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Custom Case Lends Retro Look to Smart TV

อาทิตย์, 05/15/2016 - 03:00

Refits of retro TVs and radios with the latest smart guts are a dime a dozen around Hackaday. And while a lot of these projects show a great deal of skill and respect for the original device, there’s something slightly sacrilegious about gutting an appliance that someone shelled out a huge portion of their paycheck to buy in the middle of the last century. That’s why this all-new retro-style case for a smart TV makes us smile.

1940s GE 806 restored by Steve O’Bannon

Another reason to smile is the attention to detail paid by [ThrowingChicken]. His inspiration came from a GE 806 TV from the 1940s, and while his build isn’t an exact replica, we think he captured the spirit of the original perfectly. From the curved top to the deep rectangular bezel, the details really make this a special build. One may quibble about not using brass for the grille like the original and going with oak rather than mahogany. In the end though, you need to work with the materials and tooling you have. Besides, we think the laser cut birch ply grille is pretty snazzy. Don’t forget the pressure-formed acrylic dome over the screen – here’s hoping that our recent piece on pressure-forming helped inspire that nice little touch.

This project was clearly a labor of love – witness the bloodshed after a tangle with a tablesaw while building the matching remote – and brought some life to an otherwise soulless chunk of mass-produced electronics.

[via r/DIY]

Filed under: classic hacks, home entertainment hacks

Hackaday At Hamvention

อาทิตย์, 05/15/2016 - 01:30

There are a few interesting Hackaday gatherings going on next weekend. The first is the Bay Area Maker Faire. Most of the Hackaday and Tindie crew will be in San Mateo next weekend, and we’re giving away free tickets to the Faire – a $70 value, free to Hackaday readersHackaday is crashing a pub on Saturday night. There’s also a super-secret meetup on Sunday. Don’t tell anyone.

On the other side of the country, there’s an even better convention for people who build stuff.. It’s Hamvention, the largest amateur radio meetup in North America. I’m going to be there. Find me and pick up some Hackaday swag. I’ll be posting to the Hackaday Twitter all weekend.

A wooden modem and proof I can find cool stuff.

The main purpose of my visit is to document the immense swap meet. There will be over a thousand vendors hocking their wares, from antique radios to gauges and other electronic paraphernalia. It is the biggest draw to Hamvention, and by every account I’ve heard, it’s impossible to look at everything.

It might be impossible to look at everything, but apparently I’ve very good at separating the wheat from the chaff at ham swaps. During my last visit to the W6TRW swap meet in Redondo Beach, I found an UltraSPARC laptop (!), and a wooden modem from the mid 60s. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it will be my job to document all the oddities of Hamvention.

Depending on how many people I meet at Hamvention, there might be a semi-official Hackaday get together after the show. The US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson would be cool, but Ihop or Denny’s would be far more realistic. Look for the guy in the Hackaday hoodie flying a Hackaday flag and he’ll give you some sweet stickers and swag.

Filed under: cons

Hacklet 107 – 3D Printing Projects

อาทิตย์, 05/15/2016 - 00:01

3D printers have forever changed the hardware hacker movement. From the original RepRap project on up through current commercial offerings, 3D printers have become an indispensable tool for hackers, makers, and engineers. While printers may not have started a desktop manufacturing revolution, they are a desktop prototyping evolution. It’s rare for a day to go by on Hackaday without a project that uses a 3D printed part in some way shape or form. These printers also continue to evolve, with new projects pushing the technology ever forward. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the best 3D printer projects on Hackaday.io!

We start with [TTN] and Icepick Delta. [TTN’s] passion is creating 3D printers as cheaply as possible. The Icepick definitely succeeds at this. Icepick’s frame is made of wood. The motors are commodity steppers. Control is via the long proven Ramps 1.4 board, which can be picked up with drivers and an Arduino Mega clone for under $35 these days. A few ball bearings and metal parts fill out the vitamins of this design. Just about everything else is 3D printed in true RepRap style. The printer is currently running Marlin firmware, but [TTN] plans to move to Repetier in the future.

Even with these humble origins, Icepick manages to print at a very respectable 50 mm/s before frame flex becomes a problem.  Prints at 0.1mm layer height look great, on par with any current commercial printer.

Next up is  [Machinist] with 3D printer brain retrofit. Commercial 3D printers have been available for decades now. This means some of the older models are getting a bit long in the tooth. [Machinist] has a very tired 15 year old Stratasys Dimension 768. The mechanics of the Dimension are still in good shape, but the electronics have seen better days. [Machinist] is ditching all the old electronic hardware (and the DRM which goes with it) and setting this machine up with a Smoothieboard 5X. So far the Dimension has been gutted, and [Machinist] has gotten the monster stepper motors playing sweet music with his new control board. I can’t wait to see how this project progresses.

Next we have [jcchurch’s] Coffee Maker Delta 3D Printer. [jcchurch] has managed to convert an old Norelco coffee maker into a mini sized 3D printer. The warmer plate has even become a heated bed for ABS prints. Unlike Icepick up top, the aim of this design is to use as few 3D printed parts as possible. The idea is that this would be the first printer to build when you don’t have another printer handy. Think of it as a caffeinated RepStrap. According to [jcchurch], this printer has been running strong at Tropical Labs for over a year. You can even pull the delta assembly off and make a pot of coffee! The coffee maker printer is still somewhat of a teaser project. If you see [jcchurch] online, tell him to head over and give us more details!

Finally, we have [DeepSOIC] with linear stepper motor 3d printer. 3D printers all use good old fashioned rotary stepper motors. [DeepSOIC] is trying to eliminate all that rotary motion, along with the belts and pulleys required to convert to linear motion. Linear stepper motors can be thought of as regular stepper motors, just unrolled. They tend to be very expensive though, so [DeepSOIC] is building DIY versions. His first attempt was to print motor parts using BlackMagic3D’s ferromagnetic filament. This lead to a whole separate project to measure the permeability of the filament. Unfortunately, the filament isn’t permeable enough to act as a motor for a printer. [DeepSOIC] hasn’t given up though. This is the type of project we love – one that might not work out, but really gets people thinking. Check out the comment thread on the project to see Hackaday.io collaboration at work!

If you want to see more 3D printer projects, check out our updated 3D printer list! If I didn’t wake up early enough to catch your project, don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, Hackaday Columns

The Ultimate Traveler’s Toolkit

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 22:30

Looking for a better way to store your tools during transportation? While we certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to check this thing as a carry-on (oh and prepare for it to be searched even in checked luggage), this clever use of a road case is probably one of the best tool boxes we’ve ever seen.

This is [Robb Godshaw’s] tool box. It’s been developed over the past five years as he’s become a skilled maker. You might remember him best from his ironic project “Why are we limited to C-Clamps?” — a clamp offering of the entire alphabet.

He also picked up the road case close to home for Hackaday — at Apex Electronics Surplus in LA — one of our favorite places to find parts. But the most clever part of the project is the way he’s divided the case for different tools.

Using perforated steel and a whole lot of magnets, most tools are super easy to take in and out of this case, with additional sorting containers for smaller parts. Just watch the following time-lapse to see everything he’s managed to fit inside!

Do you have an awesome toolbox? Send us a tip and we might share it!

Filed under: misc hacks, tool hacks

Stealthy Mortar Board Unleashes Bling at Graduation Ceremony

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 21:01

Decorating graduation caps is often frowned upon by the administration but [Dan Barkus] is challenging his school authorities to keep from smiling when they see what he has in store. His build will dazzle the audience by mounting 1024 RGB LEDs in a 32×32 matrix on top of his cap, but hidden under the cap’s black cloth. When the LEDs are off he indistinguishable, and when he fires up the LEDs, shine through and put on a heck of a show. He can type messages on his phone to be displayed on the cap. He can even display images and animated GIFs.

LED array control components

The LED display is an Adafruit 32×32 RGB LED matrix panel.  To control the display, [Dan] uses a Teensy, a 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller board. Wireless communication is done via a JBtek HC-06 Bluetooth board.

The LED display can draw up to 4 amps at full white brightness so he picked up a USB battery with two output ports, one capable of 2.1 amps and the other 2.4 amps. He then hacked together a cable that has two USB connectors on one end, connected in parallel, and a DC jack on the other end. Altogether the battery bank is capable of up to 4.5 amps output combined out those two ports, meeting the LED display’s needs. The DC jack is plugged into the Teensy and all power goes through there.

One problem [Dan] had was that the Bluetooth module was booting up before the Teensy. It didn’t see the Teensy in time, causing the Bluetooth not to work. The solution he found is shown in the 2nd video embedded below. The fix powers the Bluetooth module separately, using a current limiting resistor and a capacitor to build up the voltage, delaying just long enough for the Teensy to win.

Almost all components are mounted in the top of the cap with the exception of the battery bank, which goes in his pocket. He took some care to hide the power cable as it runs down the side of the cap to that battery bank.

We don’t know if [Dan’s] intending to produce a part 2 video (about the software maybe?) but the part 1 video below shows how he put together the hardware and some of the problems he ran into and his solutions.

[Dan] is not the only one to have added electronics to his cap. Also hacking on the down-low, here’s one where infrared LEDs have been used to blink More code messages, which the naked eye wouldn’t see but back then camcorders would generally pick up.

But for those who are willing to brave the administration’s wrath try a 256 LED matrix on the cap’s top, or mount a blinding sun’s worth of LED brightness on top of your cap like [Jeremy Blum] did.

Filed under: led hacks, wearable hacks

Unary Clock for the Binary-Challenged

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 18:01

If binary clocks have you confused by all the math required to figure out what time it is, we have the solution for you: a unary clock. After all, what’s simpler than summing up powers of two? Powers of one! To figure out the time, you start with the ones digit. If it’s on, you add one to the total. Then move on to the next digit. Since 12 equals one, you add another one if it’s lit. Then on to the third LED. 13 = 1, so if it’s lit, you add another one, and so on.

OK, we’re messing around. Calling this a “unary” clock is ridiculous. When it’s seven o’clock, there are seven LEDs lit. Nice and easy to read. Sixty minute LEDs is silly, so here each minute LED stands for five minutes. Good enough.

What we really like about this clock is the build. It’s intended as educational for school kids, so it has to be simple to build and easy to personalize. Building the body out of Lego bricks fits the specs nicely. Transparent Lego bricks are used to give the white LEDs some color. That was too bright, so [Shrimping It] added paper cutouts from a hole punch as diffusers.

Clock builds are a great intro to electronics because they offer so many possibilities. Whether you want to go geary, use the clock as an excuse to try out fabrication techniques, or showcase a neat display technology, your imagination has a lot of room to wander. Show us yours?

