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ถูกปรับปรุง 2 hours 21 min ก่อน

Pop Goes the Haunted Jack-in-the-Box

2 hours 46 minก่อน

Is Halloween sneaking up on you, too?  It’s less than two weeks away, but there is still plenty of time to build something that will scare the pants off trick-or-treaters and party guests alike. This year, Hackaday regular [Sean Hodgins] hacked his favorite holiday by taking something that ships with a base level of scariness and making it autonomous. What could be more frightening than a haunted toy?

The (decades-old) jack-in-the-box mechanism is simple. Turning the crank operates a mechanical music box that plays the traditional “Pop Goes the Weasel”. When the music box hits the high note, a jutting piece of plastic on the barrel of music box disturbs the other end of the latch, which frees the scary clown inside. [Sean] used a 100:1 DC motor to turn the crank from the inside, and a Pi camera to detect victims in the vicinity. Once the camera locks on to a face, the box cranks itself and eventually ejects the jester. Since most of the space inside is already taken up by the spring, [Sean] housed the electronics in a custom 3D-printed base with a hole cut out for the camera’s eye.

Many modifications are possible with a project like this. [Sean] is now in complete control of the latch operation, so he could make the clown pop appear instantly, or randomly, or sometimes not at all. Check out [Sean]’s entertaining build video after the break.

Want to make your own fright machine from scratch? We’ve got all the inspiration you need, from tabletop to trash can-sized monsters.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

Look what came out of my USB charger !

5 hours 46 minก่อน

Quick Charge, Qualcomm’s power delivery over USB technology, was introduced in 2013 and has evolved over several versions offering increasing levels of power transfer. The current version — QCv3.0 — offers 18 W power at voltage levels between 3.6 V to 20 V.  Moreover, connected devices can negotiate and request any voltage between these two limits in 200 mV steps. After some tinkering, [Vincent Deconinck] succeeded in turning a Quick Charge 3.0 charger into a variable voltage power supply.

His blog post is a great introduction and walk through of the Quick Charge ecosystem. [Vincent] was motivated after reading about [Septillion] and [Hugatry]’s work on coaxing a QCv2.0 charger into a variable voltage source which could output either 5 V, 9 V or 12 V. He built upon their work and added QCv3.0 features to create a new QC3Control library.

To come to grips with what happens under the hood, he first obtained several QC2 and QC3 chargers, hooked them up to an Arduino, and ran the QC2Control library to see how they respond. There were some unexpected results; every time a 5 V handshake request was exchanged during QC mode, the chargers reset, their outputs dropped to 0 V and then settled back to a fixed 5 V output. After that, a fresh handshake was needed to revert to QC mode. Digging deeper, he learned that the Quick Charge system relies on specific control voltages being detected on the D+ and D- terminals of the USB port to determine mode and output voltage. These control voltages are generated using resistor networks connected to the microcontroller GPIO pins. After building a fresh resistor network designed to more closely produce the recommended control voltages, and then optimizing it further to use just two micro-controller pins, he was able to get it to work as expected. Armed with all of this information, he then proceeded to design the QC3Control library, available for download on GitHub.

Thanks to his new library and a dual output QC3 charger, he was able to generate the Jolly Wrencher on his Rigol, by getting the Arduino to quickly make voltage change requests.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, hardware

One Chip, Sixteen Times The RAM

8 hours 46 minก่อน

Have you ever upgraded your computer’s memory sixteen-fold, with a single chip? Tynemouth Software did for a classic Sinclair micro.

For owners of home computers in the early 1980s, one of the most important selling points was how much RAM their device would have. Sometimes though there just wasn’t much choice but to live with what you could afford, so buyers of Sinclair’s budget ZX81 computer had to put up with only 1 kiB of memory. The system bytes took up (by this writer’s memory) around 300 bytes, so user programs were left with only around 700 bytes for their BASIC code. They were aided by Sinclair’s BASIC keywords stored as single bytes, but still that was a limit that imposed coding economy over verbosity.

Sinclair sold a 16 kiB upgrade, the so-called “Rampack”, which located on the ’81’s edge connector and was notorious for being susceptible to the slightest vibration. Meanwhile the mainboard had provision for a 2 kiB chip as a drop-in that was never sold in the UK, and enterprising users could fit larger capacities with soldered combinations of other chips piggybacking the original. And this is what the Tynemouth people have done, they’ve replaced their machine’s dual 1 kiB x 4 chips with a single 62256, and with a bit of pin-bending they’ve managed to do it without the track-cutting that normally accompanies this mod.

Adding chips to a 36-year-old home computer for which there are plenty of available Rampacks might seem a bit of a niche, but in doing so they’ve made a standalone ’81 that’s just a little bit more useable. They’ve also brought a few other components up-to-date, with a composite video mod, switching regulator, and heatsink for the rare ULA chip. If you are of a Certain Generation, it might just bring a tear to your eye to see a ZX81 being given some love.

Did you lose your ZX81 along the way? How about emulating one in mbed?

Filed under: classic hacks

Low-Budget Hydroformer Puts the Squeeze on Sheet Metal Parts

11 hours 46 minก่อน

Between manufacturing technologies like 3D-printing, CNC routers, lost-whatever metal casting, and laser and plasma cutters, professional quality parts are making their way into even the most modest of DIY projects. But stamping has largely eluded the home-gamer, what with the need for an enormous hydraulic press and massive machined dies. There’s more than one way to stamp parts, though, and the budget-conscious shop might want to check out this low-end hydroforming method for turning sheet metal into quality parts.

