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A Graphics Card for a Homebrew Computer

4 hours 54 minก่อน

One of [macrox]‘s ‘before I die’ projects is a homebrew computer. Not just any computer, mind you, but a fabulous Z80 machine, complete with video out. HDMI and DisplayPort would require far too much of this tiny, 80s-era computer, and it’s getting hard to buy a composite monitor. This meant it was time to build a VGA video card from some parts salvaged from old equipment.

When it comes to ancient computers, VGA has fairly demanding requirements; the slowest standard pixel clock is 25.175 MHz, an order of magnitude faster than the CPU clock in early 80s computers. Memory is also an issue, with a 640×480, 4-color image requiring 153600 bytes, or about a quarter of the 640k ‘that should be enough for anybody.’

To cut down on the memory requirements and make everything a nice round in base-2 numbers, [macrox] decided on a resolution of 512×384. This means about 100k of memory would be required when using 16 colors, and only about 24 kB for monochrome.

The circuit was built from some old programmable logic ICs pulled from a Cisco router. The circuit could have been built from discrete logic chips, but this was much, much simpler. Wiring everything up, [macrox] got the timing right and was eventually able to put an image on a screen.

After a few minutes, though, the image started wobbling. [macrox] put his finger on one of the GALs and noticed it was exceptionally hot. A heatsink stopped the wobbling for a few minutes, and a fan stopped it completely. Yes, it’s a 1980s-era graphics card that requires a fan. The card draws about 3W, or about two percent of a modern, high-end graphics card.

Filed under: classic hacks, video hacks

Bluetooth-Enabled Danger Sign for Lab

7 hours 55 minก่อน

[A Raymond] had some free time at work, and decided to spend it on creating a wireless warning sign. According to his blog profile, he is a PhD student in Applied Physics. His lab utilizes a high-powered laser system. His job is to use said system, but only after it’s brought online by faculty scientists. The status of the laser system is changed by a manual switchbox that controls the warning signs wired around the lab entrances. Unfortunately, if you were in the upstairs office, you only knew this after running downstairs to check. [A Raymond's] admitted laziness finally got the better of him – he wanted a sign that displayed the laser’s status from the comfort of the office. He had an old sign he could use, but he wanted a way for it to communicate with the switchbox downstairs. After some thought, he decided Bluetooth was the way to go, using a pair of BlueSMiRF Bluetooth modules from Sparkfun and Arduino Uno R3’s.

He constructed a metal box that intercepted the cable from the main switchbox, mounting one BlueSMiRF and Uno into it. Upon learning that the switchbox sends 12V AC signals over three individual status wires, he half-wave rectified the wires and divided their voltages so that the Uno wouldn’t fry. Instead, it determined which status wire that had active voltage. and sent a “g(reen)”, “y(ellow)”, or “r(ed)” signal continuously via Bluetooth. On the receiving end, [A Raymond] gutted the sign and mounted the other BlueSMiRF and Uno into it along with some green, yellow, and red LEDs. The LEDs light up in response to the corresponding Bluetooth signal.

The result is a warning sign that is always up-to-date with the switchbox’s status. We’ve covered projects using Bluetooth before, from plush birds to cameras- [A Raymond's] wireless sign is in good company. He notes that it’s “missing” a high pitched whining noise when the “Danger” lights are on. If he decides to add an accompanying (annoying) sound, he couldn’t go wrong with something like this. Regardless, we’re sure [A Raymond] is happy that he no longer has to go back and forth between floors before he can use the laser.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, wireless hacks

Espruino Pico, Javascript on a USB Stick

10 hours 54 minก่อน

There are probably very few official numbers for this, but web developers at least seem to outnumber the amount of people who regularly poke pins and registers with C. For them, the embedded world must be a scary and foreboding domain, full of bitwise operations and dynamic types. [Gordon] figured there was another way and built a Javascript interpreter for a microcontroller. The latest board built around this interpreter is up on Kickstarter, and its even smaller and more capable than his earlier version.

This isn’t [Gordon]‘s first rodeo; last year he launched the (full-sized) Espruino, featuring an ARM Cortex M3 and his very own Javascript interpreter. The large-scale Espruino was a rousing success, and now he’s moving on to a smaller thumb drive-sized footprint for the Pico. The hardware is a bit better, relying on the ARM Cortex M4 STM32F4 with a bit more RAM, and this time the board is slightly cheaper. It still runs the same Javascript interpreter, though, so all the code is exactly what you’d expect.