Filed under: clock hacks

RetroFab: Machine Designed Control of All the Things

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 15:00

On the Starship Enterprise, an engineer can simply tell the computer what he’d like it to do, and it will do the design work. Moments later, the replicator pops out the needed part (we assume to atomic precision). The work [Raf Ramakers] is doing seems like the Model T ford of that technology. Funded by Autodesk, and as part of his work as a PhD Researcher of Human Computer Interaction at Hasselt University it is the way of the future.

The technology is really cool. Let’s say we wanted to control a toaster from our phone. The first step is to take a 3D scan of the object. After that the user tells the computer which areas of the toaster are inputs and what kind of input they are. The user does this by painting a color on the area of the rendering, we think this technique is intuitive and has lots of applications.

The computer then looks in its library of pre-engineered modules for ones that will fit the applications. It automagically generates a casing for the modules, and fits it to the scanned surface of the toaster. It is then up to the user to follow the generated assembly instructions.

Once the case and modules are installed, the work is done! The toaster can now be controlled from an app. It’s as easy as that. It’s this kind of technology that will really bring technologies like 3D printing to mass use. It’s one thing to have a machine that can produce most geometries for practically no cost. It’s another thing to have the skills to generate those geometries. Video of it in action after the break. 

Filed under: robots hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Low-Cost Robot Arm

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 12:00

Robot arms are cool, and to judge from the SCARA arms and old Heathkit robots tucked away in a cupboard of every computer science department in every university in the world, they’re still remarkably educational. You can learn a lot about control systems with a robot arm, or you could build a clone of the old Radio Shack Armatron; either way, you’re doing something very cool. Right now, there aren’t many educational robot arms available, and the ones you can get are tiny. For [Jonathan]’s Hackaday Prize project, he’s building a low-cost robot arm with a one meter reach.

There’s a reason you won’t find many large, low-cost robot arms: the square cube law. An ant can carry many times its own body weight, but if you scaled that ant up to the size of a human, its legs couldn’t support itself. Likewise, a small, handheld robot arm will work perfectly well with hobby servos, but scaling this up requires big heavy stepper motors.

To cut down on the weight a bit, [Jonathan] is using very large stepper motors on the base – NEMA 34s – with smaller steppers going up the length of the arm. He’s also doing something nearly unheard of in The Hackaday Prize: design for assembly. [Jonathan] got a little tired of tapping threads, and is now moving over to tapped inserts and is looking for a better way to bolt the motors to the frame. All in all, it’s a great entry for The Hackaday Prize and is already one of the Prize’s finalists.

The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:

Filed under: robots hacks, The Hackaday Prize

Chibiterm Is A Tiny Low-Cost VGA Terminal

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 09:00

A common sight in the days before cheap PCs conquered the world was the dumb terminal. A keyboard and a monitor with a serial port on the back that was usually hooked up to a minicomputer or even a mainframe, these were simple devices. Anything that came into the serial port was rendered on the screen, anything typed on the keyboard was sent out through the serial port. They didn’t need to contain a microprocessor. If you are old enough, you may remember electronics magazines of the 1970s and early 1980s publishing terminal designs based entirely on 74 series logic.

The serial terminal might seem like a redundant historical footnote when viewed from 2016, but they can still find a use among those working with systems such as small embedded microcontrollers that only possess a serial port. To address this application, Hackaday.io user [K.C.Lee] has created a low-cost terminal module for a VGA monitor and a PS/2 keyboard based around an inexpensive STM32F030F4 processor.

To squeeze VGA from such an inexpensive device without extra hardware, he’s made use of the device’s SPI port as a fast shift register. This was not as simple as it sounds. He had to work carefully with the clock frequencies to make it work at the VGA pixel rate. He goes into detail on the chip’s internals in how he achieved this, as well as the mechanics of character generation.

The resulting device is tiny enough, but his latest project log shows how it will eventually be fitted within a connector adaptor case. It’s all open-source, so if you want to take a closer look you can find everything you need in the Github repository.

We’ve featured dumb terminals before here of course, but they have more often been classic hardware. From the Hack42 computer museum in the Netherlands to an ADM-3A with a Raspberry Pi attached, we’re always up for some text-mode goodness. This project is also of interest because it’s yet another example of pushing the on-chip serial peripheral ports into something they weren’t quite intended to do. That technique has featured here with a Raspberry Pi ADC port, and of course the ESP8266 NTSC TV transmitter.

Filed under: ARM, classic hacks

We’re Headed to Maker Faire, Will You Be There?

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 07:31

The Hackaday Crew will be descending on San Mateo next weekend for Bay Area Maker Faire. Will you be there? Gerrit and I will be looking in every booth and byway for amazing hacks, new hardware, and anything else that tickles the fancy of hackers everyone.

We certainly didn’t miss the massive tin spider seen above at last year’s event. But it’s a huge venue, and I’m always afraid we’re going to miss something epic. If you’re exhibiting and want us to stop by, leave a comment below. If you know of something awesome that we shouldn’t miss this year, we’d love to hear about that too.

I’d also like to invite you to hang out with Hackaday on Saturday night. When the Faire closes its gates, something amazing happens every year at O’Neil’s Irish Pub. Don’t miss it!

Need a Ticket?

Texas Instruments sent us 4 Friday passes, and 9 weekend passes which we want to give away. The fairest way of doing that is a drawing using Twitter.

To enter, simply Tweet something about your favorite 2016 Hackaday Prize entry, including @Hackaday @TXinstruments #FairePass in the message. Here’s what an example Tweet looks like (don’t worry, I’m not eligible to win).

On Sunday, 4pm PDT we’ll make a list of all the Twitter handles that sent out a Tweet, then use random.org to choose 6 random numbers from that list. The second giveaway will happen at 4pm PDT on Wednesday 5/18, using the same procedure to choose the remaining 7 winners.

All of the obvious contest stuff applies: employees and family of Hackaday, Supplyframe, and TI are not eligible. Results of the drawing are final. We can’t substitute other prizes (we’re just giving away extra tickets) and this giveaway has no bearing on any other contests or winner selection.

Filed under: misc hacks

Robot Cheerleader Just Needs A Hand To Learn Basic Tricks

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 06:00

This robot may have the fastest hand we’ve ever seen. It’s only a hand at the moment, but it’s certainly good with it.

The hand comes from a research project out of the University of Washington. The researchers didn’t just want to program the robot to do tricks, they wanted it to learn. Some tasks are just by nature too complex and tedious to program all the details for. Look at all those tendon activators. You want to program that?

The current focus of the robot is twirling a stick. While they’re probably a ways away from a robot cheerleading squad or robot drum major, the task itself is extremely difficult. This can be proven by just how many YouTube videos there are on the art of pencil twirling.

While the video didn’t show the robot dramatically twirling the stick at high speed, it did show the robot rotating it a little bit without dropping it. And this is a behavior that it has learned. For anyone who has ever had a run-in with robotics, or the art of convincing a robot not to discard all the data it collects in order to not run directly into a wall, this is a pretty big achievement. Video after the break.

Filed under: robots hacks

Boost Around Town with This 3D Printed Bicycle Assist

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 03:31

[MechEngineerMike]’s bike boost is just a pleasure to look at, and, we’re certain, a relief to use. While it’s not going to rocket you down the street, it will certainly take some of the pain away. (Just like the professionals!)

It’s one thing to design a device that can fit one bicycle. It’s quite another feat if it can support multiple frames. On top of that, it’s even simple. It attaches at one point and transfers the power to the wheel easily. There’s even just one wire to connect, an RCA cable, to engage the boost.

We really like the clever way [Mike] used the rotating shell of an outrunner motor as the surface that presses against the wheel. We wonder if a cast polyurethane rubber tire for the motor would help, or just help overheat the motor?

The parts for the device are 3D printed and pretty chunky. They should hold up. Check out the video of it boosting [Mike] to the grocery store, where he can, presumably, buy less with all the calories he saved after the break.

Filed under: transportation hacks

Phoenix Perry: Forward Futures

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 02:00

There were a lot of very technical talks at Hackaday Belgrade. That’s no surprise, this is Hackaday after all. But every once in a while it’s good to lift our heads up from the bench, blow away some of the solder smoke, and remind ourselves of the reason that we’re working on the next cool project. Try to take in the big picture. Why are you hacking?

[Phoenix Perry] raised a lot of big-think points in her talk, and she’s definitely hacking in order to bring more women into the field and make the creation of technology more accessible to everyone. Lofty goals, and not a project that’s going to be finished up this weekend. But if you’re going to make a positive difference in the world through what you love to do, it’s good to dream big and keep the large goal on your mind.

[Phoenix] is an engineer by training, game-coder by avocation, and a teacher for all the right reasons. She’s led a number of great workshops around the intersection of art and technology: from physical controllers for self-coded games to interactive music synthesis devices disguised as room-sized geodesic domes. And she is the founder of the Code Liberation Foundation, a foundation aimed at teaching women technology through game coding. On one hand, she’s a hacker, but on the other she’s got her eyes on a larger social goal.

Nikolai Tesla and the Purpose of Technology

Particularly appropriate for a talk in Belgrade, [Phoenix] opened up with competing conceptions of the role of technology in the world. On one side is Nikola Tesla who had a radical vision for how technology should be integrated into society; it should be free, open, for the benefit of all. On the other side are people who seek to limit and capitalize on technology — making as much money for themselves as possible. [Phoenix] puts up J. P. Morgan as the bad guy here, contrasting Tesla’s dream of free energy for everyone with Morgan’s plans to get super-rich by monopolizing access to electricity and gas. She asks if we think technology should improve people’s lives or if it is just a means to make money.

Related, but not exactly the same idea, is the question of whether technological progress is limited or limitless. Are good ideas, developed and implemented, really a scarce commodity to be hoarded and milked for all they’re worth, or does the sharing of ideas lead to more ideas in a virtuous cycle? Even if the truth lies between these extremes, it’s worth stepping back and looking at how the incentives in our societies work against technological progress. Governments enforce intellectual monopolies on ideas through the granting of intellectual property rights, and firms operate with the only objective of maximizing profit or shareholder value. In this environment, it’s an uphill battle for the technological rebel.


[Phoenix] sees a schism between the makers and the technicians, and worries about what this is going to mean for technology. On the one hand you have the “Maker Movement”, which is basically white, male, and rich. She cited research into the cover of Make Magazine, and over nine years and 39 covers, 85% of the people on the cover are male, 15% of them are female, and 100% of them are white. Make‘s readership is also at the top of the income distribution. (Full disclosure: Hackaday’s audience, according to the analytics anyway, is even more male and although we’ve got a lot of student readers, those of you engineers out there with decent-paying jobs are bringing up our average salary as well.)