If hydroforming sounds familiar, it might be because we covered [Colin Furze]’s attempt, which used a cheap pressure washer to inflate sheet metal bubbles with high-pressure water. The video below shows a hydroformer that [Rainbow Aviation] uses (with considerably less screaming) to make stamped aluminum parts for home-brew aircraft. The kicker with this build is that there is no fluid — at least not until the 40,000-pound hydraulic press semi-liquifies the thick neoprene rubber pad placed over the sheet metal blank and die. The pressure squeezes the metal into and around the die, forming some pretty complex shapes in a single operation. We especially like the pro-tip of using Corian solid-surface countertop material offcuts to make the dies, since they’re available for a pittance from cabinet fabricators.

It’s always a treat to see hacks from the home-brew aviation world. They always seem to have plenty of tricks and tips to share, like this pressure-formed light cowling we saw a while back.

Thanks for the tip, [Noah Orr].

Filed under: misc hacks, tool hacks

3D Printed Gear Serves Seven Months Hard Labor

14 hours 46 minก่อน

Even the staunchest 3D printing supporter would have to concede that in general, the greatest strength of 3D printing is not in the production of final parts, but in prototyping. Sure you can make functional prints, as the pages of this site will attest; but few would argue that you wouldn’t be better off getting your design cut out of metal or injection molded if you planned on putting the part into service over the long term. Especially if the part was to be subjected to rough service in an industrial setting.

While that’s valid advice, it certainly isn’t the definitive word on the issue. Just because a part is printed in plastic on a desktop 3D printer doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be put into real service, at least for as long as it takes to get proper replacement parts. A recent success story from [bloomautomatic] serves as a perfect example, when one of the gears in his MIG welder split, he decided to try and print up a replacement in PLA while he waited for the nylon gear to get shipped out to him. Fast forward seven months and approximately 80,000 welds later, and [bloomautomatic] reports it’s finally time to install those replacement gears he ordered.

In the pictures [bloomautomatic] posted you can see the printed gear finally wore down to the point the teeth were essentially gone where they meshed with their metal counterparts. To those wondering why the gear was plastic to begin with, [bloomautomatic] explains that it’s intended to be a sacrificial gear that will give way instead of destroying the entire gearbox in the event of a jam. According to the original post he made when he installed the replacement gear, the part was printed in Folgertech PLA on a Monoprice Select Mini. There’s no mention of infill percentage, but with such a small part most slicers would likely have made it essentially solid to begin with.

While surviving seven tortuous months inside of the welder is no small feat, we wonder if hardier PLA formulationstreatment of the part post-printing, or even casting it in a different material couldn’t have turned this temporary part into a permanent replacement.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, hardware, repair hacks

Everything Worth Knowing about Lockwire

17 hours 46 minก่อน

We were tipped off to an older video by [AgentJayZ] which demonstrates the proper use of lockwire also known as ‘safety wire.’ In high vibration operations like jet engines, street racers, machine guns, and that rickety old wheelchair you want to turn into a drift trike, a loose bolt can spell disaster. Nylon fails under heat and mechanical lock washers rely on friction which has its limits. Safety wire holds up under heat and resists loosening as long as the wire is intact.

Many of our readers will already be familiar with lockwire since it is hardly a cutting-edge technology — unless you are talking about the cut ends of lockwire which [AgentJayZ] warns will slice up your fingers if you aren’t mindful. Some of us Jacks-or-Jills-of-all-trades, with knowledge an inch deep and a mile wide, may not realize all there is to lockwire. In the first eight minutes, we’ll bet that you’ve gotten at least two inches deep into this subject.

[Editor’s Note: an inch is exactly 25.4 mm, if the previous metaphors get lost in translation. A mile is something like 2,933.333 Assyrian cubits. Way bigger than an inch, anyway.]

Now, those pesky loose bolts which cost us time and sighs have a clear solution. For the old-hands, you can brush up on lockwire by watching the rest of video after the break.

Thank you [Keith Olson] for the tip, and we’ll be keeping an eye on [AgentJayZ] who, to date, has published over 450 videos about jet engines.

If safety isn’t your highest priority, consider this jet engine on a bicycle or marvel at the intricacies of a printable jet engine.

Filed under: car hacks, Engine Hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: Two Leg Robot

19 hours 16 minก่อน

If you’re working on your own bipedal robot, you don’t have to start from the ground up anymore. [Ted Huntington]’s Two Leg Robot project aims to be an Open Source platform that’ll give any future humanoid-robot builders a leg up.

While we’ve seen quite a few small two-legged walkers, making a pair of legs for something human-sized is a totally different endeavor. [Ted]’s legs are chock-full of sensors, and there’s a lot of software that processes all of the data. That’s full kinematics and sensor info going back and forth from 3D model to hardware. Very cool. And to top it all off, “Two Leg” uses affordable motors and gearing. This is a full-sized bipedal robot platform that you might someday be to afford!

Will walking robots really change the world? Maybe. Will easily available designs for an affordable bipedal platform give hackers of the future a good base to stand on? We hope so! And that’s why this is a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

The HackadayPrize2017 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: robots hacks, The Hackaday Prize

Cable Bots, Arise! Domination of the Universe is at Hand

20 hours 45 minก่อน

Most CNC robots people see involve belts and rails, gantries, lead screws, linear bearings, and so forth. Those components need a rigid chassis to support them and to keep them from wobbling during fabrication and adding imperfections to the design. As a result, the scale is necessarily small — hobbyist bots max out at cabinet-sized, for the most part. Their rigid axes are often laid out at Cartesian right angles.