We haven’t seen many projects using this tiny Javascript of Things, but the new layout does make it fantastically useful. Depending on how the crowd funding campaign turns out, [Gordon] might be adding socket, and USB HID support, along with inline C functions.

Filed under: Crowd Funding, Software Development

From Nerf Gun to RF Cannon: Building a Movie Prop

13 hours 54 minก่อน

[David Windestål] is back in the USA, and this time he’s armed and dangerous! He’s built an incredible RF cannon prop (YouTube link) as part of his drone hunter wardrobe for the Rotor DR1 series. [David] is no stranger to Hackaday. We’ve previously seen him gliding R/C planes from the edge of space and building afterburners as part of the Flite Test crew.

[David's] drone hunter character is armed with a nasty RF cannon designed to fry drones out of the sky. The hunter can then collect and sell their Arcanum pellet power sources. [David] started with a seriously big Nerf gun. He cut off the front half of the gun and replaced it with a helical antenna. This is the same type of antenna [David] uses in his video ground stations. Coupled with a laser cut wood frame, the coil looks downright dangerous. We’re glad it’s just for show.

[David] added a few more accessories to the gun, including switches, an old heat sink, some wires, and the all-important Arcanum reactor. We seriously love his RF shielded glove, which keeps the hunter’s barrel hand from getting fried. [David] added a layer of copper mesh to a thick chemical resistant glove. He soldered the copper together and added a wire to connect glove and gun. [David] then enlisted the help of DR1 director [Chad Kapper] to paint and weather the gun and shield glove. The results are simply stunning.

We love watching hackers step a bit outside their element and build props like this. They always add a few realistic features that make even the most futuristic sci-fi prop a bit more plausible.


If you haven’t been watching Rotor DR1, check it out! There are three episodes out so far, with more coming each week.

Filed under: drone hacks, misc hacks

The Hackaday Prize: Interview With A ChipWhisperer

16 hours 54 minก่อน

Every finalist for The Hackaday Prize has some aspect of it that hasn’t been done before; finding the chemical composition of everything with some 3D printed parts is novel, as is building a global network of satellite ground stations with off the shelf components. [Colin]‘s ChipWhisperer, though, has some scary and interesting implications. By looking inside a microcontroller as its running, the ChipWhisperer is able to verify – or break – security on these chips. It’s also extremely interesting and somewhat magical being able to figure out what data a chip is processing simply by looking at its power consumption.

We have no idea who the winner of The Hackaday Prize is yet, and I’m hoping to remain ignorant of that fact until the party two weeks from now. Until then, you can read the short interview with [Colin O'Flynn], or check out his five-minute video for the ChipWhisperer below:

How seriously are the backdoors the Chipwhisperer opens taken in the industry? Are we looking at a huge problem with on-chip security out there, simply because the tools to investigate them have been really expensive?

For people who care about security because they directly have money to lose
(think chip & pin credit cards, satellite set-top boxes, etc.) they’ve taken
these problems seriously for a long time. But the majority of embedded
systems work doesn’t fall into that category, and it’s those products which
end up vulnerable. Part of the issue is the design engineers either don’t
know about these attacks. Or the engineers trust the vendors they are buying
from, which sell the crypto libraries, hardware accelerators, or stand-alone
chips as completely bullet-proof systems.

The problem may not be one of fundamental deficiencies in the design of
the crypto, but more the users (i.e. design engineers) don’t fully
understand how “secure” the specific implementation of the crypto is.

If you could give 100 words of advice to embedded designers implementing encryption, what would you tell them?

Crypto is not a check-box. Every implementation will be vulnerable, your
question is how secure do I need this to be? If someone is able to determine
the secret key in one device, does this mean they are now able to gain
access to all similar devices? The problems exposed by side-channel analysis
is often made worse by classic mistakes, such as re-using keying material
across multiple devices to make deployment easier, but when the devices
don’t actually require a shared key (think firmware images).

You’ve already said a few people have gotten the files and built their own ChipWhisperer. You’re also selling the complete kit. Who is buying it? Are we looking at academics, security researchers, companies verifying their own hardware, or just random people who sign their emails ZeroCool?

Mostly academics so far, although there has also been a few security
researchers and companies too. My intention with the design is for it to be
a learning tool, and about as far from an ‘offensive attack tool’ as I could
reasonable make it. Unless you understand the underlying theory of the
attacks you’ll never have success with them.

What was the reaction from different communities? What was the response from security researchers versus the general public? Are you surprised at how popular your project was?

