A bubbling Wurlitzer juke would be a prized addition to the classic picture of a man cave — brass-railed bar, kegerator, pool table, tin signs and neon on the walls. But it would take a particularly geeky abode to give a proper home to this Millenium Falcon holochess table jukebox. And a particularly awesome one at that.
It all started with a very detailed and realistic replica of a holochess table made by [Jim Shima]’s friend. A lot of time and care went into the prop, and [Jim] was determined not to alter the look while installing the media player gear, consisting of a Raspberry Pi running OSMC and a 160-watt power amp.
The speakers were problematic – there was nowhere convenient to mount them except under the brushed aluminum playing surface of the table. The sound quality was less than acceptable, so rather than poke unsightly holes in the table, [Jim] devised a servo to lift the table while the music is playing.
An LCD monitor and wireless keyboard slightly detract from the overall look; we’ll give [Jim] a pass until he can come up with a holographic display to finish the build right. But we are disappointed that he didn’t use “Mad About Me” by Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes as the demo tune in the video below.
Filed under: home entertainment hacks, misc hacks
For the past year, I’ve been organizing a very special project over on hackaday.io. It’s the Travelling Hacker Box, a box full of random electronics junk, sibling to the The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk, and a project that has already traveled more than 25,000 miles. Earlier this month, I said the Hackerbox is going international, I asked for contributors to receive the project in faraway lands, and now it’s time for the final report. This is where the Travelling Hackerbox will be going over the next year.
More than 200 people responded to the call for hackerbox recipients, and after weeding out a few people who can’t follow instructions, I have a pretty good idea of where the box is headed. The planned trip consists of stops in:
- Canada, from Vancouver to St. John’s, with a total of 12 stops.
- Greenland. Yes, Greenland.
- Ireland, then on to the UK, with stops from Glasgow to Brighton. Total of 10 stops.
- Netherlands, 3 stops
- Belgium, France, Spain, Malta
- Italy, 3 stops
- Switzerland, 4 stops
- Germany, 6 stops
- Denmark, Norway, Sweden
- Estonia, 2 stops
- Latvia, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Israel, UAE
- South Africa, 3 stops
- Australia, Perth to Melbourne to Sydney To Brisbane, total 11 stops
- New Zealand, Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland, 3 stops
- Pakistan, 2 stops
- Brazil, Panama, and Mexico
Since the inception of the Travelling Hackerbox, I’ve been keeping track of the distance the box has traveled by referencing the closest airport to the recipient and plugging those destinations into a great circle mapper. The first box, before it was stolen by a jerk in Georgia, traveled about 14,100 miles, great circle distance. The second iteration of the box, before it was disemboweled following the Hackaday SuperConference, traveled 28,200 miles, or about 45,000 km.
The planned travels for the International Travelling Hackerbox will put an additional 52,000 miles — 84,000 km — on the odometer. That’s a minimum distance traveled equal to around the Earth twice, and when this trip concludes, the Travelling Hackerbox, in all its incarnations, will have almost traveled halfway to the moon.
Right now, the path the hackerbox will take is relatively set in stone. I have only contacted recipients on the Canada to Greenland leg of the trip, though. If you want to receive the box, you might be out of luck. Unless you’re in some place that’s really, really awesome (Antarctica, St. Helena, North Korea, a cool hackerspace, or Easter Island), the travel agent for the Hackerbox is himself on vacation.
The Hackerbox will travel on, and I’m encouraging all recipients of the box to post a link of their teardown of the box on the project page. Check out that link for a status update of the box.
Filed under: Hackaday Columns, misc hacks
How often do you see problems that need fixing? How often do you design your own solutions to them — even if they won’t be implemented at scale? Seeing that many of the municipal parking lots in his native Sri Lanka use a paper ticketing system which is prone to failure, [Shazin Sadakath] whipped up his own solution: an efficient RFID tag logging system.
An RFID keyed system like this might be difficult to realize for even a small portion of the parking lots, but it’s a potential solution nonetheless. RFID entry systems can certainly be a functional solution in an office-scale environment for those with similar initiative.
Filed under: hardware, Raspberry Pi, transportation hacks
Many of us have held a circuit board up to a strong light to get a sense for how many layers of circuitry it might contain. [alongruss] did this as well, but, unlike us, he saw art.