One of the exceptions to this common configuration is the delta robot. Deltas might be the flashiest of CNC robots, moving the end effector on three arms that move to position it anywhere in the build envelope. A lot of these robots are super fast and precise when charged with carrying a light load, and they get put to work as pick-and-place machines and that sort of thing. It doesn’t hurt that delta bots are also parallel manipulators, which means that the motors work together to move the end effector, with one motor pulling while the matching motor pulls.

But while Cartesian CNC bots are sturdy workhorses, and deltas are fly-weight racehorces, neither can really cut it when you want to go gigantic. In terms of simplicity and scale, nothing beats cable bots.

Cable Bots

Cable bots use wires or strings pulled by reel-mounted motors, with dimensions limited only by the room to mount the motors and the tensile strength of the cables used. When the strings are tensioned you can get a surprising degree of accuracy. Why not? Are they not computer-controlled motors? As long as your kinematic chain accounts for the end effector’s movement in one direction by unwinding another cable (for instance) you can very accurately control the end effector over a very wide scale.

The following are some fun cable bots that have caught my eye.


Forget merely room sized — Skycam is the brand-leader of stadium sized cable bots. If you’ve watched any NFL you’ve seen the camera robots that zip overhead, following the action from close up thanks to a gimbal-mounted camera.

Each reel is controlled by its own computer, with a two-operator control rig centering around a Linux box. The 600-lb cables are kevlar-jacketed optical fiber and copper, and addition to moving the camera module (the “spar”) the wires transmit power and data. The 3.4 kW motors are equipped with encoders that ensure 1/100th of an inch in resolution.

If anything would tell you that cable bots scale up insanely it should be Skycam. What’s next? City-sized cable bots? World-sized CNC?

Trammel Hudson’s Polargraph

Way at the other end of the spectrum are two-stepper drawbots sometimes known as polargraphs or hanging v-plotters. They consist of a pair of stepper motors with reels controlling strings hanging down, with a module at the bottom equipped with a pen. Gravity provides tension, allowing the polargraph to make surprisingly precise lines.

Despite Trammel’s great results, it’s actually quite a simple rig; the project uses a TinyG CNC controller with two random steppers found at NYC Resistor. A polargraph’s toolhead can be made with nothing more complicated than a sharpie with a servo attached to it with a binder clip — the servo’s horn simply pushes back against the work surface and lifts the pen off of it. However, he went even simpler and his toolhead is simply a 3D-printed sleeve for a dry erase marker — no lift mechanism, so the drawings always include stray lines where the pen was moved. Check out Trammell’s web site to follow along with the Polargraph project, as well as assets on Flickr and GitHub.

The drawings in this post were created by Hackaday regular [Trammell Hudson]. His simplified polargraph uses a 3D-printed pen holder that has no lifting mechanism — the G-code just calls for the pen to draw from one point to the next even if that results in stray lines. [Trammell] has explored using his drawbot to make mathematically modeled patterns, like the space-filling Gosper and Hilbert curves, a visualization of a Lorenz attractor, and even mapping sine waves. My favorite is the wall-sized map of Paris.

Despite [Trammel]’s great results, it’s quite simple; the project uses a TinyG CNC controller with two random steppers found at NYC Resistor. In fact, a polargraph can be quite simple. Its toolhead can be made with nothing more complicated than a Sharpie with a servo attached to it with a binder clip — the servo’s horn simply pushes back against the work surface and lifts the pen off of it. Check out [Trammell]’s web site to follow along with the Polargraph project, as well as assets on Flickr and GitHub.

Scanlime’s Tuco Flyer

[Micah Elizabeth Scott]’s cat, [Tuco], apparently needs his own robot to keep a camera focused on his feline glory. It’s a winch bot called the Tuco Flyer.

[Micah]’s YouTube videos focus on her expertise in mechanical and electrical engineering, plus a lot of kitty shots, so a 3D-printed, cable-bot flying camera rig is just the ticket.

The project includes a lot of great details, like her refurbished camera gimbal and the from-scratch winches, one of which can be seen to the right. In many cases she stores the electronics inside the infrastructure, making for a very elegant build.

It doesn’t appear that the project is at the “moving stuff in the air stage” so follow the project on Hackaday.io to keep up with the latest developments.

Gravity-Defying Parallel Robots

A few days back we mentioned another work in progress, the Arcus3D, a 3D printer that uses tensioned cables to move the toolhead around, much the way the polargraph works but in three dimensions. Based off the Flying SkyDelta reprap model, [Daren]’s printer uses stepper-driven cables to move the toolhead around.

The toolhead keeps low and level thanks to a “Super Gravity Pole”, a yard-long steel pole that anchors it; otherwise it would want to fly around uselessly. This highlights the fact that gravity as a tensioning element is part of what makes cable bots as simple as they are — otherwise you’d need more cables pulling down on the end effector.

But what happens if you do just that? I haven’t seen many hobbyist-level projects involving 6-motor cable bots but there are a few commercial products they are quite simple, incredibly fast, and scarily precise. I want to close out this piece by sharing an insane cable bot project, the CableEndy. It was [Andrej Rajnoha]’s master’s thesis at Brno Institute of Technology, and it packs some pretty insane specs — just to name a couple, it accelerates the toolhead at 10 G, and with 1 mm precision.

[SkyCam photo by Despeaux, CC BY-SA 3.0. Trammel Hudson’s photos used with permission.]

Friends, share your favorite cable bot pr0n and projects in comments.


Filed under: cnc hacks, Hackaday Columns

Supercon Badge Hacking Quick-Start

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 22:31

The hardware badge Mike Harrison designed for this year’s Hackaday Superconference is begging to be hacked. Today, I wanted to help get you up and running quickly.

