If you’re a fan of video game systems of yesteryear then you are probably familiar with RetroPie. For those who aren’t, RetorPie is a collection of software and video game emulators that can run on a Raspberry Pi. The package makes it easy to get your fix of old games without having to own a bunch of consoles or loose your breath blowing on cartridges.
[brooksyx] already had a broken Game Gear, Raspberry Pi and a 4.3 inch LCD screen kicking around so he thought it would be a good idea to put them together into a handheld RetroPie. Clearly, the new screen was not going to fit in the old screen’s place. The Game Gear’s case was cut and the bezel from the new LCD screen was epoxied in place, gaps filled and finally sanded.
The screen is not the only modifications done to the case. Down on the bottom right of the case front [brooksyx] added 4 buttons for the N64 C-buttons. Out back the battery compartments and cartridge slot were filled in.
Filed under: home entertainment hacks
Today was the first day of the Vintage Computer Festival East X. As is the tradition, the first day was packed with talks and classes about various retrocomputing ephemera, with this year featuring a great talk from [David Riley] about 8-bit computer music, a class on system architecture from our own [Bil Herd] (video coming soon), and a talk about vintage teletypes. One of these talks was about creating new hardware: [Jim Brain]’s steering committee on a networking solution for vintage microcontrollers. It’s called Quarternet: a two-bit solution for an eight bit world.
While minicomputers are easily networkable, designed around multi-user operating systems, and have the hardware for a lot of networking hardware, 8-bit micros are the exact opposite. That doesn’t mean 8-bitters don’t have networking; you can get an Ethernet cart for a C64, and just about everything can connect to a BBS. [Jim]’s talk was about whittling down the use cases for the Quarternet to something that could be implemented easily, but still give the most capability.
During the talk, the audience settled on using a serial connection from the micro to the outside world; this makes sense, as everything has a serial port. A ‘lightweight API’ was suggested to take up the software side of the problem, but there wasn’t much agreement over what that API would actually do.
[Jim]’s idea is for a box that plugs into the serial port of any old microcomputer and would connect to the Internet somehow. Ethernet, WiFi, or even a modem isn’t out of the question here. That takes care of connecting to the Internet, but there’s also the question of the cooler side of networking – network drives, file sharing, and the like.
For this, [Jim] is imagining a box with a serial port on one end, and a network port on the other. In the middle would be a cartridge slot for any hardware imaginable. If you want to plug in an Apple II disk drive, just insert the right cartridge and you’re good to go. If you need network access to a Commodore 1541 drive, just insert another cartridge, and it’ll just work.
It’s an interesting idea, but [Jim] is really interested in getting even more feedback for a networking system for old microcomputers. If you have any ideas, leave a note for him in the comments.
Filed under: classic hacks, cons, Featured
We keep wondering where the Arduino world is headed with the hardware getting more and more powerful. If the IDE doesn’t keep up what’s the point? Now we have at least one answer to that problem. Energia is the Arduino-like-framework for Texas Instruments based boards. They just came out with a multitasking system built into Energia targeted at the ARM Cortex-M4F based MSP432 Launchpad which we covered a few weeks back.
The announcement post gives a couple of examples of uses for multitasking. The simplest is blinking LEDs at different rates. If you wanted to do this closer to the metal you’re talking about multiple timers, or multiple compares on a single timer, perhaps a interrupt-driven-system-tick that has a high enough resolution for a wide range of your blinking needs. But these are not always easy to set up unless you are intimately comfortable with this particular architecture. The Energia multitasking will handle this for you. It’s upon the TI Real Time Operating System (TI-RTOS) but wraped in the familiar IDE.
The UI divorces you from thinking about the hardware at all. You simply launch a new tab and start coding as if you’re using a completely separate piece of hardware. The announcement post linked above mentions that these Sketches are running “in parallel”. Well… we know it’s not a multi-core system like the Propeller but we’ll let it slide. It is certainly easier than building your own scheduler for this type of hardware.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, ARM
One of our favorite things about Hackerspaces is people tend to spend a lot of time building tools, or repairing/upgrading older ones. This is a case of the former. The vacuum former.
[Adam] wrote in to tell us about this vacuum forming machine which he and few other members built for FizzPOP, a hackerspace in Birmingham, England. The device is used to suck hot sagging plastic around a mold. This is accomplished in two parts, the vacuum table and the heating mechanism to put the sheet of plastic into that sagging state.