Her point is that there’s almost certainly other people out there — people who aren’t rich, not necessarily white or male — who are also tech hackers. Why aren’t they getting publicity, “movements”, or good jobs? [Phoenix] points out that a lot of these other people are on the assembly lines actually producing the technology: under-educated, often underpaid, and sometimes even skewing female.

[Phoenix] thinks that they’re being held back by economic and educational barriers. As the cost of higher education becomes more and more expensive, it limits the number (and type) of people that we have making technology. The share of tech jobs in the economy is on the rise, but at the same time the percentage of women in computing is falling. Why? As the cost of college tuition is skyrocketing, it certainly limits the prospects of someone whose parents don’t have a few hundred thousand dollars sitting around, or who is not willing to go that far into debt.

What to Do?

On the other side, we see the rise of “alternative STEM education” — the self-taughts and the people teaching each other for free. The ready availability of information shared on the Internet and through hackerspaces can be a powerful antidote to the exclusivity of expensive higher education. [Phoenix] asks us to look out for other barriers to bringing everyone along on the quest for new technology, and think of ways to work around them.

But all of the alternative education in the world won’t help if employers aren’t hiring these people, and if the workplace is biased against them. [Phoenix] claims that this next step is a cultural barrier, and that what’s needed is therefore a cultural change. She makes a list of ten things to change in our (work) culture. As with alternative education, we see a lot of these points being addressed, from codes of conduct in our hackerspaces to a de-emphasis of formal training over practical experience in coding.

But then she turns to the kind of projects that we make, and asks if they’re “deeply” accessible. That is, does it make it easier for people to modify and build with the technology that it embodies, or does it hide things about what’s really going on. Do the things we build help bring others into the field? We think that’s an interesting additional angle to view our hacks from, and certainly a noble goal.

“You are responsible for inclusion and diversity in technology and culture.”

Broadening the Technological Gene Pool

And so why do we care about any of this? Because [Phoenix] thinks that technological ideas are like genes, and the sum of them that are shared are like our collective gene pool. The more variety that we’ve got in the gene pool, the better off we all are — the more kooky ideas that brush up against each other and make the next big thing.

That’s something that we can really get behind here at Hackaday. We try to see the best side of every project we post, and summarize the aspects that we think are most likely to inspire you. We definitely lean toward [Phoenix] and Tesla’s view of the role of technology in human society — that technology should enrich our lives and that we do it best as a community working together, and that means sharing rather than hoarding ideas.

Follow Phoenix Perry on Twitter: @PhoenixPerry

Filed under: cons, Hackaday Columns

Captain America’s Mighty Shield with 7200N of Powerful Electromagnets!

เสาร์, 05/14/2016 - 00:33

At Hackaday, sometimes we nerd out a bit too hard over comic book movies. With Captain America: Civil War in theaters, I knew I had to do a project dedicated to the movie — so I made a ridiculously over powered electromagnet bracer. The hope? To attract a Captain America replica shield from short distances.

I had the idea for this project a while ago after watching Avengers: Age of Ultron.

If you’re not familiar, it appears Captain America gets a suit upgrade (presumably from Stark himself) that features some pretty awesome embedded electromagnets allowing him to call his shield back to him from afar.

Now unfortunately, electromagnets aren’t that strong and I knew I wouldn’t be able to achieve quite the same effect as good ol’ CGI — but I’d be darned not to try! 

I originally planned on making our own electromagnets using microwave oven transformers, similar to [Colin Furze’s] electromagnet boots, but ended up purchasing some industrial ones instead. At 12V they’re rated for 1200N, capable of lifting approximately 120kg. Using two, that’s 240kg — more than enough, right?


I needed more power. We crossed our fingers for engineering safety factors and slowly ramped up the voltage all the way to 72V.

Hypothetically at that voltage the current flowing through the coils will produce ~7,200N of force. Together that’s around 1,470kg (or ~3200lbs) of hypothetical load capacity.

The electromagnets are definitely not rated for constant duty at that power level though. They start to heat up pretty quick at that voltage! We had a few accidents during testing…

But the advantage is… you could potentially pick up a small car with these! Assuming the metal on it is thick enough for the magnetic fields to fully penetrate that is. So naturally we tested it by holding a truck back on a slight incline.

But the real question is how far away can it actually attract the shield from?

We installed a metal plate onto the replica shield and started testing the system. Sadly, it can only pick up the shield from about 3-5″ away.

Not overly exciting. That’s because the electromagnetic field drops off by the inverse square of the distance — while it might produce 7,200N at the surface, the field is pretty much gone after a foot.

So unfortunately, we can’t make the shield come back to us from any reasonable distance — but we do have a ridiculously powerful arm-mounted-electromagnet — and that just spells out FUN.

From there, it was time to suit up and put this electromagnet gauntlet — and the shield — through their paces.

Let’s break some stuff with Captain America’s Mighty Shield, and answer the question — Does the Captain America Electromagnet Shield Actually Work?

