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Turning a Cadenza into a Finishing Move

ศุกร์, 02/20/2015 - 10:00

What do you get when you mix dueling pianos with a 2D fighting game? Undoubtably some complex controls, but also an awesome platform for showmanship! The “Sound Fighter” installation by artists [Cyril] and [Eric] was built with the exact intention that two opposing parties could duke it out in a Street Fighter match with their piano playing abilities mapping into attack combos and dragon-punches.

In order to turn a piano into a glorified arcade stick, [Cyril] and [Eric] would need a way to register when and what notes were being played and then translate that data into commands for the fighting game itself. To start, they did their homework on the inner workings of different piano types. Whatever digital augmentation they were to design would have to work without inhibiting the piano’s function.

There were many possible methods of registering when the piano was being used and though several would have worked for their intended purpose, it took writing down and discussing the pros and cons of each sensor before they made a decision. Some of the options they considered included pressure sensors for the keys themselves, accelerometers to detect the movement of the individual hammers within the piano, and even a microphone to computationally analyze the sound heard from either instrument. In the end they chose to implement small and accurate piezo knock sensors tethered to the internal mechanism of each key. These could register both faint and strong notes when played without altering the natural sound of the instrument.

After deciding on a Street Fighter iteration for the PS2 to develop the rest of the project around, they had to play the actual game a bit to get a feel for the command list of moves. They wanted to conceive of a way to map the notes played to the controller, but not in the direct “key to button” sort of way. The idea was that if someone was good at playing piano, they would also be good at executing moves in game. So they had to sort out how groups of notes and chords would translate into moving the character or attacking.

I highly suggest checking out their in depth play-by-play as they built the installation from the ground up. In addition to being fascinating (they prepared this project in a fight against time for the reopening of a historical site in Paris), you’ll find that everything they developed is opened source. The completed installation is as awesome as it sounds. You can see [Eric] and [Cyril] preforming in a duel below:

Filed under: musical hacks

A Wearable Space Station Notifier

ศุกร์, 02/20/2015 - 07:00

If you don’t live in northern Europe, Alaska, or the extreme southern part of South America, there’s a 400-ton, $150 Billion space station flying over your head several times a day. It’s the International Space Station, and it’s the most complex and expensive construction project of all time. Look up at the right time, and you can see a point of light rising in the sky, brighter than any star, darting across to the opposite horizon.

ISS-Above is a simple tool that will tell you when you’ll be able to see the ISS passing overhead next, and the creator of the project, [Liam Kennedy] has a new crowdfunding project to turn this space station notifier into a wearable. It’s called the Pulsar, and with the help of an RFduino and a real time clock, it will alert you to an upcoming station pass with a bit of wearable electronics.

Viewing the ISS at the most recent Hackaday Pasadena Meetup.

The ISS-Above is a great device to keep tabs on the six astronauts currently orbiting our globe, but if you want to see the space station rise over the horizon… well, lugging a Raspi and an HDMI monitor outside isn’t the best solution. The Pulsar is a tiny wearable board with a ring of LEDs programmed with 50 future passes of the space station. When the station is overhead, the LEDs light up, and a bright object appears over the western horizon.

[Liam] brought his Pulsar to the most recent Hackaday Pasadena meetup, and as his wearable LEDs lit up, the ISS appeared right on cue. The evening was only tainted by a crazy lady who decided to argue the existence of the International Space Station.

Video below.

Filed under: Crowd Funding

Lenovo Shipped PC’s with Spyware that Breaks HTTPS

ศุกร์, 02/20/2015 - 04:00

If you’ve ever purchased a new computer then you are probably familiar with the barrage of bloatware that comes pre-installed. Usually there are system tools, antivirus software trials, and a whole bunch of other things that most of us never wanted in the first place. Well now we can add Superfish spyware to the list.

You may wonder what makes this case so special. A lot of PC’s come with software pre-installed that collect usage statistics for the manufacturer. Superfish is a somewhat extreme case of this. The software actually installs a self-signed root HTTPS certificate. Then, the software uses its own certificates for every single HTTPS session the user opens. If you visit your online banking portal for example, you won’t actually get the certificate from your bank. Instead, you’ll receive a certificate signed by Superfish. Your PC will trust it, because it already has the root certificate installed. This is essentially a man in the middle attack performed by software installed by Lenovo. Superfish uses this ability to do things to your encrypted connection including collecting data, and injecting ads.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, their certificate is actually using a deprecated SHA-1 certificate that uses 1024-bit RSA encryption. This level of encryption is weak and susceptible to attack. In fact, it was reported that [Rob Graham], CEO of Errata Security has already cracked the certificate and revealed the private key. With the private key known to the public, an attacker can easily spoof any HTTPS certificate and systems that are infected with Superfish will just trust it. The user will have no idea that they are visiting a fake phishing website.

Since this discovery was made, Lenovo has released a statement saying that Superfish was installed on some systems that shipped between September and December of 2014. They claim that server-side interactions have been disabled since January, which disables Superfish. They have no plans to pre-load Superfish on any new systems.

Filed under: laptops hacks, news

Turn your BeagleBoneBlack in to a 14-channel, 100Msps Logic Analyzer

ศุกร์, 02/20/2015 - 01:00

The BeagleBoneBlack is a SoC of choice for many hackers – and quite rightly so – given its powerful features. [abhishek] is majoring in E&E from IIT-Kharagpur, India and in 2014 applied for a project at beagleboard.org via the Google Summer of Code project (GSoC). His project, BeagleLogic aims to realize a logic analyzer using the Programmable Real-Time units on board the AM335X SoC family that powers the BeagleBone and the BeagleBone Black.

The project helps create bindings of the PRU with sigrok, and also provides a web-based front-end so that the logic analyzer can be accessed in much the same way as one would use the Cloud9 IDE on the BeagleBone/BeagleBone Black to create a new application with BoneScript.

Besides it’s obvious use as a debugging tool, the logic analyzer can also be a learning tool that can be used to understand digital signals. BeagleLogic turns the BeagleBone Black into a 14-channel, 100Msps Logic Analyzer. Once loaded, it presents itself as a character device node /dev/beaglelogic. In stand-alone mode, it can do binary captures without any special client software. And when used in conjunction with the sigrok library, BeagleLogic supports software triggers and decoding for over 30 different digital protocols.

The analyzer can sample signals from 10Hz upto 100MHz, in 8 or 16 bits and up to a maximum of 14 channels. Sample depth depends on free RAM, and upto 320MB can be reserved for BeagleLogic. There’s also a web interface, which, once installed on the BeagleBone, can be accessed from port 4000 and can be used for low-volume captures (up to 3K samples).

[abhishek] recently added the BeagleLogic Cape which can be used to debug logic circuits up to 5V safely. Source files for BeagleLogic as well as the Cape are available via his github repos. [abhishek] blogged about his project on his website where there’s a lot more information and links to be found. Catch a video of BeagleLogic after the break.

Filed under: Microcontrollers, tool hacks

Who’s Watching the Kids?

พฤ, 02/19/2015 - 22:01

It wasn’t long ago that we saw the Echo bloom into existence as a standalone product from its conceptual roots as a smartphone utility. These little black columns have hardly collected their first film of dust on our coffee tables and we’re already seeing similar technology debut on the toy market, which causes me to raise an eye-bow.

There seems to be some appeal towards making toys smarter, with the intent being that they may help a child learn while they play. Fair enough. It was recently announced that a WiFi enabled, “Hello Barbie” doll will be released sometime this Fall. This new doll will not only be capable of responding to a child’s statements and questions by accessing the Internet at large, it will also log the likes and dislikes of its new BFF on a cloud database so that it can reference the information for later conversations. Neat, right? Because it’s totally safe to trust the Internet with information innocently surrendered by your child.

Similarly there is a Kickstarter going on right now for a re-skinned box-o-internet for kids in the shape of a dinosaur. The “GreenDino”, is the first in a new line called, CogniToys, from a company touted by IBM which has its supercomputer, Watson, working as a backbone to answer all of the questions a child might ask. In addition to acting as an informational steward, the GreenDino will also toss out questions, and upon receiving a correct answer, respond with praise.

Advancements in technology are stellar. Though I can see where a child version of myself would love having an infinitely smart robot dinosaur to bombard with questions, in the case of WiFi and cloud connectivity, the novelty doesn’t outweigh the potential hazards the technology is vulnerable to. Like what, you ask?

Whether on Facebook or some other platform, adults accept the unknown risks involved when we put personal information out on the Internet. Say for instance I allow some mega-corporation to store on their cloud that my favorite color is yellow. By doing so, I accept the potential outcome that I will be thrown into a demographic and advertised to… or in ten years be dragged to an internment camp by a corrupt yellow-hating government who subpoenaed information about me from the corporation I consensually surrendered it to.

The fact is that I understand those types of risks… no matter how extreme and silly they might seem. The child playing with the Barbie does not.

All worst case scenarios of personal data leakage and misuse aside, what happens when Barbie starts wanting accessories? Or says to their new BFF something like, “Wouldn’t we have so much more fun if I had a hot pink convertible?”

Filed under: Ask Hackaday, Hackaday Columns

Ground Stations are Just the Beginning: The SatNOGS Story

พฤ, 02/19/2015 - 19:01

When you think of satellites, you may think of the Space Shuttle extending its robot arm with a huge piece of high-tech equipment waiting to pirouette into orbit. This misconception is similar to picturing huge mainframes when thinking about computers. The future (and arguably even the present) reality of satellites is smaller, cheaper, and more prolific. This future is also an “open” one if the Libre Space Foundation has anything to say about it.

This group that plans to make satellite communications available to anyone started out as a build at a hackerspace. One good idea, a shared set of skills and experience, and a little bit of time led them to accomplish amazing things. We are, of course, talking about the Grand Prize winners of the 2014 Hackaday Prize. The SatNOGS team built a working satellite ground station and laid the foundation for a data-sharing network to connect to it. But even this description can be a bit daunting, so come with me to learn what this is all about, and how it matters to you.

Crowd-Sourcing Satellite Ground Stations “BoiseSatelliteDish” by Kencf0618 – CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Satellite ground stations have been around as long as satellites have. It’s simply the antenna that communicates with satellites in space. The traditional model is a huge dish, sometimes enclosed in a white dome.

There are several things to consider. First, a single ground station can only stay in contact with a satellite if it is in geostationary orbit (meaning the satellite is always above the same point on the earth). Dishes pointing at these satellites are in near-constant communication with these satellites. Want to get some time on this thing? Fat chance!

Secondly, satellites which are not locked in synchronous orbit are only in contact with a single ground station for a small portion of each pass. Eventually the planet gets in the way and you need a ground station on a different part of the globe to communicate with it while you are in blackout.

Internals of a SatNOGS ground station.

The SatNOGS project seeks to address both of the issues just mentioned. It starts with the hardware; an Open Design which can be built at a minimum of cost using readily available tools and a reasonable skillset. Bootstrapping your own receiver is one way to guarantee your access to a ground station. But if you’re also willing to share some of that time with others you unlock the solution to the second problem.

The SatNOGS project allows multiple ground stations to synchronize their data and to schedule time on each instance of the hardware around the world. A ground station must point at the right place at the right time for any given satellite. The platform design accounts for this by sending scheduling data back to each ground station which will automatically adjust its aim to line up with the next satellite capture request.

Building the network is key. As more people build and deploy their own hardware, everyone gets a bigger piece of the satellite data as it is collected.

This is Bigger than SatNOGS: Libre Space Foundation

From the description above we’re sure you agree that this has the potential to be much more than a project between a few friends. This is a movement. The SatNOGS team came to this realization early on and conceived of an organization to help illuminate the path. The Libre Space Foundation was formed with the idea that all of satellite communications should have an Open model. This means the satellites themselves, the ground stations, and the data.

We already mentioned the Grand Prize, which was of course a trip into space. We were really hoping that we’d see a hacker sign up for such an adventure, but we’re thrilled with the alternative. The SatNOGS team went with the cash option of $196,418 and chose to invest it in the Libre Space Foundation (LSF). This is a great jump-start but the LSF needs more than just cash to succeed. They need people to adopt and further their vision.


[Arko’s] satellite project Cubex via Hackaday.ioThose smaller, cheaper satellites that we mentioned before come from many different players. They are often known as CubeSats and the common form-factor is 10cm on each side. Universities have been building and launching these for some time now. It’s a great engineering challenge, to be certain, but it’s also a way to conduct experiments in near-zero gravity.

Private industry has been in on the action as well. Planet Labs has launched what they call “flocks” of these small satellites which work together to form something of a line-scanner for the planet. The system images the entire earth once every 24 hours.

Already there are proofs of concept that all point to personal satellites. That’s right, you can own a satellite. Just like the two previous examples; built it small, and launch it as extra cargo. We saw a very successful crowd funding campaign just a couple of years ago on the topic. And our own Hackaday.io has numerous satellites, warranting a roundup of them all.

The Satellite Data

What kind of data can you get from these satellites? It’s easy to assume that all of this is encrypted and proprietary but that’s simply not the case. Sure, media and communications satellites are not going to dump the latest episode of Game of Thrones into your home-built ground station. But there are a lot of satellites that are broadcasting useful data in the open.

To name one very interesting source, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a collection of satellites monitoring weather and transmitting the data back to earth. Recording these transmissions is a trick we’ve seen many times over the years.

One that we’ve seen less often is grabbing data sets from research satellites like those launched by University programs. Getting your hands on the data without waiting for the researchers’ publication means more opportunities for peer-review and better access for educational purposes.

The potential is also there to form your own communications networks. Right now SatNOGS hardware is a receive-only unit. But the software stack is ready for transmit and receive. This will that the DVB-T dongle be swapped for something with a transmitter, and more than likely will call for licensure in most areas (for example, an amateur radio license) but these are not large hurdles to cross. As mentioned, the LSF has hopes of developing Open Hardware and Open Source Software designs for satellites. Imagine your own data network. In Space. Now that is a brave new world.

Here’s How You Can Help

We like to dream big and it excites us that the LSF is doing just that. But they need your help.

Version 3 of the SatNOGS ground station is in development and they can use experts in all areas to help. Most notably, RF design to help improve communications, as well as mechanical design to ensure the build will stand up to time and weather. Check out the SatNOGS community for more on getting involved directly.

Don’t have the skills to build these yourself? Don’t worry, just spreading the word is a big way to help. Give a talk at your local Hackerspace, or just pester all of your neighbors. It’s space, everyone wants to hear about that, right?

Filed under: Featured, slider, The Hackaday Prize

Balancing A Ball With A Solar Cell

พฤ, 02/19/2015 - 16:00

Go to any control systems class, and you’ll see a final project that demonstrates loops, integration, and everything else that can be learned in a semester or two of control theory. This project is not from one of those classes. It is, however, very cool: it balances a 40mm steel ball on the rim of a lasercut wood wheel using nothing more than a solar cell as a sensor.

[Manuel] was inspired to build this ball-balancing device after seeing a similar project at CCC about six years ago. He doesn’t remember who made it, and eschewed the PC/Matlab architecture of the original, but this build retains one interesting feature of its muse. The input to the control system is just a high intensity light bulb and a solar cell. The 40mm steel ball blocks the light reaching the solar cell most of the time. Slight variations in voltage go through the control system to keep this ball balanced on top of the wheel.

The only hardware for this build is a motor, a motor driver, and an ATMega644P. The first revision of the hardware was just a few breakout boards stuffed into a rat’s nest of wiring in the base of the build, but this has been fixed in version two with a new PCB. Video below.

Filed under: misc hacks

PCB Manicure Wields Laser Cutter for Your Nails

พฤ, 02/19/2015 - 13:01

Wearable electronics is a hot topic these days. Although these fancy talons are only for show, they could lead to more in the future.

[Shelby] and [Colleen AF] showed people how to include a laser cutter in your nail care at a recent event at NYC Resistor. The technique used here starts off with a base coat of the background color before heading to the laser cutter. Now don’t worry, you don’t need to risk any of your digits. A type of reverse silk screen is made with the laser by deeply etching the artwork into a piece of flat acrylic sheet. Those voids are then filled with the secondary color for the circuit traces and the excess is removed with a squeegee. A sponge is then used to transfer the paint from the recesses in the acrylic to the nails.

Granted, PCB finger nails might not be your cup of tea, but it does make us wonder: What if conductive ink was used? Would it be possible to build a circuit on your own fingernail? Obviously you would want to use a sticky, conductive glue rather than solder. (Please don’t try to reflow solder your fingers at home.) What kind of power supply would fit? What could you build? We also see other possible applications of the process like labeling non-flat surfaces. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

UPDATE: [David Flint] points out in the comments that this is a type of offset gravure printing.

Filed under: wearable hacks

Hippie-Redneck Solar-Heated Swimming Pool Slash Hot Tub

พฤ, 02/19/2015 - 10:01

In need of a jacuzzi to complete your backyard but just don’t have the cash? Need a swimming pool for the little ones but tired of the cheap plastic ones popping and leaking all over the place? Look no further than [inexplorata]’s self-explanatory “Hippie-Redneck Solar-Heated Kiddo Swimmin’ Pool And Hot Tub“.

The pool uses a six-foot-diameter metal stock tank, provided by a neighbor. After some liberal use of JB Weld, the tank functions as a makeshift pool on the cheap, but the magic doesn’t end there. [inexplorata] found a solar thermal water heater that someone was getting rid of and snagged it to heat up the water, which is almost a necessity for most parts of the Northern Hemisphere right now.

A sump pump in a bucket handles water circulation, and [inexplorata] points out that the single water heater is more than enough to keep the water nice and warm (“hot enough to poach a rhino” is the scientific term used on the project page) so if you’ve got the means, this might be a welcome addition to the backyard! The build was posted on Reddit, the users of which had some helpful suggestions for improving the pool if you want to tackle this yourself. If you don’t have a solar thermal water heater, you could always make one of those too.

Filed under: solar hacks

A Class D Amp Made From Scrap

พฤ, 02/19/2015 - 07:00

[Boolean90] needed an amplifier for a subwoofer, and had a lot of parts sitting around in a scrap bin. His project, a Class D sub amp made out of scrap, is a great example of what you can build with the right know-how and a very large pile of junk.

With digital logic and PWM chips, a Class D amp is one of the simpler ways to get a lot of amplification easily in an efficient package. It’s really not that complicated; an audio signal is turned into a PWM’d square wave, this is sent out to a Mosfet bridge, and finally out to the speaker.

Most Class D amps have a switching frequency of hundreds of kilohertz to the Megahertz range, but since this is an amplifier for a subwoofer that has a cutoff frequency of about 1kHz, the switching frequency doesn’t need to be quite as fast. [Boolean] is using a 50kHz carrier frequency; it’s more than high enough to recreate low frequencies.

With the completed project, [Boolean] has an extremely loud amplifier that has around 75-150W of output power. The subwoofer is only rated for 200W, but with the volume [Boolean] is getting, this isn’t an amp he’ll be rebuilding anytime soon.

Filed under: digital audio hacks

How to Zip, Stick, and Screw Stuff Together

พฤ, 02/19/2015 - 04:01

One of the first problems every new hacker/maker must solve is this: What’s the best way to attach part “A” to part “B”. We all have our go-to solutions. Hot glue, duck tape ( “duct tape” if you prefer) or maybe even zip ties. Super glue, epoxy, and if we’re feeling extra MacGyver-ish then it’s time for some bubble gum. For some Hackaday readers, this stuff will seem like old hat, but for a beginner it can be a source of much frustration. Even well versed hackers might pick up a few handy tips and tricks presented in this video after the break.

In part one of this series, [Ben Krasnow] shows us the proper use of just a few of the tools and techniques he uses in his shop. [Ben] starts out with a zip-tie tool which he loves in part because of a tension setting that ensures it’s tight but not overly. He moves on to advice for adhesive-vs-material and some tips on using threaded fasteners in several different circumstances. He also included a list of the parts and tools he uses so you don’t have to go hunting them down.

[Ben] is no stranger to us here at Hackaday. He does some epic science video. You can subscribe to his channel or follow his blog if you enjoy what you see.

Filed under: tool hacks

Custom Double-Din Mount for Nexus 7 Carputer

พฤ, 02/19/2015 - 02:31

Many new vehicles come with computers built into the dashboard. They can be very handy with features like GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and more. Installing a computer into an older car can sometimes be an expensive process, but [Florian] found a way to do it somewhat inexpensively using a Nexus 7 tablet.

The size of the Nexus 7 is roughly the same as a standard vehicle double-din stereo slot. It’s not perfect, but pretty close. [Florian] began by building a proof of concept mounting bracket. This model was built from sections of MDF hot glued and taped together. Plastic double-din mounting brackets were attached the sides of this new rig, allowing it to be installed into the dashboard.

Once [Florian] knew that the mounting bracket was feasible, it was time to think about power. Most in-vehicle devices are powered from the cigarette lighter adapter. [Florian] went a different direction with this build. He started with a cigarette lighter to USB power adapter, but he cut off the actual cigarette lighter plug. He ended up wiring this directly into the 12V line from the stereo’s wiring harness. This meant that the power cord could stay neatly tucked away inside of the dashboard and also leave the cigarette lighter unused.

[Florian] then wanted to replace the MDF frame with something stronger and nicer. He modeled up his idea in Solidworks to make sure the measurements would be perfect. Then the pieces were all laser cut at his local Techshop. Once assembled, the plastic mounting brackets were placed on the sides and the whole unit fit perfectly inside of the double-din slot.

When it comes to features, this van now has it all. The USB hub allows for multiple USB devices to be plugged in, meaning that Nexus only has a single wire for both power and all of the peripherals. Among these peripherals are a USB audio interface, an SD card reader, and a backup camera. There is also a Bluetooth enabled OBD2 reader that can monitor and track the car’s vitals. If this project seems familiar to you, it’s probably because we’ve seen a remarkably similar project in the past.

Filed under: car hacks, tablet pcs hacks

Show me the Data: Hackaday.io Year #01

พุธ, 02/18/2015 - 22:01

Today marks exactly one year since we announced to the world the first product from our software lab – Hackaday.io. In what has been an incredibly exciting year for all of us, we evolved from a simple idea and a prototype to a truly massive community that’s making its mark on the world. Day after day, carefully listening to the invaluable feedback from our users, we have improved and moved forward, one line of code at the time.

We still have a long way to go, but we’ll pause for a second now and reflect on how far we’ve come. Then get right back to fixing bugs and developing new features.

It all started with a simple idea – building a better project hosting website. Though there are project and content websites galore out there, with new ones popping up every day, it all still felt too bland. We thought we could do better. After all, the medium is the message. The place where something lives sooner or later becomes a key part of its identity. So in order to prevent a dystopian future in which we’re all hosting our projects using the (fictional) Microsoft Maker Suite 2020 and simply don’t care, we started to work on providing an alternative.

We quickly realized that we had a much bigger mission on our hands. Sure, a better project hosting website would be nice, but what we felt we really needed was something [Brian Benchoff] has been talking about for quite some time – a “virtual hackerspace.” Not just a place where you can post your builds once you’re done (and hope someone sees it), but a living, breathing community: a place where you can start with an idea and get feedback as it develops, find collaborators, iterate, and ultimately end up building something way more amazing than you would have accomplished on your own.

This has been the aim of Hackaday for many years, but most of the collaboration was constrained to the limited space of post comment threads and biased by the editorial choice of articles and topics. With the introduction of Hackaday.io, we open up a space for anyone to unleash their creativity and expertise, and together, change the way people build things.

The Data

Unfortunately, making bold claims about how we’re out there changing the world is pretty much a commodity these days. As most Web startups can testify, it doesn’t take more than a simple landing page with nice photography and some uplifting message for any arbitrary claims to appear credible.

So instead of trying to convince you with words about how awesome the last year had been, we’ll just stick with the data.

This is what our user and project growth looked like:

Over the course of the last 365 days, Hackaday.io has grown from zero (well, technically a handful of testers/developer accounts) to a total of 51,838 registered users. More importantly, it has grown from zero projects (we didn’t believe in pre-seeding it with content) to 4,365 strong, all created by our amazing community members.

The part that’s the most impressive here is that it did not happen as a result of a blip but rather a sustained growth over time. Although the THP 2014 deadline did cause some acceleration in project submissions, most of the growth has been happening completely organically. While this is to be expected with “social networks” that rely on pulling in all of your friends onboard as soon as you sign up (think Facebook, G+, Linkedin…) in our case is nothing short of a miracle. After all, how many people have you invited to sign up for Hackaday.io? And we still managed to grow to 50k, one user at the time.


Now the number of users and “vanity” metrics are great, but what we’re really all about here is building things. And it’s the vast space of 4K+ created projects that makes us all incredibly excited. On the development team, we have gone from knowing every project on the website by heart, to using it as a source of inspiration and always getting surprised by new projects we discover every day. To show just how mind-bogglingly huge this is, let’s look at the distribution of the number of projects across top categories:

There are 70 different categories with more than 20 projects each. That’s a lot to explore! No matter how specific your interests are, it’s very likely you’ll find something worth checking out.


The project side of things was the main focus of the website from the day one, but we also knew we have to deliver on the whole mission of building a real “community”. Whether we liked it or not, the only way known to was to add some of these dreaded “social” features. So Project/User follows, Global/Personal feed, and most importantly, the infamous “Skull” found its way to the site. We honestly had no idea whether anyone would use these features at all. We tend not to be among the most “social” people on the block, so we were naturally skeptical.

We were so thrilled when we realized we had been proven wrong! At the moment, there are 88,703 user->user and 105,315 user->project follow relationships on the site. Clearly not as “social” as something like Facebook (nor is that the goal), but we can see the real project community taking shape.

In the interest of general geekery, we thought we should celebrate this with a little rendering of user-user graph using Gephi (restricted to top 5,000 users since large-scale graph layout is a nightmare):

The Public Side

Now all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. All of the content on Hackaday.io is completely open, and most of the visitors don’t end up creating accounts at all. In the last 30 days alone, we had 246,270 unique visitors to the site, resulting in a total of 1,224,619 page views. That’s 1.2M impressions of someone’s work, collaboration, feedback and all other creative uses and abuses of our platform.

The natural question is – how is all this attention being distributed? Sure, popular projects are likely to get a lot of attention but what can I expect for my little toy project? Is it just going to sit there, dead markup on the page and never get any attention?

So we look into the distribution of page views and project follow/skulls across all 4,365 projects:

In a nutshell, what these are telling us (for those that don’t like the log scale, summary statistics are given as linear), is that:

  • There are more than 400 projects on Hackaday.io which got more than 2,000 pageviews each, have more than 39 followers and more than 22 skulls
  • The “elite” group of top 40 projects each got more than 16,000 page views, 230 followers, and 138 skulls!
  • Most importantly – the *average* project on Hackaday.io got more than 170 views, 10 followers, and 4 skulls.

So even if you’re just starting, don’t have a groundbreaking idea or amazing execution, your project is still very likely get you some love and start collecting feedback.

15 Minutes of Fame?

Another big question we wanted to look at is the long-term aspect of all this. Sure, we all know how great it feels when the project on our blog gets featured somewhere, and we get that magical spotlight for a day or two. But then it’s gone, and all forgotten. It’s just how the Web works.

In order to get a better sense of this dynamics on Hackaday.io, we analyzed top 400 projects and their evolution of the number of followers/skulls over time:

We were very excited to see this result! It shows that, though big events like getting featured somewhere will definitely result in the short-term boost of interest for the project, most of the projects continue to maintain interest over time and never really die out. Hopefully, this will result in extra motivation for project creators to keep improving their builds for a long time after that initial demo day.

Another interesting thing you might notice on careful examination of the graphs above is the lag between the growth of number of followers and number of skulls. It turns out that a lot of people might “follow” the project if they find it promising, but it will take a while for you to impress them enough to earn that precious skull. It’s a valuable commodity around these lands.

Global Feed

One last thing we wanted to look at was the Feed. Since the introduction of this feature (and especially after its redesign), it became a part of the daily routine for a lot of people who are now using it to enjoy the flood of daily activity on the site.

We thought It would be nice to quantify the level of this activity, so we have analyzed the frequency of Global Feed events (projects created, comments, profile updates etc.) for every hour over the course of last year. Here are the results:

What this tells us is that, even in the darkest hours of the night, on the slowest day possible, there will still be something new popping in the Global Feed every 5-10 minutes. And on a busy day, during work hours, several new items will be streaming through the feed every single minute.

Not as fast as Twitter’s global feed, but still pretty damn cool.

So what’s next?

Now that we have shared all of this data, it’s time to get back to work. As usual, most of the workload schedule will be reactive, based on user feedback or what feature we feel most passionate about at the time, but here is the rough list of priorities:

  1. Issues/Bugs – as you all know, these will never end. The more features we develop, the more of these will be creeping in. And that’s fine. Our priority is to squash them before they start impacting the user experience.
  2. Collaboration Features – we feel that we need to do much more in order to facilitate real collaborative project development on the site. We have some things cooking and hopefully will be able to show them off soon.
  3. Content Hosting – over the last year, we had intentionally stayed away from offering any data hosting. This was primary because we did not want to increase the fragmentation of the existing ecosystem (we love Github and think everyone should use it), but requests have been piling up and we’ll have to do something about it. Ideally in a way that makes sure you can still host all of your code on Github, but use Hackaday.io for storage of binary assets, etc.
  4. Private Projects / Pages – this is another one we have tried to stay away from. We truly believe that by keeping all the information open, great things will happen. However, a number of people have been complaining that, due to the “all in open” policy, they’re reluctant to start projects from scratch on the .io, fearing they might get premature critique (I am personally guilty of this too). So we’ll be working on a workflow that allows you to start the project as “private” and open it up only when you’re ready to do so. That said, we’ll still be doing everything to encourage people to keep things as open as possible.
  5. Public API – this one is long overdue. Our original plan was to launch it shortly after the original release, but the post-launch reality kicked in, and this felt through the cracks. We’ll definitely try to get it out in the next couple of months.
  6. Better BOM/Schematic Management – clean documentation is heart and soul of all things Open Hardware and our existing “Components List” is not doing it justice at all. So we’re getting ready for a big overhaul. It’s going to be good.
  7. Everything Else – there are so many great things we want to do and so little time. But we’ll juggle. If you have ideas on features or improvements that would be valuable to the community, please send them our way. We’ll figure out a way to make them happen.

Once again, massive thanks to everyone that stayed with us over the course of last year and helped us grow Hackaday.io to where we are today.

Looking forward to the equally exciting Year #02!

Filed under: Featured, slider

New Part Day: Time Of Flight Sensors

พุธ, 02/18/2015 - 19:01

Every robotics project out there, it seems, needs a way to detect if it’s smashing into a wall repeatedly, acting like the brainless automaton it actually is. The Roomba has wall sensors, just about every robot kit has some way of detecting obstacles its running into, and for ‘wall-following robots’, detecting objects is all they do.

While the earliest of these robots used a piece of wire and a metal contact to act like a switch for these object detectors, ultrasonic sensors – the kind you can buy on eBay for a few bucks – have replaced this clever wire spring switch. Now there’s a new sensor for the same job – the VL6180 – and it measures the speed of light.

The sensors that are used for object and collision detection now use either ultrasonic or infrared light. They’re susceptible to noise, and if you’re doing anything automated, you really don’t want rogue measurements. A time of flight sensor clocks out photons and records how long it takes them to return at 299,792,458 meters per second. It’s less sensitive to noise, and if you can believe this SparkFun demo of this sensor, extremely accurate

This is not the first Time of Flight distance sensor on the market; earlier this week we saw a project use a sensor called the TeraRanger One. This sensor costs €150.00. The VL6180 sensor costs about $6 in quantity one from the usual suspects, and breakout boards with the proper level converters and regulators can be found for about $25. More expensive sensors have a greater range, naturally; the VL6180 is limited to somewhere between 10cm (on paper) and 25cm (in practice). But this is cheap, and it measures the time of flight of pulses of light. That’s just cool.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, parts

Unlock Your Demo Kindle Paperwhite

พุธ, 02/18/2015 - 16:01

If you’ve been holding off on upgrading your kindle, this project might inspire you to finally bite the bullet. [WarriorRocker] recently saved quite a few dollars on his Kindle upgrade by using a demo unit. Of course, it’s not as simple as just finding a demo unit and booting it up. There’s some hacking involved.

[WarriorRocker] found his Kindle Paperwhite demo unit on an online auction site for just $20. Kindles are great for reading but also make popular displays for your own projects. This used display model was much less expensive than a new unit, which makes sense considering it had probably received its share of abuse from the consumers of some retail store. The problem with a demo unit is that the firmware that comes with it is very limited, and can’t be used to sync up with your Amazon account. That’s where the hacking comes in.

The first step was to crack open the case and locate the serial port. [WarriorRocker] soldered a small three pin header to the pads to make it easier to work on his device as needed. He then connected the Kindle to his PC using a small serial to USB adapter. Pulling up the command prompt was as simple as running Putty and connecting to the correct COM port. If the wires are hooked up correctly, then it just takes a press of the enter key to pull up the login prompt.

The next step requires root access. The root password for each unit is related to the unit’s serial number. [WarriorRocker] obtained the serial number by rebooting the Kindle while the Serial connection was still open. The boot sequence will spit out the number. This number can then be entered in to an online tool to generate possible root passwords. The tool is available on [WarriorRocker’s] project page linked above.

Next, the Kindle needs to be rebooted into diagnostic mode. This is because root logins are not allowed while the device is booted to the system partition. To enter diagnostic mode, [WarriorRocker] had to press enter over and over during the boot sequence in order to kill the automatic boot process. Then he checked some environment variables to locate the memory address where the diagnostic mode is stored. One more command tells the system to boot to that address and into diagnostic mode.

The last step of the process begins by mounting the Kindle as a USB storage device and copying over the stock Kindle firmware image. Next [WarriorRocker] had to exit the diagnostic menu and return to a root command prompt. Finally, he used the dd command to copy the image to the Kindle’s partition bit by bit. Fifteen minutes and one reboot later and the Kindle was working just as it should. [WarriorRocker] even notes that the 3G connection still works. Not bad for $20 and an hour or two of work.

Filed under: Kindle hacks

A Real-Time Networked VU Running on the ESP8266

พุธ, 02/18/2015 - 13:01

Even though the ESP8266 WiFi chipsets are really cheap (and can be somewhat challenging to work with), they still pack a lot of processing power. For instance, [Mr.jb.swe] took one of these modules and made a stand-alone live VU meter with WS2812B LED strip. The VU runs entirely on the ESP chip, without any additional microcontroller. It’s an example we think a lot of projects could follow to do away with unused horsepower (extra microcontrollers) sometimes used to avoid programming directly on the ESP. The stuff you can do with these modules is wild… did you see this WiFi signal strength mapping project?

The ESP chipset acts as a UDP client which receives packets from a WinAmp plugin that [Mr.jb.swe] wrote. The plugin continuously calculates the dB of whatever track is playing and streams it over WiFi to his ESP8266. He also mentions that the ADC of the ESP chipset could be used to sample audio as well, although that pretty much eliminates the need for WiFi.

The whole setup is very responsive even though the processor is parsing UDP messages, driving the WS2812 strip, and driving a small OLED display for debug—and it doesn’t even use a separate microcontroller. [Mr.jb.swe] also posted snippets of his code to get you started on your own project. Check out the videos after the break to see it in action.

Filed under: digital audio hacks, wireless hacks

Blackboard digitization for under $40

พุธ, 02/18/2015 - 10:00

Digital White/Black Boards or “Smart Boards” are very useful in modern classrooms, but their high cost often makes it difficult to convince administrators from loosening their purse strings. Cooper Union’s 2nd annual HackCooper event in New York wanted students to design and build hardware and software projects that both solve real problems and spark the imagination. At the 24 hour hackathon, the team of [harrison], [david] and [caleb] decided to put together a low-cost and simple solution to digitizing classroom black board content.

A chalk-holder is attached to two strings, each connected over a pulley to a weight. The weights slide inside PVC pipes at the two sides of the black board. Ultrasonic sensors at the bottom of each tube measure the distance to the weights. The weights sit in static equilibrium, so they serve the purpose of keeping the string taut without negatively interfering with the writer.

With a couple of calibration points to measure the extent of displacement of each weight, board width can be determined, making it easy to adapt to different sizes of boards. Once calibrated, the system can determine position of the chalk over the board based on some trigonometrical calculations. Since they had just 24 hours to hack the system together, they had to use a hand operated radio with a couple of buttons to provide user control. Pressing the “Write” button starts transmitting chalk movements to the digital screen. A second button on the radio remote serves to “Erase” the digital screen. After receiving the chalk position data, they had to do a fair amount of processing to eliminate noise and smooth out the writing on the digital screen.

A server allows the whole class to receive the chalk board data in real time. After each “Erase” command, the chalk board state is saved and logged on the server, thus allowing previous content to be viewed or downloaded. If only text is written, optical character recognition can be used to further digitize the content.

What makes the project really useful is the low cost. The sensors cost a dollar. The other parts – PVC pipe, weights/pulleys, Arduino and the Radio key fob – were all bought for under 40 dollars. For some additional cost (and maybe more time in their case) they could have automated the detection of when the chalk was actually doing the writing. The team have made their code available on Github. For a Chalk board at the other end of the cost spectrum, check this one out. Video below.

[via Reddit]

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

Great Scott! A Flux Capacitor Notification Light

พุธ, 02/18/2015 - 07:01

If you are into your social media, then you probably like to stay updated with your notifications. [Gamaral] feels this way but he wasn’t happy with the standard way of checking the website or waiting for his phone to alert him. He wanted something a little more flashy. Something like a flux capacitor notification light. This device won’t send his messages back in time, but it does look cool.

He started with an off-the-shelf flux capacitor USB charger. Normally this device just looks cool when charging your USB devices. [Gamaral] wanted to give himself more control of it. He started by opening up the case and replacing a single surface mount resistor. The replacement component is actually a 3.3V regulator that happens to be a similar form factor as the original resistor. This regulator can now provide steady power to the device itself, as well as a ESP8266 module.

The ESP8266 module has built-in WiFi capabilities for a low price. The board itself is also quite small, making it suitable for this project. [Gamaral] used just two GPIO pins. The first one toggles the flux circuit on and off, and the second keeps track of the current state of the circuit. To actually trigger the change, [gamaral] just connects to the module via TCP and issues a “TIME CIRCUIT ON/OFF” command. The simplicity makes the unit more versatile because an application running on a PC can actually track various social media and flash the unit accordingly.

Filed under: wireless hacks

Automatic Garage Door Opener Works for Your Cat

พุธ, 02/18/2015 - 04:01

Using an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to perform a task in the real world is certainly a project we’ve seen here before, and certainly most of these projects help to make up the nebulous “Internet of Things” that’s all the rage these days. Once in a while though, a project comes along that really catches our eye, as is the case with [Jamie’s] meticulously documented automatic garage door opener.

This garage door opener uses an ATMega328 to connect the internet to the garage door. A reed switch is installed which lets the device sense the position of the door, which is relayed back to the internet. [Jamie] wrote an Android app that can open and close the door and give the user the information on the door’s status. One really interesting feature is the ability to “crack” the garage door. This is done by triggering the garage door opener twice with a delay in between. From the video after the break we’d say this is how [Jamie’s] cat gets in and out.

We love seeing projects that are extremely well documented so that anyone who wants to make one can easily figure out how. Internet-connected garage door openers have been featured in other unique ways before too, but we’ve also seen ways to automatically open blinds or chicken coops!

Filed under: home hacks, internet hacks

Retrotechtacular: Teleprinter Tour, Teardown

พุธ, 02/18/2015 - 01:00

This week, we’re taking the wayback machine to 1940 for an informative, fast-paced look at the teleprinter. At the telegram office’s counter, [Mary] recites her well-wishes to the clerk. He fills out a form, stuffs it into a small canister, and sends it whooshing through a tube down to the instrument room. Here, an operator types up the telegram on a fascinating electro-mechanical device known as a teleprinter, and [Mary]’s congratulatory offering is transmitted over wires to her friend’s local telegraph office hundreds of miles away.

We see that the teleprinter is a transceiver that mechanically converts the operator’s key presses into a 5-digit binary code. For example, ‘y’ = 10101. This code is then transmitted as electrical pulses to teleprinters at distant offices, where they are translated back into alphanumerical data. This film does a fantastic job of explaining the methods by which all of this occurs and does so with an abstracted, color-coded model of the teleprinter’s innards.

The conversion from operator input to binary output is explained first, followed by the mechanical translation back to text on the receiving end. Here, it is typed out on a skinny paper tape by the type wheel shown above. Telegraphists in the receiving offices of this era cut and pasted the tape on a blank telegram in the form of meaningful prose. Finally, it is delivered to its intended recipient by a cheeky lad on a motorbike.

Thanks for the tip, [Mr Name Required]!

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

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular