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Friction Differential Drive is a Laser-Cut Triumph

อังคาร, 10/03/2017 - 06:00

Here on Hackaday, too often do we turn our heads and gaze at the novelty of 3D printing functional devices. It’s easy to forget that other techniques for assembling functional prototypes exist. Here, [Reuben] nails the aspect of functional prototyping with the laser cutter with a real-world application: a roll-pitch friction differential drive built from just off-the shelf and laser-cut parts!

The centerpiece is held together with friction, where both the order of assembly and the slight wedged edge made from the laser cutter kerf keeps the components from falling apart. Pulleys transfer motion from the would-be motor mounts, where the belts are actually tensioned with a roller bearing mechanism that’s pushed into position. Finally, the friction drive itself is made from roller-blade wheels, where the torque transferred to the plate is driven by just how tightly the top screw is tightened onto the wheels. We’d say that [Reuben] is pushing boundaries with this build–but that’s not true. Rather, he’s using a series of repeatable motifs together to assemble a both beautiful and complex working mechanism.

This design is an old-school wonder from 2012 uncovered from a former Stanford course. The legendary CS235 aimed to teach “unmechanically-minded” roboticists how to build a host of mechanisms in the same spirit as MIT’s How-to-make-almost-Anything class. While CS235 doesn’t exist anymore, don’t fret. [Reuben] kindly posted his best lectures online for the world to enjoy.

Heads-up: keep in mind that this video is actually only 3:45 minutes long.


Filed under: robots hacks

A Bit Of Mainstream Coverage For The Right To Repair

อังคาร, 10/03/2017 - 03:00

Here at Hackaday, we write for a community of readers who are inquisitive about the technology surrounding them. You wouldn’t be here if you had never taken a screwdriver to a piece of equipment to see what makes it work. We know that as well as delving inside and modifying devices being core to the hardware hacker mindset, so is repairing. If something we own breaks, we try to work out why it broke, and what we can do to fix it.

Unfortunately, we live in an age in which fixing the things we own is becoming ever harder. Manufacturers either want to sell us now hardware rather than see us repair what breaks, or wish to exercise total control over the maintenance of their products. They make them physically impossible to repair, for example by gluing together a cellphone, or they lock down easy-to-repair items with restrictive software, for example tractors upon which every replacement part must be logged on a central computer.

This has been a huge issue in our community for a long time now, but to the Man In The Street it barely matters. To the people who matter, those who could change or influence the situation, it’s not even on the radar. Which makes a piece in the British high-end weekly newspaper The Economist particularly interesting. Entitled “A ‘right to repair’ movement tools up“, it lays out the issues and introduces the Repair Association, a political lobby group that campaigns for “Right to repair” laws in the individual states of the USA.

You might now be asking why this is important, why are we telling you something you already know? The answer lies in the publication in which it appears. The Economist is aimed at politicians and influencers worldwide. In other words, when we here at Hackaday talk about the right to repair, we’re preaching to the choir. When they do it at the Economist, they’re preaching to the crowd who can make a difference. And that’s important.

You may recognise the tractors mentioned earlier as the iconic green-and-yellow John Deere. We’ve written about their DRM before.

Neon sign, All Electronics Service, Portland, Visitor7 [CC BY-SA 3.0].


Filed under: news, repair hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: Dynamometer for Post Stroke Rehabilitation

อังคาร, 10/03/2017 - 01:30

For those who have suffered a stroke, recovery is a long and slow process that requires rehabilitation to start as early as possible. Quite often, secondary stroke attacks complicate matters. Spasticity — muscle contraction and paresis — muscular weakness, are two of the many common after-effects of stroke. Recovery involves doing repeated exercises to strengthen the muscles and bring back muscle memory. Benchmarking progress becomes difficult when caregivers are only able to use qualitative means such as squeezing tennis balls to monitor improvement. To help provide quantitative measurements in such cases, [Sergei V. Bogdanov] is building a Dynamometer for Post-Stroke Rehabilitation. It is an Open Source, 4-channel differential force gauge for measuring and logging the progress of the patient. The device measures, graphs, and logs the force exerted by the four fingers when they push down on the four force gauges.

The device consists of four strain gauges obtained from cheap kitchen scales. The analog outputs from these are fed to HX-711 24-bit ADC boards. An Arduino Nano processes the data and displays it on two banks of eight-digit LED modules. [Sergei] also experimented with a 20×4 character LCD in place of the LED display. In the standalone mode, the device can only indicate the measured forces on the LED (or LCD) display which is calibrated to display either numerical values or a logarithmic scale. When connected to a serial port and using the (Windows only) program, it is possible to not only view the same information but also save it at regular, set intervals. The data can also be viewed in graphical form.

The project page provides links to their Arduino code, Windows monitor program as well as build instructions. Check out the related assistive technology project that [Sergei] is working on — A Post Stroke Spasticity Rehab Helper.

