If you go to the University of South Florida, you can take the “Makecourse.” The 15-week program promises to teach CAD software, 3D printing, Arduino-based control systems, and C++. Don’t go to the University of South Florida? No worries. Professor [Rudy Schlaf] and [Eric Tridas] have made the entire course available online. You can see several videos below, but there are many more. The student project videos are great, too, like [Catlin Ryan’s] phase of the moon project (see below) or [Dustin Germain’s] rover (seen above).
In addition to a lesson plan and projects, there’s a complete set of videos (you can see a few below). If you are a regular Hackaday reader, you probably won’t care much about the basic Arduino stuff and the basic electronics–although a good review never hurts anyone. However, the more advanced topics about interrupts, SDCards, pin change interrupts might be just the thing. If you ever wanted to learn Autodesk Inventor, there are videos for that, too.
If you don’t need any of the instruction offered, this would still make a great program to offer at a local hacker space or anywhere else where you want to teach build to build. You can see from the variety of student projects that it is well-balanced and lets students focus on areas where they are most interested.
So much educational material is online now that it is hard to find time to see even a fraction of it. We love EdX, for example, but who has the time to take even a fraction of the classes offered? We always love seeing student projects–they give us ideas. [Bruce Land’s] classes, in particular, are always inspirational.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, Arduino Hacks
Not a hack, but something we’ve been wanting to see forever is open access to all scientific publications. If we can soapbox for a few seconds, it’s a crying shame that most academic science research is funded by public money, and then we’re required to pay for it again in the form of journal subscriptions or online payments if we want to read it. We don’t like science being hidden behind a paywall, and neither do the scientists whose work is hidden from wider view.
Here are two heartening developments: Unpaywall is a browser extension that automates the search for pre-press versions of a journal article, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are denying rights to research that it has funded if the resulting publications aren’t free and open.
The concept of “publishing” pre-print versions of academic papers before publication is actually older than the World Wide Web — the first versions of what would become arXiv.org shared LaTeX version of physics papers and ran on FTP and Gohper. The idea is that by pushing out a first version of the work, a scientist can get early feedback and lay claim to interesting discoveries prior to going through the long publication process. Pre-prints are available in many other fields now, and all that’s left for you to do is search for them. Unpaywall searches for you.
Needless to say, this stands to take a chunk out of the pocketbooks of scientific publishers. (Whether this matters in comparison to the large fees that they charge libraries, universities, and other institutional subscribers is open to speculation.) The top-tier journals — Nature, Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, and others — have been reluctant to offer open access, so brilliant scientists are faced with the choice of making their work openly available or publishing in a prestigious journal, which is good for their career.
In a step to change the status quo, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took their ball and went home; research funded with their money has to be open-access, period. We think that’s a laudable development, and assuming that the foundation funds quality research, the top-tier journals will be losing out unless they cooperate.
To be fair to the journal publishers, many journals are open-access or have open-access options available. The situation today is a lot better than it was even five years ago. But if we had a dime for every time we try to research some scientific paper and ran into a paywall, we wouldn’t be reduced to hawking snazzy t-shirts.
Thanks [acs] for the tip!
Filed under: news
Microfluidics, the precise control and manipulation of small volumes of liquids, is heavily used in any field that does small-scale experiments with expensive reagents (We’re looking at you, natural sciences.) However, the process commonly used to create microfluidic devices is time and experience intensive. But, worry not: the Uppsala iGEM team has created Chipgineering: A manual for manufacturing a microfluidic chip.
Used while developing everything from inkjet print heads to micro-thermal technologies, microfluidic systems are generally useful. Specifically, Uppsala’s microfluidic device performs a simple biological procedure, a heat-shock transformation, as a proof of concept. Moreover, Uppsala uses commonly available materials: ready to pour PDMS (a biologically compatible silicon) and a 3D printed mold. Additionally, while the team used a resin 3D printer, there seems to be little reason that a fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer wouldn’t work just as well. Particularly interesting is how they sandwich their PDMS between two plates, potentially allowing easy removal and replacement of reagents without external mechanisms. And, to put the cherry on top, Uppsala’s well-illustrated documentation is a joy to read.
