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Waking Up To Classic Soundgarden Screaming

อังคาร, 05/08/2018 - 09:00

In a project that was really only slighly less creepy before the singer’s untimely death in 2017, this alarm clock built by [Rafael Mizrahi] awakens its user to a random selection of Chris Cornell’s signature screams. Not content to be limited to just the audio component of the experience, he contained all of the hardware within a styrofoam head complete with a printed out facsimile of the singer’s face.

An Arduino Uno coupled with a seven segment LED display provides the clock itself, which is located in the base. There’s no RTC module, so the Arduino is doing its best to keep time by counting milliseconds. This means the clock will drift around quite a bit, but given that there’s also no provision for setting the time or changing when the alarm goes off short of editing the source code, it seems like accurate timekeeping was not hugely important for this project.

Audio is provided by an Adafruit VS1053, which contains a microSD card full of MP3 samples of Cornell’s singing. This is connected to an X-Mini portable capsule speaker which has been installed in a hollowed out section of the foam.

Unconventional alarm clocks are something of a staple here at Hackaday. From ones which physically assault you to mimicking sunrise with OLEDs, we thought we had seen it all. We were wrong.

Flash and Debug ESP8266 Boards on Android

อังคาร, 05/08/2018 - 06:01

Have an ESP8266 development board such as the NodeMCU or Wemos D1? You’re currently reading Hackaday, so probably. Got an Android device kicking around? Also seems fairly likely. In that case, you should check out ESP8266 Loader by [Bluino Electronics]. This recently released application lets you not only flash new binaries to any ESP8266 board using the FTDI, PL2303, CH34X and CP210X USB chipsets, but also offers a serial monitor for debugging on the go.

You’ll need a USB OTG cable to get your ESP board jacked in to your Android device, but you don’t need root or even to fiddle with the development settings. Here at the Hackaday R&D Dungeon we had somewhat mixed success getting a random selection of Android devices to work fully; all of the ones tried could at least open the serial monitor and read what a pre-programmed ESP was saying, but not all of them could successfully program a board.

Even on the devices where programming worked, it was slow. Just a basic LED blinking Sketch took long enough to write to our test Wemos D1 Mini that we contemplated getting a snack. But still, it shows a lot of promise for managing devices in the field, especially if you don’t have over the air update enabled in your code.

We especially liked that ESP8266 Loader helpfully downloaded a bunch of example binaries, many of which could be of practical use. There are programs for toggling the different GPIO pins on the board, creating Wi-Fi access points, and even a basic web server. With these in hand, you could actually do some testing and diagnostic work right from your mobile device.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen an ESP8266 team up with a mobile device, but generally speaking, the magic is done over WiFi or Bluetooth.

Raspberry Pi Becomes Cycle Exact Commodore Drive Emulator

อังคาร, 05/08/2018 - 03:01

The Commodore 1541 disk drive is unlike anything you’ll ever see in modern computer hardware. At launch, the 1541 cost almost as much as the Commodore 64 it was attached to ($400, or about $1040 at today’s value). This drive had a CPU, and had its own built-in operating system. Of course, anyone using a Commodore 64 now doesn’t deal with this drive these days — you can buy an SD2IEC for twenty dollars and load all your C64 games off an SD card. If you’re cheap, there’s always the tape drive interface and a ten dollar Apple Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter.

But the SD2IEC isn’t compatible with everything, and hacking something together using the tape drive doesn’t have the panache required of serious Commodoring. What’s really needed is a cycle-accurate emulation of the 1541 disk drive, emulating the 6502 CPU and the two 6522 VIAs in this ancient disk drive. The Raspberry Pi comes to the rescue. [Steve White] created the Pi1541, an emulation of the Commodore 1541 disk drive that runs on the Raspberry Pi 3B.

Pi1541 is a complete emulation of the 6502 and two 6522s found inside the Commodore 1541 disk drive. It runs the same code the disk drive does, and supports all the fast loaders, demos, and copy protected original disk images that can be used with an original drive.

The only hardware required to turn a Raspberry Pi 3 into a 1541 are a few transistors in the form of a bi-directional logic level shifter, and a plug for a six-pin serial port cable. This can easily be constructed out of some Sparkfun, Adafruit, Amazon, or AliExpress parts, although we suspect anyone could whip up a Raspberry Pi hat with the same circuit in under an hour. The binaries necessary to run Pi1541 on the Raspberry Pi are available on [Steve]’s website, and he’ll be releasing the source soon.

This is a great project for the retrocomputing scene, although there is one slight drawback. Pi1541 requires a Raspberry Pi 3, and doesn’t work on the Raspberry Pi Zero. That would be an amazing bit of software, as ten dollars in parts could serve as a complete emulation of a Commodore disk drive. That said, you’re still likely to be under $50 in parts and you’re not going to find a better drive emulator around.

