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Judge Spotlight: Andrew “Bunnie” Huang

พุธ, 07/23/2014 - 00:01

This week’s Judge Spotlight focuses on [Andrew "Bunnie" Huang]. If you haven’t heard of him you need to pay more attention. His hacker cred goes way back to the original Xbox, which he reverse engineered and laid bare its security flaws. Maintaining his hacker spirit he went on to design and hack the Chumby. More recently he took on the challenge of developing and Open laptop called Novena. All of this while continuing to explore and experiment with all kinds of electronics, posting about his adventures for those of us that care about an electronics ecosystem that doesn’t shut out the user from tinkering with the hardware. Join us after the break for our conversation with The Hackaday Prize judge [Bunnie Huang].

You will have eternal hacker fame for reverse-engineering the hardware security on the original Xbox. What were you doing in your life at the time and how did you settle on that piece of hardware for the challenge?

At the time, I was completing my PhD dissertation on computer architecture at MIT. My advisor encouraged our research group to study the current crop of video game consoles to see what we could learn about how they achieve such high performance at a low price. As such, the Xbox was one of the three main consoles at the time and as a result I set upon reverse engineering it.

 

You wrote a book called Hacking the Xbox that described your adventure. Did you have any concerns about the repercussions of making that knowledge public and what pushed you to follow through?

Yes, of course I had concerns. At the time, the DMCA was just a couple years old and the as-of-yet untested legislation stood as a major impediment to our freedom to research and to tinker. MIT’s institutional counsel even sent me a letter repudiating their involvement with my hacking activity, possibly in part because they saw a lot of legal risk in aiding the disclosure of my findings. It was convenient for them that the actual implementation of the hack was done on my personal Xbox using my own resources, and largely during a winter break period called IAP.

What pushed me to follow through? Hacking, and the freedom to hack, is an important part of me. I grew up with this freedom, and new legislation stood to take it away. I suppose as a result, I had nothing to lose — whether I stepped up or backed down, either way I could lose an important freedom. And I’d rather go down with a fight.

 

Can you describe your role in Chumby?

 

I was responsible for the design, manufacturing and operations of the consumer hardware half of the business.

 

Chumby surely holds the record as the hackable device which gained the widest public acceptance. What do you think of that part of Chumby and is there a good argument for increasing the number of hackable devices available to the average consumer?

Hackability is something that only a small fraction of the population actually takes advantage of; however, I think there is a certain peace of mind that a larger portion of users get knowing they have the *option* to hack and fully understand their technology. There is something vaguely disconcerting when you become so reliant upon black box technologies. So, sharing the designs and plans with your customers gives them back a sense of agency that I believe is meaningful.

Even though few people exercised their option to hack, I was pleased at the kinds of applications our hardware found. It ended up being used in applications as diverse as a braille terminal for the blind, to the controller for a walking robot, to a console for controlling A/V functions installed at a college campus. We couldn’t have predicted these hacks and the greatest pleasure of producing Chumby was always reading about the clever things people would do when you enable them to hack.

At the end of the day, I’d say the openness and hackability of Chumby had a neutral impact on the business end of things; it didn’t drive sales, but it also didn’t hurt it. But it did create a very loyal customer base and I’m extremely pleased to see that one of our other original founders has rebooted the Chumby servers and there are still lots of enthusiastic users who are delighted by its reincarnation.

 

The Novena Open Hardware Laptop has two points that stick out in our minds: it’s hackable and free of “black boxes” (like binary blobs on a video card). Did you have both in mind from the beginning of the project?

Yes, of course. Hackability and depth of openness were two major goals of the project. We took special pains, for example, to source a wifi card that is blob-free; the wifi card isn’t the cheapest or best performing one, but it also doesn’t require a blob.

Although, I do have to make a correction to your question: we went as open as we could, but that does still mean that individual sub-components still contain their firmware. The SSD and microSD memory card, for example, still contain the load of firmware permanently burned in there by the original manufacturer. On the other hand, firmware that is “burned in” to a device and not typically visible to the user is not considered a show-stopper by the standards of the broader Linux community.

Furthermore, there are some components which can accept a proprietary blob, which would cause some things to run faster, but they are not required to boot or to function well. For example, the decoding of video can be accelerated using a proprietary DSP built into the CPU, but we don’t include that blob in our distribution; instead, we opt for software decode running on the ARM CPU. Also, the 3D graphics engine is the subject of an on-going reverse engineering effort that we’ve partially funded from campaign proceeds, and with any luck by the time we ship we’ll have an open-source 3D-accelerated desktop environment.