This isn’t the first time we’ve covered microfluidic devices, and if you’re still in the prototyping phase, these microfluidic LEGO-like blocks might be what you need. But, if you prefer macrofluidics, this waste shark that aims to clean our oceans might be more your style.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, chemistry hacks
An oasis in the desert is the quintessential image of salvation for the wearied wayfarer. At Burning Man 2016, Grove — ten biofeedback tree sculptures — provided a similar, interactive respite from the festival. Each tree has over two thousand LEDs, dozens of feet of steel tube, two Teensy boards used by the custom breath sensors to create festival magic.
Grove works like this: at your approach — detected by dual IR sensors — a mechanical flower blooms, meant to prompt investigation. As you lean close, the breath sensors in the daffodil-like flower detect whether you’re inhaling or exhaling, translating the input into a dazzling pulse of LED light that snakes its way down the tree’s trunk and up to the bright, 3W LEDs on the tips of the branches.
Debugging and last minute soldering in the desert fixed a few issues, before setup — no project is without its hiccups. The entire grove was powered by solar-charged, deep-cycle batteries meant to least from sunset to sunrise — or close enough if somebody forgot to hook the batteries up to charge.
[Samuel Clay] is the chronicler of this art installation build. In fact, [Sam] and many of the others on the team worked on the Pulse & Bloom installation at Burning Man 2014 — a bouquet of lotus flower sculptures that would react to your heartbeat. He’s provided the code and schematics on GitHub to guide any other artist-makers out there that are similarly inspired.
Filed under: misc hacks
A few weeks ago, [Yann] was dumpster diving and found something of interest. Two vacuum tubes, an ECC83S and an EL84. This was obviously the droppings of a local guitarist, but [Yann] wanted to know if he could build something useful out of them. An amplifier is far too pedestrian, so he settled on a vacuum tube computer.
The normal pentodes and triodes you’ll find in a tube amp require a lot of support components like output transformers, tube sockets, and high voltage power supplies. This was a little too complicated for a tube computer, but after a little bit of searching, [Yann] found a better option for his MINIVAC — subminiature vacuum tubes. These require fewer support components, and can be found for very reasonable prices through the usual component suppliers. His entry for this year’s Hackaday Prize is Hot Logic. It’s a computer — or at least computer components — built out of these tubes.
The tubes in question are a few 1Ж29Б-В and 6Н21Б tubes, a vacuum pentode and dual triode, respectively. Add in a few diodes, and that meets the requirements for being sufficient to build a computer. As a neat little bonus, these tubes have requirements that are very easy to meet. The filament on the 1Ж29Б-В tube only needs 1.2 Volts.
These subminiature tubes are a little underappreciated in the world of audiophililia and DIY electronics. That’s a bit of a shame; these tubes are the most technologically advanced vacuum-based technology ever created. They were the heart and the brains of ballistic missiles, and if you look hard enough you source hundreds of them at very reasonable prices. A vacuum tube computer requires a lot of tubes, and if anyone will be able to build a vacuum tube computer it’s going to be [Yann] and his pile of Soviet surplus.The HackadayPrize2017 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize
[Lujji] is playing around with the STM8 microcontroller. In reviewing the official documentation for this chip, he read the external clock can be a sine wave, a triangle wave, or a square wave with a 50% duty cycle. The minimum CPU frequency is 0 Hz. [Lujji] doesn’t have a signal generator, and presumably, he’s all out of crystals. He does have mains AC, though, so why not clock a microcontroller with wall power?
Using mains power as a frequency standard is a concept a hundred years old. Synchronous motors turn at a rate proportional to the mains frequency, and this has been used in clocks for decades. If you’re really clever, you can clock digital circuits with mains AC, but we’ve never seen someone replace a tiny crystal in a microcontroller circuit with mains power.
After an experiment to prove the concept, [Lujji] went on to construct a circuit that wasn’t as dumb as connecting the microcontroller directly to a wall socket. The direct approach didn’t work that well anyway — the STM8 didn’t like low frequency clocks with slow edges. [Lujji] needed a clock with cleaner edges, and a 555 configured as a comparator fit the bill.
The completed circuit sends mains power through an optocoupler to drive a 555 configured as a comparator. The output is a clean 50Hz clock that is connected to the OSCIN pin on an STM8. This is now a chip running at 50Hz, and yes, it works. [Lujji] set up a circuit to write ‘Hello World’ on an old Nokia LCD. That took about three minutes. It works, though, even though it’s completely useless. Maybe this can be applied to some novel timekeeping similar to that one-instruction-per-day clock we looked earlier in the year.
Filed under: clock hacks, Microcontrollers
The BeagleBone famously fits in an Altoids tin. Even though we now have BeagleBone Blacks, Blues, and Greens, the form factor for this curiously strong Linux board has remained unchanged, and able to fit inside a project box available at every cash register on the planet. There is another Altoids tin, though. The Altoid mini tin is just over 60×40 mm, and much too small to fit a normal size BeagleBone. [Michael Welling] has designed a new BeagleBone to fit this miniature project box. He’s calling it the Pocketbone, and it’s as small as the mints are strong.
The Pocketbone is based on the Octavo Systems OSD355x family, better known as the ‘BeagleBone on a chip’. This chip features a TI AM355x ARM Cortex A8, up to 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 114 GPIOs, 6 UARTs, 2 SPIs, 2x Gigabit Ethernet, and USB. It’s housed in a relatively large BGA package that makes routing easy, and as a proof of concept [Jason Kridner] built a PocketBone in Eagle.
[Michael]’s version of the Pocketbone is based on the earlier proof of concept, with a few handy additions. There’s an IO expansion header, provisions for a battery input, a few fixes to the USB, and all the parts are on one side of the board facilitating easier assembly. This version of the Pocketbone was created using KiCad, which will endear the project to the Open Source community.
Filed under: hardware
The late 1950s [Bill Haley], [Elvis Presley], and [Little Richard] were building a new kind of music. Meanwhile, electronic hobbyists were building their own gear from Heathkit. A lot of that gear shows you how far we’ve come in less than a century. [Jeff Tranter’s] YouTube channel is a great way to look at a lot of old Heathkit gear, including this really interesting “direct reading capacity meter.” You can see the video, below.
Measuring capacitance these days is easy. Many digital multimeters have that function. However, those didn’t exist in the 1950s–at least, not in the way we know them. The CM-1 weighed 5 pounds, had several tubes, and cost what would equate to $250 in today’s prices. Unlike other instruments of the day, though, the capacitance was read directly off a large analog meter (hence, the name). You didn’t have to interpret readings using a nomograph or move a knob to balance a bridge and read the knob’s position.
[Jeff] doesn’t just look at the CM-1, he explains how it measures capacitance by rectifying a pulse generated by the capacitor. The average value is proportional to the capacitor’s value, and [Jeff] shows you on the scope what’s going on inside. You can pick up a lot of good information, especially if you are interested in old gear. For example, do you know what a chicken head knob is? If you don’t, definitely watch the video!
If you have any interest in vintage gear, [Jeff’s] entire channel is worth a look. He also does a lot of retrocomputing projects and documents them in great detail. If you aren’t old enough to remember Heathkit in its glory days, it is hard to grasp the scope of it. They made everything including TVs, ham radio gear, robots, computers, terminals, and–of course–test equipment. All in kit form with meticulously detailed manuals that no one else has ever quite recreated. Take a look at some of [Jeff’s] videos and you’ll see what we mean.
Filed under: classic hacks, teardown
If you want to build your own vacuum tubes, whether amplifying, Nixie or cathode-ray, you’re going to need a vacuum. It’s in the name, after all. For a few thousand bucks, you can probably pick up a used turbo-molecular pump. But how did they make high vacuums back in the day? How did Edison evacuate his light bulbs?
Strangely enough, you could do worse than turn to YouTube for the answer: [Cody] demonstrates building a Sprengel vacuum pump (video embedded below). As tipster [BrightBlueJim] wrote us, this project has everything: high vacuum, home-made torch glassware, and large quantities of toxic heavy metals. (Somehow [Jim] missed out on the high-voltage from the static electricity generated by sliding mercury down glass tubes for days on end.)
