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Learn COBOL. Seriously, you should learn COBOL. It’s a fact of nature that every computer-minded person will eventually hear that COBOL developers make bank, and you’ll have job security for the rest of your life. Now look at the Hello World for COBOL. Yes, there’s a reason COBOL devs make bank, and they’re still vastly underpaid. [Folkert] figured a way around this problem: he built a Brainfuck to COBOL compiler. Mainframe programming for the rest of us.
[fbustamante] got his hands on an old GP2X Wiz, one of those ARM-based portable media player/emulator things from a few years ago. This is a complete computer, and like the Pandora, it’ll do everything one of those Raspberry Pi laptops can do. The Wiz doesn’t have a keyboard, so [fbustamante] created his own. He etched his own PC, repurposed a keyboard controller from a USB keyboard, and stole the keycaps from an old Sharp digital organizer.
Speaking of portable consoles, [Element18592] built this incredible Nintendo 64 portable. He’s done an XBox 360 laptop and stuffed a Pi into an old brick Game Boy. This N64 mod is great, uses a 3D printed enclosure, and has truly amazing vinyl graphics.
To the surprise of many, [Photonicinduction] is not dead. The drunk brit with a penchant for high voltage electrics and a very, very confused power company is back making videos again. His latest video is a puzzle. It’s a plastic block with a light bulb socket, a UK power outlet, and a switch. Plug in a light bulb, flip the switch, and it turns on. Plug a blender into the outlet, and that turns on too. No wires, so how is he doing it?
Introduced at CES last January, Monoprice – yes, the same place you get HDMI and Ethernet cables from – has released their $200 3D printer. This one is on our radar and there will be a review, but right away the specs are fantastic for a $200 printer. The build area is 120mm³, it has a heated bed, and appears to be not completely locked down like the DaVinci printers were a few years ago.
Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links
[Opificio Sonico] has been at the Lego-based robot music making business for a while now, and it shows. He’s released four videos on YouTube (all inlined below) and each shows a definite evolution of his style and the Lego ‘bots technical range.
Episode 4, a cover of Daft Punk’s “Alive”, is clearly the most polished. A sliding platform goes enables a Lego “Toa Mata” figure to play the melody on some kind of iDevice (?). The ‘bot playing the DS to hit its one note repeatedly with the stylus, and has an easier job thanks to Daft Punk’s compositional “efficiency”. Episode 3, Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts” is fantastic, partly because he’s using piezo-miced junk as percussion (as did DM themselves) and partly because of the sliding stylophone. But watch them all.
There’s some serious production work going on here in addition to the obvious nerdery. Oh yeah, and there’s an Arduino buried in there somewhere doing the MIDI-to-Lego conversion. Toa Mata Band is nowhere near as metal as Compressorhead, but pound for pound, we’d give them the advantage.
Thanks [Johnyy] for the tip! How have we never covered these plastic guys before?
Filed under: musical hacks
If you are of a certain age you may have worked in an office in the days before the computer revolution, and the chances are that in the corner of your office there would have been a teletype machine. Like a very chunky typewriter with a phone attached, this was an electromechanical serial terminal and modem, and machines like it would have formed the backbone of international commerce in the days before fax, and then email.
Teletypes may have disappeared from the world of trade, but there are a surprising number still in private hands. Enthusiasts collect and restore them, and radio amateurs still use digital modes based on their output. The problem facing today’s teletype owner though is that they are becoming increasingly difficult to interface to a modern computer. The serial port, itself an interface with its early history in the electromechanical world, is now an increasingly rare sight.
[Eric] has a project which addresses the teletype owner’s interfacing woes, he’s created a board with all the necessary level shifters and an Atmega32u2 microcontroller to translate the teletype’s output to USB.
In his design he’s had to solve a few problems related to such an aged interface. Teletypes have a serial output, but it’s not the TTL or RS232 we may be used to. Instead it’s a high-voltage current loop designed to operate electromagnets, so his board has to incorporate an optocoupler to safely isolate the delicate computer circuitry. And once he had the teletype’s output at a safe level he then had to translate its content, teletypes speak 5-bit ITA2 code rather than our slightly newer 7-bit ASCII.
The result though is a successful interface between teletype and computer. The former sees another teletype, while the latter sees a serial terminal. If you have a teletype and wish to try it for yourself, he’s released the source code in a GitHub repository.