The HackadayPrize2017 is Sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Books You Should Read: Feynman’s Appendix to the Challenger Disaster Report

อังคาร, 10/03/2017 - 00:00

It isn’t really a book, but Richard Feynman’s Appendix to the Challenger Disaster Report is still definitely something you should read. It’s not particularly long, but it’s educational and relevant not just as an example of critical thinking in action, but as a reminder not to fool oneself; neither individually, nor on an organizational level. Sadly, while much was learned from the events leading to and surrounding the Challenger disaster, over thirty years later many of us can still find a lot of the same things to relate to in our own professional lives. There isn’t a single magic solution, because these problems are subtle and often masquerade as normal.

Feynman and the Challenger Disaster

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was a Nobel Prize winning physicist and one of the best-known scientists of his time. In 1986 he somewhat reluctantly agreed to join the Rogers Commission, whose task was to investigate the Challenger disaster. The space shuttle Challenger had exploded a little more than a minute after launch, killing everyone on board. The commission’s job was to find out what had gone wrong and how it had happened, and figure out how to keep it from happening again.

Feynman, who had undergone cancer-related surgery at the time, was initially reluctant to join the commission for simple reasons: he didn’t want to go anywhere near Washington and didn’t want anything at all to do with government. As for the shuttle itself, he would read about it going up and coming down but it bothered him a little that he never saw in any scientific journal any results of the experiments carried out on the shuttle, so as a result he wasn’t paying much attention to it. Ultimately, he did join the commission and in the process changed himself. The shuttle and its related systems were feats of engineering at (and sometimes beyond) the very limits of technology at the time. He hadn’t fully appreciated the enormous number of people working on the shuttle, and the sheer scale of their dedicated effort. He came to see how the accident was a terrible blow, and became greatly determined to do what he could to help.

It came out that the cause of the disaster was that O-rings on one of the sections of solid rocket booster had failed, but that was only the proximate cause of the disaster. The real problem was a culture of NASA management reducing criteria and accepting more and more errors while, as Feynman put it, “engineers are screaming from below HELP! and This is a RED ALERT!” This demonstrates an almost incredible lack of communication between management and working engineers, which was itself a clue as to what was really wrong at an organizational level.

How Did This Happen?

This situation didn’t happen all at once; it grew over time. NASA was filled with dedicated people, but at an organizational level it had developed a culture of gradually decreasing strictness when it came to certifications for flight readiness. A common argument for accepting flight risks was that the same risk was flown before with no failure, and that fact was accepted as an argument for the safety of accepting it again. As a result, obvious weaknesses and problems were accepted repeatedly. This was not limited to the O-rings in the solid rocket boosters that caused the catastrophic failure with Challenger. A slow shift toward lower standards was evident time and time again in other areas as well; safety criteria were being subtly altered with apparently logical arguments for doing so. What was happening was that NASA was fooling itself.

Fooling Oneself Still Happens Today

Much has been learned from the Challenger disaster and similar cases, but over 30 years later people and organizations still struggle with the same basic issues and end up with an environment of bad decision-making. There’s no easy solution, but at least it’s possible to understand more about what to look out for. There isn’t always a particular broken part to blame or replace, and there isn’t always someone specifically at fault. The things that go wrong can be subtle and numerous, and the environment it creates may seem actually normal in an oh-well-what-can-you-do kind of way.

Feynman often asserted that you must never fool yourself. Once you have succeeded in not fooling yourself, it’s easier to not fool others. Feynman observed several ways in which NASA had grown to fool itself, and a common thread was lack of communication.

For example, management confidently estimated the chance of shuttle failure as 1 in 100,000 whereas engineering estimated it closer to 1 in 100 or 1 in 200, and were fervently crossing their fingers for every flight.

Feynman’s experiences on the commission led him to think hard about how this situation actually happened. It struck him that there was a fair bit of fishiness associated with the “big cheeses” at NASA. Every time the commission spoke to higher level managers, they kept saying they didn’t know anything about the problems below them. Assuming the higher-ups weren’t lying, there had to be some reason why problems at lower levels weren’t making it up to them. Feynman suspected that it came down to bad communication due to management and engineering fundamentally having different priorities and goals. When the engineers at the bottom say things like “No, no! We can’t do that unless this because it would mean such-and-such!” and the higher-ups don’t want to hear such talk, pretty soon attitudes start to change and you get an environment that suppresses bad news. Feynman described this process in What Do You Care What Other People Think?:

Maybe they don’t say explicitly “Don’t tell me,” but they discourage communication, which amounts to the same thing. It’s not a question of what has been written down, or who should tell what to whom; it’s a question of whether, when you do tell someone about some problem, they’re delighted to hear about it and they say “Tell me more,” and “Have you tried such-and-such?” or whether they instead say “Well, see what you can do about it” — which is a completely different atmosphere. If you try once or twice to communicate and get pushed back, pretty soon you decide “To hell with it.”

That was Feynman’s theory: because promises being made at the top are inconsistent with reality at the bottom, communications got slowed up and ultimately jammed; that’s how it’s possible the higher-ups at NASA actually didn’t know about problems below them. I can’t help but think of all the modern-day situations where technical staff are left to figure out how to deliver on unrealistic promises sales or executives have made, and somehow get through the mess only to have to do it all over again the next week, and I wonder if Feynman wasn’t right on the money.

Two things are certain: people and organizations still fool themselves in similar ways today, and lack of communication is always a factor. But fooling others always starts with fooling oneself, and when it comes to that Feynman had clear advice: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool others. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.”