The pump itself is very simple. Drops of mercury catch bubbles of air from the vessel to be evacuated and eventually all that’s left is vacuum, at least until the mercury starts boiling. [Cody] even experiments with cooling the mercury in liquid nitrogen to lower its vapor pressure and get an even better vacuum. It looks like it succeeded, but with his rudimentary measurement technique we can’t be sure.
Anyway, if you’ve got a few dollar’s worth of glass tubing, a few kilograms of mercury, more than a few hours to wait, and the muscles to lift the mercury up to the top of the tube, you can build yourself a vacuum pump that’s perfectly adequate for making light bulbs or Nixie tubes. [BrightBlueJim] suggests updating this project from mercury to something like gallium that’s less toxic but still really dense. We like that idea.
Filed under: chemistry hacks, classic hacks
In many parts of the world, living in a trailer has gained a social stigma. We’re talking about a rectangular building placed on three wheels and towed to your preferred plot of land. It’s going to take a lot to break that social stigma, but this is a pretty sweet attempt.
PassivDom is an off-grid home. It sidesteps the electrical grid as well as water and sewer service. It’s marketed as utilizing revolutionary breakthrough in wall insulation which they claim makes it very easy to heat and cool. In addition to this self-sustaining angle, it taps into the tiny home movement with a footprint of just 36 m2 (4 m by 9 m; about 118 390 ft2 or 13′ by 30′).
For this to make sense you really need to get the “Autonomous” model, the only one that is designed for “off-grid” living and comes with solar panels and battery storage plus water storage and purification. That’ll set you back 59,900 € (about $63,461 USD) but hey, it does come with “high quality minimalistic furniture” which the best way we can think of to serve Ikea nesting instinct without saying the brand name. Yep, this ticks all the “marketing to millennials” boxes. We’re kind of surprised it’s not doing crowdfunding.
So where’s the hack? Obviously this is a hard sell at 1,664 €/m2 ($538 $163/ft2). A project of this size and scope is well within the purview of a single, motivated hacker, and arguably a weekend project for a well-skilled team from a hackerspace. Tiny Houses started as a build-it yourself so that’s already solved. We’ve seen what it takes for hackers to add solar to their RVs, and experiments in home-built power walls. Water storage and purification is already solved and quite affordable at the home store.
Has anyone built their own off-grid tiny house? If so, let us know what went into it. If not, what are you waiting for?
Filed under: home hacks
There was a time when building your own computer meant a lot of soldering or wire wrapping. At some point, though, building a PC has come to mean buying a motherboard, a power supply, and just plugging a few wires together. There’s nothing wrong with that, but [Scott Baker] wanted to really build a PC. He put together an Xi 8088, a design from [Sergey] who has many interesting projects on his site. [Scott] did a great build log plus a video, which you can see below.
As the name implies, this isn’t a modern i7 powerhouse. It is a classic 8088 PC with a 16-bit backplane. On the plus side, almost everything is conventional through-hole parts, excepting an optional compact flash socket and part of the VGA card. [Scott] acquired the boards from the Retrobrew forum’s inventory of boards where forum users make PCBs available for projects like this.
If you try to duplicate [Scott’s] project, you can learn a few tips from reading his posts. For example, he learned that the resistor SIPs on the CPU board were a bit taller than the IC sockets. The lesson is to install the sockets first.
Scott didn’t use a normal 8088 chip, but rather a NEC V20 which was a common upgrade back in those days. In addition to the backplane and CPU card, [Scott] also built a floppy controller board, a sound card, a compact flash reader, and a VGA board.
There’s a certain amount of cachet to building a PC, even an old-fashioned one. We could be tempted to build one to hook up to some of the old printer port gear we still have hanging around, too.
Filed under: classic hacks, computer hacks
[PeterSripol] has made an RC model airplane but instead of using normal wings he decided to try getting it to fly using some KFC chicken buckets instead. Two KFC buckets in the place of wings were attached to a motor which spins the buckets up to speed. With a little help from the Magnus effect this creates lift.