 

Powerful, portable computing hardware that is extensible is obviously useful to any project that needs custom hardware as they don’t have to start from square one. Do you foresee changes or iterations in Novena’s future that will gain it wider adoption like the Chumby experienced?

Possibly. A large part of Novena’s future will depend of course on how the silicon that powers our machines evolve. If Freescale will do a new, more powerful processor with the same level of openness, I would be very enthusiastic to upgrade my personal laptop by building a new motherboard for it. There’s also some hope that there will be some other open SoC designs coming out in the future, which can give us more options in terms of cost and feature sets that can make the system more affordable to end users.


Filed under: Interviews, The Hackaday Prize

Retrotechtacular: We’re Gonna Have Manual Transmissions the Way My Old Man Told Me!

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 21:01

Simple machines are wonderful in their own right and serve as the cornerstones of many technological advances. This is certainly true for the humble lever and the role it plays in manual transmissions as evidenced in this week’s Retrotechtacular installment, the Chevrolet Motor Company’s 1936 film, “Spinning Levers”.

This educational gem happens to be a Jam Handy production. For you MST3K fans out there, he’s the guy behind shorts like Hired! from the episodes Bride of the Monster and the inimitable Manos: The Hands of Fate. Hilarity aside, “Spinning Levers” is a remarkably educational nine-ish minutes of slickly produced film that explains, well, how a manual transmission works. More specifically, it explains the 3-speed-plus-reverse transmissions of the early automobile era.

It begins with a nod to Archimedes’ assertion that a lever can move the world, explaining that the longer the lever, the better the magic. In a slightly different configuration, a lever can become a crank or even a double crank. Continuous motion of a lever or series of levers affords the most power for the least work, and this is illustrated with some top-drawer stop motion animation of two meshing paddle wheels.

Next, we are shown how engine power is transferred to the rear wheels: it travels from a gear on the engine shaft to a gear on the drive shaft through gears on the countershaft. At low speeds, we let the smallest gear on the countershaft turn the largest gear on the drive shaft. When the engine is turning 90 RPM, the rear wheel turns at 30 RPM. At high speeds using high gears, the power goes directly from the engine shaft to the drive shaft and the RPM on both is equal. The film goes on to explain how the gearbox handles reverse, and the vast improvements to transmission life made possible through synchromesh gearing.

[Thank you to Peter for sending this in]

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

 


Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular

Cold War Clock is all Tubes

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 18:01

 

Clocks are great projects to build. They serve a real purpose, and there’s a wide variety of ways to implement a unique timepiece. [Hank]‘s Cold War Clock only uses parts and technologies that were available in 1959. It contains no semiconductors, but has an audible alarm and reasonable time accuracy.

Looking through the hand drafted schematics, you’ll find a number of Dekatron tubes. These vintage components are used as registers to store and count the time. [Hank] found some cheap Soviet Dekatrons, but had to machine his own sockets to connect them. These tubes do the counting, but the actual display consists of nixies.

A cost estimate puts this clock at $2130 in 1959, which equates to $17040 today. Clearly this would be outside the price range of most hobbyists. The actual build cost [Hank] around $1600.

There’s some intricate details in this build. The front panel has an authentic look to it, and the manual has instructions for “demolition of clock to prevent enemy use.” [Hank] calls it a “creative anachronism.” In a sense, it’s a reproduction of a product that never actually existed.

A video of this clock in action, including the Cold War era alarm, is after the break.


Filed under: classic hacks, clock hacks

Hey There Little Plant. Let’s Be Friends!

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 15:01

Perhaps, you’re circle of friends is getting too small. Or maybe, you just want to communicate with the leafy, green beings that have rooted themselves in the soil inside your house. If so, this environmental monitoring system will be perfect for you!

Created by [Dickson], this project monitors soil moisture, air temperature, and air humidity of your indoor plants and will alert you via email and SMS when your plants are thirsty. No longer will your sprouts shrivel up in the sun, but rather, they will be well-hydrated ready to produce their veggie goodness.

The system is battery operated, wireless, Arduino and Raspberry Pi based and comes with an Android app, which in turn allows you to view real-time and historical data, thus giving you the option to check in on your crew of Chlorophyll-embedded friends.

Let’s look at the sensors which are at work on the project.

The sensors that make up this system are arranged in a set-sequence of monitoring nodes. For example, [Dickson] uses a Moteino (a low,power Arduino clone with an RF transceiver), a soil moisture sensor, a humidity sensor, a temperature sensor and a battery meter. The main sensor node collects the data and transmits it via the transceiver over the 915mhz ISM band to the base station. From there, the base station houses another Moteino, which acts as a gateway to receive the RF signals, and a Raspberry Pi where the data is stored in a MySQL database and feeds the information to the Plant Friends mobile app.

[Dickson]‘s goal with this project is to release it into to the world so other beginners can learn how to develop a similar plant monitoring system as well.

And what makes this idea even better, it that all the components can be placed in cute little custom, bamboo boxes giving you a greater sense that your group of friends has gotten even bigger.

For more information about the project and to see more adorable photos, be sure to check out [Dickson]‘s how-to-tutorial on his main site. Full instructions are also located in the first link posted above.

Another hack that is worth checking out is this rain barrel irrigation system keeps your outdoor plants fed when you’re too busy, which was covered by us in 2012.


Filed under: green hacks

Monster 100W LED Flashlight Produces a Whopping 8500lm!

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 12:01

[Yannick] got a hold of a 100W LED diode recently, and like any self-respecting hacker, he just had to turn it into a ridiculously over powered flash light.

The tricky thing about these diodes is that they need a high amount of DC voltage, anywhere from 32-48V typically. [Yannick's] using a 12V sealed lead acid battery coupled with a 600W constant current boost converter which ups it to 32V at around 3.2A. He also managed to find a giant aluminum heat-sink to keep the diode from getting too hot. A 120mm fan helps to keep the heat sink nice and cool, which allows the light to be run constantly without fear of burning it out. But just in case he also has an Arduino monitoring the temperatures — oh and it provides PWM control to adjust the brightness of the light!

To focus the flashlight he bought a proper lens and reflector which can be mounted directly to the diode. At full power the LED puts out around 8500lm, which is brighter than almost all consumer projectors available — or even the high beams of a car!

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a 100W LED diode being used as a flashlight, but the builds are definitely getting fancier!


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, led hacks

What Could You Do With 7 Fingers?

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 09:00

A strange thought yes, but MIT researchers think an extra two digits could really make a difference in many people’s lives. And as it turns out, having an extra robotic grasp allows you to do quite a few things single handed.

The extra two fingers provide three degrees of freedom each, and are mounted off the user’s wrist. A series of position recording sensors attached to the glove provide feedback to the system in order to control the fingers naturally, just by using your hand normally.

They taught the algorithm that controls the fingers by trying to pick up different (large) items using the hand and manually positioning the fingers. What they discovered is almost every grasp could be demonstrated as a combination of only 2-3 grip patterns. 

The extra augmentation allows [Faye Wu], a graduate student working on the project, to peel a banana one handed, pick up large and bulky objects easily, pick up and stir a coffee with one hand, or even open a 2L pop bottle — again — with only one hand.

“This is a prototype, but we can shrink it down to one-third its size, and make it foldable,” Asada says. “We could make this into a watch or a bracelet where the fingers pop up, and when the job is done, they come back into the watch. Wearable robots are a way to bring the robot closer to our daily life.”

What do you think? What could you do with an extra couple digits?

[via arstechnica]


Filed under: robots hacks

EFF Launches Open Router Firmware

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 06:00

The Electronic Frontier Foundation have released an alpha of their own Open Wireless Router Firmware as part of the Open Wireless Movement. This project aims to make it easier to share your wireless network with others, while maintaining security and prioritization of traffic.

We’ve seen a lot of hacks based on alternative router firmware, such as this standalone web radio. The EFF have based their router firmware off of CeroWRT, one of the many open source firmware options out there. At this time, the firmware package only targets the Netgear WNDR3800.

Many routers out there have guest modes, but they are quite limited and often have serious vulnerabilities. If you’re interested in sharing your wireless network, this firmware will help out by letting you share a specified amount of bandwidth. It also aims to have a secure web interface, and secure auto-update using Tor.

The EFF has announced this “pre-alpha hacker release” as a call for hackers who want to join in the fun. Development is happening over on Github, where you’ll find all of the source and issues.


Filed under: Network Hacks

HOPE X: Citizens Band Microwave Spectrum And Free Internet For All

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 03:00

The bulk of HOPE X was the talks, but arguably the far more interesting aspect of thousands of hackers and tinkerers under one roof is talking to everyone about what they’re doing. One guy hanging out at HOPE gave a quick lightning talk to a few people about something very interesting: something the FCC is pushing through that’s open to just about everything: it’s the FCC’s new CB radio service (you’ll want to click the presentation link at the very top of the page), giving anyone, not just people with a radio license, access to a huge swath of microwave spectrum.

The short version of the talk was the fact the FCC is extremely interested in opening up 100 to 200 MHz of spectrum at 3.5 GHz. The idea is to create something like cellular service that can either be implemented by companies, or normal, everyday people. The initial goal of this is to provide -possibly- free Internet to anyone with the right USB dongle. Since it’s just radio, and open to everyone, just about anything can be implemented.

This is something the FCC, Google, Microsoft, and a whole bunch of startups are extremely interested in, and the fact that about half of the spectrum will be open to anyone creates some interesting opportunities. A community-based freenet of wireless Internet links becomes an easy solution, and since the hardware to access 3.5 GHz is similar to other hardware that’s already available means building your own wireless ISP could be relatively easy in 12 to 18 months.

A transcript of the lightning talk is available below.

Transcript

These days when you mention the FCC to the hacker community or the DIY community, net neutrality is what they think about. This has nothing to do with net neutrality. What we’re talking about is a radically new way of doing internet service providers. What makes it radically new and different is a few things. The first is a proposal the FCC is very seriously and intensively developing right now, and the other is that it is a new frequency band with strange new business relationships in the frequency band.

This is legally and technically citizens band radio. Some of you might be users who are over 50 and remember CB radio from the 70s and truckers talking and it’s not at 27 MHz; this new form of wireless communication is at 3500 MHz or 3.5 GHz, so this is in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

It’s called the citizens broadband radio service, or CBRS, and those of us who are hearing this or reading this who are radio amateurs will recognize the number 97 as FCC Part 97 – this is in Part 96 of the FCC regulations.

The FCC calls this the Innovation Band, and what they mean by that phrase is that they have really thrown the doors open to new applications, new service providers, and individuals to do creative things with this radio spectrum. The chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, has said this proposal could unlock vast opportunities for wireless in areas like energy, security, and financial services. I pointed out in the beginning that this was unusual. This arrangement is very strange, and he acknowledge that. He said we should not flinch from this opportunity simply because it is not standard operating procedure.

The citizens broadband radio service is a nationwide network of small microwave cells. This is similar to WiFi access points, but in a completely new frequency band using technology that’s much more advanced than what is available in WiFi today. This service will be operated by a mix of licensed wireless carriers, or the kinds of companies we all pay a fee to each month to our cellphone or Internet service, and general public CB operators without individual licenses. They will be together in the same radio spectrum. Right now this band is 3550 to 3650 MHz. That means a 100 MHz wide band, however part of the proposal would be to increase this band and make it go as much as 50 to 100 MHz higher. So there’s a possibly of 150 MHz, 200 MHz, or even higher amounts of spectrum.

This is a very generous allocation of spectrum, keeping in mind nobody is making radio spectrum any more. God made all of it during the Big Bang. It’s very difficult to get any and normally companies bid millions of dollars at auctions for licenses to use radio spectrum. This band will essentially be completely new to the public. It is currently used – the main user is Navy radars. The Navy operates radars along the coast, but it is the opinion of the people who are doing the engineering on this that this will not be a big difficulty in this, simply because of the physical distances involved and the characteristics of the Navy radars.

The frequencies that these wireless ISPs and wireless operators will use will be assigned in real-time by a third-party provider. This is called the Spectrum Access System Administrator. The FCC sees several companies being authorized to allocate the service. They’re going to monitor the use of frequencies all across the country, and then when you want to use it, your device or your network will receive an instruction either directly or indirectly from this administrator to tell you what frequency to use. And Google is all over this. Google wants to provide that service. They already provide a similar service called the TV whitespaces – those are TV channels that are not used in rural areas, so they can be used for WiFi backhaul.

There are mainly two classes of license in this service. The PAL which stands for Priority Access License are commercial wireless carriers who are bidding for wireless frequencies in auctions in those places where there are more people who want licenses than licenses available. Potentially tens of thousands of licenses will be auctioned. The other license is GAA or General Authorized Access, which is the general public who operate without licenses who will share the spectrum with licensed carriers. Microsoft has said the GAA spectrum is their main interest. Essentially, Microsoft is pushing for the unlicensed public network mode of use.