The Hacker Village atmosphere of Supercon is starting up a day early this year. On Friday, November 10th badge pick-up starts at noon and badge hacking continues throughout the afternoon, followed by a party at Supplyframe HQ that evening. Plan to get to town on Friday and join in the fun. Of course, you need to grab a Supercon ticket if you haven’t already.

Check out the 2017 Superconference Badge project page for full documentation that Mike has put together during his development process.

Hardware Hacking This is the first prototype, the finished badge will have solder mask

What to Note: prototyping area, 2×6 expansion header, ISP Header, TTL232 Header

Verbose Hardware Hacking Details: Project log

Those who want to spin a board, look to the expansion header. It breaks out the I2C lines, plus serial lines for RX1/TX1, and four additional GPIO lines. This header is through-hole 2×6 with 0.1″ space. These badge headers are unpopulated but can be soldered in the badge hacking area at the Superconference.

If you’re hardcore you can use the prototyping area on the board to solder your components. Just above this header you’ll find a row of pads providing I2C and power.

The badge will have two populated headers that may be of interest whether you’re hacking hardware or software. Next to the battery holder, you can see 0.1″ SIL pins with the ISP Header (program using a PICkit instead of copy to SD card and using the bootloader) at the top and a TTL232 header below which is helpful for monitoring debugging info.

Mike has included some helper functions in the firmware to control the pins on the breakout header. Check out the hardware hacking section linked above for more on that.

Software Hacking Screenshot of apptemplate.c

What to Note: You need to install the free MPLAB-X IDE and the XC32 compiler on your computer. Compiled HEX code can be copied to the badge micro SD card and flashed with the bootloader, or using a programmer (ie: PICkit3).

Verbose Software Hacking Details: Project log

Mike has written a fantastic software framework that makes getting started with the badge quite easy. His code tends all of the hardware and provides an apptemplate.c file that can be used as the start of each of your hacks. He even has a simple way for you to add each of your hacks to the badge menu for easy display.

The app template includes a state machine which will run some setup code (s_ start) when your program is launched, then a different block of code runs in a loop (s_run). There is a tick flag set every 20 ms which makes for easy timing.

User inputs include 6 buttons, an accelerometer, and the camera and outputs include a 128×128 color OLED screen and one white LED (the camera “flash”) plus the data buses described in the hardware section above. The processor is very fast and there is a lot of flash and RAM available.

Get Started and Consider Teaming Up!

A great idea is always the hardest part of any hack. Start throwing around some ideas on the Superconference Chat.

Filed under: cons, hardware

Artificial Intelligence at the Top of a Professional Sport

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 21:01

The lights dim and the music swells as an elite competitor in a silk robe passes through a cheering crowd to take the ring. It’s a blueprint familiar to boxing, only this pugilist won’t be throwing punches.

OpenAI created an AI bot that has beaten the best players in the world at this year’s International championship. The International is an esports competition held annually for Dota 2, one of the most competitive multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games.

Each match of the International consists of two 5-player teams competing against each other for 35-45 minutes. In layman’s terms, it is an online version of capture the flag. While the premise may sound simple, it is actually one of the most complicated and detailed competitive games out there. The top teams are required to practice together daily, but this level of play is nothing new to them. To reach a professional level, individual players would practice obscenely late, go to sleep, and then repeat the process. For years. So how long did the AI bot have to prepare for this competition compared to these seasoned pros? A couple of months.

So, What Were the Results?

Normally, a professional Dota 2 game is played on a stage with 5v5 teams. This was the bot’s first competition, and the AI only had a couple of months to learn how to play Dota 2 completely from the ground up. It seemed more fair to start off simple with 1v1 matches. Those first matches were against [Dendi], one of the top players in the world, who lost to the bot shown below in the first match within about ten minutes, resigned in the second match, and then declined to play the third.

The OpenAI team didn’t use imitation learning to train the bot. Instead, it was put up against an exact copy of itself starting with the very first match it played. This continued, nonstop, for months. The bot was constantly improving against itself, and in turn it would have to try that much harder to win. This vigorous training clearly paid off.

While the 1v1 results are stellar, the bot has not had enough time to learn how to work in a cohesive manner with 4 other copies of itself to make a true Dota 2 team. After the roaring success of the International, the next step for OpenAI is to form an ultimate 5 bot team. We think it will be possible to beat the top players next year and we’re eager to see how long that takes.

What Does OpenAI Like to do When it is Not Busy Crushing Video Game Competition?

OpenAI has worked on a number of projects before the Dota 2 effort. They explored the effect of parameter noise to learning algorithms which has proven to be advantageous across the board. During exploratory behavior used in reinforcement learning, parameter noise is used to increase the efficiency of the rate at which agents learn.

The left diagram represents action space noise, traditionally used to change the likelihood of each action step by step. The right diagram represents the newly implemented parameter space noise:

“Parameter space noise injects randomness directly into the parameters of the agent, altering the types of decisions it makes such that they always fully depend on what the agent currently senses.”

By adding this noise right into the parameters, it has shown that it teaches agents tasks far faster than before. It’s part of a wider effort focusing on new ways to optimize learning algorithms to make the training process not only faster, but also more effective.

They are not done with Dota 2 either. When they come back with their five bot team next year, it will undoubtedly require a level of teamwork never before seen in artificial intelligence. Think of the possibilities. Will this take the shape of a collective hive mind? Will team dynamics among AI look anything like those of their human counterparts? This really is the stuff of science fiction being developed and tested right before our eyes.

Now, Why Might a Billion Dollar AI Startup Be Meddling in a Video Game Competition?