Note: There is a proper book related to this article. “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” by Richard Feynman devotes its second half to Feynman’s experience working on the Rogers Commission.


Filed under: Engineering, Featured, Hackaday Columns, Original Art, slider

NIST uses Optical Resonance to Probe Atoms

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 23:00

Have you ever stood under a dome and whispered, only to hear the echo of your voice come back much louder? Researchers at NIST used a similar principle to improve the atomic force microscope (AFM), allowing them to measure rapid changes in microscopic material more accurately than ever before.

An AFM works by using a minuscule sharp probe. The instrument detects deflections in the probe, often using a piezoelectric transducer or a laser sensor. By moving the probe against a surface and measuring the transducer’s output, the microscope can form a profile of the surface. The NIST team used a laser traveling through a circular waveguide tuned to a specific frequency. The waveguide is extremely close (150 nm) to a very tiny probe weighing about a trillionth of a gram. When the probe moves a very little bit, it causes the waveguide’s characteristics to change to a much larger degree and a photodetector monitoring the laser light passing through the resonator can pick this up.

The probe tip on an AFM — known as the cantilever — is a specialized nanostructure. The tip of the probe is usually only a few atoms across. Obviously, the smaller and lighter the cantilever, the more responsive the instrument will be, but usually the harder it is to read its output. The deflections may come from physical contact or the probe tapping against the surface. AFMs can also measure atomic forces. As the probe approaches a surface, atomic-scale attraction pulls it closer. But as it gets too close, repulsive forces push it away. These are the deflections the AFM uses to map the surface under the probe.

If you’d like to see a good visualization of what happens in an AFM, check out the video below. If you have the urge, you can even build one yourself, a topic we have covered more than once.

 


Filed under: chemistry hacks

Get Hands-On at Supercon: Workshop Tickets Now Available

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 22:01

Build something cool and pick up new skills from the workshops at the Hackaday Superconference. Last week we announced all of the talks you’ll find at Supercon, and starting today you can reserve your spot at one of the workshops.

You must have a Superconference ticket in order to purchase a workshop ticket; buy one right now if you haven’t already. You can get mechanical with Haptics and Animatronics, take your product design from schematic to PCB and enclosure, brush up your embedded development on several choices of platform, make cell towers do your bidding, or dump way too many volts into a block of wood.

Space in these workshops is limited so make sure to sign up before all the seats are taken. The base price for workshops is $10 (basically a “skin in the game” price to encourage those who register to show up). Any tickets priced above that base is meant to cover the material expense of the workshop. Here’s what we have planned:

Embedded Programming with Black Magic and the Lights On Piotr Esden-Tempski Sunday Afternoon Embedded systems programming has earned a bad reputation of being difficult to master. Especially in the open-source world, most people associate it with cut and pasted code that is difficult to debug. The usual tools we have to debug embedded systems are a blinking LED and, if we are lucky, printf statements through a serial port. In this self guided workshop we will show you how easy it can be to have full insight into your microcontroller using fully open source tools that are on par with expensive proprietary closed-source solutions. Fun with High Voltage Will Caruana Sunday Morning This workshop is about making Lichtenberg figures. A Lichtenberg figure is a piece of art though the multiplication of a few thousands of volts to burn wood. We will cover the science behind this art form as well as the safety and lastly we will be getting hands on experience in being able to using high voltage transformers to make these burnings into wood and make coasters you can take home. Designing Electronic Textures Noah Feehan Sunday Afternoon Participants will learn the physics behind electrovibration, and then get to play/design for it using a new open-source board called WEFT. After the workshop, you’ll know how to deploy electrovibration in your projects, and understand the feeling of different waveforms. End to End Product Design with Eagle and Fusion 360 Matt Berggren Saturday Morning In this session, we’ll take you end to end, from building a new schematic, simulating a circuit using EAGLE’s built-in SPICE simulator, laying out a PCB, generating mfg files and include some tips & tricks for milling boards and making stencils. We’ll also take you thru the link between electronics and mechanics using Fusion360. Alongside EAGLE we’ll build an enclosure and generate the mfg outputs for your mechanical design (CAM, 3D prints, etc). We’ll look at library management across electronics and mechanics and bidirectional synchronization between both of these domains. This is more than an intro, as Matt’s always good for some essential, oft-missed background and tips with EAGLE you might never have known otherwise. AVR® MCU Effortless Design Workshop: Prototyping with Sensors and BLE Bob Martin, Senior Staff Engineer Sunday Morning This hands-on training session will walk you through how to develop an embedded sensor node prototype with Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) connectivity. You will speed through configuration of the AVR microcontroller, sensor interface and communications interface setup by using Atmel Start, a graphical programming interface. This tool will generate libraries with simple APIs so you can spend time working on your solution instead of messing with registers or communication protocols. Rapid Prototyping and Linux Kernel Development with the PocketBeagle® Platform Robert Nelson Saturday Afternoon The newly introduced PocketBeagle® is an ultra-tiny-yet-complete Linux-enabled, community-supported, open-source USB-key-fob computer. By leveraging the Octavo SIP, the PocketBeagle offers complete BeagleBoard functionality and includes 512MB DDR3 RAM, 1-GHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU, 2x 200-MHz PRUs, ARM Cortex-M3, 3D accelerator, power/battery management and EEPROM. The board offers lots of GPIOs, on board peripherals and various expansion capabilities via multiple headers and the Mikroelektronika click board interface. During this course you will learn about pin configuration, how to create a Linux distribution, reconfiguring io on the fly and how to leverage expansion modules. Attendees will leave with their very own PocketBeagle and a couple other surprises as well. Cellular Connectivity for Your Next Hardware Project Ben Strahan and Chris Gammell Saturday Afternoon Your project shouldn’t be constrained by the range of a WiFi signal. This workshop will show you how to connect to cellular towers via a serial link, get connected into the cloud and reliably start transmitting data. This workshop is suitable for people just getting started in the firmware ecosystem up through advanced firmware engineers. Advanced members of the workshop will have the opportunity to hack their conference badge to connect to cell towers. Sign up for this workshop to add another connection method to your hardware development toolbox. An Introduction to Animatronics with Laser Cut Tentacle Mechanisms Joshua Vasquez Saturday Morning Animatronics are way cool, but the hacker community rarely ventures farther than a few hobby servos and “dem-blinkin’ LEDs.” In this workshop, I’ll get you cozy with tentacle mechanisms that you can build with just a laser cutter and a few hand tools. There are three big takeaways from this workshop. We’ll build up a two-stage controller reusable in other projects, muscle up our vocabulary of off-the-shelf parts for cable mechanisms, and discover a few laser-cut design techniques.

Superconference workshops tend to sell out extremely quickly. Don’t wait to get your ticket.


Filed under: cons, Hackaday Columns, news

Manufacturing Your Own Single-Origin Tea

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 21:01

It’s nice to take a break from hacking together the newest bleeding-edge technology, relax, and enjoy a beverage. It’s no surprise that hacks devoted to beer and coffee roasting are popular. We’ve also seen a few projects helping brew the perfect cup of tea, but none involving the actual production of tea. Today we’re going to take a short recess from modernity and explore this ancient tradition.

Consumption of tea is about equal to all other manufactured beverages, such as coffee and alcohol, combined. It is hands-down the most popular manufactured beverage in the world, and we thought it would be interesting to make some ourselves. Also the local tea is so bitter that it’s used to clean things, and it works alarmingly well. To each their own!

I started by driving into Vietnam’s Central Highlands, down what Google simply refers to as ‘unnamed road’, to about 11°52’59.3″N 108°33’49.5″E. I asked around until I found a street vendor that knew a farmer at the nearby tea plantation, and would sell us five kilograms of fresh tea. I carried it 330 kilometers back to the city, because I’m a sane person that does normal things.

Tea plantation near 11°52’59.3″N 108°33’49.5″E, in Vietnam’s Central Highlands

If you do not live anywhere near a tea plantation, the easiest way to obtain fresh tea is probably just to grow it yourself. It’s a suitable indoor plant. You can buy tea seeds online, or just pick them up off the ground at a tea plantation.

Tea bush seeds in casing (left) and removed from casing (right)

The basic process of making most tea is fairly straightforward. The leaves are cleaned, wilted in heat, bruised, and oxidized. The type of leaf and the exact method with which you perform the latter three steps determines the type of tea produced. Finally, you cook and then dry the tea out to preserve it.

Not disease or rot — this is normal oxidation after bruising a leaf

If you do manage to buy fresh tea, you’ll now have one of two things: hand-picked light green tea leaves, or a bundle of branches that look like someone took a hedge cutter to a tea bush. While the former is more convenient and associated with a higher quality product, the latter is more interesting as you can separate the different parts of the plant into different types of tea.

There are basically three parts of the plant you are interested in: the old tea leaves, the young tea leaves, and the silvery tea buds. The soft, light green freshly sprouted leaves are the most useful part, and are used for making good quality tea, especially oolong. Oolong tea is bruised, then partially oxidized. We’ll call these leaves ‘Grade A’. The large, dark, and brittle older leaves are less desirable. They can still be used to make tea, but are harder to work with and have less flavor. These are better to use to make black tea, which is crushed, then more heavily oxidized. We’ll call these leaves ‘Grade B’. The small, silvery buds are dried with barely any processing to make white tea.

The first step is to pluck the leaves from the stems, being sure to leave behind any woody parts. Also discard any obviously diseased or dry leaves. Leaves that have been browned by oxidation are perfectly fine though. If you get industrially produced raw tea at the third bloom of the year, you’ll end up with the amounts in these three grades shown below (as well as a whole load of waste like sticks and such).

Next, wash all the leaves and buds carefully in water. It helps to soak them for a few hours, although be aware the leaves will rehydrate due to this, which can make the next step longer.

After the leaves are clean, take any tea buds you’ve collected and put them in a small tray. Bake them in your oven at a low temperature, just to dry them out (I had luck at about 150 °C). The white tea in now finished.

Leave the other grades of tea out (preferably in the heat) for a while until the leaves wilt. This makes the leaves easier to bruise without breaking. The Grade B tea might not wilt much because the leaves are tough and leathery.

The roof of a shed under the sun works well for wilting the leaves. So do searing hot motorbike seats.

Now take the Grade B leaves and put them in a clean plastic bag. Take a rolling-pin, mortar, or baseball bat and hit them until they are thoroughly bruised. Not too much force is required, take your time. You can see what the older, tougher leaves look like after being beaten with a rolling-pin.

Leave this tea in the bag, and hang it somewhere in the shade outside if it is 25-35 °C. Otherwise bring it inside. As the leaves oxidize they will drip a little, so don’t put it over a carpet or anything. I left them there for about two days.

After two days, they were quite oxidized and looked more or less like unappetizing mulch. This is normal!

Older, tougher leaves after oxidation

 

For the Grade A leaves, place a few between your hands and rub your hands together until the leaves are throughly bruised. Then set these aside and repeat for the rest of the leaves. They will look roughly like this:

Cover them, for example by placing them in a pot with a cover, and set aside indoors at around 20-30 °C. How long you oxidize them is up to you – less makes the oolong tea more like green tea, more makes it closer to black tea. We decided to make an oolong tea closer to black tea, so left it for two days. When finished, you can see the oxidized leaves have browned compared to the bruised leaves.

Once a batch of tea is done oxidizing, take a wok or frying pan and stir fry it around a little. Don’t add oil or anything – just drop the tea onto a hot pan and cook it briefly. This stops the oxidation process. Once the leaves are uniformly hot to the touch and steam is rising from the pan, they’re done. You might have a few pans full.

A cookie tray is an excellent way to dry tea in an oven.

When you’re done cooking the leaves, put them on a baking tray and bake them until dry. The time and temperature are up to you, but we found about 150 °C worked well. Some people like to roast the leaves just a little on top of drying them. Once dry, your tea is done and can be stored.

Finished black tea (sometimes also called red tea)

Now it’s time for a taste. Get your preferred tea set. A gaiwan works well but there’s no reason you can’t use a teapot.

 

It may not look or smell like the loose leaf tea you’re used to, but the taste was excellent and sweet when we tried it. The color was also more or less on spot with what I wanted. It pairs perfectly with mid-autumn festival mooncakes, and late nights writing firmware.

A concluding tip: tea is very susceptible to taking on odors. This is why it’s so easy to make differently scented teas, but also means you should keep the tea away from anything with a strong smell throughout the process.

Whether you grow it yourself, or find a source for freshly harvested leaves, making tea is fun and a nice break from your ordinary slate of endeavors. Give it a try!


Filed under: cooking hacks, Featured, home hacks, Skills

FM Snake Feeds Off Radio Waves

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 18:00

[Eric Brasseur] built a radio-detecting snake that consists of a LED that lights up when around reasonably strong radio waves. Near an FM radio mast you’ll find a huge amount of waste energy being dumped out in the 88 to 108 MHz range.

[Eric]’s rig consists of a pair of 1N6263 Schottky diodes, flip-flopped with one set of ends soldered to the antenna and the other ends soldered to the leads of the LED with about a foot of wire in between. The antenna can be a single wire as the diodes are soldered together. This one is around 4 feet in length for a total length of around 160 cm or a little over 5 feet. He went with a red LED just to give it a greater chance of being seen when illuminated by a distant or weak source of radio waves.

Hackaday loves its radio hacks; check out our posts on improving WiFi throughput with FM radio and building a modern DIY FM radio.

[Thanks, Alain!]


Filed under: news

7-Segment Digits Slide Stylishly on This OLED Clock

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 15:00

Over at Sparkfun, [Alex] shared an OLED clock project that’s currently in progress but has a couple interesting twists. The first is the use of a small OLED screen for each digit, to which [Alex] added a stylistic touch. Digits transition by having segments slide vertically in a smooth animated motion. It’s an attractive effect, and the code is available on his github repository for anyone who wants to try it out.

[Alex] also found that by using an ESP32 microcontroller and synchronizing the clock via NTP over WiFi, the added cost of implementing a real-time clock in hardware becomes unnecessary. Without an RTC, time would drift by a few seconds every day and require a reset. At the moment the clock requires the SSID and password to be hardcoded, but [Alex] would prefer to allow this to be configured via a web page and could use some help. If you have implemented a web server on the ESP32, [Alex] would like to know how you handled multiple pages. “I’ve been scratching my head throughout the build on how to get this done,” he writes. “With the ESP8266, there’s on(const String &uri, handler function), but that seems to have been removed on the ESP32.” If you can point [Alex] in the right direction, be sure to pipe up.

OLED displays and clocks often go together, as we have seen with projects like the DIY OLED Smart Watch, but it’s nice to see someone using the OLED’s strengths to add some visual flair to an otherwise plain display.


Filed under: clock hacks, Microcontrollers

Hacking a Metallurgical Microscope

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 12:00

[Amen] wanted to inspect ICs on the PCBs for suitability for reuse, so he bought a metallurgical microscope that illuminates from above rather than below, since it normally looks at opaque things. It has a working distance of 0.5 and 10mm, which isn’t a lot of room to solder.

The microscope didn’t come with a slide tray, so [amen] found a cheap one on eBay. Needing a connector block, he melted down some food trays into an ingot, which he then milled down into a block shape, drilled, and used to attach the slide tray to the microscope.

The thing came with a manual XY table, which the operator adjusts by turning knobs. It’s fine for most basic applications but it’s also a pain for more complicated projects, like tiling together a huge photo of a die. [amen]’s currently working on a powered XY based on a DVD drive’s stepper assemblies.

If you’re looking for more microscope projects, read up on the hacked inspection microscope and a Pi Zero ‘scope we previously published.


Filed under: hardware

Custom Lightbulb Firmware

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 09:00

The Internet of Things is developing at a rapid pace, as hobbyists and companies rush to develop the latest and greatest home automation gear. One area of particular interest to some is lighting – yes, even the humble lightbulb now comes with a brain and is ripe for the hacking.

[Tinkerman] starts by doing a full disassembly of the Sonoff B1 lightbulb. It’s a popular device, and available for less than $20 on eBay. Rated at 6 watts, the bulb has a heatsink that is seemingly far larger than necessary. Inside is the usual AC/DC converter, LED driver and an ESP8285 running the show. While this is a slightly different part to the usual ESP8266, it can be programmed in the same way by selecting the correct programming mode.

This is where it gets interesting – [Tinkerman] flashes the device with a custom firmware known as ESPurna. This firmware enables greater control over the function of the bulb, from colour choice, to speaking to the bulb over MQTT.

[Tinkerman] does a great job of walking through the exact steps needed to disassemble and reprogram the bulb, and touches upon the added flexibility given by the custom firmware. We love to see projects like this one, that give greater control over IoT devices and enable users to better integrate them with other systems.


Filed under: led hacks

Hackaday Links: October 1, 2017

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 06:00

Remember when you first saw a USB port in a standard wall outlet? It was a really great idea at the time, but how’s that 500mA charge holding up now? Fresh from a random press release, here’s a USB 3.0 wall outlet, with USB A and C ports. 5A @ 5V. Future proof for at least several years, I guess.

This is what you call ‘pucker factor’. An Air France A380 traveling from CDG to LAX suffered an uncontained engine failure somewhere over Greenland. Everyone on board is fine, except for the fact they had to spend the night in Goose Bay, Canada. Want the best Twitter/YouTube account of being a passenger? Here you go. Want to know why it landed in Goose Bay? This video is about ETOPS which really doesn’t apply in this instance but it’s a sufficient introduction to diverting airplanes after engine failures.

There are mysterious pylons going up alongside bridges and tunnels in NYC (auto-playing video). No one knows what they are, and the transportation board for New York is hiding behind a cloud of secrecy. We do know there are ‘fiber optics necessary for Homeland Security items’ inside, so place your bets. It’s facial recognition, or at the very least license plate readers. You know, exactly what New York and dozens of other cities have been doing for years.

Did somebody lose a balloon? A Raspberry Pi high-altitude balloon was found on the beach in south-west Denmark.

[Peter] is building an ultralight in his basement. We’ve covered the first part of the build, and we’ve been keeping tabs on him with semi-weekly updates. Now he’s fiberglassed the fuselage and started construction of the wings. Updates of note this week: he’s found a shop with an 8-foot CNC hot wire cutter for the wings. That really cuts down on the build time and it’s actually pretty cheap. One interesting part of this build is a ‘landing gear ejection system’, or a spring thing that allows the landing gear to fall away with the tug of a wire. Why would anyone want a landing gear ejection system? In case he needs to land in a soybean field. A flat bottom means a smoother and more survivable landing. If anyone is still concerned about [Peter]’s safety, this is a put up or shut up situation. Pitch in ten bucks for a parachute if you’re so concerned.

Hoverbike Kalashnikov! What? It’s a guy’s name. No big deal.

Open Hardware Summit is this week in Denver. What will be the highlights of the event? Well, last year, OSHWA announced the creation of an Open Hardware license. This is an all-encompassing license for Open Source Hardware that’s trying to solve some very, very hard problems. Copyright doesn’t work with hardware (except for boat hulls) like it does with software, and this Open Hardware license is the best we’ve got going for us. We’re going to get an update on how well this license is propagating. Also on deck for Summit attendees is a field trip to Sparkfun and Lulzbot. Want to see the world’s second largest 3D printer bot farm? It’ll be awesome.


Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links

Hackaday Prize Entry: Hand Tremor Suppression Wearable Device

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 03:00

It is extremely distressing to watch someone succumb to an uncontrollable hand tremor. Simple tasks become frustrating and impossible, and a person previously capable becomes frail and vulnerable. Worse still are the reactions of other people, in whom the nastiest of prejudices can be unleashed. A tremor can be a debilitating physical condition, but it is not one that changes who the person afflicted with it is.

An entry from [Basian Lesi] in this year’s Hackaday Prize aims to tackle hand tremors, and it takes the form of a wearable device that tries to correct the tremors by applying small electrical stimuli in response to the motion it senses from its built-in accelerometer. At its heart is an ATMega328p microcontroller and an MPU6050 accelerometer chip, and the prototype is shown using a piece of stripboard mounted in a 3D-printed box. It’s still in development and testing, but they have posted a video showing impressive results that you can see below the break, claiming an 85% reduction in tremors.

Hand tremor reduction projects are like buses in this year’s Hackaday Prize, you wait for ages and then two come along at once. There are commercial products in this field, too, such as this self-stabilising spoon.

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Filed under: Medical hacks, The Hackaday Prize

Trouble Flashing Your ESP8266? Meet DIO and QIO

จันทร์, 10/02/2017 - 00:00

[Pete] was building a hot tub controller, using a WEMOS board based on the venerable ESP8266. After assembly, the board was plugged into USB and [Pete] hit the flash button. No dice. Investigation with some terminal software indicated a checksum error.

Assuming the board was dead, [Pete] grabbed another — and suffered the same problem.  The WEMOS boards wouldn’t program, but other boards had no issues. Sensing that something may be amiss, further research was in order. A forum post turned up discussing different programming modes for the ESP8266.

It turns out that there are different types of flash used with the ESP8266, and the correct programming mode must be selected for a given hardware setup. These modes are known as DIO and QIO, meaning “dual IO” and “quad IO” respectively. This refers to the number of IO line used to talk to the flash memory. There are also further modes, known as DOUT and QOUT. It’s important to identify the modes supported by the flash chip on board, by looking at the datasheet. Obviously this can be difficult on some pre-built modules, so experimentation is the key here.

With the wrong mode selected, writes to the flash will fail, and reading back will turn up a checksum error. It’s a simple matter of changing a line in the make file and trying different modes, to see which one works. This forum post has a more in-depth coverage of the issue. 

By choosing different flash memory parts and selecting the DIO or DOUT modes, it’s actually possible to free up more GPIO pins as well. This knowledge is handy when optimizing ESP8266 designs for memory speed or maximum IO flexibility. It’s a good lesson that it always pays to look at the datasheet to get the best out of your parts.


Filed under: Microcontrollers

LEGO Components Under X-Ray

อาทิตย์, 10/01/2017 - 21:00

[Nico71] works for a company that makes industrial CT scanners. These x-ray machines look inside a piece of equipment, allowing operators to verify assembly and to inspect for material integrity. It also allowed [Nico71] the opportunity to scan a LEGO servo he had lying around, and which no longer worked. The resulting images look fantastic, and really allow you to look into a closed system and pick apart how it works or why it’s not working. In this case, you can see one of the wires has been damaged.

[Nico71] plans to scan a bunch of LEGO components, comparing (for instance) official LEGO products with shanzhai knockoffs. Which is better constructed? It’s one thing to have thinner or cheaper plastic, or a lower grade of steel, but how is the part engineered?

We’ve covered a surprising amount of CT goodness on Hackaday, including this process for turning a CT scan into a 3D print and a post on improving a homebrew CT scanner.


Filed under: repair hacks

The Russians And The Americans Only Want The Moon

อาทิตย์, 10/01/2017 - 18:00

For the generations who lived through the decades of the Space Race, the skies above were an exciting place. Every month it seemed there was a new announcement of a new mission, a Lunar landing, new pictures from a planetary probe, or fresh feats of derring-do from astronauts or cosmonauts. Space was inspiring!

As we moved through the Shuttle, Mir, and ISS eras, the fascinating work didn’t stop. The Mars rovers, the Cassini probe, the Chang-e Lunar mission, or the Hubble telescope, to name just a very few. But somehow along the way, space lost the shine for the general public, it became routine, mundane, even. Shuttle missions and Soyuz craft carrying ISS astronauts became just another feature on the news, eventually consigned only to the technology section of the broadcaster’s website. The TV comedy Big Bang Theory derived humor from this, when a character becomes an ISS astronaut, yet is still a nobody on his return to Earth.

If you yearn for a bit of that excitement from the Space Race days you may just find it in another story tucked away in the tech sections, though it comes from a collaboration rather than a competition. NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos have announced a partnership to take what will be the next step towards a future of deep space exploration, to place a manned space station in a Lunar orbit. The idea is that it would serve first as a valuable research platform for missions in deeper space than the current relatively low orbit of the ISS, and then as a launch base for both lunar missions and those further afield in the Solar System.

Of course, there is no lunar-orbiting station, yet. There is a long and inglorious history of proposed space missions that never left the drawing board, and this one may yet prove to be the next addition to it. But what are real are the two indisputable facts, that NASA and Roscosmos have inked this partnership, and eventually there will have to be a replacement for the ISS. This project stands a good chance of being that replacement, which makes it of great interest to anyone with an interest in technology. It’s a little out of the world of usual Hackaday fodder, but if you are like us you will want to believe that one day it will be launched.

Even with a lunar orbiting space station, it will be a very long time indeed before we see manned missions going significantly further into the Solar system. Perhaps another approach is required to go further, a laser-driven silicon wafer aimed at a nearby star.

Moon image: 阿爾特斯 [CC BY-SA 3.0].


Filed under: news

A Screwdriver for the Lazy

อาทิตย์, 10/01/2017 - 15:00

The TS100 soldering iron is a sleek handheld device with a tiny display. Now the same people behind it have introduced a motion-controlled screwdriver, the ES120. While we are fans of large electric screwdrivers for working on large projects, we aren’t sure we need a $90 screwdriver for little fasteners. However, if you watch the video review from [Marco], you’ll see it has an interesting user interface that might be useful in other projects. [Marco] is also a bit of a cut up, so you’ll get to see how well the little tool can froth milk, provide transportation, or change a flat. [Marco] also does a tear down if you want to see what’s inside the beast.

What caught our attention was the user interface. We’ve had precision power screwdrivers before, in particular we’ve used the General Tools 500 which costs about $20 and has a two position switch. One direction causes the bit to rotate clockwise and the other direction rotates the tool counterclockwise. The ES120 by comparison only has a single button.

When you hold the button, you twist the screwdriver as though you were using an ordinary tool. The accelerometer in the ES120 detects this rotation and begins rotating in the same direction. The tool can produce four levels of torque and has an automatic setting, as well.

Even [Marco] admits that the ES120 isn’t going to replace his normal screwdrivers. Perhaps if you were dealing with hundreds of fasteners a day though, it would make sense. Then again, we have lots of tools and toys we really don’t need, so if you just want a new shiny gadget to show off, the ES120 looks well made and appears to function well.

What we’d really like to see is someone hack the ES120 into something cool like a coil winder. Of course, if you are in a hacking mood, you can always build your own cheap power driver. Perhaps, though, the ES120 might make it easier for some people to start their cars.


Filed under: tool hacks

Researchers Squeeze Out a New Breed of Robot Locomotion

อาทิตย์, 10/01/2017 - 12:00

Researchers have been playing around with various oddball forms of robot locomotion; surely, we’ve seen it all, haven’t we? Not so! Lucky for us, [researchers at Stanford] are now showing us a new way for robots to literally extrude themselves from point A to point B.

This robot’s particular motion for mechanism involves unwinding itself inside out. From a stationary base, a reel caches meters of the robot’s uninflated polyethylene body, which it deploys by pressurizing. Researchers can make full 3D turns by varying the amount of inflated air in outer control chambers. What’s more, they can place end effectors or even payloads at the tip of the growing end with their position held in place by a cable.

As we can imagine, any robot that can squeeze its way up to 72 meters long can have dozens of applications, and the folks at Stanford have explored a host of nooks and crannies of this space. Along the way, they deploy complex antenna shapes into the air, deliver small payloads, extinguish fires, and squeeze through all sorts of uninviting places such as flytraps and even a bed of nails. We’ve placed a video below the break, but have a look at Ars Technica’s full video suite to get a sense of the sheer variety of applications that they imparted upon their new creation.

Biomimetics tends to get us to cry “gecko feet” or “snake robots” without thinking too hard. But these forms of locomotion that come to mind all seem to derive from the animal kingdom. One key element of this soft robot is that its stationary base and vine-like locomotion both have its roots in the plant kingdom. It’s a testament to just how unexplored this realm may be, and that researchers and robots will continue to develop new ways of artificially “getting around” for years to come.

Thanks for the tip, [Jacob!]


Filed under: robots hacks

Emergency Cell Tower on a Budget

อาทิตย์, 10/01/2017 - 09:00

Cell phone towers are something we miss when we’re out of range, but imagine how we’d miss them if they had been destroyed by disastrous weather. In such emergencies it is more important than ever to call loved ones, and tell them we’re safe. [Matthew May] and [Brendan Harlow] aimed to make their own secure and open-source cellular network antenna for those occasions. It currently supports calling between connected phones, text messaging, and if the base station has a hard-wired internet connection, users can get online.

This was a senior project for a security class, and it seems that the bulk of their work was in following the best practices set by the Center for Internet Security. They adopted a model intended for the Debian 8 operating system which wasn’t a perfect fit. According to Motherboard their work scored an A+, and we agree with the professors on this one.

Last year, the same SDR board, the bladeRF, was featured in a GSM tower hack with a more sinister edge, and of course Hackaday is rife with SDR projects.

Thank you [Alfredo Garza] for the tip.


Filed under: Cellphone Hacks

LAMEBOY is Handheld Gaming on the ESP8266

อาทิตย์, 10/01/2017 - 06:00

We’ve had our eye on [davedarko’s] LAMEBOY project for a while now, a handheld setup in roughly the same form factor as the classic Nintendo Game Boy. It’s remarkable how approachable portable electronic design has become, and that’s really what makes this interesting. The design is beautiful, and the closer you look, the more respect you have for what [dave] is doing.

Right now his proof of concept has a 3D printed enclosure whose face is the printed circuit board. We love how the lower left corner of the PCB slips under a pocket in the case, which makes it possible to use just one screw to secure the two together in the upper right.

The LAMEBOY is built around an ESP8266 module. Anyone who has used one knows this chip contains a fair amount of horsepower, but very little I/O. [Dave] has a lot going on with an LCD screen, six user buttons, a USB to I/O chip, and an SD card slot. He took two approaches to solve this dilemma. First he grabbed a PCF8574 port expander, and second he’s offloaded the color control of the screen backlights to an ATtiny85 (running a BlinkM clone).

Below you can see some early game tests on the perfboard prototype. We haven’t seen game play on the most recent prototype (there is a screen color test video in his latest project log) but it sounds as though [dave] plans to make use of the Gamebuino framework. This should mean that there will be no shortage of cool ROMs to load.


Filed under: handhelds hacks, nintendo gameboy hacks