If you were to create a Venn diagram of Hackaday readers and oscilloscope owners the chances are the there would be a very significant intersection of the two sets. Whether the instrument in question is a decades-old CRT workhorse or a shiny modern digital ‘scope, it’s probably something you’ll use pretty often and you’ll be very familiar with its operation.
An oscilloscope is a very complex instrument containing a huge number of features. Modern ‘scopes in particular bring capabilities through software unimaginable only a few years ago. So when you look at your ‘scope, do you really know how to use its every feature? Are you getting the best from it, or are you only scratching the surface of what it can do?
[Alan Wolke, W2AEW] is an application engineer at Tektronix, so as you might expect when it comes to oscilloscopes he knows a thing or two about them. He’s spoken on the subject in the past with his “Scopes for Dopes” lecture, and his latest video is a presentation to the NJ Antique Radio Club which is a very thorough exploration of using an oscilloscope. The video is below the break and at an hour and twenty minutes it’s a long one. We make no apologies for that, for it should be fascinating in its entirety for any oscilloscope owner. Even if you find yourself nodding along to most of what he’s saying there are sure to be pearls of ‘scope wisdom in there you weren’t aware of.
We’ve featured [Alan]’s work quite a few times in the past here at Hackaday. Sticking particularly in the mind are his video on time domain reflectometers, and his showing us how to tune an HF antenna array with nothing more than a signal generator and as you might have guessed, an oscilloscope.
Filed under: tool hacks
Laser-cut plywood boxes are cool. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the free projects out there for people to get started with when they get a laser cutter – it’s obviously a popular genre of project. Laser cut plywood boxes with combination locks are even cooler, especially when the combination is entered on four separate number selectors, on four sides of the very same box.
That’s exactly what [Sande24] has done, and the final result is mesmerizing. 30-40 parts are cut from plywood with a laser cutter, and assembled to construct the lockbox. The design could easily be reused to make the box out of acrylic, or even aluminum or steel if you were so inclined. Check it out in the video below.
Now, quite obviously this lockbox isn’t intended to stand up to serious cracking attempts. It’s just a fun project to learn about how parts fit together, and a jumping off point for your own projects. It’d also make a really neat gift box for that special someone. Maybe use an anniversary date as the combo?
Filed under: laser hacks
[Pepijn de Vos] was excited to interact with the world’s most popular augmented reality pedometer, Pokemon Go, and was extremely disappointed to find that his Blackberry couldn’t run it. Still, as far as he could tell from behind his wall of obsolete technology, Pokemon Go is all about walking distractedly, being suspicious, and occasionally catching a Pokemon. That should be possible.
Not a stranger to hacking Pokemon on the Gameboy, [Pepijn] put together a plan. Using his TCPoke module, he took it a step further. Rather than just emulating the original gameboy trade signals over the internet, he hacked a Pokemon Red ROM with some custom Z80 assembly to add some features to the Cable Club in the game.
After some waiting for the delivery man to bring a flashable cartridge and along with some Arduino code, he could now translate the steps he took in the game to his steps in the real world. Well, mostly. He could pick the location where he would like to catch a Pokemon. The character stands there. Somewhere around 100m the game will trigger a random pokemon battle.
[Pepijn] is now no longer a social outcast, as you can see in the video after the break. On a simple trip to the grocery store he caught two Pokemon!
Filed under: handhelds hacks, nintendo gameboy hacks
I was skeptical about a two hour block allotted for Cory Doctrow’s keynote address at HOPE XI. I’ve been to Operas that are shorter than that and it’s hard to imagine he could keep a huge audience engaged for that long. I was incredibly wrong — this was a barnburner of a talk. Here is where some would make a joke about breaking out the rainbows and puppies. But this isn’t a joke. I think Cory’s talk helped me understand why I’ve been feeling down about our not-so-bright digital future and unearthed a foundation upon which hope can grow.
You may know Cory as a fiction writer, an editor at Boing Boing, but what you should know him for is his work with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. His position there is actually supported through the MIT Media Lab as an Activist in Residence. That’s a pretty awesome title for someone who is helping lead the charge against Section 1201 of the DMCA. He threw down the gauntlet with his talk at DEF CON last year. With last Thursday’s news of Bunnie Hung and the EFF suing the US Government over Section 1201 it was obvious this talk would frame that issue. But that didn’t come until later.Denialism and Nihilism
The majority of his talk centered around two argument styles: Denialism and Nihilism. Denialism is built on bad faith arguments. Despite overwhelming expert opinion, the denialists stick to their bad faith assertions: cigarettes don’t cause cancer, or climate change is not caused by man (or doesn’t exist at all). Even in the face of overwhelming evidence gathered, corroborated, and well explained by experts, a denialist argument blatantly ignores or falsely discredits all of that.