Many different configurations were tried to get this contraption off the ground. They eventually settled on a dual prop setup, each spinning counter to each other for forward momentum. This helped to negate the gyroscopic effect of the spinning buckets producing the lift. After many failed build-then-fly attempts they finally got it in the air. It works, albeit not to well, but it did fly and was controllable. Perhaps with a few more adjustments and a bit of trial and error someone could build a really unique RC plane using this concept.
Filed under: drone hacks, transportation hacks
[RoyTecTips] shows us an ingenious hack which turns a single-SIM-slot phone into a fully functioning dual-SIM phone. All that needed for this hack is a heat-gun, solvent, micro SD card, nano SIM and some glue. The trick is that the phone has a SIM reader on the backside of an SD-card slot. Through some detailed dissection and reconstruction work, you can piggy-back the SIM on the SD card and have them both work at the same time.
Making the SD/SIM Franken-card is no picnic. First you start by filing away the raised bottom edge of the micro SD card and file down the side until the writing is no longer visible. Next get a heat gun and blast your nano SIM card until the plastic melts away. Then mark where the SIM card’s brains go and glue it on. Turn the phone on then, hey presto, you now have a dual SIM phone while keeping your SD storage.
This hack is reported to work on many Samsung phones that end in “7” and some that end in “5”, along with some 8-series phones from Huawei and Oppo clones of the Samsungs. Since you’re only modifying the SIM card, it’s a fairly low-risk hack for a phone. Combining two cards into one is certainly a neat trick, almost as neat as shoe-horning a microcontroller into an SD card. We wonder how long it will be before we see commercial dual SIM/SD cards on the market.
[Update] I got a little confused on this one as we only have the single sim variants of these phones where I live. this hack is for dual sim phones that either accept 2 sim cards or 1 sim + 1 SD card. This hack solves this problem and allows 2 sims plus 1 SD card in these phones. Sorry for the confusion and thanks to all who pointed this out in the comments.
Filed under: Cellphone Hacks, how-to
Navy SEALs and other highly trained special forces operators all know a simple, basic fact – you’ve got to breathe to live. That seems self-evident, but breathing control is immensely important to being able to perform at a high level in stressful situations. But even if you never anticipate being under fire, you can learn the SEAL way of breathing with this visual aid.
Lest you think that Box Breathing, also known as the four-square breathing technique, is some sort of New Age nonsense, recent research has uncovered the neurological basis for the feeling of calm that can come over someone taking slow, deep, even breaths. But in the heat of the moment, remembering to square your breaths can be a little difficult. [Lim Han Yang] decided that a portable visual cue could help, so he put an ATTiny85, an LED, and a coin cell battery on a tiny circular PCB and spun up a simple translucent dome out of PLA. The blue LED has a soothing appearance behind the diffuser as it goes through a 16-second cycle, ramping up in brightness for four seconds, holding steady for four, then dimming and finally staying dark. The idea is to breathe in sync with the light to get relief from stress.
No build files are posted yet, but we hope to see them soon – we can think of a few people this would benefit greatly. In the meantime, if you’re still looking for that New Age breathing experience, you can always breathe with the psychedelic flowers.
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Filed under: The Hackaday Prize
Python is the Arduino of software projects. It has a critical mass of libraries for anything from facial recognition and neural networks to robotics and remote sensing. And just like Arduino, I have yet to find the killer IDE for Python. Perhaps I just haven’t tried the right one yet, but it could be that I’m just doing Python wrong.For Years I’ve Been IDLE IDLE with interactive shell that has highlighting and code completion
I’m a Linux-only type of a guy so using IDLE for Python is a natural fit. It’s in the repositories for super quick and easy install and there’s basically zero configuration to be done. Generally speaking my preferred development environment is text editor and command line compiler. IDLE is just one step above that. You get a separate window for the shell and each Python file you’re working on. Have IDLE run your code and it saves the file, then launches it in the shell window.
For me, there are two important features of IDLE’s shell. The first is that it keeps an interactive session open after you run your Python code. This means that any globals that your script uses are still available, and that you can experiment with your code by calling functions (and classes, etc) in real time. The second desirable feature is that while using this interactive shell, IDLE supports code completion and docstring support (it gives you hints for what parameters a function accepts/requires).
