A while ago, [Steve] over at Big Mess ‘O Wires created a device that would emulate old Macintosh disk drives, storing all the data on an SD card. No, it’s not SCSI; the early Apples had a DB-19 connector for connecting 400 and 800kB disk drives. It’s a great piece of hardware for bootstrapping that old Mac you might have sitting around. Apple ][s, IIs, and //s use an extremely similar connector for their disk drives. A few rumors on some forums led [Steve] to experiment with some ancient bromide-stained boxes, and the results are interesting to say the least.
After pulling out an old //e and IIgs from storage, [Steve] found his Macintosh Floppy Emulator didn’t work with the Apples. This was due to the way Apples could daisy chain their disk drives. There’s an extra enable signal on the connector that either brings Drive 1 or Drive 2 into the circuit. Macs don’t care about this signal, but Apples do. Luckily the 800kB drives for the IIgs have an extra board that handles this daisy chain and drive eject circuitry.
After removing this extra board from a IIgs drive and connecting it to the Floppy Emu, everything worked beautifully. With schematics and a working circuit in hand, it’s now a piece of cake to build an adapter board for using the Macintosh Floppy Emu with Apples, or to build that circuit into a future revision of the Floppy Emulator.
Considering how much trouble [Steve] had bootstrapping these Apples without an SD card to Floppy drive emulator, we’re thinking this is great. The current way of making an Apple II useful is ADTPro, a program that uses audio to communicate with Apples over the cassette port. In case you haven’t noticed, microphone and headphone ports on laptops are inexplicably disappearing, making a hardware device like a SD card floppy emulator the best way to bring disk images to 30-year-old hardware.
Filed under: classic hacks
Holding a video camera while shooting video can lead to finished footage that has some serious shakes. Lucky for us there are some solutions to this problem such as a passive steady cam stabilizer or an active motor-driven gimbal. [Oscar] wanted a smooth-operating brushless motor gimbal but didn’t want to spend the big bucks it costs for a consumer setup so he went out and built his own.
[Oscar] didn’t have a CNC machine or 3D printer to help with his build. He made his gimbal with simple hand tools out of plywood and hardware store bracketry. In his build post, he talks about how it is important to keep the pivoting axes of the gimbal in line with the camera lens and what he did to achieve that goal. The alignment of the axes and the lens ensures that the video is stable while the gimbal adjusts to keep the camera’s angle constant.
[Oscar] purchased the brushless motors and motor controller which included a gyro sensor on a separate PCB board. The gyro is mounted to the camera mount and sends tilt information back to the controller that then moves the brushless motors to keep the camera level. The final project worked out pretty good although [Oscar] admits he still would like to tune the PID settings in the controller a little better. Check out the video after the break where the stabilized camera is compared to one that is not.
Filed under: digital cameras hacks
Despite a wealth of tutorials for setting up and writing code for the ESP8266 WiFi module, there has not been much of anything on programming this cheap wireless module with the Arduino IDE. Finally, this has changed. After many months of coding, the Arduino IDE supports the ESP8266 module.
The Arduino IDE support was announced on the ESP8266 community forum. Setup is fairly simple with downloads for Linux, OS X, and Windows. This isn’t an ESP8266 shield, either: you can write code for the ESP module, connect the serial pins, and hit the program button.
The basic functions of the Arduino IDE – pinMode, digitalRead, digitalWrite, and analogRead – are available. Most of the WiFi functions work just like the WiFi shield library.
There are a few things that aren’t written yet; PWM doesn’t work, as the ESP8266 only has one hardware PWM source. SPI and I2C slave mode aren’t done yet, and uploading sketches via WiFi needs a little bit of thought. That said, this is a great introduction to programming the ESP module. If the Arduino IDE isn’t your thing, you could always do it the cool way with [CNLohr]’s programming tutorial we featured last week.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, wireless hacks
Though the names have changed over the years, the console wars wage on. [moop] must have been feeling nostalgic for the NES vs. SEGA days when he started his current project, Foobot, which is a tabletop football (soccer) game played by robots that are controlled with classic NES and SEGA controllers.
Each team has two robots that tool around on laser-cut perspex wheels attached directly to 16,000RPM motors. An SN754410 controls the motors, and each robot has an ATtiny2313 brain. They all communicate with a single transmitter over their 433MHz 1402 radio receiver modules. To avoid collisions, [moop] used a packet system, wherein each robot has an ID. The messages all contain a robot ID, message payload, and checksum. The robots ignore messages addressed to others, and any message with an invalid checksum.
