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Building The Brightest Light Sabre In The World

อังคาร, 10/25/2016 - 15:01

If you are looking for a Star Wars light sabre, sometimes your choices can be a little disappointing. “Replica” sabres from toy and novelty vendors may superficially look the part, but with their tinny speakers and lacklustre show of LEDs they often have less of the Force about them and more of the Farce.

[Jeremy Lee] offers a solution; he’s built what he claims to be the brightest light sabre in the world. That’s a bold assertion, and one which we think might even throw down a gauntlet to other sabre builders and spark an arms race among Jedi wannabes.

The super-bright sabre uses a 144 LED double-sided strip of Neopixels in a polycarbonate tube, with a DC to DC converter powered by a 1000mAH LiPo battery. Sound effects come from a SparkFun Pro Micro powering a 2W speaker through a small audio amplifier. The handle meanwhile is constructed from PVC pipe fittings.

His first attempt at the sabre had the LEDs at full power, and promptly melted his tube. Thus the final version runs at 40% of its maximum rating, with a “burst” mode for those moments at which combat demands it.

His write-up is a series of posts, with plenty of video at all points. It might seem odd to show you the shortest of them here at only a few seconds long, but since the unique selling point is its brightness we think the best way to show that is at night.

We’ve featured plenty of Jedi weapons over the years. A lot of them use LEDs like this colour changing one, but the most impressive is probably this one using flame. Please, keep them coming!

Filed under: led hacks, weapons hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Big, Inexpensive 3D Printer

อังคาร, 10/25/2016 - 12:00

When it comes to 3D printers, most machines you’ll see are pretty small. The Ultimaker, Prusa, Lulzbot, and the Rostock Max are desktop devices. While they have entirely usable build volumes, you’re not printing furniture with these machines. Yes, large format 3D printers exist, like the SeeMeCNC Part Daddy (they’ll build you one for ~$90,000, IIRC), a house printer that uses concrete, and a number of very large printers from various other manufacturers with very high price tags.

There is no 3D printer designed to print large objects without spending tens of thousands of dollars on a machine. That’s the focus of this Hackaday Prize entry. [RigTig]’s Big 3D Printer is designed to be big, but also inexpensive.

A big, inexpensive 3D printer can’t use the usual machine setups seen in other large format printers. Big machines with traditional kinematics demand big pieces of aluminum, counterweights, and a design that might spiral out of control. Instead of a thousand pounds of metal, [RigTig] is using something like the Skycam system seen at every NFL game; put a few towers up at the corners of a triangle, run some string or cable through some pulleys, and you have a simple, light movement platform.

With the machine side of the problem figured out, the next question is what material to use. [RigTig] has decided plastic filament is impractical because of cost. A clay extrusion system has a lot of problems. Concrete is a good idea, but the prints would weigh several tons. Right now, [RigTig] is planning on using dirt with a polymer binder. It’s an interesting idea, and one we haven’t seen elsewhere.

Building a 3D printer from scratch is easy. Building a huge 3D printer is one of the most interesting engineering challenges out there. Not only do you need a motion platform that can make it work, but you also need to print in a material that is cheap enough and prints fast enough for the printer to make sense. We don’t know if [RigTig] is on the right track yet, but we’re glad to see him put in the effort for this excellent addition to the Hackaday Prize.

The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

The Most Impractical Bluetooth Speaker of 2016

อังคาร, 10/25/2016 - 09:00

Ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of usable surface area in your house? Ever wish that your Bluetooth speaker was fluffier? Do you ever long for a future in which all your music is accompanied by perfectly timed light flashes. Is the gentle passing of a cumulus cloud across a bright blue sky the only thing that will keep the voices at bay? We might have the speaker for you.

Joking aside the effect is pretty cool. It’s a standard levitation doohickey at it core. While we don’t know what the inside looks like exactly, we can take our guesses. The cloud has some magnets and a coil for receiving power. Inside is a hacked apart Bluetooth speaker, a microcontroller, and some LEDs. It’s all surrounded by fluffy white pillow stuffing and hot glue.

The base has a power supply and a rechargeable battery. We’re not sure why, we suppose it’s a pain to reset the floaty cloud. It’s certainly not portable. If you’d like one, it can probably be replicated with a few challenging weekends of work. The other option is to wait, as they claim to be pursuing a commercial something or another. Which these days means they’re gonna file for a patent on something everyone and their grandmother has done and then sell it as a six thousand dollar desk ornament. Still! Pretty cool. Video after the break.

Filed under: misc hacks

When Your Screen Breaks In The Himalayas

อังคาร, 10/25/2016 - 06:00

If you’ve ever had the screen break on your laptop, you’ll know it can be rather annoying to have to use an external monitor for a while as you either wait for a replacement panel to arrive from the other side of the world, or wait for that new laptop you were just desperate for an excuse to upgrade to.