Smartwatch Fights Anxiety with Action

อังคาร, 05/08/2018 - 01:30

In our fast-paced modern world, it’s no wonder that so many suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. There are several time-worn techniques for dealing with the symptoms of these attacks. But as anyone who’s ever suffered such an attack can tell you, it can be difficult to sense one coming on until it’s too late. By then, rational thinking has been supplanted by intrusive thoughts. For this year’s Hackaday Prize, [Austin Marandos] is doing his part by using technology to help us check ourselves before we wreck ourselves with worry.

Similar smartwatches exist to detect oncoming attacks, but they don’t do anything to combat them. Minder is like having a friend strapped to your wrist that’s never absorbed in their own problems. It wants to help no matter what it takes, which is why it features multiple techniques for getting back to a state of calm.

Minder’s brain is the bite-size Qduino Mini, which is great for a crowded wearable because of its built-in charging circuit. It uses heart rate and temperature sensors to determine the onset of a panic attack, and a vibration motor to alert the user. The motor also plays a part in the relaxation techniques to keep the user focused and in control. Use the upcoming break to relax and check out the video.

If your anxiety stems from feelings of inadequacy, it might be Imposter Syndrome.

The HackadayPrize2018 is Sponsored by:





Printed It: Toolbag Essentials

อังคาร, 05/08/2018 - 00:01

While complex devices assembled from 3D printed components are certainly impressive, it’s the simple prints that have always held the most appeal to me personally. Being able to pick an object up off the bed of your printer and immediately put it to use with little to no additional work is about as close as we can get to Star Trek style replicators. It’s a great demonstration to show off the utility of your 3D printer, but more importantly, having immediate access to some of these tools and gadgets might get you out of a jam one day.

With that in mind, I thought we’d do things a little differently for this installment of Printed It. Rather than focusing on a single 3D model, we’ll be taking a look at a handful of prints which you can put to practical work immediately. I started by selecting models based on the idea that they should be useful to the average electronic hobbyist in some way or another, and relatively quick to print. Each one was then printed and evaluated to determine its real-world utility. Not all made the grade.

Each model presented here is well designed, easy to print, and most critically, legitimately useful. I can confidently say that each one has entered into my standard “bag of tricks” in some capacity, and I’m willing to bet a few will find their way into yours as well.

Soldering Fingers (LED Mod)

This little gadget is about as simple as they come: a big block of plastic with tapered slots in the top you can force a wire down into to hold it still. With slots on both sides, wires can easily be held in position for doing splices. This model is created by [Tristan Fritz], and is actually a modification of an earlier soldering assistance tool by [Domenic]. By adding a series of holes into one side, components such as resistors and LEDs can be held in place for quick soldering.

Classically one would use a “Third-Hand” soldering aid for these kinds of tasks, but I really like how much smaller and lighter this version is. You can just toss it into your bag and it’s available whenever you need it. A piece of felt on the bottom might not be a bad idea, but otherwise this is ready to go as soon as the printer is done doing its thing. Personally I’ve printed this in PLA and had no issues while soldering, but if you’re a bit heavy handed with the iron and are worried it might get too hot, doing it in PETG wouldn’t hurt.

Cross Tweezer

There are a lot of printable designs out there for tweezers, and selecting just one was pretty tough. Whether you need extra long ones or super strong ones, somebody’s got a model floating around out there for you. But in the end I picked “Cross Tweezer” by [Johannes]. Rather than printing in a single piece, these tweezers are three separate components that you then assemble (a drop of glue helps, but is not strictly required). The clever design of theses tweezers combined with the natural flexibility of the plastic causes them to continually pull themselves closed with enough force to easily lift up small components.

I’m really very impressed with these tweezers. Their grip force is perfect for the kind of work you’d be using this sort of thing for, and the fact that it automatically locks onto whatever you pick up prevents hand fatigue. As an added bonus, it’s a bit safer around sensitive electronics than traditional tweezers since it’s plastic. These are fast and easy to print, though the very tips of the tweezers can curl up if you don’t have good bed adhesion.

Cable Clip

These cable clips by [Brandus Lucian] are reusable, easy to secure, and best of all fast and cheap to print. They’re available in a range of sizes and work great on everything from thin wires to thick cords. Printed in different colors, they can also be useful in keeping wires separated into easily identifiable bundles.

As with the “Cross Tweezer”, this design relies on the flexibility inherent in thin printed structures. Opening and closing the ties multiple times doesn’t seem to have any ill effects on the materials, though the jury is still out as to how they would hold up extended to humidity for long periods of time.

These are best printed in large batches; fill your whole bed up with them and start mass production. However this is another model which is especially susceptible to issues with bed adhesion, so make sure your first layer is dialed in before running a batch of these off or you might come back to a bed full of plastic spaghetti.