Look around for Denialism arguments in Internet rights issues and you’ll see them popping up everywhere. Cory made an impressive number of connections: music publishers using the technique to push DRM (we must control the media or it will lose all value) and paid streaming services where publishers blame customers for artists’ low income while the publishers make bank.
And this brings us to Nihilism. It’s obvious to me having now heard Cory’s talk, that this is where I’m stuck. Nihilism is the feeling (or false argument) that all is lost, so why fight it? This includes fallacies like: you can’t have security and privacy (an argument toward crypto back doors for law enforcement), that you must trade some of your privacy for the Internet to do interesting things for you (an argument toward companies harvesting huge amounts of data for their own gain).
Nihilism is what makes people think “they’re collecting data on everyone so we should all be okay”. It’s an Emperor’s New Clothes situation where otherwise sensible people are deceiving themselves. But it can’t go on forever. At some point everyone starts to realize they have no privacy — that the clothes they’ve been sold in the language of Terms of Service and slick marketing hype doesn’t and hasn’t provided the protections they thought it did.
I won’t go into the details of his case against DMCA Section 1201 — the gist is that it is a bad law because it prevents law-abiding users for full use of their media and devices and it criminalizes security research. The EFF does a great job of succinctly covering the reasons for this so go take a look if you’re not already a believer.Pledge Yourself to Hope
Cory Doctorow brought it home in a way so perfectly engineered for this particular audience: have hope. It sounds sappy since this word matches the acronym of the Hackers On Planet Earth conference. But for all of us who understand technology, how our world depends on it, how those who don’t understand technology are being sold a poor bill of goods, and who the worst offenders of the practice are, there is a palpable feeling of hopelessness. You can’t make a difference in the world if you have subconsciously surrendered to thoughts of everything being broken and there being no way to fix it.
The EFF is at the beginning of a 10 year mission to end Section 1201 of the DMCA. But even larger than this is a movement to re-decentralize the Internet and all technology that makes use of it. Cory advocates two core tenets to take up right now in this fight:
- Computers should be designed to obey their owners. When devices receive conflicting commands from both a manufacturer and an owner, the owner’s desire must always win.
- True facts about computer security should always be legal to disclose.
His call to action at the end is to pledge yourself to hope. It’s sad that this is difficult to do, it’s powerful if you are able to do it, and he’s right.
Filed under: cons
There’s something irresistible about throwing Pokeballs at unexpectedly appearing creatures. But wait. When did you actually, physically throw a Pokeball? Swiping over colored pixels wasn’t enough for [Trey Keown], so he built a real, throwable, Pokemon-catching Pokeball for Pokemon Go.
For his build, [Trey] acquired an off-the-shelf foam Pokeball, from which he removed the original “light and sound” guts and some of the foam filling to make space for actual, real Pokemon a TI SensorTag 2.0. This little, self-contained IoT development board comes with BLE and an accelerometer, so on the hardware side, there wasn’t much more to do than stuffing it into the prepped foam ball.
[Trey] went on to write an iOS app that accesses the accelerometer data from his Pokeball. If the acceleration values surpass a certain threshold, his app writes a trigger command to a file that he set up to be regularly polled by a user input emulation macro app named AutoTouch. AutoTouch emulates the swipe that throws the Pokeball in the game.
Even if it was just translucent CGI, it might actually have been a real bummer for some fans, that Pokemon Go was released without any sort of physical Pokeballs after they had such a prominent role in the game’s trailer. A missed merchandise opportunity for Nintendo and Niantic, or one yet to come? Let us know in the comments, and enjoy the video, where [Trey] demonstrates his build:
Filed under: iphone hacks, nintendo hacks
DEF CON 24 is still about two weeks away but we managed to get our hands on a hardware badge early. This is not the official hardware — there’s no way they’d let us leak that early. Although it may be unofficial in the sense that it won’t get you into the con, I’m declaring the AND!XOR badge to be officially awesome. I’ll walk you through it. There’s also a video below.
