[ZPriddy] was looking for a way to control his Nest thermostats with Amazon Echo. He didn’t want to settle for using AWS or some other hosted service. [ZPriddy] wanted something that he could host and manage completely on his own. The end result is what he calls EchoNestPy.
[ZPriddy] started by learning how to use the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK). ASK is the official SDK that allows enthusiasts to add functionality to their Amazon Echo. Unfortunately for [ZPriddy], most of the example code he found was designed to be used on Amazon Lambda, but that didn’t stop him. After finding a few examples of Amazon Echo requests and responses, he was on his way.
[ZPriddy] chose to implement a simple web server using Flask. The web server listens for the Amazon requests and responds appropriately. It also Oauth2 authentication to ensure some level of security. The server is capable of synchronizing the temperature of multiple Nest devices in the same home, but it can also increment or increment the temperature across the board. This is accomplished with some simple voice commands such as “Tell Nest that I’m a little bit chilly”. If you like Amazon Echo hacks, be sure to check out this other one for controlling WeMo devices.
Filed under: home hacks
Restoring old gear often means replacing unavailable parts with modern equivalents. [Alex Eisenhut] needed to replace some old TO-3 voltage regulators and decided to make an authentic-looking switching power supply replacement. These three pin metal cans were very common, especially the LM340 5V regulator which was, of course, a linear regulator. Today, you are more likely to see a 7805 in a TO-220 case or something surface mount for a comparable linear regulator.
As you might expect, the board uses surface mount components. [Alex] used Mill Max machine pins to match the original regulator footprint and calls the regulator Ton3y. He plans to cover it up with a 3D printed lid, but it seems a shame to hide the fine PCB work.
In the pictures, you can see that the machine pins are a tight fit. [Alex] used a hammer to lightly tap them into place. Of course, the original TO-3 regulators were linear and would generate a lot of heat. The Ton3y, as you’d expect from a switching power supply, runs cool (according to the scientific measurement made with [Alex]’s pinky finger) and surely has a wider input voltage range and more output current capacity.
We’ve seen replacement switching regulators before, but this one is really a work of art.
Filed under: misc hacks
People may know many name and brands of cars and trucks, and there’s tons of scale models available for the average popular ones. What happens if your favorite truck is a 1960 Bucegi? You could do what [Arin] did and 3D print your own custom model.
[Arin] used to drive these machine back in his youth and it made an impression on him. In the few years of production, the 140HP V8 truck was adapted to all sorts of uses from farm trucks to military vehicles and even cranes. The base truck and the desired configuration is modeled up in quite a bit of detail, then it’s 3D printed.
Once the printing is done the models are smoothed out using body filling primer paint, (and we imagine some fine sanding) , painted with acrylic paint, and assembled into an accurate model complete with working steering systems.
Below is a video showing assembly and painting and a second video showing off the steering system.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks
You’re going to want to take a look at this fun project [Alistair MacDonald] just finished up. He calls it Ninja Chess.
He’s had the idea to 3D print a complete set of ninjas vs pirates for a chess board, but, let’s be real; printing thirty-two chess pieces would take a long time. He opted to use a laser cutter instead, and so far, only has the Ninja characters drawn. But it still makes for a pretty awesome chess board.
He drew the characters in Inkscape and they’re pretty darn cute. He has all the files available over on his Instructable including the .DXF for the laser cut outlines, and the image files for you to print off the decals. But unless you’re good with scissors, we recommend using your hackerspace’s automated paper cutter to help speed things up.
Is it a hack? Not really, but it’d be an excellent addition to anyone’s workshop. And while we sail under the Jolly Wrencher, we too can appreciate the novelty of a Ninja chess board.
For a more detailed build, did you see the 3D laser cut chess pieces we shared a few weeks ago? No that’s not a typo — you can use a laser cutter to do more than just two-dimensional cutting…
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, laser hacks
The apocalypse is coming, and the last time I checked, not many people have a semiconductor fab in their garage. We’ll need computers after the end of the world, and [matseng]’s project for the Hackaday Prize is just that – a framework to build computers out of discrete components.
The apocalyptic spin on this project is slightly exaggerated, but there is a lot someone can learn by building digital devices out of transistors, resistors, and diodes. The building blocks of [matseng]’s computer are as simple as they come: he’s using three resistors, four diodes, and one NPN transistor to build a single NAND gate. These NAND gates can then be assembled into any form of digital logic. You’re never going to get a better visual example of functional completeness.
A project like this must be approached from both the top down and bottom up. To go from a high level to ones and zeros, [matseng] built an assembler and an emulator. Some ideas of what the instruction set will be are laid out in this project log, and for now [matseng] is going for a Harvard architecture with eight registers. It’s a lot of work for a computer that will be limited by how much memory [matseng] can be wired up, but as far as ambition goes, there aren’t many projects in the Hackaday Prize that can match this tiny, huge computer.The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize
[Stian] thought it would be nice if his coworkers could be electronically notified when the latest batch of coffee is ready. He ended up building an inexpensive coffee alarm system to do exactly that. When the coffee is done, the brewer can press a giant button to notify the rest of the office that it’s time for a cuppa joe.
[Stian’s] first project requirement was to activate the system using a big physical button. He chose a button from Sparkfun, although he ended up modifying it to better suit his needs. The original button came with a single LED built-in. This wasn’t enough for [Stian], so he added two more LEDs. All three LEDs are driven by a ULN2003A NPN transistor array. Now he can flash them in sequence to make a simple animation.
This momentary push button supplies power to a ESP8266 microcontroller using a soft latch power switch. When the momentary switch is pressed, it supplies power to the latch. The latch then powers up the main circuit and continues supplying power even when the push button is released. The reason for this power trickery is to conserve power from the 18650 li-on battery.
The core functionality of the alarm uses a combination of physical hardware and two cloud-based services. The ESP8266 was chosen because it includes a built-in WiFi chip and it only costs five dollars. The microcontroller is configured to connect to the WiFi network with the push of a button. The device also monitors the giant alarm button.
When the button is pressed, it sends an HTTP request to a custom clojure app running on a cloud service called Heroku. The clojure app then stores brewing information in a database and sends a notification to the Slack cloud service. Slack is a sort of project management app that allows multiple users to work on projects and communicate easier over the internet. [Stian] has tapped into it in order to send the actual text notification to his coworkers to let them know that the coffee is ready. Be sure to watch the demo video below.
Filed under: home hacks, Microcontrollers
For the last few months, we’ve been asking the Hackaday.io community for their thoughts on what the best projects are in the 2015 Hackaday Prize. We’ve also been giving away some fabulous prizes to people who have voted, and we just wrapped up the last round of voting? Did anyone win? Check out the video below.
No, the randomly selected person on Hackaday.io didn’t vote, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s going home empty-handed. I selected three random people who did vote, and they get a free t-shirt from the Hackaday store.
We’re less than a month away for the first cutoff for the Hackaday Prize. If you’re thinking of entering a project in this year’s Hackaday Prize, you should do that now. Entries must be in by 1:50 PM, PDT. on August 17, 2015. That means you have under a month to come up with a project, put four project logs up on Hackaday.io, and shoot a video. There’s already a lot of great projects in the running, you can check them all out here
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize
How long can you keep an Arduino circuit running on three AA batteries? With careful design, [educ8s] built a temperature sensor that lasts well over a year on a single charge of three 2250 mAH rechargeable cells (or, at least, should last that long).
Like most long-life designs, this temperature sensor spends most of its time sleeping. The design uses a DS18B20 temperature sensor and a Nokia 5110 LCD display. It also uses a photoresistor to shut off the LCD display in the dark for further power savings.
During sleep, the device only draws 260 microamps with the display on and 70 microamps with the display off. Every two minutes, the processor wakes up and reads the temperature, drawing about 12 milliamps for a very short time.
Along with the code, [educ8s] has a spreadsheet that computes the battery life based on the different measured parameters and the battery vendor’s claimed self discharge rate.
Of course, with a bigger battery pack, you could get even more service from a charge. If you need a refresher on battery selection, we covered that not long ago. Or you can check out a ridiculously complete battery comparison site if you want to improve your battery selection.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks
Everyone’s first microcontroller project is making an LED blink. It’s become the de-facto “Hello World” of hardware hacking. There’s something about seeing wires you connected and the code you wrote come together to make something happen in the real world. More than just pixels on a screen, the LED is tangible. It’s only a short jump from blinking LEDs to making things move. Making things move is like a those gateway drug – it leads to bigger things like robots, electric cars, and CNC machines. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) is the art of using a computer to control movement. The term is usually applied to machine tools, which cut, engrave, or perform other operations on wood, plastic, metal and other materials. In short, tools to make more things. It’s no surprise that hackers love CNCs. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the best CNC projects on Hackaday.io!
We start with [Charliex] and Grizzly G0704 CNC Conversion. [Charliex] wanted a stout machine capable of milling metal. He started with a Grizzly G0704, which is small compared to a standard knee mill, but still plenty capable of milling steel. [Charliex] added a Flashcut CNC conversion kit to his mill. While they call them “conversion kits” there is still quite a bit of DIY ingenuity required to get a system like this going. [Charliex] found his spindle runout was way out of spec, even for a Chinese mill. New bearings and a belt conversion kit made things much smoother and quieter as well. The modded G0704 is now spending its days cutting parts in [Charliex’s] garage.
Next up is [brashtim] with Makesmith CNC. Makesmith was [brashtim’s] entry in the 2014 Hackaday prize. While it didn’t win the prize, Makesmith did go on to have a very successful Kickstarter, with all the machines shipping in December of 2014. The machine itself is unorthodox. It uses closed loop control like large CNC machines, rather than open loop stepper motors often found in desktop units. The drive motors are hobby type servos. We’re not talking standard servos either – [brashtim] picked microservos. By using servos, common hardware store parts, and laser cut acrylic, [brashtim] kept costs down. The machine performs quite well though, easily milling through wood, plastic, foam, and printed circuit boards.
Next we have [Kenji Larsen] with Reactron material processor: Wireless CNC mill. [Kenji] started with a Shapeoko 2, and gave it the Reactron treatment. The stock controller was replaced with a Protoneer shield, which is connected to the Reactron network via a HopeRF radio module. The knockoff rotary tool included with the kit was replaced with a DeWalt DW660 for heavy-duty jobs, or a quieter Black and Decker RTX-6. A tool mounted endoscope keeps an eye on the work. [Kenji] mounted the entire mill in a custom enclosure of foam and Roxul insulation. The enclosure deadens the sound, but it also keeps heat in. [Kenji] plans to add a heat exchanger to keep things cool while maintaining relative quiet in his shop.
Finally we have a [hebel23] with DIY Multiplex Plywood CNC Router. [hebel23] wanted to build a big machine within a budget – specifically a working area of 400 x 600 x 100 mm and a budget of 800 Euro. As the name implies, [hebel23] used birch plywood as the frame of his machine. He chose high quality plywood rather than the cheap stuff found in the big box stores. This gives the machine a stable frame. The moving components of the machine are also nice – ball screws, linear bearings, and good stepper controllers. The stepper motors themselves are NEMA-23 units, which should give the CNC plenty of power to cut through wood, plastic, and even light cuts on metal. [hebel23] spent a lot of time on the little details of his CNC, like adding an emergency stop switch, and a wire-chain to keep his gantry control wires from ending up tangled up in the work piece. The end result is a CNC which would look great in anyone’s workshop.
If you want more CNC goodness, check out our brand new CNC project list! Did I miss your project? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!
Filed under: Hackaday Columns
[jrcgarry] hacked together this awesome interferometer which is able to measure displacements in the nanometer range. Commercial interferometers are used in research labs to measure tiny displacements on the nanometer scale, and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. [jrcgarry] used beam splitters from BluRay drives, mirrors from ebay and a 5mw laser diode.
We’ve covered the use of interferometers before. But never an instrument built from scratch like this. Interferometers exploit the wave-like nature of a beam of light. The beam is split and sent down two separate paths, where the beams bounce off mirrors to return to the beam splitter to be recombined. Because of its wave light nature the beams will interfere with each other. And as the beams have traveled different distances they may be in or out of phase. Resulting in either constructive (brighter) or destructive (darker) interference.
Because the wavelength of light is on the order of 100s of nanometers, by observing the interference patterns you can monitor the displacement of the mirrors with respect to each other at nanometer resolution. [jrcgarry] doesn’t use the interferometer for any particular application in this tutorial but it’s a great demonstration of the technique!
Filed under: misc hacks
Monday | 24 October 1927 | Brussels
While the official title of the 5th Solvay conference was “on Electrons and Photons”, it was abundantly clear amongst the guests that the presentations would center on the new theory of quantum mechanics. [Planck], [Einstein], [Bohr], [de Broglie], [Schrodinger], [Heisenberg] and many other giants of the time would be in attendance. Just a month earlier, [Niels Bohr] had revealed his idea of complementarity to fellow physicists at the Instituto Carducci, which lay just off the shores of Lake Como in Italy.
The theory suggested that subatomic particles and waves are actually two sides of a single ‘quantum’ coin. Whichever properties it would take on, be it wave or particle, would be dependent upon what the curious scientist was looking for. And asking what that “wave/particle” object is while not looking for it is meaningless. Not surprisingly, the theory was greeted with mixed reception by those who were there, but most were distracted by the bigwig who was not there – [Albert Einstein]. He couldn’t make it due to illness, but all were eager to hear his thoughts on [Bohr’s] somewhat radical theory. After all, it was he who introduced the particle nature of light in his 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect, revealing light could be thought of as particles called photons. [Bohr’s] theory reconciled [Einstein’s] photoelectric effect theory with the classical understanding of the wave nature of light. One would think he would be thrilled with it. [Einstein], however, would have no part of [Bohr’s] theory, and would spend the rest of his life trying to disprove it.Complementarity – Wave , Particle or both?
[Niels Bohr] contemplates one of [Einstein’s] many challenges to quantum theory.For more than a century it was thought that light was a wave. In 1801, [Thomas Young] had discovered interference patterns when shining a light through two very close slits. Interference is a well known property of waves. This combined with [Maxwell’s] equations, which predicted the existence of electromagnetic radiation put little doubt into anyone’s mind that light was nothing more, or less, than a wave. There was a very odd issue, however, that puzzled physicists during the 18th century. When shining light upon a metallic surface, electrons would be ejected from that surface. Increasing the intensity of the light did not translate to an increase in speed of the expelled electrons, like classical mechanics says it should. Increasing the frequency of the light did increase the speed. The explanation of this phenomenon could not be had until 1900, when [Max Planck] realized that physical action could not be continuous, but must be a multiple of some small quantity. This quantity would lead to the “quantum of action”, which is now called [Planck’s] constant and birthed quantum physics. It would have been impossible for him to know that this simple idea, in less than two decades, would lead to a change in understanding of the nature of reality. It only took Einstein, however, a few years to use [Planck’s] quantum of action to explain that mind-boggling issue of electrons releasing from metal via light and not following classical law with the incredibly complex equation:E = hv
Where E is the energy of the light quanta, h is Planck’s constant and v is the frequency of the light. The most important item to consider here is this light quanta, later to be called a photon. It is treated as a particle. Now, if you’re not scratching your head in confusion right about now, you haven’t been paying attention. How can light be a wave and a particle? Join me after the jump and we’ll travel further down this physics rabbit hole.The Other Side of the Quantum Coin
While the wave – particle duality of light was busy mystifying the world’s smartest physicists, Prince [Louis de(Left) X-ray diffraction in aluminum foil. (Right) Electron diffraction in aluminum foil.
Broglie] of France had an odd idea. If an electromagnetic wave can have a particle nature, could particles have a wave nature? In 1923 [de Broglie] introduced academia to his hypothesis with his PhD thesis. He would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1929, two years after his thesis was verified by an English physicist by the name of G.P. Thompson. Thompson fired X-rays and electrons, two entities whose wave and particle nature were obvious, at a thin sheet of aluminum foil with a teeny tiny hole in it. The results of the X-rays emanating from the tiny hole showed what classical physics would predict what a wave would show – a diffraction pattern. The stream of electrons showed the same diffraction pattern, proving the wave-like nature of the electron in accordance with [de Broglie’s] hypothesis. The fact that a particle can display wave-like properties puts into question the ability to know precisely where it is in space and time.The End of Determinism XKCD guest illustration by Bill Amend
So how does one go about trying to locate an electron anyway? According to [de Broglie’s] hypothesis, the smaller the dimensions of the particle, the more wave-like it becomes. Electrons are so small, that saying one is at a particular point in space at a particular point in time is not really possible. It’s too wave-like to make this type of observation. There are numerous ways to illustrate this idea, better known as [Heisenberg’s] uncertainty principle. My favorite, and I think the easiest, way to understand this is mathematically. Consider the following super advanced complex quantum physics equation:xy = z Let 'x' equal momentum Let 'y' equal position Let 'z' equal the constant of h/4pi. Where 'h' is [Planck's] constant.
It should be easy to see that x and y are inversely proportional. As one goes up, the other goes down. In other words, as you increase the value of the momentum of a particle (x), the accuracy of the position of that particle (y) decreases. And visa verse. This is the heart of [Heisenberg’s] uncertainty principle. You can’t know both the location and momentum of a particle at the same time. The more accurate you make one, the less accurate you make the other.The Copenhagen Interpretation
[Niels Bohr’s] complementarity theory together with [Heisenberg’s] uncertainty principle makes up what is known as the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. This theory, while still contested to an extent, is the most widely held view of the nature of reality to date. To put it in the most simplified terminology – It’s not possible to know if our subject of investigation is a particle or wave, just like it’s not possible to know its location and momentum. You can know one, but not the other. Neither can be known at the same time. There is an inherent uncertainty, an inherent randomness to our universe. It is ingrained in our very existence, and to deny it is futile.
Now that our little history lesson in quantum theory is done, we can get to the fun part of applying our new found knowledge to hacking! We now know that the electrons zooming around in our microprocessor have a wave like property. What does this mean? Where can we go with this? This will be the subject of next week’s installment of Quantum Mechanics in your Processor. Stay tuned!
Filed under: Hackaday Columns
It is almost impossible these days to find a PC with old ISA card slots. Full size PCI card slots are in danger of going the same way. Many PCs today feature PCI Express connectors. PCI Express offers a lot of advantages including a small size, lower pin count, and a point-to-point serial bus topology that allows multiple simultaneous transfers between different pairs of end points. You’ll find PC Express connectors in things other than PCs too, including a lot of larger embedded systems.
If you ever wanted to prototype something on PCI Express, you’d usually turn to an FPGA. However, [moonpunchorg] posted a workable design for an Arduino on a mini PCI Express board. (As [imroy264] points out in the comments, the board is using the USB port present on the PCI-E connector.) The design files use KiCAD so it should be fairly easy to replicate or change. Naturally, there are pins on the edges to access I/O ports and power. You do need to use ISP to program the Arduino bootloader on the chip.
The board appears to a host computer as a SparkFun as a Pro Micro 3.3V board, and from there you could easily add function to a computer with a PCI Express slot using nothing more than the Arduino IDE. The board is known to work with the VIA VAB-600 Springboard and VIA VAB-820 boards, although it is likely to work with other PCI Express hosts, too.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks
Since 1998 we’ve been privileged to partake in an arcade game known as Dance Dance Revolution, but before that, way back in the 70’s, was the Simon game. It’s essentially a memory game that asks the player to remember a series of lights and sounds. [Uberdam] decided to get the best of both worlds and mixed the two together creating this giant foot controlled Simon game. (English translation.)
The wood platform that serves as the base of the project was fitted with four capacitive sensors, each one representing a “color” on the Simon game. When a player stomps on a color, a capacitive sensor sends a signal to a relay which in turn notifies the Raspberry Pi brain of the input. The Pi also takes care of showing the player the sequence of colored squares that must be stepped on, and keeps track of a player’s progress on a projector.
This is a pretty good way of showing how a small, tiny computer like the Raspberry Pi can have applications in niche environments while also being a pretty fun game. We all remember Simon as being frustrating, and we can only imagine how jumping around on a wooden box would make it even more exciting. Now, who can build a robot that can beat this version of Simon?
Filed under: Raspberry Pi
Simple blood tests can lead a doctor toward a diagnosis of blood cancers, like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, but to really see what’s going on, he or she needs to go to the source of the problem: the bone marrow. Examining maturing blood cells from the marrow with a microscope is an important step in staging the disease and developing a plan for treatment, but it’s a tedious and error-prone process that requires a doctor to classify and tally a dozen or so different cells based on their size, shape and features. Automated systems like flow cytometry and image analysis software can help, but in an austere environment, a doctor might not have access to these. Luckily, there’s now an on-line app to assist with bone marrow cytometry.
Thanks to [Eduardo Zola], a doctor can concentrate on classifying cells without looking up from the microscope, and without dictating to an assistant. Keys are assigned to the different cell morphologies, and a running total of each cell type is kept. With practice, the doctor should be able to master the keying for the various cells; we suspect the generation of physicians that grew up with the WASD keying common in PC-based gaming might have a significant advantage over the older docs when it comes to learning such an app.
[Eduardo]’s app seems like a simple way to improve on an important medical procedure, and an enabling technology where access to modern instrumentation is limited. To that end, one area for improvement might be a standalone app that can run on a laptop without internet access, or perhaps even a version that runs on a smart phone. But even as it is, it’s a great entry for the 2015 Hackaday Prize.The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: Medical hacks, The Hackaday Prize
[Sande24] needed a gift for his father’s birthday. He decided that rather than simply give his father the gifts, he would present his father with a unique challenge. The gifts are locked inside of a multi-stage puzzle box. This isn’t your average puzzle box though. This one is rigged to blow.
The puzzle box was designed to test his father’s reflexes, mind, and luck. The finished product looks sort of like a wooden crate made from particle board. The box contains three levels, each with its own gift and its own task to be completed.
With the lid opened, the first compartment and puzzle is revealed. Inside of the compartment were a new pair of gloves, meant to protect the father’s hands when working on the puzzles. The first puzzle is built into a sheet of wood with several custom-made levers. The levers must be moved into position in order to remove the wooden sheet and reveal the next level.
The first lever triggers a home-made detonator that eventually lights a series of fireworks placed around the box. You need to solve the puzzle box fast enough to prevent the fireworks from destroying the gifts that lay inside. [Sande24] was unable to legally purchase fuses where he lived, so he had to make his own.
The second level held a gas mask, also meant to protect the father from the booby traps of this mysterious box. This level, also made from a sheet of wood, has nine squares drawn on it. Each square is labeled with a different number which goes into solving a mathematical function (x^5-25x^4+233x^3-995x^2+1866x-1080 = 0). The solution to the function would reveal the safe path to be used to cut the wooden platform in half. Unfortunately [Sande24’s] father cut the wrong squares and released a huge amount of vinegar into the box. Oops.
The bottom level contained the final puzzle and the locked treasure compartment locked with an ordinary padlock. To find the key, another puzzle had to be solved based on a series of wooden levers labeled with different shapes. The shapes provided clues to the order in which the levers should be pulled. Once the levers were moved into position, two compartments were unlocked. One of them contained the key to the treasure box. The other contained another booby trap which would set off more fireworks, destroying the final gift of four cans of Kuld beer. That’s a lot of work to get a a few cans of frothy beverage!
Filed under: misc hacks
It’s the rare tech worker that manages a decade in any one job these days – employee loyalty is just so 1980s. But when you started your career in that fabled age, some of the cultural values might have rubbed off on you. Apparently that’s the case for an Amiga 2000 that’s been on the job since the late ’80s, keeping the heat and AC running at Grand Rapids Public Schools (YouTube video link.)
The local news story is predictably short on details and pushes the editorial edge into breathless indignation that taxpayer dollars have somehow been misspent. We just don’t see it that way. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is somewhat anathema to the hacker ethos. After all, there’s no better time to “fix” something than when it’s working properly and you can tell if you’ve done something wrong. But keeping an important system running with duct tape and wire ties is also part of the hacker way, so we applaud [Tim Hopkins] and his colleagues at the GRPS Facilities and Operations Department for their efforts to protect the public purse. And a round of applause is also due not only to the Amiga design team, who produced a machine that can run for nearly three decades, but also to Johnson Controls, whose equipment – apparently a wide area radio modem linking the HVAC systems in the district’s buildings – is being run by The Little Amiga That Could. Sounds like they built stuff to last way back when.
So when this machine is finally retired, here’s hoping they give it a good sendoff. Perhaps we’ll see it with some other Amigas at some future Vintage Computer Festival. Or maybe it’ll be one of those active retirees and start a career in the music industry.
Filed under: misc hacks
Many major companies (Intel, Oracle, Atmel, and IBM, for example) are competing to be the standard interconnect fabric for the Internet of Things. As a developer, it is hard to cut through the marketing hype and decide which platform is the best for you and your application. Luckily, there’s a plethora of projects on the web that showcase these frameworks. These project sites are an easy way to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of IoT frameworks in practical applications without having to develop prototypes yourself.
[diyhacking], for example, posted a demo of using IBM’s Bluemix along with a Raspberry Pi, to do some simple home automation tasks. The project hardware is modest, using a PIR motion sensor and a relay to control an AC load. However, that’s good because it lets you focus on the Bluemix tools. The example client and server software is less than 200 lines of Python.
Bluemix looks like it has good integration with the Raspberry Pi and features a simulator so you can work without real hardware for development. Bluemix does offer a free plan (with limits), but the fee options may be a turn off to some IoT hackers.
It was surprising, though, to see a home automation relay (which, presumably, is carrying wall current) put on a solderless breadboard. Although there’s nothing wrong with that in theory, it is often a bad idea in practice.
Filed under: Raspberry Pi
Week 24 of the Caption CERN Contest was one for the books. There were so many good captions that we had a hard time picking a winner! Thank you to everyone who wrote up a caption and entered the contest. We still don’t know quite what this device was. Our best guess is a coil from a beam line. Some creative positioning and camera focus sure turned it into a conversation piece though!
- “I am the Face of Boe. Has anyone seen the Doctor?.” – [jonsmirl]
- “CERN’s brief attempt into the consumer “Pro” audio market. They lost out to the competitions because they didn’t use unidirectional oxygen free copper wires that are blessed by the Tibetan monks. They might be the expert with super conductor magnets, but one hard lesson they have learnt is that you can’t spell consumer without the “con” part.” – [K.C. Lee]
- “Go ahead pick up the operating tool!! For your first task remove the patient’s tooth for 10 points. But beware!!! there’s the 10,000K volt charge if you touch the sides!! Enjoy!!!” – [EngineerAfterLunchTime]
This week’s winner is [surubarescu] with “Prototype of the sextuple face electric razor was a complete technical success, but it never went into full production due to some raised (then lost) eyebrows.” Enjoy your new Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store, [surubarescu]!Week 25
We’re not kidding when we say CERN scientists and engineers really get into their work. Check out this CERN scientist looking down at his… uh, experiment. We’re not sure exactly what this device is. There is a sealed chamber, but is it a vacuum, or some sort of specialized atmosphere for the research this scientist is working on? Either way, he seems very interested in whatever is happening inside this box!
So what’s happening here? High energy physics, or some new coffee maker? You tell us!
This week’s prize is once again a Teensy 3.1 from The Hackaday Store. Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the contest log, not on the contest itself.
As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.
Filed under: contests, Hackaday Columns
We’re in Boston this week and my first stop was at MITERS last night. This is the MIT Electronics Research Society, which started as a way to provide free access to computers for all students. Since those humble beginnings the organization has grown to include a slew of fabrication and test hardware, as well as a vibrant community that makes the group a great place to hang out.
Walking into the building you’re greeted with double doors strewn with interesting electronics and many examples of fabrication in the form of the word MITERS. The group, which is pushing 60-years of existence, feels immediately like a hackerspace where creativity and anarchy duke it out in a wild dance of experimentation. On this particular Wednesday evening we encountered a room of about 10 people working feverishly to fabricate electric racers for the PRS racing circuit in Detroit this Saturday.
Like a hackerspace, MITERS is completely member (read: student) run. There is a board that helps keep things on the rails. There is no membership fee; funding for the organization is sourced from Swapfest, a weekly flea market during the summer.
There is a strong slant toward machine shop at this hackerspace. In addition to a respectable Bridgeport CNC Mill, the machine tools and hand tools provide for almost all your fabrication needs.
What can be built in this space? How about a unibalancer? This is a single-wheeled, human-ridable vehicle that has a 7-mile cruise radius between charges. For me the most interesting feature is the deadman’s switch. You know those black rubber strips on public buses that you press for the next stop? This unibalancer has one that you need to stand on to make it go.
The hackers at MITERS excel when it comes to electric vehicles and this time of year that means the Power (Wheels) Racing Series. There are restrictions on size, and power output so the teams squeeze every bit that they can. For me, the most interesting build is based off of a pair of Ryobi electric chainsaws. The 40V batteries for these are themselves quite formidable but not used at all in the build. The team has reverse-engineered the driver circuits and written their own firmware for the STM8 microcontrollers on the boards. The chainsaws use chains to drive the two rear wheels. The entire system is monitored with XBEE-based wireless data which is displayed on a tablet.
This isn’t the only PRS build. The MITERS plan to take three different vehicles with them this weekend. The one they can’t bring is the huge electric shopping cart (with mandatory wheelie bar) which hangs from the ceiling of the space.
In addition to the formidable fabrication projects, there are a multitude of electronic projects to be seen. There is a musical tesla coil which is the best I’ve ever heard. It could easily be mistaken as a proper speaker. If you need more bass there’s a massive ceiling-mounted sub-woofer for that. And if you want a more formidable tesla coil, the parts are there.
Look hard enough and you’ll even find battle robots. This one had diamond plate that spins with a variety of nasty accoutrements intended for maximum damage of its foe. On the underside you’ll see a brushless motor used the opposite of how you might think. The shaft is attached to the locomotion frame of the bot. The underside of the spinning diamond plate has a ring of antistatic mat against which this brushless motor body spins.
Thanks to the MITERS for welcoming us in. It was a blast seeing all of the projects they’re working on!Meetup at Artisan’s Asylum Tonight
If you’re in the Boston area, head on over to Artisan’s Asylum tonight starting at 6. They were gracious enough to open their doors for a Hackaday Meetup. Bring some hardware to show off if you can, if you can’t that’s fine as well. We’ll have a few lightning talks, some social time, and maybe an afterbar!
To wrap things up, we have covered a few projects from MITERS already, like this Power Wheels Racing build, and an electric go kart done the right way. Now that we’ve met them in person we’ll be on the lookout for a lot more awesome hacks from them.
[Thanks John for suggesting we stop by!]
Filed under: Featured, Hackerspaces
Recently we had the opportunity to sit down and interview Arduino SRL’s CEO, [Federico Musto], over a nice dinner. His company is one half of the Arduino vs Arduino debacle which has pitted Arduino.cc against Arduino.org in a battle over the trademark on “Arduino”.
Given the tremendous amount of press coverage of [Massimo Banzi] and the Arduino LLC side of the story (Arduino.cc), we were very interested in hearing how the whole situation looks where [Frederico Musto] sit (Arduino.org). In the end, we came away with what we feel is a more balanced and complete picture of the situation, as well as interesting news about future products from the Arduino SRL camp. [Musto’s] take on the legal proceedings, both past and present, is nothing short of fascinating.
Unless you’ve been sitting under a large chunk of fused silicon, you’ve probably read or heard something about the battle of the two Arduinos. Founder [Massimo Banzi] and the rest of the Arduino crew planned to make an affordable, accessible microcontroller/physical computing platform based on the software project (Wiring) of one of his students, [Hernando Barragán]. In 2004, [Gianluca Martino], one of the Arduino founders, and [Daniela Antonietti], later Arduino LLC CFO, founded Smart Projects SRL and started cranking out Arduino boards. That much of the history of the Arduino is non-controversial.
Money started flowing in, Arduino LLC was founded in the US in 2008, and tensions started building between the software-and-documentation side (Arduino LLC) and the board-building side (Smart Projects SRL). In 2014 Smart Projects (in Italy) changed its name to Arduino SRL, was bought by [Federico Musto], and all heck broke loose, not necessarily in that order.The Past, According to [Musto]
The central issue of the Arduino schism is who owns the trademark to the “Arduino” brand. In the USA this is currently Arduino LLC, although Arduino SRL filed a petition to invalidate this trademark and this isn’t likely to be resolved until early 2016. (Naturally, Arduino LLC has mounted its own counter-suit in the States.)
In Italy, Switzerland, and probably the rest of the world, the trademark appears to belong to Smart Projects, now Arduino SRL. This is because Smart Projects filed for the trademark in Italy in December 2008, just months after the legal incorporation of Arduino LLC, which only got around to filing in the Spring of 2009. This is, naturally, also being contested in Italian courts by Arduino LLC.
That’s the mess. How did we get in it? Arduino LLC claims that [Gianluca Martino] didn’t inform them of the Italian trademark until it was granted in 2010. Why would one member of the Arduino core team go rogue and trademark the name without telling the others? [Federico Musto]’s telling of the tale makes [Gianluca]’s preemptive trademarking action seem a lot more plausible, if still not entirely above-board.
2008 was the year of the big Arduino breakout. Sales had crossed over 100 boards per day and Smart Projects was having a hard time keeping up with demand. At this point, it started to look like there was real money to be made in Arduino, both for companies with scruples offering Arduino add-on shields, and for companies without scruples selling Arduino-branded knockoffs of the “official” boards. How to handle the clones and make money off of the Arduino brand was on everyone’s mind within the Arduino group, but there was disagreement about just how to do it.
Meanwhile [Gianluca Martino] and [Daniela Antonietti] at Smart Projects had just built out their production line to keep up with demand for the boards. Funding these investments wasn’t easy. Among other sources of money, [Daniela Antonietti] had mortgaged her house to pay for a professional reflow oven. It probably seemed very important to [Martino] and [Antonietti] to safeguard their personal investments in the Arduino project from the waves of unauthorized clones. They took matters into their own hands, allegedly behind [Banzi]’s back, and trademarked “Arduino”.
Substantiating all the details of [Musto]’s version of [Gianluca]’s story is impossible and probably devolves fairly quickly into he-said, she-said and hearsay, so we’ll keep it short here. But anyone who’s worked in a team knows how a single individual can come to dominate a discussion, leaving other parties feeling marginalized and isolated, and we can also understand the temptation to act in defiance.
We can imagine how this feeling must be multiplied if a disproportionate percentage of your investment is in play. [Musto]’s telling of the story is that the financial risk undertaken by the Smart Projects team was under-appreciated by [Banzi], and that [Martino] was acting in the financial equivalent of self-defense as the only production-side interest within the Arduino five and as the CEO of Smart Projects.
Arduino certainly wouldn’t be where it is today if [Martino] and [Antonietti] hadn’t taken the risk to pony up the money and build out the one assembly line that was turning out Arduinos in 2008. The key to Arduino’s success was the merger of firmware and documentation with a hardware-based physical computing platform. Both parts are necessary, but building the hardware required more capital and involved real financial risk.
So is Arduino SRL or Arduino LLC the “real” Arduino? We think both are. Unfortunately, nobody’s asking us; the question is playing out in Italian and US courts.Laundry List of Lawsuits
Lawsuits have been the order of the day, and it turns out we only knew about the tip of the iceberg. Previously, we’d reported on Arduino SRL’s petition to cancel Arduino LLC’s trademark in the USA and on Arduino LLC’s tit-for-tat suit to cancel Arduino SRL’s trademark in Italy. But [Federico Musto] laid out for us a laundry-list of legal cases that we had no idea about.
When [Musto] bought out [Gianluca Martino]’s share in Arduino LLC as well as the Arduino SRL, he wanted to see the accounting of the companies that he had a 20% stake in. By this time, there was so much bad blood between [Martino] and [Banzi] that according to [Musto], they refused to show him the books. He took both the US Arduino LLC and the Swiss-registered Arduino SA to court and won, in separate cases in the US and Switzerland.
Remember that inclusion of a popup in the Arduino IDE that flagged all Arduino boards made by Arduino LLC as being “unofficial”? Until the various trademark cases get resolved in court, this is possibly libellous. [Musto] told us that Arduino LLC only backed down from this position after Arduino SRL took legal action. (And we gave Arduino LLC credit for backing down off of a bad idea on their own.)
Most recently, Arduino LLC filed an injunction in Italy to prevent Arduino SRL from selling its Arduino boards due to trademark infringement. This was recently denied, and we’ve read the ruling from the court in Turin, Italy. It makes mention of the impossibility of Arduino LLC having controlled the Arduino brand as early as 2005, when Smart Projects was producing the boards under the Arduino name.
We’re not (Italian) lawyers, but the denial of the summary injunction in Italy seems to cast further doubt on Arduino LLC’s ability to prevail in Italy and use the Arduino trademark outside of the US. Hence the pivot to the “Genuino” brand name for sales of Arduino boards outside of the USA.
Overall, [Musto] expressed a bit of dismay at having walked into a full-blown feud when he bought Smart Projects from [Martino], and stressed the defensive nature of many of the lawsuits — responding to being barred from seeing the firms’ books and the IDE popup in particular. On the other hand, Arduino SRL did initiate proceedings against Arduino LLC in the USPTO case, and [Musto] also mentioned that his lawyers don’t like the “Genuino” brand and logo, and may be forced to take action against it.
In short, there have been a number of legal victories for Arduino SRL, but the two biggest cases are still outstanding. Both [Massimo Banzi] and [Federico Musto] have expressed their weariness at the continuing lawsuits, but both sides seem willing to file new ones. Until there’s a final decision reached in both Italy and the USA, we guess they’ll both have to suffer through.Community Splits and Code Forks
It was also interesting to hear [Musto]’s side of the story behind arduino.org and the IDE’s code fork.
Because of their previous tight cooperation, [Gianluca Martino] and Smart Projects had all used the arduino.cc domain for their e-mail addresses. Arduino LLC, which had control of the domain, cut their e-mail off as in Fall 2014, leaving the entire Smart Projects / Arduino SRL team without business e-mail communications. They had to re-establish a domain and set up e-mail and business presences quickly once it was clear that Arduino LLC was going to try to shut them down. Hence arduino.org.
[Federico Musto] says he regrets the code fork, and wishes that Arduino SRL had just waited it out until the courts had forced Arduino LLC to remove their incendiary popup from the codebase. On the other hand, once Arduino LLC had shown that they were willing to play dirty with the IDE code, it hardly seems like a good idea to couple your livelihood to a (now-)rival firm that seems to be willing to single you out. (None of the truly counterfeit Arduino boards triggered the popup, only those made by Arduino SRL.)
In short, [Musto] explains a lot of the controversial actions on the part of Smart Projects / Arduino SRL as being a reaction to internal disagreements within the Arduino group, and subsequent aggressive actions by Arduino LLC. Contrary to the innocent picture of Arduino LLC painted by [Banzi], it’s clear that there’s been skulduggery on both sides of the aisle.The Future
Until early 2016, when the USPTO ruling comes down, the two firms are in limbo. Ironically, this hasn’t really affected the end-hacker (read: us) at all. If anything, both firms have been doubling their efforts to sway us with not only their press propaganda, but also with their product and software offerings. How long will this last and what new stuff will the future bring? We asked [Musto] about Arduino SRL’s plans.An Arduino Foundation?
Given that Arduino SRL and Arduino LLC may not ever settle their differences amicably, what is to become of the Arduino brand? [Musto] suggests a Solomonic solution: take control of “Arduino” out of the hands of any one person or company leave it up to a community-directed foundation.
[Musto] told us that he envisions an “Arduino Foundation” with clear and open balance sheets and a democratic governance structure. Think Mozilla Foundation mashed-up with Debian’s governance. The Foundation would be open to all stakeholders in the Arduino community. [Musto] said that he’s currently in the middle of paperwork, and that there will probably be announcements forthcoming. We discussed how such a foundation could also be used to funnel some money back to the Arduino community, because after all a lot of the success of Arduino is due to the code contributions of users.New Products, New IDE
[Federico Musto] describes himself as a “software guy” with a penchant for radio frequency hardware. Given the former, he said he’s surprised at how much time they’re spending on new physical product development, but his RF roots certainly show through. His design for what became the Arduino Yún, a Linux WiFi SOC combined with an AVR microcontroller, was [Musto]’s entrée into the Arduino universe, after all.
In this context, we asked [Musto] our $64k question: given that the Yún and similar boards face pressure from products like the ESP8266 from below and the Rasberry Pi from above, what is Arduino SRL’s direction going to be in the future. Bigger or smaller? Or staying in the middle? He replied that they have projects going at each scale.
On the big end of things, we have the Yún and future Linux/microcontroller mashup devices, for which [Musto] and now Arduino SRL, is continuing development of its Linino distribution. Linino is an OpenWRT-based Linux distribution modified to play well with external microcontrollers. Linino’s killer feature, in our estimation, is the MCUIO subsystem, which gives low-level Linux driver access to the associated microcontroller(s) — pins on the micro appear as devices on the Linux filesystem. The marriage of a small embedded Linux with a microcontroller for I/O is clearly an interesting area right now, if only the communications between the two weren’t so difficult. MCUIO aims to change that.
On the smallest end of the spectrum, Arduino SRL is working on a new product line of tiny (think littleBits) interconnected devices, to be programmed using a visual, drag-and-drop interface. They’re also (all?) going to be wireless. This project is still in the beginning stages, but [Musto] suggested that he’d be interested in an early alpha release if folks were interested in developing code for the platform. We can’t wait to see it working.
And then in the middle of things, [Federico Musto] mentioned that there would be a forthcoming “Uno-plus” board with a yet-to-be-disclosed ARM chip on board coming out in the fall. The goal is essentially a supercharged Arduino form-factor board at a reasonable price.
We talked a lot about WiFi versus sub-GHz radios for IoT projects. Our experience is that the current crop of WiFi devices (the Hackaday-darling ESP8266 included) are power hogs, and not something you can run off batteries. [Musto] mentioned some new WiFi devices he’d seen, that aren’t yet in production, that will significantly help the WiFi power budget when they become available. Arduino SRL is looking to incorporate them into an IoT-style device when possible. Stay tuned.
The Arduino vs Arduino courtroom drama makes for good popcorn time for us, and it’s undoubtedly nerve-wracking for the twin Arduini and all directly involved. But we’re also glad to see that both companies are continuing to innovate on the hardware and software fronts.
In retrospect, our question of market niche was off-base. Arduino SRL’s focus isn’t on a device scale as much as on the general merging of wireless technologies with microcontrollers, and developing the support software for Linux/microcontroller integration in a wireless context. As far as Arduino LLC’s new product directions seem to be wired and/or wearable, we wonder if there isn’t room in the hacker economy for both firms to flourish despite the trademark woes?
Filed under: Featured, Interviews, slider