One of the things that has come up is how much information will be collected. Microsoft and a few other companies are saying only a very minimal amount of information should be collected about who is using this and what they’re using it for and where they are. They should limit the amount of information about how much information administrators should collect.

What is this going to be used for? Well, the FCC has virtually no opinion on that subject. Basically, they say a citizens broadband wireless network user, that is anyone with a laptop with a wireless dongle or any access point that uses this is an authorized user if that equipment has been authorized by the FCC. They may render any kind of communication service, commercially, sell internet access, not commercially, use it for your family or friends or community or school, there’s no restriction on content.

So if people want to follow this, find out what’s going on, there’s two things to know. One is the name of it. That is the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, if you want to Google that. The other is the FCC proceeding number, the docket number, and it’s 12-354. That’s the number of the proceeding at the FCC. This thing is moving much faster than proceedings typically move through the FCC. They can take years and years, and after a few years nothing happens and the FCC cuts it down and says it’s too old. This happens all the time. This is not that. This is moving quickly. In 2013, the FCC not only put out the proposed rules for the requirements the end-user devices must meet, but also held two public workshops that were filled with people doing public presentation – companies like AT&T, Verizon, Quallcom, Google, Sony, and more, and startups were piling in and lobbying the FCC to get a piece of this action. And very fortunately public oriented groups like the EFF, Public Knowledge, and the New America Foundation, Free Press, are pushing for the GAA, the free access, which we hope will be preserved when the FCC makes a final ruling on this, which I expect will be about one year from now.

<Question> When will I be able to buy a piece of hardware with this?

What the FCC is being told is that companies are very eager to jump into this market, and some of them make equipment that is very similar. Some of these are not American companies, but I anticipate that within perhaps three to six months after a final decision from the FCC, which I expect to be summer of 2015, and more likely by the end of 2015. This is actually a huge undertaking. We’re talking about a nationwide network of totally interconnected hardware with a spectrum access administrator, they have to be certified, they have to be monitoring the spectrum. I have to be honest with you: this could take a few years, but in many, many years of my tracking FCC proceedings, I have never seen the excitement level I’m seeing.

Most of [Bennett Kobb]‘s career has been with the FCC. Not as an employee, but as a trade journalist covering the agency for trade publications. He’s also written a few books which are handbooks of spectrum allocations. They’re used very widely in the FCC and the Air Force, and the NSA. The address the books were shipped to at the NSA was “Door Number 1, 2, or 3″.


Filed under: news, radio hacks

Right Now: Your Chance of Winning a Prize is 66% or Better

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 02:11

 

Everyone who enters The Hackaday Prize is already making a statement that Open Design is important to them. But if doing things on principle isn’t your primary motivation, you do stand a really good chance of winning something. At least at this very moment you do.

We’re giving away 55 really awesome prizes, and “hundreds of other” prizes. Since we just passed 300 entries over the weekend, a bit of quick math shows that right now your chances of winning something are quite good.

Still not enough for you? Consider the top three prizes which offer a cash value of $10k. At this moment each entry has just under a 1 in 100 chance of placing. And a 1 in 300 chance of claiming the trip into space valued at around 250 grand.

Do it because you support Open Hardware, do it because you want to go to space, or just do it because the odds are really really friendly at this point! You now have until the evening of August 20th to document your concept of an open, connected device.


Filed under: contests, The Hackaday Prize

Reverse Engineering Unobtanium

อังคาร, 07/22/2014 - 00:00

If you listen to [Bil Herd] and the rest of the Commodore crew, you’ll quickly realize the folks behind Commodore were about 20 years ahead of their time, with their own chip foundries and vertical integration that would make the modern-day Apple jealous. One of the cool chips that came out of the MOS foundry was the 6500/1 – used in the keyboard controller of the Amiga and the 1520 printer/plotter. Basically a microcontroller with a 6502 core, the 6500/1 has seen a lot of talk when it comes to dumping the contents of the ROM, and thus all the code on the Amiga’s keyboard controller and the font for the 1520 plotter – there were ideas on how to get the contents of the ROM, but no one tried building a circuit.