Over the past several years, building your own electronic badge has become an impromptu event. People who met at DEF CON and have been returning year after year spend the time in between coming up with great ideas and building as many badges as they can leading up to the event. This is how I met the trio who built this badge — AND!XOR, Andrew Riley, and Jorge Lacoste — last year they invited me up to their room where they were assembling the last of the Crypto Badges. Go check out my guide to 2015 Unofficial DEF CON badges for more on that story (and a video of the AM transmissions that badge was capable of).
The outline is this year’s badge is of course Bender from Futurama. Both eyes are RGB LEDs, with another half dozen located at different points around his head. The microcontroller, an STM32F103 ARM Cortex-M0 Cortex-M3, sits in a diamond pattern between his eyes. Above the eyes you’ll find 16 Mbit of flash, a 128×64 OLED screen, and a reset button. The user inputs are five switches and the badge is powered by three AA batteries found on the flip side.
That alone makes an interesting piece of hardware, but the RFM69W module makes all of the badges interactive. The spring coming off the top of Bender’s dome is a coil antenna for the 433 MHz communications. I only have the one badge on hand so I couldn’t delve too deeply what interactive tricks a large pool of badges will perform, but the menu hints at a structure in place for some very fun and interesting applications.
Included in the menu are entries for Chat and Peers, obviously part of the connectivity system. But one of the games on the badge is Ninja and when you enter the game all you get is a Peers list (empty for me). There are single player games too, and the games menu has a Progress entry that scores you 0-100. I’m not sure what the Ninja game encompasses but I sure want to find out.
The rest of the menu immediately drives home how well polished this firmware is. There’s a self test and an airplane mode (a nice touch especially if you want to make sure no hidden RF triggers are executed on your badge). But there’s also an RF debugging screen and an ‘about’ screen that lists software version, flash data version, and credit for the creators. There’s also a link to the GitHub repo, which is currently empty because they don’t want to give away all the secrets, and the software libraries used. Both of these show the developers really went the extra mile.
At the bottom of the badge there is a male USB plug. This thing might be a bit unwieldy to plug into the side of a laptop so if you’re going to try to get your hands on one of these badges bring a USB extender cable along with you. The goal is to produce and sell 120 full badges ($40 each) and 50 more that have just the LEDs and microcontroller ($20 each). Follow their Twitter, but the tentative plan is to start selling them somewhere near the chill room on Thursday.
This USB port is where I think a lot of the puzzles will lie. It was the first thing I tried out when the badge arrived.
Below you can see a quick video I made of the serial mode. The badge attaches to /dev/ttyACM0 and enumerates as 1eaf:0004 (dmesg says Product: Maple and Manufacturer: LeafLabs). 115200/8/N/1 is printed on the silk screen on the back so no surprises there, and when you connect the OLED tells you to hit ‘c’ to enter terminal mode (the badge continually echos “Ready” until you do).
As far as hardware hacking potential, there are 11 GPIO pins broken out as well as RX/TX, DIO, RST, and a few power and ground pins. It’s an exciting package waiting to be explored. I’m glad I got an early look, and I can’t way to hit the hallways of DEF CON and give this baby a try. See you in a couple of weeks!
Filed under: cons, Hackaday Columns
We’ve seen custom controller mods for Kerbal Space Program before, but a group calling themselves the Makerforce went a step further with their design and build of the KSP “Overkill” Command Station, which has much more in common with a fancy standup arcade unit than a custom controller. Kerbal Space Program is a hit indie game that, among other things, simulates the challenges of spaceflight. Like most games, you use the mouse and keyboard for control but many fans find this too limiting. With the help of a software mod that exposes control and status information over hardware serial communications, the door to full telemetry and remote control was opened to just about anyone to craft their own custom hardware such as flight sticks and status displays. Not content with the idea of having just a joystick and a few buttons critical for the flight process, this project took a different approach.
The KSP Command Station is self-contained with an integrated monitor complete with custom-made frame and housing, and was partly inspired by NASA mission control stations. Every single switch and button needed for playing Kerbal Space Program is built right into the unit – not just the ones critical to flight. A lot of design and construction care went into this unit, and it shows.
Kerbal Space Program has a thriving mod community, and we took a look at some of the projects in the past. Inspiration from KSP isn’t limited to custom control systems and layouts, however. We’ve even seen a retro-inspired port of KSP to the Apple II.
Thanks to [ro0t] for the tip!
Filed under: computer hacks, peripherals hacks
Some of our more dedicated readers may remember me as that promising and talented new writer who disappeared after only a couple of months last fall. Or, alternatively, that moronic new writer who had no idea what he was talking about. But, I’m just going to go ahead and assume it was the former in order to protect my ego. In either case, if you remember me at all, you may have wondered why I left. Was it cholera? Was I drafted into a top-secret CIA program? Did I join a circus as a fledgling trapeze artist?
No, it was none of that. That would be absurd. What would make you think I had any trapeze skills at all, much less circus-worthy ones? The truth is a lot more straightforward, but was also a lot scarier (and more exciting) for me — I started a business. The astute readers among you have probably already put the dots together and figured out that I failed. The title was a pretty strong hint, right? This isn’t a story of bootstraps-pulling success, or a heartwarming underdog tale. This is an opportunity for me to talk about the lessons I learned as I failed, and to give the entrepreneurs out there something to consider when they start their businesses. We’ll laugh together, we’ll cry together, and maybe we’ll even learn something together. Ready? Alright, let’s dive right into the heart of it, starting when I was seven years old…Entrepreneurial Spirit and The Hustle
The first time I remember embarking on a money-making endeavor, I was seven years old. It was the mid-nineties in California, and roller blades were finally on their way out. Everyone had a pair or two sitting unused in their garage. A friend and I, in a fit of boredom, decided to take a pair apart, and found that it was fun to see how far we could get the “blade” portion to roll with the boot removed. For some reason, we thought other kids at our school might want to do this too. So, we offered to provide a roller blade boot removal service for the nominal fee of $5. Somehow, I think we even managed to sell our services to a few of our friends.
Obviously, our silly little business venture went nowhere. But, I’m willing to bet a large portion of you have similar stories. Maybe you had one of those quintessentially American lemonade stands (maple syrup stand for you Canadians?). Maybe you mowed your neighbors’ lawns in the summertime for some spending money. Or, maybe you had a more adventurous business plan. Whatever the case, if you’re reading this there is a very good chance that you chuckled at my roller blade conversion business in commiseration, because you’ve got a similar story yourself.
Like me, as you got older your ideas grew more sophisticated and took increasingly more knowledge and skill. As a Hackaday reader, you probably looked to your tech skills. I’ve started more websites than I can remember, offered computer repair services via Craigslist, and tried my hand at making computer games and apps. And, once again, I’m confident a lot of you have to.
I bring all of this up to illustrate the point that entrepreneurial spirit seems to be an innate trait in a lot of us. It’s constantly in the back of our minds, flooding our thoughts with potential business ideas, products, and inventions. More importantly though, it drives us to action. We may do it out of necessity, but sitting in a cubicle making someone else money can never satisfy us. And so, we act.Taking Action
It was this situation that I found myself in last October. I was in the middle of a divorce, and was finding myself increasingly disinterested in the daily grind of office work. I had a good job and was well into a secure career. But, I couldn’t concentrate on my daily tasks – I was simply burned out. I yearned to go out into the world and see what I could accomplish. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do, but knew I couldn’t continue with the 8 to 5 office life.
And so, without really having a plan, I told my boss that I was sorry, but I couldn’t continue to work there. I wasn’t satisfied with my own productivity, and that was the best choice for myself and the company. Luckily, it was right after I made that decision that I received an email from Hackaday’s Mike Szczys, offering me a job as a contributor here. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, and got to writing.
The house my ex-wife and I had lived in was put on the market and quickly sold (thanks to Denver’s insane real estate market). She and I were each able to walk with a little bit of money, and no debts. Of course, I did what all entrepreneurs do when they find themselves with some money: I started tossing around business ideas. I formed an LLC, threw together a business plan and a website, and on New Years Day of 2016, I started a lease on an office and shop space.Making Mistakes
This was my first “real” business, one that wasn’t just run from my home. And, the mistakes started immediately — beginning with the lease on my office. In future articles on this subject, I’ll go into more detail about what you should look for in a business lease, and what you should avoid. But, suffice it to say that I really had no idea what a good and fair lease looks like, and so I signed a lease without really knowing what I was getting into. As it turns out, not all business leases are created equal, and mine essentially gave away all of my rights as a tenant.
