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Latest Raspberry Pi Images have Improved Scratch

6 hoursก่อน

Not everyone likes Scratch — the block-oriented programming language that MIT developed to help kids program. While dyed-in-the-wool programmers probably find it limiting, it can be an effective way to teach basic programming to newcomers and there are some people who enjoy the graphical style of programming.

The latest Raspbian release (the operating system image for Raspberry Pi) has a new and improved version of Scratch for those who want to use it on the Pi. According to the Raspberry Pi blog, the new version is up to ten times faster than previous versions and also includes an improved method for Scratch programs to access the board’s general purpose I/O and other I/O devices.

As an example of the new speed up, a Pac Man demo that could only manage one frame per second on a Raspberry Pi B, now clocks in at 12-15 frames per second and can exceed 30 fps on a Raspberry Pi 2. In addition to some additional I/O boards, the new Scratch can also access the camera, the board’s IP address, and the date and time.

Granted, Scratch isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. But if you do want to use Scratch (or teach with it) the extra speed and features will be a welcome addition. We’ve seen other versions of Scratch with enhanced I/O capability. There’s even been sensors built specifically for Scratch setups. Still, having support for the Raspberry Pi will be handy, especially in the classroom. If you don’t want to use a Pi, there’s always versions of Scratch for the Arduino, too.

Filed under: news, Raspberry Pi

Hacked Apartment Intercom Barks at You or Buzzes You In

9 hoursก่อน

Forgot your apartment keys? If you’ve got a ritzy building with a doorman, no problem. If your digs are a little more modest, you might only have an intercom panel that calls up to your apartment so someone can buzz you in. But if nobody is home, you’re out of luck. That’s why [Paweł] spent an hour whipping up an intercom connected automation system pack full of goodies.

The design is pretty simple – an ATMega328P to snoop on the analog phone ringer in the apartment when the intercom call button is pushed, and a relay wired in parallel with the door switch to buzz him in. For added security, the microcontroller detects the pattern of button presses and prevents unwanted guests from accessing the lobby. Things got really fun when [Paweł] added a PCM audio module to play random audio clips through the intercom. As you can see in the video below, an incorrect code might result in a barking dog or a verbal put-down. But [Paweł] earns extra points for including the Super Mario Bros sound clip and for the mashup of the “Imperial March” with “The Girl from Ipanema”.

True, we’ve seen a slightly more polished but less [Mario] version of this project before, but the presentation of this particular hack has us grinning from ear to ear.

[Thanks, Haxor]

Filed under: home hacks, misc hacks

Heathkit: Live, Die, Repeat

10 hours 28 minก่อน

There is no company that has earned more goodwill from electronic tinkering hobbyists than Heathkit. For more than fifty years, Heathkit has been the measure all other electronic kit manufacturers have been compared to. Kits for everything – from televisions to radios to computer terminals – were all sold by Heathkit, and even now, nearly a quarter century since the last kit left the warehouse, there is still a desire for this manufacturer to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. Heathkit lives once more, and this time it might be for real.

In recent years, Heathkit has had a confusing, if not troubled business plan. The company started manufacturing its signature products – electronic kits of every kind – in 1947. Production of these kits ended in 1992, and the company went on for another few years manufacturing educational materials and lighting controls. In 2011, Heathkit said they were back in the kit business, before shutting down a year later.

In 2013, an official Heathkit Facebook page was launched, a reddit AMA was held, and a mysterious stranger in the Hackaday comments section found a geocache placed by someone at Heathkit in a Brooklyn park. Absolutely nothing happened in 2014, or at least no one cared enough to hire a PI, which brings us to today’s announcement: Heathkit lives yet again.

This morning, the president of Heathkit sent a message to the ‘Heathkit Insiders’ email group explaining the goings on and new happenings:

We’ve designed and developed a wide range of entirely new kit products. We authored the manuals for these kits, complete with the beautiful line art you rely on, preserving and respecting our iconic historic Heathkit style. We developed many new inventions and filed patents on them. We relocated Heathkit, and set up a factory, and a warehouse, and offices, in Santa Cruz, California, near Silicon Valley. We built the back office infrastructure, vendor and supply chain relationships, systems, procedures, operations methods, and well-thought-out corporate structure that a manufacturing company needs to support its customers, to allow us to scale instantly the day we resume major kit sales. All this effort enables us to introduce a fleet of new kits and helps ensure Heathkit can grow, prosper, and continue to bring you great new products for a very long time.

The new Heathkit shop features their newest product, the Explorer Jr. AM Radio Receiver kit, a small kit radio available for $150. It’s actually a rather interesting kit with a nice design and an air variable cap for tuning, just like radios from a century ago. Whether anyone will pay $150 for an AM receiver in this century is another question entirely. The 21st century rebirth of Heathkit doesn’t just mean kits; they’re making apps now, with the first release being a crystal design tool for Android.

Virtually everyone in this little corner of the Internet, from Adafruit to Sparkfun, to Make magazine to everyone with a 3D printer owes a debt to Heathkit. This is the company that first turned DIY electronics into a successful business. Heathkit was the first, and they deserve to be recognized as the pioneers of the field.

The Donner Party were pioneers, too; just because you’re breaking new ground doesn’t mean you’re successful. The Heathkit of the 90s shuttered its doors for a reason. The factors behind the 1992 closing – cheap stuff from China, and the fact that not many people want to build their own electronics – are still with us. Still, the market for DIY electronics may be big enough, and Heathkit’s back catalog may be diverse enough that I won’t have to write another ‘Heathkit dies yet again’ post in a year or so. We can only hope.

Filed under: classic hacks, news

Get Your Internet Out of My Things

11 hours 58 minก่อน

2014 was the year that the Internet of Things (IoT) reached the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” on the Gartner Hype Cycle. By 2015, it had only moved a tiny bit, towards the “Trough of Disillusionment”. We’re going to try to push it over the edge.

Depending on whom you ask, the IoT seems to mean that whatever the thing is, it’s got a tiny computer inside with an Internet connection and is sending or receiving data autonomously. Put a computer in your toaster and hook it up to the Internet! Your thermostat? Hook it up to the Internet!? Yoga mat? Internet! Mattress pad? To the Intertubes!

Snark aside, to get you through the phase of inflated expectations and on down into disillusionment, we’re going to use just one word: “security”. (Are you disillusioned yet? We’re personally bummed out anytime anyone says “security”. It’s a lot like saying “taxes” or “dentist’s appointment”, in that it means that we’re going to have to do something unpleasant but necessary. It’s a reality-laden buzzkill.)

In particular, we’re going to focus on the security of the networked autonomous computer that’s inside the thing and how it reacts with the real world that it’s been thrust into. Now, we’ve already got a word for autonomous computers hooked up to the Internet, and that’s “server”. So what the IoT revolution is really doing is putting servers into toasters. Or worse, the IoT is putting servers in your father-in-law’s toaster.