[Jim Brain] looked over the discussions and recently gave it a try. He was completely successful, dumping the ROM of a 6500/1, and allowing for the preservation and analysis of the 1520 plotter, analysis of other devices controlled by a 6500/1, and the possibility of the creation of a drop-in replacement for the unobtanium 6500/1.

The datasheet for the 6500/1 has a few lines describing the test mode, where applying +10 VDC to the /RES line forces the machine to make memory fetches from the external pins. The only problem was, no body knew how to make this work. Ideas were thrown around, but it wasn’t until [Jim Brain] pulled an ATMega32 off the top of his parts bin did anyone create a working circuit.

The code for the AVR puts the 6500/1 into it’s test mode, loads a single memory location from ROM, stores the data in PORTA, where the AVR reads it and prints it out over a serial connection to a computer. Repeat for every location in the 6500/1 ROM, and you have a firmware dump. This is probably the first time this code has been seen in 20 years.

Now the race is on to create a drop-in replacement of what is basically a 6502-based microcontroller. That probably won’t be used for much outside of the classic and retro scene, but at least it would be a fun device to play around with.


Filed under: classic hacks, hardware

Spot Welder; Don’t Buy It, Build It

จันทร์, 07/21/2014 - 21:01

Spot welders are super handy for making sheet metal enclosures for your projects. The problem is, commercial ones are rather expensive… The good news is, they’re actually really easy to make! This is [Caio Paulucci's] first submission to Hack a Day, and it was a weekend project him and his father just finished.

A spot welder works by dissipating large amounts of heat in between two electrodes in the material you are bonding. It makes use of a transformer that converts mains voltage to a very low voltage, but high current energy source. The cool thing with this type of welder is it’s perfectly safe to hold onto the electrodes as the voltage is so low, you won’t get electrocuted. By running a super high current (generally >1000A @ ~1-2V) through a small surface area, you can super heat most materials hot enough to weld them together.

They can be made using the transformer from a microwave, some heavy duty welding wire (generally 2/0 or thicker), and a few other odds and ends such as wood, electrodes, and maybe a few nuts and bolts. At the most basic level, you are basically re-wrapping the transformer’s secondary coils to change the ratio to produce a low voltage, high current transformer.

For more detailed instructions on how to build your own, we’ve covered these builds many times before.


Filed under: tool hacks

PIC Up a NeoPixel Ring and C What You Can Do Using This Tutorial

จันทร์, 07/21/2014 - 18:01

As [Shahriar] points out in the introductory matter to his latest video at The Signal Path, Arduinos are a great way for a beginner to dig into all kinds of electronic excitement, but they do so at the cost of isolating that beginner from the nitty gritty of microcontrollers. Here, [Shahriar] gives a very thorough walkthrough of a 60-neopixel ring starting with the guts and glory of a single RGB LED. He then shows how that ring can easily be programmed using a PIC and some C.

[Shahriar]‘s eval board is a simple setup that he’s used for other projects. It’s based on the PIC18F4550 which he’s programming with an ICD-U64. The PIC is powered through USB, but he’s using a separate switching supply to power the ring itself since he would need ~60mA per RGB to make them burn white at full brightness.

He’s written a simple header file that pulls in the 18F4550 library, sets the fuses, and defines some constants specific to the ring size. As he explains in the video, the PIC can create a 48MHz internal clock from a 20Mhz crystal and he sets up this delay in the header as well. The main code deals with waveform generation, and [Shahriar] does a great job explaining how this is handled with a single pin. Before he lights up the ring, he puts his scope on the assigned GPIO pin to show that although the datasheet is wrong about the un-delayed width of the low period for a zero bit, it still works to program the LEDs.

[Shahriar] has the code available on his site. He is also holding a giveaway open to US residents: simply comment on his blog post or on the video at YouTube and you could win either a TPI Scope Plus 440 with probes and a manual or a Tektronix TDS2232 with GPIB. He’ll even pay the shipping.


Filed under: led hacks, Microcontrollers

Cutting Ribbons with Robots and a Oculus Rift

จันทร์, 07/21/2014 - 15:01

On June 26th, 2014, Clearpath Robotics opened up the doors to their brand new 12,000 square foot robot lair by bringing out a PR2 to cut the ceremonial ribbon and welcome everyone inside. And instead of just programming the ‘locate and destroy’ ribbon sequence, the co-founders opted to use an Oculus Rift to control the robot tearing through the material with flailing arms.