Aside from not understanding the legalese of what I was signing, I also leveraged myself too far. In the beginning, I had a decent chunk of money, and felt that I could afford a decent size space (1,800 sq. ft.). I thought I’d need the space eventually, and figured it’d be best to just go ahead and get it. In retrospect, I should have kept my overhead as low as possible and leased a space that was as small as I could get away with.
Which bring us to my next mistake, and this one is a doozy — I really didn’t have a clear idea of how I was going to be creating revenue. I had a business plan, and a vague idea about providing design and prototyping services. My background, after all, was in mechanical design, CNC programming and operation, and 3D printing. It seemed like a good fit, and I figured the details would fall into place once I actually got started.On the grind
That plan, however, ended up being short-lived. Prototyping services are generally only contracted by large companies who want to outsource that work, and those companies want to work with proven companies and not startups. My goal was to target other small companies and startups, but that plan was flawed (those companies generally can’t afford services like that). So, I shifted my focus to what I dubbed “designer fabrication,” which to me meant fabrication services that went further than normal “job shops,” and into the territory of custom one-off design and fabrication.
In an effort to jumpstart that plan, I purchased a lot of equipment and tools I thought I was going to need, which ended up being my next mistake. This one probably seems obvious, but there is really no reason to buy a tool or piece of equipment before you have a proven need for it. Even if a customer’s project demands a certain tool, you’ve still got to weigh the return on purchasing that tool. It might make more fiscal sense to simply subcontract that part of the job, rent the tool, or turn down the project altogether. But, of course, tools are toys for grownups, and I wanted some new toys to play with!
So, I found myself in a big shop, full of shiny new tools, and no client contracts to use them for. I was three months in before I even had my first paying contract, and had already burned through all the cash I had started with. I was already taking on debt — after all I had rent to pay at my apartment, food to buy, car payments to make, bills to pay, a business lease to cover, and materials to buy for the projects.Pro tip: if you’re going to buy an industrial VMC, you better be sure it’s going to fit through your loading bay door
As time when on, this problem just got worse. I had contracts coming in here and there, but they weren’t enough to cover my business and personal expenses, and my debt was mounting. Of course, I didn’t want to give up. A combination of the sunk-cost fallacy and simple stubbornness kept me going, even when I should have either cut my losses or re-evaluated my business plan. I was still clinging to the hope that I’d turn a corner, get more contracts or come up with a lucrative product to sell, and that I could still succeed.Taking the Hint
This was the situation I found myself in about a month ago: I was completely out of cash, I had maxed out every credit card I had and couldn’t get more, no one would approve a business loan for a business with negative cash flow, and I had borrowed what I could from family. I was broke, in a mountain of debt, and in a constant state of panic. How could I have let it get that bad? Why hadn’t I just worked harder? Why had I made so many stupid decisions?
I spent the first two weeks of this month trying to figure out some sort of solution. I found someone to split my shop space with me, cutting my rent in half. I sold everything I could that I didn’t actually need. I started looking for part-time work to supplement the meager income from clients. But, with even more expenses mounting, I knew I had to call it quits.
A week ago, I decided I’d have to close the doors on my business. And, at least temporarily, on the idea of being a business owner. That brings us to today. I’ve been scrambling to sell off my equipment by the end of the month (taking heavy losses, of course), in order to pay back open client contracts and other financial commitments. And, in general, just to figure out how to move on.
Luckily, the fine folks here at Hackaday have welcomed me back as a contributor. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, with a pile of debt to start chipping away at, ruined credit to rebuild, and security to regain. But, I’ll tell you a secret: that entrepreneurial spirit hasn’t left me. I don’t regret trying to make this business happen. Sure, I wish I had gone about it differently, but I know I never would have been satisfied with not trying. I’ll almost certainly try again at some point.
If you’ve read this far, you probably have that same spirit, and that need to start something. You may have even related with my story, and nodded along as you read about my mistakes. Or, maybe you’re simply thinking about starting your own business, and want to read about what not to do. So, stick around and keep a look out for future articles, where I’ll go into more depth on how to avoid the pitfalls I fell into. I’ll talk about what I did right, and what I did wrong. And, most importantly, I’ll let you laugh at my mistakes, as you breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we entrepreneurs may screw up a lot, but at least we try.
Filed under: Business, Featured, slider
Zizzy is a personal robot designed to help those with limited mobility. Rather than being assisted by a nightmare creature, Zizzy would offer a more appealing and friendly option.
The coolest part about Zizzy is the 3D printable pneumatic artificial muscles. Project creator, [Michael Roybal] said it took over a year of development to arrive at the design.
The muscles are hollow bellows printed out of Ninjaflex with carefully calibrated settings. A lot of work must have gone into the design to make sure that they were printable. After printing the muscles are painted with a mixture of fabric glue and MEK solvent. If all is done correctly the bellows should be able to hold 20 PSI without any problem.
This results in a robot with very smooth and precise movement. It has none of the gear noise and can also give when it collides with a user, a feature typically found only in very expensive motor systems. If [Michael] can find a quiet compressor system the robot will be nearly silent.
Filed under: robots hacks
There is a significant constituency among hackers and makers for whom it is not the surroundings in which the drink is served or the character of the person serving it that is important, but the quality of its preparation. Not for them the distilled wit and wisdom of a bartender who has seen it all, instead the computer-controlled accuracy of a precisely prepared drink. They are the creators of bartending robots, and maybe some day all dank taverns will be replaced with their creations.
Drinkro is a bartending robot built by the team at [Synchro Labs]. It uses a Raspberry Pi 3 and a custom motor controller board driving a brace of DC peristaltic liquid pumps. that lift a variety of constituent beverages into the user’s glass. There is a multi-platform app through which multiple thirsty drinkers can place their orders, and all the source code and hardware files can be found in GitHub repositories. The robot possesses a fairly meagre repertoire of vodka and only three mixers, but perhaps it will be expanded with more motor driver and pump combinations.
There is a video of the machine in action, shown below the break. We can’t help noticing it’s not the fastest of bartenders, but maybe speed isn’t everything.
Bartending robots have featured before here at Hackaday. The Chilean Indio Picaro dolls serving drinks in their unique style for example, or this slot machine shot machine. But for the true seeker of a bar experience without human contact, how about pairing one with this Korean robotic drinking buddy?
Filed under: Raspberry Pi, robots hacks
Augmented reality is all the rage right now, and it’s all because of Pokemon. Of course, this means the entire idea of augmented reality is now wrapped up in taking pictures of Pidgeys in their unnatural setting. There are more useful applications of augmented reality, as [vijayvictory]’s Hackaday Prize entry shows us. He’s built an augmented reality helmet for firefighters that will detect temperature, gasses, smoke and the user’s own vital signs, displaying the readings on a heads up display.
The core of the build is a Particle Photon, a WiFi-enabled microcontroller that also gives this helmet the ability to relay data back to a base station, ostensibly one that’s not on fire. To this, [vijayvictory] has added an accelerometer, gas sensor, and a beautiful OLED display mounted just behind a prism. This display overlays the relevant data to the firefighter without obstructing their field of vision.
Right now, this system is fairly basic, but [vijayvictory] has a few more tricks up his sleeve. By expanding this system to include a FLIR thermal imaging sensor, this augmented reality helmet will have the ability to see through smoke. By integrating this system into an existing network and adding a few cool WiFi tricks, this system will be able to located a downed firefighter using signal trilateralization. It’s a very cool device, and one that should be very useful, making it a great entry for The Hackaday Prize.The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize
Commuting is a pain. Luckily, nearly every car has some sort of radio or other audio player to while away the hours stuck in traffic. However, most of those radios sport AM and FM bands, along with a weather band and–maybe–a long wave band. What if you prefer shortwave?
[Thomas] posted a review of the BST-1, a car-friendly shortwave receiver. The device is made to mount out of sight–presumably near an external antenna. It beams the shortwave signal to the car’s FM radio. The control is a small key fob and even if you aren’t interested in the radio itself, the user interface design is somewhat interesting.
A single press on one of the two fob buttons produces a common action. If you press and hold the button, however, you’ll hear a beep. Keep holding it and you’ll hear two beeps. This continues until you get four beeps. When you let go after a sequence of beeps, you perform a different function. For example, letting go of the bottom button after two beeps toggles between preset and tune mode, while releasing after three beeps toggles the receiver bandwidth between 3 kHz and 5 kHz.
You can see a video about the BST-1, below. The review draws the conclusion that the BST-1 is not a serious receiver for weak signal work, but it is a lot of fun for its intended purpose.
