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Rebonding an IC to Save Tatakae! Big Fighter

อาทิตย์, 01/01/2017 - 19:00

Preserving old arcade games is a niche pastime that can involve some pretty serious hacking skills. If the story here were just that someone pulled the chip from a game, took it apart, and figured out the ROM contents, that’d be pretty good. But the real story is way stranger than that.

Apparently, a bunch of devices were sent to a lab to be reverse engineered and were somehow lost. Nearly ten years later, the devices reappeared, and another group has taken the initiative to recover their contents. The chip in question was part of a 1989 arcade game called Tatakae! Big Fighter, and it had been hacked. Literally hacked. Like with an ax or something worse.

You can read the story of how the contents were recovered. You shouldn’t try this at home without a vent hood and other safety gear. However, they did rebond wires to the device using a clever trick and no exotic equipment (assuming you have some fairly good optical microscopes and a microprobe on a lens positioner).

We’ve looked at another decapsulation recently, but that was on a ceramic device that had not been put through the wringer. That one also didn’t require anything exotic like using UV light to erase security fuses. We’ve seen more clever ROM dumps, but probably none at this technical level of sophistication.

Thanks to [TheMogMiner] for the tip!


Filed under: misc hacks

3D Printed Mini-Printer Enables Obsession With Lists

อาทิตย์, 01/01/2017 - 16:00

When going about a busy day, a hard copy listing all your tasks helps if you aren’t inclined to pull up a notepad — or whatever app you use — on your phone each time; doubly so if you want to pin it up in one place to refer to. Besides, using a full sheet of paper for a few items is impractical — and wasteful. To that end, [Jed Hodson] has concocted a mini printer for all your listing needs.

[Hodson] designed and 3D printed the case, making the files available for download and instructions on how to assemble it. Being an IoT device, the printer uses a Photon board to connect to the Internet, wherein Microsoft Flow is used to liaise between the Adafruit printer and Wunderlist — the list app [Hodson]’s chosen for this project.

[Hodson]’s included the full code he used for this printer, as well as a few detailed tips to ensure anyone building their own ends up with a working printer.

If you’re looking for a mini-3D printer, we’ve got you covered on that too.


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Run Your Own Numbers Station

อาทิตย์, 01/01/2017 - 13:00

Numbers stations are shortwave stations that broadcast cryptic messages that are widely assumed to be used for communications between nation states and spies. But who’s to say it’s up to the government to have all the fun? If you’ve always dreamed of running your own spy ring, you’ll need a way to talk to them too. Start with this guide on how to run your own numbers station.

The requirements are simple – you just need random numbers, one time pads for each recipient (available from our store!) and a way to send the audio – ideally a powerful shortwave transmitter, but for an intelligence agency on a budget, online streaming will work. Then you’re ready to send your message. [Jake Zielke] shares techniques on how to easily encode a message into numbers for transmission, and how to encrypt them with one time pad techniques. Done properly, this is an unbreakable form of encryption. [Jake] then rounds out the guide with tips on how to format your station’s transmissions to address multiple secret agents effectively.

It’s a great way to get started in the world of spooky secret radio communications. All the tools needed to get started are available on the page, so you’ll be up and running in no time. Meanwhile, why not do a little more research on the history of numbers stations?


Filed under: radio hacks

Finding a Lost Tooth With Science!

อาทิตย์, 01/01/2017 - 10:00

Sometimes the hack is a masterwork of circuit design, crafting, 3D printing and programming. Other times, the hack is knowing which tool is right for the job, even when the job isn’t your regular, run-of-the-mill, job. [John]’s son lost his tooth on their gravel driveway, so [John] set out to find it.

White socks fluoresce under UV

When [John] set out to help his son and find the tooth, he needed a plan of attack – there was a large area to cover and, when [John] looked over the expanse of gravel the terms “needle” and “haystack” came to mind. Just scanning the ground wasn’t going to work, he needed a way to differentiate the tooth from the background. Luckily, he had a UV flashlight handy and, after testing it on his own teeth, realized that his son’s tooth would fluoresce under UV light and the gravel wouldn’t.

Off [John] went at night to find the tooth with his flashlight. He soon realized that many things fluoresce under UV light – bits of plastic, quartz crystal in the rocks, his socks. [John] eventually found the tooth, and his son is happier now. No soldering was involved, no development on breadboards, no high-voltage, but this is one of those hacks that is more about problem solving than throwing microcontrollers at a situation. In the end, though, everyone’s happy, and that’s what counts.


Filed under: lifehacks

Mod Your Camera With ModBus

อาทิตย์, 01/01/2017 - 07:01

Industrial hardware needs to be reliable, tough, and interoperable. For this reason, there are a series of standards used for command & control connections between equipment. One of the more widespread standards is ModBus, an open protocol using a master-slave architecture, usually delivered over RS-485 serial. It’s readily found being used with PLCs, HMIs, VFDs, and all manner of other industrial equipment that comes with a TLA (three letter acronym).

[Absolutelyautomation] decided to leverage ModBus to control garden variety digital cameras, of the type found cluttering up drawers now that smartphones have come so far. This involves getting old-school, by simply soldering wires to the buttons of the camera, and using an Arduino Nano to control the camera while talking to the ModBus network.

This system could prove handy for integrating a camera into an industrial production process to monitor for faults or defective parts. The article demonstrates simple control of the camera with off-the-shelf commercial PLC hardware. Generally, industrial cameras are very expensive, so this hack may be useful where there isn’t the budget for a proper solution. Will it stand up to industrial conditions for 10 years without missing a beat? No, but it could definitely save the day in the short term for a throwaway price. One shortfall is that the camera as installed will only save pictures to its local memory card. There’s a lot to be said for serving the images right to the engineer’s desk over a network.

We’ve seen [Absolutelyautomation]’s work before – check out this implementation of Pong on an industrial controller.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, digital cameras hacks

Move A Robotic Hand With Your Nerve Impulses

อาทิตย์, 01/01/2017 - 04:00

Many of us will have seen robotics or prosthetics operated by the electrical impulses detected from a person’s nerves, or their brain. In one form or another they are a staple of both mass-market technology news coverage and science fiction.

The point the TV journalists and the sci-fi authors fail to address though is this: how does it work? On a simple level they might say that the signal from an individual nerve is picked up just as though it were a wire in a loom, and sent to the prosthetic. But that’s a for-the-children explanation which is rather evidently not possible with a few electrodes on the skin. How do they really do it?

A project from [Bruce Land]’s Cornell University students [Michael Haidar], [Jason Hwang], and [Srikrishnaa Vadivel] seeks to answer that question. They’ve built an interface that allows them to control a robotic hand using signals gathered from electrodes placed on their forearms. And their write-up is a fascinating read, for within that project lie a multitude of challenges, of which the hand itself is only a minor one that they solved with an off-the-shelf kit.

The interface itself had to solve the problem of picking up the extremely weak nerve impulses while simultaneously avoiding interference from mains hum and fluorescent lights. They go into detail about their filter design, and their use of isolated power supplies to reduce this noise as much as possible.

Even with the perfect interface though they still have to train their software to identify different finger movements. Plotting the readings from their two electrodes as axes of a graph, they were able to map graph regions corresponding to individual muscles. Finally, the answer that displaces the for-the-children explanation.

There are several videos linked from their write-up, but the one we’re leaving you with below is a test performed in a low-noise environment. They found their lab had so much noise that they couldn’t reliably demonstrate all fingers moving, and we think it would be unfair to show you anything but their most successful demo. But it’s also worth remembering how hard it was to get there.

We’ve covered a huge number of robotic and prosthetic hands here over the years, but it is a mark of the challenges involved that we’ve covered very few that are controlled in this way. Even those that have are usually brain-controlled rather than nerve-controlled, and are thus considerably more complex. We applaud this team for their achievement, and we hope others will pick up on their work.


Filed under: Medical hacks

Anti-Emulation Tricks on GBA-Ported NES Games

อาทิตย์, 01/01/2017 - 01:01

Emulation is a difficult thing to do, particularly when you’re trying to emulate a complex platform like a game console, with little to no public documentation available. Often, you’ll have to figure things out by brute force and dumb luck, and from time to time everything will come unstuck when a random piece of software throws up an edge case that brings everything screeching to a halt.

The Classic NES series was a handful of Nintendo Entertainment System games ported to the Game Boy Advance in the early 2000s. What makes them unique is a series of deliberately obtuse programming decisions that make them operate very differently from other titles. These tricks utilize advanced knowledge of the way the Game Boy Advance hardware operates and appear to have been used to make the games difficult to copy or emulate.

The games use a variety of techniques to confuse and bamboozle — from “mirrored memory” techniques that exploit addressing anomalies, to putting executable code in video RAM and writing to the audio buffers in unusual manners.

Even more confusingly, these techniques only appear to have been used in the Classic NES series of games, and not other Game Boy Advance titles. It’s not obvious why Nintendo went to special effort to protect these ports over other titles; perhaps the techniques used were for other reasons than just an attempt at copy protection. Speculate amongst yourselves in the comments.

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed emulation of Nintendo systems — check out this effort to reverse engineer the Sony Pocketstation.

[Thanks to [[[Codifies]]] for sending this in!]


Filed under: handhelds hacks, nintendo gameboy hacks

PSA: Don’t Let Kids Eat Lithium Batteries

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 23:31

We get a lot of press releases at Hackaday, but this one was horrific enough that we thought it was worth sharing. Apparently, some kids are accidentally eating lithium coin cell batteries. When this happens with bigger cells, usually greater than 20 millimeters (CR2032, CR2025, and CR2016) really bad things happen. Like burning esophaguses, and even death.

The National Capital Poison Center has done some research on this, and found that 14% of batteries swallowed over the past two years came from flameless candles like the ones above. We know some of our readers also deal with batteries in open trays, which are apparently pretty dangerous for children.

The National Capital Poison Center’s website has an entire page dedicated to battery safety, which is probably worth a read if you deal with batteries and small children on a regular basis. Should an incident occur, there’s even a hotline to call for assistance.

So, please, don’t swallow batteries, or let children put them in their mouths. After the break, a Canadian PSA song about not putting things in your mouth.


Filed under: Medical hacks

8008 Exposed

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 22:01

[Ken Shirriff] is no stranger to Hackaday. His latest blog post is just the kind of thing we expect from him: a tear down of the venerable 8008 CPU. We suspect [Ken’s] earlier post on early CPUs pointed out the lack of a good 8008 die photo. Of course, he wasn’t satisfied to just snap the picture. He also does an analysis of the different constructs on the die.

Ever wonder why the 8008 ALU is laid out in a triangle shape? In all fairness, you probably haven’t, but you might after you look at the photomicrograph of the die. [Ken] explains why.

He also explains a bit about how PMOS works and the history of the design, including why it was in the odd 18-pin package. At the end, he talks about how he decapsulated the part and got the pictures, in case you ever want to try that yourself.

As a personal aside, I used to do this at Motorola and I think [Ken] was wise to stick to the ceramic packages since you can mechanically decapsulate them. With an epoxy part, you can use a Dremel or similar tool to mill out some epoxy (just don’t go too deep), put the chip on a  hot plate (a copper bar helps carry the heat up to the package), and then fill the milled cavity with fuming nitric acid. But you shouldn’t be doing that without a lot of protective equipment including vent hoods, safety showers, and experience storing, handling, and disposing of nasty acids. I have a feeling [Ken] could pull it off, but it isn’t something you just want to try on a whim.

[Ken] has done this kind of thing before. If you are wondering what kind of computer you could build with such a tiny device, we just saw one the other day. Of course you already saw [Ken’s] talk about his process at this year’s SuperCon, right?


Filed under: Microcontrollers

Hacked CCFL Inverter becomes an Arc Lighter

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 19:01

[GreatScott!] needs to light off fireworks with an arc rather than a flame, because “fireworks and plasma” is cooler than fireworks and no plasma. To that end, he attempted to reverse engineer an arc lighter, but an epoxy potted high-voltage assembly thwarted him. Refusing to accept defeat, he modified a CCFL inverter into an arc lighter, and the process is pretty educational.

With his usual impeccable handwriting and schematic drawing skills, [GreatScott!] documents that his CCFL inverter is a resonant Royer oscillator producing a sine wave of about 37 kHz, which is then boosted to about 2400 volts. That’s pretty good, but nowhere near the 15 kilovolts needed for a self-sustaining arc across electrodes placed 5 mm apart. A little math told him that he could achieve this by rewinding the transformer’s primary with only 4 turns. After some testing, the rewound transformer was fitted back into the Royer circuit and with a few modifications the arc was struck.

It’s not a finished project yet, and we’re looking forward to seeing how [GreatScott!] puts this to use. For now, we’re grateful for the lesson is Royer oscillators and rewinding transformers. But if you’d rather hack an off-the-shelf arc lighter, there’s always this arc lighter pyrography pen, or this mini plasma cutter.


Filed under: misc hacks

Tiny Game of Simon on an ATtiny13

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 16:01

How much game can you get out of a chip with only 1 kB of flash memory and (five or) six free GPIOs? Well, you can get it to play the classic memory game, Simon. [Vojtak] is submitting this project for the 1 kB Challenge, but it looks like it’s already been used to teach simple microcontrollering to teenagers as well, so the code is actually straightforward to read, but full of nice features.

Neat tricks include sharing button-press sensing and LED driving on the same pin, which was necessary to make everything work on such a small chip. A simple linear-congruential pseudorandom sequence provides the variation, and it’s seeded by slow-clock/fast-clock timing jitter, so you’re probably not going to see the same sequence twice. (It’s not the best random number generator ever, but it’ll do.) If that weren’t enough, high scores (and the random seed for the game) are saved to EEPROM so that you can brag to your friends or re-live your previous moments of glory.

The board is easily solderable together as well. This is a fantastic beginner project, with details in the code that everyone can learn from. It’s a great game, and a great demonstration of what you can do with a dollar’s worth of parts and 1 kB of code.

 

If you have a cool project in mind, there is still plenty of time to enter the 1 kB Challenge! Deadline is January 5!


Filed under: ATtiny Hacks, contests

Cheap Cat Feeder Enhances Sleep

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 13:01

We’ll admit it: we sometimes overcomplicate things. Look at [Peter Weissbrod’s] automated cat feeder, for example. It isn’t anything more than a bottle, a servo, some odds and ends, and an Arduino. However, it lets him sleep in without his cat waking him for service.

We looked at the code and thought, “This thing will just dispense food all the time! That’s not what you want!” Then we looked closer. [Peter] uses a common household timer to just turn the device on in the morning, let it run for a bit, and then turns it off. You can see a video of the mechanism, below.

Honestly, we have mixed feelings. As we are sure someone’s already quit reading to comment: you don’t really need an Arduino for this. If it were doing the timing, that might make it more justifiable. Or perhaps have it sense daylight to feed in the morning. Still, Arduinos are cheap (we just picked up some tiny Pro’s for about $3) and it is a more flexible arrangement than, say, a 555 driving the servo.

We have seen many cat feeders over the years. Some of them use custom components. Others use whatever you have on hand (including another kitchen timer). However you do it, one thing is clear: When the aliens come and observe life on Earth, they will doubtless conclude that the cats are in charge.


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, home hacks

Smartphone Case For The Retro Gamer

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 10:00

A well-designed phone case will protect your phone from everyday bumps with only as much style flair as you’d like. While protection is usually the only real function of a case, some designs — like [Gabbelago]’s Emucase — add specific utility that you might not have known you needed.

Contrary to most cases, the Emucase fits over your phone’s screen, and the resulting facelift emulates the appearance of a Game Boy for easier — you guessed it — Game Boy emulation play on your smartphone.

Cannibalizing a USB SNES gamepad for its buttons and rubber contact pads, Gabbelago then threaded some wire through the contacts, securing it with copper tape and glue; this provides a measurable level of capacitance to register on the touchscreen. Using heat to bend the sides of the 3D printed case so it can attach to the phone is probably the trickiest part of this cool project. Check out his build instructions for any pointers you need.

Gabbelago notes that you don’t need to 3D print the case, as something as common as a cardboard template will mimic the Emucase. If you want to make one for your own phone, some clever design work to account for any side buttons and ports would allow you to reverse the Emucase to be used as a regular case when you aren’t gaming.

Feel like you need some tactile feedback when texting or browsing? This QWERTY keyboard is another classically functional and excellent case.

[via /r/3Dprinting]


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, phone hacks

33C3: Works for Me

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 07:01

The Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) is the largest German hacker convention by a wide margin, and it’s now in its thirty-third year, hence 33C3. The Congress is a techno-utopian-anarchist-rave with a social conscience and a strong underpinning of straight-up hacking. In short, there’s something for everyone, and that’s partly because a CCC is like a hacker Rorschach test: everyone brings what they want to the CCC, figuratively and literally. Somehow the contributions of 12,000 people all hang together, more or less. The first “C” does stand for chaos, after all.

What brings these disparate types to Hamburg are the intersections in the Venn diagrams. Social activists who may actually be subject to state surveillance are just as interested in secure messaging as the paranoid security geek or the hardcore crypto nerd who’s just in it for the algorithms. Technology, and how we use it to communicate and organize society, is a pretty broad topic. Blinking lights also seem to be in the intersection. But on top of that, we are all geeks. There’s a lot of skill, smarts, and know-how here, and geeks like sharing, teaching, and showing off their crazy creations.

Talks and Sessions The Sessions Schedule (and Commemorative Mate Bottle)

Ignoring the straight-up hacking at a CCC would be a mistake — there’s no shortage of talks where serious technical skills overcome silicon limitations to get their code running on the machine. Reverse engineering, making encryption, breaking encryption, or securing systems. We’ve covered a few talks, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. As we write this, we’re being forced to choose between attending a talk on one of our favorite open-source reverse-engineering tools, a talk on big data and privacy, and a talk about testing pseudo-random number generators. We’re working on writing up the rest of the standouts, but it’s going to take us a while to catch up.

At the same time as the formal talks, there are autonomous sessions and workshops taking place in many smaller rooms throughout the convention center. We’re missing a talk on numerical weather prediction right now. You just can’t catch them all. And while the CCC crew does a great job of getting all the main tracks up and online within minutes of the end of each talk, the sessions and workshops remain invisible unless you’re here.

Assemblies and Games

Yes, the talks and sessions are (less than?) half of the show. The “chaos” is the thing. Other conventions have hackerspace villages or special-interest areas, the CCC has “assemblies”. And it has them in spades. Four big halls are filled with tables, 3D printers, laser cutters, small robots, blinking things, and other random projects. The assemblies are also a big show and tell that makes most Maker Faires jealous.

Hackerspaces from Germany, and also from all over Europe, are here. Other assemblies aren’t based on physical location — there’s a LISP assembly and an FPGA assembly for instance. The assemblies provide a mini-base for the hackerspace groups, most of whom have been here since the day before the Congress officially opened, setting their stuff up.

There is No Game

Running throughout the 33C3 was a game, called “There is No Game”. Keeping in the spirit of the chaos, the game that isn’t a game is really a series of challenges, riddles, and secret meetings with other teams. Terminals are scattered around the Congress, and teams are issued a USB stick that they insert and receive an envelope each day.

Unlike other crypto challenges or badge games, there’s absolutely no way to “win” this game — there is no game, after all. Instead, the teams all need to get together to solve a big puzzle that unlocks secret rooms, light and music shows, and even a couple of parties.

I walked in on a Mad Hatter-themed event, where all the teams had collected items that the hatter needed to go with his tea. I got sucked in, and spent the evening helping a group from the Munich CCC to shoot a balloon using a servo-driven turret guided by OpenCV. Other groups had to decrypt Iridium pager messages, crack codes, and build stuff. There’s a Doctor Who thread running through the whole game that I really don’t yet understand.

The end result of the game, though, is community building. Connecting puzzle pieces, collecting the information that unlocks strange secret events, and just trying to figure it all out is more than any group could possibly do. It provides a great excuse to run around with a group of people, visit other assemblies, and work with them on their challenges.

Angels and Heaven

Of course, it’s not all chaos. There’s a tremendous army of volunteer “angels” who run everything from the phenomenal networking to the GSM and wireless telephone systems, wrangle the press, translate the talks and interview the guests, and basically do all of the hard work that makes everything flow. No other hacker convention that I know of has preview versions of the talks up and streaming within fifteen minutes of the end of the talk, all multiplexed from a few camera angles and subtitled in German, English, and French. Data flowing out of the CCC peaked around 8-10 GB/s. The infrastructure that gets built up just for the event is epic.

This year there were more volunteers to angel than there was actually need, and that’s a lot; 2,564 angels worked the Congress. What do they get out of it? They know that they made the whole thing work, they get fed, and they get early access to next year’s tickets. Those who angel for enough hours get a T-shirt. And all of them get our thanks for keeping the chaos from devolving into utter chaos.

The CCC Community: Works for Me

The motto of this year’s congress is “Works for Me” — meant ironically. The idea is to get you to think: does a system (computer or otherwise) that only works for some people really work? Is “works for me” good enough? Or should we be trying to make what we make work for everyone? It’s at least a good question to bring with you throughout the next year.

What really stands out about the CCC, at least from an American perspective, is the presence of women and children. Let’s face it, US hacker conventions are not family friendly, and some of them can be downright unwelcoming to women. One of the many mottos (chaos, remember?) of the CCC is “All Lifeforms Welcome.” (Although the conference center doesn’t allow people to bring their pets, so it’s probably more like “all humans”.)

Chaos Mentors Take Animal-Head Selfies

Bringing interested outsiders into the community is a very active goal of the CCC organization. I met with [Fiona Krakenbürger] of the “Chaos Mentors”, an assembly that aims to make the introduction to the CCC easier for first-timers and anyone else who’s feeling intimidated by the whole scene. (Intimidation is a totally reasonable reaction — it’s easy to get lost in the building, and there’s just so much everything going on that it presents a real sensory overload.) They take new people in small groups, orient them up, give them a place to call home, and then eventually let them fly free. For people who don’t come here with their own local hackerspace, it’s an invaluable service to create these little micro-communities. It’s telling that around a quarter of the mentors were newbies at last year’s conference.

As I write this, a toddler just wandered past a group of folks sitting on the floor talking about making commits to the Tails GitHub. The human-sized snowglobe, that serves as a haze-filled, laser-lit, all night disco, is currently filled with kindergarteners playing with mylar confetti and brooms. People are here with their significant others. Half of the third floor is dedicated to LEGOs, ball pits, and a race track for the archetypical German ride-on kids toy, the “Bobby Car”. It’s hard to tell if the various games that are scattered around (home-made DDS, video-overlayed ping-pong table) are aimed at children above or below the age of 30.

Hacker Utopia

In the end, the CCC is a four-day long expression of what the German hacker community wants the world to look like: fun, freaky, and brainy, with enough stuff going on to satisfy anyone’s deep interests or short attention span. It’s also great to have the chance to say thanks in person to the people who make or maintain software that you use, buying them a real beer instead of a virtual one. It’s a good thing to take a week off to play, plan, and party. But it’s also a reminder that we can work to remake the rest of the world in little ways during the other 51 weeks of the year.


Filed under: cons, Featured

Sorting Resistors with 3D Printing and a PIC

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 04:01

If you aren’t old enough to remember programming FORTRAN on punched cards, you might be surprised that while a standard card had 80 characters, FORTRAN programs only used 72 characters per card. The reason for this was simple: keypunches could automatically put a sequence number in the last 8 characters. Why do you care? If you drop your box of cards walking across the quad, you can use a machine to sort on those last 8 characters and put the deck back in the right order.

These days, that’s not a real problem. However, we have spilled one of those little parts boxes — you know the ones with the little trays. We aren’t likely to separate out the resistors again. Instead, we’ll just treasure hunt for the value we want when we need one.

[Brian Gross], [Nathan Lambert], and [Alex Parkhurst] are a bit more industrious. For their final project in [Bruce Land’s] class at Cornell, they built a 3D-printed resistor sorting machine. A PIC processor feeds a resistor from a hopper, measures it, and places it in the correct bin, based on its value. Who doesn’t want that? You can see a video demonstration, below.

At first, it appears the device uses a rotary encoder as an input device. However, it isn’t an encoder. It is a 10-turn potentiometer. This is simple to read but causes some unique processing. For navigating the LCD, for example, the PIC looks at the rate of change of the pot value. However, if it sees the pot go to the end of travel, it moves the navigation fully in that direction.

We thought it would be cool to marry this with an OpenCV resistor reader to also identify out of spec or mismarked resistors. There’s actually a few phone apps that can do that with varying degrees of success.

Thanks to [Bruce] for the tip, and for launching so many young engineers.


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, Microcontrollers, tool hacks

Mike Szczys on the State of the Hackaday

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 02:31

Hey, that’s me! I had the honor of giving a talk at the Hackaday SuperConference in November about our editorial direction over the past year and looking towards the next. At any given time we have about 20-25 people writing articles for Hackaday. We depend on their judgment, experience, and skill to keep Hackaday fresh. It would be wonderful if you would join me in thanking all of the writers and editors for a great year by leaving your well-wishes in the comments.

Take a look at the video of the talk, then join me below for a few more thoughts.

In my talk, I walk through some of the articles and trends that I think were important over the past year. But in summary, I think this statement has the most power: Hackaday is Worth Reading.

The level of click-bait, invasive advertising, and advertorials seen throughout the Internet feels like it has really exploded this year. Hackaday remains steadfast in publishing content of both quality and interest. This benchmark warrants you spending your time to read and talk about what you see on these pages. It’s somewhat sad that this needs to be said, but important to recognize that people should be able to trust what they read, and that we see our community as far more important than a collection of clicks.

We publish articles that matter to anyone interested in engineering. It is our goal to look under the hood and discuss how an underlying technology is used. But it doesn’t end with the article. The people who make these discoveries, who built the first prototypes and have proven design in industry, show up in our comments section on a regular basis. This is a cool thing and I’m proud to be part of it.

We are facing a few challenges. One that we encountered over the past year is how to discuss topics of technology without getting bogged down in politics. This is a difficult dance and we’re still learning the steps. Another issue we’ve dealt with this year is how to love something and not be decried as publishing advertisements. Hackaday does not publish paid content — when you read an article here it is not an advertisement. Despite that, we are flush with accusatory comments that say otherwise. We’ve looked at this and have renewed our focus to ensure we are always thinking critically when covering new hardware and in writing reviews. On both of these topics please feel free to email [editor at Hackaday dot com] with your thoughts.

Thank you to all who spend their free time as part of Hackaday. I know many of you read from work, stay up way too late, and even check Hackaday as the first website of the day (I can check all those boxes for myself). You send us tips when discovering awesome hacks, and evangelize Hackaday to the chagrin of your friends and family.

We need your help to become even better. When you read an article that you love, please share it. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of people who haven’t yet discovered Hackaday, and your help in sharing the best of our content on social media and content aggregators will reach those who don’t yet know about us. In addition, send us your tips and convince your companies to tip us off early about new hardware (we respect press embargoes).

Hackaday is a huge family composed of everyone who spends time here to make it great. Thank you for creating a bright spot in my life in 2016. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in the coming year.


Filed under: cons, Hackaday Columns

Reflow Soldering at Another Level

เสาร์, 12/31/2016 - 01:00

We’re used to reflow soldering of our PCBs at the hacker level, for quite a few years people have been reflowing with toaster ovens, skillets, and similar pieces of domestic equipment and equipping them with temperature controllers and timers. We take one or two boards, screen print a layer of solder paste on the pads by using a stencil, and place our surface-mount components with a pair of tweezers before putting them in the oven. It’s a process that requires  care and attention, but it’s fairly straightforward once mastered and we can create small runs of high quality boards.

But what about the same process at a professional level, what do you do when your board isn’t a matchbox-sized panel from OSH Park with less than 50 or so parts but a densely-packed multilayer board  about the size of a small tablet computer and with many hundreds of parts? In theory the same process of screen print and pick and place applies, but in practice to achieve a succesful result a lot more care and planning has to go into the process.

This is being written the morning after a marathon session encompassing all of the working day and half of the night. I was hand-stuffing a row of large high-density boards with components ranging from 0402 passives to large QFPs and everything else in between. I can’t describe the board in question because it is a commercially sensitive prototype for the industrial customer of the friend I was putting in the day’s work for, but it’s worth going through the minutiae of successfully assembling a small batch of prototypes at this level. Apologies then, any pictures will be rather generic.

Would we be insane to use a pick-and-place machine for this job, or are we insane not to have used one? Peripitus [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.Some of you reading this will now be asking “What on earth are you doing making this run of boards by hand, you should be doing it with a pick-and-place machine, or you should be hiring a specialist company!”. The answer to that isn’t really mine to give as the boards weren’t commissioned by me, but in reality it’s a nuanced decision based on a combination of cost, number of boards, and the eventual customer’s deadline for a trade show. Setting up a pick-and-place for a very large job is a performance in itself, and for a very small run of boards there is a hard financial decision to make over whether it is justified.

So there we were, setting out to make a batch of eight prototype PCBs. The story didn’t start on the build day, instead a few weeks ago the Bill Of Materials, or BoM, was exported from the CAD package, and the task of sourcing all the components began.

It stands to reason that the complexity of component sourcing increases with the number of individual component lines in the BoM. If your design consists entirely of generic components that every supplier has by the reel then sourcing is as simple as making the order, but sadly very few real designs are like that. So this step became an involved trawl through an array of suppliers for the elusive parts, sometimes ringing company reps to beg a few free samples.

The Great Gathering of Components

In the days running up to the build, a variety of packages arrived containing the components. There began the second major task, that of collation. It’s necessary to both ensure that everything has arrived and is the right component for the job, and to index and array them in a form such as to make the placement on the boards as easy as possible.

The hanging file box we used, a Really Useful Product.

We started with a storage box of the type designed to hold hanging files. Each hanging file was labeled with a range of numbers corresponding to BoM lines, so 1 – 5, 6 -10, 11 – 15, and so on to the end of the BoM. Every line on the BoM spreadsheet was checked, that the component was present, was it compatible with the package it should be on the board, and was it present in sufficient numbers to populate the boards. Its line number from the spreadsheet was written on the label, and the spreadsheet was updated to show that it was present. The numbered bag of components was then placed in the appropriate hanging file for its line number, and the process was repeated with the next line number and so on until the whole BoM was covered.

At the end of the component collation, we had a box of hanging files containing numbered component lines, and inevitably there were a few lines which either weren’t quite right or hadn’t arrived. Some last-minute overnight ordering was in order, followed by collation steps for those parts.

It might seem like a lot of work to put in before making any boards, but this couple of days getting everything in a row will save you time when it comes to populating the boards, and will in turn result in better quality final prototypes.

On the day of the build, our components were all collated and we were handed a stack of bare PCBs from the board house. We set up adjacent workstations for the two of us, and set to work.

Become a Paste Aficionado

Solder paste on a PCB, probably deposited by machine as it’s much tidier than our stencil work. Ossewa [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.The first task when populating boards is to screen print the solder paste on the pads. We used the jig supplied by the board house for this task, with locating pegs fitted to align both board and stencil, and extra pieces of scrap PCB material taped down to support the stencil beyond the edge of the board.

Screen printing solder paste is in principle quite simple. Align the stencil with the pads, and using a scraper spread a layer of solder paste over all the holes. When you lift the stencil away the board should then be left with a uniform layer of solder paste on each pad, ready to have a component placed on it.

Describing this crucial step in those terms makes screen printing solder paste sound so easy, but of course it isn’t. The paste consistency is very important for a large board in the way it isn’t for a small one. The paste you print on the pads will spread out over time, and eventually your closely spaced tiny pads will be completely obscured by an amorphous blob of paste. If you have a small board you can get away with it, but on a large board it’s important to ensure that the spread is not too quick. You’ll then have a chance to place your components and reflow the board while the printed solder is still well-defined.

Solder paste. Just like peanut butter, except it’s toxic and grey. Lady Ada AKA Limor Fried [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.It’s best to describe the optimum solder paste consistency in terms of smooth peanut butter. Think of the perfect-spreading peanut butter, it’s not the runny stuff at the top of the jar where the oil has started to separate out, neither is it the stuff at the bottom of a jar that’s stood in the fridge for six weeks and goes all clumpy as you spread it on your toast. It’s the easy-spreading middle of a new jar, keeping its consistency and just about right for your knife. And so it is with solder paste, for a large board you need to very carefully ensure that your paste is well-mixed, and not dried out. Too runny and it will quickly spread out, while too thick and it may clump in the stencil and not stick to your pads. It’s something you gain a feel for with a bit of experience.

With the jig, stencil, scraper, and boards ready, and the correct consistency of paste to hand, there is one more step before spreading. Clean everything with IPA solvent; every single PCB, stencil, board, jig, the entire lot. It seems tedious, but it will make the difference between good and poor results. All drying paste residues, dirt, and oils can affect the quality of the job, and you need the best possible result.

After all that effort, the paste scraping itself is very quick. Make sure you have enough paste on your scraper, draw it across the stencil in one go covering all the holes with a firm pressure. Lift the stencil away, and inspect the quality of your paste printing. Don’t be afraid to clean it off and do it again if you aren’t happy with the results, we redid a couple of our board run.

Knowing Your Place

There are 500 0402 resistors on the board, you have to find one of them in the crowd. Where’s Wally record attempt, William Murphy [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.Towards the end of the morning then on our build day we had a row of boards ready screen printed with solder paste. They were lined up in front of my friend at one workstation, while at the other I had the box of parts and the BoM both on the computer and as a print-out. We both had large-scale print-outs of the component layout, and my job was to supply the tape of each component line in turn with the plastic strip ready lifted at the end, while he placed the components using a vacuum pencil and a magnifier. He has better dexterity for those 0402s than I do. The task of spotting component positions was shared, a game of Where’s Wally/Waldo on paper and computer, but without the stripey jumper.

Once you have started stuffing boards you are in a race against the spread of your solder paste, so there is no letting up until the task is complete. In our case the whole process took us all day and well into the evening, working through the BoM omitting any large components that would obstruct access for smaller one, then returning to fit them in a second pass. There followed a checking step during which a few inevitable omissions were rectified, no matter how hard you try there will be a few that you miss. Through all this process all that work collating components came into its own, when asked for any line I could pick it out in very short order, and I could return to it when any omissions were detected.

Bring the Heat

Our reflow oven was a lot smaller than this one. Nelatan [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.The final step was the reflow soldering itself, in this case with a small purpose-built reflow oven. Each run became a ten-minute anxious wait watching the display as the temperature cycled through its ramp, smelling the flux smoke and finally lifting the finished board from the drawer. There is something magical about the process of reflow soldering, watching messy spreading paste going in and bright well-defined solder joints come out. We examined each board as it came out, and it is inevitable that each one will require a small amount of reworking. There will always be a few bridges between adjacent pins or even components slightly off their pads, but this is the nature of prototype assembly.

After a very long day and a lot of preparatory work before that, we had a row of prototype boards. We should be able to commission them all as working devices, and from those my friend will have more than enough to satisfy his customer’s demand. All of the above describes a very long and tedious process but there is no reason why any Hackaday reader should not also be able to do a large board with a bit of practice. If we’ve inspired you to have a go at reflowing your own boards of whatever size then share the results with us on hackaday.io, meanwhile if you have any tips to further streamline the process with larger boards we’re all ears.

If you enjoyed this story of a marathon small-run manufacturing session you will also enjoy [Bob Baddeley’s] series on the topic called Tools of the Trade. You should also take a look at the process used to create the Hackaday SuperConference badge.


Filed under: Featured, Skills

Fully 3D Printed Snow Blower

ศุกร์, 12/30/2016 - 23:31

For anyone living in cooler climates, the annual onslaught of snow means many hours shoveling driveways and sidewalks. After a light snow, shoveling might seem a waste of time, while a snow blower would be overkill. If only there were a happy middle ground that required minimal effort; perhaps an RC snow groomer with a 3D printed snow blower would work.

We featured an earlier version of this project last year. This year’s model features a slipper clutch — combined with a differential from a heavy RC truck — to forestall damage to the attachment if you happen to hit any rocks or ice chunks. The blades are also thicker and lack teeth in this iteration, as they would catch on anything hard and shatter the blade more often than not. Designed by [Spyker Workshop] (aka [The_Great_Moo]) the snow blower attaches to the front of RC snow groomer — which is originally meant to act like a plow. Seeing the snow blower attachment in action, we’re inclined to believe that he may be onto something.

If you don’t have a snow groomer hanging around your shop, there are certainly other methods to clearing a recent snowfall with minimal effort.

[Thanks for the tip, Keith O!]


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, misc hacks

2016: As The Hardware World Turns

ศุกร์, 12/30/2016 - 22:01

Soon, the ball will drop in Times Square, someone will realize you can turn ‘2018’ into a pair of novelty sunglasses, and the forgotten mumbled lyrics of Auld Lang Syne will echo through New Year’s Eve parties. It’s time once again to recount the last 366 days, and what a year it’s been.

Arduino got into an argument with Arduino and Arduino won. We got new Raspberry Pis. Video cards are finally getting to the point where VR is practical. The FCC inadvertently killed security in home routers before fixing the problem. All of this is small potatoes and really doesn’t capture the essence of 2016. It’s been a weird year.

Want proof 2016 was different? This year, Microsoft announced they would provide a Linux ‘shim’ with every version of Windows. By definition, 2016 was the year of the Linux desktop. That’s how weird things have been in 2016.

Man, 2016 Sucked, Didn’t It?

By all accounts, 2016 wasn’t a good year. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Antonin Scalia, Morley Safer, George Martin, Marvin Minsky, Keith Emerson, Doctor Heimlich, George Michael, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, Janet Reno, Elie Weisel, Gene Wilder, Kimbo Slice, Erik Bauersfeld (voiced It’s a Trap), Anton Yelchin, Kenny Baker, Arnold Palmer, Leonard Cohen, Harambe, Fidel Castro, John Glenn, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Alan Thicke all passed away this year. Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford died at the predictably young age of 46. Lemmy lived harder and faster than anyone and beat this terrible year by three days.

In the political sphere, 2016 will go down as the start of something. It’s far too early to tell what the end result will be, but between Brexit, the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the release of the Panama Papers, a failed Turkish coup, and the presidential election in Gambia, 2016 was a year without parallel. Historians and sociologists are beginning to opine on this year, with the first drafts of the history books citing 2016 as the beginning of a populist revolution. Right now, only one thing is clear: Twitter somehow played a part.

I would like to point out we had absolutely no political coverage at all. You’re welcome. The absence of anything political was an editorial prerogative, and by our judgment was the best thing to do. Like our conscious decision not to embed tweets into posts, it’s one of the many editorial decisions we make that goes without thanks or recognition. It would have been so easy and very profitable to pump out a few half-baked opinion pieces on the US presidential election this year. The word ‘trump’ is a verb, and could be easily dropped into a few very clever headlines. This level of restraint deserves, I think, a few pats on the back.

Oh yeah, the Cubs won the World Series, Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature, we’re going to get a great NOFX album real soon, and the trend of over-hopped beer is finally coming to an end. It doesn’t balance the rest of the year, but it’s something, right?

2016 In 3D Printers

2016 was the year 3D printing started to recover from Makerbot, with advances seen in both very low-end printers and the slow but steady rise of dual (and quad) extrusion.

Last year, a good $200 3D printer would have been inconceivable.

At CES last January, Monoprice announced a $200 3D printer. The Monoprice MP Select Mini was really just a rebadge of the Malyan M200, but holy crap this thing is awesome. This printer is cheap at just $200, but it’s more than capable of handling anything you could throw at it. It has a 32-bit controller board, and save for a few upgrades (PEI sheet for the bed, maybe throw a larger stepper in the extruder), this printer would be worthwhile at twice the price.

2016 was the year we started to see usable dual extrusion on desktop 3D printers. Dual extrusion isn’t a new thing — it was available on the plywood Makerbots back in the day. Dual extrusion that worked well is another thing entirely. At this year’s MRRF, E3D released Scaffold, a water-soluble filament that is best described as, ‘the stuff gel-cap pharmaceuticals are made out of’. Unlike HIPS or PVA, Scaffold is easy to print with, non-toxic and can be dissolved in water. Dissolvable filament is one of the best use cases for dual extrusion, and with E3D’s Scaffold, dual extrusion makes sense now.

Of course, dual extrusion traditionally means two extruders and two hotends. If you want quad extrusion, that’s four extruders. This design is ultimately impractical; it’s either too much mass to move around, or there aren’t enough pins on a controller board. Prusa turned these ideas on their head this year with the release of the quad material upgrade for the i3 Mk2. Instead of four different hotends, the Prusa multi-material upgrade only uses one hotend to print in four different colors. The results are spectacular, and it does it using only three extra stepper motors and a simple, cheap breakout board. In 2017, you’re going to see a lot of companies bring a Prusa-style multi-material machine to market.

Last year’s review of the state of 3D printing lamented the lack of a mainstream CoreXY printer. This year brought us the D-Bot by [spauda], the first CoreXY printer to be picked up by the community.

MakerBot sold the Smart Extruder – a part that should not fail – in packs of three.

Makerbot is dead. We knew this last year, but we had to wait for the yearly financials to be released. Makerbot stopped manufacturing their printers in Brooklyn, and now the easy break ovens are manufactured in China. Every other manufacturer of 3D printers is now selling more units than Makerbot. Still, Makerbot released their sixth generation of printers this year, and Makerbot seems to be transitioning to a software company.

I have said time and time again that the public perception of 3D printing is tied directly to Makerbot, and no writings on the state of consumer 3D printing mention this basic fact. The graph of the hype cycle matches shares of SYSS. The general public is a few years behind the enthusiast market, so 2018 or 2019 should see a resurgence of 3D printing in the public’s mind. Will Makerbot be around then? Yes, and they might even be making printers a few years from now.

2016 In Embedded ESP32

[Sprite_tm])’s keychain Game BoyIn 2014, a weird chip showed up on Seeed Studio. It was the ESP8266, and while initially this chip was simply a WiFi chip with a UART, hackers got their hands on this tiny little module and turned it into one of the most interesting electronic building blocks in recent memory. 2016 saw the release of the ESP32, the successor to the ESP8266. The first info for the new ESP32 dribbled out around this time last year, and the specs were amazing. The ESP32 is a dual-core WiFi and Bluetooth powerhouse that’s available for peanuts and shows awesome promise. Right now, the ESP32 is fairly rare, but it is available in quantity one. If you want to, you can build the tiniest Game Boy in the World with it. We welcome 2017 and all the ESP32 hacks it will bring.

The Raspberry Pi Zero Does Not Exist Cattywampus. The chip layout on the Orange Pi is cattywampus.

In November of last year, the Raspberry Pi Zero was released. Idiots on the Internet suggested the Pi Zero didn’t exist operating under the theory that since you can’t buy a Ferrari right now, Ferraris don’t exist either. Disregarding that derailed train of thought, there was a very good reason for the limited production of the Pi Zero. The Pi Foundation was busy manufacturing the Raspberry Pi 3. The Pi 3 was released in February of this year, and is proving to be one of the best single board computers available. It’s fast, has amazing support, and yes, you can just go out and buy one, just like a Raspberry Pi Zero.

In other single board computer news, Orange Pi figured out how to rotate parts on a PCB. Intel did something, but not documentation. The DEF CON badge was an x86 chip, and there’s a really, really small x86 system.

This year, Microchip acquired Atmel for $3.56 Billion. The PIC vs AVR microcontroller holy war is over. What will become of our ATMegas? At the very least, AVRs will still be around. There’s a new version of “the Arduino”, the ATMega328. It’s the ATMega328PB. There are new ATtinys.  There is, however, a lot of speculation over what will happen to Atmel and the chips we love so dearly. Microchip released a statement. This statement said, basically nothing. That’s good news. “Microchip will continue their philosophy of customer-driven obsolescence,” and Microchip is very good at keeping parts in the catalog long after they have been rendered obsolete. Don’t count on the DIP ‘Tiny85 disappearing anytime soon. Microchip did screw up the Atmel social media today, but at least the chips will be alright.

2016 saw the release of the first Big-O Open microcontrollers. Finally, there’s a glimmer of hope that our silicon will be unencumbered by patents and licenses. Open-V is the first Open Microcontroller, and the HiFive 1 brings the RISC-V core to the Arduino form factor. The RISC-V ISA isn’t a big deal now, but take a look around and see how many ARM microcontrollers are around you. All of those chip manufacturers pay a licensing fee to ARM. RISC-V doesn’t have that. Kids, this is one to put on your resume.

2016 In Hardware Computing

Since the dawn of computing, we have all wanted one port. We needed something to attach microphones, hard drives, keyboards, printers, and phones to our computers. It would be nice if this port could supply power. The ability to connect an external device directly to the PCI bus would be neat, and connecting a display through the same cable would be really cool.In 2016, we sort of have it. The USB Type-C port, with Thunderbolt 3, is the closest we’ve ever gotten to this dream.

Apple is the standard bearer of new ports. Just look at the original iMac. In an age filled with serial, parallel, and joystick ports, Apple took their ADB cables and turned them into USB ports. The industry quickly adopted USB, and 20 years later, Apple decided to do it again.

Apple’s new MacBook Pros are rightly called out for being too expensive, but there is one huge advancement here: the only ports on these machines are Thunderbolt 3 with USB-C. Donglepocolapse is now a word, but it’s not going to last long. My cache of Griffin iMates tell me that. Look forward to fewer ports on your machines in the coming years, thanks to Apple and their support of Thunderbolt 3. Just don’t cheap out on the cables.

The Galaxy Note 7 sold like hotcakes in 2016. Wait, I have another one. Samsung was on fire this year with the Galaxy Note 7. This year, Samsung’s flagship phone, the Galaxy Note 7 blew up. The problem was with the battery, and a few devices turned into bombs while charging. Samsung recalled the Note 7, and it’s illegal to take this phone on a commercial airline in the US. With this many lithium-powered devices, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Despite being outlawed by the FAA and kicked off cellular networks, the Note 7 is still selling for about $200 on eBay. I kind of want one.

Microsoft and Apple

If 2016 wasn’t weird enough, Apple and Microsoft swapped places. Now the Evil Empire is based out of Cupertino and innovation is coming out of Redmond. Microsoft started this whole mess in March (two days before April Fools) by saying Cygwin Can Suck It. Ubuntu will run with native Windows libraries. In reality, everything is still Windows, but Microsoft is providing a ‘shim’ that will allow Linux binaries to run.

Apple Sucks Now, Here’s A Thinkpad Buyer’s Guide. For the past few years, Apple hasn’t been paying attention to the Macintosh. Really: go look at the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide and note the release schedule. Desktops are forgotten, the flagship Mac desktop hasn’t been updated in three years, and the recent update of the MacBook Pro was poorly received. In contrast, Microsoft recently released the Surface Studio PC, a neat piece of hardware that’s even better than an iMac and a Wacom Cintiq. Microsoft will soon require manufacturers to use ‘precision touchpads’ in laptops, giving Windows users an experience similar to the excellent Apple touchpads. The world has turned upside down, and soon we may see bog-standard Windows laptops with the same high-quality hardware found in Apple machines.

2016 wasn’t all bad for Apple. Pressured by the FBI to build a new version of iOS with a backdoor, Apple CEO Tim Cook did something amazing. He said no. The eleventh largest company in the world stood up for civil liberties and user privacy. Around here we swing anti-corporate and anti-establishment, but we have to give Tim Cook the respect he deserves for this action. Of course, a backdoor in iOS wouldn’t have done anything, and the FBI eventually cracked the phone in question, but still, Apple deserves a lot of respect. There’s a lot of real courage over there.

Actual Hardware

We’ve had desktop CNC mills forever, and the RepRap project is still a noble pursuit. 2016 brought some very cool new machines to market, allowing weekend warriors access to the same tools the big boys have.

Wazer is a real waterjet machine that fits on your workbench. For a few thousand dollars, you can cut glass into any shape you want. You can cut metal without heating it. You can cut carbon fiber without wearing out a blade.

A waterjet has a lot of requirements — you need high-pressure pumps, nozzles that can withstand abrasion, and a consumable medium. It took several years, but Wazer finally released their machine with a successful Kickstarter.

Although the Shaper isn’t fundamentally different from a ShopBot, this hand-held CNC router is technically the largest CNC router on the planet. Instead of an XY gantry, Shaper uses computer vision and an attentive human operator to keep a bit where it should be. It’s amazing technology that’s been years in the making, but in 2016, this neat piece of kit was finally released.

What does 2017 have in store? It’s a bit too early to tell, but desktop injection molding might be a thing next year. Everything will be bigger, better, and cheaper.

Looking Forward

How does 2017 look like for Hackaday? This year was great for the entire Hackaday family. Editorially, we could have sold out so hard. So hard like you wouldn’t believe. We didn’t. You’re welcome. We’re producing more and better content than we ever have before.

Tindie, our ever-faithful robotic dog, is going gangbusters. Every day, more people are selling their electronic and ‘maker’ paraphernalia on Tindie. Hackaday.io is likewise going crazy. Growth is huge, and we continue to have the best hardware community on the Internet. This year was the third Hackaday Prize The entries were amazing, the work was fantastic, and someone even found a use for ferrofluid that wasn’t just artsy-fartsy stuff. We gave away a lot of prizes, and learned a lot from the hundreds of submissions. The SuperConference was a blast, and we already have a theme for next year: “SuperCon IV – Because ‘Zoso’ was already taken”.

What does 2017 have in store for Hackaday? More. More of everything. The third edition of the Hackaday Omnibus is in the works, and thanks to our fantastic community managers, we’re doing more events than ever before. 2017 is going to be a great year, and it’s all thanks to you, our readers.


Filed under: Featured, Interest, news

Counting Laps and Testing Products with OpenCV

ศุกร์, 12/30/2016 - 19:01

It’s been about a year and a half since the Batteroo, formally known as Batteriser, was announced as a crowdfunding project. The premise is a small sleeve that goes around AA and AAA batteries, boosting the voltage to extract more life out of them. [Dave Jones] at EEVblog was one of many people to question the product, which claimed to boost battery life by 800%.

Batteroo did manage to do something many crowdfunding projects can’t: deliver a product. Now that the sleeves are arriving to backers, people are starting to test them in the wild. In fact, there’s an entire thread of tests happening over on EEVblog.

One test being run is a battery powered train, running around a track until the battery dies completely. [Frank Buss] wanted to run this test, but didn’t want to manually count the laps the train made. He whipped up a script in Python and OpenCV to automate the counting.

The script measures laps by setting two zones on the track. When the train enters the first zone, the counter is armed. When it passes through the second zone, the lap is recorded. Each lap time is kept, ensuring good data for comparing the Batteroo against a normal battery.

The script gives a good example for people wanting to play with computer vision. The source is available on Github. As for the Batteroo, we’ll await further test results before passing judgement, but we’re not holding our breath. After all, the train ran half as long when using a Batteroo.


Filed under: Crowd Funding, software hacks