Teletypes have featured a few times here at Hackaday over the years. We’ve had one as an SMS client, another that monitors a Twitter feed, and while it’s not strictly a teletype, a close examination of an Olivetti mechanical serial terminal.
Filed under: classic hacks, hardware
When you’re a teenager new to the sensations of driving, it seems counterintuitive to “turn into the skid”, but once you’ve got a few winters of driving under your belt, you’re drifting like a pro. We learn by experience, and as it turns out, so does this fully autonomous power-sliding rally truck.
Figuring out how to handle friction-optional roadways is entirely the point of the AutoRally project at Georgia Tech, which puts a seriously teched-up 1/5 scale rally truck through its paces on an outdoor dirt track. Equipped with high-precision IMU, high-resolution GPS, dual front-facing cameras, and Hall-effect sensors on each wheel sampled at 70 Hz, the on-board Quad-core i7 knows exactly where the vehicle is and what the relationship between it and the track is at all times. There’s no external sensing or computing – everything needed to run the track is in the 21 kg truck. The video below shows how the truck navigates the oval track on its own with one simple goal – keep the target speed as close to 8 meters per second as possible. The truck handles the red Georgia clay like a boss, dealing not only with differing surface conditions but also with bright-to-dark lighting transitions. So far the truck only appears to handle an oval track, but our bet is that a more complex track is the next step for the platform.
While we really like the ride-on scale of this autonomous chase vehicle, other than that there haven’t been too many non-corporate self-driving vehicle hacks around here lately. Let’s hope that AutoRally is an indication that the hackers haven’t ceded the field to Google entirely. Why let them have all the fun?
Thanks for the tip, [irrenhaus]
Filed under: transportation hacks
Over the last couple of decades we have become used to the possibility of launching a satellite into orbit no longer being the exclusive preserve of superpowers. Since the first CubeSats were launched over a decade ago a myriad others have followed, and scarcely a week passes without news of another interesting project in this area.
OzQube-1 is just such a satellite, designed for imaging of the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s the brainchild of Australian [Stuart McAndrew]. He’s posted significant details of its design: it’s a PocketQube, at 50mm cubed, an eighth the volume of a CubeSat, and its main instrument is a 2 megapixel camera with a 25mm lens. Images will be transmitted to earth as slow-scan digital video via the 70cm amateur band, the dipole antenna being made from a springy tape measure which will unfurl upon launch. Attitude control is passive, coming from a magnet aligned to ensure the camera will be pointing Earthwards as it passes over the Southern Hemisphere. The project has a little way to go yet, but working prototypes have been completed and it has a Gofundme campaign under way to help raise the money for a launch.
There are plenty of Cubesat and other small satellite builds to be found on the web, here at Hackaday we’ve covered a significant number of them. Many of them are the fruits of well-funded university departments or other entities with deep pockets, but this one comes from a lone builder from Western Australia. We like that, and we wish OzQube-1 every success!
Filed under: radio hacks, solar hacks
[Michael] was playing with his ESP8266. Occasionally he would notice a WiFi access point come up with, what he described as, “a nasty name”. Perhaps curious about the kind of person who would have this sort of access point, or furious about the tarnishing of his formerly pure airspace, he decided to see if he could locate the router in question.
Sure enough, the person with the questionable WiFi access point shows up on the map.
Filed under: Network Hacks
Connecting a headless Raspberry Pi to a wireless network can be quite a paradoxical situation. To connect it to the network, you need to open an SSH connection to configure the wireless port. But to do so, you need a network connection in the first place. Of course, you can still get command-line access using a USB-to-UART adapter or the Pi’s ethernet port – if present – but [Arsenijs] worked out a much more convenient solution for his Hackaday Prize entry: The pyLCI Linux Control Interface.
His solution is a software framework written in Python that uses a character display and buttons to make a simple hardware interface. This allows you to configure all important aspects of a Raspberry Pi – or any other Linux SBC – from a tidily organized click-and-scroll menu. [Arsenijs] implemented a whole bunch of useful tools: There’s a network tool to scan and connect to WiFi networks. A systemctl tool that lets you manage the services running on the system, which is especially helpful when you need to restart a stuck service. A partition tool helps with viewing and unmounting mass storage devices. He’s even planning to add a filesystem browser.
With his Open Source project, [Arsenjs] aims to shorten the development time for embedded projects by taking out the efforts of implementing the basic interface functions from scratch. Indeed, there are countless scenarios, where a basic display interface can be of great value. Given the great project documentation and the fact that this can work with virtually any Arduino or Raspberry Pi LCD-pushbutton-hat or shield, we’re sure this is going to be used a lot. Enjoy the video!
[Edit: A few corrections according to information provided by the project owner have been made.]The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: linux hacks, Raspberry Pi, The Hackaday Prize
There are reports of a Tetris movie with a sizable budget, and with it come a plentiful amount of questions about how that would work. Who would the characters be? What kind of lines would there be to clear? Whatever the answers, we can all still play the classic game in the meantime. And, thanks to some of the engineering students at Cornell, we could play it without using a controller.
This hack comes from [Bruce Land]’s FPGA design course. The group’s game uses a video camera which outputs a standard NTSC signal and also does some filtering to detect the user. From there, the user can move their hands to different regions of the screen, which controls the movement of the Tetris pieces. This information is sent across GPIO to another FPGA which uses that to then play the game.
This game is done entirely in hardware, making it rather unique. All game dynamics including block generation, movement, and boundary conditions are set in hardware and all of the skin recognition is done in hardware as well. Be sure to check out the video of the students playing the game, and if you’re really into hand gesture-driven fun, you aren’t just limited to Tetris, you can also drive a car.
Filed under: FPGA
[Matikas] apparently forgets to lock the screen on his computer when he gets up to grab a coffee. And he apparently works with a bunch of sharks: “If you don’t [lock it], one of your colleagues will send email to the whole company that you invite them to get some beer (on your bill, of course).” Not saying we haven’t done similar, mind you. Anyway, forgetting to lock your screen in an office environment is serious business.
So [Matikas] built a great system that remotely types the keystrokes to lock his screen, or unlock it with his password. An off-the-shelf 433 MHz keyfob is connected to an Arduino micro that simulates a keyboard attached to his computer. It’s a simple system, but it’s a great effect. (See the video demo, below.)
But as a security device, it’s horrendous. Some el-cheapo keyfobs available on eBay don’t use rolling codes — anyone with a similar keyfob receiver will be able to listen in to the transmission, set some DIP switches, and replay it trivially. Even if it does use a rolling code, if anyone in your office plays around with RTL-SDRs, you may still be essentially broadcasting your password to everyone.
The second failure point is that [Matikas]’s password is stored in EEPROM on the Arduino. That’s a bit better than writing it on a sticky-note under the keyboard, but not against adversaries with an AVR programmer. By the time he’s taking his first sip of coffee, we’d be logged in and he’d be buying the beer.
Security aside, this is good fun, and it’s pretty cool to lock and unlock your computer with a car remote. And we’re sure that’s the right spirit in which to take it. Sometimes fun is more fun than paranoia. But maybe not if you work in an office like [Matikas]’s.
Filed under: security hacks
Japanese company ALE has been working on a new type of sky show, artificial shooting stars, literally creating an artificial meteor shower at a height of 40 to 50 miles (60 to 80km). The show will be visible to anyone within a 125 mile diameter area (200km), meaning that people in New York city and Philadelphia or Los Angeles and San Diego can watch the same show. Aptly named, they’re calling the project “Sky Canvas”.
The plan is to have a satellite, containing around 500 to 1000 source particles, discharge the particles with a specially designed device. As the video below shows, by ejecting the particles in a continuous manner, rather than all at once, they’ll create the equivalent of a meteor shower. The particles will travel around 1/3rd the way around the Earth before entering the atmosphere, creating the shower of shooting stars. Different colors will be possible by using different materials for the particles, something this fireball cannon illustrates.
So far, testing has been done in an arc-heated wind tunnel, similar to putting a test object in the flame of a blow torch. These wind tunnels, one of which you can see in action below the break, produce supersonic streams and temperatures in the thousands of degrees. They test what objects entering the Earth’s atmosphere would experience as they’re engulfed in plasma from their interaction with the air at high velocity. With the wind tunnel ALE has produced an apparent magnitude -1. Siruis, the brightest star in the night sky, has an apparent magnitude of -1.5, meaning that the shooting stars will be visible from in a city (the smaller the number, the easier it is to see the object.)
ALE is planning to launch their first shower in 2017. In the meantime you can use a Raspberry Pi with its nifty camera add-on to capture nature’s own meteor showers.
In the video below you can see an arc heated wind tunnel in action as a test object is inserted into the plasma.
Filed under: news
If you can’t tell, we’re on a roll with 3D printers and printed projects this month. So far, we’ve covered printers, and simple functional 3D prints. This week we’re taking a look at some of the awesome complex 3D printed projects on Hackaday.io.
Complex 3D printed projects are things like robots, quadcopters, satellite tracking systems, and more. So let’s jump in and look at some of the best complex 3D printed projects on Hackaday.io!
We start with [Alberto] and Dtto v1.0 Modular Robot. Dtto is [Alberto’s] entry in the 2016 Hackaday Prize. Inspired by Bruce Lee’s famous water quote, Dtto is a modular snake-like robot. Each section of Dtto is a double hinged joint. When two sections come together, magnets help them align. A servo controlled latch solidly docks the sections, which then work in unison. Dtto can connect and separate segments autonomously – no human required. [Alberto] sees applications for a robot like [Dtto] in search and rescue and space operations.
Next up is [Szabolcs Lőrincz] with Broke Hackers’ Model Railway. Anyone who’s read Steven Levy’s classic book ‘Hackers’ knows that model trains and hardware hacking go hand in hand. Unfortunately, model trains have gotten prohibitively expensive. Broke hackers’ model railway is the perfect solution. Nearly every part is 3D printed. The tracks are 3D printed sections with copper tape conductors. The locomotive has a 3D printed frame. Automated track switches use hand wound coils on 3D printed bobbins. This isn’t a dumb railway either – a Raspberry Pi controls the action, making sure the trains stay on time.
Next we have [Rob] with Quadrup3D, his 3D printed quadruped robot. Quadrup3D uses 12 beefy R/C style servos to move its four legs. An Arduino with a Bluetooth handles on-board processing. This robot is built from 25 individual 3D printed parts. From the center frame to the legs, just about every major structural piece has been spit out by an FDM desktop printer. [Rob] uses his SpaceMouse Pro as a remote control unit. A laptop processes commands from the mouse and sends them to the robot. Using a control scheme like this allows [Rob] to quickly and easily experiment with different gaits and stances for his four legged friend.
Finally we have [tlankford01] with LOKI 4G (Locate Observe Krack Isolate) 4th Gen. Who says you can’t 3D print your own drone? LOKI uses 3D printed parts for most of its major components. Carbon fiber rods act as the quad’s spine. Riding on these rods are 3D printed propeller guards, battery holder, and electronic enclosures. One of the most interesting parts is the 3D printed gimbal, used to stabilize aerial video. LOKI was used as a test mule for Project ICARUS, [tlankford01’s] poacher hunting 3D printed fixed wing drone.
If you want to see more awesome complex 3D printed projects, check out our new complex 3D printed projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, Hackaday Columns
[Christian] wrote and sells some CAM/CNC controller software. We’re kinda sticklers for open source, and this software doesn’t seem to be, so “meh”. But what we do like is the Easter egg that comes included: the paths to mill out the base for a clock, and then the codes to move steel ball-bearings around to display the time.
Of course we’d like to see more info (more, MORE, MOAR!) but it looks easy enough to recreate. We could see redesigning this with marbles and a vacuum system, for instance. The seats for the ball bearings don’t even need to be milled out spheres. You could do this part with a drill press. Who’s going to rebuild this for their 3D printer? You just have to make sure that the machine is fast enough to move the balls around within one minute.
Now usually we feature clocks that are built by CNC machines, so it’s refreshing that here the CNC is the clock.
Thanks [Kevin] for the tip!
Filed under: cnc hacks
If you have owned Android phones, there’s a reasonable chance that as the kind of person who reads Hackaday you will at some time have rooted one of them, and even applied a new community ROM to it. When you booted the phone into its new environment it’s not impossible you would have been surprised to find your phone now sported an FM radio. How had the ROM seemingly delivered a hardware upgrade?
It’s something your cellphone carrier would probably prefer not to talk about, a significant number of phones have the required hardware to receive FM radio, but lack the software to enable it. The carriers would prefer you to pay for their data to stream your entertainment rather than listen to it for free through a broadcaster. If you are someone capable of upgrading a ROM you can fix that, but every other phone owner is left holding a device they own, but seemingly don’t own.
Across North America there is a group campaigning to do something about this situation. Free Radio On My Phone and their Canadian sister organization are lobbying the phone companies and manufacturers to make the FM radio available, and in the USA at least they have scored some successes.
We have covered numerous attempts to use the DMCA to restrict people’s access to the hardware they own, but this story is a little different. There is no question of intellectual property being involved here, it is simply that the carriers would rather their customers didn’t even know that they had bought an FM radio along with their phone. If this bothers you, thanks to Free Radio On My Phone you can now join with others and find a voice on the matter.
It’s interesting to note that many FM radio chips also support a wider bandwidth than the North American and European 88 to 108MHz or thereabouts. In parts of Asia the broadcast band extends significantly lower than this, and the chipset manufacturers make products to support these frequencies. This opens up the interesting possibility that given a suitable app a cellphone could be used to receive other services on these frequencies. Probably more of a bonus for European radio amateurs with their 70MHz allocation than for North American residents.
Via CBC News. Cellphone image: By Rob Brown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Filed under: Cellphone Hacks, radio hacks
[gutbag] is a guitarist. And guitarists are notorious knob-twiddlers: they love their effects pedals. But when your music involves changing settings more than a few times in the middle of a song, it can get distracting. If only there were little robot hands that could turn the knobs (metaphorically, sorry) during the performance…
Tearing into his EHX Pitch Fork pedal, [gutbag] discovered that all of the external knob controls were being read by ADCs on the chip that did all of the processing. He replaced all of the controls with a DAC and some analog switches, coded up some MIDI logic in an ATmega328, and built himself a custom MIDI-controlled guitar pedal. Pretty slick, and he can now control it live with his iPad, or sequence the knobs with the rest of their MIDI system.
This wasn’t [gutbag]’s first foray into pedal automation, however. He’d previously automated a slew of his pedals that were already built to take control-voltage signals. What we like about this hack is the direct substitution of DAC for potentiometers. It’s just hackier. (Oh, and we’re envious of [gutbag]’s lab setup.)
This isn’t the first time we’ve covered [gutbag]’s band, Zaardvark, either. Way back in 2013, we featured an organ-pedal-to-MIDI hack of theirs. Keep on rockin’.
Filed under: musical hacks
[Daniel Perdomo] and two of his friends have been working on a mechanical version of Pong for the past two years. We can safely say that the final result is beautiful. It’s quite ethereal to watch the pixe–cube move back and forth on the surface.
[Daniel] has worked in computer graphics for advertising for more than 20 years. However, he notes that neither he nor his friends had any experience in mechanics or electronics when they began. Thankfully, the internet (and, presumably, sites like Hackaday) provided them with the information needed.
The pong paddles and and pixel (ball?) sit onto of a glass surface. The moving parts are constrained to the mechanics with magnets. Underneath is a construction not unlike an Etch A Sketch for moving the ball while the paddles are just on a rail with a belt. The whole assembly is made from V-groove extrusion.
Our favorite part of the build is the scroll wheel for moving the paddle back and forth. For a nice smooth movement with some mass behind it, what’s better than a hard-drive platter? They printed out an encoder wheel pattern and glued it to the surface. The electronics are all hand-made. The brains appear to be some of the larger Arduinos. The 8-bit segments, rainbow LEDs, etc were build using strips glued in place with what looks like copper foil tape connecting buses. This is definitely a labor of love.
It really must be seen to be understood. The movement is smooth, and our brains almost want to remove a dimension when watching it. As for the next steps? They are hoping to spin it up into an arcade machine business, and are looking for people with money and experience to help them take it from a one-off prototype to a product. Video after the break.
Filed under: classic hacks, Virtual Reality
LCDs come in a lot of sizes, and there’s a lot written about pushing pixel data out to larger displays. Smaller LCDs, like the 4, 5 and 7 inch variety, aren’t used much, because no one seems to know how to drive the things. For [Joe]’s Hackaday Prize Entry, he’s creating an open source interface for tiny LCDs, making it easy and cheap to add one to everything with an HDMI port.
[Joe]’s Open LCD Interface comes on two boards, with the first providing connections to an LCD, all the power circuitry required, and a bunch of pads to break out every IO line. The second part of the puzzle is a decoder that takes HDMI signals and drives a small LCD.
HDMI decoders are nothing new to the world of hobby electronics – there are multiple projects that give the BeagleBoard a display through HDMI. Even Adafruit sells one of these converters. [Joe]’s board has another trick up its sleeve, though: it can give any microcontroller a high-resolution display, too.
There’s another module that connects to [Joe]’s breakout board that turns the LCD into an SPI display. This means any microcontroller can drive a high-resolution display. It’s fast, too: in the video below, [Joe]’s SPI display can push pixels at least as fast as any other microcontroller-based display we’ve seen.
It’s a great project, and a by opening up the doors to millions of cheap LCDs on eBay and Alibaba, [Joe] has a great entry for the Hackaday Prize on his hands.The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize, video hacks
It is easy to imagine how early man started using rocks and then eventually developed better and better tools until they created the hammer. Some simple tools took a little longer to invent. The spirit level, for example, didn’t exist until sometime in the last half of the 1600’s.
The idea is simple. A clear tube holds a liquid and a bubble. When the bubble is in the center of the tube, the device is level in the direction of the tube. [Mark Williams] has a slightly more involved approach. He took an internal measurement unit (IMU) and a Raspberry Pi to create a modern take on the spirit level.
The device shows virtual spirit bubbles on an LCD using some Python libraries. You can see a video below and find the code on GitHub.
Filed under: Raspberry Pi
A lot of old science fiction movies show people wearing the same–or nearly the same–clothes. We’re left guessing if this is because there is a single centralized plant mass-producing skin-tight jumpsuits, or if everyone is under orders to dress the same. Now that we live in the past’s future, it looks like science fiction was a poor predictor of fashion. People want variety.
Which calls to mind development boards. How many different ones do we need? Need doesn’t matter, because we have plenty of them. There may be strong leaders: in the 8-bit world, you think of the Arduino, and on the Linux side, maybe the Raspberry Pi. But there are options.
[Eric Brown] recently compared several inexpensive development boards from FriendlyARM including the NanoPi M3, the NanoPi M1, and the NanoPC-T3. These range from about $11 to $60 with the M3 costing $35. You can see an M1 booting on an HDMI screen in the video below.
The $35 board (the M3), in particular, is pretty impressive:
- Processor — Samsung S5P6818 (8x 28nm Cortex-A53 cores @ 400MHz to 1.46GHz; Mali-400MP GPU
- Memory — 1GB DDR3 SDRAM; microSD slot (up to 64GB)
- Wireless — 802.11b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0 dual mode; IPX interface
- Networking — 10/100/1000 Ethernet port
- Multimedia I/O: HDMI 1.4a output; LCD interface; LVDS interface; DVP camera interface; 3.5mm audio jack; I2S audio interface
- Other I/O: 2x USB 2.0 host ports; 2x USB 2.0 host headers; Micro-USB 2.0 client port; Debug serial port header; 40-pin, Raspberry Pi compatible GPIO connector for UART, SPI, I2C, PWM etc.
- Other features — Power and reset buttons; power and status LEDs
- Power — DC barrel jack; +5V @ 2A; RTC Battery header; AXP228 power management unit
- Dimensions — 64mm x 60mm
The board can boot several Linux flavors and Android. It looks like a strong choice.
The geodesic dome didn’t replace conventional homes, and unitards didn’t replace the business suit. These probably won’t replace the Raspberry Pi, either. We’ve covered other “Pi killers” in the past that either compete on price or features. While none of them are likely to displace the Pi either, they do give you choices, should you dare to be different.
Filed under: ARM, Raspberry Pi
Handheld measuring devices make great DIY projects. One can learn a lot about a sensor or sensor technology by just strapping it onto a spare development board together with an LCD for displaying the sensor output. [Richard’s] DIY air quality meter and emissions tester is such a project, except with the custom laser-cut enclosure and the large graphic LCD, his meter appears already quite professional.
For his build, [Richard] used a Sharp GP2Y1010AU0F dust sensor. This $11 device has a little hole, through which airborne dust particles can pass. On the inside, an infrared LED and a photodiode are arranged in a way that allows no direct light, but only light reflected by the passing by dust particles, to reach the photodiode. An accurately trimmed amplifier within the sensor package translates the diode’s photocurrent into an analog output voltage proportional to the dust density. With a bit of software wizardry, it’s even possible to differentiate between house dust and smoke by analyzing the pulse pattern of the output voltage.
The development board used in this project, a PDI-1 (which stands for Programmable Device Interface) is [Richard’s] own design. Manufactured in the UK, it isn’t the cheapest, but it’s the part that makes this build a breeze. It’s basically an Arduino Nano with a lot of onboard peripherals, including a large graphic LCD, some buttons, a speaker, plenty of H-bridges, and a few more.
After bodge-wiring the dust sensor to the board and taking the enclosure out of the laser cutter, the hardware side of this project was almost done. A little fan was added to ensure airflow through the sensor. Eventually [Richard] wrote a basic firmware to display a graph of sensor readings on the LCD. A first test in the exhaust stream of his car, cycling through idling and revving as shown in the title image, suggests that the meter works as intended. Of course, air quality and emission testing depend on more parameters than just dust density, but if you want to replicate and extend this build, [Richard] provides you with all the Arduino compatible source files.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, misc hacks
I caught up with Federico Musto, President and CEO of Arduino SRL, at the 2016 Bay Area Maker Faire. Their company is showing off several new boards being prepared for release as early as next month. In partnership with Nordic Semi and ST Microelectronics they have put together some very powerful offerings which we discuss in the video below.
The new boards are called Arduino Primo, Arduino Core, Arduino Alicepad, and Arduino Otto.
The first up is the Primo, a board built to adhere to the UNO form factor. This one is packing an interesting punch. The main micro is not an Atmel chip, but a Nordic nRF52832 ARM Cortex-M4F chip. Besides being a significantly fast CPU with floating-point support, the Nordic IC also has built-in Bluetooth LE and NFC capabilities, and the board has a PCB antenna built in.
On an UNO this is where the silicon would end. But on the Primo you get two more controllers: an ESP8266 and an STM32F103. The former is obvious, it brings WiFi to the party (including over-the-air programming). The STM32 chip is there to provide peripheral control and debugging. Debugging is an interesting development and is hard to come by in the Arduino-sphere. This will use the OpenOCD standard, with platformio.org as the recommended GUI.
The same nRF52 microcontroller is present on the Arduino Core and the Alicepad, which are targeted at wearable electronics. The circular form factor of the Alicepad mimics the familiar sewable form of the Lilypad.
Arduino’s other offerings are where the horsepower really gets crazy. The Otto board boasts a gigantic STM32F469: a 169-pin ARM Cortex-M4F clocked at 180 MHz. The chip has a ridiculous assortment of built-in peripherals, and you’re not likely to run out of either pins or CPU cycles. It’s also got a hardware graphics accelerator, so it’s no surprise to find that the Otto has a DSI-IF connector on the back that is designed to plug into the LCD screen also being demonstrated at the event: a capacitive touch 480×800 display. The Otto also includes an ESP8266 to provide WiFi (why not, right?).
There are a few question marks in my mind on this one. First off, the Otto and the LCD have a product-family designator of “Star” which will be assigned to all the boards that feature the STM controllers. This seems a bit confusing (Star Otto, Star LCD, etc) but I guess they want to differentiate them from the “normal” Arduini. But are these devices becoming too complex to bear the Arduino name? Maybe, but the UNO is always going to be there for you and the new boards give you access to newer and more powerful features. Whether or not this complexity can be easily harnessed will depend on the software libraries and the IDE. After all, I think Donald Papp made a great point earlier in the week about the value of Arduino comfort in custom electronic work.The Lawsuits
Finally, I asked Federico if there is any news about the Arduino versus Arduino trademark litigation. He spoke with us almost a year ago on the topic, but he had no new information for us at this point. (The US court case may be ruled on as early as July of this year, so there’s probably not much he could say, but I had to try.)
Federico spoke a little bit about the conflict between the two Arduinos, and said that it was brewing inside the company long before he got there. And it does appear that both companies calling themselves Arduino are trying to outdo each other with new boards and new initiatives, and going in different directions. If there is a bright side, it’s that this competition may end up building us better hardware than a single company would, because both are making bets on what will put them out ahead of the game.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, cons, Interviews