Filed under: news
Right now HOPE is dying down, and most of the Hackaday crew will be filtering out of NYC. It was a great weekend. The first weekend in August will be even better. We’re going to DEF CON, we’ll have people at VCF West, and a contingent at EMF Camp. If you’re going to EMF Camp, drop a line here. There will be Hackaday peeps wandering around a field in England, so if you see someone flying the Hackaday or Tindie flag, stop and say hi.
Raspberry Pi’s stuffed into things? Not all of them are terrible. The Apple Extended keyboard is possibly the best keyboard Apple ever produced. It’s mechanical (Alps), the layout is almost completely modern, and they’re actually cheap for something that compares well to a Model M. There’s also enough space inside the plastic to fit a Pi and still have enough room left over for holes for the Ethernet and USB ports. [ezrahilyer] plopped a Pi in this old keyboard, and the results look great. Thanks [Burkistana] for sending this one in.
We’ve been chronicling [Arsenijs] Raspberry Pi project for months now, but this is big news. The Raspberry Pi project has cracked 10k views on Hackaday.io, and is well on track to be the most popular project of all time, on any platform. Congrats, [Arsenijs]; it couldn’t happen to a better project.
A few months ago, [Sébastien] released SLAcer.js, a slicer for resin printers that works in the browser. You can’t test a slicer without a printer, so for the last few months, [Sébastien] has been building his own resin printer. He’s looking for beta testers. If you have experience with resin printers, this could be a very cool (and very cheap) build.
Anyone going to DEF CON? For reasons unknown to me, I’m arriving in Vegas at nine in the morning on Wednesday. This means I have a day to kill in Vegas. I was thinking about a Hackaday meetup at the grave of James T. Kirk on Veridian III. It’s about an hour north of Vegas in the Valley of Fire State Park. Yes, driving out to the middle of the desert in August is a great idea. If anyone likes this idea, leave a note in the comments and I’ll organize something.
Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links
[Bruce Helsen] built this dual axis solar tracker as one of his final projects for school.
As can be experimentally verified in a very short timeframe, the sun moves across the sky. This is a particularly troublesome behavior for solar panels, which work best when the sun shines directly on them. Engineers soon realized that abstracting the sun away only works in physics class, and moved to the second best idea of tracking sun by moving the panel. Surprisingly, for larger installations the cost of adding tracking (and its maintenance) isn’t worth the gains, but for smaller, and especially urban, installations like [Bruce]’s it can still help.
[Bruce]’s build can be entirely sourced from eBay. The light direction is sensed via a very clever homemade directional light sensor. A 3D printer extruded cross profile sits inside an industrial lamp housing. The assembly divides the sky into four quadrants with a light-dependent resistor for each. By measuring the differences, the panel can point in the optimal direction.
The panel’s two axis are controlled with two cheap linear actuators. The brains are an Arduino glued to a large amount of solar support electronics and the online energy monitor component is covered by an ESP8266.
The construction works quite well. If you’d like to build one yourself the entire BOM, drawings, and code are provided on the instructables page.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, solar hacks
If you have an old manual lathe, mill, or even a drill press, a digital readout (DRO) is a very handy tool to have. A DRO gives you a readout of how far you’ve cut, milled, or drilled into a piece of work without having to stoop to caveman levels and look down at a dial. Here’s a stupidly cheap DRO for all your machine tools. It should only cost five bucks or so, and if you need it, you already have the tools to manufacture it.
This build is inspired by an earlier build using the same single component – a digital tread depth gauge. This digital tread depth gauge is commonly found in countries that don’t use the US penny as currency to measure the depth of tread on a tire. The throw isn’t that large – only about 27mm – but with a few modifications it can fit on any machine tool.
The modifications include a small bit of metal glued to the back and four tiny neodymium magnets. For the ‘tool head’ of this DRO, only a tiny plastic collar and another deo magnet are needed.
This digital tire depth gauge looks like – and probably is – the same mechanism found in those super cheap calipers from the far east. In theory, it should be possible to extend this modification to those digital calipers, making for a simple DRO with a much larger throw.
Thanks [Ben] for sending this one in.
Filed under: cnc hacks
[Scott Campbell] built a cassette-based synthesizer that sounds exactly like everything you’ve heard before. The sound generation comes straight off cassettes, but the brainbox of this synth varies the volume and pitch. It’s called the Onde Magnetique, and it is what you would get if you combined a Mellotron and Ondes Martenot.
The key component for the Onde Magnetique is a Sony cassette recorder that conveniently and inexplicably comes with a ‘tape speed input’ mini jack. By varying the voltage sent to this input jack, the speed of the tape, and thus the pitch of the sound being played, is changed. Build a box with a touch-sensitive button for volume, and a few tact switches for different speeds, and you have an electromechanical bastard child of a Mellotron and an Ondes Martenot.
By itself, the Onde Magnetique produces no sound – it only controls the pitch and volume of whatever is on the cassette. [Scott] produced a few single-note cassettes for his instrument, with ‘voice patches’ including a flute, choir, and a synth. With the CV and Gate input, these sounds can be sequenced with outboard gear, producing the wonderful sounds heard in the video after the break.
Filed under: musical hacks
There isn’t a lot of detail to be found behind this short demo of robot-based physical feedback for VR, but the video (embedded below) demonstrates things well. It’s an experiment in generating force feedback for virtual objects using a Baxter robot and the HTC Vive. When the user presses against a wooden block in VR, the robot presses back which simulates the mass of the virtual object. Force feedback is one of these areas in which research is ongoing, and in a variety of different directions.
Like so many other things in life, nothing beats the real thing for actual physical feedback. Also, there’s something great about giving a $25,000 robot the job of impersonating a few simple wooden blocks in VR, just so you can strap on a VR rig and basically give a robot a realistic-feeling fist bump.
For those of you who’d like to experiment in this area without entirely re-inventing the wheel, we previously covered WoodenHaptics – an open-source haptics project working on providing a complete kit, but in the meantime everything is available from their github repository.
Filed under: robots hacks, Virtual Reality
This collaboration between ETH and the Disney empire’s research arm is a ultra-light robot that can roll across horizontal surfaces and also transition and climb walls.
The robot has four wheels with one steerable set, but its secret sauce is the two propellers gimbaled on its back. Using these propellers it can move itself across the ground, but also, when approaching a wall, provide enough thrust to overcome the gravity vector.
Naturally, the lighter the robot, the less force will be needed to keep it on the wall. That’s why the frame is made from carbon fiber corrugated sandwich panels. The motors, batteries, and controllers are all also light and small.
We liked how the robot was, apparently, using its propellers to provide additional stability even while on the ground. There is a video after the break, and more information can also be found on the Disney Research webpage.
Filed under: robots hacks
Actually riding around at 30 km/h on a 3D printed means of transportation is pretty gnarly, if not foolhardy. So we were actually pleased when we dug deeper and discovered that [E-Mat]’s unicycle build is actually just a very nice cover and battery holder.
We say “just”, but a 3D-printed design takes a couple of cheap parts (the wheel and pedals) from the Far East and turns them into a very finished-looking finished product. Custom bits like this fulfill the 3D printing dream — nobody’s making it, so you make it yourself. And make it look pro.
It turns out that other people have noticed this motor/controller/pedal combo as well. Here’s some documentation to get you started.
It’s funny. Just four years ago, self-balancing powered unicycles were the realm of the insane hacker. Then came some hacker improvements, and now we’re at the point where you can mail-order all the parts and 3D print yourself a fancy enclosure.
Thanks [nonice] for the tip!
Filed under: transportation hacks
Electromyography is a technique used to study and record the electrical signals generated when a muscle contracts. It’s used for medical diagnosis, rehab, kinesiological studies, and is the preferred method of control for robotic prosthetics and exoskeletons. There are a few companies out there with myoelectric products, and the use case for those products is flipping the slides on a PowerPoint presentation. Lucky for us, this project in the Hackaday Prize isn’t encumbered by such trivialities. It’s an open, expandable platform to turn muscle contractions into anything.
As you would expect, reading the electrical signals from muscles requires a little more technical expertise than plugging a cable into an Arduino. This project has opamps in spades, and is more than sensitive enough to serve as a useful sensor platform. Already this project is being used to monitor bruxism – inadvertent clenching or grinding of the jaw – and the results are great.
While it’s doubtful this device will ever be used in a medical context, it is a great little board to add muscle control to a robot arm, or build a very cool suit of power armor. All in all, a very cool entry for The Hackaday Prize.The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize