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Hacklet 86 – Time-lapse Projects

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“If I could save time in a bottle…” it’s not just an old song, it’s a passion for many photography hackers. Time-lapse photography is a way to show the movement of time through still images. These images are animated into what essentially is a video recorded at a super low frame rate. We’re talking one frame per minute or slower in some cases! The camera doesn’t have to be still for all this, but any motion must be carefully controlled. This has led hackers, makers, and engineers to create a myriad of time-lapse rigs. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the best time lapse projects on Hackaday.io!

We start with [Swisswilson] and the simply named Timelapse rig. To say this rig is beefy would be an understatement. All the aluminum parts, with the exception of the gears, were machined by [Swisswilson]. Two Nema-23 motors are controlled by Sparkfun Easy Stepper Drive boards, while an Arduino Micro serves as the controller. The electronics are all housed in a sturdy box which also serves as a remote control. A joystick allows pan and tilt to be manually controlled. The bombproof construction is definitely a help here, as [Swisswilson] is using this rig with DSLR cameras. Combined with a lens, these setups can reach a pound or two.


Next up is [minWi], who put their script-foo to work with raspilapse. Raspilapse automates the entire process of taking photos, assembling them into a movie, and uploading to YouTube. The hardware is a Raspberry Pi Model B, with a RasPi Camera. The Pi shoots images then uploads them to a Virtual Private Server (VPS). [minWi] used an external server to save wear and tear on the Pi’s SD storage card. At the end of the day, the VPS uses ffmpeg to assemble the images into a video, then uploads the whole thing to YouTube. We’re betting that with a few script mods, this entire process could be run on a Raspberry Pi 2. If you’re really worried about the SD card, a USB flash drive could be used.


[Andyhull] takes us down to one frame per day with Sunset and Sunrise camera controller. [Andy] wanted to get shots of the sunrise every day. Once converted to a video, these shots are great for documenting the passing of the seasons. He used a Canon point and shoot camera along with the Canon Hack Devleoper’s Kit (CHDK) for his camera. The camera has its own real-time clock, and with CHDK, it can be programmed to shoot images at sunrise. The problem is power. Leaving the camera on all the time would quickly drain the batteries. Arduino to the rescue! [Andy] programmed an Arduino Pro Mini to turn the camera on just before sunrise, then shut it back down. The standby power of a sleeping ATmega328 is much lower than the camera’s, leading to battery life measured in weeks.


Finally, we have [caramellcube] who added data to their time-lapse photos with Portable Observation Device (POD). POD was conceived as a device to aid paranormal investigators. The idea was to have a device that could take images and record data at a set interval from within a locked room. Sounds like a job for a Raspberry Pi! [caramellcube] started with Adafruit’s Raspberry Pi-based touchscreen camera kit. From there they added a second board controlled by an Arduino Nano. The Nano reads just about every sensor [caramellcube] could fit, including humidity, air pressure, magnetic field strength, acceleration, light (4 bands), sound, and static charge. The Nano allows [caramellcube] to connect all those sensors with a single USB port on the Pi. We’re not sure if [caramellcube] has found any ghosts, but we’re sure our readers can think of plenty of uses for a device like this!

If you want to see more time-lapse projects, check out our new time-lapse projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Filed under: digital cameras hacks, Hackaday Columns

The Internet of Reflow Ovens

เสาร์, 11/28/2015 - 22:01

Using a toaster oven to reflow solder isn’t a new idea. But [Sukasa] wanted something that had more features and improved appearace. So he married a Netduino, a toaster oven, and some solid state relays to made a clean-looking reflow oven. His goal was to have nothing look like an overt modification to a casual observer. Inside, however, the oven now has a network connection for system status via a Web browser or JSON.

The new brains of the oven are a Netduino Plus 2 and an I2C port expander that connects to a few extra I/O devices. The challenging I/O, though, is the heaters. When cold, the oven can draw over 16 amps, so a pair of 12A solid state relays in parallel handle that load. There are also two fans: one to keep the electronics cool and another on software control. An IGBT allows the controller to pulse width modulate the fan’s output. A pair of MAX31855s read the thermocouples that report the temperature.

The controller was a mashup of the existing oven’s keypad and an add-on LCD display (see right). One thing we didn’t see was a schematic. Of course, you can read the code and figure out how it is all connected and (unless you use the exact same oven) you are probably going to need to modify things to suit your particular setup, anyway.

We’ve seen other good looking reflow oven and controller builds in the past, including one with a touchscreen. It is also worth noting that you can find reflow ovens at relatively low prices now if you don’t feel like rolling your own.



Filed under: tool hacks

SRF01 Ultrasonic Sensor Teardown

เสาร์, 11/28/2015 - 19:01

The SRF01 is a popular ultrasonic sensor used primarily for range finding applications. [Jaanus] discovered that they had a few flaws, including not working after being dropped. The faulty ones began to pile up, so he decided to tear one apart and put his engineering skills to use.

The SRF01 is unique in that it only uses a single transducer, unlike the SRF04, which uses two. Using only one transducer presents a problem when measuring very close distances. The transducer emits a pulse of sound and then must listen for the echo. The smaller the distance, the smaller the time interval between the pulse and when the echo returns. There is a fundamental limit to this time as the transducer has to recover from what is known as ringing. [Jaanus] discovered that the SRF01 solves the ringing problem with the use of a PIC24’s ADC and its 500 ksps (kilosamples per second) rate. This allows it to measure very close distances.

Be sure to check out the teardown for more details on how the SRF01 works.

Filed under: teardown

ESP8266 BASIC WiFi Thermostat is Child’s Play

เสาร์, 11/28/2015 - 16:01

If you’ve read any of our posts in the last couple years, you’ll have noted that our community is stoked about bringing the Internet to their devices on the cheap with the ESP8266 modules. Why? This forum post that details making a WiFi thermostat really brings the point home: it’s so easy and cheap to build Internet-enabled devices that you almost can’t resist.

When the ESP8266 first came out, there very little documentation, much less code support. Since then Espressif’s SDK has improved, the NodeMCU project brought Lua support, and there’s even Arduino support. Most recently, BASIC has been added to the ESP stable, and that really lowers the barriers to creating a simple WiFi widget, like the thermostat example here that uses a Dallas DS18B20 temperature sensor and an LED as a stand-in for the heater element.

The hardware for this project, a re-build of this demo code from the ESP8266 BASIC docs, is nothing more than a few off-the-shelf parts soldered together. No schematic required.

What makes the project work behind the scenes is some clever code-reuse by [Rotohammer] on the ESP8266 forums. Essentially, he wrapped the Arduino’s one-wire library, giving it simple BASIC bindings. Then all that’s left for the BASIC coder is to read the value and print it out to a webpage.

There’s all sorts of details swept under the rug here, and those of you out there who are used to bare-metal programming will surely huff and puff. But there’s a time for building your own injection-molder to make DIY Lego bricks, and there’s a time to just put blocks together. This project, and the BASIC interpreter that made it possible, demonstrate how much joy someone can get from just putting the parts together.

Filed under: wireless hacks

Basic Toolkit for the Basement Biohacker

เสาร์, 11/28/2015 - 13:01

Laying hands on the supplies for most hacks we cover is getting easier by the day. A few pecks at the keyboard and half a dozen boards or chips are on an ePacket from China to your doorstep for next to nothing. But if hacking life is what you’re into, you’ll spend a lot of time and money gathering the necessary instrumentation. Unless you roll your own mini genetic engineering lab from scratch, that is.

Taking the form of an Arduino mega-shield that supports a pH meter, a spectrophotometer, and a PID-controlled hot plate, [M. Bindhammer]’s design has a nice cross-section of the instruments needed to start biohacking in your basement. Since the shield piggybacks on an Arduino, all the data can be logged, and decisions can be made based on the data as it is collected. One example is changing the temperature of the hot plate when a certain pH is reached. Not having to babysit your experiments could be a huge boon to the basement biohacker.

Biohacking is poised to be the next big thing in the hacking movement, and [M. Bindhammer]’s design is far from the only player in the space. From incubators to peristaltic pumps to complete labs in a box, the tools to tweak life are starting to reach critical mass. We can’t wait to see where these tools lead.

Filed under: chemistry hacks, misc hacks

Streaming Video on an Apple IIc

เสาร์, 11/28/2015 - 10:01

Some of the projects we feature solve a problem. Others just demonstrate that they can be done. We’re guessing that it’s the latter that motivated [Joshua Bell] to write a VNC client for an Apple IIc. To fully appreciate how insane this is, have a look at the video below the break.

There’s more than one thing amazing about this hack. Somehow, [Joshua]’s VNC program runs entirely in the memory of an Apple IIc, as he demonstrates at the beginning of the video by downloading all of the code into the Apple over a serial cable. After the initial bootstrap, he runs the code and you see (in full four-color splendour!) a low-res Windows XP appear on the IIc.

What’s more incredible, but is unfortunately not demonstrated in the video, is that he appears to have not just mirrored the PC’s screen on the Apple, but has actually managed to get a one-frame-per-second bi-directional VNC working at 115,200 baud. In this snapshot from his flickr gallery, he appears to be playing Karateka on the IIc and watching it on his laptop.

If you’ve got a IIc kicking around, and you want to show it yet more new tricks, don’t neglect this browser written for the Apple IIc. Or if you’ve only got an Apple IIc+ and you’re totally ticked off that the beep is different from that of the IIc, you can always go on an epic reverse-engineering quest to “repair” it.


Thanks to [Keith O] for sending in this oldier-but-goodie.

Filed under: classic hacks

Transmitting Tee Vee From A Pi

เสาร์, 11/28/2015 - 07:01

Want to set up your own television station? This hack might help: [Jan Panteltje] has worked out how to turn a Raspberry Pi into a DVB-S transmitter. DVB-S is a TV transmission standard originally created for satellite broadcasts, but Hams also use it to send video on the amateur bands. What [Jan] did was to use software on the Pi to encode the video into the transport stream, which is then fed out to the home-made transmitter that modulates the data into a DVB-S signal. [Jan] has successfully tested the system with a direct connection, feeding the output of the transmitter into a DVB-S decoder card that could read the data and decode the video signal. To create a real broadcast signal, the next step would be to feed the output of the signal into an amplifier and larger transmitter that broadcast the signal.

That’s a big step, though, and I hope that [Jan] holds off and does a bit more documentation first. At the moment, the schematics for this are all hand-drawn, and the prototype is a wire-wrapped bit of protoboard. This is a very impressive hack, though: there are amateur DVB-S transmitters available, but most put the encoding onto a dedicated chip. We’ve seen hacks using the simpler DVB-T standard and a Pi before, but getting a Pi to do some of the heavy lifting makes it cheaper and more flexible, so kudos to [Jan] and colleagues for their work.

Filed under: radio hacks

Physics You’ve Never Heard Of Provides Power From Waves

เสาร์, 11/28/2015 - 04:01

“In the future, we’ll be generating a significant fraction of our electricity from harnessing the waves!” People have been saying this for decades, and wave-generated electricity is not a significant fraction of an ant’s poop. It’d be fantastic if this could change.

If you believe the owners of Oscilla Power, the main failing of traditional wave-power generators is that they’ve got too many moving parts. Literally. Metal mechanical parts and their seals and so on are beaten down by sun and salt and surf over time, so it’s expensive to maintain most of the generator designs, and they’re just not worth it.

Oscilla’s generator, on the other hand, has basically no moving parts because it’s based on magnetostriction, or rather on inverse magnetostriction, the Villari effect. Which brings us to the physics.

Magnetostriction is the property that magnetic materials can shrink or expand just a little bit when put in a magnetic field. The Villari effect (which sounds much cooler than “inverse magnetostriction”) is the opposite: magnetic materials get more or less magnetic when they’re squeezed.

So to make a generator, you put two permanent magnets on either end, and wind coils around magnetostrictive metal bars that are inside the field of the permanent magnets. Squeeze and stretch the bars repeatedly and the net magnetic field inside the coils changes, and you’re generating electricity. Who knew?

Right now, according to The Economist Magazine’s writeup on Oscilla, the price per watt isn’t quite competitive with other renewable energy sources, but it’s looking close. With some more research, maybe we’ll be getting some of our renewable energy from squeezing ferrous bars.

And while we’re on the topic, check out this recent article on magnets, and how they work.

Filed under: green hacks

90,000 Lumen Flashlight Is Illuminating, Impractical and Blindingly Good

เสาร์, 11/28/2015 - 01:01

It may be better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness, but that was before [RCTestflight] came up with this: a 1000W LED flashlight that outputs about 90,000 lumens of light. That’s a lot: the best pocket LED flashlights output about 700 lumens.

[RCTestflight] built this monstrosity using ten 100-Watt LEDs, running off two RC car batteries. Each of the LEDs is connected to a sizable voltage converter and a very large heatsink that holds all of them in place. He says he gets about 8 minutes of light out of this thing, and that the heatsink gets warm after a minute or two of use. We’re not surprised: LEDs are more efficient than most other devices at converting electrical energy to light, but some always gets lost as heat.

Check out the video after the break. It’s very impressive, but this thing isn’t particularly practical as a handheld. It is big, heavy and is visible for miles. If you really want to light something up it does a great job (for a short period of time) due in part to the inclusion of a glass lens for each of the LEDs. This effectively focuses the beam on a properly distributed area. We wonder what would happen if all the beams were focused on one point? As long as you don’t cross the streams

We have covered a few more practical builds using similar LEDs, but this thing does have a certain outrageous charm, and could be useful for high-speed video, where the more light, the better.

[Via Popular Mechanics]

Filed under: led hacks

Power Over WiFi Might Not Be A Unicorn After All

ศุกร์, 11/27/2015 - 22:01

There have been a few reports of power over WiFi (PoWiFi) on the intertubes lately. If this is a real thing it’s definitely going to blow all of the IoT fanboys skirts up (sorry to the rest of you *buzzword* fanboys, the IoT kids flash-mobbed the scene and they mean business).

All of the recent information we found points to an article by [Popular Science] titled “Best of What’s New 2015”. The brief write up includes a short summary lacking technical info, and fair play to [PopSci] as it’s a “Best Of” list for which they hadn’t advertised as an in-depth investigation.

However, we tend to live by the “If you’re gonna get wet, you might as well swim.” mentality, so we decided to get a little more information on the subject. After a bit of digging around we came across the actual article on [Cornell University]’s e-print archive where you can download the PDF that was published.

USB energy harvesting dongle.

The paper goes into detailed explanation of the power harvesting theory including a schematic of the receiving end hardware. They had to create a constant transmission for the harvester to get over its minimum required voltage of operation. This was done with one of the wireless router’s unused channels to fill the voids of packet-less silence between normal WiFi communication.

As you can imagine PoWiFi is currently limited to powering/charging very low power devices that are used intermittently. The research team was able to charge a Jawbone headset at a rate of 2.3mA for 2.5 hours which resulted in the battery going from 0-41%. The punchline here is the distance, the device being charged was only 5-7cm from the PoWiFi router which is getting close to inductive charging range. The researchers stated in the paper that they were looking into integrating the harvesting circuitry and antenna into the headset while working towards a larger charging distance.

At the time of writing this article it seems that PoWiFi is best suited for devices such as: low powered sensors and motion activated cameras that have increased energy storage capacity, which the team mentioned as one of the continued research possibilities.

We’ve covered numerous wireless power projects before, some legit and some we still get a kick out of. Where do you think this one falls on that spectrum? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks to [ScottVR] for the tip.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, news, wireless hacks

Freezing Stuff With Fricken’ Lasers

ศุกร์, 11/27/2015 - 19:01

For almost two decades there has been research that describes a method to freeze material with nothing but a laser. The techniques have only ever been able to work on single nano-crystals in a vacuum, making it less than functional — or practical. Until now, that is.

Researchers at the University of Washington have figured out how to cool a liquid indirectly using an infrared laser. It works by subjecting a special microscopic crystal to the laser. When the laser hits this crystal, the infrared light turns to the visible spectrum, becoming a reddish green light — which happens to be more energetic than infrared. This shift in energy levels is what causes a change in temperature. The energy (in the way of heat) is sucked from the fluid surrounding the crystal, and as such, causes a drop in the temperature of the liquid.

While our minds probably jump to making a freeze-ray, this breakthrough is more useful in biology, as it will allow researchers to freeze small amounts of tissue in order to better research biological & chemical processes in the body.

There’s a lot of interest in how cells divide and how molecules and enzymes function, and it’s never been possible before to refrigerate them to study their properties,

Now if only we could find out how to acquire that microscopic crystal… after all, it’s not that hard to build your own infrared CO2 laser using parts from a hardware store…

Filed under: laser hacks

Metalab Bypasses IR Remote with Audio Circuit

ศุกร์, 11/27/2015 - 16:01

Infra-red (IR) remotes are great, unless you’re in a hackerspace that’s full of crazy blinking lights and random IR emissions of all kinds. Then, they’re just unreliable. Some smart folks at Metalab in Vienna, Austria cut out the IR middle-man with a couple transistors and some audio software. They call the project HDMI Whisperer, and it’s a cute hack.

Metalab’s AV system has a web-frontend so that nobody ever has to stand up unless they want to. They bought an incredibly cheap 5-to-1 HDMI Switch to switch between displaying multiple video streams. But how to connect the switch to the Raspberry Pi server?

Fortunately, the particular switch has a remote-mounted IR receiver that connects to the main unit through a stereo audio jack. Plugging this sensor into a laptop and running Audacity while pressing the buttons on the remote got them audio files that play the remote’s codes. Simply playing these back out of the Raspberry Pi’s audio out and into the switch’s IR input through a tiny transistor circuit does the trick. Now they have a networked five-way HDMI switch for $10.

Given the low data rates of most IR remotes, we could imagine using the same trick for devices that have built-in IR receivers as well. Simply clip out the IR receiver and solder in a couple wires and then inject your “audio” signal directly.

But IR hacks are loads of fun. We’ve seen a bunch here, from the classic camera shutter-release hack to a more general tutorials on cloning IR signals with Arduinos.

Thanks [overflo] for the tip!

Filed under: home hacks, misc hacks

Hacker Uncovers Security Holes at CSL Dualcom

ศุกร์, 11/27/2015 - 13:01

CSL Dualcom, a popular maker of security systems in England, is disputing claims from [Cybergibbons] that their CS2300-R model is riddled with holes. The particular device in question is a communications link that sits in between an alarm system and their monitoring facility. Its job is to allow the two systems to talk to each other via internet, POT lines or cell towers. Needless to say, it has some heavy security features built in to prevent tampering. It appears, however, that the security is not very secure. [Cybergibbons] methodically poked and prodded the bits and bytes of the CS2300-R until it gave up its secrets. It turns out that the encryption it uses is just a few baby steps beyond a basic Caesar Cipher.

A Caesar Cipher just shifts data by a numeric value. The value is the cipher key. For example, the code IBDLBEBZ is encrypted with a Caesar Cipher. It doesn’t take very much to see that a shift of “1” would reveal HACKADAY. This…is not security, and is equivalent to a TSA lock, if that. The CS2300-R takes the Caesar Cipher and modifies it so that the cipher key changes as you move down the data string. [Cybergibbons] was able to figure out how the key changed, which revealed, as he put it – ‘the keys to the kingdom’.

There’s a lot more to the story. Be sure to read his detailed report (pdf) and let us know what you think in the comments below.

We mentioned that CSL Dualcom is disputing the findings. Their response can be read here.

Filed under: security hacks

Biomimicry Challenge: Hack Like Mother Nature, win $100k

ศุกร์, 11/27/2015 - 10:01

Hot on the heels of the 2015 Hackaday prize, with its theme of “Build stuff that matters”, comes another opportunity for hackers to make a difference. But you’ve got to think like Mother Nature for the 2016 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge.

The aim of this challenge is to transform the global food system using sustainable approaches that emulate natural process. Entries must address a problem somewhere in the food supply chain, a term that could apply to anything from soil modification to crop optimization to harvest and storage technologies. Indeed, the 2015 winner in the Student category was for a passive refrigeration system to preserve food in undeveloped areas. It’s a clever two-stage system that uses an evaporative cooling loop inspired by the way an elephant’s ears cool the giant beast, and by use of a wind-capturing funnel that mimics how animals as diverse as termites and meerkats cool their nests.

In addition to the Student category, the challenge has an Open category for teams of any composition. Up to 10 teams will be selected from the Open category to proceed to the Accelerator phase, where they’ll receive support for a six to nine month development of their design into a marketable product. The winner will be awarded the $100,000USD Ray of Hope prize, endowed by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

We’d love to see someone from the Hackaday community take home the 2016 prize, and there are plenty of 2015 Hackaday Prize entries that may be eligible. The deadline for submissions is 11 May 2016, so get a team together and get to work.

Filed under: contests

Byte Magazine Nostalgia Photo

ศุกร์, 11/27/2015 - 07:00

Those of us who remember when microprocessors were young also recall the magazines of the era. Readers bought the magazine for content but the covers attracted attention on the newsstand. In the late 70s until the early 90s the competition was fierce, so great covers were mandatory. The covers of Byte magazine created by [Robert Tinney] were detailed, colorful, and always interesting.

[Bob Alexander] of Galactic Studios recreated one of those hand drawn covers using photographic techniques. The cover shows a steam engine, tender and caboose rolling along the traces on a PC board amidst a landscape populated by resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits. The photographic clone recreates that image using all real components, including an HO train. The circuit, unfortunately, isn’t of a working device.

Creating this work followed all the normal hacking steps for a PC board: a mockup of the layout, designing the board, and ordering it from China. Component procurement was sometimes a hassle since some are no longer in production. The components that weren’t found on EBay were hacked.

The only image manipulation involved the HO train. It was much larger than the PC board so could not be put in place for the photo. Images of the PC board and the train were merged using software. Also added were smoke rings puffing out of the locomotive’s smokestack.

The photo is a worthy recreation of [Tinney’s] original.

For more trainy goodness, check out our own Brian Benchoff’s tour of the Siemens Model Train Club.  Or for further photo-realistic modelling, have a look at this insanely detailed Ford pickup model.


Filed under: misc hacks, Tech Hacks

Absurd Clock uses Twelve ESP8266 Modules

ศุกร์, 11/27/2015 - 04:01

Quick quiz: How many ESP8266 modules do you need to make an LED clock? Hint: a clock displays 12 hours.

Nope! Twelve is not the answer. But that didn’t stop Hackaday.io user [tamberg] from building a 12-ESP clock during the Bilbao, Spain Maker Faire. The “advantage” of using so many ESP8266s is that each one can independently control one hour LED and its associated slice of five minute-marker LEDs. Each ESP fetches the time over the Internet, but only lights up when it’s time.

It’s like parallel processing or something. Or maybe it’s redundant and failsafe. Or maybe it’s just an attempt to put the maximum Internet into one Thing. Maybe they had a team of twelve people and wanted to split up the load evenly. (We couldn’t think of a real reason you’d want to do this.)

All snark aside, the project looks great as you can see in this Flickr gallery, and all of the design files are available if you’d like to re-use any parts of this project. We’re thinking that the clock face is pretty cool.

The code for each unit is available for your perusal. On line 13, you can see where they set a variable (in firmware) that tells each ESP which hour it represents.

More interestingly, starting around line 38 is a cute trick to extract the time from the nearest Google server. Basically, the Goog returns a “Date:” string, and the code reads it. Read more on that technique over on the ESP forum.

Commenteers, fire up your “overkill” lasers; we like the project for everything that it does right. At least it’s not a chainsaw-powered flashlight.

The Flickr video seen above has this description:

Each ESP controls a 5 minute slice of the clock. On boot-up, there’s no connection (orange). Once connected to the WiFi network (blue), each ESP polls the currrent time with a simple HEAD Web request to google.com, then displays its part of the clock (blue or pink, minutes green). Note the “glitches” due to the independent operation of the slices (plus a programming bug in slice 0, fixed later). The red button was supposed to show a heartbeat and reset all ESPs, but there was not enough time to implement this. For this video, the clock displays seconds, instead of minutes, as does the finished version.

Filed under: clock hacks, wireless hacks

Thorough Macbook Charger Teardown Reveals Some Complex Circuitry

ศุกร์, 11/27/2015 - 01:00

Apple has a reputation in the tech world as being overpriced, and nowhere is that perception more common than in the Hackaday comments. The standard argument, of course, is that for a device with equivalent specs, Apple charges a lot more than its competitors. That argument is not without its flaws, especially when you consider factors other than simple specs like RAM and processor speed, and take into account materials used and build quality. But, as this teardown by [Ken Shirriff] shows, Apple’s attention to detail extends beyond simply machining Macbook bodies out of aluminum.

In his teardown, [Ken Shirriff] thoroughly investigates and describes all of the components and circuitry that go into the ubiquitous Macbook charger. Why does it cost $79? Other than the MagSafe connector, what makes it any better than the charger that came with your Toshiba Satellite in the ’90s? Isn’t it just a transformer to convert AC power to DC?

[Ken Shirriff] answers all of this and more, and you may be surprised by what he found. As it turns out, the Macbook charger isn’t just a transformer in a plastic case with a fancy magnetic connector. There is a lot of high-quality circuitry involved to make the power output as clean and stable as possible, and to avoid potential damage to your Macbook that could be caused by dirty power or voltage spikes. Does it justify the costs, even with so many reported failures? That’s for you to decide, but there is no questioning that Apple put more thought into their chargers than simply converting AC to DC.

Filed under: macs hacks, teardown

Fail of the Week: Dave Jones and the Case of the Terrible Tablet

พฤ, 11/26/2015 - 22:01

Nothing spices up a quiet afternoon like the righteous indignance of an upset engineer, especially if that engineer is none other than [Dave Jones], on his EEVblog YouTube Channel. This week [Dave] has good reason to be upset. A viewer sent him what looked to be a nondescript 2010 era tablet from a company called Esinomed. From the outside it looked like a standard issue medical device. Opening up the back panel tells a completely different story though. This thing is quite possibly the worst hack job [Dave] (and we) have ever seen. This is obviously some kind of sales demo or trade show model. Even with that in mind, this thing is a fail.

The tablet is based upon an off-the-shelf embedded PC motherboard and touchscreen controller. [Dave] took some offense at the hacked up USB connector on the touchscreen. We have to disagree with [Dave] a bit here, as the video seems to show that a standard mini-b connector wouldn’t have fit inside the tablet’s case. There’s no excuse for the USB cable shield draped over the bare touch controller board though. Things go downhill from there. The tablet’s power supply is best described as a bizarre mess. Rather than use a premade DC to DC converter, whoever built this spun their own switch mode power supply on a home etched board. The etching job looks good, but everything else, including the solder job, is beyond terrible. All the jumps and oddly placed components make it look like a random board from the junk bin was used to build this supply.

The story gets even worse with the batteries. The tablet has horribly hand soldered NiMH cells shoved here, there and everywhere. Most of the cells show split shrink wrap – a sure sign they have been overheated. It’s hard to tell from the video, but it appears as if a few cells have their top mounted vent holes covered with solder. That’s a great way to turn a simple rechargeable battery into a pipe bomb. Batteries can be safely hand soldered – Radio Controlled modelers did it for decades before LiPo cells took over.

We’ve all hacked projects together at the last minute; that’s one of the things we celebrate here on Hackaday. However, since this is a commercial medical device (with serial number 11 no less) we have to stamp this one as a fail.

Filed under: computer hacks, Hackaday Columns, tablet pcs hacks

Motorcycle Headlight Modulator is a Bright Idea

พฤ, 11/26/2015 - 19:01

Motorcyclists are paranoid about being hit by cars, and with reason. You’re a lot safer when you’re encased in a metal shell, with airbags and seatbelts. The mass difference between a car and a motorcycle doesn’t work out well for the biker, either. Unfortunately for bikers, motorcycles are also slimmer and generally less visible than cars.

A few decades ago, motorcycle manufacturers switched over to daytime running headlights to make bikes more visible. In the meantime, however, cars have done the same, leading many bikers to fear that their visibility advantage is losing it’s impact. The solution? Blink the headlights gently during the daytime, and run them normally at night.

[William Dudley] was unsatisfied with commercial versions, so he built a custom headlight modulator for his motorcycle.

And believe it or not, he did it with a 555 timer IC and a light-dependent resistor (plus some transistors and a whole slew of miscellaneous parts). But [William]’s design is a good one, and he walks you through all of the choices he made in building the light-sensing circuit that disables the 555.

Whether you need a motorcycle headlight modulator or are interested to learn how this problem would be solved in the pre-Arduino days, go check out [William]’s post. And while you’re on the nostalgic electronics trip, check out this nixie tube speedometer.

Filed under: classic hacks, transportation hacks

Upgrading a 3D Printer with A Leadscrew

พฤ, 11/26/2015 - 16:01

Consumer 3D printers have really opened up the floodgates to personal at home fabrication. Even the cheapest of 3D printers will yield functional parts — however the quality of the print varies quite a lot. One of the biggest downfalls to affordable 3D printers is the cost cutting of crucial parts, like the z-Axis. Almost all consumer 3D printers use standard threaded rod for the z-axis, which should really use a leadscrew instead.

Threaded rod is not designed for accurate positioning — it’s primarily designed to be a fastener. You can have issues with backlash, wobble, and they usually aren’t even perfectly straight — not to mention they gunk up easily with dirt and grime. In other words, you’ll never see a threaded rod on a commercial machine.

Enter the lead screw. Lead screws are precision machined components used for pretty much all proper CNC equipment. They have almost no backlash, they’re perfectly straight, and they allow for higher load transfers without jamming.

In order to upgrade his Prusa i3, [Daniel] designed and printed his own z-axis carriages to use with the lead screw.

If you have a Prusa i3 too, he’s uploaded the design files to Thingiverse. And there’s plenty of info on his blog with instructions on how to do it.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks