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Dark Field Microscopy on the Cheap with a PCB

พุธ, 05/16/2018 - 09:00

It might seem like a paradox that you want a dark field to see things with an expensive microscope. As [IMSAI Guy] explains, a dark field microscope doesn’t make the subject dark. It makes the area surrounding the subject dark. After selling his expensive microscope, he found he missed having the capability, so he decided to make one cheaply. You can see how he did it in the video, below.

Dark field microscopy gives better contrast and resolution by discarding light that shines directly through or reflects directly from a sample. The only light you see is any that scatters. If you think about a normal microscope, you can imagine a cone of light coming from the top or the bottom. The tip of the cone hits the sample and then spreads back out into another cone of light. What hits your eye –well, actually, the eyepiece — is all the light from that cone. In a dark field instrument, the illumination cone is hollow — the light is just a ring. That means any light the sample doesn’t scatter gets blocked by a stop in the objective. When there is no sample, there’s no unblocked light, so you see a “dark field.”

Light that either refracts through the sample (from below) or bounces off a feature (from the top) will wind up in the hollow area that passes through the objective and you’ll see the image. It may surprise you that you may already have a piece of dark field technology on your desk. Optical computer mice that can work on glass surfaces use this same technique. If you want to see some examples and a diagram of how it all works, we did a post on a similar lower tech mod. There’s also Wikipedia.

The secret to doing this cheaply was to get a used dark field objective with a little rust on the barrel and then modify them with a custom PC board to create an LED ring light. This is different from the usual illuminator which shines a light through a patch stop to block the inner light. In this case, the light is made into a ring shape by virtue of the arrangement of the LEDs.

For the rest of the microscope, a very cheap toy microscope gave its life and was adapted to hold the modified light-generating objectives. A few adapter pieces finished up the cheap dark field microscope. There are no eyepieces, but a camera sends the video to your computer.

We were disappointed there was no video from the microscope in that video, but if you look at the video, below, you can see the scope in action. That video, which shows a transistor tear down, is interesting in its own right. There’s also a video of a 40X image taken with the microscope.

We’ve seen LED microscope lighting before. If you don’t want to spend on the adapter tubes, you may be able to make some out of PVC.

Lucky Cat POV Display Ditches the Waving and Windmills Out of Control

พุธ, 05/16/2018 - 06:01

If you’ve been in a Japanese restaurant, you’ve probably seen a maneki-neko, the lucky cat charm, where a cat welcomes you with a beckoning arm. It’s considered to bring good luck, but we’re not sure if [Martin Fitzpatrick] is pushing his luck with this Lucky Cat POV display. He hacked one of the figurines so the arm forms a persistence of vision (POV) display, where blinking LEDs on the paw create a dot-matrix style display.

Inside the hapless neko is a Wemos D1, motor driver, and a few other components that turn the cat into a working display. The five LEDs he attached to the paw are wide enough to display 5×7 characters. The tricky part in the mechanical design is getting signals from a stationary base to a spinning arm(ature). In this case it was easily solved with a 6-wire slip ring from Adafruit. [Martin] revs the lucky cat up using a brushed DC motor and a couple of gears.

The ESP8266 is running MicroPython — the combination should make this a snap to hook into any web service API you want to display your own messages. Right now the arm doesn’t have positional awareness so the message isn’t locked in a single position like it would be if a hall effect sensor was used. But [Martin] says there’s plenty of room left inside the cat and a future upgrade could include stashing the batteries inside for a cordless, all-in-one build. If he takes that on it’s a perfect time to add some type of shaft encoding as well.

Check the Lucky Cat showing off in the clip after the break.

Python-powered Maneki-neko persistence of vision scroller

[Via Reddit]

Hawkeye, the 3D-Printed Tourbillon Movement

พุธ, 05/16/2018 - 03:01

As if building tiny mechanisms with dozens of moving parts that all need to mesh together perfectly to work weren’t enough, some clock and watchmakers like to put their horology on hard mode with tourbillon movements. Tourbillons add multiple axes to the typical gear trains in an attempt to eliminate errors caused by the influence of gravity — the movement essentially spins on gimbals while tick-tocking away.

It feels like tourbillons are too cool to lock inside timepieces meant for the ultra-rich. [Alduinien] agrees and democratized the mechanism with this 3D-printed tourbillon. Dubbed “Hawkeye,” [Alduinien]’s tourbillon is a masterpiece of 3D printing. Composed of over 70 pieces, the mechanism is mesmerizing to watch, almost like a three-axis mechanical gyroscope.

The tourbillon is designed to be powered either by the 3D-printed click spring or by a small electric motor. Intended mainly as a demonstration piece, [Alduinien]’s Thingiverse page still only has the files for the assembled mechanism, but he promises to get the files for the individual pieces posted soon. Amateur horologists, warm up your 3D-printers.

Tourbillons are no stranger to these pages, of course. We’ve done an in-depth look at tourbillons for watches, and we’ve even featured a 3D-printed tourbillon clock before. What we like about this one is that it encourages exploration of these remarkable instruments, and we’re looking forward to seeing what people do with this design. For those looking for more background on clock escapements in general, [Manuel] wrote a great article on how we turned repetitive motion into timekeeping.

Thanks for the tip, [Rob].

Reflowduino: Put That Toaster Oven To Good Use

พุธ, 05/16/2018 - 01:30

There are few scenes in life more moving than the moment the solder paste melts as the component slides smoothly into place. We’re willing to bet the only reason you don’t have a reflow oven is the cost. Why wouldn’t you want one? Fortunately, the vastly cheaper DIY route has become a whole lot easier since the birth of the Reflowduino – an open source controller for reflow ovens.

This Hackaday Prize entry by [Timothy Woo] provides a super quick way to create your own reflow setup, using any cheap means of heating you have lying around. [Tim] uses a toaster oven he paid $21 for, but anything with a suitable thermal mass will do. The hardware of the Reflowduino is all open source and has been very well documented – both on the main hackaday.io page and over on the project’s GitHub.

The board itself is built around the ATMega32u4 and sports an integrated MAX31855 thermocouple interface (for the all-important PID control), LiPo battery charging, a buzzer for alerting you when input is needed, and Bluetooth. Why Bluetooth? An Android app has been developed for easy control of the Reflowduino, and will even graph the temperature profile.

When it comes to controlling the toaster oven/miscellaneous heat source, a “sidekick” board is available, with a solid state relay hooked up to a mains plug. This makes it a breeze to setup any mains appliance for Arduino control.

We actually covered the Reflowduino last year, but since then [Tim] has also created the Reflowduino32 – a backpack for the DOIT ESP32 dev board. There’s also an Indiegogo campaign now, and some new software as well.

If a toaster oven still doesn’t feel hacky enough for you, we’ve got reflowing with hair straighteners, and even car headlights.
The HackadayPrize2018 is Sponsored by:

Richard Feynman: A Life Of Curiosity And Science

พุธ, 05/16/2018 - 00:00

It was World War II and scientists belonging to the Manhattan Project worked on calculations for the atomic bomb. Meanwhile, in one of the buildings, future Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist Richard Feynman was cracking the combination lock on a safe because doing so intrigued him. That’s as good a broad summary of Feynman as any: scientific integrity with curiosity driving both his work and his fun.

If you’ve heard of him in passing it may be because of his involvement on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster commission or maybe you’ve learned something from one of his many lectures preserved on YouTube. But did you know he also played with electronics as a kid, and almost became an electrical engineer?

He was the type of person whom you might sum up by saying that he had an interesting life. The problem is, you have to wonder how he fit it all into one lifetime, let alone one article. We’ll just have to let our own curiosity pick and choose what to say about this curious character.

Raised To Be Curious

Feynman was born in 1918. He grew up in New York City in the borough of Queens, near Brooklyn, which explains the Brooklyn accent he had all his life.

His mother gave him his sense of humor but it was his father who shaped his curiosity by teaching him the difference between learning facts and understanding them. The family would go to the Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York, where he and his father went for walks in the woods. He father would point out things such as bird behavior and start asking and explaining why they did certain things. This desire for understanding why and applying knowledge to the natural world played a big part in making him such a great scientist.

His younger sister, Joan, also took the path of science, eventually becoming an astrophysicist.

Feynman, The Hacker Silvertone radio, circa 1937

Feynman frequently spoke of the lab he had as a kid, one which sounds familiar to many readers, including yours truly. It was a wooden packing box in which he’d put some shelves. To experiment with lighting and electricity, he’d picked up some lamp sockets from a five-and-dime store and would connect them up in different ways to get different voltages. To protect against shorts, he fashioned a fuse out of tin foil wrapped around a burnt out fuse.

He also enjoyed tinkering with radios and bought a crystal radio set which he’d listen to through earphones at night when going to sleep, something else we’re sure many readers recall doing. He continued his interest in radio by buying them at rummage sales and trying to repair them. His aunt who ran a hotel had him repair the hotel radio and that led to more repair jobs. During the depression, being a kid, his low fee was a drawing card.

MIT And Princeton

At just 15, Feynman taught himself trigonometry, advanced algebra, and differential and integral calculus, and while still in high school, won the New York University Math Championship.

It should be no surprise then that he was accepted at MIT to major in mathematics. However, he found it too abstract and switched for a while to electrical engineering. But deciding he’d gone too far in the other direction, he settled somewhere in the middle with physics. While at MIT he competed for the Putnam Prize, a prestigious mathematics competition, and became a Putnam Fellow.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1939, he moved on to Princeton University, getting a perfect score on the entrance exams in physics.

The cyclotron at Princeton reaffirmed for him that he was at the right school. It was housed in a single room in a basement. Wires hung everywhere, some with switches attached. Water dripped from valves and there was glyptal on the floor below wherever they fixed a vacuum. The whole thing was very hands on and it reminded him of his childhood lab.

Room 302 at Princeton where Einstein taught, by Deadly437 CC-BY-SA 40

While at Princeton, he was a research assistant to John Archibald Wheeler, an influential theoretical physicist. Wheeler helped Feynman work out problems for the classical version of what became the Wheeler-Feynman absorber theory. He also advised Feynman to give his first seminar on the subject with Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, and John von Neumann in attendance.

Feynman’s time a Princeton coincided with World War II and feeling patriotic, for summer jobs he looked for ways to apply his talents to the war effort. One summer job involved designing mechanical computers to do ballistics, much of it involving gears.

He received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1942.

Working On The Bomb Feynman at Los Alamos. Robert Oppenheimer is second from the right.

Like many scientists, Feynman went to work on the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of the Manhattan Project.

He had many jobs during this time. To give a few examples, for a time he worked for Hans Bethe during which they came up with the Bethe-Feynman formula which gave the yield of a fission bomb. He also worked on a system for computing using IBM punch cards. The work also involved some travel. He spent time at a uranium enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee to make sure that the materials weren’t in concentrations anywhere during the processing or storage where they’d become radioactive or explode.

This period of time wasn’t without its adventures though. He found an interest in picking locks and figuring out the combinations for combination locks. For some of this, he got in trouble, or people were warned to not let him near their filing cabinets. His new skills even came in handy a few times when a safe needed opening and the person who knew the combination was away.

Cornell University Feynman diagram: Space-time vectors for electron-positron annihilation

After the war, in October 1945, Feynman accepted an offer to work at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. Some of that work included teaching but also research, in which he was given a free rein.

It was here where he came up with the well-known Feynman diagrams, a pictorial way of describing the mathematical descriptions of the behavior of particles. This was also where he did the fundamental work on quantum electrodynamics which later led to his winning a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

But Feynman grew restless at Cornell and tired of the cold weather so in 1951 he went to work at Caltech in California instead.

Caltech And Stirring Up Brazil Carnival in Brazil, by Cid Costa Neto CC-BY-SA 3.0

As a condition of working at Caltech, he spent the first year in Brazil teaching at the Center for Physical Research. He noticed that students were very good at answering the type of questions which involved regurgitating facts, but they couldn’t apply that knowledge to the real world. He pointed this out in a talk he was asked to give toward the end of his visit. This was an example of his observing the difference his father had taught him between learning facts and understanding the why of things.

It was also in Brazil that he got interested in Samba music and took up the frigideira, a metal frying pan shaped instrument with a metal stick with which to beat it. He even played it as part of a band during the Carnival and at private parties.

When he returned from Brazil, he fell in love with Caltech. He especially liked that he could be in touch with people from so many disciplines and spent the remainder of his career there.

To give a small sample of his subsequent physics work, he examined the superfluidity of liquid helium, developed a model of weak decay with Murray Gell-Mann, and developed something called the parton model.

He also influenced future fields of endeavor. In 1959, he gave a talk called There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom which led to nanotechnology. He also helped initiate quantum computing in 1981, the year after it was first proposed by Russian mathematician Yuri Mannin.

The Space Shuttle Challenger Commission Grey smoke from the solid rocket booster

What brought Feynman to the attention of many who were not normally interested in science was his involvement on the Rogers Commission which studied the Challenger disaster. The cause of the disaster was the effect that particular morning’s cold temperatures had on decreasing the resiliency of O-rings connecting cylindrical sections of the solid rocket boosters.

It was later revealed that fellow commission member and astronaut, Sally Ride tipped off General Donald Kutyna, also on the commission, about the O-ring problem. He then tipped off Feynman, knowing that Feynman would investigate it no matter the politics or fear of reprisals. With his dedication to scientific integrity, that’s just what he did and performed a simple and famous demonstration at a press conference using a cup of ice water, a clamp, and a sample O-ring.

He also found numerous other problems within NASA, mostly stemming from a disconnect between the working engineers who had a firm and realistic grasp of the issues and management who for some reason didn’t. The write-up of his findings appeared in the report as Appendix F and we have an article summarizing it here.

Teaching And Writing Feynman book section at Caltech, by DRosenbach CC-BY-SA 3.0

During his years at Caltech he gained fame as a great teacher and is still sometimes referred to as “The Great Explainer”.

Many of his lectures have been collected into books. If you’re looking for a good science read then pretty much anything is recommended, from the very approachable Six Easy Pieces to one you’d expect to be difficult but somehow isn’t, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. The three book series, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, aren’t light reading, though they can be if you’re a real physics geek. They are, however, great to have on your bookcase as a reference. All these books impart understanding, something Feynman was a master at doing

And if you want even more fun, pick up a copy of Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, an autobiography filled with not only the usual significant life details but also more antics than is believed one person can have in a single lifetime. A follow-up, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, contains more personal information in the first half, but the second half details his adventures working on the Challenger commission followed by the complete Appendix F which he’d written for the report.


Feynman died of cancer in 1988 but left behind a legacy which is just as alive today as it was when he was around creating it. There are many lessons you can take from this legacy: to have fun, be curious, seek out understanding, but as a scientist or engineer the biggest challenge is perhaps to not fool yourself or anyone else, which Feynman referred to as integrity. It’s something he applied throughout his scientific career and it was a guiding principle for him while investigating the Challenger disaster. He put it this way:

I’m not talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you’re maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

It’s a big legacy, so much so that this article could have been much longer and was even trimmed for length. So if you have a favorite Feynman story or book, perhaps we can spill some of his tale into the comments below.

Direct CNC Control with the Raspberry Pi

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 22:30

If you’re building a CNC router, laser cutter, or even 3D printer, you’ll usually be looking at a dedicated controller. This board takes commands from a computer, often in the form of G-Code, and interprets that into movement commands to the connected stepper motors. Historically this has been something of a necessary evil, as there was really no way to directly control stepper motors with a computer fast enough to be useful. That may not be the case anymore.

A stepstick driver

Thanks to the Raspberry Pi (and similar boards), we now have Linux computers with plenty of GPIO pins. The only thing missing is the software to interpret the G-Code and command the steppers over GPIO, which thanks to [pantadeusz], we now have. Called raspigcd, this software interprets a subset of G-Code to provide real-time control over connected steppers fast enough to drive a small CNC router.

Of course, you can’t directly control a beefy stepper motor to the GPIO pins of a Pi. You’ll let out all the magic smoke. But you can wire it up directly to a stepper driver board. These little modules connect up to a dedicated power supply and handle the considerable current draw of the steppers, all you need to do is provide them the number of steps and direction of travel.

This method of direct control offers some very interesting possibilities for small, low-cost, CNC projects. Not only can you skip the control board, you could conceivably handle the machine’s user interface (either directly via a touch screen or over the network) on the same Pi.

We’ve seen attempts at creating all-in-one Linux stepper controllers in the past, but the fact that anyone with a Raspberry Pi 2 or 3 (the boards this software has currently been tested on) can get in on the action should really help spur along development. Has anyone used this?

Retro Computer Badge for Hackaday Belgrade Has Everything You Wished for Back in the Day

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 21:01

The hardware badge for the Hackaday Belgrade conference is a Retro Computer that you wear around your neck. I have one in my hands and it’s truly a work of art. It’s beautiful, it’s fun to play with, and it will be an epic platform for a glorious weekend of badge hacking! Check out the first look video, then join me below as I drill down into the details.

Get your ticket now for Hackaday Belgrade, our premier European hardware conference at the end of this month. It’s a day filled with talks, works, food, fun, and of course everyone through the door gets one of these incredible badges. The best part is the community that turns out for this event and that includes the Hacker Village that takes hold in the evening. We’ll be hacking the badges until the wee hours of the morning alongside hardware demos, presentations, lightning talks, and live EDM and DJ sets.

Sweet Hardware

This badge feels incredible. The concept and hardware design are the work of Voja Antonic who is already in Belgrade making sure the manufacturing process goes smoothly. Since everyone who attends the conference will get a badge there’s a lot of hardware to produce!

Voja is a master at including artful choices in his designs. I love the shape of this badge, with the lanyard hole to one side. But the opposite corner having a slight bevel pulls the shape in a very interesting direction, along with the gently rounded bottom corners. The angled switches are mesmerizing in a way that a straight grid would not have been, and Voja’s choice of a cross-hatched ground pour in the top copper gives a pleasing texture that you might not have noticed, but would miss if it were taken away. This badge is gorgeous.

When I think of a retro computer the things that come to mind are a clicky keyboard, and a green (or amber) monochrome display. This badge easily satisfies keyboard lovers with 55 momentary push buttons. The screen itself is full color so it can do monochrome, and at 320×240 it has the feel of a low-res CRT, operating in 40×20 character VT100 mode by default (more on this in the software section).

The surprise that will bring a smile to your face is the PCB mounted speaker on the back. It can be driven with three voices and sounds just great! You’ll find one RGB LED module on the front, as well as an expansion header for programming, serial, I2C, and some GPIO. All of this is driven by the PIC32MX370F512H, along with a two megabyte flash chip for storing programs. If this was all available as a computer back in the day it would have dominated the industry: 48 MHz, 512 kB flash storage, and 128 kB of RAM.

The badge I have is one of 5 ‘mark 2’ prototypes — the originals didn’t have the speaker, were based on a PIC24 chip, and this version steps up from AAA to AA. The production badges have black solder mask and an acrylic bezel for the back, but everything else remains the same. Learn more on the page project page.

Delightful Software Music scripting in the basic interpreter… this badge sounds great!

To hold it in your hands is something special, but the software is what makes it come alive. Voja’s original idea was a badge that has a BASIC interpreter but we have so much more than that. Having found a very old post on the Microchip forums from him about BASIC for PIC, we reached out to Jaromir Sukuba — well known on Hackaday.io and winner of the Coin Cell Challenge earlier this year. Jaromir agreed to come on board and write the software for the project. Please take the time to thank Jaromir for this, it has turned into a huge project!

For those that want purity in their Retro Computing experience, Jaromir has a couple of things for you. Notably, the badge is running CP/M on a Z80 emulator. CP/M is a very popular operating system for computers of the Z80 vintage, and to proof out the system we’ve been running Zork! But this is certainly not limited to games. The badge as a ROM drive for CP/M that includes xmodem. Using a USB to TTL serial cable you can transfer programs onto one of the three 512 kB drives which use that Flash chip for storage. Of course you can also transfer badge to badge.

Also a huge throwback is a copy of Tiny BASIC that is running in an unaltered form. This is not the main BASIC interpreter on the badge, but dating back to the 1970’s it’s fun to challenge yourself to do something really interesting with the barebones interpreter. For those that want a refresher, here’s the Tiny BASIC manual dating back to 1979.

The main event on the badge is the Hackaday BASIC interpreter that has been customized to make full use of all the badge functions. It has the ability to save and load programs from 16 storage slots, but it can also transfer programs onto and off of the badge over serial. It drives the music on the badge using a simple scripting language. There are words for controlling the LEDs, twiddling GPIO on the pin header, and taking more direct control of the display by changing colors, moving the cursor, controlling screen refresh, and using the extended ASCII character set. You can check out the software for yourself by visiting this repository.

All of this truly does make it a retro computer in your hands. I can’t wait to see hundreds of these being typed on and bringing joy to a conference full of hardware geeks!

Incredible Demoscene

The badge hacking ceremonies will be at midnight, giving everyone around 14 hours to do something special with the badge. We want to see all levels of hacking, from people who have never programmed making the LEDs blink, to veterans of the demoscene blowing the stock firmware away with their custom code.

Start dreaming up your hacks now. If you have them, bring along a USB-to-serial cable and/or PIC programmer (we’ll have some on hand, but the more the better). There are awards for the best music, best demo, best BASIC, best CP/M, and a few other categories of hacks. But it isn’t the awards that make this fun, it’s showing off your creativity for others who will truly appreciate it. These are your people, you need to be at Hackaday Belgrade.

Get your ticket and come make some memories with us!

DIY Pi Zero Pentesting Tool Keeps it Cheap

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 18:00

It’s a story as old as time: hacker sees cool tool, hacker recoils in horror at the price of said tool, hacker builds their own version for a fraction of the price. It’s the kind of story that we love here at Hackaday, and has been the impetus for countless projects we’ve covered. One could probably argue that, if hackers had more disposable income, we’d have a much harder time finding content to deliver to our beloved readers.

[ Alex Jensen] writes in to tell us of his own tale of sticker shock induced hacking, where he builds his own version of the Hak5 Bash Bunny. His version might be lacking a bit in the visual flair department, but despite coming in at a fraction of the cost, it does manage to pack in an impressive array of features.

This pentesting multitool can act as a USB keyboard, a mass storage device, and even an RNDIS Ethernet adapter. All in an effort to fool the computer you plug it into to let you do something you shouldn’t. Like its commercial inspiration, it features an easy to use scripting system to allow new attacks to be crafted on the fly with nothing more than a text editor. A rudimentary user interface is provided by four DIP switches and light up tactile buttons. These allow you to select which attacks run without needing to hook the device up to a computer first, and the LED lights can give you status information on what the device is doing.

[Alex] utilized some code from existing projects, namely PiBunny and rspiducky, but much of the functionality is of his own design. Detailed instructions are provided on how you can build your own version of this handy hacker gadget without breaking the bank.

Given how small and cheap it is, the Raspberry Pi is gaining traction in the world of covert DIY penetration testing tools. While it might not be terribly powerful, there’s something to be said for a device that’s cheap enough that you don’t mind leaving it at the scene if you’ve got to pull on your balaclava and make a break for it.

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in 2018

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 15:00

It’s been 25 years since Microsoft released Windows for Workgroups 3.11. To take a trip back to the end of the 16-bit era of operating system, [Yeo Kheng Meng] got WFW 3.11 running on a modern Thinkpad.

To make things difficult, a few goals were set for the project. Obviously, this wouldn’t be much fun in a virtual machine, so those were banned. A video driver would be needed, since WFW 3.11 only supports resolutions up to 640×480 in software. Some basic support for sound would be desirable. Finally, TCP/IP networking is possible in WFW 3.11, so networking hardware would allow access modern internet.

[Yeo Kheng Meng] accomplished all of these goals on a 2009 Thinkpad T400 and throughly documented the process. Some interesting hacks were required, including the design of a custom parallel port sound card based on the Covox Speech Thing. Accessing HTTPS web servers required a man-in-the-middle attack to strip SSL, since the SSL support on WFW 3.11 is ancient and blocked by most web servers today.

If you want your own WFW 3.11 laptop, the detailed instructions will get you there. [Yeo Kheng Meng] has also provided the hardware design for the sound card. You can watch a talk on the process after the break.

MSDOS Development with GCC

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 12:00

It mind seem odd to think about programming in MSDOS in 2018. But if you are vintage computer enthusiast or have to support some old piece of equipment with an MSDOS single board computer, it could be just the thing. The problem is, where do you get a working compiler that doesn’t have to run on the ancient DOS machine? Turns out, gcc can do the trick. [RenéRebe] offers a video demo based on a blog post by [Chris Wellons]. You can see the video, below.

The technique generates COM files, not EXE files, so there are some limitations, such as a 64K file size. The compiler also won’t generate code for any CPU lower than a 80386, so if you have a real 8086, 80186, or 80286 CPU, you are out of luck. The resulting code will run in a real DOS environment on a ‘386 or higher or in a simulator like DOSBox.

You might be thinking why not use the DJGPP port of gcc to DOS. That sounds good, but it actually doesn’t produce true DOS code. It produces code for a DOS extender. In addition, [Chris] had trouble getting it to work with a modern setup.

The only real trick here is using the right combination of gcc flags to create a standalone image with the right codes. A COM file is just a dump of memory, so you don’t need a fancy header or anything. You also, of course, won’t have any library support, so you’ll have to write everything including functions to, say, print on the screen. Of course, you can borrow [Chris’] if you like.

The last pieces of the puzzle include adding a small stub to set up and call main and getting the linker to output a minimal file. Once you have that, you are ready to program like it is 1993. Don’t miss part 2, which covers interrupts.

If you pine away for QuickBasic instead of C, go download this. If you just want to run some old DOS games, that’s as close as your browser.

Tiny Pinball Emulator is Hugely Impressive

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 09:00

We were wondering what [Circuitbeard] has been up to lately. Turns out he’s been building a mini pinball cabinet to add to his arcade of self-built games.

[Circuitbeard] was forced to break out of his Raspi comfort zone this time. We’re glad he did because this is one impressive build. Finding the pinball emulation community lacking for Linux, he turned to the LattePanda, a tiny Windows 10 SBC with a built-in Arduino Leonardo. This was really the perfect board because he needed to support multiple displays with a minimum of fuss. That Leonardo comes in handy for converting button presses to key presses inside the Visual Pinball emulator.

The 3mm laser-cut plywood cabinet was designed entirely in Inkscape and sized around the two screens: a genuine 7″ LattePanda display for the playfield, and a 5″ HDMI for the back glass. The main box holds the Lattepanda, two Pimoroni mini speakers, and a fan to keep the board cool.

There’s a lot to like about this little cabinet thanks to [Circuitbeard]’s fantastic attention to detail, which you can see for yourself in the slew of pictures. Look closer at the coin drop—it’s really an illuminated button with a custom graphic. If you want to have a go at emulating this emulator, all the code is up on GitHub. Tilt past the break to watch some modern pinball wizardry in action, and then check out his mini Outrun machine.

If pinball emulators don’t score any points with you, here’s one that’s all wood and rubber bands.

DIY Variacs get ESP8266 Upgrades

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 06:01

If you’be been hacking and making long enough, you’ve probably run into a situation where you realize that a previous project could be improved with the addition of technology that simply wasn’t available when you built it. Sometimes it means starting over from scratch, but occasionally you luck out and can shoehorn in some new gear without having to go back to the drawing board.

The two isolated variacs that [nop head] built were already impressive, but with the addition of the ESP8266 he was able to add some very slick additional features which really took them to the next level. He’s done an exceptional job detailing the new modifications, including providing all the source for anyone who might be walking down a similar path.

His variacs have digital energy meters right in the front panel which give voltage, amps, and a real-time calculation of watts. After reading an article by [Thomas Scherrer] about sniffing the SPI data out of one of these meters with an Arduino, [nop head] reasoned he could do the same thing with an ESP8266. The advantage being that he could then pull that data out over the network to graph or analyze however he wishes.

For his older variac, he decided to automate the device by adding a stepper and belt to turn the knob. The stepper is controlled by a Pololu stepper driver, which in turn get’s its marching orders from another ESP8266. He even came up with a simple web interface which allows you to monitor and control the variac from your smart device.

We don’t often see many variacs around these parts, and even fewer attempts at building custom ones. It’s one of those pieces of equipment you either can’t live without, or have never even heard of.

RC Paper Airplane From Guts Of Quadcopter

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 04:30

Mini indoor drones have become an incredibly popular gift in the last few years since they’re both cool and inexpensive. For a while they’re great fun to fly around, until the inevitable collision with a wall, piece of furniture, or family member. Often not the most structurally sound of products, a slightly damaged quad can easily be confined to a cupboard for the rest of its life. But [Peter Sripol] has an idea for re-using the electronics from a mangled quad by building his own RC controlled paper aeroplane.

[Peter] uses the two rear motors from a mini quadcopter to provide the thrust for the aeroplane. The key is to remove the motors from the frame and mount them at 90 degrees to their original orientation so that they’re now facing forwards. This allows the drone’s gyro to remain facing upwards in its usual orientation, and keep the plane pointing forwards.

The reason this works is down to how drones yaw: because half of the motors spin the opposite direction to the other half, yaw is induced by increasing the speed of all motors spinning in one direction, mismatching the aerodynamic torques and rotating the drone. In the case of the mini quadcopter, each of the two rear motors spin in different directions. Therefore, when the paper plane begins to yaw off-centre, the flight controller increases power to the appropriate motor.

Mounting the flight controller and motors to the paper plane can either be achieved using a 3D-printed mount [Peter] created, or small piece of foam. Shown here is the foam design that mounts the propellers at wing level but the 3D printed version has then under the fuselage and flies a bit better.

Making paper planes too much effort? You could always use the one-stroke paper plane folder, or even the paper plane machine gun.

PGP Vulnerability Pre-announced by Security Researcher

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 03:01

From the gaping maw of the infosec Twitterverse comes horrifying news. PGP is broken. How? We don’t know. When will there be any information on this vulnerability? Tomorrow. It’s the most important infosec story of the week, and it’s only Monday. Of course, this vulnerability already has a name. Everyone else is calling it eFail, but I’m calling it Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

Update: eFail site and paper now available. This was released ahead of Tuesday’s planned announcement when the news broke ahead of a press embargo.

Update 2: The report mentions two attacks. The Direct Exfiltration attack wraps the body of a PGP-encrypted email around an image tag. If a mail client automatically decrypts this email, the result will be a request to a URL containing the plaintext of the encrypted email. The second attack only works one-third of the time. Mitigation strategies are to not decrypt email in a client, disable HTML rendering, and in time, update the OpenPGP and S/MIME standards. This is not the end of PGP, it’s a vulnerability warranting attention from those with a very specific use case.

[Sebastian Schinzel] announced on Twitter today he will be announcing a critical vulnerability in PGP/GPG and S/MIME email encryption. This vulnerability may reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails. There are currently no fixes — but there’s no proof of concept, or any actual publication of this exploit either. The only thing that’s certain: somebody on Twitter said encrypted email is broken.

The EFF has chimed in on this exploit and advises everyone to immediately disable and uninstall tools that automatically decrypt PGP-encrypted email. It also looks like the EFF came up with a great little logo for eFail as well so kudos on that.

While there are no details whatsoever concerning eFail aside from a recommendation to not use PGP, a few members of the community have seen a pre-press of the eFail paper. [Werner Koch] of GnuPG says eFail is simply using HTML as a back channel. If this is true, PGP is still safe; you just shouldn’t use HTML emails. If you really need to read HTML emails, use a proper MIME parser and disallow access to external links. It should be noted that HTML in email is already an attack vector and has been for decades. You don’t need to bring PGP into this.

Should you worry about a vulnerability in PGP and email encryption? Literally no one knows. European security researchers are working on a publication release right now, but other experts in the field who have seen the paper think it’s not a big deal. There is no consensus from experts in the field, and there is no paper available right now. That last point will change in a few hours, but for now eFail just stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

MoAgriS: A Modular Agriculture System

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 01:30

Hackaday.io user [Prof. Fartsparkle] aims to impress us again with MoAgriS, a stripped-down rig for bringing crops indoors and providing them with all they need.

This project is an evolution of their submission to last year’s Hackaday Prize, MoRaLiS — a modular lighting system on rails — integrating modules for light, water, airflow, fertilizer and their appropriate sensors. With an emphasis on low-cost, a trio of metal bars serve as the structure, power and data transmission medium with SAM D11 chips shepherding each plant.

Reinforced, angled PCBs extend rails horizontally allowing the modules to be mounted at separate heights. Light module? Up top. Water sensor? Low on the rails above the pot’s rim. You get the idea. 3D printed clamps attach the rails to the plant’s pot with a touch of paint to keep it from sticking out like a sore thumb among the leaves.

Airflow modules replicate wind currents — the lack of which results in thin, fragile stems — and light modules include a soft white LED to accompany and mitigate the full-spectrum LEDs’ pink neon-like glow. To manage watering the plants, [Prof. Fartsparkle] initially wanted to use one pump to distribute water to every plant, but found some smaller pumps at a low enough price-point to make one per plant viable — and simpler to integrate as a module as well!

If you prefer your gardening to take place outdoors, consider a robot assistant to tackle your weeding.

The HackadayPrize2018 is Sponsored by:

The Electrical Outlet and How It Got That Way

อังคาร, 05/15/2018 - 00:01

Right now, if you happen to be in Noth America, chances are pretty good that there’s at least one little face staring at you. Look around and you’ll spy it, probably about 15 inches up from the floor on a nearby wall. It’s the ubiquitous wall outlet, with three holes arranged in a way that can’t help but stimulate the facial recognition firmware of our mammalian brain.

No matter where you go you’ll find those outlets and similar ones, all engineered for specific tasks. But why do they look the way they do? And what’s going on electrically and mechanically behind that familiar plastic face? It’s a topic we’ve touched on before with Jenny List’s take on international mains standards. Now it’s time to take a look inside the common North American wall socket, and how it got that way.

Hubbell’s Plugs Separable Attachment Plug, US Patent 774,250. Note the round, headphone-like prongs rather than flat blades.

Consider the problems faced by engineers and designers in the early days of the electrical age. They were literally inventing an industry from the ground up, with very little to go on in terms of prior art. Not only did they have to invent the means of producing electricity, they had to come up with absolutely every component that would connect together to create useful circuits for paying customers, preferably without killing them.

One thing customers, particularly residential customers, would need would be a means to temporarily attach electrical devices to the mains supply, without requiring a visit from an electrician to connect them to the fixed wiring of a house or office, which was typically dedicated to sockets for light bulbs. The requirements were simple: provide two contacts, one for the line conductor and one for the neutral, that could remain firmly connected but easily interrupted at need.

Imaginative minds worked on this and similar problems in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and various solutions were adopted. But it wasn’t until 1903 that Harvey Hubbell, an inventor from Bridgeport, Connecticut, patented his “Separable Attachment Plug,” a device that we’d recognize as a plug and socket. Hubbell’s first pass at a design used round conductors that looked a bit like the plugs used in manual telephone exchanges to make connections, and might have been inspired by them. The detents at the tip of the pins were retained by the spring action of the contacts inside the socket.

A Hubbell plug with flat blades, from the 1905 catalog.

The device worked well, but the manufacturer and businessman in Harvey saw problems. Foremost was the costs behind those round pins, which would have required machining to achieve the tip and detent. Harvey would have known that parts stamped from sheet metal would be cheaper and easier to manufacture, and so he scrapped the round pins in favor of flat metal blades in 1904. Like the round prongs, the flat blades had a detent for retention, and were arranged in a line. Catalogs from the time list dozens of variants of the “Hubbell Attachment Plug,” and the prices shown for each device suggest that Hubbell’s company fared well in the early 20th century.

For reasons unknown, though, Hubbell altered his design in 1912. The two blades were no longer in a line; each blade was twisted 90° to form the familiar parallel arrangement we see to this day. Hubbell continued to sell both styles of plugs and sockets, and by 1915 had sold something like 15 million units, enough to ensure that Hubbell’s design would be adopted as a standard, even without the millions of units also sold by Hubbell’s imitators.


The specifications for the standard wall outlet we know and love today in North America are determined by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). NEMA standards cover a bewildering range of electrical products; we’ve covered their enclosure and weather-resistance standards before. The standard 120-volt, 15-amp outlet is a NEMA 5-15. The third conductor, the ground pin that completes the outlet’s face, is a round or U-shaped prong. It was added to some outlets as early as the 1920s as a safety feature and is now required for all outlets by the National Electrical Code.

The ground connection is interesting. You’ll notice that on three-wire plugs, the ground pin extends further out from the insulated cord body by about 1/8″. The idea here is that the ground circuit will be completed before the line and neutral connections are made when plugging the cord into an outlet, and perhaps more importantly, will be disconnected last when unplugging. That ensures that there’s a path to ground any time a circuit is plugged into the outlet.

Note too that the NEMA standard says the ground pin is actually located above the slots for the line and neutral pins, turning that frowning face upside down. There’s some logic to that — if something conductive should drape across a partially unplugged cord, it’s safer to have the line and neutral blades physically blocked by the ground pin. In practice, though, most outlets in residential and business settings are installed with the ground plug down. But look around the next time you’re in a hospital; chances are, the outlets there are all installed the correct way.

Behind the Face

The internals of a NEMA 5-15 outlet vary by manufacturer, of course, and even within a brand, there are different grades of outlet. The picture below shows two different grades of outlet taken apart. They’re similar in that both the line and the neutral connections are formed brass bus bars, with screw connections on the outside for connection into a building’s wiring, and springy contacts to grip and retain the mating plug. The industrial-grade outlet has thicker bus bars, better contacts, and stouter plastic in the body. You’ll notice too that both grades have the ground pin directly connected to the metal frame of the outlet, which would also be in contact with a metal wall box, if it were mounted in one.

NEMA 5-15 outlet internals. Source: HandymanHowTo.com

Considering how much else has changed in the last century, it’s pretty remarkable that Harvey Hubbell’s original plug and socket designs have remained pretty much unchanged. They’ve been tweaked, for sure, and the original idea has been extended to a panoply of configurations for every connection imaginable. There’s no doubt that the design has some deficiencies, but in the end, Harvey’s ideas seem to have won the day by addressing the basic needs.

This Weekend: Hackaday x Tindie Meetup At Bay Area Maker Faire.

จันทร์, 05/14/2018 - 23:01

Maker Faire Bay Area is this weekend, and the Hackaday and Tindie crew are getting ready to jack some cupcake cars. The Bay Area Maker Faire is one of the greatest gatherings of all the cool people we know, and five years ago we started host a meetup. This Saturday, we’re blowing the roof off our favorite joint in San Mateo yet again. Join us at O’Neill’s Irish Pub for the 5th annual Hackaday x Tindie BAMF Meetup!

This meetup is a well established tradition — it’s all the cool kids at Maker Faire, hanging out in a bar. Well, all the cool 21+ kids that is. There will be blinky, there will be bring-a-hack, and there will be the people who build stuff and make things happen. This is the mixer for everyone who is passionate about hardware, and a refreshing escape from the heat and the five dollar bottles of water.

Want an idea of what’s in store for the Hackaday x Tindie Bay Area Meetup? Last year it spilled into the streets. We cajoled [Josef Prusa] to head out, we had tiny 3D printers in action, [Ben Heck] made an appearance, and someone brought a HoloLens. the MOnSter 6502 was there, slowly increasing its program counter. If you want to see the coolest DIY hardware without the dealing with the masses at Maker Faire, this is the event you want to hit up.

But wait, there’s more: HDDG is Thursday!

Are you heading to San Fransisco early? Awesome, because we’re also hosting the Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic on the Thursday before the Faire! The HDDG is our monthly expand-your-mind gathering for hardware developers in the Bay Area. We have some amazing guests that will be talking about the latest hardware they’ve been developing.

On deck for this installment of HDDG is [Tanya Fish] who has been working at Pimoroni for the past couple of years. She’ll be discussing the ‘invisible magic’ of electronics and how to explain electrons to the uninitiated. Also on board for HDDG is [Roy Jui Liang Hung], the founder of Perkūnas Studio, one of the most renowned 3D printing experts in Taiwan. He’ll be talking about 3D sculpture. Also on board is [Jason Kridner], co-founder of BeagleBone.org, who will be talking about simplifying hardware design with the BeagleBone On A Chip.

3D-Printing Saves Collectible Lures from a Fishy Ending

จันทร์, 05/14/2018 - 22:00

Give a man a fishing lure, and he catches fish until he loses the lure. Give a fisherman a 3D-printer, and he can print all the fishing lures he wants, especially replicas of those that are too valuable to actually use.

It may seem strange that some people collect fishing lures rather than use them, but when you look at [Hunter]’s collection, it’s easy to see why. Lures can be very artistic, and the Heddon River Runts in his collection are things of beauty and highly prized. They’re also highly effective at convincing fish to commit suicide, so rather than risk the originals, he and his dad 3D-printed replicas.

After modeling the body of the lure in Blender, they modified it with air pockets for buoyancy and located holes for attaching the treble hooks and lip spoon, which was fabricated from a scrap of brass from a rifle casing. The finished lure lacks the painted details and some of the charm of the original River Runt, but it has something Mr. Heddon couldn’t dream of in 1933 when he introduced it — it glows in the dark, thanks to the phosphorescent PLA filament used. That seems to be irresistible to the bass, who hit the lure so often that they got sick of taking pictures. See it in action in the video below.

[Hunter] and his dad have been busy exploring what 3D printing can do, replicating all sorts of Heddon lures. They’ve even got plans to design and print their own lures. But maybe archery is more your sportsman thing than fishing, in which case this PVC pipe compound bow or a recurve bow from skis would be something to check out.

The Eric Lundgren Story: When Free isn’t Free

จันทร์, 05/14/2018 - 21:01

At this point, you’ve almost certainly heard the tale of Eric Lundgren, the electronics recycler who is now looking at spending 15 months in prison because he was duplicating freely available Windows restore discs. Of no use to anyone who doesn’t already have a licensed copy of Windows, these restore discs have little to no monetary value. In fact, as an individual, you couldn’t buy one at retail if you wanted to. The duplication of these discs would therefore seem to be a victimless crime.

Eric Lundgren

Especially when you hear what Eric wanted to do with these discs. To help extend the functional lifespan of older computers, he intended on providing these discs at low cost to those looking to refurbish Windows computers. After each machine had its operating system reinstalled, the disc would go along with the computer in hopes the new owner would be able to utilize it themselves down the road.

It all sounds innocent enough, even honorable. But a quick glance at Microsoft’s licensing arrangement is all you need to know the whole scheme runs afoul of how the Redmond giant wants their operating system installed and maintained. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but when Eric Lundgren decided to use Microsoft’s product he agreed to play by their rules. Unfortunately for him, he lost.

A Perfectly Logical Defense

In a nutshell, Eric’s claims that he is not guilty of “pirating” Microsoft Windows; as the discs he was duplicating were intended only to restore a previously-licensed copy of the operating system. The line of logic continues that, since the owner of a Windows computer has the right to install Windows on it as many times as he or she would like, the installation media should be freely available to them.

Indeed, Microsoft and most OEMs do offer a free download for restoration media. But downloading the files and burning them to disc or otherwise copying them to a bootable device could easily be beyond the means of many users. So computers which could otherwise be brought back up to operational condition with a fresh install of their OS are tossed in the trash in favor of purchasing a new machine.

Up to this point, Eric’s argument is sound enough. We’ve all picked up a computer or two off the side of the road that just needed a wipe and reinstall to get it kicking again.

Given these basic facts, Eric had the idea to take the freely available restore disc ISOs and have them professionally pressed to CDs. While he was at it he figured he might as well make them look like the real thing, and provided the Chinese company he was working with images of what the legitimate restore discs should look like. Right down to the company logos and copyright notices.

Why not? After all, it’s free.

Free Versus Libre

The English language is a tricky thing: one word can have multiple definitions depending on the context in which it was used. A perfect example is the distinction between something being provided without cost, and one that is provided without limitations on its use. Both are colloquially referred to as being “free”, but the two concepts are far from synonymous.

Richard Stallman, the father of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), famously summarized the issue with his “Free as in beer” analogy:

“Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of free as in free speech, not as in free beer.”

To address this ambiguity, the FSF recommends that software provided to the user without restrictions on its use be referred to as “libre”. Coming from the Latin word līber, meaning “the state of being free”, libre refers not to monetary cost but to the freedoms offered to the user by way of the software’s license.

The restoration media provided by Microsoft and its partners may have been free, but it was most assuredly not libre. For example, the Terms of Use from Microsoft’s download portal clearly spell out the limitations on “free” files (such as restore disc ISOs) which are downloaded from them:

Personal and Non-Commercial Use Limitation

Unless otherwise specified, the Services are for your personal and non-commercial use. You may not modify, copy, distribute, transmit, display, perform, reproduce, publish, license, create derivative works from, transfer, or sell any information, software, products or services obtained from the Services.

In this context, it’s clear that Eric Lundgren’s operation, even if it was meant to be an altruistic act, is in direct violation of Microsoft’s terms.

For its part, Microsoft does actually offer a program to provide Windows restore discs for professional computer refurbishment. The catch is that it requires a $25 fee for “refreshing” the license, as the computer is being refurbished for monetary gain. In Microsoft’s view, once the computer is resold to another individual, the original Windows license no longer applies.

A License Like Any Other

If you told me that one day I might be writing an article defending Microsoft’s draconian ideas on software licenses, I’d never have believed it. Yet here we are. I don’t like the way Microsoft licenses their software, and I imagine many Hackaday readers feel the same way. But at the same time I recognize they have the right, as the creator of said software, to license it however they see fit. If we celebrate legal victories over those who would violate the terms of the GNU GPL license, we cannot in the next breath condone the violation of proprietary licenses simply because they run counter to the hacker ethos.

As a community we fought back against people selling prints of Creative Commons Non-Commercial models downloaded from Thingiverse, a scenario nearly identical to the one Eric has found himself in. Ignorance to the fine print doesn’t absolve you from being held accountable; just because you found it for free online doesn’t mean you can put it into mass production and pocket a profit.

When he chose to use proprietary software for his computer refurbishment plans, he took on the burden of following the restrictive licenses such software is bound by. Had he decided instead to put into production install discs for Ubuntu or any other GNU/Linux distribution, things would have gone very differently. His goals of putting old computers back into service would have been met, and he would have not been in violation of the software’s license. But that’s not the choice he made.

Poor Decisions, Poor Sentencing

The fact that Eric Lundgren is guilty of violating Microsoft’s terms is really beyond debate. Especially when you consider this has all happened before: in 2012 Microsoft sued UK retailer Comet for duplicating and selling restore discs as a service to their customers. Even if he had the best of intentions (which incidentally, Microsoft disputes), he’s absolutely guilty of the charge which was brought against him: the duplication of software which explicitly was not to be duplicated.

That said, he doesn’t deserve to spend more than a year of his life in prison. Eric has a clean record, and the court was unable to show any verifiable damages to Microsoft. Not even a single one of the 28,000 restore discs he had manufactured in China were ever sold. As it turns out, nobody wanted to buy something they could download on their own for free. Eric had already learned a very costly lesson before Federal authorities had ever gotten involved. A fact echoed by Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley, “This is a difficult sentencing, because I credit everything you are telling me, you are a very remarkable person.” The $50,000 fine that he’s been ordered to pay is one thing, but the prison sentence simply seems excessive in light of the facts.

We’ve gotten enough messages in the Tip Line about Eric’s ordeal to know that Hackaday readers have some very strong opinions on this case. By all means be angry that the court may not have fully understood the monetary value of the software Eric was duplicating, imposing a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. But let’s not make the mistake of deluding ourselves into believing he did nothing wrong.

Flite Test Puts a Chair in the Air

จันทร์, 05/14/2018 - 18:00

The Flite Test crew is well known for putting some crazy flying contraptions together. They’ve outdone themselves this time with a flying IKEA chair. This build began with [Josh] issuing a challenge to [Stefan]. Take a standard IKEA ladderback chair and make it fly– in less than six hours. With such a tight schedule, measuring twice and cutting once was right out the window. This was a hackathon-style “throw it together and hope it works” build.

The chair was plenty sturdy, so it became the core of the fuselage. [Stefan] grabbed the wing from a previous plane and placed it on the seat of the chair. Two carbon fiber rods drilled into the seat frame formed a tail boom. The tailfeathers were built from Flite Test foam – paper coated foam-core board.

With the structure complete, [Stefan] and his team added servos for control, a beefy motor for power, and some big LiPo batteries. The batteries hung from the bottom of the chair to keep the center of gravity reasonable.

When the time came for the maiden flight, everyone was expecting a spectacular failure. The chair defied logic and leaped into the air. It flew stable enough for [Josh] to take his fingers off the sticks. The pure excitement of seeing a crazy build that works is on full display as the entire Flite Test crew literally jumps for joy. [Alex] even throws in a cartwheel. This is the kind of story we love to cover here at Hackaday – watching a completely nutty build come together and perform better than anyone expected.

We’ve covered the Flite Test team’s build of a star destroyer, and even interviewed them a few years ago at Maker Faire.