The biggest reaction has been from embedded engineers, as they have often
been sold on ‘secure because math’ during their design process. They are
using AES-256 for example and assume that means someone attacking the system
would need to physically decap the chip, reset fuse bits, and then read out
Flash memory to get the key. They’d never seen practical demonstrations of
side-channel attacks, only vaguely heard about it.

I am surprised how popular the project was outside of this sphere though! A
lot more people are involved in side-channel power analysis then I first
realized, which is great to learn. I started a web forum with the intention
of trying to collect some of that community, as it would be great to share
research results in a more informal manner.

Hypothetical, and we’re not going to hold you to whatever answer you give. You win the grand prize, a trip to space or about $200,000 USD. Which one to you take, and what is your reasoning for doing so?

The trip to space would be great, but I think I’d have a hell of a time
turning down $200k! There’s no question I’d invest that back into this
project though. I really want to create a lower-cost version of these tools,
and a big part of that is doing a larger production run with more advanced
technology (mounting the FPGA directly on a multi-layer PCB). I’ve avoided
Kickstarter so far as I want this project to remain pretty technical – if I
went the Kickstarter route I’m afraid I’d end up with people who’ve only
ever used an Arduino backing the project, and then get frustrated when I’m
asking them to compile C code. I’ve also avoided trying to get an outside
investor, as they want to scale-back on the open-source/free nature of the
project. I’m also still part-way through a PhD, so can’t get too distracted
as I want to finish that off first!

Either way I’d need to check the tax implications of the prize too – if I
had to pay full Canadian income tax on the prize, I couldn’t afford the trip
to space anyway, even with the offer in the rules of the sponsor covering up
to 20% of the value! Unfortunately practical matters might dictate my

Filed under: Featured, Interviews, The Hackaday Prize

Nikes With Power Laces, Just in Time for Next Year

19 hours 54 minก่อน

With the world’s first hoverboard being shown a few days ago, we’re on the verge of the fabulous world of tomorrow from Back to the Future. Hoverboards are cool, but there’s a wealth of other cool technology from the far-off year of 2015: Mr. Fusions, inflatable pizza, Dustbusters, and of course, Nikes with power laces. [Hunter] just built them, and with the right shoes, to boot.

[Hunter] is using the BttF-inspired Nike Air Mag shoes for this build, along with a few bits of electronics – an Arduino pro mini, a force sensing resistor, and a motor. The build began by carving out a notch in the back of the shoe for the electronics. A small bit of fishing line goes around the shoe, providing the power behind the power laces.

A force sensitive resistor under the heel of the insole tells the microcontroller when a foot is inside the shoe, and a rotary encoder on the motor shaft makes sure all the power lace cycles are the same. It’s not quite the same as the shoe seen on screen – the lower laces can’t be replicated and it’s certainly not as fast as the BttF shoes, but it does work, and as far as shoelaces are concerned, they work well.

Videos below.

Filed under: wearable hacks

DIY FPV Goggles Born From Necessity of Cheapness

พุธ, 10/29/2014 - 21:01

So now that you’ve built your quadcopter and can fly it without crashing most of the time, what’s next? How about metaphorically hopping into the pilot’s seat with a First Person View setup. Great idea… but the cost of the required gear can be a deal breaker. FPV goggles alone range from the low to high hundreds. [sneaky] was using his laptop screen for his FPV setup and decided to try to make is own FPV goggles.

The display is just a small LCD screen that was purchased off eBay. Craft foam board was cut, bent, glued and duct taped to form a box about the same size as the LCD screen which is also secured to the box with duct tape. [sneaky] then cut the opposite side of the box to fit his face before he lined it with 1/2″ weatherstripping foam. Staring at an LCD screen just inches from your face is sure to cause some discomfort. A Fresnel lens inserted in between the user’s eyes and the LCD reduces eye strain to make long flights tolerable. The whole assembly is then held to your noggin via a recycled ski goggle strap.

In the end, [sneaky] likes his new goggles better than his old laptop screen and sun shade setup. The goggles aren’t too heavy and he can wear them comfortably for a while. We’ve seen a DIY FPV goggle setup in the past that uses individual lenses for each eye rather than one large Fresnel lens.

Filed under: drone hacks

A Pair of Projects to Scare the Trick-or-Treaters

พุธ, 10/29/2014 - 18:00

The countdown is on! There’s only a few days left until Halloween, and if you’re still looking for something to spice up the experience for the kids heading to your door, [MagicWolfi] has just what you need. He’s put together two motion-sensing projects that are sure to startle any trick-or-treater.