The vacuum part of these tools has been easy to DIY for a long time. Pegboard makes for a very good table surface, with some type of vacuum motor (usually a shopvac or two) in an enclosure below the surface. This design adheres to that common formula.
On the other hand, the heating mechanism is more difficult to solve. The plastic is unwieldy and fragile when hot so a frame is very common. Following the example of commercially available models, the FizzPOP crew built a frame that slides along four vertical rails (envision table legs) extending above the vacuum surface. These legs also hold up the heating element. Often this is a nichrome wire array, but not this time. They went with an array of 70 halogen bulbs in a 10×7 orientation. A PCB was milled for each, with a system of bus-bars connecting them all. The trial run showed that the intensity of the bulbs made hotspots directly below each. But a bit more testing helped them solve the issue by keeping the frame further from the array in the heating phase.
The team’s 13-seconds of fame are found after the break. A black sheet of High-Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) is formed around a compilation of tools spelling out the name of the hackerspace.
Filed under: Hackerspaces, tool hacks
He’s back, [Bill Hammack] aka The Engineer Guy. He has a habit of revealing how the ordinary is extraordinary with a meticulous unveiling of all the engineering that goes into a thing. This time around it’s the aluminum beverage can. You might know it as a soda can, a beer can, or a salt-free air can. But we challenge you find someone who isn’t intimately familiar with these containers.
We know what you’re thinking: you already saw how these come into being on an episode of How It’s Made. You’re wrong. We saw that episode too. But just give [Bill] a few minutes of your time and he’ll suck you in for the rest of the episode. Now the die-forming of the base and side-wall, we’ll give it to you that you know what that’s all about. But then [Bill] busts into the history of these containers, citing the aluminum savings through reducing the top diameter of the can. He rounds it out with a celebration of the ingenuity of the modern “stay-on” tab which should make your glasses fall off with excitement.
If this is your first time hearing of The Engineer Guy you have a delightful weekend ahead of you. Binge watch his entire back cataolog! Our favorites include an analysis of a mechanical Fourier computer and the concepts involved in color anodization. We even read his book.
Filed under: misc hacks
Mankind has always looked for ways to light up the night as they walk around. Fires are great for this, but they aren’t very safe or portable. Even kept safe in a lantern, an open flame is still dangerous – especially around cows. Enter the flashlight, or torch if you’re from the other side of the pond. Since its invention in 1899, the flashlight has become a vital tool in modern society. From patrolling the dark corners of the city, to reading a book under the covers, flashlights enable us to beat back the night. The last decade or so has seen the everyday flashlight change from incandescent bulbs to LEDs as a light source. Hackers and makers were some of the first people to try out LED flashlights, and they’re still tinkering and improving them today. This weeks Hacklet focuses on some of the best flashlight projects on Hackaday.io!
We start with [Norman], and the LED Flashlight V2. Norman built a flashlight around a 100 Watt LED. These LEDs used to be quite expensive, but thanks to mass production, they’ve gotten down to around $6 USD or so. Norman mounted his LED a custom aluminum case. At this power level, even LEDs get hot. An extruded aluminum heatsink and fan keeps things cool. Power is from a 6 cell LiPo battery, which powers the LED through a boost converter. It goes without saying that this flashing is incredibly bright. Even if the low-cost LEDs aren’t quite 100 Watts, they still put many automotive headlights to shame! Nice work, [Norman].
A tip of the fedora to [Terrence Kayne] and his Grain-Of-Light LED LIGHT. [Terrence] loves LED flashlights, be he wanted one that had a bit of old school elegance. Anyone familiar with LEDs knows CREE is one of the biggest names in the industry. [Terrence] used a CREE XM-L2 emitter for his flashlight. He coupled the LED to a reflector package from Carlco Optics. The power source is an 18650 Lithium cell, which powers a multi-mode LED driver. [Terrence] spent much of his time turning down the wooden shell and aluminum tube frame of the flashlight. His workmanship shows! Our only suggestion would be to go with a lower profile switch. The toggle [Terrence] used would have us constantly checking our pockets to make sure the flashlight hadn’t accidentally been activated.
Harbor Freight’s flashlights are a lot like their multimeters: They generally work, but you wouldn’t want to trust your life to them. That wasn’t a problem for [Steel_9] since he needed a strobe/party light. [Steel_9] hacked a $5 “27 LED” light into a stylish strobe light. He started by cutting the power traces running to the LED array. He then added in an adjustable oscillator circuit: two BJTs and a handful of discrete components make up an astable multivibrator. A third transistor switches the LEDs. Switching a load like this with a 2N3906 probably isn’t the most efficient way to do things, but it works, and the magic smoke is still safely inside the semiconductors. [Steel_9] built the circuit dead bug style, and was able to fit everything inside the original plastic case. Rave on, [Steel_9]!