Small Parts Funnel Tray

These little part trays designed by [Sean Charlesworth] are extremely handy to have around, and I’ve already started printing more in different scales and colors to help keep small parts organized while taking things apart. The funnel side is great when you want to pour out the contents into a baggie or your screw organizer.

If you couldn’t tell just by looking at it, this is a stupendously easy print. When scaled up it can take awhile to print though, so at some point it might make more sense to go a different route. But small versions like the red one pictured here only take a few minutes to complete at 0.3 mm layer height.

Wire Stripper v2

Alright, admittedly I did bend my own rules a bit with this one. You’ll obviously need a razor blade to complete this print, as well as an M3 nut and screw to secure it. But given how useful this little wire stripper by [Dragon in Moscow] is, I thought it was worth adding to the list. Granted you should probably own a decent pair of wire strippers already, but this would be perfect for your “B” set of tools, or to go in an electronics “Bugout Bag”.

The indents on the jaw support stripping a fairly wide array of wire sizes, and the simple arrangement for securing the razor blade works quite well. Officially the documentation for this model says you should print it at nearly 100% infill, but I didn’t find that necessary. In terms of functionality, the stripper was able to cut through the insulation of every wire I tried with a quick spin, and was even able to remove the outer insulation on network cable without damaging the internal wires.

A Wide World of Plastic Gadgets

In searching for the models I’d feature for this article, I was struck with just how many neat printable tools and gadgets there are out there. These select few are the ones that made the biggest impression on me during my search, but there’s surely many more useful designs out there that I didn’t see.

Do the good readers of Hackaday have a favorite printable tool? Something you picked up off the bed of your printer and have been using ever since? We’d love to hear what the community thinks is the most useful object they’ve ever printed; perhaps we’ll have to revisit this topic supported by the boundless knowledge of the Hackaday comments section.

Double The Resolution, From An Arduino ADC

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 22:30

Analog-to-digital converters, or ADCs, are somewhat monolithic devices for most users, a black box that you ask nicely for the value on its input, and receive a number in return. For most readers, they will be built into whatever microcontroller is their platform of choice, and their resolution will be immutable, set by whatever circuitry is included upon the die. There are a few tricks that can be employed to get a bit more from a stock ADC though, and [Neris] has taken a look at a couple of them.

The first circuit doubles the resolution of an ADC, in this case, that of the Atmel chip in an Arduino, by converting its output from an integer to a signed integer. It performs this task with a precision rectifier, rectifying around a zero-crossing point half-way through the range of the analog value to be read and supplying a sign bit to the Arduino. The Arduino measures the rectified analog value to an integer, and applies the appropriate sign from the supplied bit value.

The second circuit takes a variation on the same technique but with two ADCs instead of one. A pair of PIC chips are used with their voltage references stacked one above the other, by taking both readings in combination a result with double the resolution can be derived.

You might ask why bother with these techniques. After all, there are plenty of higher-resolution ADCs on the market. But they’re useful techniques to know, should you ever need to extract the proverbial quart from a pint pot.

If ADCs are a mystery to you, you’re in luck. [Bil Herd] gave us a comprehensive introduction to the subject.

The Aluminum Wiring Fiasco

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 21:01

Someone who decides to build a house faces a daunting task. It’s hard enough to act as the general contractor for someone else, but when you decide to build your own house, as my parents did in the early 1970s, it’s even tougher. There are a million decisions to make in an information-poor and rapidly changing environment, and one wrong step can literally cast in stone something you’ll have to live with forever. Add in the shoestring budget that my folks had to work with, and it’s a wonder they were able to succeed as well as they did.

It was a close call in a few spots, though. I can recall my dad agonizing over the wiring for the house. It would have been far cheaper to go with aluminum wiring, with the price of copper wire having recently skyrocketed. He bit the bullet and had the electrician install copper instead, which ended up being a wise choice, as houses that had succumbed to the siren call of cheaper wiring would start burning down all over the United States soon thereafter.

What happened in the late 60s and early 70s in the residential and commercial electrical trades was an expensive and in some cases tragic lesson in failure engineering. Let’s take a look at how it all happened.

Cheap or Good – Pick One Copper prices spiked in the late 60s and again in the early 70s. Source: Copper Prices – 45 Year Historical Chart

To understand the aluminum wiring fiasco, it pays to keep in mind not only the material science and electrical engineering issues, but also to the market forces that made aluminum wiring in residential construction so attractive at the time. Worldwide copper production had been high through the early 60s, but voluntary production limits to reduce the glut raised prices a bit. At about the same time, the escalation of the Vietnam War and a home construction boom increased demand for copper, while nationalization of the copper industry by overseas producers and strikes by miners crimped supply. Squeezed at both ends of the supply-demand equation, the price of copper nearly tripled between 1962 and 1964.

