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This Arduino Hookup is Perfect for Microgrowery

เสาร์, 07/26/2014 - 09:01

All it takes is one little seed. One tiny little seed, that when planted into the ground and nourished correctly, can flourish into a healthy and happy plant. But there are some challenges involved. For example, maintaining a steady temperature and keeping moisture at an optimum level can be difficult at times, especially when just starting out.

This Arduino grow-op monitoring solution helps to solve those problems. It was built by [growershower] as a fun side project to monitor the vital signs of 3 marijuana plants. The board is an Uno and has an SD card shield with a DHT22 temperature sensor plus a soil moisture sensor. A photo diode is also used to measure light.

The graph produced from the data is a weed grower’s wet dream:

Humidity, temperature, moisture, and light can all be regularly logged into the system. This empirical data gathering is key for keeping track of how the plants are doing, giving the grower the option to make educated changes.

Obviously these sensors and the attached cables are not waterproof, so they need to be removed when watering, which is very inconvenient. However, this system will be refined over time as more people contribute to the design. [growershower] plans to seal the electronics with some sort of resin for the next grow. In addition, the use of a Raspberry Pi instead of an Arduino will allow [growershower] to check the data in real time remotely through a web browser.

The next steps after all that will be to run the lights and ventilation. Watering schedules could be included as well. Just be careful when adding H2O into the equation, especially when dealing with the high voltages associated with grow lights. You don’t want to accidentally zap yourself into oblivion! Safety first. Safety first.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The editorial staff chose to publish this post after considering the following items: First, the gathering and graphing of data by this project is both interesting and useful in other applications. Second, the cultivation of marijuana is legal in some jurisdictions.


Filed under: misc hacks

A DIY Geomagnetic Observatory

เสาร์, 07/26/2014 - 06:00

[Dr. Fortin] teaches physics at a French High School, and to get his students interested in the natural world around them, he built a geomagnetic observatory, able to tell his students if they have a chance at seeing an aurora, or if a large truck just drove by.

We’ve seen this sort of device before, and the basic construction is extremely similar – a laser shines on a mirror attached to magnets. When a change occurs in the local magnetic field, the mirror rotates slightly and the laser beam is deflected. Older versions have used photoresistors, but [the doctor] is shining his laser on a piece of paper and logging everything with a webcam and a bit of OpenCV.

The design is a huge improvement over earlier DIY attempts at measuring the local magnetic field, if only because the baseline between the webcam and mirror are so long. When set up in his house, the magnetometer can detect cars parked in front of his building, but the data he’s collecting (French, but it’s just a bunch of graphs) is comparable to the official Russian magnetic field data.

Filed under: laser hacks

Hacklet #8: The Animals

เสาร์, 07/26/2014 - 03:00

This week on the Hacklet we’re looking at Hackaday.io projects that are all about animals! Hackers and makers are well-known animal lovers, in fact many a hacker can be found with a pet curled up at their feet, or on their keyboard!

[Brian's] cat Roger loves drinking from the bathtub faucet. Unfortunately Roger hasn’t learned how to operate the faucet himself, so it gets left on quite a bit. To keep Roger happy while saving water, [Brian] created the Snooty Cat Waterer. Cat’s still don’t have thumbs, so [Brian] turned to capacitive sensing in the form of a Microchip MTCH10 capacitive proximity sensor chip. Coupled with a home etched PC board, the waterer can detect a cat at 3 inches. A valve and water feed teed off the toilet provide the flow. The project is moving along well, though Roger has been slow to warm up to this new water source.


[Jsc] has the opposite problem. His cat has decided that bathtubs are the perfect litter boxes. [Jsc] is taking aim at this little problem with his Cat Dissuader. After a servo controlled squirt bottle proved too anemic for his needs, [Jsc] turned to the Super Soaker Hydrostorm. These electric water guns can be had for as little as $16 on sale. [JSC] didn’t want to permanently modify the gun, so he 3D printed a switchable battery pack.The replacement pack is actually powered by a simple wall wart. Power to the gun is controlled by an Arduino, which senses his cat with a passive infrared sensor. Since the dissuader was installed, [Jsc's] cat has been a model citizen!


Cat’s don’t get all the love though, plenty of engineers and hackers have dogs around the house. [Colin] loves his dog, but he and his family were forgetting to feed it. He created Feed the Dog to help the household keep its four-legged member from going hungry. [Colin] tried a microcontroller, but eventually settled on implementing the circuit with old-fashioned 4000 series CMOS logic chips. He used a 4060 (14-stage ripple counter w/ internal oscillator) as an 8 hour timer, and 4013 dual flip-flop. Operation of Feed the Dog is as simple as wagging your tail. Once the dog is feed, the human presses a button. A green “Just fed” LED will glow for 30 minutes, then go dark. After about 6 hours, a red LED turns on. After 8 hours, the red LED starts blinking, letting everyone know that it’s time to feed the dog.