This was accomplished having Jake, the robot, utilize a Kinect 2.0 that fed skeleton tracking data via rosserial_windows, a windows-based set of extension for the Robot Operating System which we heard about in January. The software gathers in a stream of data points each with an X,Y,Z component allowing [Jake] to find himself within a 3D space.Then, the data was collected and published directly into the PR2′s brain. Inject a little python code, and the creature was able to route directions in order to move it’s arms.

Thus, by simply stepping in front of the Kinect 2.0, and putting on the Oculus Rift headset, anyone could teleoperate [Jake] to move around and wave its arms at oncoming ribbons. Once completed, [Jake] would leave the scene, journeying back into the newly created robot lair leaving pieces of nylon and polyester everywhere.

An earlier (un-smoothed) version of the full system can be seen after the break:

A simulated version of the system can also be found in the link posted above.


Filed under: robots hacks, Virtual Reality

Hackaday Links: July 20, 2014

จันทร์, 07/21/2014 - 12:01

Etch-a-Sketch spray-painted silver with electronics bolted onto the side? Sign us up! This art installation adds one thing that we don’t often see in these types of hacks, eerie audio.

If you’re still mining bitcoin you need to do it faster than anyone else… that’s pretty much how the whole thing works. [Lewin] has been using the Antminer USB ASIC and toyed around with overclocking to 2.2 GH/s (gighashes per second) but to make sure his hardware holds up to the overwork he hacked his own water cooling system for the dongle.

Smart phones are the best bang for your buck on portability and power. Better yet you can get slightly broken ones for a song. If you manage to find an Android device with a broken touch screen but functioning LCD try this trick to add a mouse to it. There must be another life for this in a future hack!

We have a love-hate relationship with this particular crowd-funding campaign. First this hate: It’s basically a 100% clip-art video presentation with an $800,000 ask. Yeah… good luck buddy. On the other hand, this is the type of stuff we actually want to see as crowd funding. The idea is to use modern materials and techniques to build [Nikola Tesla's] Wardenclyffe Tower, which was designed and built to research wireless energy (both as a means of communication and actual energy transfer). It was never fully functional and ended up being demolished. Wouldn’t it be great if teams of highly skilled and motivated people took grand ideas like this, crossing every theoretical “t” and dotting every theoretical “i”, and then proposed a crowd funding campaign to build a test platform? Oh wait, that sounds very much like a government research grant. Anywhoo… check out the Global Energy Transmission’s campaign.


Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links

MARCH attends HOPE X in July

จันทร์, 07/21/2014 - 09:00

The Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyist (MARCH) group is at HOPE X displaying a chronology of Apple computers, everything from an accurate Apple 1 reproduction all the way way up to an Apple Macintosh, and of course including all the II’s in between. Although they are only displaying Apples at this event, don’t confuse them for an Apple group. They love all types of vintage computers from the 1940′s to the 80′s.

[Evan], president of the group, elegantly explained why they are here; “to let people know that vintage computing is a thing and there are people in the area that do that thing”. He would like to encourage everyone who is mildly interested in retro computing to contact their local retro computer group and get involved in the community.

The group also puts on a yearly Vintage Computer Festival in New Jersey. This year’s event has already passed but you can still see what happened as Hackaday was there documenting all the cool stuff.


Filed under: computer hacks

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I can’t Do That

จันทร์, 07/21/2014 - 06:01

“Let me put it this way, Mr Amer. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error. “

With that in mind, who wouldn’t want a HAL 9000 personal computer at home? For his latest project, [Eduardo Zola] brings us a very realistic Raspberry Pi powered HAL 9000, complete with an all seeing eye.

In case you’re not familiar (boo!) HAL 9000 is a character from 2001: a Space Odyssey. His name is an acronym for a Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic sentient computer who is responsible for controlling the Discovery One spacecraft, and well, he goes crazy.

[Eduardo] has built this replica out of wood, a bit of paint, a Raspberry Pi, a speaker, webcam and a beautiful red all-seeing-eye, lit with LEDs. It’s a rather fitting entry to our Hackaday Prize contest.

It’s not quite done yet, but HAL 9000.2 is coming out soon!


Filed under: Raspberry Pi, The Hackaday Prize

Kenyan Teen’s Invention Protects Cattle and Lions

จันทร์, 07/21/2014 - 03:01

[Richard's] community in Kenya had a problem. The people depended on local livestock for survival, but the local lion population had started consuming that very same food source. The result was that people suffered from loss of the livestock, but the lions also suffered when the people killed them to protect their source of food. [Richard] knew he could do something to help both his community, and the lion population. He ended up building a lion attack prevention system.

He first tried a sort of scarecrow, to keep the lions away from the cattle. Unfortunately the lions proved to be too “tricky” and quickly realized that the scarecrows were no threat. Then one day, [Richard] was working with a flashlight. This led him to realize that the lions seemed to be afraid of moving light. That gave him the idea for his invention.

He had previously taken apart his mothers new radio, much to her dismay. He learned a lot about electronics in the process. He combined his electronics knowledge with this new knowledge about lions, to create his lion attack prevention system. The core component is the turn signal circuit from a motorbike. The circuit is hooked up to a rechargeable battery and a solar cell. This all runs through a switch so [Richard] can turn it on only when needed. The circuit is switched on at night to keep the lions away. [Richard] claims that they have experienced no lion attacks since the system was put in place two years ago!

This protects both the local cattle as well as the lions themselves. The whole thing is powered from the sun, so it’s likely to last a very long time. This kind of project may seem simple to many readers, but it’s a great example of the good ideas and ingenuity that can grow out of necessity. Oh, did we mention that [Richard] is only 13 years old? His invention is now reportedly being used all over Kenya and has led [Richard] to receive a scholarship to what he calls “one of the best schools in Kenya”.

While this hack has clearly changed the lives of many people in [Richard's] region. You don’t have to make something overly complicated to change the world.

[Thanks Keith]


Filed under: misc hacks

800+ LED Wall With Diffuser Panel is a Work of Art

จันทร์, 07/21/2014 - 00:01

What happens when you take over 800 individually addressable super bright RGB LEDs and house them in a giant diffused panel? You get awesome. That’s what you get.

[Epoch Rises] is a small electronic music and interactive technology duo who create cool interactive projects (like this wall) for their live shows and performances. They love their WS2812B LEDs.

The cool thing about this wall is that it can take any video input, it can be controlled by sound or music, an iPad, or even generate random imagery by itself. The 800 LEDs are controlled by a Teensy 3.0 using the OctoWS2811 library from Paul Stoffregen which is capable of driving over 1000 LEDs at a whopping 30FPS using just one Teensy microcontroller. It works by using Direct Memory Access to send data over serial into the Teensy’s memory and directly out to the LEDs with very little overhead — it is a Teensy after all!

As an added bit of interactivity, they’ve also written an app for Kinect that allows the wall to react to people dancing in front of it!

Let’s see them make a bigger one next time — Like this 1470 pixel stage wall!


Filed under: led hacks, Microcontrollers

Printing Text with a Chart Recorder

อาทิตย์, 07/20/2014 - 21:00

Chart recorders are vintage devices that were used to plot analog values on paper. They’re similar to old seismometers which plot seismic waves from earthquakes. The device has a heated pen which moves across a piece of thermally sensitive paper. This paper is fed through the machine at a specified rate, which gives two dimensions of plotting.

[Marv] ended up getting a couple of discontinued chart recorders and figured out the interface. Five parallel signals control the feed rate of the paper, and an analog voltage controls the pen location. The next logical step was to hook up an Arduino to control the plotter.

However, once the device could plot analog values, [Marv] quickly looked for a new challenge. He wanted to write characters and bitmaps using the device, but this would require non-continuous lines. By adding a solenoid to lift the pen, he built a chart recorder printer.

After the break, check out a video of the chart recorder doing something it was never intended to do. If you happen to have one of these chart recorders, [Marv] included all of the code in his writeup to help you build your own.


Filed under: classic hacks

The CryptoCape For BeagleBone

อาทิตย์, 07/20/2014 - 18:01

[Josh Datko] was wandering around HOPE X showing off some of his wares and was kind enough to show off his CryptoCape to us. It’s an add on board for the BeagleBone that breaks out some common crypto hardware to an easily interfaced package.

On board the CryptoCape is an Atmel Trusted Platform Module, an elliptic curve chip, a SHA-256 authenticator, an encrypted EEPROM, a real time clock, and an ATMega328p for interfacing to other components and modules on the huge prototyping area on the cape.

[Josh] built the CryptoCape in cooperation with Sparkfun, so if you’re not encumbered with a bunch of export restrictions, you can pick one up there. Pic of the board below.


Filed under: linux hacks, security hacks

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