But simplicity has a tough time scaling. I’m working on larger and larger projects spread over many files and the individual nature of IDLE editor windows and lack of robust navigation has me looking to move forward.The Contenders
I’ve tried perhaps a half-dozen different Python IDEs now, spending the most time on two of them: Geany and Atom. Both are easy to install on Linux and provide the more advanced features I want for larger projects: better navigation, cross-file code completion (and warnings), variable type and scope indication.
The look of Geany brings to mind an “IDE 1.0” layout style and theme. It’s the familiar three-pane layout that places symbols to the left, code to the right, and status along the bottom. When you run your program it launches in an interactive terminal, which I like, but you lose all IDE features at this point, which I despise. There is no code completion, and no syntax highlighting.
I have been using Atom much more than Geany and have grown to like it enough to stick with it for now. I’d call Atom the “IDE 2.0” layout. It launches with a dark theme and everything is a tab.Atom has symbol view that isn’t shown all the time. CTRL-R brings it up and it uses a search style but you can also scroll through all symbols
Atom depends heavily on packages (plugins that anyone may write). The package management is good, and the packages I’ve tried have been superb. I’m using autocomplete-python and tabs-to-spaces, but again I come up short when it comes to running Python files. I’ve tried platformio-ide-terminal, script, and runner plugins. The first brings up a terminal as a bottom pane but doesn’t automatically run the file in that terminal. Script also uses a bottom pane but I can’t get it to run interactively. I’m currently using runner which has an okay display but is not interactive. I’ve resorted to using a “fake” python file in my projects as a workaround for commands and tests I would normally run in the interactive shell.Tell Us How You Python
It’s entirely possible I’ve just been using Python wrong all these years and that tinkering with your code in an interactive shell is a poor choose of development processes.
What do you prefer for your Python development? Does an interactive shell matter to you? Did you start with IDLE and move to a more mature IDE. Which IDE did you end up with and what kind of compromises did you make during that change. Let us know in the comments below.
Filed under: Ask Hackaday, Interest, slider, Software Development
Researchers from the Argus Research Team found a way to hack into the Bosch Drivelog ODB-II dongle and inject any kind of malicious packets into the CAN bus. This allowed them to, among other things, stop the engine of a moving vehicle by connecting to the dongle via Bluetooth.
Drivelog is Bosch’s smart device for collecting and managing your vehicle’s operating data. It allows a user to connect via Bluetooth to track fuel consumption and to be alerted when service is necessary. It was compromised in a two stage attack. The first vulnerability, an information leak in the authentication process, between the dongle and the smart phone application allowed them to quickly brute-force the secret PIN offline and connect to the dongle via Bluetooth. After being connected, security holes in the message filter of the dongle allowed them to inject malicious messages into the CAN bus.
The Bluetooth pairing mechanism, called “Just Works”, has been fixed by Bosh by activating a two-step verification for additional users to be registered to a device. The second issue, the ability for a maliciously modified mobile application to possibly send unwanted CAN messages, will be mitigated with an update to the dongle firmware to further limit the allowed commands that the dongle is able to place on the CAN bus.
Bosch downplays the issue a bit in their statement:
It is important to note that scalability of a potential malicious attack is limited by the fact that such an attack requires physical proximity to the dongle. This means that the attacking device needs to be within Bluetooth range of the vehicle.
The problem is that physical proximity does not equal Bluetooth range. Standard Bluetooth range is about 10m, which is very arguable physical proximity, but it is pretty easy to buy or even modify a Bluetooth dongle with 10x and 100x more range. When adding a wireless connection to the CAN bus of an automobile, the manufacturer has an obligation to ensure the data system is not compromised. This near-proximity example is still technically a remote hack, and it’s an example of the worst kind of vulnerability.
Filed under: car hacks, news, security hacks
More than one member of the Hackaday team has significant involvement in a hackspace, as member, director, or even founder. We talk about hackspaces quite rarely on these pages though, not because we don’t have anything to say on the matter but because even when we write in general terms our fellow members invariably think it’s all about them rather than the hackspace world at large.