OpenAI is an open source company dedicated to creating safe artificial intelligence and working from a $1 Billion endowment established in 2015. On their website, they state that the Dota 2 experiment was, “a step towards building AI systems which accomplish well-defined goals in messy, complicated situations involving real humans.” The International was proof of concept that they could in fact implement AI that handled random situations successfully — even better than humans.  It leaves us wondering if the next field AI dominates in won’t be something quite as trivial as a video game competition. It is notable that OpenAI’s chairman, Elon Musk, gave a warning statement directly after the victory:

“If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

This is not the first time that Musk has conveyed hesitations towards the upcoming dangers of our superior Dota 2 players. In fact, he has a history as a leading doomsayer:

“With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. You know all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he’s like, yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.”

It is clear why someone so worried about the future of AI has devoted his time and resources to a company dedicated to ensuring its safety for humanity with this advancing technology. But it almost seems paradoxical. Teaching an AI to compete better than humans appears to be marching that dreaded outcome one step closer. But at the same time, you can’t temper the advancement of technology by refusing to take part in it. The company’s approach is to make sure everyone can study and use the advancements they are making (the “Open” in OpenAI) and thereby prevent an imbalance of power presented if the best AIs of the future were to be privately controlled by a small number of companies, individuals, and state actors.

Earlier this year, Hackaday’s own Cameron Coward wrote up an in-depth article about the potential future of artificial intelligence. He delves into one of the hotly debated topics with this subject: the ethics of strong AI. Will they be malevolent? What rights should they have? These questions will be answered in the upcoming years — whether we want them to be or not. It is our job to make sure that the answers to these questions in the near future are not answered for us. OpenAI is debugging AI before it debugs us.

Filed under: Current Events, Featured, Interest, news, Original Art, Software Development

DIY Nintendo Switch May Be Better Than Real Thing

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 18:00

Nintendo’s latest Zelda-playing device, the Switch, is having no problems essentially printing money for the Japanese gaming juggernaut. Its novel design that bridges the gap between portable and home console by essentially being both at the same time has clearly struck a chord with the modern gamer, and even 8 months after its release, stores are still reporting issues getting enough of the machines to meet demand.

But for our money, we’d rather have the Raspberry Pi powered version that [Tim Lindquist] slaved over for his summer project. Every part of the finished device (which he refers to as the “NinTIMdo RP”) looks professional, from the incredible job he did designing and printing the case down to the small details like the 5 LED display on the top edge that displays volume and battery level. For those of you wondering, his version even allows you to connect it to a TV; mimicking the handheld to console conversion of the real thing.

[Tim] has posted a fascinating time-lapse video of building the NinTIMdo RP on YouTube that covers every step of the process. It starts with a look at the 3D model he created in Autodesk Inventor, and then goes right into the post-printing prep work where he cleans up the printed holes with a Dremel and installs brass threaded inserts for strength. The bulk of the video shows the insane amount of hardware he managed to pack inside the case, a true testament to how much thought was put into the design.

For the software side, the Raspberry Pi is running the ever popular RetroPie along with the very slick EmulationStation front-end. There’s also a Teensy microcontroller on board that handles the low-level functions such as controlling volume, updating the LED display, and mapping the physical buttons to a USB HID device the Raspberry Pi can understand.

The Teensy source code as well as the 3D models of the case have been put up on GitHub, but for a project like this that’s just the tip of the iceberg. [Tim] does mention that he’s currently working on creating a full build tutorial though; so if Santa doesn’t leave a Switch under the tree for you this year, maybe he can at least give you a roll of filament and enough electronics to build your own.

While this isn’t the first time a Raspberry Pi has dressed up as a Nintendo console, it may represent the first time somebody has tried to replicate a current-generation gaming device with one.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, handhelds hacks, nintendo hacks

Amiga Gets a PS/2 Keyboard Port

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 15:00

Name any retrocomputer — Apple II, Sinclair, even TRS-80s — and you’ll find a community that’s deeply committed to keeping it alive and kicking. It’s hard to say which platform has the most rabid fans, but we’d guess Commodore is right up there, and the Amiga aficionados seem particularly devoted. Which is where this Amiga PS/2 mouse port comes from.

The Amiga was a machine that was so far ahead of its time that people just didn’t get it. It was a true multimedia machine before multimedia was even a thing, capable of sound and graphics that hold up pretty well to this day. From the looks of [jtsiomb]’s workstation, he’s still putting his Amiga to good use, albeit with an inconvenient amount of cable-swapping each time he needs to use it. The remedy this, [jtsiomb] put together an emulator that translates scancodes from an external PS/2 keyboard into Amiga keyboard signals. Embedded inside the Amiga case where it can intercept the internal keyboard connector, the emulator is an ATmega168 that does a brute-force translation by way of lookup tables. A switch on the back allows him to choose the internal keyboard or his PS/2 keyboard via a KVM switch.

Are Amigas really still relevant? As of two years ago, one was still running an HVAC system for a school. We’re not sure that’s a testament to the machine or more a case of bureaucratic inertia, but it’s pretty impressive either way.

[via r/electronics]

Filed under: classic hacks

The Nixie Tube Killer That Never Was

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 12:00

With the wealth of Nixie projects out there, there are points at which Hackaday is at risk of becoming Nixieaday. Nixie clocks, Nixie calculators, Nixie weather stations, and Nixie power meters have all graced our pages. And with good reason – Nixie tubes have a great retro look, and the skills needed to build a driver are a cut above calculating the right value for a series resistor for an LED display.