The first project is a chain of LED-lit pumpkins that are activated by a motion sensor. A set of inverters paired with RC delay lines light up the pumpkins sequentially. They are arranged almost like a strand of Christmas lights and are powered by AA batteries, so in theory they could be expanded to make a strand as long as needed. The project was inspired by a motion-sensing dress and works pretty well as a Halloween decoration!

[MagicWolfi] is pairing the LED pumpkins with his second project which uses another motion sensor to play scary sound effects. Dubbed the Scare-o-Matic, this device uses a 45-millimeter speaker connected to a SparkFun microSD audio module to produce the scary sound effects. Each time it is triggered it plays a different sound from the list. There are videos and schematics for each of these projects on the project sites if you are interested in recreating any of these before Friday!

Filed under: Holiday Hacks

Water Softener Level Detector Keeps You Out Of Trouble With Wife

พุธ, 10/29/2014 - 15:00

Some households have water supplies that contain higher than desired levels of minerals. This condition is called hard water. There is nothing harmful about hard water but it does leave mineral deposits on pipes and appliances and makes cleaning a little bit more difficult. The solution is to have a water softener system which is basically a tank filled with salt that the household water passes through. This tank has to be refilled about every month and [David] was catching a little flak from his wife because he kept forgetting to fill it. He then set out to do what any great husband would do and built a Water Softener Monitor that reports the quantity of salt in the basement tank up to the living quarters.

[David] started thinking that he should test the salinity of the water to determine if salt needed to be added but after thinking about it for a while decided against it because any metal in that salty water would surely corrode. A non-contact approach would be to use an IR distance sensor mounted to the top of the tank and measure the distance to the pile of salt that slowly lowers as it dissolves into the water. In this case, he used a Sharp GP2D12 that can measure accurately from 10 to 80cm.

By itself, the distance sensor wouldn’t do much so [David] made his own PCB Board to hold all the necessary circuit components. The brains behind the operation is an Atmel ATtiny861 20 pin microcontroller. He’s got a lot going on and needed a micro controller with enough pins for all his bells and whistles. Besides sensing the height of the salt pile, the micro controller also outputs the salt quantity level via a 10 LED bar graph which is mounted in a wall plate. At first glance the wall plate looks like a standard light switch cover but it was actually custom cut on a CNC Milling Machine specifically for this project to ensure a perfect fit. Right below the LED bar graph is a photocell. The microcontroller only lights up the LEDs when there is a change in ambient light in the room, whether from a light turning on or a passerby casting a temporary shadow over the sensor. The LEDs will turn off after 3 minutes of non-activity.

Filed under: home hacks

A Proof of Concept Flash Cart for the WonderSwan

พุธ, 10/29/2014 - 12:00

Unless you’ve been to Japan or are fairly deep into the retro game collecting, you’ve probably never heard of the WonderSwan. It’s a handheld console, released after the Game Boy Color was beginning to show its age, and a bit before the introduction of the Game Boy Advance. It sold rather well in the only country it was released in, the game library is somewhat impressive, and there are quite a few homebrew games. Actually running these homebrew games is a challenge, though: each WonderSwan has a memory controller that maps the game ROM into the CPU’s memory. Without knowing how this controller chip works, the only way to run a homebrew cartridge is to turn on the machine with a real cart, go to the system menu, and swap the carts out. It turns out there’s a better solution, that includes programming CPLDs and looking at the output of a logic analyzer.

The first step towards [Godzil]‘s efforts to create a Flash cart for the WonderSwan is to figure out the pinout of the cartridge connector – something that isn’t well documented for a system without a homebrew hardware scene. This was done in the usual way; with a lot of ribbon cable and patience This only provided an incomplete picture of how the WonderSwan interfaced with its carts, but after digging up an official development board, [Godzil] was able to make sense of all the signals.

After building a breakout board for the cartridge port, [Godzil] connected a DE0 Nano FPGA board and looked at all the signals. With just a little bit of VHDL, the memory controller could be reverse engineered and reimplemented. [Godzil] has his proof of concept working – video below – and the next part of his project will be to turn this into a proper Flash cart.

Filed under: classic hacks

This Home-Made 6-Axis Robotic Arm is Quite the Looker

พุธ, 10/29/2014 - 09:00

With a background in software engineering, [Kris Temmerman] decided to make a physical demonstration of his knowledge in the form of a six axis robotic arm… the final product is a delicious display of mechanical eye candy.

Built from mostly aluminum stock, [Kris] machined the bulk of his parts with a CNC mill which he picked up for cheap from China. These custom pieces coupled with some hefty stepper motors ensure the arm’s accuracy as it twists freely and slides along the gantry it’s mounted to. Though the majority of the arm is metal, the hand at the end of his robot was built with 3D printed parts and can be switched out with the future attachments [Kris] plans to design. This classic gripper piece is driven separately with its own Arduino brain controlling the individual servos in the fingers.

Each finger includes some load bearing sensors which [Kris] harvested from an old scale so that the gripper can tell whether or not it has a hold of an object without crushing it. To orchestrate the robot’s movement, he wrote some nice looking software in C++ which visualizes the inverse kinematics at work in each point of articulation. For the sake of demonstrating his creation in action, he whipped up a basic demo that can locate and move colored blocks laid at random on a surface. A small camera mounted on the hand determines the orientation of the blocks relative to the machine so that the wrist can rotate itself in the proper alignment in order to pick them up.

[Kris] documented the build of his robot in a fascinating speed video which includes footage of the finished arm in action at the end:

Filed under: robots hacks

Make Flexible PCBs with Your 3D Printer

พุธ, 10/29/2014 - 06:00

The last few years have seen great strides in budget printed circuit board manufacturing. These days you can have boards made in a week for only a few dollars a square inch. Flexible PCBs still tend to be rather expensive though. [Mikey77] is changing that by making flex circuits at home with his 3D printer. [Mikey77] utilized one of the properties of Ninjaflex Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) filament – it sticks to bare copper!

The TPE filament acts as an etch resist, similar to methods using laser printer toner. For a substrate, [Mikey77] lists 3 options:

.004″ thick “Scissor cut” copper clad board from Electronics Goldmine

.002″ thick pure copper polyester taffeta fabric from lessEMF.com

<.001″ Pyralux material from Adafruit, which is one of the materials used to make professional flex PCBs.

A bit of spray adhesive will hold the Flex PCB down on the printer’s bed. The only issue is convincing the printer to print a few thousandths of an inch higher than the actual bed level. Rather than change the home position on his Z axis, [Mikey77] used AutoDesk 123D to create 3D PCB designs. Each of his .stl files has a “spacer bar”, which sits at the bed level. The actual tracks to be printed are in the air a few thousandths of an inch above the bed – exactly the thickness of the substrate material. The printer prints the spacer bar on the bed, then raises its Z height and prints on the flexible PCB material. We’re sure that forcing the printer to print in mid-air like this would cause some printer software to throw errors, but the system worked for [Mikey77] and his Makerbot.

Once the designs have been printed, the boards are etched with standard etching solutions such as ferric chloride. Be careful though – these thin substrates can etch much faster than regular PCB.

Filed under: news

Retrotechtacular: Fire Control Computers in Navy Ships

พุธ, 10/29/2014 - 01:00

Here is a two-part Navy training film from 1953 that describes the inner workings of mechanical fire control computers. It covers seven mechanisms: shafts, gears, cams, differentials, component solvers, integrators, and multipliers, and does so in the well-executed fashion typical of the era.

Fire control systems depend on many factors that occur simultaneously, not the least of which are own ship’s speed and course, distance to a target, bearing, the target’s speed and course if not stationary, initial shell velocity, and wind speed and direction.

The mechanisms are introduced with a rack and pinion demonstration in two dimensions. Principally speaking, a shaft carries a value based on revolutions. From this, a system can be geared at different ratios.

Cams take this idea further, transferring a regular motion such as rotation to an irregular motion. They do so using a working surface as input and a follower as output. We are shown how cams change rotary motion to linear motion. While the simplest example is limited to a single revolution, additional revolutions can be obtained by extending the working surface. This is usually done with a ball in a groove.

The film moves on to describe these mechanisms in the context of fire control systems. It does an excellent job of explaining how several different cams take the rotary input of a ship’s speed and deliver it as linear motion to the follower for output to other systems. Most are aptly named based on the type of output delivered; a reciprocal cam’s output is computed as the reciprocal of the input, and a square cam’s output is the square of the input.

A tangent cam’s input is an angle between 40 and 70, and the output is the tangent of that angle. A time of flight cam takes the range as input and gives the time of flight for projectiles. Perhaps the most complicated, the barrel cam takes the advance range and advance elevation of the target and uses them to compute the superelevation of a projectile. It effectively contains an infinite number of cams that each compute a different superelevation. Differentials are explained quite well through a visual breakdown of the bevel gear variety. In these, the end gear pair provides endless racks to the spider gear’s pinion.

Part two opens with component solvers, which solve vector problems for firing upon stationary targets. These provide continuous solutions by forming vector diagrams based on own ship’s speed and bearing to the target at any given point. The solver calculates the speed vector relative to line of sight with a groove cam, and uses two slotted racks to compute the range rate along the line of sight and the bearing rate perpendicular to the line of sight.

Disc-type integrators are used for range keeping where the present range equals the algebraic sum of the initial range and the range change. The disc integrator continuously computes the range change and outputs it to a differential, which along with the initial range computes the present range. It does this using a time disc and the range rate output sent from the component solver. The mechanism operates like a variable gear with infinite ratios.

Finally, multipliers are used to multiply two continuously changing values, either or both of which may be positive or negative. This device is quite mesmerizing, if we may say so. The rack type described consists of two input racks at right angles to each other, an output rack, and a stationary pin that helps determine the zero point. Both input racks move along the scale and provide the product of the two inputs on the output rack.

Even though these systems were heavy, had a large footprint, and required a lot of power, there is much to be said for their elegance and reliability.

[Thank you to Barron for sending this in]

Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular

New to the Store: Bulbdial Clock and Free Shipping Option

พุธ, 10/29/2014 - 00:01

New to the Hackaday Store today is the Bulbdial Clock by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. I’ve had my eye on this kit for years and finally pulled the trigger after visiting [Lenore] and [Windell] at their shop a few weeks back. Assembling the beautifully-engineered kit was a delight, and I have a handful of hacks I’d like to try out — some of which I mentioned in the product description.

Free shipping based on order price

We always listen to what the Hackaday community has to say. After receiving several requests for better international shipping prices we came up with a way to ease the pain for orders no matter where they are headed. All domestic orders totaling $25 or more now receive free shipping. All international orders totaling $50 or more now receive free shipping.

Is there anything else you’d like to see different about the store? How about a hackable product you think we should stock? We’re listening via the store contact form.

Filed under: Featured

Adventures in Hackerspacing: GA Tech’s Invention Studio

อังคาร, 10/28/2014 - 21:01


We feature hacker/makerspaces of all kinds here at Hackaday, and these days, encountering a hackerspace at a college or university isn’t uncommon. School-backed spaces are often mildly impressive, too, with plenty of room and better-than-most equipment.

Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio, however, is different. This space is nothing short of staggering.

Once you’ve walked past the wall of commercial-grade 3D printers lining the entryway, you’ll find yourself in the Electro-lounge, a general meeting and hangout room with some basic tools. Each room beyond has a specific purpose, and is packed full of equipment. We aren’t just going on a tour, though, because this is Adventures in Hackerspacing. Click through the break for a behind-the-scenes look at how this hackerspace provides a top-rate experience for its makers and how Invention Studio thrives with an entirely student-run leadership.

This wasn’t my first trip to Invention Studio, but it was the first where I had time to sit and chat at length with some of the students and with my friend [Chad Ramey]: Computer Science major, fusion reactor operator, Invention Studio president, and all-around nice guy.

On the table in the Electro-lounge is a 3D printer model that I don’t recognize. [Chad] explains that manufacturers will sometimes send Invention Studio their prototypes because the students at Tech will drive them until the steppers fall off. There are few places that can provide that kind of continuous use and supply meaningful, technical feedback: the space accommodates hundreds of students during the school year and 3D printers are perhaps the most popular piece of equipment.

3D printing room. Most working, a couple not…

I follow [Chad] further into the depths of Invention Studio and into a room dedicated to consumer 3D printers, where printing ABS or PLA is free of cost to the student. [Chad] affectionately refers to this room as the Wild West of the Invention Studio, where students with good intentions but a lack of experience often break things. That’s okay, though. Tech has enough printers that anything short of a natural disaster wouldn’t inhibit their production capabilities, and allowing the students to fail helps foster a community of hackers who work to resurrect the devices together, leaving everyone with a better understanding of the printers.

The Invention Studio ULI’s armband.

Although Invention Studio has some faculty oversight (grant writing and fundraising, ensuring safety standards) the space is otherwise entirely student-run. The system centers around ULI’s, University Lab Instructors, who volunteer their time to supervise the various sections of the space. Anyone associated with the university has access to Invention Studio during regular hours, and at least 3 ULI’s are on duty during this time. Each wears an identifying armband.

Prospective ULI’s must first attend an introductory meeting to learn basic procedures and rules. after which they complete a competency check via an online document. ULI’s must volunteer a minimum of 3 hours per week. In return, however, they receive the keys to the kingdom and can use the facilities any time. Not literal keys, though; this is Georgia Tech. Access control is through NFC used by the Student IDs, but it’s a proprietary NFC standard rather than the typical RFID, which limits how the students can use the devices. For now, access to any given room happens through faculty request.

Some ULI’s naturally gravitate toward a particular interest and become “masters” of those areas—or, in the case of 3D printing, “masochists.” For these students, making is a consuming part of their lives, and they spend a lot of time around the shop, helping maintain their given area and provide some more advanced guidance.

Each tool has an acrylic silhouette for easy replacing.

[Chad] leads me out of the 3D printer room and through the rest of the Studio. We pass through the wood shop, which has a large CNC router and a slew of tools carefully organized along the wall—very cleverly, I should say. Each tool has its own piece of acrylic cut into the form of the tool’s silhouette and mounted on the wall behind it, to simplify the re-shelving process. Back near the entrance we encounter rows of sticker-laden lockers: personal storage is yet another ULI perk.

Who doesn’t want a waterjet?

A massive waterjet shares a room with a couple of laser cutters and a small kiln. Students don’t enjoy the same Wild-West-Freedom to tinker with these larger, more expensive devices as they would the consumer-grade 3D printers, and any malfunctions—although industrial equipment is less likely to break down than the RepRaps—are handled through the manufacturer. That doesn’t mean students are discouraged from using the equipment. Countless components are carved out of all types of material for everything from business cards to electric vehicles.

CNC lathes and more.

[Chad] has to turn the lights on in the last room he shows me. Inside is a fabricator’s dream space, packed wall-to-wall with CNC mills and CNC lathes. The room is unoccupied, however, and although Invention Studio isn’t busy at the moment, these machines don’t see as much use as I expected. 3D printing, as [Chad] explains, has stolen much of the attention away from other manufacturing techniques, but the occasional ambitious student will resist the urge to melt plastic and fire up one of these impressive machines instead.

Charles Padgham, one of many Invention Studioers, poses with some of his work.

If you’re looking for a hacker/maker-friendly college, Georgia Tech is hard to beat. Even during the slower hours of my visit I encountered at least five students actively tinkering away at a variety of projects. As a space, Invention Studio is one of the best I’ve seen: self-sustaining, student-run, welcoming and bustling with people who just love to make.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackerspaces

SAINTCON Badge (Badge Hacking for Mortals)

อังคาร, 10/28/2014 - 18:00

[Josh] attended his first SAINTCON this weekend before last and had a great time participating in the badge hacking challenge.

The 2014 SAINTCON is only the second time that the conference has been open to the public. They give out conference badges which are just an unpopulated circuit board. This makes a lot of sense if you figure the number of people who actually hack their badges at conferences is fairly low. So he headed off to the hardware hacking village to solder on the components by hand — it’s an Arduino clone.

This is merely the start of the puzzle. We really like that the published badge resources include a crash course on how to read a schematic. The faq also attests that the staff won’t solder it for you and to get your microcontroller you have to trade in your security screw (nice touch). Once up and running you need to pull up the terminal on the chip and solve the puzzles in the firmware’s menu system. This continues with added hardware for each round: an IR receiver, thermistor, EEPROM, great stuff if you’re new to microcontrollers.

[Josh] mentions that this is nothing compared to the DEFCON badge. Badge hacking at DEFCON is **HARD**; and that’s good. It’s in the top-tier of security conferences and people who start the badge-solving journey expect the challenge. But if you’re not ready for that level of puzzle, DEFCON does have other activities like Darknet. That is somewhere in the same ballpark as the SAINTCON badge — much more friendly to those just beginning to developing their crypto and hardware hacking prowess. After all, everyone’s a beginner at some point. If that’s you quit making excuses and dig into something fun like this!

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, cons

Restoring A PDP-10 Console Panel

อังคาร, 10/28/2014 - 15:00

The PDP-10 was one of the first computers [Jörg] had gotten his hands on, and there are very, very few people that can deny the beauty of a panel full of buttons, LEDs, dials, and analog meters. When one of the front panels for a PDP-10 showed up on eBay, [Jörg] couldn’t resist; a purchase that would lead him towards repairing this classic console and making it functional again with a BeagleBone.

The console [Jörg] picked up is old enough to have voted for more than one Bush administration, and over the years a lot of grime has covered the beautiful acrylic panels. After washing the panel in a bathtub, [Jörg] found the dried panel actually looked worse, like an old, damaged oil painting. This was fixed by carefully scraping off the clear coat over two weeks; an important lesson in preserving these old machines. They’re literally falling apart, even the ones in museums.

With the front panel cleaned, [Jörg] turned his attention to the guts of this panel. The panel was wired up for LEDs, and each of the tiny flashlight bulbs in the pushbuttons were replaced. The panel was then connected to a BlinkenBone with a ton of wiring, and the SIMH simulator installed. That turns this console into a complete, working PDP-10, without sucking down kilowatts of power and heating up the room

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Jörg] with a BeagleBone and some old DEC equipment; earlier he connected the front panel of a PDP-11 variant to one of these adapters running the same software.

Filed under: classic hacks

Flying Wing Project uses 3D Printing to Reach New Heights

อังคาร, 10/28/2014 - 12:01


A team of engineers from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the University of Sheffield have just put the finishing touches on their 3D printed Flying Wing with electric ducted fan engines — a mini electric jet so to speak.

Earlier this year they had created a completely 3D printed fixed wing UAV, which the new Flying Wing is based off of. Designed specifically for the FDM process, they were able to optimize the design so that all parts could be printed out in 24 hours flat using ABS plastic.

The new design also almost exclusively uses FDM technology — however the wings are molded carbon fibre… using a 3D printed mold of course!  The original glider weighed 2kg, and with the upgrades to the design, the Flying Wing weighs 3.5kg, with speed capabilities of around 45mph.

To save weight, neither plane has landing or take off gear, so the team had to create a slingshot catapult in order to launch the UAV’s. Also created using FDM components, it’s capable of launching the planes at 12m/s, or around 30mph.

Down the road they hope to double the size of the plane to have a wingspan of around 3 meters, and use miniature gas turbines to take it to new heights, literally!

[Thanks Joseph!]

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Hybrid 50cc Ultracapacitor Scooter

อังคาร, 10/28/2014 - 09:00

We’re all familiar with hybrid gas-electric cars these days, but how about a hybrid scooter that uses supercapacitors instead of batteries? Our hats are off to [Alex] from Labs Bell for the almost entirely-DIY conversion.

The hybrid idea is to drive the vehicle’s wheels with electric motors, but generate the electricity with a normal gasoline engine. This allows the hybrid to control the engine speed almost independently of the wheel motors’ demand for power, allowing the gas engine to run at its most efficient speed and charge up batteries with the extra energy. As an extra bonus, many hybrids also use regenerative braking to recoup some of the energy normally wasted as heat in your brake pads.

[Alex]‘s hybrid scooter does all of the above and more. Since the stock vehicle is a 50cc scooter, any increase in acceleration is doubtless welcome. We’d love to see the scooter starting from stop with a full charge. Using supercapacitors as storage instead of batteries is a win for charging efficiency. In urban stop-and-go traffic, the natural habitat of the 50cc scooter, the regenerative braking should help further with gas consumption.

What’s most impressive to us is the completely DIY hybrid control unit that takes some simple inputs (wheel speed and throttle position) and controls regenerative braking, the gas engine’s throttle, etc. Since the hybrid control system is currently under development, there’s even a button to switch between different trial algorithms on the fly. Very cool!

Oh yeah, and [Alex] points out the fire extinguisher on-board. He had occasion to use it for his hybrid motorcycle V1. Safety first!

Filed under: transportation hacks

8×8 LED Arrays Make for one Creepy Animated Pumpkin

อังคาร, 10/28/2014 - 06:00

[Michal Janyst] wrote in to tell us about a little project he made for his nephew in preparation for Halloween – a jack-o-lantern with facial expressions.

Pumpkin Eyes uses two MAX7219 LED arrays, an Arduino nano, and a USB power supply. Yeah, it’s pretty simple — but after watching the video you’ll probably want to make one too. It’s just so cute! Or creepy. We can’t decide. He’s also thrown up the code on GitHub for those interested.

Of course, if you want a bit more of an advanced project you could make a Tetris jack-o-lantern, featuring a whopping 8×16 array of LEDs embedded directly into the pumpkin… or if you’re a Halloween purist and believe electronics have no place in a pumpkin, the least you could do is make your jack-o-lantern breath fire.

It’s pretty simple, but extremely effective — so if you’re looking for some last-minute decoration ideas, this might be it!

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Holiday Hacks, led hacks

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