Spare a thought, then, for [tom bh] whose laptop screen broke while he was in Ladakh, Northern India. Two days bus ride from the nearest city in which he could hope to source a replacement part, he had to make do with the resources in front of him. A laptop with a broken screen, and his Android phone.

He was fortunate in that a few lines at the top of the screen still worked intermittently. So after logging in blind and finding himself in a shell, he could execute commands and then scroll the results up to the point at which they were visible. He first enabled an SSH server, then connected his phone via USB. A bit of work to find the laptop’s IP address, and he could get himself a laptop shell on his phone with an Android SSH client. He goes into detail about how he was able to use the laptop’s keyboard to emulate a Bluetooth device which he connected to the phone. He could then run a VNC server on the laptop and connect to it with a VNC client on the phone, resulting in a phone-sized laptop display using the laptop’s keyboard as input. Not a perfect physical terminal by any means, but enough for him to continue working.

His writeup is an especially interesting read for its side-by-side evaluation of the various different application choices he made, and contains some useful suggestions as to how anyone might prepare themselves for a dead screen related emergency.

We’ve featured a dead-screen laptop connected as a serial terminal with an Arduino in the past, but unlike this one that only gave its owner a prompt.

Via Hacker News.

Filed under: Cellphone Hacks, computer hacks

Faux-AI Clapper Almost Seems to be Listening

อังคาร, 10/25/2016 - 03:00

When a job can be handled with a microcontroller, [devttys0] likes to buck the trend and build a circuit that requires no coding. Such was the case with this “Clapper”-inspired faux-AI light controller, which ends up being a great lesson in analog design.

The goal was to create a poor man’s JARVIS – something to turn the workshop lights on with a free-form vocal command. Or, at least to make it look that way. This is an all-analog circuit with a couple of op amps and a pair of comparators, so it can’t actually process what’s being said. “Aziz! Light!” will work just as well as any other phrase since the circuit triggers on the amplitude and duration of the spoken command. The AI-lite effect comes from the clever use of the comparators, RC networks to control delays, and what amounts to an AND gate built of discrete MOSFETs. The end result is a circuit that waits until you finish talking to trigger the lights, making it seems like it’s actually analyzing what you say.

We always enjoy [devttys0]’s videos because they’re great lessons in circuit design. From block diagram to finished prototype, everything is presented in logical steps, and there’s always something to learn. His analog circuits that demonstrate math concepts was a real eye-opener for us. And if you want some background on the height of 1980s AI tech that inspired this build, check out the guts of the original “Clapper”.

Filed under: home hacks, misc hacks

Internet Doorbell Gone Full-Hipster

อังคาร, 10/25/2016 - 01:31

There are things and there are Things. Hooking up an Internet-connected doorbell that “rings” a piezo buzzer or sends a text message is OK, but it’s not classy. In all of the Internet-of-Things hubbub, too much attention is paid to the “Internet”, which is actually the easy part, and too little attention is paid to the “Things”.

[Moris Metz] is a hacker in Berlin who has a bi-weekly national radio spot. (Only in Germany!) This week, he connected the ubiquitous ESP8266 to a nice old (physical) bell for his broadcast over the weekend. (i”Translated” here.) Check out the video teaser embedded below.

Never mind how important it is to have your gadget look good for a radio show, this thing sounds fantastic. And loud, which makes us question the wisdom of giving the IP address out to listeners while trying to broadcast a live radio show. But the show must go on, despite over 424 individual rings from 135 distinct IP addresses ringing his bell within ten minutes of announcing the IP address.

Let us go officially on the record here. As a literal doorbell, this is silly. You don’t need to host a webpage on the public Internet on a doorbell, and millions of super-cheap 433 MHz radio doorbells available in home stores worldwide bear this out. However, when you need to be scared out of your skin by a loud alarm bell triggered by a friend in a different city, the Internet is your best bet, and whipping up a quick webpage on an ESP8266 is good fun.

But what we liked about this project was the “Ding” itself, as they say in German. Old hardware paired with new brains is the new hotness. What’s the oldest or most unlikely Thing that you’ve seen given a modern brain transplant?

Filed under: wireless hacks

Engage Tinfoil Hat: Samsung Note 7 Battery Theory

อังคาร, 10/25/2016 - 00:01

For the most part I believe things are as they seem. But every once in a while I begin to look at notable technology happenings from a different angle. What if things are not like they seem? This is conspiracy theory territory, and I want to be very clear about this: what follows is completely fictitious and not based on fact. At least, I haven’t tried to base it on facts surrounding the current events. But perhaps you can. What if there’s more to the battery fires in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones?

I have a plausible theory, won’t you don your tinfoil hat and follow me down this rabbit hole?