Filed under: misc hacks, wearable hacks

You Can And Should Build Something For The Hackaday Prize

ศุกร์, 05/13/2016 - 23:31

For the third year in a row, we’re running the greatest hardware challenge on the planet. It’s the Hackaday Prize, a contest to build something that matters. We’re giving away $300,000 to people who build something that solves a problem. We’ve already awarded $1000 to 20 lucky hackers for the first challenge in the Hackaday Prize — and we’re doing that every 5 weeks this summer! Now it’s your turn. You, too can build something for the Hackaday Prize. It doesn’t have to be complex. All it has to do is solve a problem.

Think building something that solves a problem is too hard? Not true. Last year, [Kate Reed], a high school student, built a device that makes a wheelchair much easier. Her device, the Hand Drive, allows anyone in a wheelchair to use a rowing motion to move forward, instead of pulling themselves by the rim of the chair. It is perhaps the most clever and elegant device we’ve ever seen; it’s basically a ratchet that bolts onto a wheelchair, and if wheelchairs were around five hundred years ago, the Hand Drive would bolt right on to those antique chairs. For her entry, [Kate] was a finalist for last year’s Hackaday Prize, gave a talk at the Hackaday Supercon, and demonstrated her device to the president in the White House.

Is the simple tech behind a ratcheting wheelchair attachment not cool enough? Here’s a device that tells you to sit up. This device is just a few bits of electronics mounted to a chair that tells you to get up and walk around every hour or so. Deep vein thrombosis isn’t a joke, and for this entry to last year’s Hackaday Prize, [electrobob] was one of the 100 creators that made it to the finals.

Your project for the Hackaday Prize doesn’t need to be complex. It doesn’t need to be complicated, and you don’t need to invest months of work into your entry. All you need to do is build something that matters.

If you have an idea for a project that solves a problem, start your project now. There’s nothing to lose, and we’re giving away $300,000 in prizes for people who build something that matters.

The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:

Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Facebook Open-Sources their Capture-the-Flag Hacking Challenges

ศุกร์, 05/13/2016 - 22:01

If you want to learn how to defeat computer security, nothing beats hands-on experience. Of course, if you get your hands on someone’s system without their permission, you may end up having a very short training that ends with a jail term. And that’s where capture-the-flag (CTF) events come in.

A CTF is a system of increasingly-difficult challenges that can’t be too easy or too hard. A well-designed CTF teaches all of the participants stuff that they didn’t know, no matter how far they get and what skills they came in with. Designing a good CTF is difficult.

But since it’s also a competition, running one also involves a lot of horrible bookkeeping for the folks running it. Registering teams and providing login pages is the dirty work that you have to do in the background, that takes away time from building the systems which others are going to take apart.

Which is why it’s great that Facebook is opening up their CTF-hosting platform, along with a few starter challenges, for us all to play along. We love CTFs and related hacking challenges. If this spurs the creation of more, we’re all for it. You can find the whole setup on GitHub.

If you’re new to CTFs, here’s an awesome collection of CTF-related material on GitHub to get you started. And if your tastes run more toward hardware hacking, we’ve covered previous firmware CTFs, but frankly there’s a lot more material out there. We feel a feature post coming on…

Thanks [ag4ve] for the unintentional tip!

Filed under: computer hacks, security hacks

Two Guys, a Hotel Room and a Radio Fire

ศุกร์, 05/13/2016 - 21:01

Can you build a HF SSB radio transciever in one weekend, while on the road, at parts from a swap meet? I can, but apparently not without setting something on fire.

Of course the swap meet I’m referring to is Hamvention, and Hamvention 2016 is coming up fast. In a previous trip to Hamvention, Scott Pastor (KC8KBK) and I challenged ourselves to restore tube radio gear in a dodgy Dayton-area hotel room where we repaired a WW2 era BC-224 and a Halicrafters receiver, scrounging parts from the Hamfest.

Our 2014 adventures were so much fun that it drove us to create our own hacking challenge in 2015 to cobble together a <$100 HF SSB transceiver (made in the USA for extra budget pressure), an ad-hoc antenna system, put this on the air, and make an out-of-state contact before the end of Hamvention using only parts and gear found at Hamvention. There’s no time to study manuals, antennas, EM theory, or vacuum tube circuitry.  All you have are your whits, some basic tools, and all the Waffle House you can eat.  But you have one thing on your side, the world’s largest collection of surplus electronics and radio junk in one place at one time.  Can it be done?

Options for HF transceivers are very poor at the sub-$100 range especially those made in the US which are often collectible and valued much higher if there is a chance of functionality (e.g. Heathkit, Drake, and others).  We would likely end up with some very early SSB gear or possibly a late 70’s or early 80’s solid state rig.  The pickings are slim.

Choosing the ‘Donor’ Radio A crusty but serviceable Ten Tech Omni A for a very reasonable price.

Early Friday morning we found a Ten Tech Omni A with a jammed-up PTO (permeability tuned oscillator) for $80. This radio did not have the optional frequency counter, instead it had a broken slide-rule tuning indicator.  I liked its modularity, you can clearly see the signal flow by looking under the top cover.


Early on Friday morning Scott located an old vacuum tube powered Hallicrafters SR-160 project radio for $60. Unfortunately 53 years of age resulted in a few dried electrolytics and drifting resistor values. It did have a few things going for it, it came with a power supply, microphone and I brought my stock of high voltage caps so we could re-cap it. Re-capping and a possible re-alignment would be time consuming.

Friday evening the Omni-A powered up and seemed eager to run. After several quick-fix attempts with the PTO we tried a Google search and realized that the mechanical jam was a very common problem. The best way to fix it was to completely disassemble the mechanism, soak it with isopropyl alcohol, then lubricate with lithium grease.  There was no time to completely disassemble and clean the mechanism (it’s akin to a fine pocket watch) and the only lubricant we could find was a small can of WD40 from the gas station next door. After spraying the PTO mechanism and working the threaded brass pieces with a pair of channel-locks it came loose.  This radio was able to tune in numerous SSB stations with a 20′ length of wire hanging out of its antenna jack.

Next we tried to re-string the tuning indicator, this didn’t work out too well.  So we ended up with a working transceiver but no idea what frequency it was on. We did consider boot-strapping the Halicrafters VFO into the Omni-A, both are 5 MHz VFOs, but this was abandoned in favor of a faster solution.

To determine what frequency we were on we used an old Hammarlund HQ-170 receiver that had been procured separately and not part of the competition (when I see a nice boat anchor it’s hard to resist the buy).  This radio worked without need for repair thanks to Hammarlund’s use of ceramic disk capacitors.  We used the HQ-170 to zero-beat the bottom range of our frequency privileges then decided to only reply to CQ’s or jump into another ongoing QSO.  Frequency awareness problem solved.

Antenna: Outdoor Wasn’t an Option

For almost zero cost we bought a couple of spools of cold wire, some random lengths of coax, and a few WW2 surplus variable capacitors knowing we could easily wind inductors with the scrap wire. Our raw material stash was complete when someone gave me an old VSWR meter for free. It seemed like the dipole antenna or random wire option was the best bet. Unfortunately the window of the hotel room would not open. With nowhere to string the random wire antenna it was back to the drawing board.

First attempt at a Mag Loop transceiving antenna using RG58 coax and loop-coupling.

How do you make a decent indoor antenna that would work within a concrete structure? The magnetic loop seemed like a good option. A mag loop works on the magnetic field component of the electromagnetic field. Mag loops are used in almost all AM broadcast radios and often used by radio amateurs in Western Europe where space is at a premium. Unfortunately they’re not too efficient.

Efficiency depends on the ohmic losses in the mag loop conductors at your operational wavelength.  Furthermore, the directivity (antenna gain is the product of directivity and efficiency) of a mag loop is usually poor due to the small physical aperture of the loop. For best performance we want to make the loop as big as we could reasonably fit in the hotel room and also use the thickest-available cable or wire for the loop itself.

Locating stuff at Hamvention is not like shopping the Digi Key catalog.  It is a hunting and gathering exercise.  In my experience it is difficult to seek out one specific item, the mode of shopping at hamventions is more akin to ‘you will know what you want when you see it,’ rather than searching through your favorite parts catalog.

Schematic of mag loop coupling and tuning network.

After failing to get a 4′ loop of RG58 working on Friday night I was on the lookout Saturday for a replacement. For $10 a length of ¾” hardline or heliax coax cable (a very large industrial coax), larger gauge hook-up wire, and some terminal lugs were procured. Now we had everything needed to make a serious mag loop.

Rzather than an inductive coupling we decided to use capacitive coupling.  One variable cap for resonating the loop and a second in series for coupling.  We used short lengths of #14 wire and terminal lugs back-filled with solder to wire it up.

After peaking both caps for maximum receiver noise the loop tuned up well at low transmit power, easily achieving less than 1.5:1 SWR.  I did notice that the loop de-tuned when I touched the feed coax.  Because of this I rolled a shunt balun with 10 turns of RG58 directly in front of the coupling capacitor. Hand capacitance problem solved, SWR was well behaved, the loop was now being fed with a balanced line.

Time to get on the air.  We turned up the power on the Omni-A and keyed the radio. Unfortunately it did not seem like we were transmitting 100 watts. The lights were not flickering in the hotel room or even on the radio itself. Nothing in this radio/antenna system seemed like it was trying to transmit.  The output power meter on the radio read flat, one or two watts.

We did confirm good SSB transmit audio with the Hammurland, so something was getting out but not much. After goofing around for a while with the OmniA is seemed like it was a transmitter problem within the radio. As a last ditch effort the Omni-A’s manual was consulted (isn’t that alwasy the way?).

Automatic Level Control (ALC) is kind of like an automatic gain control (AGC) for a receiver except that it is used for transmit.  With this you can achieve a higher average power than transmitting a simple linear voice SSB signal. ALC is something I have not incorporated into my own radios that I’ve built.  Stupidly enough and not being at all familiar with the Omni-A we had left the ALC control at 0. Who has time to read the manual anyway?

We turned it up to about 3/4 clockwise, whatever that meant.  The transmitter kicked on strong.  Lights in the hotel lights dimmed to the SSB carrier, power meter on the radio read a solid 75+ watts. The Omni A worked after being neglected for decades, what a tough radio!

Electrical Fire

Time to get on the air.  Scott was performing some ‘Check 1 2 3 4 tests’ at full power when I observed a very bright arc near the tuning network.  To be sure I asked Scott to try again, I observed something near the mag loop’s coupling capacitor that appeared to be breathing fire in proportion to his voice.

The tuning network was made up of two very large and old variable caps, these were large WW2 surplus variable caps, one of which used ceramic insulators and the other was made of slate. These should be able to handle the RF current and voltages. These caps and the associated wiring were laying on the carpeted floor at the base of the loop which was propped up against the hotel bed.