[moop] has made everything available on his github, including the PCB layouts and CAD files for the robot chassis and transmitter case. Watch them battle it out after the break. If the Foobots have riled you up about vintage gaming, check out these sweet arcade hacks.
[via Dangerous Prototypes]
Filed under: ATtiny Hacks, robots hacks
Arduino SRL (formerly known as Smart Projects SRL) sent out a letter to its distribution partners yesterday. If you’ve been following along with the Arduino vs Arduino story (we’ve previously published two installments), the content isn’t entirely surprising; it’s essentially a tactical move to reassure their distribution channels that Arduino SRL is the “One True Arduino”. That said, there’s still some new tidbits buried inside. You can skip down to read the full text below, but here’s our take.The Business History of Arduino
A quick summary of the legal situation. Arduino LLC was formed in April 2008 by the original five founders to provide a corporate entity behind the Arduino project. Smart Projects SRL, controlled by one of the founders, was tasked with the actual production of the boards. It turns out that Smart Projects had trademarked the Arduino brand in Italy in December 2008, before Arduino LLC got around to filing in April 2009 in the USA. But everyone was friends, right? As long as the licensing fees keep flowing.
Fast-forward to September 2014, when Arduino LLC filed a lawsuit in Italy against Smart Projects claiming that they had infringed LLC’s trademark and that they had recently stopped paying licensing fees on their use of the Arduino name. In October, Smart Projects filed with the USPTO to revoke Arduino LLC’s trademark. In late 2014, Smart Projects changed its company name to Arduino SRL (a “Società a responsabilità limitata” is one form of Italian limited-liability company) and hired a new CEO, [Federico Musto]. Around the same time, Arduino SRL opened up the website arduino.org (different from long-existing arduino.cc) but with nearly identical style. In January 2015, Arduino LLC filed a lawsuit in the US, claiming their right on the Arduino name.The Gist of it
In short, Arduino LLC has been working on developing the Arduino platform, software, and community while Smart Projects / Arduino SRL was the major official producer of the hardware for most boards. Both are claiming to “be” Arduino, and going after each other in court. So it’s not strange that Arduino SRL would like to try to keep its hold on the distribution channels. Which brings us to their letter to distributors.March 27 Letter
A good portion of the letter reads to be a very carefully worded defense of why Arduino SRL is the true Arduino:
“Arduino Srl (aka Smart Projects Srl), as you know has been from the beginning of the Arduino® project, the place where the ideas were turned into reality and into a business.”
This is of course strictly true — Smart Projects was certainly the largest manufacturer of Arduino boards. But it sidesteps the issue at hand in the trademark suits: whether they were simply a licensed producer of the boards or whether they’re “Arduino”.
Similarly, in the questions section of the letter, they ask if there are actually two “Arduino” product manufacturers, and answer “not really”. Of course, that’s true. Arduino LLC doesn’t manufacture boards, but exists to license their trademark out to fund development.
The only real news in the letter is that Arduino SRL is replacing its old distribution and logistics company, Magyc Now, with a new one named CC Logistics. Both Magyc and CC Logistics are named as defendants in the US lawsuit filed by Arduino LLC, so it’s unlikely that this change is due to legal fallout.What this Means
In conclusion, Arduino SRL’s letter to its distributors seems to essentially follow the line of reasoning in their trademark lawsuit in the US against Arduino LLC: since Arduino SRL is doing the manufacturing and using the Arduino name, they’re the true Arduino. Whether or not this will stand up in court, or whether Arduino LLC can make its case that SRL was simply a licensed manufacturer, remains to be seen.
We’ve embedded the contents of the letter after the break. You can also download the original PDF.
Ivrea (TO) , March 27, 2015
At this time we feel it necessary to update our partners on the state of Arduino® products and the distribution business which you are a key part of.
Arduino Srl (aka Smart Projects Srl), as you know has been from the beginning of the Arduino® project, the place where the ideas were turned into reality and into a business. The first Arduino® models were made and initially distributed to schools of interactive design all over the world.
Arduino® products were then offered to the first DIY enthusiasts, contributing concretely, as one of the first open source electronic boards, to found and promote the Makers Movement: your strong efforts and contribution have made this great new movement a success and has grown in many new exciting areas like IoT and m2m. A realization that will change the world of electronics and communications in the physical world.
The family of Arduino® boards has helped professional and non-professional developers to prototype electrical projects and learn in a way that is accessible and possible for everyone.
Currently, Arduino Srl continues to be the only designer and manufacturer of original Arduino® products.
Open Source is the environment we want for millions of designers, engineers, makers and Arduino® lovers around the world. We hope to continue to help children and newbies learn about electrical engineering and computer programming, in order to develop and grow their ideas for today and tomorrow.
This fantastic story and these ideals will continue on the new website Arduino.org, which has been developed to ensure we stay true to the vision of the beginning of Arduino® and Arduino Srl and our distribution of these cool products.
Beginning in 2015 new changes have been put into place to ensure that our companies can continue to grow with the popularity of the Arduino® product line. The production of these high quality products continue to be done in Europe and specifically Italy which has been very successful.
Our distribution and logistics are going through a change for a couple of reasons, to help with faster deliveries and lower transport costs, we have a new company structure cc logistics that have offices and warehouses in three continents, EMEA Cham Switzerland, North American Boston Massachusetts and APAC Honk Kong and Taipei.
Additionally lots of work are being completed to get inventories in line with demand. New personnel are being added to in many areas for response to your buying needs but also in the sales and support areas to ensure we are creating demand for Arduino products and for our distribution channel. These new sales people from time to time will be in contact to forge closer working relationships.
To help inform our partners of some questions recently raised in the press and other areas:
Q: Are there two “Arduino® ” branded products manufacturers?
A: Not really, the only company that ever designed and manufactured the “Arduino® ” branded product is Arduino Srl (formerly Smart Projects Srl). Others, for a number of reasons, have created in USA and Switzerland “Arduino” named companies. Some have been involved in completing contracts for web site development and PR (namely Arduino SA – Switzerland take cares of the web site arduino.cc has been one of those). Clearly this has been the place to go for open source info in the past, but we will make arduino.org your new comprehensive location for this info and other valuable resources and services.
Q: I have heard in the press that there is a disagreement going on amongst initial founders of the open source project which inspired the Arduino® business.
A: Yes, there is a disagreement between the initial founders of the open source project (which have never been shareholders of Arduino Srl) and the actual management of Arduino Srl. We are confident that these issues will come to a conclusion shortly. Frankly some of these issues are complex because related to the validity of the registration of the trademark “Arduino® ” in some areas of the world and cannot be summarized in few words. In this respect just bear in mind that Arduino Srl (aka Smart Projects Srl) has been the sole manufacturer of the original “Arduino® ” branded products, selling and distributing them world wide for 10 years.
Q: Will cc logistics replace Magyc as distribution points ?
A: That is the big plan but exceptions may happen due to the nature of doing a worldwide distribution. cc logistics will help our makers to produce and distribute their projects in a world wide arena.
Q: Will Arduino make new products and new software?
A: Yes, new software and new products are the life blood of Arduino® . Recently new products, Arduino® Zero Pro, Arduino® , 9 Axes shield partnership with Bosch and many more are coming.
Q: Will Arduino forge technology partnership?
A: Arduino is in the forefront of new exciting fields like IoT and m2m which is an exciting direction of the type of prototyping done with present day Arduino® products. We are in constant contact with major companies exploring these exciting fields. The Arduino YUN with its wifi capabilities and open source processing has ignited lots of new opportunities.
Q: Arduino EMEA, APAC and NA Distributors Sales Meeting
A: We are planning and will notify you of the details of the first global annual meeting
Q: Is there a New Management structure in Arduino ?
A: As it happens in every company that grows as fast as the Arduino environment, additional expertises and capabilities are needed to help steer the company in the correct direction. Federico Musto is the new CEO of Arduino group and he has a strong background in the open source business.
You are Arduino and we are honored and privileged to work with you – Arduino isn’t the company, nor the board, nor the software nor the founders – the Arduino is YOU – You made Arduino® what it is today and you’ll continue to make it what it will be in the future.
Thank you in advance for your help and support
legal adress: Via Romano, 12 – 10010 Scarmagno (TO) Italy
shipping address: Via Kennedy, 36 – 10019 Strambino (TO) Italy
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Featured, news, slider
It’s mind boggling how much e-waste we throw out. Perfectly good components, mass produced for pennies. And at the end of their life, going straight to a landfill or some poor country to be melted down. Don’t you wish you could help?
Stepper motors are a dime a dozen when it comes to e-waste, and there’s tons of cool projects you can do with a stepper motor — [Madivak] is just starting on a robot arm design over at Hackaday.io that makes use of recycled components.
It’s fairly early in development, but that means it’s a great time to start following it on the project site. The robotic arm is being designed for his final year project in his undergrad degree. Besides the steppers, he’s using his school’s Utilimaker 3D printer to manufacture all of the other mechanical components with control coming from DRV8825 stepper drivers and the Freescale Freedom KL25Z dev kit. Check out the clips after the break to see current state of the build.
There’s tons of free robot arm designs out there, so the question is — why haven’t you built one yet?
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks
You can buy a dongle with a weird industrial connector that fits under the dash of any car on the road for $15. This is just a simple ODB-II transceiver meant for reading error codes and turning a Crown Vic into a police interceptor. There’s a lot more to the CAN Bus than OBD-II; robots and industrial control units, for instance, and Hackaday alum [Eric] has developed an open source tool for all things CAN.
[Eric] built this tool because of a lac of open-source tools that can talk CAN. There are plenty of boards floating around that can reset codes in a car using OBD-II, but an open hardware CAN device doesn’t really exist.
The CANtact is a small board outfitted with a USB port on one end, a DE-9 port on the other, and enough electronics to talk to any CAN device. The hardware on the CANtact is an STM32F0 – an ARM Cortex M0 that comes with USB and CAN interfaces. This chip connects to a Microchip CAN transceiver, and that’s pretty much all you need to talk to cars and industrial automation equipment. If doing something legal, moral, or safe with the CAN bus in your car isn’t your thing, Wired reports you can digitally cut someone’s brake lines.
On the software side of things, the CANtact can interface with Wireshark and the CANard Python library. All the files, from hardware to software, are available on the Github. Oh, CANtact was at Black Hat Asia, which means [Eric] was at Black Hat Asia. We should have sent stickers with him.
Filed under: car hacks
If not for [Nikola Tesla], we’d be pretty behind when it comes to electricity. So to pay homage to one of the greatest inventors, [David Choi] decided to make his very own wireless Tesla Desk Lamp!
As expected, [David’s] a big fan of [Nikola], and has always been inspired by his life and experiments — in particular he loves wireless power. Ever since he saw a Tesla Coil light up a bulb from a distance he was smitten. He even named his cat Tesla.
The funny thing is, [David] actually failed physics in high school, but a few years later decided to pursue it as a career while attending Wesleyan University. It didn’t stop when he graduated, he also studied electronic design in his spare time — which is where he learned about resonance.
Wanting to apply what he had learned he has created a very unique wireless desk lamp. Don’t let the pictures fool you; it’s actually 3D printed! It uses one of those retro “vintage” light bulbs, which has it’s power transmitted to it wirelessly by a 6.5MHz signal. It was relatively easy to get the wireless part right, because once he had calculated the number of coils he needed, all he had to do was 3D model the track for the copper to go in.
Best part? He’s shared the files so you can make one yourself. We’re pretty tempted.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks
It’s been a few years since the RTL-SDR TV Tuner dongle blew up the world of amateur radio; it’s a simple device that listens in on digital television frequencies, but it’s one of those tools that’s just capable enough to have a lot of fun. Now, we have a transmitting dongle. It’s only being used to transmit live HDTV from a Pi, but that in itself is very interesting and opens up a lot of possible builds.
The key piece of hardware for this build is a UT-100C DVB-T modulator. It’s a $169 USB dongle capable of transmitting between 1200-1350 MHz, and with a special edition of OpenCaster it’s possible to transmit over-the-air TV. There’s no amplifier, so you won’t be sending TV very far, but it does work.
On the Raspberry Pi side of the build, the standard camera captures H.264 video with raspivid, which is converted to a DVB compliant stream using ffmpeg. These are well-worn bits of software in the Raspberry Pi world, and OpenCaster takes care of the rest.
While this seems like the perfect solution to completely overbuilt quadcopters, keep in mind transmitting on the 23cm band does require a license. Transmitting in the UHF TV bands is a bad idea.
Filed under: radio hacks, Raspberry Pi
The Nintendo 64 is certainly a classic video game system, with amazing titles like Mario Kart 64 and Super Smash Bros that are still being played across the world today. But, like finding new parts for a classic car, finding an original controller that doesn’t have a sad, wobbly, worn-out joystick is getting to be quite the task. A common solution to this problem is to replace the joystick with one from a Gamecube controller, but the kits to do this are about $20USD, and if that’s too expensive then [Frenetic Rapport] has instructions for doing this hack for about $2.
The first iteration of using a Gamecube stick on an N64 controller was a little haphazard. The sensitivity was off and the timing wasn’t exactly right (very important for Smash Bros.) but the first kit solved these problems. This was the $20 kit that basically had a newer PCB/microcontroller that handled the Gamecube hardware better. The improvement which drove the costs down to $2 involves modifying the original PCB directly rather than replacing it.
While this solution does decrease the cost, it sacrifices the new potentiometer and some of the easier-to-work-with jumpers, but what was also driving this project (in addition to cost) was the fact that the new PCBs were becoming harder to get. It essentially became more feasible to simply modify the existing hardware than to try to source one of the new parts.
Either way you want to go, it’s now very easy to pwn your friends in Smash with a superior controller, rather than using a borked N64 controller you’ve had for 15 years. It’s also great to see hacks like this that come together through necessity and really get into the meat of the hardware. Perhaps we’ll see this controller ported to work with other versions of Super Smash Bros, too!
Filed under: nintendo hacks
[robin] has a Red Camera (lucky!), an absurdly expensive digital video camera. As you would expect the batteries are also absurdly expensive. What’s the solution? Battery packs from cordless drills.
Cordless drills are interesting pieces of tech that can be easily repurposed; there are huge battery packs in them, big, beefy motors, and enough hardware to build an Automatic Cat Feeder or a motorized bicycle.
What if those old Makita batteries don’t charge? That usually means only one or two cells are dead, not the whole pack. Free LiIon cells, but you need to charge them. Here’s a single cell charger/boost converter that will do the trick.
A problem faced by amateur radio operators around the world is the lack of commercial power. Plugging a portable shack into a wall will work, but for uninterrupted power car batteries are everywhere. How do you combine wall power and car batteries for the best of both worlds? With an In-line battery backup module.
All of the projects above rely on charging a battery through wall power, and sometimes even that is impossible. Solar is where we’re headed, with solar LiPo chargers, and solar LiFe chargers. That’s more than enough to keep a smartphone charged, but if you want to go completely off the grid, you’re going to need something bigger.
[Michel] has been off the power grid 80% of the time since he installed his home PV system a few years ago. How’s he doing it? A literal ton of batteries, huge chargers, and a 5kW inverter.
Filed under: Hackaday Columns
The Midwest RepRap Festival is over – forever. This was the last one. Apparently enough people complained that Goshen, Indiana wasn’t in the midwest. The number of Dairy Queens I passed contradicts this, but whatever. Next year, there’s going to be a different con in Goshen. Same content, different name. If you have a suggestion, you know where to put it.
I promised the world’s largest 3D printed trash can, and I gave you the world’s largest 3D printed trash can. This gigantic orange vase was printed on the PartDaddy, SeeMeCNC’s 18-foot tall delta printer a few months ago at the NYC Maker Faire. I have been using this as a trash can in my basement since then, making me one of the only people who have their trash can on Wikipedia.A failed print on Saturday morning
Speaking of the PartDaddy, this is what a fail looks like. The first PartDaddy print was a Groot, a 13-hour long print job. It was left running overnight, but it ran out of PLA pellets sometime around 4 in the morning. If you’re wondering what the black band is around the Groot’s face is, here’s the breakdown:
The PartDaddy sucks PLA pellets up from a trash can (that’s not 3D printed), and dispenses it into a hopper above the print head. This hopper was 3D printed on the PartDaddy, and there is still a little bit of colarant dust in there. When the PLA pellets run out, that dust is embedded in the extrusion. When you realize that masterbatch is only about 5% of the finished plastic, it doesn’t take much black dust to discolor a print.
Yes, this is a print fail that could have been fixed by having an all-night bash. A few other people left their printers running overnight including [The Great Fredini] and his Scan-A-Rama. This was a Rostock Max that had something wonky happen with the Bowden. There was filament everywhere.
How about some Star Wars droids? An R2 from the Droid Builder’s Club was there, but there was also the beginnings of a completely 3D printed Roger. While we’re on the subject of plastic robots that will fall apart at a moment’s notice, there was a K’NEX 3D printer. Yes, it’s made almost entirely out of K’NEX, and it did work at one time. Those orange parts sitting next to it? Those came out of the K’NEX printer. If you’re looking for the definitive RepStrap, there ‘ya go.
For the last few months, metal filaments – PLA with tiny particles of copper, brass, bronze, iron, or aluminum have been available. MRRF was the first place where you could see them all together. A few things of note: these filaments are heavy – the printed objects actually feel like they’re made out of metal. They’re actually metal, too: the iron-based filaments had a tiny bit of red corrosion, and the Lincoln death mask above was treated with acetic acid. These filaments are also expensive, around $100 for 1kg. Still, if you want to print something that will be around in 100 years, this is what you should get.The most beautiful printer ever
MRRF should have had a contest for the best looking 3D printer at the show. A beautiful delta from Detroit Rock City would have won:
That white hexagon in the center is a ceramic PCB that I’m told cost an ungodly amount of money. Underneath the ceramic build plate, there’s a few Peltiers between the bed and the large copper heat sink. The heat sink is connected to the three risers by heat pipes, making the entire printer one gigantic heat sink. Why would anyone make such an amazing art deco printer? For this.
Because you can use Peltiers to heat and cool a bed, a little bit of GCode at the end of a print will cool the bed to below room temperature. If you do your design right, this means the print will just fall over when it’s done. When the print bed is cooling, you can actually hear the bond between the bed and print cracking. It’s beautiful, it’s cool, and I’m told this printer will make its way to hackaday.io soon.
There you go, the best and coolest from the last Midwest RepRap Festival ever. There will never be another one. It only needs a better name, and [John] at SeeMeCNC is great at coming up with names. Just ask what VIP is a backronym of.
I told you there would be a T-shirt cannon. That’s 300 PSI shop air.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks
We’ve been on the lookout for alternatives to chemically etching circuit boards for years. The problem has been that we don’t particularly want to devote months of or lives learning how to build precision CNC mills. Off in the distance there may be an answer for that quandary if you don’t mind parting with twenty-two Benjamins. Sure, it’s a heck of a lot more expensive than toner transfer and cupric chloride, but the Othermill can be purchased right now (in your hands a few months later) and after reading this in-depth review we are a bit less hesitant about opening our wallets for it.
It’s a tome of a review, but that means there’s something for everybody. We especially enjoyed seeing the 10 mil board shown here which took about 1-hour to mill. Considering it has also been through-hole drilled we’d put that on part with the time it takes to etch a board. There are obvious places where the traces are not perfectly smooth (not sure if that’s burring or over-milling) but they are not broken and the board’s ready to be populated.
Alignment is something of an issue, but the Othermill isn’t limited to PCBs so we’d recommend designing and milling your own alignment bracket system as an early project.
Who isn’t envious of custom-builds that can get down to 10-mils, like this beauty from 2013. Our hopes had been sparked when Carbide 3D came onto the scene. We’re still optimistic that they will make a big splash when they start shipping preorders in a few months.
As this review proves, Othermill is already out in the wild with a 6-8 week wait before shipping. We saw it in action milling multiple materials at the Hackaday Omnibus Lauch Party and were duly impressed. Price or waiting-period aside we’re going to hold off until the software options expand beyond Mac-only; either Othermill will add support or someone will come up with a hack to use traditional CNC software. But if you count yourself as a subscriber to the cult of Apple the software, called Otherplan, does get a favorable prognosis along with the hardware.
Already have an Othermill sitting on your bench? Let us know your what you think about it in the comments below.
Bonus content: [Mike Estee], CTO of Othermill just gave a talk last night about how he got into making mills and the challenges of building something with super-high-precision. Sound isn’t good but the talk is solid. Hackaday’s [Joshua Vasquez] also gives a talk on the video about building an SPI core for FPGA. These talks are one of the Hardware Developer’s Didactic Galactic series which you really should check out if you’re ever in the San Francisco area.
Filed under: cnc hacks, reviews, tool hacks
The Raspberry Pi is a great machine to learn the ins and outs of blinking pins, but for doing anything that requires blinking pins fast, you’re better off going with a BeagleBone. This has been the conventional wisdom for years now, and now that the updated Raspberry Pi 2 is out, there’s the expectation that you’ll be able to blink a pin faster. The data are here, and yes, you can.
The method of testing was connecting a PicoScope 5444B to a pin on the GPIO pin and toggling between zero and one as fast as possible. The original test wasn’t very encouraging; Python maxed out at around 70 kHz, Ruby was terrible, and only C with the native library was useful for interesting stuff – 22MHz.
Using the same experimental setup, the Raspberry Pi 2 is about 2 to three times faster. The fastest is still the C native library, topping out at just under 42 MHz. Other languages and libraries are much slower, but the RPi.GPIO Python library stukk sees a 2.5x increase.
Filed under: Raspberry Pi
Few things have managed to capture the imagination of hackers and engineers around the world the way Synthetic Biology did over the last couple of years. The promise of “applying engineering principles to designing new biological devices and systems” just seemed way too sci-fi to missed out on, and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. All of a sudden, the field which used to be restricted to traditional research organizations and startups found itself crowded with all sorts of enthusiasts, biohackers, and weirdos alike. Competitions such as the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) paved the way, and the emergence of community spaces like GenSpace and BioCurious finally made DNA experimentation accessible to anyone who dares to try. As it often happens, the Sci-Fi itself did not go untouched, and a whole new genre called “Biopunk” emerged, further fueling people’s imagination and extrapolating worlds to come.
That’s where the MIT Media Lab’s Mediated Matter group comes in – somewhere in between the real world of DNA experimentation in research labs and “design fiction,” exploring concepts and ideas at the very edge of what’s possible. Led by [Prof. Neri Oxman], this amazing group deals with research “at the intersection of computational design, digital fabrication, materials science and synthetic biology”. In the true Media Lab spirit, the group goes beyond pure research and engages in designing and fabricating incredible structures at both micro and architectural scale, demonstrating potential uses of new materials and design concepts. Probably the most famous piece showcasing the sheer awesomeness happening in the Mediated Matter group is the Silk Pavilion — a large-scale structure created with the combination of “digital” and “biological” fabrication. For this piece, primary structure was created with CNC-deposited silk fiber, whereas the rest was completed by deploying 6,500 live silkworms.
At this year’s SXSW Interactive, we had an opportunity to talk with [Sunanda Sharma], a graduate student in the Mediated Matter group. One of the projects [Sunanda] is working on is digital fabrication using the hydrogel called chitosan, made by deacetylating crushed shrimp shells. The team that [Sunanda] is a part of has developed a custom 3D Printing technique based on extruding chitosan at different concentrations and viscosities, allowing them to fabricate large architectural structures solely based on this amazing new bioplastic. While the kind of “living” pavilions that the group fabricates primarily reside in the domain of “what could happen in the future,” they also serve a great purpose of initiating the conversation about the many potential real-world applications of biomaterials like this. Not the least of which is replacing plastic with something completely biodegradable.
For more info, check out the interview that Hackaday’s “mythical creature” [Sophi Kravitz] did with [Sunanda] at this year’s SXSW:
Filed under: cons, Featured, Interviews
I2C has a seven-bit address space, and you’re thinking “when do I ever need more than 127 devices on a pair of wires?” So you order up some parts only to find that they have one, two, or three user-configurable address pins for any given device type. And you need a bunch more than four or eight capacitive sensor buttons on your project. What do you do?
If you’re reader [Marv G], you think outside the box and realize that you can change the addresses on the fly by toggling address pins high and low with your microcontroller. That is, you can use a single I2C address pin for each device as a chip select signal just like you would have with SPI.
That’s it, really. [Marv G] goes through all of the other possible options in his writeup, and they’re all unsavory: multiple I2C busses, a multiplexer, buying different sensors, or changing micros. None of these are as straightforward as just running some more wires and toggling these with your micro.
We’d even go so far as to suggest that you could fan these chip select lines out with a shift register or one of those 1-of-N decoder chips, depending on how many I2C devices you need to chip-selectify. (We’re thinking 74HC595 or 74HC154.)
Along the way, we found this nice list of the number of address pins for a bunch of common peripherals provided by [LadyAda], in case you don’t believe us about how ubiquitous this problem is. How many devices on that list have one (1!!) address pin?
At the end of his post, [Marv G] asks if anyone else has thought of this chip select trick before. We hadn’t. Here’s your chance to play the smart-ass in the comments.
Filed under: hardware, Microcontrollers, misc hacks, peripherals hacks
We love seeing how things work. Exploded views are like mechanical eye-candy to most engineers, so when [Chris’] Kindle Touch died, he decided to give it new life… on his wall.
Inspired by others, he decided to mount all the components of his Kindle onto a piece of plastic that he could hang up on his wall. As an electronics design engineer, he’s always looking for new ideas and ways to design and build circuits — what better way to inspire creativity than to see a real product blown apart? Does anyone remember reading [Stephen Biesty’s] Incredible Cross Sections or Incredible Explosions as a child?
The construction is quite simple, relying on mounting holes where possible to screw parts directly to the board, or by using heavy duty double-sided tape. After finishing the Kindle, [Chris] found an old iPod of his and decided to give it the same ritual.
For some more in-depth exploded physical models, take a look Bolt.io’s office art we covered last year!
Filed under: misc hacks
We’ve featured quite a few aquarium and fish feeder hacks on our blog. [RoboPandaPDX] thought of taking it up a notch and make an interactive fish feeder. He built a Fish feeder that train’s them to feed themselves.
A copper bar hangs from the middle of a metal cylinder – much like a bell. The end of the bar has a fish lure. When a fish pushes the lure, the copper bar touches the metal cylinder and closes the circuit. This signal goes to an Arduino. To catch the attention of the fishes and to “teach” them, an RGB LED is used. The fish need to figure out that the feeder will dispense food only when the LED is ON and the Lure is pushed. If the fish figure that out, and push the lure when the LED is on, a servo is activated which pushes the feeder to deliver 1 unit of fish food. While at it, he added a couple of bells and whistles. A buzzer to indicate when the Lure switch is closed and a 2 line LCD shows how many times the switch has been activated and how long the program has been running.
A Sparkfun open logger stores the hit count and the minutes and seconds of the hit for data analysis later on. The good news is that it seems to be working. The current code activates the feeder for 30 to 60 minutes every day, which is indicated by the LED. At the end of 9 days, [RoboPandaPDX] found that the goldfish would hit the Lure when the LED turned on, and then turn around to face where the feeder would dispense food in to the tank. His next plan is to put up some obstacles along the path to see if the fish learn some new tricks. His schematic looks a little iffy (the Lure switch is connected to the RST pin of the Arduino), and it seems he cannot remember why he ever did that. He’s happy that it works though, but we’re sure that’s not the right way to wire it up.
[RoboPandaPDX] is looking for suggestions on improving his interactive feeder, so if you have any, do add them in the comments below.
Filed under: home hacks
It used to be that desktop computers reigned king in the world of powerful computing, and to some extent, they still do. But laptops are pretty powerful these days, and in our experience, a lot of engineering companies have actually swapped over to them for resource hungry 3D CAD applications — But what if you still need a bit more power?
Well, [Kamueone] wasn’t satisfied with the performance of his Razer Blade GTX870m laptop, so he decided to hack it and give it its own external graphics card.
Now unfortunately this really isn’t quite a simple as running some PCIE extender cables — nope. You’ll have to modify the BIOS first, which according to [Kamueone], isn’t that bad. But after that’s done you’ll also need a way to mount your graphics card outside of the laptop. He’s using an EXP GDC Beast V6 which uses a mini PCIE cable that can be connected directly to the laptop motherboard. You’re also going to need an external power supply.
[Kamueone] ran some benchmarks and upgrading from the stock onboard GTX870m to an external GTX 780ti resulted in over three times the frame rate capability — 40fps stock, 130fps upgraded!
Filed under: computer hacks, laptops hacks, video hacks
In case you missed it, SparkFun recently held the Actobotics Stair Climber Challenge competition, where you could build a robot capable of ascending stairs and win some sweet SparkFun cash!
The contest is over now and the winners have just been announced — and some of the bots the contestants came up with are just plain awesome!
First prize went to the [Jaeger Family] who built a wheeled robot that can roll right up stairs without even batting an eyelash — it’s pretty cool to see. Check that out and more below.
We really like the second place winner though — it’s terribly slow, but a very ingenious design. We think you’ll agree.
[Chad Giddings] robot didn’t quite make it up the stairs, but nonetheless is a pretty cool robotics platform he’s been developing. Tank tread drive with an on board tool-gripper, video camera, and a set of wheels behind it to (theoretically) let it climb stairs while balancing itself.
Finally we have [Robert Paradiso’s] design which only got an honorable mention by SparkFun, but we think his robot is probably the cutest… well, uh, maybe clumsiest of the bunch.
Filed under: robots hacks