But not everyone loved Nixies back in the day, and some manufacturers did their best to unseat the venerable cold cathode tubes. [Fran Blanche] came across one of these contenders, a tiny cathode ray tube called the Nimo, and after a long hiatus in storage, she decided to put the tube to the test. After detailing some of the history of the Nimo and its somewhat puzzling marketing — its manufacturer, IEE, was already making displays to compete with Nixies, and seven-segment LEDs were on the rise at the time — [Fran] goes into the dangerous details of driving the display. With multiple supply voltages required, including a whopping 1,700 V DC for the anode, the Nimo was anything but trivial to integrate into products, which probably goes a long way to explaining why it never really caught on.

If you happen to have one of these little bits of solid unobtanium, [Fran]’s video below will go a long way to bringing back its ghostly green glow. You might say that [Fran] has a thing for oddball technologies of the late 60s — after all, she’s recreating the Apollo DSKY electroluminescent display, and she recently helped a model Sputnik regain its voice.

Filed under: classic hacks

FoTW: LED Strips Make Awful Servo Drivers

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 09:00

We must all have at some time or another spotted a hack that seems like an incredible idea and which just has to be tried, but turns out to have been stretching the bounds of what is possible just a little too far. A chunk of our time has disappeared without trace, and we sheepishly end up buying the proper part for the job in hand.

[Orionrobots] had a conversation with a YouTube follower about LED strips. An LED strip contains a length of ready-made PWM drivers, they mused. Wouldn’t it be great then, if each of the drivers on a strip could be connected to a servo, making the strip a ready-made single-stop SPI servo driver. With a large multi-servo robot to build, he set to work on a strip of WS2801s.

If you are in the Soldering Zone and have elite skills at the iron, then soldering a wire to a surface mount driver chip is something entirely possible. For mere mortals though it’s a bit of a challenge, and he notes just how much extra time it’s added to the project. The fun starts though when the servo is hooked up, the best that can be said is that it vibrates a bit. On paper, the LED drivers should be able to drive a servo, because they can create the correct waveform. But in practice the servo is designed to accept a logic level input while the driver is designed to sit in series with an LED and control its current. In practice therefore the voltages required for a logic transition can’t quite be achieved.

He concludes by recommending that viewers splash out on a servo driver board rather than trying an LED strip. We applaud him for the effort, after all it’s a hack any of us might have thought of trying for ourselves.

Filed under: Fail of the Week, led hacks

Scratch Built Watch Case is a Work Of Art

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 06:00

The wristwatch was once an absolute necessity, as much fashion statement as it was a practical piece of equipment. Phones in our pockets (and more often than not, in our faces) replaced the necessity of the wristwatch for the majority of people, and the fashion half of the equation really only interests a relatively small  subset of the population. The end result is that, aside from the recent emergence of smartwatches and fitness trackers, walking down the street it’s fairly unlikely you’ll see many people wearing a traditional watch.

But we think the scratch built wristwatch case recently shown off by [Colin Merkel] adds a new justification for wearing a watch: pride. From a chunk of steel rod stock, [Colin] walks through every step of the process to creating a professional looking watch case. This is actually his second attempt at the project; while his first one certainly didn’t look bad, he felt that he learned enough from his earlier mistakes that it was worth starting over from scratch. A man after our own heart, to be sure.

As you might imagine, construction of the watch is largely done on a lathe. [Colin] turns down the steel stock to create the case and case back, and eventually moves on to using a mill and grinder to cut out the strap arms.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the build is the watch face itself. [Colin] uses a CNC to cut the marks into the dial, and after several iterations settled on a very classic looking layout. He then blues the dial by placing it in a bed of aluminum chips and heating it with a torch, creating a thin layer of iron oxide on the surface. This blued surface not only looks beautiful, but will protect the surface against corrosion. Finally, the marks themselves are brightened up by an application of white nail polish.

The watch purists (don’t worry, they are out there) will no doubt cry foul to see that [Colin] used an off-the-shelf Epson Y121E watch movement instead of trying to build his own. This if of course a bit like the classic Arduino argument; when there is already a perfected platform for you to build off of, why reinvent (literally) the wheel?

But if you insist, we’ve also covered somebody who took up the challenge of building his own movement. We also have no shortage of digital watch hacks, many of which even forgo those pesky little numbers.

Filed under: clock hacks, cnc hacks, wearable hacks

Quick Hack Helps ALS Patient Communicate

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 03:00

A diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is devastating. Outlier cases like [Stephen Hawking] notwithstanding, most ALS patients die within four years or so of their diagnosis, after having endured the progressive loss of muscle control that robs them of their ability to walk, to swallow, and even to speak.

Rather than see a friend’s father locked in by his ALS, [Ricardo Andere de Mello] decided to help out by building a one-finger interface to a [Hawking]-esque voice synthesizer on the cheap. Working mainly with what hardware he had on hand, his system lets his friend’s dad flick a finger to operate off-the-shelf assistive communication software running on a laptop. The sensor is an accelerometer velcroed to a fingertip; when a movement threshold is passed, an Arduino sends the laptop an F12 keypress, which is all that’s needed to operate the software. You can watch it in action in the video after the break.

Hats off to [Ricardo] for pitching in and making a difference without breaking the bank. This isn’t the first expedient speech synthesizer we’ve seen for ALS patients — this one does it just three chips, including voice synthesis.

Filed under: Medical hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: Pyrotechnics Sequencer with Wireless Control

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 01:30

[visualkev]’s friend was putting on his own fireworks show by lighting each one in turn, then running away. It occurred to [visualkev] that his friend wasn’t really enjoying the show himself because he was ducking for cover instead of watching the fun. Plus, it was kind of dangerous. Accordingly, he applied his hacker skills to the challenge by creating a custom fireworks sequencer.

He used a custom PCB from OSH Park with an ATMega328P controlling eight TPIC6C595 8-bit shift registers, which in turn trip the 64 relays connecting to the fireworks. A 5V regulator supplies the project from 5 5AA batteries, and he kept the wires neat with 8-wire ribbon cables.

Starting the sequence is a generic wireless remote — a cheapie from Walmart — allowing [visualkev]’s friend can launch the fireworks with one hand while working the barbecue tongs with the other.

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Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Books You Should Read: The Cuckoo’s Egg

ศุกร์, 10/20/2017 - 00:01

The mid-1980s were a time of drastic change. In the United States, the Reagan era was winding down, the Cold War was heating up, and the IBM PC was the newest of newnesses. The comparatively few wires stitching together the larger university research centers around the world pulsed with a new heartbeat — the Internet Protocol (IP) — and while the World Wide Web was still a decade or so away, The Internet was a real place for a growing number of computer-savvy explorers and adventurers, ready to set sail on the virtual sea to explore and exploit this new frontier.

In 1986, having recently lost his research grant, astronomer Clifford Stoll was made a computer system admin with the wave of a hand by the management of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s physics department. Commanded to go forth and administer, Stoll dove into what appeared to be a simple task for his first day on the job: investigating a 75-cent error in the computer account time charges. Little did he know that this six-bit overcharge would take over his life for the next six months and have this self-proclaimed Berkeley hippie rubbing shoulders with the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and the German Bundeskriminalamt, all in pursuit of the source: a nest of black-hat hackers and a tangled web of international espionage.

Published in 1989, shortly after the events it describes happened, The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage is a strange beast for a book ostensibly about technology. It reads very much like a novel, with tons of dialog drawn from the copious notes Stoll took during his investigation. He admits that some of the conversations are not recorded verbatim, which is understandable for anyone who has heard Stoll speak; keeping accurate track of that much manic energy would be difficult, to say the least. But his eye for detail is impressive, such as when rattling off the port and line assignments whipping back and forth on a conference call attempting to trace the nationwide web of phone calls and network connections his hacker used to break into LBL’s computers.

Although a more formal paper was written (PDF link), The Cuckoo’s Egg is more engaging because reads like a story, not a dry technical recounting of what happened. I picked the book up when it was first published, probably as a way to shirk my undergrad studies and escape into a different and far more interesting world than molecular biology. As I read Stoll’s book, I felt an instant kinship with him — we were both misfit scientists, each trying to find a way to meld our interests in computer science with the fields we had chosen. Like him, I felt I had chosen perhaps a bit unwisely, but to read of his exploits showed me there was a wider world out there.

Not a small number of Hackaday readers will remember these early days of the Internet, and despite the narrative nature of The Cuckoo’s Egg, there are plenty of tech tidbits and blasts from the past to satisfy the appetite for details. The title derives from the method Stoll’s hacker used to elevate himself to superuser privileges on an LBL Unix machine; using a then-unknown bug in Emacs, the hacker was able to move a hacked version of the atrun program into system space; it would run within five minutes and give him superuser privileges, in much the same way that a cuckoo bird lays her egg in another species’ nest, letting her chick hatch and grow to the detriment of the host family.

For my money, the best parts of the book are when science collides with engineering. After a chance meeting in the lunchroom with Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez, popularly known for discovering the iridium boundary that suggests an asteroid impact 65 million years ago had wiped out the dinosaurs, Stoll began thinking of the chase for the hacker in scientific terms. That is to propose a hypothesis, design an experiment, and test your assumptions. Tracing and eventually gathering enough evidence to capture not just a single hacker but a group that had been selling secrets to the KGB was possible only because of Stoll’s meticulous observations and application of the scientific method. Stoll’s work is the reason this approach became a blueprint for my own career, even if I didn’t always stick to the plan.

The book also foreshadows the rise of the security state and suggests that everything we’ve become accustomed to these days in the US, including domestic surveillance by the NSA, was probably being actively if covertly pursued back in the mid-80s; an NSA analyst’s profession that domestic monitoring would result in prison terms rings hollow these days.

I’d say The Cuckoo’s Egg is a must-read for anyone interested in the interface between science and engineering, and by this point it has even become something of a classic of tech literature. It’s well worth the read, but of course if you’d rather spend an hour watching a NOVA episode, the video after the break will give you the gist with the bonus of putting faces to the names in Stoll’s book, since many of the people involved were used in the reenactments. But fair warning: if you skip the book you’ll miss the connection between Stoll’s search and one of the most famous worm attacks in computer history.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, History, Original Art, reviews

Enlarged Miniature Forklift

พฤ, 10/19/2017 - 22:30

How do you classify something that is gigantic and miniature at the same time? LEGO kit 850, from 1977 when it was known as an Expert Builder set, was 210 modular blocks meant to be transformed into a forklift nearly 140mm tall. [Matt Denton] scaled up the miniature pieces but it still produced a smaller-than-life forklift. This is somewhere in the creamy middle because his eight-year-old nephew can sit on it but most adults would demolish their self-esteem if they attempted the same feat.

[Matt] has been seen before building these modular sets from enlarged LEGO blocks, like his Quintuple-Sized Go-Kart. He seems to have chosen the same scale for the pieces and who wouldn’t? If you’re printing yourself a ton of LEGO blocks, it just makes sense to keep them all compatible. Isn’t combing all your sets into one mishmash the point after all? We’ll see what his nephew/co-host constructs after his uncle [Matt] leaves.

In the time-lapse video after the break, you can see how the kit goes together as easily as you would hope from home-made bricks. With that kind of repeatability and a second successful project, it’s safe to say his technique is solid and this opens the door to over-sized projects to which LEGO hasn’t published instructions.

Hackaday is bursting with LEGO projects, K’Nex projects, and even Erector set projects.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Spy Tech: Stealing a Moon Probe

พฤ, 10/19/2017 - 21:01

Ever hear of the Soviet Luna program? In the west, it was often called Lunik, if you heard about it at all. Luna was a series of unmanned moon probes launched between 1959 and 1976. There were at least 24 of them, and 15 were successful. Most of the failures were not reported or named. Luna craft have a number of firsts, but the one we are interested in is that it may have been the first space vehicle to be stolen — at least temporarily — in a cold war caper worthy of a James Bond novel.

Luna-1 Payload

Around 1960, the Soviet Union toured several countries with exhibits of their industrial and technological accomplishments. One of the items on display was the upper stage of a Luna vehicle with windows cut out to show the payload inside. At first, the CIA suspected the vehicle was just a model. But they wanted to be sure.

The story is laid out in a CIA document from 1967 that was only declassified in 1994. Even then, the document has a lot of redactions in it. The paper is sparse on how they managed it, but when the exhibit closed — somehow — a group of intelligence operatives wound up inside the exhibition hall alone for 24 hours.

What they found was surprising. While the engine and most of the avionics were gone, the vehicle was the real article. They took measurements and photos, hoping that analysis would reveal more about the vehicle’s performance characteristics.

Here’s where you start getting into the redacted material. The team was able to get something from the probe — probably machine tooling marks — but there wasn’t enough detail to identify where and how they were made. They decided to get a team specializing in this kind of analysis to examine it more closely.

Between the Lines

If you see a picture of a basketball player making a slam dunk and the ball is cut out of the picture, you can probably still guess it is a basketball. In this case, it is obvious from context that the CIA wanted to know the facility that built the capsule. Why? I’ll leave that to your imagination. Charitably, maybe they wanted to break in there, too. Charitably.

The other interesting implication (that could be wrong) is that the CIA apparently had lots of information about tool markings at various Soviet facilities and a well-developed technology for matching those to specific articles. You have to wonder how they would come by this data. There is a reference to a Joint Factory Markings Center so this isn’t some lone expert, but — apparently — a standing group of people studying factory markings.


The exhibition moved from town to town on trucks. Again, there are no details about methods, but the CIA intercepted a shipping manifest and found a crate about the size of the probe. Quoting experience, the team wanted to examine the probe either before the show or after. However, by this time the Soviets had a 24-hour guard on the exhibits, so this was not to be.

The four men on the team arrived and bought local clothes. They worked with the local CIA Station to get pictures of the crate and realized that they’d have to enter the 20 foot long and 14-foot high crate via the roof. They bought ladders, ropes, and an assortment of other tools. The CIA then waited for the exhibit to go on the move.

The Operation

It is interesting to read a simple sentence like “it was arranged to make the Lunik the last truckload of the day…” You have to wonder what the method was to accomplish that. When the truck left, a CIA car was in front of it and behind it. When they were sure the truck had no escorts, it was stopped and the driver was replaced. The original driver was kept in a hotel room overnight — another interesting untold part of the story.

The CIA rented a nearby salvage yard with a ten-foot-high fence surrounding it. Once the truck was there, radio cars patrolled the area to make sure no one would disturb the work. They also had surveillance on the Soviet waiting at the train station to load the crates. He didn’t seem alarmed by the missing crate, ate dinner, and returned to his hotel room.

Finally, the CIA officers allowed the factory marking team to enter the salvage yard. They had to remove part of the roof. They were worried about leaving traces of their break-in, but the crate had been opened so many times that this wasn’t going to be a problem after all.

Dropping ladders in the crate, the team split into two parts. The team at the front removed a window, squeezed inside barefoot, and took pictures. This is pre cell phone cameras, remember, so they sent a roll of film back with one of the radio cars to make sure the pictures came out alright.

The tail section team had to remove 130 metric bolts to gain access to the insides of the engine compartment. There was no engine, but the mounts and tanks would tell them something.

A Stamp Probably not the Stamp the Operatives Found!

To get access to the payload, they had to cut some wire that had a Soviet seal on them. The wires were cut and given to one of the patrol cars who returned it to the Station so that it could be duplicated immediately. At the end of the evening, an exact copy arrived and the team reassembled the probe. They left at 4 AM. By 5 AM, a driver took the truck away and then turned it back over to the original driver.

You have to wonder why the original driver didn’t report anything. Your imagination runs wild at what must have happened in the hotel room he was kept in overnight. When the railway station Soviet showed up in the morning, the truck was waiting. He didn’t seem surprised and had it loaded onto a train. As far as anyone could tell, the Soviets never knew about this operation.

More Reading and Thoughts

If you want to read the original account by [Sydney Finer] (and, no, we don’t know if that’s his real name) you can find the original CIA document online. Another good read that is related is the paper “Intelligence for the Space Race” issued in 1961 and declassified in 1994 or 1995.

By the way, the Luna probes had other notable firsts. Luna 1 was the first spacecraft to orbit the sun (it missed). Luna 2 was the first manmade object on the moon (see video below).

Luna 3 took the first photos of the dark side of the moon (see video below). Luna 9 was the first spacecraft to soft land on another planetary body and returned the first close up shots (in stereo) of the moon. The Luna 16 was the first robotic mission to return lunar soil samples in 1970. Along with Luna 20 and 24, they returned about 2/3 of a pound of lunar material to earth.

You can only wonder what the CIA wanted to do with this information. I know that some of the data helped in tracking future flights. You also have to wonder how often the Soviets examined US space hardware.

As a side note, the CIA just released some previously classified material about Sputnik. Some of it is pretty dry, but there are a few interesting tidbits about the evaluation of the threat from the Sputnik program.

Filed under: Featured, History