Omni A back on the air!

I had used very short lengths of #14 wire to tie the network together.  The insulation break-down voltage was rated for 600V.  This is standard stuff you could get at the local hardware store. I asked Scott to key the radio again, while I observed the tuning network and there it was! A solid arc. Wow it was a sight. Do it again! Another arc. On the third try something lit on fire. Smoke filled the room.

It was easily put out but the smoke was nasty. We cleared it out of the room and luckily did not set off the smoke alarms. Upon inspecting the tuning network wiring it seems that the insulation had broken down and burned on the cheap #14 wiring. To fix this, I re-adjusted the wiring to put more space between the wires and placed a hotel ice cube tray under the network for added insulation. We were back on the air without further trouble.


We made contact with a station in Florida, received a signal report of 5 by 7.   Good enough.

Hamvention is made all the more interesting with improvised radio sport. Previously antique radio receivers were brought to life, and now a parts radio was put back on the air and out-of-state contact made. What should be the next challenge?  Who else wants to join the fun? Let us know in the comments below.

Gregory L. Charvat, Ph.D, likes to put old stuff back into service in short periods of time, is CTO of Humatics Corp., author of Small and Short-Range Radar Systems, co-founder of Hyperfine Research Inc. and Butterfly Network Inc. (both at 4catalyzer), editor of the book series Modern and Practical Approaches to Electrical Engineering, guest commentator on CNN, CBS, Sky News, and others. As visiting research scientist at MIT Media Lab he created the Time of Flight Microwave Camera.  As technical staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory he created a through-wall radar imaging system that won best paper at the 2010 MSS Tri-Services Radar Symposium and is an MIT Office of the Provost 2011 research highlight. Greg has taught short radar courses at MIT, where his Build a Small Radar course was the top-ranked MIT professional education course in 2011 and has become widely adopted by other universities, laboratories, and private organizations.

Filed under: cons, Engineering, Featured, radio hacks

Solving ISP problem with a Homebrew LTE Yagi

ศุกร์, 05/13/2016 - 18:01

We’ve heard reports that internet connectivity in Australia can be an iffy proposition, and [deandob] seems to back that up. At the limit of a decent DSL connection and on the fringe of LTE, [deandob] decided to optimize the wireless connection with this homebrew Yagi antenna.

Officially known as the Yagi-Uda after its two Japanese inventors from the 1920s, but generally shortened to the name of its less involved but quicker to patent inventor, the Yagi is an antenna that provides high gain in one direction. That a homebrew antenna was even necessary at all is due to [deandob]’s ISP using the 2300MHz band rather than the more popular 2400MHz – plenty of cheap 2.4GHz antennas out there, but not so much with 2.3GHz. With multiple parallel and precisely sized and spaced parasitic elements, a Yagi can be a complicated design, but luckily for [deandob] the ham radio community has a good selection of Yagi design tools available. His final design uses an aluminum rod for a boom, 2mm steel wire for reflectors and directors, and a length of coax as the driven element. The result? Better connectivity that pushes his ISP throttling limit, and no more need to mount the modem high enough in his house to use the internal antenna.

People on the fringes of internet coverage go to great lengths to get connections, like this off-grid network bridge. Or if you’d rather use a homebrew Yagi to listen to meteors, that’s possible too.

Filed under: wireless hacks

Tiny Matchbox WiFi Weather Station

ศุกร์, 05/13/2016 - 15:01

Sometimes a project doesn’t have to be technically amazing to win over our hearts. [Malte]’s ESP8266-based weather station is so cute, and so nicely executed, that it’s easily worth a look. It could totally be a commercial product, and it’s smaller than a matchbox.

It combines temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure sensors on one side of a PCB, with pads for soldering a pre-built ESP8266 module on the other side. Solder it all together and flash the firmware and you’re almost all set.

The final step is to configure it to work with the network. For this, [Malte] built in a nice web-based configuration (and display) application. It also can log its data to an MQTT system, so there’s a bunch more configuration (which we’re trying to make easier) needed there, and the web frontend makes that light work. Everything, from the hardware to the firmware, and even a pre-compiled binary, is up on his GitHub. Very complete and very well done.

If you can read German, or are willing to run it through a translator, give his personal projects webpage a look as well. Good stuff here. Now all he needs is a matching nice display for inside.

Filed under: wireless hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: ForEx Display is A Well Executed Hack

ศุกร์, 05/13/2016 - 12:01

[Stefan] works in a place where knowing the exact state of the foreign-exchange market is important to the money making schemes of the operation. Checking an app or a website was too slow and broke him out of his workflow. OS desktop widgets have more or less departed this earth for the moment. The only solution then, was to build a widget for his actual desk.

The brains of the device is a ESP8266 board, some peripherals and a small backlit TFT display. The device can run off battery or from a wall wart. [Stefan] even added some nice features not typically found in hacks like this, such as a photocell that detects the light level and dims the screen accordingly.

The software uses an interesting approach to get the latest times and timezones. Rather than use a chart or service made for the task, he uses an open weather API to do the task. Pretty clever.

The case is 3D printed and sanded. To get the nice finish shown in the picture [Stefan] spray-painted the case afterwards. All put together the device looks great and gives him the desktop widget he desired.

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Filed under: clock hacks