For once I’m going to break the silence, and not only talk about hackspaces, but talk about my own hackspace in specific terms. Because, fellow Oxford Hackspace members, this isn’t about you personally though I’m using our home to illustrate a point. The topic is a thorny issue that must affect all spaces, that of donations of physical items. People want to help their hackspace, they have a pile of what they consider to be good stuff, and when they’re having a clear-out they make a donation. But, as we all know, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and vice-versa.
Someone else’s MakerBot Cupcake. Baminnick [CC BY-SA 3.0]As a space, we’ve received a lot of donations over the years, and for various different reasons. Since we’re in a university city, we’ve been the recipient of more than one item formerly used in a laboratory, but we’ve also taken in things donated from the estate of someone deceased, and of course we’ve received a huge amount of stuff from members.
Some of the items have limited use, but are appreciated as curios. For example, the MakerBot Cupcake 3D printer (more of a permanent loan from a member than a donation) is a fully functional 3D printer, but as a comprehensively outdated machine with a relatively tiny print bed and rather poor software support it’s not a machine that sees much use. But it’s a talking point, and serves as a good illustration of progress in 3D printing. And it plays the Imperial March much more loudly than other printers when you hook it up to that software that plays music on 3D printer stepper motors.
Other donations have proven extremely useful, and enable all members of the space to work on their projects. The mass of beautiful tools we received after the death of a member’s elderly relative who had spent a lifetime scratch-building model railways for example, or the sewing machines that allow us to have multiple projects under way at once in our textile room. These are the donations that take our space forward, and make it a better place.Russian capacitors in an impressive box of donated components.
A lot of our donations are good things that have a use, but might not necessarily find that use. For example, boxes of surplus electronic components, a box of low-powered lasers and optical parts, the various conference badge boards and random other electronic assemblies that have found their way into our electronics stock, or one of our largest donations, a set of interactive whiteboards from a school that was undergoing refurbishment. It was in a discussion of this last item that we found the issue that prompted the line of thought that led to this piece, because in some ways we have a problem.
All hackspaces have a junk pile of some sort. Somewhere in which items of tech or maker significance are put when it’s time to get rid of them. Some spaces have a rigidly organised timing system, in which items move from a “3 months” bin, to a “2 months” bin, to a “1 month” bin, to eventual disposal. In our case in Oxford it’s still a little more anarchic, we have a bin that gets gone through and emptied from time to time. We’ll no doubt adopt something more robust as we grow.
It’s easy to get rid of a piece of junk. This motherboard is dead, it gets thrown in the junk bin. Someone robs it of a socket or a magnetic while it’s there, eventually it gets disposed of. But when the item that’s been cluttering up the space is a donation, things get a little more difficult. It’s tied to a person, a fellow member, and if you throw it out then feelings will be inevitably hurt. In the herding-cats environment of a typical hackspace management then it’s more likely that the item will be left to gather dust. Someone else’s problem, deal with it another day.The largest pointing devices you could wish for.
Not a problem if it’s a small box of bits, but not all donations are so convenient. Take those interactive whiteboards I mentioned. They’re something close to a huge wall-mounted trackpad, originally used with a ceiling-mounted projector. You can hook them up to a computer USB or traditional serial port and use them as a mouse. Awesome! you say, think of the things you could do with one of them! But the reality is that nobody has done anything with them in the couple of years that we’ve had them, and they take up rather a lot of space.Eventually they’ll become a sore point, and there will no doubt be the need for some extremely delicate diplomacy so soothe ruffled feathers as we decide their fate.
Every hackspace seems to pass through an uncannily similar set of experiences in its gestation from group of like minds meeting in a pub, into large and well equipped space with huge membership. We’re probably at the mid-sized stage now, having been going a few years and with a healthy membership count with room for improvement. We’ve then reached the stage of learning about how to handle donations, and no doubt as time goes by we’ll be a bit more careful about what we take on board. Or maybe, just maybe, we’ll find a use for those interactive whiteboards!
Does your space have an issue with donations? How did you deal with it?
[Jenny List] is a director of Oxford Hackspace.
Thanks to [Jamie] for the idea.
Filed under: Hackerspaces
Advertisers are always trying to stuff more content into a 15 or 30 second TV spot. Burger King seems to have pulled it off with a series of ads that take advantage of the Google Home device sitting in many viewers living rooms. It works like this: The friendly Burger King employee ends the ad by saying “Ok Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Google home then springs into action reading the product description from Burger King’s Wikipedia page.
Trolls across the internet jumped into the fray. The Whopper’s ingredient list soon included such items as toenail clippings, rat, cyanide, and a small child. Wikipedia has since reverted the changes and locked down the page.
Google apparently wasn’t involved in this, as they quickly updated their voice recognition algorithms to specifically ignore the commercial. Burger King responded by re-dubbing the audio of the commercial with a different voice actor, which defeated Google’s block. Where this game of cat and mouse will end is anyone’s guess.
This event marks the second time in only a few months that a broadcast has caused a voice-activated device to go rogue. Back in January a disk jockey reporting a story about Amazon’s Echo managed to order doll houses for many residents of San Diego.
With devices like Alexa and Google home always ready to accept a command, stories like this are going to become the new normal. The only way to avoid it completely is to not allow it in your home. For those who do have a voice-activated device, be very careful what devices and services you connect it to. Internet of things “smart” door locks are already providing ways to unlock one’s door with a voice command. Burglarizing a home or apartment couldn’t be easier if you just have to ask Siri to unlock the door for you. And while some complained about the lack of security in the Zelda hack, we’d rate that as a thousand times more secure than a voice recognition system with no password.
Filed under: google hacks, news
There are exactly two types of personal computers available today. If you need a lot of horsepower, a powerful GPU, or a full-power CPU, you’re going to end up with a desktop. If you need something portable, you’re getting a laptop with a wimpy CPU and an underpowered GPU. Historically, there has been a third type of PC, the luggable. The luggable is a desktop PC crammed into a case that makes it slightly more portable than a desktop and a monitor. You cannot buy a luggable PC case right now. They simply do not exist as a commercial product you can shove your own hardware into. This is a form factor an entire industry forgot.
Now there’s a DIY luggable PC. This project from [Roger] packs a standard ATX motherboard, a full-size GPU, a full-size power supply, and everything else that makes a desktop PC powerful into a case that can be stored in an overhead bin.
[Roger] has been working on this project for a while, and it was featured on Hackaday back when it looked like a RepRap Mendel. There have been some significant improvements over the earlier iterations of this project, including a very, very cool hinge mechanism that allows the display to fold in when the computer isn’t being used. It’s a mechanical wonder that prevents scratches. Neat. The rest of the case is constructed out of 2020 aluminum extrusion, and about a one kilogram spool of filament.
Since this is a portable case, there are a few compromises. There are no 5.25″ bays, no 3.5″ bays, and few 2.5″ bays. M.2 SSDs and USB-powered CD drives exist, so this isn’t a big deal.
This is a truly fantastic case in a form factor you can’t buy anywhere else. If you have a spare monitor and a bit of extrusion sitting around, this is one to build yourself.
Filed under: computer hacks
The Linux kernel recently added support for loading firmware into an FPGA via the FPGA Manager Framework. [OpenTechLab] has built a driver for the Lattice iCE40 FPGA (same chip used on the iCEStick and other development boards). One attraction to the iCE40 is there is an open source toolchain called iCEStorm.
Even if you aren’t specifically interested in FPGAs, the discussion about Linux device drivers is good background. The principles would apply to other drivers, and would definitely apply if you want to write another FPGA loader.
The example uses a Raspberry Pi connected to an evaluation board. A cheap Sigrok-based logic analyzer let him troubleshoot and debug. If you think FPGA development is expensive, think again. The board used here is well under $50 and the software is free. An iCEStick is even cheaper, and would probably work here, too. You are likely to have the other bits, but even if you need to buy a Pi and the logic analyzer, the whole thing is way under $100.
Filed under: FPGA, linux hacks, Raspberry Pi