[Steve] has outdoor pets. Chooks to be exact, or chickens for the non Australians out there. He loves watching his birds, especially Darth Vader, who is practicing to become a rooster. To keep track of the birds, he’s created What the Chook?, a sensor suite for the hen-house. He’s using a GCDuiNode with a number of sensors. Temperature, humidity, even a methane detector for when the bedding needs to be replaced. An OV528 JPEG camera allows [Steve] to get pictures of his flock. The entire project connects via WiFi. Steve hopes to power it from a couple of AA batteries. [Steve] also entered What the Chook? in The Hackaday Prize. If he wins, this will be the first case of flightless birds sending a human to space!


Hey – Did you know that Hackaday is building a Hackerspace in Pasadena California? We’re rounding up the local community while our space is being built out. Join us at a Happy Hour Show & Tell Meetup Event hosted by our own [Jasmine Brackett] August 18th! It’s an informal show and tell, so you don’t have to bring a hack to attend. If you’re local to Pasadena, come on down and say hello!






Filed under: Hackaday Columns

Bil Herd: Computing with Analog

เสาร์, 07/26/2014 - 00:01

When I was young the first “computer” I ever owned was an analog computer built from a kit. It had a sloped plastic case which had three knobs with large numerical scales around them and a small center-null meter. To operate it I would dial in two numbers as indicated by the scales and then adjust the “answer” by rotating the third dial until the little meter centered. Underneath there was a small handful of components wired on a terminal strip including two or three transistors.

Science Fair Analog Computer

In thinking back about that relic from the early 1970’s there was a moment when I assumed they may have been using the transistors as logarithmic amplifiers meaning that it was able to multiply electronically. After a few minutes of thought I came to the conclusion that it was probably much simpler and was most likely a Wheatstone Bridge. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t multiply, it was probably the printed scales that were logarithmic, much like a slide rule.

Old meets new: Analog and digital computation

Did someone just ask what a slide rule was? Let me explain further for anyone under 50. If you watch the video footage or movies about the Apollo Space Program you won’t see any anyone carrying a hand calculator, they didn’t exist yet. Yet the navigation guys in the first row of Mission Control known aptly as “the trench”, could quickly calculate a position or vector to within a couple of decimal places, and they did it using sliding piece of bamboo or aluminum with numbers printed on them.

I inherited my first slide rule from my Dad who had used his in college. That slide rule has 32 or 33 scales on it, each a different mathematical computation, and was made of bamboo, a fact my Dad pointed out that during the winter the guys with the aluminum slide rules had a harder time as the cold would cause them to get stuck. I used a slide rule in my 10th grade chemistry class, and by the 12th grade everybody had “four banger” calculators. You couldn’t open a newspaper without seeing advertisement for the calculators as they quickly dropped from $100-$400 down to $29.

Old meets new: Analog and digital computation

Jump forward to today as I sit in front of a breadboard with a couple of analog Op Amp modules and a couple of little voltmeters. There are three basic styles of DC amplification with Op Amps; inverting, non-inverting and differencing depending on which inputs you inject the signal. In the case of differencing, the signal is injected into both inputs.

Inverting Summing Amplifier

It’s easy to see then how to add two voltages together, I go so far as to print the formulas on my own PCB’s to help me remember but the determining factor is there will be a voltage divider formed by the resistors that is connected to one or more inputs. Simply put, a circuit that feeds a proportion of the signal back into the inverting input will have a gain set by that proportion.

Quickly becoming bored with addition and subtraction we move up to multiplication. Using a venerable Analog Devices AD633 four quadrant multiplier, it’s easy to show multiplication in action and wiring the same voltage to both inputs results in square/square root. What makes the AD633 so usable is it has been engineered to be somewhat precise about utilizing the internal logarithmic behavior and then includes gain so that the small usable area of the curve becomes a bigger usable area… big enough to see on my little three digit voltage displays.

Bil Herd with a multiplier breadboard showing the AD633

And finally we take multiplication back to AC where the fun is; injecting a tone in one terminal and a control voltage in the other we recreate a Voltage Controlled Gain block like might be found in an analog synthesizer or as part of an Automatic Gain Control (AGC) system. This is the heart of Amplitude Modulation as used in radios and complex audio synthesis such as ring modulators in 1970’s synthesizers.

Waveform of a control signal multiplied times an audio signal.

The AD633 does a good job of multiplying both DC and AC signals. Basically it uses the inherent logarithmic characteristics of diode/transistors junctions but is also surrounded by carefully trimmed parts (laser trimmed resistors) and built in amplification to make the most use of the desired log responses.

Photo of Science Fair Computer courtesy of [Dan Mathias] of Futurebots

Filed under: classic hacks, computer hacks

Astronaut Or Astronot: Nobody Won (This Week)

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 21:27

Another week, another round of Astronaut or Astronot, the little lottery thing where we try to give away some fairly expensive tools to a random person on hackaday.io if they have voted for The Hackaday Prize. You should vote. Go here and do that.

This week, the random hacker selected was [oscar6ojeda], but he did not vote. This means he doesn’t get a huge bench power supply. Oh well. I’ll send him a t-shirt and a few stickers. That’s fair compensation for doing nothing, right?

We’re doing the same thing next week, so go here and vote. Voting in previous rounds doesn’t count, so you’ll only win the supply if you vote for The Hackaday Prize project with the most outrageous component.

Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

You Might Be Cool, But You’re Not Gas Turbine Motorcycle Cool

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 21:00

For the last four and a half years, [Anders] has been working on a motorcycle project. This isn’t just any old Harley covering a garage floor with oil – this is a gas turbine powered bike built to break the land speed record at Bonneville.

The engine inside [Anders]‘s bike is a gas turbine – not a jet engine. There’s really not much difference in the design of these engines, except for the fact that a turbine dumps all the energy into a drive shaft, while a true jet dumps all the energy into the front bumper of the car behind this bike. [Anders] built this engine from scratch, documented entirely on a massive 120 page forum thread. Just about everything is machined by him, bolted to a frame designed and fabricated by him, and with any luck, will break the land speed record of 349 km/h (216mph) on the salt flats of Bonneville.

As with all jet and turbine builds, this one must be heard to be believed. There are a few videos of the turbine in action below, including one where the turbine drives the rear wheel.

Filed under: transportation hacks

The Entire Commodore 64 Library In Your Pocket

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 18:00

[sweetlilmre] is just beginning his adventures in retrocomputing, and after realizing there were places besides eBay to buy old computers, quickly snagged a few of the Amigas he lusted after in his youth. One of the machines that didn’t make it into his collection until recently was a Commodore 64 with Datasette and 1541 drive. With no tapes and a 1541 disk drive that required significant restoration, he looked at other devices to load programs onto his C64.

These devices, clever cartridge implementations of SD cards and Flash memory, cost more than anyone should spend on a C64. Realizing there’s still a cassette port on the C64, [sweetlilmre] created Tapuino, the $20 Commodore tape emulator

The hardware used to load games through the Datasette connector included an Arduino Nano, a microSD breakout board, a 16×2 LCD, some resistors, buttons, and a little bit of wire. The firmware part of the build – available here on the Git - reads the .TAP files off the SD card and loads them into the C64.

[sweetlilmre] posted a very complete build post of the entire device constructed on a piece of protoboard, Pop that thing in a 3D printed case, and he can have the entire C64 library in his pocket.

Filed under: classic hacks

Electric “Microkart” Has Tons of Kick

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 15:00

When you’re building an electric go kart, you really have two options. Convert a normal gasoline powered one by swapping out the power plant… Or build it from scratch! [Ganharr] opted for the for the latter to save some money, and to design it just the way he wanted.

Now you may have noticed it looks a bit small — because it is. It’s really more of a Micro-Kart, but that’s okay because [Ganharr] is winning a father-of-the-year award for building it for his kid!

It features two 2kW (~3HP) brushless electric motors, which independently drive the rear wheels. These are powered by two 48V 50A continuous (100A peak) speed controllers.[Ganharr] also spared no expense on the batteries, opting for a 48V lithium-ion pack composed of Headway cells (3.2V 15aH capacity each, 40152 type). 

Having spent over $1000 of his $1500 budget on batteries and motors, [Ganharr] opted to keep it simple for the frame and drive train. Wood, wagon wheels and some other basic components make up the rest of the vehicle, but holy cow does it work well!

[via Adafruit]

Filed under: transportation hacks

Custom CAN System Logs Motorcyle Data like Magic

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 12:00

A student team at Ohio State University has designed and built a custom Controller Area Network (CAN) data acquisition system complete with a sensor interface, rider display, and a Linux-based data logger for a RW-2x motorcyle.

They call their small, convenient micro-controller circuit board the Magic CAN Node, and it measures automotive sensors throughout the electric vehicle. This includes a variety of thermistor resistors to check changes in temperature. A few 0-5V and 0-12V sensors to monitor brake pressure transducers along with some differential air pressure sensors can be added too. Since the vehicle is basically a “rolling electromagnetic noise bomb”, they wanted to keep all of these analog sensors as close to the source as possible.

The Magic CAN Node is based on a Texas Instruments microcontroller called the TMS320F28035. This keeps the energy consumption at a low level.

For message handling, the team, led by [Aaron], tapped into the built-in CAN module within the F28035. All of the CAN plugs have two of the pins shorted to GND or +12V, so when there’s only one plug connected, the analog switch IC will connect a 120 ohm resistor across the CAN lines.

The rest of the board is laid out in SI units, but the expansion interface is 0.1” pin headers on 0.1” centers. Seven of the analog inputs are available on the expansion header, as well as PWM outputs and digital interfaces (serial, SPI, I2C). Plus, a backpack can be made out of some perfboard if needed.

Software features can be programmable over CAN as well making it able to receive and respond to commands over the network bus. The user interface is made up of bright, illuminated push buttons and has a unique feature in which the buttons light up, either red or green, depending on which way current flows. Lights in the buttons indicate which ones are active. Tri-colors indicate the status of the motor controller and GPS/datalogging unit.

Combine together the CAN bus and a datalogger and they created the CANCorder! This is a device on RW-2x that uses a Beaglebone Black, which not only records all the data on the CAN bus but also provides a quick and easy way to access the current data inside. It can even find past data recorded as well.

It was created by [Jenn] who was equipped with a custom built cape and a USB WiFi dongle to transform the Beaglebone into the CANCorder. This provided the them with the basic features to start off the project: which was a way to access CAN data easily.

Their early goal for data logging was achieved by using a database file to cross check the various CAN messages that the CANCorder intercepted. They did this by programming the software to parses a specially formatted file that holds all the CAN messages. The data parsed by the software then had to be stored in a way that allowed quick searching later on.

An AVL tree was chosen because it self balances itself as nodes are inserted; allowing for quick searching. Since adding nodes would occur only once during execution and nodes would never be removed, the inefficiency with these two operations was not a concern.

For more CAN hacking, check out this introduction to CAN and automotive hacking.

Filed under: transportation hacks

A Better, Cheaper Smartphone Thermal Imager

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 09:00

For the last few years, the prices of infrared thermal imaging devices have fallen through the floor, down from tens of thousands of dollars a decade ago, to just about a grand for a very high-resolution device. This dramatic drop in price was brought about by new sensors, and at the very low-end, there are quite a few very inexpensive low resolution thermal imaging devices.

The goal now, it seems, is to figure out some way to add these infrared devices to a smartphone or tablet. There have been similar projects and Kickstarters before, but [Marius]‘s entry for The Hackaday Prize is undercutting all of them, and doing it in a way that’s far, far too clever.

Previous ‘thermal imagers on a smartphone’ projects include the Mu Thermal Camera, a $300 Kickstarter reward that turned out to be vaporware. The IR-Blue is yet another Kickstarter we’ve seen, and something that’s actually shipping for about $200. [Marius] expects his thermal imager to cost just $99. He’s getting away with this pricing with a little bit of crazy electronics, and actually designing a minimum viable product.

Both the Mu Thermal Camera and the IR-Blue communicate with their smartphone host via Bluetooth. [Marius] felt radio modules were unnecessary and inspired by the HiJack system where low-power sensors are powered and read through a headphone jack, realized he could do better.

Always the innovator, [Marius] realized he could improve upon the HiJack power harvesting solution, and got everything working with a prototype. The actual hardware in the sensor is based on an engineering sample of the Omron D6T-1616L IR array module, a 16×16 array of IR pixels displaying thermal data on a portable device at 4 FPS.

It’s interesting, for sure, and half the price and quadruple the resolution of the IR-Blue. Even if [Marius] doesn’t win The Hackaday Prize, he’s at least got a winning Kickstarter on his hands. Video of the 8×8 pixel prototype below.

The project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

A New Approach to Robotic Walking Looks More Like Kinetic Art

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 06:00

Here’s a really cool application of 3D printing and robotics by a fellow named [Maundy] – He’s created a very unique kinetic robot which relies on gravity to walk around.

All the electronics are housed in the cylinder as shown above. It can roll freely back and forth by some kind of mechanism inside (not shown), but the beauty of it is, when the cylinder rolls to one end, gravity takes over and the little robot actually flips through the air, reorienting itself onto its other feet.

Due to the flipping nature of the bot, it can even climb over small obstacles with ease – but this one can’t steer, so there’s no threat of them taking over the world. Perhaps with a modification to the control cylinder (turn it into a ball), the robot could orientate itself vertically, and then kind of spin in place in order to steer…

Anyway, you have to see it to believe it, so stick around after the break to see it in action!

[via Makezine]

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, robots hacks

Cosmonaut Or Taikonot: Vote For The Most Outrageous Component

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 04:30

We have a new round of Astronaut or Astronot, the little community voting thing we’re doing for The Hackaday Prize. Why should you care? Because tomorrow (Friday, 10:00 AM Eastern) we’re doing a voters lottery. We’re selecting a random person on hackaday.io, and if that person has voted, they win a pretty awesome bench power supply.

Why are we telling you this now? Because voting in previous rounds doesn’t count for this round. If you want to nab a power supply, you need to vote. We previously gave away an awesome scope, and a very cool 3D printer to a random person on hackaday.io. Judging from previous rounds, I’d guess the odds of us giving away the supply this week are pretty good, but I’m not doing those maths right now. I’ll post a video of the drawing tomorrow around 10:30 Eastern.

Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Adding GPIOs To The Raspberry Pi With The Camera Interface

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 03:00

The Raspberry Pi Model B+ was just released, and now everyone who picks one of those up has a few more GPIO pins to play around with. For the millions of people with the two-year-old version of the Pi, we’re still stuck with the same old, same old: 17 GPIOs on the big header, and that’s about it as far as toggling pins goes.

The Broadcom SoC on the Pi has far more GPIO pins than are broken out on the large header, and a few of those go to the CSI camera interface. These GPIOs can be broken out with a few flat cables (Portuguese, Google Translatrix), giving you four more GPIOs, and this technique can also be used with the new, expanded Model B+.

The CSI camera connector has two I²C lines that go directly to the camera, controllable in Linux as GPIO0 and GPIO1. There are two more GPIO connectors on the CSI connector controllable as GPIO5 and GPIO21. By carefully slicing and soldering wires to a flat cable, these GPIO lines can be broken out onto a breadboard.

There’s a video below demonstrating these GPIO lines being used to control a few LEDs. Of course, anything that is possible with a normal Raspi GPIO is possible with the CSI connector GPIO lines.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

THP Hacker Bio: Kenji Larsen

ศุกร์, 07/25/2014 - 00:00

I met up with [Kenji Larsen] at HOPE X last weekend, and I’m fairly certain he was the coolest person at a conference full of really cool people. Talking to him for a little bit, you get a sense of what it would be like to speak with [Buckmister Fuller], [Tesla], or any of the other ‘underappreciated, but not by people in the know’ minds scattered about history. I’ll just let his answers to our hacker bio questions demonstrate that.

[Kenji]‘s project for The Hackaday Prize is the Reactron Overdrive. It’s not just one board he’s building here, but an entire suite of sensors, interfaces, and nodes that form a complete human to machines – note the plural ‘machines’ – interface. When you consider that no one knows what the Internet of Things actually is, and that [Kenji] is working on IoT 3.0, you get a sense that there’s really something here. Also, his project log has a Tron Recognizer in it. That has to count for something, right?

Interview/Bio below.

Culinary arts, both sides of it. I love to make food, and love to consume it; I just really appreciate how diverse it can get.  Lots of schools of thought, from French and Italian standards, to Japanese nature harmony, to chem-technical, to Ayurvedic, and many other things in between, and outside those concepts. I’ve eaten a lot of weird things. Even when it’s awful, I am glad for the experience. I took some courses at the Culinary Institute of America, and I like to tell people “I learned my knife skills at the CIA.” Other hobbies are hiking, flying airplanes, and sailing, but I find I don’t have a lot of time to do these that much anymore. Have to eat, though…

Data analysis and prototyping for product and process development. I would characterize it as hacking, actually. There is a fair amount of metrology, experimentation and testing, visualization, simulation, and a lot of coding.  There is a lot of time and workflow analysis.  I analyze what can be done asynchronously, and what things must be done in critical path; what can be left open-loop, what must be done with feedback. There is usually a “critical now” period in every process that is supported by several non-linear, asynchronous worker processes.  This got me thinking that really, human existence is the real “critical now” and we should use technology and just-in-time manufacturing methods, with the same non-linear optimization to augment that existence. Human experience is not just something we have by virtue of being alive – it is also something we are in charge of, can improve, optimize, and really is our most important product.  That thinking led me to trying to do this with my own life’s workflow, and later led to my entry in The Hackaday Prize.

Violins and antique violin restoration. Here is a machine (and work of art) that is old enough to have a real natural evolution.  Made of several different woods, animal substances, plant extracts, minerals, and insect secretions, this thing is the definition of hacking diverse stuff around you for optimum output. End result beauty. The older ones need some help to continue their beautiful existence. Restoration is not just repair – it’s harder in a lot of ways, because you must respect the flaws and exceptional excellences of what came before, remain true to the personality you found.  It’s not just about bringing the machine back to some standard. I mean, that is part of it, but there is more to it. Maybe this is my passion because there are things about this that I cannot yet quantify (despite a lot of efforts!)

Cable box.  So many reasons.  But in reality it’s not something I would ever do.  Poor defenseless components are better upcycled into awesome machines.

while(1){do_your_own_stuff();} No operating system is the best operating system. Simple loop execution such as in the AVR allows you to optimize as you like.  I totally get the utility of OSs in the sense of drivers and so forth, but uCs do that well enough with libraries. I find that once a system has a name, and is itself a product looking for market share, it feature creeps to serve many varying needs, until there is stuff I don’t want or need.  Then it creeps further until that stuff is not removable. Wait, isn’t that the definition of cancer? If you really press me, I will say Minix.

Well this is another tough question because I have several benches, all different. In my prototyping work, I have separate benches for electronics work, woodworking, inspection/measurement, microscopy, vacuum, high voltage, and sewing (yes, for wearables). There’s also a photography area but let’s not call that a “bench”.

I love my o-scopes but they are not the best ones out there, and I love my soldering irons but also, they aren’t anything too special. I love using my optical flat but don’t need to use it very often. I do use my granite surface plate all the time, but it’s just a flat rock.  And of course my Fluke 79 DMM, but as much as I love it, it is unremarkable. The one tool I use at all my stations is something I make myself, out of necessity. It is the pointy stick. You know those fiberglass rods they sell for next to nothing for marking the end of your driveway, so that they stay visible after it snows a lot?  I cut them down to 10 inch lengths and sharpen the ends on the grinder at different angles, then hone them further with finer grits. They are strong and durable, they are chemical resistant, heat-resistant, electrically non-conductive, great for high voltage. They can hold a fairly precise point, with which to

A fiberglass poking device

manipulate anything you need.  From pushing around carbon fiber cloth in resin, to holding something you are machining on the CNC, to moving something you are looking at under the microscope, or holding something tiny down when you are soldering, or pushing textiles through a sewing machine when you are working on something small, these are totally versatile.  I have several colors so that if I need several in a single job, I can keep them straight, if they need to touch different chemicals or whatever.  I also grade the point angle by color, so I know what I am reaching for (asynchronous process, sight and recognition) before I obtain it – keeps the workflow utilization up.


Does the Earth’s crust count? (42.) If we are talking about a semiconductor design, it is very tough, there are so many. I have to say I do really appreciate the INA128/129 instrumentation amplifier.  I mean I love the ATMega328P but that’s a higher level thing, more complex, and doesn’t need me to get it more press and admiration.  The INA128/129 is simple, clean, and does for ADCs what the electron microscope does for the eye. Power in, high-resolution knowledge out, I like it.

C++. I think it is the best compromise of a lot of factors. Been that way for a lot of years.  I will accept a better compromise, but so far haven’t seen one. I don’t like languages that attempt to make things easy for you by doing things for you in undocumented ways under the hood.  It’s usually at the cost of performance, and loss of control over the process.  I like manipulating memory directly.

This is not an easy question, because I am constantly re-prioritizing and I figure, anything that falls off the bottom by the time I die was not important enough to get to.  That said, the top items right now are:
  • Extend the time from now until I die (and stabilize bio-age at a good spot).  Aubrey de Grey, hello! Help him, please – everyone help him if you can.  I am trying to figure out how I can help.  So I guess the top item is, the “How can I help Aubrey de Grey?” Project.  (If this one works, I will get to complete more projects.)  Maybe just writing this is helping by raising awareness.  Here is a TED talk. Look, I am working on this project already!
  • Build a practical anti-neutronic fusion reactor.  People seem to be focused on Boron 11 at this time, but I have some ideas about Lithium 7 which has a good cross-section and seems just as promising. Lots of people have built fusors for regular deuterium reactions, so it’s not fantasy – but they are not over-unity yet. It seems like it may just be a matter of time before the right balance of things is achieved. I think Polywell technology is cool and I would just love to have some time to investigate it further. Fusion@home. Open source. I am sure someone will get to this before me, and that will take it off the list (or at least move it way down) because then it just becomes a formula – for me the discovery and experimentation process is the fun part – you know, the hacking.
  • Engineered organs, like a seven-pump distributed heart (like RAID for blood flow).  But people are doing this sort of thing now, and will likely get to it before I will.  I’m cool with that, you go, people!  Take the whole liver situation.  We have to do better than transplants from corpses, or half-organ donations.  The liver is one organ we know can regenerate parts on its own!  3D printing, extracellular matrix + stem cells, it sounds like an there is an exploit, let’s hack it.  This would be #2 on my list if I felt I knew I could contribute enough – and really, it’s part of #1.  But from what I have read, this is well on its way without me. Which is good, because then I will be able to focus on biological robots of arbitrary form. Bishop to King 7. Checkmate, I think.

Request buffering.  That actually boils down to old-world etiquette, which, far from being an archaic system, simply defined rules of engagement, a standardized people interface.  The style may change, but the concept is valuable.  In modern speak, I try to be polite, and optimize my communication in harmony with the surrounding people and events. Human communication is like an RF mesh network. You need an organizing principle to maximize data transfer to all nodes. (Thanks for listening.) Also, statistics.

It is the one I live and breathe. Computers are tools.  They need to be useful, or step aside (or be upcycled into excellence). They are sophisticated enough now to know when they need extra time to prepare for a task, or when they are failing.  Those things need to be removed from the critical path of human activity, otherwise we are just going to spend our precious moments being maintainers of machines.  Forget that.  When I was younger, one statistic often cited was how many years of our lives the average person would spend in their car commuting.  Now many work from home, and the time taxes are smaller and distributed.  Waiting for machines to boot, to log in, web pages to refresh, “please wait while your updates are being installed”. Really?  Add them up, do the math.  It is worse than dying that much earlier, since you have to sit through it all.  I joke (sort of) that I am trying to make computers “go away” – that seems surprising to some people because I’ve been working with computers my whole life, and my solution to make them go away actually means having many, many more of them. But my project is about freedom of experience, and there are also aspects pertaining to personal data ownership.  It’s definitely in the spirit of the Hackaday Prize; when I read the bit about technology giving individuals the freedom to build the future, where once only large corporations could do something meaningful, I thought, yes, I will do this. I am often really jammed for time, so I started to use my manufacturing process knowledge to optimize it.  It has worked in some ways so far, and I am looking to expand its scope. I’m still as busy as ever, so it is hard to get this stuff documented, but making this a formal entry has forced me to be a bit more rigorous. I think it could benefit a lot of people..

Right now the thing that I would like to have help on is how to get reasonable integration with multiple Kinects, native on Debian.  Short term-goal obviously, but seems like a great sensor and integrable into my paradigm.  I’m sure it will be superseded soon by something 10X cheaper and 100X more awesome, but for now, this is what we have.

Sure, see my list above, any of them, but for this Prize the fusor is probably the most appropriate. I wouldn’t tackle it for the Prize because of the timeframe.  But if anyone is bold enough to go for it, I will gladly contribute! Maybe engineered organs is closer to practical already though.  Again, I will help if I can!

Just need time to think!

I’d like to explain my avatar. It’s a symbol related to the Schrödinger wave equation, applied to human and machine interfaces, instead of matter.  We expose our abilities and properties, what we are about, through our communication and cooperation. These interfaces can be harmonic, or vibrationally destructive, which consumes energy. That’s the same for matter, people, or computers. One curve represents machine interfaces, and the other human interfaces. The two together look like a double helix, a good metaphor for what I am trying to do with my THP entry.
Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Interviews, The Hackaday Prize

20,000 Hackers

พฤ, 07/24/2014 - 22:30

What a pleasant thing to wake up and realize that we now have more than 20,000 Hackers on Hackaday.io. It wasn’t even two months ago that we celebrated passing the 10k mark. While we’re talking numbers, how about 2,075 projects, and 148 hackerspaces?

But what’s in a number? It’s what this stands for that really gets us excited! You took the leap and decided to show off what you’re working on while you’re still working on it. This is the key to pollinating ideas. One concept can result in many awesome spin-off projects. So if you haven’t yet written about that killer idea bouncing around in your head, do it now and be the inspiration for the next iteration of amazing hacks.

Much more to come

Our crew has been refining an overhaul of how the feed works to make it easier to know when and how your favorite hackers are updating their builds. You should see that functionality live in August. We’re also working on improving interactivity so that you can better find others with similar interests whether it’s just for casual conversation or to undertake an epic build as a team.

We’re certainly not above pointing out our own weaknesses. The Stack never took off. The idea seemed like a good one, but we need your help figuring out how to make it shine. Leave a comment below telling us what you think The Stack should be and how you think it should work.

Filed under: Featured

A Lesson in Blind Reverse Engineering – Signals Intelligence

พฤ, 07/24/2014 - 21:01

In a fit of desperation, I turned to data mining tools and algorithms, but stepped back from the horror of that unspeakable knowledge before my mind was shattered. That way madness lies.

–[Rory O'hare]

Wise words. Wise words, indeed. Who among us hasn’t sat staring into the abyss of seemingly endless data without the slightest clue to what it means or even how to go about figuring out what it means? To literally feel the brain damage seeping in as you start to see ‘ones’ and ‘zeros’ reach out to you from every day electronic devices…like some ghost in the wires. But do not fear, wise hacker! For we have good news to report! [Rory O'hare] has dived into this very abyss, and has emerged successful.

While others were out and about playing games and doing whatever non-hackers do to entertain themselves, [Rory O'hare] decided to reach out and grab some random wireless signals for a little fun and excitement. And what he found was not just a strong, repeating signal at 433Mhz. Not just a signal that oozed with evidence of ASK. What he found was a challenge…a mystery that was begging to be solved. A way to test his skill set. Could he reverse engineer a signal by just looking at the signal alone? Read on, and find out.




Filed under: wireless hacks

Fantastic Tach Is Strangely Called Tachtastic

พฤ, 07/24/2014 - 18:01

We all have projects from yesteryear that we wish had been documented better. [EjaadTech] is fighting back by creating a project page about a tachometer he built 3 years ago while in college. He’s done a great write-up documenting all the steps from bread-boarding to testing to finished project. All of the code necessary for this tachometer is available too, just in case you’d like to make one yourself.

At the heart of the project is an AVR ATMega8 chip that performs the calculations and controls the LCD output screen that displays both the immediate RPM as well as the average. To hold everything together, [EjaadTech] etched his own custom PCB board that we must say looks pretty good. In addition to holding all the necessary components, there is also an ISP connector for programming and re-programming.

There are two attachment options for sensing the RPM. One is a beam-break style where the IR emitter is on one side of the object and the receiver is on the other. This type of sensor would work well with something like a fan, where the blades would break the IR beam as they passed by. Then other attachment has the IR emitter and receiver on one board mounted next to each other. The emitter continually sends out a signal and the receiver counts how often it sees a reflection. This works for rotating objects such as shafts where there would not be a regular break in the IR beam. For this reflective-based setup to work there would have to be a small piece of reflective tape on the shaft providing a once-per-revolution reflection point. Notice the use of female headers to block any stray IR beams from causing an inaccurate reading… simple and effective.


Filed under: Microcontrollers

Zero-Dollar AC System Looks Funny But Works Well

พฤ, 07/24/2014 - 15:00

Summer is here and with summer comes hot days. You probably know that us humans get uncomfortable if the temperature rises too much. Sure, we could turn on the loud and inefficient window AC unit and try to stay mildly comfortable while the electric company pick-pockets pennies from our change purse, but what is the fun in that? [Fran] had a better idea.

He noticed that his basement was always in the upper 50°F range regardless of how hot it was outside. He wanted the cool basement air to reside upstairs in the living area. After thinking long and hard about it he decided that a box fan and two long, skinny cardboard boxes assembled together would be enough to move the required amount of air. Both the fan and boxes were kicking around the house so was no cost and no risk to try this out.

The now one-unit assembly sits on the stairs and blows the cool air from the floor of the basement up the stairwell and into the house. For this to work the door leading to the basement must be open. At this point the system worked somewhat well but [Fran] wanted more airflow. Air was being blown into the house from the basement but the air already in the house didn’t have anywhere to go. [Fran] decided to open the attic hatch to let the air escape which resulted in a big improvement in airflow and decrease in living area temperature.

As funny or low-cost as this may look, [Fran] reports some impressive numbers, a reduction of 11 Kwh/day, which is 50% of his electrical usage during the summer months. He claims to have not used his wall-mounted AC in several years because this cooling system works so well.

Filed under: home hacks

Fishing for Radio Signals With the Moxon Antenna

พฤ, 07/24/2014 - 12:01

[Bill Meara] has finished his latest project, a Moxon antenna for HF on 17 meters. [Bill] is well-known here on Hackaday. When not building awesome radios, he can be found ranting about ham radio. His new antenna turned out to be a true hack. He even used a hacksaw to build it!

The Moxon antenna is named for the late [Les Moxon, G6XN] who first described it in “Two-Element Driven Arrays”, a QST magazine article published in July of 1952.  [Bill] built his Moxon loosely based on [Jim/AE6AC's] excellent instructions. The design is incredibly simple – a two element directional antenna using crappie fishing poles as spreaders. That’s crappie as in the fish, not the quality of the pole. Crappie poles are typically made up of telescoping sections of graphite or fiberglass  in common lengths of 14, 16, and 20 feet. The poles can be bought for under $20 at sporting goods stores. [Bill] used 16 foot poles purchased from Amazon.

The antenna is created by connecting all four poles at their bases in an X shape. The wire elements are stretched across the ends of the poles. The entire antenna bends up as the stiff poles hold the driven and reflector elements in tension. [Bill] used some scrap wood and U-bolts to attach the fishing poles, and bungee cord ends at the tips. Since the antenna is directional, [Bill] added a TV antenna rotor to spin the beam around. The antenna is so light that one could get by with a couple of cords and the “Armstrong method” of antenna rotation.

Once up on the roof, [Bill] found his antenna really performed. He was easily able to cross the Atlantic from his Northern Virginia home to France, Belgium, and Latvia. The mostly horizontal antenna makes it a bit more unobtrusive than other directional designs. [Bill] mentions that his neighbors haven’t revolted yet, so he’s continuing to enjoy the fruits of his antenna labors.

Filed under: radio hacks

Red Bull Creation Winners: Maker Twins

พฤ, 07/24/2014 - 09:01

This year’s Red Bull Creation theme “Reinvent the Wheel” was pretty broad, but the Maker Twins managed to incorporate it quite closely with their winning project which was completed in under 72 hours. They took the idea of urban farming and figured out one way to make farmer’s markets more feasible by helping to eliminate waste and spruce up the presentation of the produce.

The project amounts to a Ferris wheel. Instead of passenger compartments there are modular crates which are built with one wooden pallet each. The wheel itself is chain-driven and allows the system to track where each crate is in the rotation. This data is leveraged for a couple of different uses. One lets the customer select their produce on a tablet app and the crate will rotate into position so they may pick the individual items they want. The machine will also take care of automated watering to ensure the produce on display doesn’t get dried out. The icing on the cake is a separate station for washing and cutting the purchased veggies.

Thank you to Maker Twins for contributing some demonstration “b-roll” for use in this video.

Filed under: contests, green hacks

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