If you want to see more flashlight projects, check out our new list on Hackaday.io! That’s about all the time we have 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: Hackaday Columns, led hacks
All hands are on deck over at MIT where a very handy new trackpad has been created that will be able to give users a free hand to do other tasks. The device is called the NailO and attaches to one’s thumbnail, which allows the user an easy and reportedly natural way to use a trackpad while your hands are full, dirty, or otherwise occupied.
The device reportedly works like any normal trackpad, but is about the size of a quarter and attaches to the thumbnail in such a way that it takes advantage of the natural motion of running an index finger over the thumbnail. It communicates via Bluetooth radio, and has four layers which all go hand-in-hand: an artistic covering (to replicate the look of a painted fingernail), the sensors, the circuitry, the battery, and presumably an adhesive of some sort.
Details are quite sparse, but the device is scheduled to make its debut at the Computer Human Interaction conference in Seoul, South Korea very soon. If it can be made less bulky (although it’s somewhat uncomfortable to call something smaller than a quarter “bulky”) this might be, hands down, the next greatest evolution in mouse technology since multi-touch. We have to hand it to MIT for coming up with such a unique wearable!
Filed under: peripherals hacks, wearable hacks
Hackaday is getting back into the swing of doing reviews, and with that comes reviews of the tool du jour, 3D printers. I have some reservations about reviewing a 3D printer; they’re a new technology, and what may be standard today could be hopelessly outdated in a few months time. Remember geared extruders? The new hotness is, apparently, direct drive extruders.
This is a review of the Printrbot Assembled Simple Metal. If you need any evidence that reviews of 3D printers have a shelf life, you only need to look at the Getting Started guides for this printer. When I bought my Simple Metal, the Printrbot recommended software stack was Slic3r and Repetier-Host. Barely three months later, Cura is now the Printrbot recommended software stack. If you think a simple change in software is inconsequential, check out these prints:Prusa i3 X-carriages. Left sliced by Slic3r, right sliced by Cura
The print on the left was sliced with Slic3r. The print on the right was sliced with Cura. Notice the small teeth that grip the timing belt on each of these prints. With the Cura-sliced print, everything is fine. The Slic3r-sliced print is a complete failure, not of the machine, but the recommended software for the machine.
Therefore, if the goal of writing a review is to have a definitive opinion of a piece of equipment, a number of questions must be addressed. Since most 3D printing software is open source, should software be included in the review? Is the value proposition of a 3D printer simply a function of price to build volume (this seems to be the standard metric now), or are there intangibles? Should the review cover the quality of prints out of the box, or should the review only focus on print quality after dozens of hours of tweaking? I simply don’t know the answers to these questions, and I suspect you couldn’t get any two people to agree on the answers to these questions.
With that said, I feel I have used this printer enough to make a judgment call as to if this printer was a good buy.Setup
My Metal Simple arrived via UPS in a very nice yet plain cardboard box. The packaging of the Printrbot is somewhat of a work of art, that should be more than sufficient to protect the bot from shipping damage without filling the box full of wasteful styrofoam. Someone at Printrbot has experience in packaging design, and I have to tip my hat for that.
As I said above, it’s difficult to provide commentary on an aspect of a product that has changed completely in just a few months, but thanks to a few terrible prints because of Slic3r, I can provide feedback for the setup with both software stacks.
For Repetier-host, the setup was a breeze. The official guides and videos walk you through a process of calibrating the Z axis height, printing out a few calibration cubes, and finally printing a functional part — the fan shroud that will be a necessity for more complex prints.
Cura is a different beast entirely, but in many ways better than Repetier-host; everything is in one panel, the slicing is fantastic, and all the prints come out great.
When printing larger and longer prints, I would suggest not viewing the progress of the print in the host software. There are a few issues with the serial port when viewing a print in progress with Repetier. These issues don’t cause your print to fail, but they will increase your print time dramatically. I left a 12-hour print going overnight, and when I came back to it in the morning, there were two extra hours added to the ETA. Leave Repetier on the temperature graph, and you won’t have this problem.Hardware
The Printrbot Simple Metal uses a direct-drive extruder, fan, and the Printrbot-designed Ubis hotend. This hotend features a nichrome wire heater wrapped around a brass tube, separated from the extruder by a piece of PEEK. This is, on all accounts, a design from three or four years ago. The go-to design now is an all-metal hotend that’s able to extrude nylon and other exotic plastics besides the usual ABS and PLA.
Printrbot does offer an all metal hotend, surprisingly at a lower price than the older model. The Simple Metal is still shipping with the older design. As far as I can tell, no Printrbot ships with the newer all-metal hotend. I find this odd, not only because ‘exotic’ filaments that do best with an all-metal hotend are becoming much more popular, but also because an all-metal hotend is apparently cheaper to produce than the older model. If you want a foreshadowing alert, there you go. To print with exotic filaments, you’ll be spending $50 to upgrade your machine.
The Printrbot does have an interesting feature bolted onto the machine right next to the hotend. This is the inductive bed sensor, or the way the Printrbot sets the Z height before starting the print. Yes, the Printrbot has automatic bed leveling, and from my experience with a Mendel, this is a godsend. Setup of the bed sensor does take some time – in my case, about an hour. Once that’s done and the z probe offset is saved to the board, you’re done. Provided the first layer of a print sticks to the bed, your print will come out okay.Print Quality Striations on the Z axis. You’ll only get this by using a threaded rod for Z axis movement.
For the most part, the print quality from the Printrbot Simple Metal is exactly what you would expect. For the first-time buyer of a 3D printer, it will appear magical; load an object into Repetier or Cura, press print, and a few hours later an object will appear. With a 0.4mm nozzle, you’re able to lay down plastic as well as any other printer. To borrow a phrase, it just works, and the results look good.
There is, however one significant deficiency in the design of the Metal Simple. It uses a threaded rod for Z axis movement. While this was – and still is — if you look at Lulzbot and Ultimaker — the standard way of moving in the Z axis. If you print an object with tall, smooth walls, you will notice visible striations in a regular pattern. This is an artifact of the unconstrained threaded rod, and where there is a little bit of wobble, you will see faint lines in your print. You can’t feel them, but they’re there.
This artifact of mechanical weirdness can be reduced or even eliminated with belts or another system of linear movement; these striations are never seen in delta bots, and that’s simply due to the mechanical arrangement. It seems silly to complain about a phenomena that is barely visible and extremely hard to photograph, but the effect is there.Customer Support And Supply Chains
Ah, the part of the review where I’m an idiot. Story time: I moved my printer down to my workshop/basement/pile of old computers. I was running out of USB ports, so I grabbed the closest hub in my box ‘o junk, found a power supply, and plugged everything in. Connected to the hub was my phone, a Raspberry Pi (both just for power), a Teensy, the Printrbot, and my MacBook Pro (to the host port). The power adapter I grabbed was a 12V supply. I never said I was smart.
I now have a dead Printrbot controller board – the Printrboard – due to my own stupidity. However, I do not have a dead phone, a dead Raspberry Pi, or a dead Teensy – things that were also plugged into the hub at the time of the incident. The engineering of the Printrboard meets spec, as does everything else that was attached to the hub. This illuminates what I feel is the greatest problem with Printrbot: supply chains and customer support.
After unsuccessfully trying to find the device under Windows, Linux, and OS X, I tried to re-flash the firmware; the chip was extremely dead. While this was my fault, the survival rate of other devices under the same conditions would suggest this is a problem for Printrbot. I sent a ticket into their support system, and after a little back and forth it was recommended that I could buy a new Printrboard to replace the broken one.
There’s a problem with this plan. For the last three weeks, the Printrboard has been out of stock in the Printrbot store. I’ve signed up to be notified when the Printrboard is back in stock, and for three weeks, I’ve been waiting for an email.
This is not a condition that consumers face often. I would like to give someone money, but they will not take it. It’s odd; the strangeness of waiting nearly a month for a replacement part – one that was suggested by a customer support tech, no less – is so bizarre that I think I need to see this through. Yes, I could replace the board with a RAMBo or RAMPS controller, but at this point I’m relishing screwed up supply chains and inventory management.Conclusion
The headline of this review should be: “A Good Printer To Print A Better Printer”. The Printrbot Assembled Metal Simple is designed to be a My First Printer™; just enough to get you in the door. Without a heated bed, you’ll only be printing with PLA filament, and unless you’re very good or very lucky, prints with a large base will have curled edges. This can be mitigated by printing with rafts, or by spending a weekend tuning the printer to perfection. The Printrbot will not print exotic filaments without an upgrade. In my opinion, the Printrbot Simple Metal is not a $600 printer – it’s a $600 printer that will eventually require a $100 heated bed, a $50 ATX power supply, and a $50 metal hot end. For $800, you’re pretty close to territory that will get you a heated bed, much larger build volume, and a Z axis that isn’t driven by a leadscrew.
This is a great first printer, but if you think you might want something to grow into – especially considering the inability of Printrbot to keep components and accessories in stock – look elsewhere. If you are looking for a cheap printer to get started, remember you can just print another 3D printer. The second roll of filament that went through my machine was dedicated to i3 parts. I would highly suggest anyone buying a Printrbot to print the parts for a 3D printer within the first month.
As I was writing this review, Printrbot announced their upcoming Printrbot Play, a machine that appears to fix most of the problems mentioned in this review. In the single picture of the Play, it appears there will be a metal hotend, and there’s a good chance at a reduction in Z axis wobble.
I suppose I’ll be reviewing that in a few months. In for a penny…
Filed under: Hackaday Columns, reviews, slider
Some people would look at a massive 6’x4′ LED matrix hanging on the wall playing animations and be happy with the outcome. But [Ben] just isn’t one of those people. The original FLED (Fantastic LED thingy) was eight rows of twelve addressable LEDs for a total of 96 pixels. This spring he upped his game and retrofitted the display with 1768 LEDs.
It wasn’t simply an issue of restlessness, the original build suffered from LEDs dying. We actually featured it for that reason as a Fail of the Week. This is not strictly a hobby project, it’s hanging on the wall in the Supplyframe offices, so pulling it down frequently to fix broken parts is not ideal.
To make FLED more reliable [Ben] sourced strips of the new APA102 LEDs which we looked at back in December. They use an SPI bus instead of the bizarre timing scheme of the WS2812. At first glance you’d think this would mean easier assembly compared to soldering both sides of each of the original 96-pixels. These do come in strips, but laying out 52×34 still means soldering to the ends of each row.
A lot of love went into making sure those rows were laid out perfectly. A sheet of white foamed PVC serves as the substrate. There is grounding braid on either end of the rows, one is the voltage bus, the other is ground. It fits the original enclosure which is acrylic and does a great job of diffusing the light. I’ve seen it in person and it looks pretty much perfect!
It’s not just the physical layout of this many pixels that is a challenge. Pushing the data to all of them is much harder than it was with 96. [Ben] transitioned away from RaspberryPi. He considered using a Teensy 3.1 and ESP8266 but the WiFi of these cheap modules is far too slow to push frame information from a remote box. In the end it’s a BeagleBone Black that drives the reborn display. This is a great choice since there’s plenty of power under the hood and a traditional (and much faster) WiFi dongle can be used.
Don’t miss the animation demos found after the break.
Filed under: led hacks
[James J. Guthrie] just published a rather formal announcement that his 4-node Raspberry Pi cluster greatly outperforms a 64-node version. Of course the differentiating factor is the version of the hardware. [James] is using the Raspberry Pi 2 while the larger version used the Model B.
We covered that original build almost three years ago. It’s a cluster called the Iridris Pi supercomputer. The difference is a 700 MHz single core versus the 900 Mhz quad-core with double-the ram. This let [James] benchmark his four-node-wonder at 3.048 gigaflops. You’re a bit fuzzy about what a gigaflops is exactly? So were we… it’s a billion floating point operations per second… which doesn’t matter to your human brain. It’s a ruler with which you can take one type of measurement. This is triple the performance at 1/16th the number of nodes. The cost difference is staggering with the Iridris ringing in at around £2500 and the light-weight 4-node built at just £120. That’s more than an order of magnitude.
Look, there’s nothing fancy to see in [James’] project announcement. Yet. But it seems somewhat monumental to stand back and think that a $35 computer aimed at education is being used to build clusters for crunching Ph.D. level research projects.
Filed under: computer hacks, Raspberry Pi
[Robb] has had a little experience making lenses from scratch. His first attempt was for a DIY projector, and while the lens was a little blurry, it did work rather well for something carved out of a block of acrylic. Now he’s taking his experiments with lenses even further with DIY optics that turn everything into a funhouse mirror.
There were two techniques tested while making these lenses. The first was the old standby, CNC milling. A piece of acrylic was put in a CNC and carved with a 1/2″ ball mill. The second technique was 3D printing on a very fancy and very expensive Objet Connex 500. Neither of these methods produce a ready to use lens; to get a finished lens out of the machined or printed objects, [Robb] had to wet sand with 240, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 1500, and 2000 grit sandpaper. After a few hours worth of sanding, the parts were polished with a scratch remover.
Making a lens like this isn’t really that novel – it’s basically the same way lenses have been made for 500 years. The real trick here is making funhouse mirror style lenses. These lenses were created by raytracing in Rhino and Neon. It’s tricky; the index of refraction for acrylic is a little lower than glass, and the refraction for 3D photoresin is a bit higher than glass.
With those models in hand, it’s a relatively simple matter of making some very cool and very strange lenses.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, cnc hacks
[Kirk Kaiser] isn’t afraid to admit his latest project a bit strange, being a plant-controlled set of robotic bongos. We don’t find it odd at all. This is the kind of thing we love to see. His project’s origins began a month ago after taking a class at NYC Resistor about creating music from robotic instruments. Inspired to make his own, [Kirk] repurposed a neighbor’s old wooden dish rack to serve as a mount for solenoids that, when triggered, strike a couple of plastic cowbells or bongo drums.
A Raspberry Pi was originally used to interface the solenoids with a computer or MIDI keyboard, but after frying it, he went with a Teensy LC instead and never looked back. Taking advantage of the Teensy’s MIDI features, [Kirk] programmed a specific note to trigger each solenoid. When he realized that the Teensy also had capacitive touch sensors, he decided to get his plants in on the fun in a MaKey MaKey kind of way. Each plant is connected to the Teensy’s touchRead pins by stranded wire; the other end is stripped, covered with copper tape, and placed into the soil. When a plant’s capacitance surpasses a threshold, the respective MIDI note – and solenoid – is triggered. [Kirk] quickly discovered that hard-coding threshold values was not the best idea. Looking for large changes was a better method, as the capacitance was dramatically affected when the plant’s soil dried up. As [Kirk] stood back and admired his work, he realized there was one thing missing – lights! He hooked up an Arduino with a DMX shield and some LEDs that light up whenever a plant is touched.
We do feel a disclaimer is at hand for anyone interested in using this botanical technique: thorny varieties are ill-advised, unless you want to play a prank and make a cactus the only way to turn the bongos off!
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, musical hacks
Week 10 of the Caption CERN Contest is a wrap folks! Our surprised scientist brewed up a ton of great captions from our great Hackaday.io community. We may never know what exactly is in that keg/carboy, or what the heck is draining into that bucket. Still, it’s probably safe to say that no one has put this much thought into those particular items since this scientist performed his research.
- “After many decades of hard work, Dr. Milton and his research was moved down into basement after he complained one too many times about his missing stapler.” – [joe_pumpernickle]
- “Parker! Get down here! Ever since that radioactive spider bit you, you’ve crawling up the walls!”-[DainBramage]
- “It rubs the dielectric grease on its relay contacts or else it gets the hose again” -Team effort from [MechaTweak] and [Nick Sayer]
The winner for this week is [airbuckles] with “Meet Dooglas, experimenting with beer brewing, CERN style. Shown here controlling the critical HOP collider.” [airbuckles] won’t need any buckles for his new Robot T-Shirt From The Hackaday Store!Week 11: A double-header!
We’ve got something a bit different for week 11: Two images from CERN’s archives! Both of these images feature a lovely PDP-11 from Digital Equipment in Galway, Ireland. They also feature two CERN researchers. The scientist on the left is wearing typical hacker attire – sneakers, jeans, and a comfy shirt. The hacker on the right went for something which we’re guessing was a bit more stylish back in 1982, but hasn’t quite held up to the test of time.
These scientists must have been doing some heavy-duty number crunching to need a PDP-11. Do you know what that strange hand wired rack of equipment is in the center? Do you have any idea where we can find a pair of harem pants like the woman on the left? Write a caption and let us know!
Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the project log, not on the project itself. As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original left CERN image, and original right CERN image.
Filed under: contests, Hackaday Columns
Like just about everyone we know, [Luis] decided a gigantic RGB LED matrix would be a cool thing to build. Gigantic LED matrices are very hard to build, though: not only do you have to deal with large power requirements and the inevitable problems of overheating, you also need to drive a boat load of LEDs. This is not easy.
[Luis] found a solution to the problem of driving these LEDs with a new, fancy ARM Cortex M4 microcontroller. All Cortex M4 ARMs have DMA, making automatic memory transfers to peripherals and LED strips a breeze.
The microcontroler [Luis] is using only supports 1024 transfers per transfer set, equating to a maximum of 14 LEDs per transfer. This problem can be fixed by using the ping-pong mode in the DMA controller by switching between data structures for every DMA request. Basically, he’s extending the number of LEDs is just switching between two regions of memory and setting up the DMA transfer.
The result is much better than [Luis]’ original circuit that was just a bunch of SPI lines. It also looks really good, judging by the video below. It’s not quite a gigantic LED matrix yet, but if you want to see what that would look like, check out the huge 6 by 4 foot matrix hanging in the Hackaday overlord office.
Filed under: ARM, led hacks
No matter how you feel about RadioShack, for many hackers it was the one place that components could be sourced locally. Upon hearing that the stores are being shuttered (at least for those seeking non-cellphone items) we wondered if someone would rise to meet the maker market. The answer may actually be mom-and-pops — independent stores owned by people passionate about hacking and making.
At SXSW Create in March the Hackaday booth was right next door one such establishment. [Martin Bogomolni] is hard at work launching his brick and mortar store called Tinker & Twist. In the video below he speaks briefly about the concept of the store, which focuses on curating the best products and tools available and stocking them locally.
The store will be located in a shopping mall in Austin, Texas. But it takes about 100 days launch a storefront considering the permits and build-out. [Martin] decided to take the store to the hackers by exhibiting (and selling products) at SXSW Create. How else would you do this than by building a store-front as your booth? The store’s sign was CNC routed from rigid foam, and combined with a set of columns and storefront window. We stopped by late on the last day of the event and they had been having a great weekend. What started as a very well stocked set of shelves looked nearly bare.
Tinker & Twist is just the most recent in a growing trend of standalone stores focusing on hackers and makers. Our friends at Deezmaker in Pasadena, CA gave us tour last year. They’ve married the concepts of hackerspace, small-run manufacturer (in the form of their 3D printers), and retail store all-in-one. These types of examples make us quite happy — it’s been years since RadioShack was tightly focused on those actually building things. We hope to see more stores like Tinker & Twist up and running to support and enhance hacker communities everywhere.
Filed under: cons, Featured
Hackaday, we have a problem. There are a lot of people on this earth and not a lot of health care workers. Let’s use our skills to help alleviate this problem. What can we do to give medical professionals a wider reach, to bridge the distances between hospital and patient, and make it easier for bystanders to administer lifesaving care.Scope of the Problem
We’d wager that your most recent and vivid remembrance of a health care worker shortage is the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The shortage of trained professionals and supplies certainly compounded the situation in the countries worst hit. But it didn’t create the problem. Check out this list of doctors per 1,000 people (sorted lowest-to-highest with 2010 numbers). The three countries hit hardest by the outbreak — Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone — register a whopping 0.0 doctors for every 1000 people. Yeah, that’s years before the outbreak.
Keep scrolling down and you’ll see that this isn’t limited to one geographic location. All over the world there are low numbers, with India and Iraq both at 0.6, and interestingly Cuba and Qatar topping the list at 6.7 and 7.7 respectively.
This isn’t a statistics post so let’s pivot. The point is made that we’re a large world population. What kind of engineering solutions can we wield to help provide everyone with the care they need? Leave your comments below but also considered entering the Hackaday Prize with them. Write down your idea as a Hackaday.io project and tag it 2015 Hackaday Prize.Proof That We Can Do This
It’s safe to say we’ve all seen engineering solve part of this problem already. Over the last decade, Automatic External Defibrillators have become ubiquitous. The life-saving hardware is designed to be used by non-doctors to save someone whose heart rhythms have become irregular. [Chris Nefcy] helped develop AEDs and one ended up saving his life. If that’s not proof that we can change the world with our builds we don’t know what is.
Pull on that thinking cap and jump into this conversation. What can we build? What problems need to be solved right now? Where should each of us be looking to make a difference in the availability of health care in the absence of the trained professionals?The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Medical hacks, The Hackaday Prize
A fan of kinetic projects, [Jimmy Demello] threw together a pretty cool robot that can bounce a ball back and forth between its hand(s).
Made from scraps around the house, it consists of some wood, a piece of a fishing pole, chop sticks, a single servo motor, and of course an Arduino Uno. His original plan was to make [Claude Shannon]’s juggling robot, but this is as far as he’s gotten — so far anyway.
It bounces a 2cm ball-bearing twice before catching it and passing it back again. He thinks it would be an awesome project to scale up and use basketballs, and we’d have to agree.
And for more robotic fun, [Jimmy’s] also made an automatically actuated Newton’s Cradle!
For a more sophisticated juggling robot, you’ve gotta check this one designed by the Department of Control Engineering at the Czech Technical Institute in Prague — it’s capable of juggling five balls at once!
Filed under: Arduino Hacks
How can we be expected to teach children use a computer if they can’t even see it? I don’t wanna hear your excuses! The computer has to be at least… three times bigger than this!
Developed by the University of Michigan, the Michigan Micro Mote (M3) is quite possibly the world’s tiniest computer. It’s about the size of a grain of rice.
The multi-layered PCB (shown after the break) features 7 layers of components, surrounded in epoxy for protection. Drawing only 2 nano Amps during standby, the computer can be powered by a 1 millimeter squared solar cell. It’s designed to be glued to a window for use. It’s capable of input data via sensors, the ability to process and store the data, and then output the data wirelessly. Its range is only 2 meters at the moment, but they hope to extend it to about 20 meters.
For more information, check out the following video:
The internet of things is looking very promising. On the other hand, secret spying is even scarier.
[Thanks for the tip Ben!]
Filed under: computer hacks
Over the last few months, the internal struggles between the various founders of Arduino have come to a head. This began last November when Arduino SRL (the Italian version of an LLC) sued Arduino LLC for trademark infringement in Massachusetts District court. To assuage the hearts and minds of the maker community, Arduino SRL said they were the real Arduino by virtue of being the first ones to manufacture Arduino boards. A fork of the Arduino IDE by Arduino SRL – simply an update to the version number – was a ploy to further cement their position as the true developers of Arduino.
This is a mess, but not just for two organizations fighting over a trademark. If you’re selling Arduinos in your web store, which Arduino do you side with?
Currently, Arduino SRL is the only source of Arduino Unos. Sparkfun will continue to buy Unos from SRL, but they’re not necessarily siding with Arduino SRL; people demand blue Arduinos with Italy silkscreened on the board, and Sparkfun is more than happy to supply these.
There are, however, questions about the future of Arduino hardware. The Arduino software stack will surely be around in a year, but anyone that will be purchasing thousands of little blue boards over the next year is understandably nervous.
This isn’t the first time Sparkfun has faced a challenge in Arduino supply. In 2012, when the Arduino Uno R3 was released, all the documentation for their very popular Inventor’s Kit was obsoleted overnight. In response to these supply chain problems, Sparkfun created the RedBoard.
Sparkfun has always offered to pay royalties on the RedBoard to Arduino LLC, just as they do with the Arduino Pro and Pro Mini. Effectively, Sparkfun is on the fence, with offers to manufacture the Arduino Zero, Uno, Mega, and Due coming from the LLC.
The reason for this is consumers. If someone wants an Arduino SRL-manufactured board, they’ll buy it. If, however, a customer wants to support Arduino LLC, that option is on the table as well.
It’s not a pretty position to be in, but it does show how someone can support one Arduino over another. In a year or two, there will only be one Arduino, but until then, if you have a preference, at least Sparkfun is giving you a choice.
Credit to Sparkfun for the great Spy vs. Spy image. Why don’t you sell googly eyes?
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, news
Back in the bad old days, table saw fences were terrible. You would have to measure the top and bottom of the fence before each cut, just to make sure the fence was square to the blade. In the 1970s, [Bill Biesemeyer] invented a better table saw fence, one that was always square, and included a measuring tape, right on the table saw.
[Jer] wanted an upgrade for his table saw and came up with what might be the next evolution of the table saw fence. It will always produce a square cut, but unlike the 1970s version, this fence has repeatability. If you rip a board to 1″, move the fence, come back to it after a month, and try to rip another board to 1″, those two boards will be exactly the same width.
The secret to this repeatability is a threaded rod. On the front of the fence is a big, beefy piece of threaded rod with 16 threads per inch. On the fence itself is two nuts, cut in half, welded to the guide, with a lever and cam to lock them in place.
When the lever is up and the nuts are disengaged from the threaded rod, the fence easily moves from one side of the table to the other. When the fence is locked down, it locks to the nearest 16th of an inch, and only the nearest 16th of an inch. While that may seem a little large for a relatively expensive tool, this is wood we’re talking about here. There’s not much reason to make the resolution of this fence any smaller; wait until the humidity changes and you’ll have a piece of wood that’s the desired dimension.
Filed under: tool hacks