Bill Hammack’s explanation of uranium enrichment centrifuges

Remember Stuxnet? It’s a computer virus that infected and took down the centrifuges Iran was using in its uranium enrichment program. These centrifuges are super-precise; they need to be in order to separate isotopes into depleted uranium and enriched uranium. The process involves software that continually tweaks the balance of the centrifuge — something well explained by Bill Hammack — and disrupting that balance can damage the equipment itself. Many believe that Stuxnet was used in a government-backed attack on Iran’s program to put these centrifuges offline.

Why am I bringing up Stuxnet now? I started to think about the Samsung battery fires and the horrible effect it is having on the world. It certainly has put Samsung in a rough position — perhaps the most respected and trusted maker of Android phones got the battery tech in this phone wrong… twice. How could that be? Perhaps it was corporate espionage. But of course it wasn’t — if anything you’d have to call it corporate sabotage.

How Can You Sabotage a Battery?

Lithium batteries have monitoring circuits built into them. These are responsible for cutting off the cell before it gets too flat (which will damage it), and maintaining acceptable temperatures and constant current profiles during charging. In some cases they can even shunt around cells but this is more of an industrial trick for applications like electric vehicles.

These battery-tending circuits run software, of course. Just last month we saw all the secrets for the controller of a laptop battery unlocked. Smartphones usually have a single cell, but there is still data there — a third conductor that can transfer data like temperature from the battery to the phone.

What if a very carefully crafted virus were able to rewrite the battery charging code of a carefully targeted phone and cause it to fail on purpose? With so many of this particular model in the wild — 1M of the 2.5M manufactured — a virus could be programmed to delete itself 99.99% of the time to avoid detection. The other 0.01% it would go into action — pushing the temperature of the cell past the failing point and thereby destroying the evidence in the fiery process. That would equate to about 100 incidents which is very close to the 112 being reported.

It’s a surprisingly enticing “what-if” and this thought process even opens up my mind to other possible industrial sabotage scenarios. Toyota’s uncontrolled acceleration, for instance. But the simplest answer tends to be the correct one: these are engineering failures. Toyota’s code is a mess, and… well what exactly did happen with Samsung? They have a track record of producing safe phones with energy-dense lithium-ion batteries. I can understand that they got it wrong once… an accident. But how do they get it wrong twice when the stakes are so high?

Discounting the loss in Samsung’s stock value, throwing in the towel on the Note 7 is estimated to be a $9.5 B (yes, Billion) write-off — $5 B of that profit. Which means they could have devoted $2,000 per phone to fix the problem and still broken even. How in the world did they get it wrong the with the recall? Speculation is easy; flying too close to the sun on battery chemistry, a bug in the charging software, a yet-to-be-discovered manufacturing process breakdown, take your pick. The odds are cosmically small that it’s a nefarious battery-torching virus but we’ve come this far so let’s walk through the reasons on why that’s so unlikely.

This is All a Load of Bull

The packing instructions for sending a battery back. You can’t make this stuff up. [via XDA-Developers Portal]Even if phone batteries have rewritable firmware or the phone’s charging code can be attacked, it would be incredibly hard to get at that functionality from user space on an unmodified OS — then again there were a lot of people sideloading malware-laden versions of Pokemon Go.

Even if someone discovered a way to do this, wouldn’t they be looking for personal gain by selling information on the exploit to Samsung who have the most to gain by fixing it? I feel a recursive conspiracy theory loop coming on so let’s move on.

Motive. There is very little motive for someone to target Samsung. Yes, there is a very public beef between Apple and Samsung over phones that is being heard by the Supreme Court of the United States right now. If you were to make a list of likely sabotage suspects, Apple would be on it. But that line of thinking doesn’t scratch the surface. The only thing to gain here is for Samsung to lose market share, and the risks to a company like Apple are huge. This event could sully the market for battery-powered devices in general, damaging Apple’s own business. And if the plot were discovered the fallout would be devastating.

Some people like to watch the world burn… could it be a lone wolf hacker? Again, very unlikely. This isn’t ransomware or boosting your friends list. These failures can kill and injure — anyone malicious enough to use them would be looking to make a statement rather than flying under the radar.

No, it’s just a promising plot for a sci-fi novel. The irony is that had this recall (minus the conspiracy theory) been in a novel instead of actually going on around us we’d all say it was to far-fetched to be plausible. Keep those mind-control signals out of your head and let us know if you have a favorite tech-related conspiracy theory that’s too good to keep to yourself.

Filed under: Current Events, Hackaday Columns, Original Art, rants

Raspberry Pi Zero as a USB Stick

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 22:31

The Raspberry Pi Zero is small enough that it could almost be mistaken for a USB gadget, rather than a standalone computer. Maybe that was the inspiration that drove [Novaspirit] to completely “donglify” his Zero.

This is a great convenience hack if you’ve got a Zero just kicking around. With minimal soldering, he converted the Zero’s onboard female USB jacks into a male USB plug. From there on out, it’s all software, and the video (embedded below) takes you through all the steps on Windows.

First, he attaches the Raspberry Pi Zero running Pixel OS to his main computer as a USB network device, and then configures it to be useful. He sets up VNC on the Pi so that you can log into its desktop in a window, sets up networking on the Pi so that it can connect to the wider Internet through the laptop, etc. He installs OwnCloud so that the Zero serves as a cloud storage solution, only the “cloud” is plugged into your laptop’s USB port. The point of all this is getting the maximum benefit out of a Pi Zero without having to lug around any cables: just plug it in and you’re networked.

Of course, [Novaspirit] isn’t the first person to have ever connected a Zero over USB networking. But his hardware hack is neat and dead simple, and setting up the software side will teach you something if you’ve got a Windows background. Check it out.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

Should You Outsource Manufacturing? A Handy Guide

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 21:01

A lot of people assume that the product development cycle involves R&D, outsourcing to a Chinese manufacturer, and then selling the finished product. It’s almost ingrained in our heads that once a prototype has been developed, the next step involves a visa and airplane tickets. Here is a guide that will explore a few other options, and why outsourcing may not be appropriate for everyone.

First, let’s talk about goals. We’ll assume you’re not a large company, and that you don’t have a huge budget, and that you’re just getting started with your product and don’t have big volumes; a startup trying to sell a kit or breakout board, or a consumer electronics product. Your goals are the following:

  1. Validate your product in the market. Build a minimum viable product and get it in the hands of lots of users
  2. Get the most bang for your limited bucks. All money should go towards getting products out the door
  3. Reduce risk to your company so that any single failure doesn’t crater the whole operation and you can safely grow.

With that in mind, what are your options?

Foreign Outsourcing

Some people will say that you should start in China early because you will have access to assembly methods and components that can be used in the design process to ensure that the final product will be assemble-able and components easily sourced when manufacturing does take place, as well as forging a relationship with the factories that will make the product. No.

You want parts whose datasheets you can read and that can be reliably sourced, and you probably won’t stick with the same company that manufactured in dozens when you move up to tens of thousands. For all the speed that’s advertised, there are just as many delays for unforeseen and more annoying reasons. Remember that reducing your risk is a major goal of a startup, and is a serious consideration for any potential investor or customer. If you are outsourcing manufacturing, you are accepting an enormous risk, and worse yet there are no consequences if your manufacturer messes up any of the billion things that can go wrong. You’re putting the fate of your company in the hands of a manufacturer who doesn’t care and is half a world away.

It is my firm opinion that outsourcing to China (or other countries where manufacturing is stereotypically cheap) is only appropriate if:

  1. You are dealing in large volumes and your current manufacturing strategy cannot handle it
  2. You have been manufacturing a while and are looking to shave some of the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
  3. You have been manufacturing a while and have ironed out many of the assembly kinks, the test jigs, the molds, and the product has all the features the customer wants.

So why those three qualifications? Let’s look at each one:


It is likely that you will start in small volumes, on the order of hundreds, maybe even a few thousand. Assembly lines take a long time to set up. Travel to a foreign country is time-consuming and expensive. There are many hidden overhead costs that are essentially the same whether you are dealing in small volumes or large. But with small volumes, those costs don’t amortize well into the volumes, so while the COGS may be small, the actual costs once all the hidden ones are accounted for can be significantly higher.

As a small company with a risky product that is just starting to get customer validation, the goal is to stretch money and time as far as it can go, and outsourcing can be really hard on both of those. Delays of a month in transit can be extremely rough for a startup on a time crunch, too.

Cost Savings

You may be able to get components cheaper, and you may be able to get labor on the assembly line cheaper, but that’s about it when it comes to cost savings. You still have to account for a lot of other expenses which are not in the COGS, and which will throw your accounting out of whack. Some of those costs include shipping.

Cheap shipping is also relatively slow

Although shipping by sea right now is super cheap, if you are in a hurry to get product, then air shipping is still and will likely always be expensive. You will have to pay duties, and you will probably have to fly and live over there for a while, both during the design process and the assembly line setup, and possibly even during the production. For a large volume where these kinds of expenses can amortize easily, it makes sense. But when you are looking at making a thousand of something, and a flight costs a thousand dollars, you’ve just increased your COGS by $1, so your spreadsheet comparing local vs outsourced should consider that.

Ironed out Kinks

New products have kinks. They may have certain components that are particularly difficult to attach, or require some skilled labor to assemble. Consistency is challenging, and rework is normal. It is during those first few rounds of assembly that it is crucial to have the designers participate, working on building jigs to aid in assembly, tweaking part designs as necessary to make it come together more reliably. Outsourcing too early means you miss this step, and have a bunch of low-wage workers who have fewer skills and no idea what your product does or how it works trying to assemble it. You will have lots of problems with this. It’s better to have experienced the assembly for a while and know where the hangups are, design them out or build tools to accommodate, and have a test and assembly process that you know works and that is as bulletproof as possible.

The Big Picture of Foreign Outsourcing

Look at the Pebble smartwatch, or the Coolest Cooler. These are projects that were so successful that they had to outsource production. Their volumes were too high to manufacture at home, but that meant that they had to skip the important step of manufacturing locally and ironing out the kinks. If you see where they struggled (or failed entirely), it is largely because they outsourced manufacturing their product too early and quality, cost, and timeline all suffered in the long run because of it. Most projects aren’t runaway successes like this and have a much more realistic opportunity for easing into production in larger and larger volumes, eventually transitioning to a need for large scale outsourced manufacturing.

Local Outsourcing

You probably have a manufacturer capable of handling your product within 100 miles. It might be a few different manufacturers; a plastics company, a PCBA company, a packaging company, and a fulfillment company. Check them out.

Yes, they will be more expensive than you’d like. But they’ll help you along the way, often with free and extremely useful advice. Your plastics guy is going to say: “that wall is too thin, that undercut means you need a slide, and I need to know what color and texture you want. Come down to our office and check out the book of colors and textures we have.”

They’re going to do that because they want high yield and no returns or scrapped product, so exacting specifications and easy to manufacture parts are in their best interest, too. You can’t rely on them to do all the work for you (not without paying for it anyway), but that kind of help is extremely valuable, and locally available. Yes, there will be some extra cost associated with it on a per part basis or in tooling, but you’ll have your parts sooner, you’ll be able to trust the manufacturer and hold them accountable if they fail, and you’ll be supporting local businesses, which goes a long way. If you scale up, then you can re-examine the relationship later, but when you are small and risky, finding a stable partner has lots of advantages.

You don’t have to outsource all production. Pick and choose the parts you can do yourself vs. things you can’t. Final assembly, testing, and fulfillment are probably entirely within your capability in your garage.

Manufacturing Yourself

This is likely more accessible than you think. We recently finished a series on doing PCBA using home-made tools, and in volumes up to a few thousand boards per month, it’s a reasonable possibility. Sure, there are limitations, so BGA and double sided boards are more challenging, but for most applications, it’s not far-fetched.

Some kinds of enclosures can be purchased outright from sites like New Age Enclosures or Hammond. Others can be made with a laser cutter or 3D printer for small volumes. Eventually you can work with a manufacturer and get maybe just the plastics done locally but the rest assembled and tested in the garage. The biggest reason to do this, though, is that it will force you to work through the assembly line process and figure out all the quirks of your product. You’ll develop all the jigs and make modifications to the design to aid in assembly, and because you are feeling the pain yourself, you’ll be a lot more motivated to do it. Because you are doing it in house, it’s so much easier to just change the design a little and make an immediate change to the assembly line accordingly.


Remember your 3 goals as a startup: get an MVP, spend every dollar on getting product out the door and servicing customers, and reduce risk as much as possible. Make your production decisions with these goals in mind, and you’ll be a happier and more successful company.

[Main image source: Our own SuperConference Badges are being assembled in the USA by Small Batch Assembly]
Filed under: Business, Featured, slider

Umbrella Drones — Jellyfish Of The Sky

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 18:01

Mount an umbrella to a drone and there you go, you have a flying umbrella. When [Alan Kwan] tried to do just that he found it wasn’t quite so simple. The result, once he’d worked it out though, is haunting. You get an uneasy feeling like you’re underwater watching jellyfish floating around you.

A grad student in MIT’s ACT (Art, Culture and Technology) program, [Alan’s] idea was to produce a synesthesia-like result in the viewer by having an inanimate object, an umbrella, appear as an animate object, a floating jellyfish. He first tried simply attaching the umbrella to an off-the-shelf drone. Since electronics occupy the center of the drone, the umbrella had to be mounted off-center. But he discovered that drones want most of their mass in the center and so that didn’t work. With the help of a classmate and input from peers and faculty he made a new drone with carbon fiber and metal parts that allowed him to mount the umbrella in the center. To further help with stability, the batteries were attached to the very bottom of the umbrella’s pole.

In addition to just making them fly, [Alan] also wanted the umbrella to gently undulate like a jellyfish, slowly opening and closing a little. He tried mounting servo motors inside the umbrella for the task. These turned out to be too heavy, but also unnecessary. Once flying outside at just the right propeller speed, the umbrellas undulated on their own. Watch them doing this in the video below accompanied by haunting music that makes you feel you’re watching a scene from Blade Runner.

Also interesting was that in some countries he couldn’t fly his jellyfish due to drone restrictions. Fortunately the FAA clarified their rules regarding drones just in time for him to be able to fly them in the U.S.

But this isn’t time we’ve seen flying umbrellas. Check out this delta kite made using an umbrella, and though tethered, there’s also this umbrella-based windmill.

[via Popular Science]

Filed under: drone hacks

Toyota’s Code Didn’t Meet Standards and Might Have Led To Death

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 15:01

We were initially skeptical of this article by [Aleksey Statsenko] as it read a bit conspiratorially. However, he proved the rule by citing his sources and we could easily check for ourselves and reach our own conclusions. There were fatal crashes in Toyota cars due to a sudden unexpected acceleration. The court thought that the code might be to blame, two engineers spent a long time looking at the code, and it did not meet common industry standards. Past that there’s not a definite public conclusion.

[Aleksey] has a tendency to imply that normal legal proceedings and recalls for design defects are a sign of a sinister and collaborative darker undercurrent in the world. However, this article does shine a light on an actual dark undercurrent. More and more things rely on software than ever before. Now, especially for safety critical code, there are some standards. NASA has one and in the pertinent case of cars, there is the Motor Industry Software Reliability Association C Standard (MISRA C). Are these standards any good? Are they realistic? If they are, can they even be met?

When two engineers sat down, rather dramatically in a secret hotel room, they looked through Toyota’s code and found that it didn’t even come close to meeting these standards. Toyota insisted that it met their internal standards, and further that the incidents were to be blamed on user error, not the car.

So the questions remain. If they didn’t meet the standard why didn’t Toyota get VW’d out of the market? Adherence to the MIRSA C standard entirely voluntary, but should common rules to ensure code quality be made mandatory? Is it a sign that people still don’t take software seriously? What does the future look like? Either way, browsing through [Aleksey]’s article and sources puts a fresh and very real perspective on the problem. When it’s NASA’s bajillion dollar firework exploding a satellite it’s one thing, when it’s a car any of us can own it becomes very real.

Filed under: car hacks, slider

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Modern, Universal Power Glove

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 12:00

The Nintendo Power Glove was one of the amazing 1980s experiments in alternative user interfaces for video games. It was bad. It was cool, but it was bad. Recently, interest in the Power Glove has grown thanks to an amazing stop motion animator. Prices of these gloves have gone through the roof, and the Power Glove is in the middle of a resurgence not seen since the feature-length motion picture advertisement for Super Mario Bros. 3.

[Nolan Moore] is a fan of the Power Glove, and after finding a highly collectible new in box Power Glove, he decided to take this wearable to the next level. It’s now sporting custom circuit boards, it can control a drone, and talks wirelessly to every device on the planet. It’s also [Nolan]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize.

First up, the glove itself. [Nolan] was lucky enough to find a new, in shrink-wrapped plastic, Famicom Power Glove. His old one had been in storage for 27 years, and this new old-stock version gives him a beautiful matte glove, flex sensors that work, and brand new everything. You can take a look at the unboxing here.

A Power Glove is only as cool as the electronics inside, and that means tearing out the old boards, the old ultrasonic sensors, and a rats nest of wiring. This meant [Nolan] had to spin a few PCBs, integrating a Teensy, an IMU module, battery, and an ESP8266. This is the Power Glove as it would be invented today – perfection in 80s cyberpunk.

We first saw [Nolan]’s Power Glove at the Bay Area Maker Faire last summer. Here, [Nolan] was flying a quad around a netted cage, his replacement Power Glove electronics, and his fist-pumping grin. It’s a great project, and one we’re happy to show off in the Hackaday Prize.

The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

The Animated Gif Camera, Brought To You By A Raspberry Pi

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 09:01

No one watches video anymore. Cable cutters are digging into Verizon’s profits, and YouTube is a shadow of its 2005 self. What are people consuming now? Animated gifs. This is the bread and butter of the meme economy. Personally, all my investments are sunk deep into Gandolf / Balrog gifs, with each character replaced with Trump and Hillary. I expect a tidy profit on November 9th.

With animated gifs being the de facto method of sharing moving pictures, the world will belong to those who can create them. Phones are fine, but strangely video cameras, DSLRs, and other high-end photography equipment are the norm. This is idiotic, of course, because high-definition images are just a fad, and audio is useless.

Finally, there’s an answer. [Nick Brewer] created a camera that only takes animated gifs. I cannot stress this enough: this animated gif cam is a serious contender for a technical Oscar. Kubrick wept.

For the hardware, [Nick] went with a Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi camera. A combination of software ranging from PiCamera, GraphicsMagick, and GifCam turns this tiny bit of hardware into a machine dedicated to content creation in the hippest new medium. Other hardware includes a battery – either a normal LiPo ‘pouch’ cell, or an 18650 cell. Other hardware includes an Adafruit Powerboost 500 charge controller and a neat illuminated push button.

The 3D-printed enclosure is where this project really shines. Hearkening back to an older time, this camera includes a real viewfinder for all your gonzo giffing. The camera is charged through a completely normal USB port, and even the Pi’s SD card is accessible without disassembling the camera. There are even some paper wrappers for this camera to give it a 90s disposable camera aesthetic.

Of course, this isn’t the first camera dedicated to the creation of animated gifs. Before the C.H.I.P., Next Thing Co released OTTO, a camera designed for gifs. [Nick]’s project, though, is a camera dedicated completely to gifs. It is the greatest technical achievement of our time, for the creation of content in the greatest artistic medium.

Pave the path to learning and win prizes:

Enter the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest!

Just teach us a how to do something awesome with a Pi. (See more entries)

Filed under: contests, digital cameras hacks, Raspberry Pi

Hackaday Links: October 23, 2016

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 06:01

It’s the Hack ‘O Lantern edition! First up, Slic3r is about to get awesome. Second, Halloween is just around the corner, and that means a few Hackaday-branded pumpkins are already carved. Here’s a few of them, from [Mike] and [yeltrow]:

The latest edition of PoC||GTFO has been released. Holds Stones From The Ivory Tower, But Only As Ballast (PDF and steganography warning). This edition has a reverse engineering of Atari’s Star Raiders, [Micah Elisabeth Scott]’s recent efforts on USB glitching and Wacom tablets, info on the LoRa PHY, and other good stuff. Thanks go to Pastor Manul Laphroaig.

Oh cool, we can be outraged about something. The Freetronics Experimenters Kit is a neat little Arduino-based ‘Getting Started In Microcontrollers’ kit. This kit was sold by Jaycar. Recently, Jaycar ripped off the kit and sold it under the Duiniotech name. The box was copied, the instruction manual was copied, and there’s a lot of IP being violated here. Can Freetronix do anything? Legally, yes, but it’s not worth it.

[Oscar] broke his phone, but it still works great as an SMD soldering camera/microscope thing.

Pobody’s Nerfect in Australia so here’s a 3D printed didgeridoo. What’s a didgeridoo? It’s an ancient instrument only slightly less annoying than bagpipes. It’s just a tube, really, and easily manufactured on any 3D printer. The real trick is the technique that requires circular breathing. That’s a little harder to master than throwing some Gcode at a printer.

[Chris Downing] is the master of mashed up, condensed, and handheld game consoles. His latest is another N64 portable, and it’s a masterpiece. It incorporates full multiplayer capability, uses an HDMI connector for charging and to connect the external breakout box/battery, and has RCA output for full-size TV gameplay. Of note is the breakout board for the custom N64 chip that puts pads for the memory card and a controller on a tiny board.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links

SNES EPROM Programmer with Arduino

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 03:01

Most video game manufacturers aren’t too keen on homebrew games, or people trying to get more utility out of a video game system than it was designed to have. While some effort is made to keep people from slapping a modchip on an Xbox or from running an emulator for a Playstation, it’s almost completely impossible to stop some of the hardware hacking that is common on older cartridge-based games. The only limit is usually the cost of an EPROM programmer, but [Robson] has that covered now with his Arduino-based SNES EPROM programmer.

Normally this type of hack involves finding any cartridge for the SNES at the lowest possible value, burning an EPROM with the game that you really want, and then swapping the new programmed memory with the one in the worthless cartridge. Even though most programmers are pricey, it’s actually not that difficult to write bits to this type of memory. [Robson] runs us through all of the steps to get an Arduino set up to program these types of memory, and then puts it all together into a Super Nintendo where it looks exactly like the real thing.

If you don’t have an SNES lying around, it’s possible to perform a similar end-around on a Sega Genesis as well. And, if you’re more youthful than those of us that grew up in the 16-bit era, there’s a pretty decent homebrew community that has sprung up around the Nintendo DS and 3DS, too.

Thanks to [Rafael] for the tip!

Filed under: nintendo hacks

OpenFixture Takes the Pain Out of Pogo Pins

จันทร์, 10/24/2016 - 00:01

[Elliot] (no relation, but hey, cool name!) wrote in with his OpenFixture model for OpenSCAD. It’s awesome because it takes a small problem, that nonetheless could consume an entire day, and solves it neatly. And that problem is making jigs to test assembled electrical products: a PCB test fixture.

In the PCB design software, you simply note down the locations of the test points and feed these into the OpenSCAD model. ([Elliot] shows you exactly how to do it using KiCAD.) There are a few more parameters of the model that you can tweak to match your particulars, but you should have a DXF outline for a test jig in short order. Cut that out, assemble, and test.

If you have to make more than a few handfuls of a complicated circuit, it becomes worth it to start thinking about testing them systematically. And with this OpenSCAD model, you can have the test jig up and running before the first prototype boards are back in from the fab. How cool is that?

Filed under: misc hacks, tool hacks

Amalgamate is the Internet of Compost

อาทิตย์, 10/23/2016 - 22:31

A lot of people are scared of composting. After all, if the temperatures or humidity go badly wrong, you can end up with dried-out trash or a stinking soup. Getting the balance right is a secret known to the ancients: toss it in a big pile in your backyard. But what if you don’t have a big backyard?

Amalgamate is a composting setup for the urban dweller, or for people who just don’t like bugs. [Jamie] built it as her first Raspberry Pi project, and that makes it a great entrée into the world of things. But it’s no lightweight: the software measures temperature and humidity, and lets you schedule watering and rotating the compost. And of course, if you’re a micromanager, you can get up-to-the-minute vitals on your cellphone and tweak everything to run just perfectly.

On the hardware side, the Raspberry Pi breaks out into a relay board which turns and waters the compost. A drill with a wheel in its chuck rotates the barrels. [Jamie]’s setup uses a 12 V battery and a solar cell to make the system self-sufficient, but with infrequent and low power requirements, we guess there are many options here.The one trick is to get a barrel that rotates around a hole in the center to pass the wires through.

We like tech-meets-agriculture projects around here, and we think this project would make the perfect complement to your farmbot system. With LED and solar panel prices dropping, and hassle-free automation systems taking care of the work, we may be on the edge of an indoor gardening revolution. (Get it, “revolution”? It turns the compost barrels… OK, just watch the video.)

Pave the path to learning and win prizes:

Enter the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest!

Just teach us a how to do something awesome with a Pi. (See more entries)

Filed under: contests, Raspberry Pi

3D Universe Theater

อาทิตย์, 10/23/2016 - 21:01

If you are an astronomy buff, there are plenty of star maps you can find in print or online (or even on your Smartphone). But if you are a science fiction fan (or writer), you probably find those maps frustrating because they are flat. Two stars next to each other on the map might be light years apart in the axis coming out of the page. A star 3.2 light years from Sol (our sun) looks the same on the map as a star 100 light years away.

The Gaia satellite (an ESA project) orbits beyond the moon and is carefully mapping the 3D position of every point of light it sees. [Charlie Hoey] took the data for about 2 million stars and used WebGL to give you a 3D view of the data in your web browser.

We aren’t sure how practical it is and watch out for significant lag when you zoom if you have an older CPU and graphic card. But it looks interesting and is a good example of browser-based data visualization. You can read more about Gaia (or watch the video below) and note that they plan to map a billion stars. The sobering thing to note is that’s about 1% of the stars in the area of interest. The Gaia camera is technically interesting, as well (check out the second video, below).

If you want to look through a telescope, try SkyNet. Or you can try radio astronomy with no hardware if you like.

Filed under: Virtual Reality

WarWalking With The ESP8266

อาทิตย์, 10/23/2016 - 18:01

[Steve] needed a tool to diagnose and fix his friend’s and family’s WiFi. A laptop would do, but WiFi modules and tiny OLED displays are cheap now. His solution was to build a War Walker, a tiny handheld device that would listen in WiFi access points, return the signal strength, and monitor the 2.4GHz environment around him.

The War Walker didn’t appear out of a vacuum. It’s based on the WarCollar Dope Scope, a tiny, portable device consisting of an off-the-shelf Chinese OLED display, an ESP8266 module, and a PCB that can charge batteries, provide a serial port, and ties the whole thing together with jellybean glue. The Dope Scope is a capable device, but it’s marketed towards the 1337 utilikilt-wearing, The Prodigy-blasting pentesters of the world. It is, therefore, a ripoff. [Steve] can build his version for $6 in materials.

The core of the build is an ESP-based carrier board built for NodeMCU. This board is available for $3.77 in quantity one, with free shipping. A $2 SPI OLED display is the user interface, and the rest of the circuit is just some perfboard and a few wires.

The software is based on platformio, and dumps all the WiFi info you could want over the serial port or displays it right on the OLED. It’s a brilliantly simple device for War Walking, and the addition of a small LiPo makes this a much better value than the same circuit with a larger pricetag.

Filed under: slider, wireless hacks

How to Make a Human Crossbow

อาทิตย์, 10/23/2016 - 15:01

Say you have a team of French engineers, a lake in the summer, a wizened old machinist, and some gigantic bungee cords. What would you build? The answer is clear, a human-launching crossbow. (Video, and making-of embedded below.)

You can start out watching the promo video because it looks like a lot of fun, but don’t leave without watching the engineering video. What looks like a redneck contraption turns out to be painstakingly built, and probably not entirely a death trap. The [Rad Cow] team even went so far as to purchase metal cart wheels.

Everyone else on the Intertubes would tell you not to do this at home. We say go for it. That is, draw up reasonable plans, work with an obviously competent machinist, and make something silly. It’s not going to be more dangerous than the stuff that [Furze] pulls off.

Filed under: transportation hacks