes a move correctly or incorrectly. Statistical data is also available to the patient’s health care professionals.

This isn’t an original idea (see the videos below), but with an IEEE paper and apparently a lot of participation from medical professionals, it looked like a strong contender for future growth. The interesting trend, though, is the many unique uses we’ve seen for the Kinect device and the idea that gaming trends may become commercially important outside the gamer community.


Filed under: Kinect hacks

How to Rescue Your Quadcopter from a Tree

Hackaday - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 15:01

Whether it’s a new rocket, your latest quadcopter, or [Charlie Brown]’s kite, it always seems like there’s a tree waiting to catch and eat airborne projects. Sometimes you get lucky and find a way to climb up the tree to retrieve your wayward build, but most times you’re reduced to looking for rocks or sticks to fling up there in an attempt to shake it loose. But if you want to improve your chances of getting your stuff back, [U.S. Water Rockets] has a build for a retrieval tool made mostly from scrap bin parts that will help.

All you need is some PVC tubing, an old fishing reel and line, some latex surgical tubing, and a few dowels for projectiles. You can tell everything about the build from the BOM and stills, but the video after the break gives detailed instructions and shows it in action. Adding some fins to the dart or even substituting a cheap arrow from the sporting goods department of your favorite retailer might help with your aim. Even without fletching, the accuracy of the launcher is pretty good, and the range isn’t half bad either. Once the fishing line is over the branch that ate your quad it can be used to haul up successively stouter ropes, and pretty soon you’ll be shaking the tree like a boss.

Even if getting stuff out of trees isn’t on your immediate to-do list, this little hack could be put to other uses. Hams will use it to loft antennas up into trees, and tag-line placement for tree removal could be simplified with this tool. But if you still find yourself needing to retrieve stuff, you might want to be proactive and make your aerial robot tree-proof. That still won’t eliminate the need for drone-on-drone rooftop rescues.

Filed under: drone hacks, misc hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: The Internet of Plants

Hackaday - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 12:00

The theme of this year’s Hackaday Prize is ‘build something that matters.’ Acrobotic Industries is in beautiful Southern California, where it won’t rain an appreciable amount until the mudslides come. For a little bit of help during this unprecedented drought, they’ve created Clouden, a system of irrigation that only waters yards and parks when the plants need it. This is apparently a novel concept for Southern California, and is most certainly something that matters.

The Clouden system has two parts. The first is a node with an array of soil water sensors and a Particle WiFi module. This node connects to the controller which alters watering schedules in response to actual conditions and predicted rainfall from the WeatherUnderground API.

There’s more to just listening to sensors – the Clouden controller also has the hardware to control 24VAC water valves and a web interface for scheduling irrigation times. With this many sensors – and the ability to not water when there’s a ban in place – it’s a great watering system, and something Southern California desperately needs.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Saving an Alarm System Remote and $100

Hackaday - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 09:00

[Simon] has been using his home alarm system for over six years now. The system originally came with a small RF remote control, but after years of use and abuse it was finally falling apart. After searching for replacement parts online, he found that his alarm system is the “old” model and remotes are no longer available for purchase. The new system had similar RF remotes, but supposedly they were not compatible. He decided to dig in and fix his remote himself.

He cracked open the remote’s case and found an 8-pin chip labeled HCS300. This chip handles all of the remote’s functions, including reading the buttons, flashing the LED, and providing encoded output to the 433MHz transmitter. The HCS300 also uses KeeLoq technology to protect the data transmission with a rolling code. [Simon] did some research online and found the thew new alarm system’s remotes also use the same KeeLoq technology. On a hunch, he went ahead and ordered two of the newer model remotes.

He tried pairing them up with his receiver but of course it couldn’t be that simple. After opening up the new remote he found that it also used the HCS300 chip. That was a good sign. The manufacturer states that each remote is programmed with a secret 64-bit manufacturer’s code. This acts as the encryption key, so [Simon] would have to somehow crack the key on his original chip and re-program the new chip with the old key. Or he could take the simpler path and swap chips.

A hot air gun made short work of the de-soldering and soon enough the chips were in place. Unfortunately, the chips have different pinouts, so [Simon] had to cut a few traces and fix them with jumper wire. With the case back together and the buttons in place, he gave it a test. It worked. Who needs to upgrade their entire alarm system when you can just hack the remote?

Filed under: home hacks, repair hacks

Free PCB Sunday: Pick your PCB

dangerous prototype - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 06:30

We go through a lot of prototype PCBs, and end up with lots of extras that we’ll never use. Every Sunday we give away a few PCBs from one of our past or future projects, or a related prototype. Our PCBs are made through Seeed Studio’s Fusion board service. This week two random commenters will get a coupon code for the free PCB drawer tomorrow morning. Pick your own PCB. You get unlimited free PCBs now – finish one and we’ll send you another! Don’t forget there’s free PCBs three times every week:

Some stuff:

  • Yes, we’ll mail it anywhere in the world!
  • Be sure to use a real e-mail in the address field so we can contact you with the coupon.
  • Limit one PCB per address per month please.
  • Like everything else on this site, PCBs are offered without warranty.
  • PCBs are scrap and have no value, due to limited supply it is not possible to replace a board lost in the post

Be the first to comment, subscribe to the RSS feed.

Hackaday Links: August 2, 2015

Hackaday - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 06:00

Over the last few years, Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai has grown from a garage to a very well stocked workspace with 140 members. They’re getting kicked out at the end of the month and they need some help. We just had a meetup at the Delhi branch of Maker’s Asylum, and these guys and gals are really cool.

Speaking of crowdfunding campaigns for hackerspaces, South Central Pennsylvania might be getting its own hackerspace. The 717 area code is a vast wasteland when it comes to anything anyone reading Hackaday would consider interesting, despite there being plenty of people who know their way around CNC machines, soldering irons, and welders. This needs to happen.

Need some help with Bluetooth standards? Tektronix has you covered with a gigantic poster of the physical layer. If only there were a repository of these handy, convenient reference posters.

Forgings and castings make for great YouTube videos, and this aluminum bell casting is no exception. There’s about 18 pounds of aluminum in there, which is pretty large as far as home casting goes.

Electronic Goldmine has an assortment of grab bags – spend a few dollars get a bag of chips, LEDs, diodes, or what have you. What’s in these grab bags? [alpha_ninja] found out. There’s some neat stuff in there, except for the ‘SMD Mixture’ bag.

Remember the found case molds for the Commodore 64C that became a Kickstarter? It’s happening again with the Amiga 1200. This is a new mold with a few interesting features that support the amazing amount of upgrades that have come out for this machine over the years. Being new molds, the price per piece is a little high, but that’s your lesson in manufacturing costs for the day.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links

3D Printing with 2D Inkscape Projections

Hackaday - จันทร์, 08/03/2015 - 03:00

If you had a formal drafting class, you probably learned about making orthographic projections–engineering drawings with multiple views (for example, top, front, and right). Even if you didn’t take the class, you’ve probably seen drawings like this where you view a 3D object as a series of 2D views from different angles.

These days, you are more likely to create a 3D model of an object, especially if you are going to 3D print it. After all, the 3D printer software is going to expect a model. When [Nightshade] wanted a laptop stand for his workbench, he started trying to do a 3D model. His final product though, was made by creating two views in Inkscape. They aren’t exactly orthographic projections of the final product, but the idea is similar.

Inkscape is a vector graphics program and generally creates SVG files, although it can also save EPS files. [Nightshade] used pstoedit to convert the EPS output to DXF format. DXF files are still two dimensional, but OpenSCAD can extrude DXF files into 3D shapes.

Just having a 3D shape of one view isn’t sufficient, though. The OpenSCAD script rotates the objects to the correct orientation and intersects them to form the final object. This is different from the usual cases of using Inkscape to trace a scan or generate simple text.

Inkscape can export DXF directly, but it has a lot of limitations. There are plugins (like the Big Blue Saw plugin) that work better and would probably also work in this application if you don’t want to uses pstoedit.

This technique is far from general purpose (some objects require more than two views and the profiles aren’t really projections). Still, this is a useful technique to generate 3D objects simply if you can get your head around the two shapes involved.

We’ve seen Inkscape used with printers and cutters before to either generate 2D laser cut patterns  or define useful outlines. In this case, though, the shapes actually blend (through the intersection command) to form the final 3D object. Of course, you don’t have to use Inkscape. Any CAD program that puts out DXF (for example, FreeCAD or LibreCAD) ought to work with this technique.

Thanks [miceuz] for the tip!

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks
Syndicate content