Copper wire had long been the standard for residential and commercial branch circuit wiring, the runs of wire from the load center to the lights and outlets around the structure. Electricians knew copper well, electrical codes were written around its performance characteristics, and equipment manufacturers engineered switches, outlets, and connectors specifically for copper wire. But as entrenched as copper was, increased prices were starting to turn copper wire into unobtanium, and electrical contractors began to feel the squeeze on the bottom line. Something had to give.

Aluminum wire needs to be bigger to carry the same current as copper. Source: Inspectapedia

Enter aluminum. Aluminum is an excellent electrical conductor — ignoring the precious metals, it ranks right below copper on the conductivity chart. Aluminum has long been used for electrical wiring, but mainly by utility companies for overhead wiring in the distribution system, where its light weight and low cost are huge benefits. Aluminum has also been used in residential construction, mainly in the service drops from utility pole to meter and on into the load center. But while aluminum had been common in the higher amperage branch circuit wiring for electric dryers and ranges, it wasn’t used for the lighter branch circuits that make up the bulk of a house’s wiring. All that was about to change.

Wire manufacturers began to produce aluminum wire for 15 A and 20 A branch circuits in response to the copper crisis. Such circuits are usually wired with 14 AWG and 12 AWG copper wire respectively. But as good a conductor as aluminum is, it’s still only about 60% the conductivity of copper, so aluminum wire for branch circuits needs to be stepped up to the next AWG size — 12 AWG for 15 amp circuits, 10 AWG for 20 amps. Manufacturers had to use more metal, but aluminum was so much cheaper that it made economic sense. And so aluminum wire began to make its way into residential branch circuits, to the tune of two million homes between 1965 and 1972.

Creeping Out

This decision would backfire for a couple of reasons. Foremost was the aluminum alloy that manufacturers chose for the wire. Utility wires use an alloy called AA-1350. While perfectly fine for use in overhead and underground distribution systems, AA-1350 is essential pure aluminum with a few trace metals added, and its physical properties differ markedly from copper. Because of its higher thermal expansion coefficient, AA-1350 aluminum exhibits significant creep, where the wire deforms as it expands and contracts due to heating.

An outlet that overheated and burned due to creep on aluminum wiring. Source: Electrical Forensics

Creep can be very bad in an electrical connection. Any conductor heats up as more current flows through it, but aluminum expands more than copper due to its higher coefficient of expansion. The expanding and contracting wire can actually unscrew terminals, loosening the wire and causing arcs, which cause more heating and more creep until finally creating a source of ignition inside the walls of a house.

Melted wire in a breaker panel. Source: Structure Tech

Creep is exacerbated by incorrect installation, too, which tended to happen a lot as electricians switched from copper to aluminum. Aluminum is much softer than copper, so proper torque of screw terminations was harder to achieve. Aluminum also oxidizes rapidly when exposed to the air, forming a thin insulating barrier that can increase the resistance of a connection. Aluminum wires were supposed to be treated with anti-corrosion compounds before termination, but rarely were. And manufacturers of outlets and switches were slow to adapt their products to the needs of aluminum, resulting in dodgy connections that were even more prone to creep.

Finally, basic chemistry seems to have been ignored. Recall that galvanic effects occur anytime dissimilar metals come into contact with each other. All that’s needed for that to induce corrosion is a little electrolyte, like condensing water vapor from warm heated air infiltrating a cold exterior wall and wiring. Corroded connections are high-resistance connections, with predictable results.

The End of the Line

As aluminum-wired homes started burning, fire marshalls and insurance adjusters couldn’t help but notice the problem, and the days of wiring houses with AA-1350 were brought to an end. By 1972, the electrical industry had revamped aluminum wiring, straight through from revised electrical codes specifying new formulas for aluminum wiring sizing to the device manufacturers, who changed their products to be compatible with aluminum wire. Wire manufacturers changed their products, too, devising new alloys in the AA-8000 series that incorporated iron into the mix to reduce the tendency for creep.

None of this saved aluminum in branch circuits, though. By the mid-70s, aluminum was gone from most branch circuits in new construction, but not before the damage was done. There was a huge installed base of aluminum wiring, and houses from that era are subjected to extreme scrutiny by home inspectors when they change hands. The aluminum wiring fiasco spawned a range of products to mitigate the risk, from fantastically expensive connectors to special crimps that cold-weld the aluminum wire to copper pigtails. Removing the aluminum branch circuit wiring completely and replacing it with copper is also an option, albeit an expensive and disruptive one.

The industry’s foray into aluminum proved to be a costly lesson about what can happen when market forces collide with engineering best practices.

3D Printed Bicycle Tire Not Full of Hot Air

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 18:00

To show off its new TPU filament called PRO FLEX, BigRep GmbH posted a video showing a 3D printed bike tire that uses a flexible plastic structure instead of air. The video shows them driving the bike around Berlin.

According to the company, the filament will allow the creation of a large number of industrial objects not readily built with other types of plastic. Their release claims the material has high temperature resistance, low temperature impact resistance, and is highly durable. Applications include gear knobs, door handles, skateboard wheels, and other flexible parts that need to be durable.

The material has a Shore 98 A rating. By way of comparison, a shoe heel is typically about 80 on the same scale and an automobile tire is usually around 70 or so. The hard rubber wheels you find on shopping carts are about the same hardness rating as PRO FLEX.

Obviously, a bicycle tire is going to take a big printer. BigRep is the company that makes the BigRep One which has a large build volume. Even with a wide diameter tip, though, be prepared to wait. One of their case studies is entitled, “Large Architectural Model 3D Printed in Only 11 Days.” Large, in this case, is a 1:50 scale model of a villa. Not tiny, but still.

We’ve looked at other large printers in the past including 3DMonstr, and the Gigimaker. Of course, the latest trend is printers with a practically infinite build volume.

AH-1 Cobra Tap Handle Pours on the Fun

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 15:00

Ayn Rand said, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” As far as we’re concerned those are words to live by, and something that’s exemplified by most of the posts on this site. She also said some really suspect stuff about the disabled and Native Americans and reality, but you’ve got to take the good with the bad and all that.

We don’t know how much Rand [Will Weber] has read, but we’re willing to bet he’d agree about overdoing it. He recently documented a very cool 3D printed tap handle that’s designed to look like the B8 flight stick from an AH-1 Cobra helicopter. But this is no static piece of plastic, in the video after the break, he demonstrates how each button on the flight stick triggers a different weapons sound effect.

The 3D print is separated up into a number of sections so that the stick can be assembled in pieces. Not only does this make it an easier print, it also allows for the installation of the electronics.

For the Arduino aficionados out there, we have some bad news. Rather than putting in a general purpose microcontroller, [Will] went the easy route and used an Adafruit Audio FX Mini Sound Board. These boards have their own onboard storage for the audio files and don’t require a microcontroller to function. It makes it super easy to add sound effects or even music to your projects; just pair it with a power supply, a couple of buttons, and a speaker.

The finish work on the printed parts looks excellent. We can only imagine how much fun [Will] had sanding inside all the little nooks and crannies to get such a smooth final result. While some might complain about the idea of a tap handle needing to be recharged occasionally, we think the satisfaction of firing off a few rockets every time you grab a glass is more than worth it.

While this isn’t the first unique tap handle we’ve covered here at Hackaday, it’s certainly the most flight-ready.

Algorithms for Visual Learners

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 12:00

Computer programming is a lot like chess. It is fairly simple to teach people the moves. But knowing how the pieces move isn’t the reason you can win. You have to understand how the pieces work together. It is easy to learn the mechanics of a for loop or a Java interface. But what makes programs work are algorithms. There are many books and classes dedicated to algorithms, but if you are a visual learner, you might be interested in a site that shows visualizations of algorithms called VisuAlgo.

The site is from [Dr. Steven Halim] and is meant for students at the National University of Singapore, but it is available “free of charge for Computer Science community on earth.” We suspect if any astronauts or cosmonauts wanted to use it in space, they’d be OK with that, too.

The animations and commentary take you through algorithms ranging from the common — sorting and linked lists — to the obscure — Steiner and Fenwick trees. Each animation frame has some commentary, so it isn’t just pretty pictures. The site is available in many languages, too.

Many of the animations allow you to set up problems and execute them using a C-like pseudo language. When it executes, you can watch the execution pointer and a box comments on the current operation. For example, in the linked list unit, you can create a random doubly linked list and then search it for a particular value. Not only can you see the code, but the graphical representation of the list will update as the code runs.

The site allows you to register for free to get additional features, but we didn’t and it was still a great read about many different data structures. Also, a few of the commentary slides require you to show you are actually a computer science professor — we assume there’s some copyright issue involved because it is only a few.

This site is a great example of how many free educational resources are out there on the web. It isn’t just computer science either. MITx — or more generally, edX — has some great hardware classes and many other topics

The Adafruit Feather Is A Thing

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 09:00

A few years ago, Adafruit launched the Feather 32u4 Basic Proto. This tiny development board featured — as you would expect — an ATMega32u4 microcontroller, a USB port, and a battery charging circuit for tiny LiPo batteries. It was, effectively, a small Arduino clone with a little bit of extra circuitry that made it great for portable and wearable projects. In the years since, and as Adafruit has recently pointed out, the Adafruit Feather has recently become a thing. This is a new standard. Maxim is producing compatible ‘wings’ or shields. If you’re in San Fransisco, the streets are littered with Feather-compatible boards. What’s the deal with these boards, and why are there so many of them?

The reason for Adafruit’s introduction of the Feather format was the vast array of shields, hats, capes, clicks, props, booster packs, and various other standards. The idea was to bring various chipsets under one roof, give them a battery charging circuit, and not have a form factor that is as huge as the standard Arduino. The Feather spec was finalized and now we have three-phase energy monitors, a tiny little game console, LoRaWAN Feathers, and CAN controllers.

Of course, the Feather format isn’t just limited to Adafruit products and indie developers. The recently introduced Particle hardware is built on the Feather format, giving cellular connectivity to this better-than-Arduino format. Maxim is producing some development boards with the same format.

So, do we finally have a form factor for one-off embedded development that isn’t as huge or as wonky as the gigantic Arduino with weirdly offset headers? It seems so.

Hackaday Links: May 6th 2018

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 06:00

Way back in the day, if you were exceptionally clever, you could just solder more RAM to your computer. You did this by taking a DIP, stacking it on top of an existing RAM chip, bending out the enable pin, and soldering everything down. Wire the enable pin to an address pin, and you have more RAM. [Eric] wanted to get a game running on a Tandy 1000A, but that computer just doesn’t have enough RAM. The solution was to stack the RAMs. It’s a human centipede of deadbugging skills.

We’ve mentioned this before, but I just received another copy of either the best or worst press release I’ve ever seen. Dateline George Town, Cayman Islands: Onstellar is a cryptocurrency-based social network focusing on the paranormal. Apparently, you can use a blockchain to talk about UFOs. It gets better, though: Onstellar will be exhibiting at the world’s largest UFO conference at the beginning of June, in the middle of the Mojave, where a bunch of Air Force and Navy planes are flying all the time. It seems like you would want to have a UFO conference where there’s a lower rate of false positives, right?

A Biohacker has died. Aaron Traywick was found dead in a sensory deprivation chamber in Washington DC this week. Traywick found fame as the CEO of Ascendance Biomedical and by skirting the FDA by self-medication; he recently injected himself with a ‘research compound’ that he said could cure herpes. He was planning CRISPR trials in Tijuana.

You’ve heard of Bad Obsession Motorsports, right? It’s a YouTube channel of two blokes in a shed stuffing a Celica into a Mini. It is the greatest fabrication channel on YouTube. They haven’t uploaded anything in six months, but don’t worry: the next episode is coming out on May 18th. Yes, this is newsworthy.

As further evidence that Apple hardware sucks, if you plug both ends of a USB-C PD cable into a MacBook, it charges itself.

Defcon China is this week. Let me set the scene for you. Last year, at the closing ceremonies for Defcon (the Vegas one), [DT] got up on stage and announced 2018 would see the first Defcon in China. The sound of four thousand raised eyebrows erupted. We’re interested to see how this one goes down. Here are the talks It’s a bit light, but then again this is only the first year.

The Swiss Guard is now 3D printing their helmets. The personal army of the Pope also wears funny hats, and they’re replacing their metal helmets with 3D printed ones. Of note: these helmets are printed in PVC. The use of PVC has been repeated in several high-profile publications, leading me to believe that yes, these actually are printed in PVC, or everyone is getting their information from an incorrect Vatican press release This is odd, because PVC will give everyone within a five mile radius cancer if used in a 3D printer, and you wouldn’t use PVC anyway if ABS and PLA are so readily available. If you’re wondering if injection molding makes sense, giving each new recruit their own helmet means producing about thirty per year; the economics probably don’t work.

Morse Code Blinking Jewelry

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 03:00

With the size of electronic parts and batteries these days, very small items are obviously becoming more and more viable. [Yann Guidon] has made some awesome pieces of LED jewelry using a minimal number of surface mount parts and a small lithium-ion battery. To make the jewelry stand out a bit, other than just blinking on and off, these LEDs blink a short message in Morse code.

This is an update and open sourcing of some work that [Yann] did a few years ago, and the iterations have resulted in a smaller design. But the main part of the latest version is the addition of the Morse code blinking using a small microcontroller. The microcontroller [Yann] used is the SMD version of the PIC10F200, a small, 8 pin PIC microcontroller. This, a resistor and a metal clip are soldered to pads on a Luxeon Star LED.  The LEDs are undervolted so they’re not too bright, so the heat sink isn’t really needed, but it’s a good size for the components. Because the LEDs don’t generation much heat, the back of the aluminum frame that the LED is on is carved out a bit so that the small lithium-ion battery can go there.

The final component is the code itself, and [Yann] has released it as an assembly file. An associated text file contains the text of the message that you want the earrings to blink. The text file can contain up to 190 bytes. A shell script converts the text to a file that can be included in the asm file. After that script is run, assemble the code and flash it to the PIC and you’re done!

We’ve seen a couple of other LED jewelry projects done, including this LED engagement ring, and these tiny light-up earrings. You can see video of [Yann]’s project in the video below:

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Hurricane Simulator Buoys Research

จันทร์, 05/07/2018 - 00:00

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, 38,000 gallons of seawater is worth an un-quantifiable amount of knowledge about hurricanes. At the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, [Brian Haus] and his colleagues study hurricanes using a simulator–an enclosed glass tank about the size of a lap-swimming pool. With the flip of a switch, a 1700 hp fan can create winds up to 200 miles per hour—stronger than a baseline category 5 hurricane.

Although there’s currently no cure for hurricanes, understanding how they work goes a long way in forecasting their intensity. Scientists know that hurricanes are fueled by the ocean’s warmth, but there’s still plenty of mystery to them. By studying what happens where the wind meets the water, they think they’ll figure out how surface factors like sea spray and bubbles affect a storm’s intensity and drag coefficient. Surf the break to catch the wave tank in action.

Until there’s a cure for hurricanes, we’ll just have to live with them and engineer our structures to withstand them.

Thanks for the tip, [Lahuel]!

A Home Network, Security System, And A Hidden Room Behind A Bookcase

อาทิตย์, 05/06/2018 - 21:00

Ok, now this is something special. This is a home network and security system that would make just about anyone stop, and with jaw hanging agape, stare, impressed at the “several months of effort” it took [timekillerjay] to install their dream setup. Just. Wow.

Want a brief rundown of the diverse skill set needed to pull this off? Networking, home security, home automation, woodworking, running two thousand feet(!) of cat 6a cable, a fair hand at drywall work for the dozens upon dozens of patches, painting, staining, and — while not a skill, but is definitely necessary — an amazingly patient family.

Ten POE security cameras monitor the premises with audio recording, infrared, and motion detection capabilities. This is on top of magnetic sensors for five doors, and eleven windows that feed back to an ELK M1-Gold security system which effortlessly  coordinates with an Insteon ISY994i smart home hub; this allows for automatic events — such as turning on lights after dark when a door is opened — to occur as [timekillerjay]’s family moves about their home. The ELK also allows [timekillerjay] to control other things around the house — namely the sprinkler system — via relays. [timekillerjay] says he lost track of how many smart switches are scattered throughout his home, but there are definitely 39 network drops that service the premises.

All of the crucial components are hidden in his office, behind a custom bookshelf. Building it required a few clever tricks to disguise the bookshelf for the secret door that it is, as well as selecting components with attention to how much noise they generate — what’s the point of a hidden security system if it sounds like a bunch of industrial fans?

An uninterruptible power supply will keep the entire system running for about 45 minutes if there is a power outage, with the cameras recording and system logging everything all the while. Not trusting the entrance to his vault to something from Batman, he’s also fitted the bookshelf with a 600lb magnetic lock that engages when the system is armed and the door already closed. A second UPS will keep the door secured for 6+ hours if the house loses power. Needless to say, we think this house is well secured.

[Via /r/DIY]

Ham Reviews MiniVNA

อาทิตย์, 05/06/2018 - 18:00

[KB9RLW] wanted to build a vector network analyzer (VNA), but then realized he could buy a ready-made one without nearly the cost it would have been only a few years ago. The network in this case, by the way, is an electrical network, not a computer network. You can use a VNA to characterize components, circuits, antennas, and even feed lines at different frequencies. The miniVNA Pro is economical and can exercise circuits from 1 MHz to 3 GHz. You can see the review in the video below.

There are a few ways to actually create a VNA, but in concept, it is a sweep generator, a detector, and a means to plot the response at each frequency in the sweep. So you’d expect, for example, a resonant frequency to show a peak at resonance and a band reject filter to show a low point.

One of the things interesting about the device is that it uses Java software. That means it doesn’t care much what platform you want to use. The software can show two different plots at once, so [Kevin] hooks it to his 20 meter antenna and shows how it can plot the SWR and impedance around the frequency of interest.

The instrument can be USB powered with the same cable you use to connect the PC. However, it also has an internal rechargeable battery. That battery charges on USB and can operate the device with Bluetooth. We can imagine that being handy when you want to climb up a tower and connect it directly to an antenna as long as you stay in Bluetooth range of the PC. There’s also a phone app, so you can go that route, if you prefer and [Kevin] shows the device working with Android. Of course, you could probably rig a Raspberry Pi on your belt and then use WiFi to let someone on the ground remote desktop in to run measurements. A lot of possibilities.

If you want to roll your own, that’s possible, of course. If you want to get by a bit cheaper, there are less expensive options.

Glow In The Dark Globe On A Spherical Screen

อาทิตย์, 05/06/2018 - 15:00

Terrestrial globes are almost a thing of the past in an era of Google Earth, but they can still be an exciting object worth hacking together, as [Ivan Miranda] shows with his glow-in-the-dark globe. It’s a globe, it’s a display, and it’s a great use of glow in the dark filament.

For the mechanical part of this build, [Miranda] used glow in the dark filament to 3D print a sphere and a reinforcing ring that hides inside. A threaded rod through the middle secured with screws and bearings make an appropriate spindle, and is attached to a stepper motor in the 3D printed stand. So far, it’s a sphere made of glowey plastic. Where’s the ‘globe’ part coming from?

To project a globe onto this sphere, [Miranda] used a strip of WS2812B LEDs stuck to the inside of the stand’s arc are programmed to selectively illuminate the globe as it rotates on its axis. After a brief hiccup with getting the proper power supply, he was ready to test out his new….. giant light ball.

It turns out, the filament was a bit more transparent than he was expecting so he had to pull it all apart and cover the interior with aluminium tape. [Miranda] also took the chance to clean up the wiring, code, and upgrade to a Teensy 3.1 before another test.

Despite the resulting continental projection being upside-down, it worked! [Miranda] added a USB cable before he closed it up again in case he wanted to reprogram it and display any number of images down the line.

[Thanks for the tip, olivekrystal!]

Crawling a Dungeon, 64 Pixels at a Time

อาทิตย์, 05/06/2018 - 12:00

The trend in video games is toward not being able to differentiate them from live-action theatrical releases, and games studios are getting hard to tell from movie studios. But quality graphics don’t always translate into quality gameplay, and a lot can be accomplished with minimalist graphics. Turn the clock back a few decades and think about the quarters sucked up by classics like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and even Pong if you have any doubts about that.

But even Pong had more than 64 pixels to work with, which is why this dungeon-crawler game on an 8×8 RGB matrix is so intriguing. You might think [Stolistic]’s game would be as simple as possible but think again. The video below shows it in action, and while new users will need a little help figuring out what the various colors mean, the game is remarkably engaging. The structure of the dungeon is random with multiple levels to unlock via the contents of power-up chests, and there are mobs to battle in a zoomed-in display. The game runs on an Arduino Uno and the matrix is driven by a bunch of 74HC595 shift registers.

It’s fun to see what can be accomplished with as little as possible. Looking for more low-res goodness? Check out this minimalist animated display, or a Geiger counter with a matrix display.

Printed Circuits In The Palm Of Your Hand

อาทิตย์, 05/06/2018 - 09:00

If you’ve ever wanted to more fully integrate yourself with technology, you might have to thank a team of researchers — led by [Michael McAlpine] — at the University of Minnesota in the near future. They’ve developed a technique that allows circuits to be printed directly onto your skin, with the team arguing — once the low-cost printer is modified for compact portability — it would be ideal for ‘on-the-fly’ circuit needs.

“But the hand isn’t exactly a stable print bed,” you say. We hear you, and the team is actually one step ahead — the printer can compensate for subtle movements during the printing process by tracking markers placed on the hand. The ‘filament’ is made from silver flakes — akin to conductive ink — which prints and cures at room temperatures, and can be either peeled or washed off. We should hope so, as it’s meant to be layered on human skin.

Speaking of which, it can also print cells!

It’s only been tested on a mouse so far, but the same technology that allows the printer to accurately track the hand means that it could use bio-ink to directly add cells to a wound or some other epidermal affliction to help speed the healing process.

For the circuits, though, you’ll still need the other circuit components and a compact means to power them — to say nothing about the fact that if the circuit is water-soluble, then a little perspiration would cause the ink to run. We’re excited to see where this tech goes!

[Thanks for the tip, Qes!]

LoRa System Commands Drones From A Distance

อาทิตย์, 05/06/2018 - 06:00

LoRa has been making quite a stir in hacker circles over the past couple of years, as it offers a fascinating combination of long range, low power, and low cost. It does this by using spread spectrum techniques on unlicensed frequency bands, meaning it can send data a surprising distance and that you don’t need a radio license to use it. It is mainly used for Internet of Things things, but [Paweł Spychalski] has other ideas: he’s building a system to use it to control a quadcopter drone over distances of 5 kilometers or more. That’s an ambitious aim, considering that the parts he is using cost only a few bucks.

He’s using an off-brand Adafruit Feather LoRa board and a couple of home-made antennas with his own software that takes the data from the Taranis control port of the RC controller, encodes it and chirps it out over the LoRa radio. At the other end, a similar radio receives and decodes the data, feeding it out to the drone.

This is definitely still a work in progress, but he has got it working, flying his drone over the link, keeping control of it out to several hundred meters. At the moment, he can’t go much further as it seems that his LoRa radio is being overwhelmed by the video link on the drone, but he is working on changing the frequency spread & hopping and using a better antenna to provide longer range. We’ve seen some interesting stuff from [Pawel] before, like his DIY telemetry system, so this project is worth keeping an eye on if you are a drone fan.