Let’s use two pairs of archetypes: the neckbeard and the father-in-law to represent the extremes of the spectrum of computer security savvy, and the toaster and the server representing different levels of connectedness and corresponding need for network security. You can already see how this is going to play out: the neckbeard belongs with the server and the father-in-law with the toaster. Giving the simple toaster to the neckbeard isn’t so much of a problem, but it gets bad when the father-in-law has to care for the server.

This is the intrinsic problem with IoT. We’re disguising servers as toasters and handing them off to metaphorical fathers-in-law. What’s the worst that could happen? Let’s start by asking the FBI.

The FBI, IoT and Cybercrime

IoT security is starting to become a serious enough issue that the FBI issued an alert on IoT crime “opportunities” in early September. The alert starts off by explaining that adding servers to toasters greatly enlarges the attack surface for “malicious cyber actors” and points out many of the most common IoT security vulnerabilities. They also offer extremely reasonable remedies to close many of the vulnerabilities.

The FBI gives a big mention to Universal Plug and Play (UPnP). The great thing about UPnP is that it enables automatic discovery and remote configuration, so that devices that use UPnP are easily accessible to the other computers within the local network. In particular, for Windows users, this is the magic wand that the “Add Device” wizard relies on to cast his spells.

The worst problem is that UPnP devices often trust whoever is configuring them by default, and this trust can be abused to essentially punch a hole through your firewall. There are many other issues with UPnP, and this report by security firm Rapid7 is an essential read.

So UPnP, on outward-facing devices, is a foothold to compromise the rest of your network. It’s no wonder that the FBI wants you to shut it off. Assuming that you’re able to turn UPnP off, this means configuring all of your new networked IoT devices by hand, without the help of the wonderful wizard. Other suggestions on the FBI list include changing default passwords, keeping up with “current best practices” for home WiFi security, and updating IoT devices with patches “when available”. (“If available” sounds a little bit less naïve.)

Anyway, the FBI’s list is great advice for neckbeards. Our father-in-law hears about applying patches and picks up a needle and thread. This is all over his head, which means the toaster goes unpatched with a faulty UPnP implementation enabled despite the FBI’s best intentions. The criminals come in through the toaster, take over the printer, and then springboard over to our mother-in-law’s yoga mat which spends the rest of its life sending spam e-mail.

Cybercreeps and Baby Cams

We’re sure that you’ve all heard about the couple of cases of people getting their Internet-connected baby monitors and cameras owned by asshats who would then shout at the baby or harass the mother? In at least one case, the problem was that the owners hadn’t changed the monitor’s default password, which can be found with a quick web search. Not changing default passwords is a common father-in-law security threat.

For the record, Foscam, one of the first baby monitor vendors hit, has since done the right thing and gotten rid of the default password entirely. (As have many of the router manufacturers who’d been plagued by default admin passwords over the last decade.) But fixing security flaws across multiple vendors is like playing whack-a-mole: a new problem pops up every time another one gets hammered down. Otherwise, after two years of hot press on the security of baby monitors, you’d expect that Rapid7’s “Ten New Vulnerabilities for Video Baby Monitors” would be a shorter whitepaper.

What can be done? This article from Sophos Security on securing your baby monitor, just as with the FBI’s report, suggests that you lock down your home network, implement security best practices, and choose unique and complex passwords. Again, this is all true but not exactly father-in-law-friendly advice. And what’s patently obvious is that none of the “fixes” are actually directly related to the IoT device itself, but rather good housekeeping tips for neckbeards.

Your Fridge is Leaking (Your Gmail Password)

This summer’s DEF CON also included an IoT Village that had its own mini-track of talks. In one talk, fourteen IoT home automation devices were investigated and they (mostly) got owned. Some of the attacks involved getting into the device on a physical serial console, which we take as less of a concern than remotely-exploitable flaws. On the other hand, digging through the device locally helps one to find issues that may be remotely abused, so local access shouldn’t be disregarded out of hand.

Aside from talks, the DEF CON IoT village also had a Samsung IoT fridge sitting around that anyone was free to start hacking on. Within one day of work, these guys had an exploitable angle on the fridge.

The fridge was brilliant; you wouldn’t ever have to put up reminder notes on the fridge door because the fridge had a built-in display that synced automatically with your Google calendar. Only, the fridge didn’t bother to verify the SSL certificates that it got when calling up the Goog, which means that an eavesdropper could man-in-the-middle your fridge and get your Google credentials. If you don’t think that stealing your Gmail account password is bad news, think about the password-reset procedure at your bank, and how they send you the new password.

And with the fridge, no amount of neckbeardly network good housekeeping would save you. The problem lies in the fridge’s internal mini-server itself, or at least the software that it’s running. Your father-in-law either has to patch the software when the upgrade comes out, or live with the consequences.

What to Do?

If the IoT hides a server inside a toaster and hands it to your father-in-law, what can be done? Leaving the responsibility for securing the device and the home network in his lap is hardly fair because it’s not something he’s good at, and there’s really nothing he can do about flaws in the vendors’ security implementations. We’ll have to look elsewhere.

Creating perfectly secure IoT devices would be a start. Then follow that up with perfectly secure cloud services to connect them to, add in perfectly secure mobile apps to control them, and ensure that all communications between all of these are perfectly secure. Perfect! In theory.

In practice, there are always going to be flaws and patches. The security vulnerability footprint gr0ws as you add more computers of different types to a home network. Here’s a simple solution: don’t put the server into the toaster in the first place, and if you do, make it easy to take the things off the Internet.

That’s not as much of a Luddite position as it might sound. Indeed, this Register article claims that none other than Eugene Kaspersky, founder and CEO of a prominent anti-virus and firewall software company, thinks that’s the way to go. More specifically, he suggests air-gapping networks that have access to the Internet and the baby monitor. That is, maintain two networks in the home that don’t connect at all through any device: one network for your baby monitor and other home IoT appliances, and an entirely separate and unconnected network that connects to the Internet. After all, that’s what more security savvy institutions like the US military do with their systems.

Air-gapping dual networks is a simple enough procedure that even a father-in-law stands a chance of being able to follow, and the only additional cost is a second WiFi router. The toaster can still talk to the fridge, but neither of them can talk to the Internet and its cybercriminals. But if your father-in-law is the kind for whom two independent, air-gapped home networks sounds like too much, or if he really, really needs Internet connectivity for his toaster, you’ve got one last hope.

Shut it Off

IoT devices need a physical Internet-off switch with local control overrides. Part of the promise of the Internet of Things is that the physicality of things meets the ethereality of the Internet, so why is it that the security configurations of all of these things are on web pages? They need a button! When the Internet-connected baby cam starts shouting obscenities at Junior, a single button press kills the monitor’s connection to the outside world. Or for the privacy-conscious, a small switch on the side of the Nest could turn off all information-sharing with Google.

If we’re going to embody the Internet in our appliances, they should have physical analogs to the kind of security controls that they should also have online, and starting with the crudest on-off switch is as good a place as any. To quote from the FBI’s report: “Consumers should be aware of the capabilities of the device and appliances installed in their homes and businesses”. Nothing says “aware of capabilities” like a physical switch that lets you turn that capability on and off. Otherwise, our father-in-law is fooled into thinking that the internal server isn’t there, and that the toaster is just a toaster.

(We got the inspiration for this radical solution from this talk on IoT and our surveillance society that goes much further in the direction of protection of personal privacy than device security. It’s a good read, and some of [Maciej Cegłowski]’s six fixes may also be relevant for security, but the Internet-off switch is the most obvious.)


Have we gone too far? Or not far enough? Are you disillusioned about the coming ubiquity of IoT devices yet? Any other ideas about making the control of security parameters of the server inside the toaster more father-in-law-friendly?

Filed under: Featured, internet hacks, security hacks

The World’s First Android Smartphone

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 22:31

For one reason or another, someone decided smartphones should have personalities. iPhones have Siri, Windows phones have Cortana, but these are just pieces of software, and not a physical representation of a personality. This may soon change with Sharp, with help from famous Japanese roboticist [Tomotaka Takahashi], releasing RoBoHoN, the first robotic smartphone.

RoBoHoN is by any measure a miniature humanoid robot; it can walk on two legs, it can wave its arms, and it can fit into excessively large pockets. This robot is also a phone, and inside its cold soulless chassis is a 2.0″ LCD, camera, pico projector to display movies and pictures on flat surfaces, and the electronics to turn this into a modern, mid-range smartphone.

In the video for RoBoHoN, this friendly little phone can do everything from hail a cab, add stuff to a shopping list, and be the life of the party. According to Akihabara News, Sharp should be releasing this tiny robot sometime in early 2016 but no word yet on price.

Filed under: Cellphone Hacks, news, robots hacks

How Analog Tide Predictors Changed Human History

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 21:01

If you’re completely landlocked like I am, you may dream of ocean waves lapping at the shore, but you probably don’t think much about the tides. The movement of the ocean tides is actually quite important to many groups of people, from fishermen to surfers to coastal zone engineers. The behavior of the tides over time is helpful data for those who study world climate change.

Early tide prediction was based on observed changes in relation to the phases of the Moon. These days, tide-predicting is done quickly and with digital computers. But the first purpose-built machines were slow yet accurate analog computation devices that, as they were developed, could account for increasing numbers of tidal constituents, which represent the changes in the positions of tide-generating astronomical bodies. One of these calculating marvels even saved the Allies’ invasion of Normandy—or D-Day— in World War II.

Tidal bulge caused by the Moon’s gravitational pull. Image credit: NOAA What Are Tides, Exactly?

In Sir Isaac Newton’s classic scientific trilogy Principia, he lays out the idea that the glue of the universe is in the gravitational pull of the bodies that comprise it. Newton proposes that the ocean tides of Earth are governed by the gravitational pull of the Moon, and to a lesser extent due to distance, the Sun. The Moon’s gravitational pull causes a peak in the ocean water nearest it. There is a peak of equal magnitude on the opposite side of the globe because inertia counteracts gravity. These peaks in the ocean bodies are called tidal bulges.

Illustration of a continental margin from Science Clarified

What Newton didn’t account for is the effect of the continents on tidal behavior. The distance between the low and high tide marks of any given shore is called the tidal range. Underneath every shoreline, there is a range of ocean floor where the ocean crust meets the continental crust. This graduation is called the continental margin. Wherever wide continental margins are found, the tidal bulges tend to produce higher tides. In contrast, islands located far from these continental margins tend to have small tides. Shallow water estuaries can distort the tide and cause it to rise faster.

Tidal behavior is influenced by many other factors, including local weather patterns. Winds out at sea can pull the tide out further, while inland winds can exaggerate tidal heights. A shore’s proximity to the Earth’s poles increases the tidal range.

Thousands of obstacles built by the Germans along the beaches of Normandy. Image credit: Military History Now Seaside Obstacle Course

Planning the invasion of Normandy was no walk in the park for the Allied forces. The tidal range in this area of Nazi-occupied France exceeded six meters, and the tide rose at a rate of over one meter per hour. This meant there was a whole lot of beach to cross if the Allies made landfall at low tide. The Germans were well aware of the value of tide tables, and they were sure the Allies would arrive at high tide. Under the command of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, they constructed thousands of large obstacles along the beach. They built the obstacles about halfway up the tidal range so that they would be obscured at mid-tide and covered completely by high tide. The intent of this part of what Hitler dubbed the “Atlantic wall” was to destroy the undercarriages of Allied boats, should they arrive at high tide as expected.

Here’s the thing about building millions of obstacles on the beach, though: they can be seen quite plainly when the tide is out, especially from the sky. In fact, the Allies watched them multiply like rabbits over a couple of months in the early spring of 1944. Rommel was sure the boats would arrive at high tide, but the Allies now knew that it was out of the question.

Hand-Cranked Tidal Calculators

French mathematician and physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace built upon Newton’s tidal theories. He derived equations that described the way the oceans move in accordance with the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun, and figured out that all tidal energy is focused at a small number of frequencies. Laplace’s equations, which are built on the conservation principles of mass and momentum, calculate the energy at each of these astronomical frequencies. He believed that these calculations were the best way to accurately predict the tides.

Laplace’s hydrodynamic approach to tide prediction was first put into use by William Thomson, who would later become Lord Kelvin. The thrust of Thomson’s harmonic method was to collect tidal data and analyze the frequencies using Laplace’s equations. While effective, this method involved a great deal of laborious calculations that could be performed far more quickly by mechanical means.

William Thomson/Lord Kelvin’s first tide predictor. Image credit: UK Science Museum

Thomson created an analog computer to plot the tidal motions on a continuous graph that illustrates tidal heights over a period of time. The device was operated by hand crank. Turning the crank drove pairs of toothed disks, each representing a tidal constituent such as the lunar semi-diurnal period of twelve hours and twenty-five minutes. The ratio of a given disk pair determined the speed at which the upper disk moved.

This movement was transferred to a wheel through a rod connected to both. At the disk end, the rod is connected to one of a number of pins. The position of the pin determines the phase and amplitude of the tidal component. All of the components are tied together by a common band that sums them together, and this system converts the rotary motion of the disks into the sinusoidal motion exhibited by the pen on the graph.

Later known as Kelvin’s tide machine (you just have to love that name), this device could predict a year’s worth of tidal data in about four hours. His first iteration could sum ten tidal components. Kelvin ultimately made three versions of increasing complexity, the last of which summed 24 components.

William Ferrel’s tide-predicting machine from the early 1880s. Image credit: U.S. Dept. of Commerce

At about the same time, William Ferrel was constructing a similar machine for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Ferrel’s tide predictor accounted for 19 different tidal components. It worked a bit differently from Thomson’s machine, though. Instead of graphing a curve, a series of dials and scales displayed the times and heights of successive periods of high and low water. The operator cranked it with one hand from the left side and took down the results. These numbers were copied to forms and used to create tide tables for general marine navigation. Ferrel’s machine was in use from the early 1880s until 1910. It was replaced by the U.S. Tide Predicting Machine No. 2, which was capable of summing 37 tidal components. This machine, a.k.a. “Old Brass Brains” (again, amazing name for a computing device) spent 55 years in service before being replaced by a computer.


While it’s true that these machines could predict a year’s worth of tidal activity in an afternoon, harmonic analysis of the data took several weeks to complete. After entering WWII the U.S. military made several successful amphibious landings in the Pacific and elsewhere based on the news from Old Brass Brains.

In England, tide prediction was handled by Arthur Thomas Doodson from the Liverpool Tidal Institute. It was Doodson who made the tidal predictions for the Allied invasion at Normandy. Doodson needed access to local tide data, but the British only had information for the nearby ports. Factors like the shallow water effect and local weather impact on tidal behavior made it impossible to interpolate for the landing sites based on the port data. The shallow water effect could really throw off the schedule for demolishing the obstacles if the tide rose too quickly.

Image credit: Physics Today magazine

Secret British reconnaissance teams covertly collected shallow water data at the enemy beaches and sent it to Doodson for analysis. To further complicate things, the operatives couldn’t just tell Doodson that the invasion was planned for the beaches of Normandy. So he had to figure it out from the harmonic constants sent to him by William Ian Farquharson, superintendent of tides at the Hydrographic Office of the Royal Navy. He did so using the third iteration of Kelvin’s predictor along with another machine. These were kept in separate rooms lest they be taken out by the same bomb.

After the Allies discovered the Atlantic wall obstacles in the early spring of 1944, the mission had to be re-evaluated. The new plan? Make landfall just after low tide, and send demolition teams to blow up obstacles, creating safe channels. This way, the larger crafts could come in as the tide rose, drop troops off, and get back out to sea.

The plan was further complicated by the beach locations along the English Channel, which they pretty much had to cross at night. The Allies needed to figure out when low tide would line up with first light and a late-rising Moon. Three days in June 1944 fit the bill perfectly: the 5th, 6th, and 7th.

Under the Weather

Although General Eisenhower chose June 5th for D-Day, the weather just wasn’t cooperating. It was simply too windy to make the landing work. Fortunately, his staff predicted a break in the weather that made June 6th a real possibility. Rommel figured the weather and unfavorable tides would deter the Allies completely, so he greatly reduced his forces with the exception of Omaha Beach and left his post. The rest, as they say, is history.

[Main image: U.S. Tide-Predicting Machine No. 2 via NOAA]

Filed under: classic hacks, Featured, slider

Camera Dolly uses Makeblock

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 18:01

We’d call it a robot, but [Eric Buijs] calls it a dolly. [Eric] bought a Makeblock starter robot kit last year, but never did anything with it. He recently wanted a camera dolly to help shoot project videos and the Makeblock hardware fit the bill.

[Eric] found that one of Makeblock’s example videos showed off a camera dolly but had no construction details. He cracked open the kit and got to work replicating what he had seen. Two 6V motors combined with a reduction gear, a belt, and some wheels, and the dolly now moves under computer control!

Speaking of the computer, the Makeblock kit came with an Arduino-compatible board called a Baseshield. [Eric] didn’t like the telephone-style connector used to interface the board with the outside world, so he junked the Baseshield and replaced it with an Arduino Leonardo. The only thing left was to make a camera mount, which [Eric] fabricated with plywood.

There’s still work to do. The dolly drifts a little to the left and the lack of suspension sometimes makes the video unusable. However, we are confident version two will be even better.

Judging by the number of past projects we’ve seen on dolly’s this is something a lot of people want to build. It is interesting to see just how many different ways people approach the same problem. If you haven’t seen Makeblock, there is a video about the starter kit [Eric] used below.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, robots hacks

Hackaday at Berlin Maker Faire

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 15:01

The first-ever Berlin Maker Faire was last weekend, and Hackaday was there. Berlin’s a city with an incredible creative vibe, so it’s no surprise that there was good stuff on display. What was surprising, though, was how far many of the presenters traveled to be there. I wandered around with a camera and a notebook, and here’s what we saw.

Just outside the entrance to the venue, the old postal rail station, I was greeted by a shipping container that transformed into a fire-spitting pneumatic monster. “Kevin” is the creation of [Mike Wessling] who shipped it down from the Netherlands for the event. In true hacker style, [Mike] took on the project saying he could make such a thing for a party that was only a couple weeks away. Then had to figure out how the heck he was going to actually do it. He spent sleepless nights inside the container building out the mechanism, and then cut the box open, and it worked! Now he tours around festivals with “Kevin”, because you can’t just leave something like that sitting around rusting in your back yard.

Agro-Drone is a simple robot made entirely of scrap by the folks at Woelab, a makerspace in Togo. It’s not meant to do much, just roll around and disperse seeds, but that’s fantastic if you’d otherwise have to be out in the sun doing it yourself. Woelab’s projects focus on low-high-tech: adding just enough tech into people’s lives to solve their problems, but all being doable with material at hand. (The power-supply box has been scrapped, and just houses the batteries.) They also had a scrap-built 3D printer on display, but in a Maker Faire full of high-tech 3D printers, a simple and effective idea like a seed-planting robot is actually the stand-out.

There was of course a fashion show, and it was “blinkilicious”. The hands-down winner of Most LEDs on Display is the TRON-inspired suit in the center, but the chest-plate on the far right gave it a good run for the money. The glowing feathers on the wing suit also looked very good in real life. The geekiest award goes to Kati Hyyppä’s wearable breadboards (not in the picture) which are, well, wearable breadboards.

A number of Berlin high-schoolers had a table with their RoboCup Junior soccer robots. These things are real robots, plotting their own trajectories and chasing an illuminated ball entirely autonomously around a small soccer field. Almost all of the designs had omni-wheels and Bluetooth connectivity to their owner’s laptops. Other than that, although many of the robots looked similar, they were all built from the ground up. Having never seen these in real life, it was quite impressive watching it home in on the ball and try to nudge it into the goal.

Hypercubes are a whole system of modular noise-making synth blocks and were the best-sounding project in the Faire. Since this is right up my alley, I talked to [Mateo Mena] at length about the really slick design, and eventually asked him if he’d ever read my Logic Noise column. His eyes lit up and he showed off a couple circuits that he’d learned about from Hackaday. Hopefully after [Mateo] is done with his European Maker Faire tour, he will have some time to document the cubes for the rest of us!

There were many more interesting projects on display than we could write up individually, so here’s a potpourri of notables, from left to right, top to bottom.

  • An array of 8×8 capacitive sensors connected to washers with grapes sitting on top? Add microcontroller, and you’ve got the strangest MIDI controller we’ve ever seen.
  • Modified skateboards were everywhere: on display and just being carried around by visitors.
  • Dadamachines had a nice tablet-driven frontend to their solenoid and servo driver boards that enable you to turn anything into a percussive musical instrument in no time.
  • Blinky top-hats? There’s something in the water. This one was controlled via BTLE from the owner’s cellphone.
  • [Pierre Braun]’s robot has a neat gripper hand.
  • There were lots of great toys for children around. Geometric shapes with hook-and-loop on the edges are cool.
  • These laser-cut and 3D-printed “Woodbots” were very cute.
  • Nothing can’t be knit.
  • Even the café area is full of hackers. This man was caught using a BTLE dongle and his cellphone to debug an AVR ATtiny85 over serial.
  • Asteroids look good on old-school CRTs.
  • Here’s a computer playing itself in a bare-wire, Nixie, and LED version of “Mensch ärgere dich nicht” (like german Parcheesi).
  • And there were more 3D printers, printer companies, and printer supply houses than you could shake a 3mm filament at.

And that about wraps it up. I saw a lot more than we have space to write about, so if you were there and anything struck you as particularly interesting, post up in the comments.

Filed under: cons, Hackaday Columns

[Bunnie Huang’s] Hardware Talks Top Your Watch List

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 12:01

When [Bunnie] talks, we listen. He is a fount of product engineering knowledge, having seen many of his own products through from concept to market, and frequently helping others do the same. Of course having the knowledge is one thing, but he is also an accomplished speaker who knows what is important and how to share it in a way which is meaningful to others. The latest example of this is a pair of Engineering Talks he gave at Highway 1.

It’ll take you less than twenty minutes to get through the two videos. The first focuses on documentation for manufacturing. What do you need to include on a bill of materials sent to the factory? [Bunnie] has a set of gotchas which illustrate how vital this is. He also discusses how to handle design changes once the manufacturing wheels are already in motion. The second clip covers how Design for Manufacture relates to the actual cost of a production run. We hope there are more of these clips in the publishing pipeline so we’re keeping our eye on this channel.

The two videos are embedded below and at the time of writing had just a couple dozen views each and only one comment between the two of them. It seems sacrilege to say this, but we agree with that YouTube comment; these videos are gold.

Want to check out one of [Bunnie’s] latest projects? It’s a radio-based interactive badge.

Filed under: classic hacks

Google OnHub Can Has Root

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 09:01

It’s always nice to get down to the root directory of a device, especially if the device in question is one that you own. It’s no huge surprise that a Google product allows access to the root directory but the OnHub requires locating the hidden “developer mode” switch which [Maximus64] has done. The Google engineers have been sneaky with this button, locating it at the bottom of a threaded screw hole. Has anyone seen this implemented on other hardware before?

There isn’t a blog post regarding this, however [Maximus64] shared a video on YouTube walking us through the steps to root and un-root Google’s OnHub, which is embedded after the break. He also states “wiki coming soon” in the description of the video, so we’ll keep eye on it for an update.

We covered the product announcement back in August and have heard a few reviews/opinions about the device but not enough to make an opinionated assumption. Rooting the device doesn’t seem to increase the OnHub’s number of LAN ports but we think it’s still worth the effort.

Filed under: google hacks, linux hacks, wireless hacks

Tape Loop Echo Made With an Actual Tape Loop

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 06:01

A lot of digital processes are named after an old analog device that they’ve since replaced. It’s not uncommon to “tape” a show nowadays, for example, even though the recording work is actually done by a digital video recorder. Sometimes, though, the old analog devices have a certain je ne sais quoi that is desirable even in today’s digital world. This is certainly the case with [Dima]’s tape loop echo which is actually made with a physical tape loop.

The process of building the tape loop hardware is surprisingly non-technical. By positioning a recording head and a playback head right next to one another, a delay is introduced. An echo is created by mixing the original live sound signal with this delayed signal coming from the tape By varying the speed of the tape or altering several other variables, many different-sounding effects can be achieved.

Although in practice it’s not as simple as it sounds (the device required a lot of trial-and-error), the resulting effect is one that Pink Floyd or Beck would surely be proud of. Analog isn’t the only way to go though, there are plenty of digital effects that are easily created, and some with interesting mounting options as well.

Filed under: musical hacks

New Part Day: The BeagleBoard Gets Bigger

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 03:01

Officially, the latest hardware revision we’ve seen from BeagleBoard is the BeagleBone Black, a small board that’s perfect for when you want to interface hardware to a Linux software environment. This last summer, the BeagleBone Green was introduced, and while it’s a newer hardware release, it’s really just a cost-reduced version of the BB Black. Over the entire BeagleBoard family, it’s time for an upgrade.

It’s been talked about for more than a year now, but the latest and greatest from the BeagleBoard crew is out. It’s called the BeagleBoard X15, and not only is it an extremely powerful Linux board, it also has more ports than you would ever need.

The new BeagleBoard features a dual-core ARM Cortex A15 running at 1.5GHz. There is 2GB of DDR3L RAM on board, and 4GB of EMMC Flash. Outputs include three USB 3.0 hosts, two Gigabit Ethernet controllers, one eSATA connector, LCD output, two PCIe connectors, and an HDMI connector capable of outputting 1920×1080 at 60 FPS. The entire board is open hardware, with documentation for nearly every device on the board available now. The one exception is the PowerVR SGX544 GPU which has a closed driver, but the FSF has proposed a project to create an open driver for this graphics engine so that could change in the future.

The expected price of the BeagleBoard X15 varies from source to source, but all the numbers fall somewhere in the range of $200 to $240 USD, with more recent estimates falling toward the high end. This board is not meant to be a replacement for the much more popular BeagleBone. While the development and relationship between the ~Board and ~Bone are very much related, the BeagleBone has always and will always be a barebone Linux board, albeit with a few interesting features. The BeagleBoard, on the other hand, includes the kitchen sink. While the BeagleBoard X15 hardware is complete, so far there are less than one hundred boards on the planet. These are going directly to the people responsible for making everything work, afterwards orders from Digikey and Mouser will be filled. General availability should be around November, and certainly by Christmas.

While it’s pricier than the BeagleBone, the Raspberry Pi, or dozens of other ARM Linux boards out there, The BeagleBone has a lot of horsepower and plenty of I/Os. It’s an impressive piece of hardware that out-competes just about everything else available. We can’t wait to see it in the wild, but more importantly we can’t wait to see what people can do with it.

Title image credit: Vladimir Pantelic

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Microcontrollers

Bootstrapping Motion Input with Cheap Components

พฤ, 10/08/2015 - 00:00

Motion control is a Holy Grail of input technology. Who doesn’t want an interface that they can control with simple and natural movements? But making this feel intuitive to the user, and making it work robustly are huge hills to climb. Leap Motion has done an excellent job creating just such a sensor, but what about bootstrapping your own? It’s a fun hack, and it will give you much greater appreciation for the currently available hardware.

Let’s get one thing straight: This device isn’t going to perform like a Leap controller. Sure the idea is the same. Wave your hands and control your PC. However, the Leap is a pretty sophisticated device and we are going to use a SONAR (or is it really SODAR?) device that costs a couple of bucks. On the plus side, it is very customizable, requires absolutely no software on the computer side, and is a good example of using SONAR and sending keyboard commands from an Arduino Leonardo to a PC. Along the way, I had to deal with the low quality of the sensor data and figure out how to extend the Arduino to send keys it doesn’t know about by default.

The Plan

The plan is to take an inexpensive SONAR module (the HC-SR04) and an Arduino Leonardo and use it to perform some simple tasks by mimicking keyboard input from the user. The Leonardo is a key element because it is one of the Arduinos that can impersonate a USB keyboard (or mouse) easily. The Due, Zero, and Micro can also do the trick using the Arduino library.

I wanted to determine how many gestures I could really determine from the HC-SR04 and then do different things depending on the gesture. My first attempt was just to have the Arduino detect a few fingers or a hand over the sensor and adjust the volume based on moving your hand up or down. What I didn’t know is that the default Arduino library doesn’t send multimedia keys! More on that later.

How the SONAR Works

The SONAR boards come in several flavors, but the one I used takes 4 pins. Power and ground, of course, are half of the pins. In fact, my early tests didn’t work and I finally realized the module requires more power than I could draw from the Arduino. I had to add a bench supply to power the module (and, of course, I could have powered the module and the Arduino from the same supply).

The other two pins are logic signals. One is an input and a high-going pulse causes the module to ping (8 cycles at 40kHz). There is a delay and then the other pin (an output) will go high and return low when the module detects the return ping. By measuring the time between your signal to ping and the return, you can judge the distance. In my case, I didn’t care about the actual distance (although that’s easy to compute). I just wanted to know if something was farther away or closer.

The scope trace to the right shows the sensor pointing at something relatively near. The top trace is the start pulse and the bottom trace is the input to the Arduino. The center trace is the output of the SONAR transducer. All the signal conditioning is inside the sensor, so you don’t need to worry about the actual signal processing to generate and recover the audio. You only need to measure the width of that bottom pulse.

The scope has persistence and you can see that the bottom trace does not always come out right at the same time (look at falling edge and you can see “ghosts” for previous samples. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it may take a little effort to reduce the variations of the signal coming back from the SONAR.

Noise Reduction and Actions


I wound up trying several different things to attempt to stabilize the input readings. The most obvious was to average more than one sample. The idea is that one or two samples that are way off will get wiped out by the majority of samples that are hovering around some center value. I also found that sometimes you just miss–especially when looking for fingers–and you get a very large number back. I elected to throw out any data that seemed way off when compared to the majority of received data.


One other tactic I used was to verify certain elements with a second reading. For example, the start event occurs when the SONAR reports a value under the idle limit. The idle limit is a number less than the reading you get when the SONAR is pointed at the ceiling (or wherever it is pointing) and you don’t have anything blocking it. To recognize a valid start, the code reads twice to make sure the value is under the limit.

The code inside the Arduino loop is essentially a state machine. In the IDLE state, it looks for a reading that is below the idle limit. When found, that causes a transition to the sampling state. When the reading goes up or down more than some preset value, the code in the sample state sends a volume up or down key via the keyboard interface. If the sample goes back over the idle limit, the state machine returns to IDLE.

I got pretty good results with this data reduction,  but I also found the NewPing library and installed it. Even though it isn’t hard to write out a pulse and then read the input pulse, the NewPing library makes it even easier (and the code shorter). It also has a method, ping_median, that does some sort of data filtering and reduction, as well.

You can select either method by changing the USE_NEW_PING #define at the top of the file. Each method has different configuration parameters since the return values are slightly different between the two methods.

I said earlier that the code sends volume up and down commands when it detects action. Actually, the main code doesn’t do that. It calls an action subroutine and that subroutine is what sends the keys. It would be easy to make the program do other things, as well. In this case, it simply prints some debugging information and sends the keys (see below). I didn’t react to the actual position, although since the action routine gets that as a parameter, you could act on it. For example, you could make extreme positions move the volume up two or three steps at a time.

Sending Keyboard Commands

I wanted to send standard multimedia keys to the PC for volume up and down. Many keyboards have these already and usually your software will understand them with no effort on  your part. The problem, though, is that the default Arduino library doesn’t know how to send them.

Fortunately, I found an article about modifying the Arduino’s library to provide a Remote object that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but would work. Instead of sending keys, you have methods on a global Remote object that you can call to do things like change or mute the volume. The article was for an older version of the Arduino IDE, but it wasn’t hard to adapt it to the version I was using (version

The action routine really only needs the UP_IN and DN_IN cases for this example. However, I put in all four branches for future expansion. Here’s the action subroutine:

void action(int why, unsigned value=0) { Serial.print(value); switch (why) { case START_IN: Serial.println(" Start"); break; case STOP_IN: Serial.println(" Stop"); break; case UP_IN: Serial.println(" Up"); Remote.increase(); break; case DN_IN: Serial.println(" Down"); Remote.decrease(); break; } } The Final Result

The final result works pretty well, although the averaging makes it less responsive than you might wish. You can turn down the number of samples to make it faster, but then it becomes unreliable. You can download the complete code from Github. The first thing you’ll want to do is check the top of the file to make sure your module is wired the same (pin 3 is the trigger pin and pin 8 is the echo return pin). You’ll also want to select if you are going to use the NewPing library or not. If you choose to use it, you’ll need to install it. I flipped my Leonardo upside down and mounted it on a breadboard with some adapters (see picture to right). It really needs a more permanent enclosure to be useful. Don’t forget to give the SONAR module its own 5V power supply.

If you look near the top of the loop function there is an #if statement blocking out 3 lines of code. Change the 0 to a 1 and you’ll be able to just get averaged data from the sensor. Put the module where you want it and see what kind of numbers you get. Depending on the method I used I was getting between 4000 and 9000 pointed up to the ceiling. Deduct a bit off of that for margin and change IDLETHRESHOLD (near the top of the file) to that number.

The DELTATHRESHOLD is adjustable too. The code sees any change that isn’t larger than that parameter as no change. You might make that bigger if you have shaky hands or smaller if you want to recognize more “zones”. However, the smaller the threshold, the more susceptible the system will be to noise. The display of samples is helpful because you can get an idea how much the readings vary when your hand is at a certain spot over the sensor. You can try using one or two fingers, but the readings are more reliable when the sound is bouncing off the fleshy part of your palm.

If you want to add some more gestures, you may have to track time a bit better. For example, holding a (relatively) stationary position for a certain amount of time could be a gesture. To get really sophisticated gestures, you may have to do some more sophisticated filtering of the input data than a simple average. A Kalman filter might be overkill, but would probably work well.

If you look around, many robots use these sensors to detect obstacles. Makes sense, they’re cheap and work reasonably well. There are also many projects that use these to show an estimate of distance (like an electronic tape measure). However, you can use them for many other things. I’ve even used a similar set up to measure the level of liquid in a tank and earlier this week we saw ultrasonic sensors used to monitor rice paddies.

If you really want to get serious, [uglyduck] has some analysis of what makes spurious readings on this device. He’s also redesigning them to use a different processor so he can do a better job. That might be a little further than I’m willing to go, although I was impressed with the 3D sonic touchscreen which also modified the SONAR units.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Featured, peripherals hacks

ARMs and FPGAs Make for Interesting Dev Boards

พุธ, 10/07/2015 - 22:31

Tiny Linux computers are everywhere, and between BeagleBones, Raspberry and Banana Pis, and a hundred other boards out there, there are enough choices to go around. There is an extremely interesting ARM chip from Xilinx that hasn’t seen much uptake in the field of tiny credit-card sized computers: the Zynq. It’s an ARM Cortex-A9 coupled with an FPGA. It’s great for building peripherals that wouldn’t normally be included on a microcontroller. With Zynq, you just instantiate the custom bits in the FPGA, then interface them with a custom Linux driver. Thanks to CrowdSupply, there’s now a board out there that brings this intriguing chip to a proper development platform. It’s called the Snickerdoodle, and if you’ve ever wanted to see the capabilities of an FPGA tightly coupled to a fast processor, this is the board to watch.

The core of the Snickerdoodle is a Xilinx Zynq that features either a 667 MHz ARM Cortex A9 and a 430k gate FPGA (in the low-end configuration) or an 866 A9 and 1.3M gate FPGA. This gives the Snickerdoodle up to 179 I/O ports – far more than any other tiny Linux board out there.

Fully loaded, the Snickerdoodle comes with 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi, Bluetooth, 1GB of RAM, and an ARM Cortex A9 that should far surpass the BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi 2 in capabilities. This comes at a price, though: the top-shelf Snickerdoodle has a base price of about $150.

Still, the power of a fast ARM and a big FPGA is a big draw and we’re expecting a few more of these Zynq boards in the future. There are even a few projects using the Zynq on hackaday.io, including one that puts the Zynq in a Raspberry Pi-compatible footprint. That’s exceedingly cool, and we can’t wait to see what people will build with a small, fast ARM board coupled to an FPGA.

Filed under: ARM, Crowd Funding, FPGA

Conference Badges are the Newest Form of Hardware Art

พุธ, 10/07/2015 - 21:01

About four decades ago, many European truck drivers started placing electronic LED badges in their windshields. Most of them were simple; nothing more than an animated heart pierced by an arrow. It became a common distraction in the highway night panorama of that time, at least until it became illegal. Most motorists became accustomed to seeing them, and the idea of the truck drivers making a statement with electronics always stuck with me. Now I have the chance to help people make a similar statement. Conference badges are not just a way to identify those who have registered, but a fashion statement and a mark of pride for conference organizers. They’ve become an art form, and engineers always want to stretch the limits of what is possible.

Every September, we have BalCCon, an international hacker’s conference at Novi Sad, Serbia. I was asked to design a badge for the 2016 event, and this is the first (well, the second) release. It is based on the PIC18LF24K50 and consists of a circle of LEDs which randomly displays pre-defined patterns. Every badge has its own infrared transceiver (LED-receiver pair), so the fun begins when two or more badges spot each other: they go from Adagio to full on Rondo, losing their default, dull visual pattern for a more dynamic, attention grabbing one, but most importantly – they synchronize. This means that, in a group of people, all badges will play the same pattern in unison. Every badge can spread the pattern code, so the whole group, however large, soon becomes synchronized. But if one of them “gets lost” somehow, it will try to learn it back from a neighbor or it might even launch into its own, randomly generated one. Sometimes it manages to spread it further and you get to witness a battle for light show domination.

This isn’t merely a story of designing badges, but of design choices that come in on budget while achieving a look that will delight those who end up wearing the hardware.

Up to the point at which this video was filmed, only eight prototypes were built and previewed at BalCCon 2K15, which was held on September 11th-13th. The reception was very positive! The algorithm is quite simple: every badge plays its own pattern, while keeping its infrared eye open for someone else’s code. If it receives it and verifies the checksum, it stops the current pattern, transmits the special acknowledge code via infrared LED and starts playing the received pattern. If nothing was received, it randomly generates a new pattern code, transmits it, looks if someone acknowledged it and then runs the pattern. If there was an acknowledge, it switches to the “fast” mode. That’s it.

More Features

The beauty of microcontroller designs is that you can always add new features later, without affecting the cost. In this case, the infrared transmitter support was implemented in hardware, so the badge got upgraded with [Mitch Altman’s] TV-B-Gone function. I took Mitch’s database for switch-off codes for several hundred different models of TV sets, and wrote a PIC driver routine to transmit them.

The first badge was released about two months ago – it’s the red one in the photo. I decided to give it another feature which would require only the addition of a USB connector to the Bill Of Material. So, the Badge now functions as a Hardware Password Manager, at almost the same cost. It also improves on the visual interest of the badge. It looks like something purposeful, and not merely a fob for hanging around your neck.

There’s plenty of time to brainstorm some more features before next September is upon us. One of the things I will certainly be adding is contact information swapping — a steadfast of conference hardware badges like the Parallax’ badge. Of course this feature will not affect the cost, as both infrared transceiver and USB interface are already present. My son has also suggested adding some form of a Rock-Paper-Scissors game. It will play automatically when two players are connected.

Every badge will have its unique serial number, which will be transmitted by request. It has yet to be defined how this feature will be used, and which kind of external units will be built, as we don’t want to disturb anyone’s privacy.

Low Budget as an Inspiration

I’m always open, and grateful for any new idea thrown my way . The only restriction is the cost, as the project has already reached the budget limit. Only features that do not require any new hardware are acceptable. You can see that there are no displays, no large batteries and no radio or audio units.

Such a simple design has certain advantages which have contributed to comfort. There is enough space to spread the components on the PCB with some breathing room between them, making room for the 3 mm thick acrylic bezel to be glued in place, with laser cut holes for every single part on the PCB. You can comfortably hold the badge in your hands, keep it in your pocket, or even let it drop on the floor without the fear of it getting damaged. Also, all the components are on the upper layer, leaving the back of the badge flat and clean. All the electronic parts amount to an attractive look so there is no need to hide them. There are only a few pads for an in-circuit programming connector on the back side, if someone wants to play around with firmware (which is open, of course).

Originally, the hardware was not meant to be expandable, but I will probably use the bottom PCB layer, which is currently blank, to add traces and footprints for SMD peripherals. Then again, I wonder how many users really hack or expand the hardware of their badges?

I enjoy designing gadgets like these on a limited budget. With a lot of money, any designer can be tempted into overpowering the system and bloating the design with every feature imaginable. But who knows, maybe I will change my attitude some day when we get rich and I get to design a badge for BalCCon 3K45… or so.

How Can You Design a Badge with a Budget of 2€ Per Unit

Designing a badge for another conference, BIZIT 2015, was even more challenging. It is being organized by PC Press, our computer magazine publisher, on November the 3rd and 4th. It is not a hacker meeting but a business conference, but it is based on Information and Communications Technologies. The budget for the badge was as tight as 2€/unit (about $2.25 USD), based on 500 units.

I had to tap into a more common type of love for technology, since I couldn’t count on a passion for DIY or playing around with microcontrollers. I turned to science fiction, or more precisely – I ripped off Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey , which I assume most people will have seen. I made the badge resemble the iconic image of HAL 9000’s terminal. Very importantly, its elegant design was something which could be mimicked with just a few components.

To stay within the budget, I simplified the badge as much as possible. Luckily, almost all of the physical aspects of the design can be achieved through currently available PCBs. The front surface should be black, so I ordered a black 2-layer PCB. The shiny metal surface on HAL 9000’s terminal is simulated by HAL PCB (don’t be confused – it does not stand for HAL 9000, it is an abbreviation for Hot Air Levelling). The white letters (BIZIT 2015 instead of HAL 9000) are printed as the Top Overlay layer, and the lower grilled area consists of a lot of small PCB pads with no holes. The “HAL” text is originally on a light blue background, which is in this case a PCB base with copper layers and solder mask layers removed, so that it is semi-transparent. When you paint the back side with a blue marker, you get the exact blue tone that you need!

All of that is achieved with just the PCB. There are a few items left which have to be improvised, and some compromises have to be made. The price for one 5×15 cm 2-layer PCB, based on 500 pieces, is 1.5€, so I had only 0.5€ left to spend.

Kubrick originally used Nikkor Fisheye 8mm lens for HAL 9000’s eye. At the moment it costs several thousand dollars, which is significantly more than 0.5€, so I had to make a different choice. I used the laser cut acrylic bezel again, and glued it on the PCB. As simple as that! It is flat, so it doesn’t look as good as the original Nikkor lens, but it fits the budget. I also wanted to achieve the red fuzzy aura effect around the red dot, for which I sprayed some red paint through a 15 mm hole on a piece of cardboard held at about 10 mm distance from the PCB. It looks quite passable.

The one thing that I had to do right was to make HAL “alive”, which means to put the red LED in the center. I used an SMD LED in a 3528 case, placed halfway through the square hole on the PCB and soldered it on the bottom layer. It is powered by a CR2032 Lithium coin battery at the back, with an addition of SMD resistor for current limiting, bringing the expected battery life to several weeks, with no ON-OFF switch. It acts similarly to an LED throwie.

In the end, I broke the budget only by a few eurocents and everyone was happy. There was not enough money to make it talk, play chess or sing Daisy, but yet I’ll take good care not to leave it alone and unattended on my spaceship.

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

Filed under: cons, Featured, hardware, slider

Turning your CNC into a Vinyl Cutter

พุธ, 10/07/2015 - 18:01

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s actually pretty easy to modify your CNC machine to hold a vinyl cutter blade in order to do stencils or even cut out vinyl logos!

[Jouni] designed a holder for a standard Roland vinyl/sticker cutter blade (replacement with 5 blades is about $10 on eBay). It’s made to fit his specific CNC which uses a 65mm spindle, with a 49mm mounting ring — but the file could be easily modified to suit others.

Simply clamp your plastic or vinyl onto a flat piece of wood, and get stenciling! [Jouni’s] included his .STL file on his site in case anyone wants to try it out. While he’s designed it for 3D printing, you could probably CNC mill it as well — which would kinda make more sense…

And now that you have a vinyl cutter, why not cut your own SMD stencils for making your own PCBs!

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, cnc hacks

The Arduino Birthday Cake is No Lie

พุธ, 10/07/2015 - 15:01

Making someone a birthday cake is very thoughtful, but not if they are watching their weight. [MrFox] found a way around that: an Arduino-powered birthday cake. Even if you don’t mind the calories, an Arduino cake is a novelty and sure to be a hit with a hacker who’s another year older.

The cake uses a UTFT LCD shield which eats up a lot of pins and memory, so the project uses an Arduino Mega. A speaker plays the happy birthday song (which may even be legal now) while a microphone detects the birthday boy or girl blowing out the virtual candles.

We’ve seen similar cakes with a fixed number of LED “candles” before, but the LCD screen makes this a cake of a different color. If you want, you could look into something that is actually edible. On the other hand, we’re kind of partial to the Jolly Wrencher with red eyes and fireworks, ourselves.

The video shows the birthday cake in action. Given the screen, we were surprised that nothing popped out. Not a life-changing project, but still fun for your next hacker party, even if you have a real cake as a backup.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

Robot Clock Writes Time Over and Over and Over

พุธ, 10/07/2015 - 12:01

We’ve seen quite a few clocks that write the time out with a pen or marker. If you think about it, this really isn’t a great solution; every whiteboard marker will dry out in a day or two, and even if you’re using a pen, that’s still eventually going to run out of ink.

[ekaggrat] wanted a drawing clock that didn’t have these problems, and after taking a look at a magnetic drawing board, was struck with inspiration. The result is a clock that will perpetually write the time. It’s a revision of one of his earlier builds and looks to be much more reliable and mechanically precise.

A clock that writes time needs some sort of surface that won’t degrade, but can be written to over and over again. Whiteboards and glass won’t work, and neither will anything with ink. The solution to this problem was found in a ‘magnetic writing board’ or a Magna Doodle. These magnetic writing boards have a series of cells encapsulating iron filings. Pass a magnet over one side of the board, and a dot of filings appear. Pass a magnet over the opposite side of the board, and the filings disappear.

[ekaggrat]’s time-writing robot consists of a small Magna Doodle display, a robotic arm controlled by two stepper motors, and two solenoids on the end of the arm. The kinematics come from a helpful chap on the RepRap forums, and with the ATmega644 and two stepper drivers, this clock can write the time by altering the current flowing through two solenoids.

A video is the best way to experience this project, and you can check that out below.

Filed under: clock hacks

Hand Cranking the Malevolent Mechanical Pumpkin

พุธ, 10/07/2015 - 09:01

Meet Marty. He’s a pumpkin that has been fitted out with a moving eyes, tongue and an expression of malevolent glee. You would probably assume that this is all driven by servos, right? Nope: Marty is driven by an old-fashioned crank mechanism, designed and built by [Ben Brandt].

He wanted to make something that could be driven by a hand crank. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from throwing a motor on the back to drive the mechanism, but [Ben] wanted the internals to be fireproof so he could light it with a candle. His mechanism, built from old bits of wire and sheet metal, is not flammable or adversely affected by heat like a motor and power supply would be. He succeeded admirably, and he has also done an excellent job of documenting the process to providing handy tips on creating a mechanical pumpkin-based monstrosity.

Those hackers down with a little electronic wet work you should start building their LED-integrated Jack-O-Lantern now. These things take a lot of time turn out.

Filed under: Holiday Hacks, toy hacks

Password Haters Can Now Use Parts.io

พุธ, 10/07/2015 - 07:31

You can’t be bothered to sign up for a free parts.io account? Fine. You also don’t want to sign in each time you need to look up a component? Got it. You’ve made your point and the folks over at parts.io have made it so.

When the parts.io electronic component search engine was opened up for public use we covered it and gave you the rundown. Some of our readers left comments about things they were unhappy with regarding the parts.io system. Surprisingly, signing in was the most frequently voiced concern. It looks like your complaints were not taken lightly and you no longer have to register with the site to unlock all the parametric search data. There is still some added value to having an account like saving parts to a list for later use or you could get involved by joining the parts.io community on the forum.

Now we just need a parts search that knows what we want without having to actually choose parameters.

Full Disclosure: Parts.io is produced by Supplyframe Inc. Hackaday is an Editorially Independent part of Supplyframe.

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