We’ve covered some art PCBs before. These, for the most part, were about embellishing the traces in some way. They also resulted in working circuits. [alongruss]’s work focuses more on the way light passes through the FR4: the way the silkscreen adds an interesting dimension to the painting, and how the tin coating reflects light.
To prove out and play with his algorithm he started with GIMP. He ran the Mona Lisa through a set of filters until he had layers of black and white images that could be applied to the layers of the circuit board. He ordered a set of boards from Seeed Studio and waited.
They came back a success! So he codified his method into Processing code. If you want to play with it, take a look at his GitHub.
Filed under: misc hacks
Wanting to experiment with using optical mouse sensors but a bit frustrated with the lack of options, [Tom Wiggins] rolled his own breakout board for the ADNS 3050 optical mouse sensor and in the process of developing it used it to make his own 3D-printed optical mouse. Optical mouse sensors are essentially self-contained cameras that track movement and make it available to a host. To work properly, the sensor needs a lens assembly and appropriate illumination, both of which mate to a specialized bracket along with the sensor. [Tom] found a replacement for the original ADNS LED but still couldn’t find the sensor bracket anywhere, so he designed his own.
The github repository contains all the design files as well as Arduino libraries. Thinking others might share his interest in an easy to use breakout board for the ADNS 3050 that doubles as the mounting bracket, [Tom] started a Kickstarter campaign for a small production run.
Optical mouse sensors have often shown up as experimental movement trackers in hobby robotics, and even as low-res cameras. There’s a lot going on in these little packages and [Tom]’s fully documented open-source design tries to make it more accessible.
Filed under: hardware, peripherals hacks
Since the Beginning of Time* humans have been irresistibly attracted to the blinking of an LED. At first there was one LED and it was good, but eventually there were many working in unison and the matrix was formed. Badge hacking at the Hackaday SuperConference challenged everyone to do something interesting with the display matrix and other yummy hardware on this year’s badge and we were in awe of what people managed to pull off.
We named three winners, and recognized the first hacker to solve the Crypto Challenge. Check out the presentations in the video below and then join us after the break for a close look at each winning hack. Three winners received $256 and the crypto challenge winner received $512; two of them told Hackaday they plan to donate their prize to charity.
*we of course mark the beginning of time as the Unix EpochBest Dead Bug
Dead-bug refers to the method of placing a DIP part on its back and soldering your circuit to the upward-pointed leads. [Zach Fredin] went all out with his entry for badge hacking, dead-bugging all of the LEDs on the display.
He depopulated 128 surface mount LEDs. He then built a frame using his awesome Xacto knife and copper clad prototyping technique. This frame holds a grid of wires in open air to which the LEDs are soldered to reform the same 8×16 matrix but much larger (here’s a super-closeup image). The result is spectacular and shown off well at 2:27 in the presentation video.
An honorable mention simply must go out to [Jessie Tank], who you may know better as [ThunderSqueak]. She wanted to generate audio with her badge, but didn’t want to limit her project to using headphones. The solution was to build her own speaker out of paper plates and enameled wire. It works amazingly well as she shows at about 5:55 into the video.Best Blinky
— Ivgeni Iv Segal (@IvSegal) November 10, 2016
Creative use of a relatively low-resolution display is a real challenge, and the reason that [Ivgeni Segal’s] hack is so interesting. He and his teammates, [Zhou Tan] and [Tizoc Franco], built a maze which shows off a real depth of architectural interest (you will not be bored exploring the different parts of the maze). The maze contains a “ball” the user needs to navigate to the exit. Check it out at about 21:42.
There are four buttons on the badge for directional input, but [Iv] made the maze much more interesting by skipping the D-pad and going for the accelerometer. Tilt the badge in any direction and gravity will move the ball around its digital obstacles. Check out the source code for the maze hack.
Also worth mentioning is [Mark VandeWettering] who pulled off a set of very cool visualizations on his badge at just about 12:00 into the presentations. He included one we weren’t familiar with: Munching Squares was originally implemented on the PDP-1 way back in 1962!Most Over-the-Top
[Sprite_TM] never fails to amaze. He gave an intensly-entertaining talk (look for that video next week) on Saturday, solved the crypto challenge by disassembling the binary, and still had time for this hack.
The stock firmware on the badges uses 1-bit color (pixels are either on, or off). [Sprite] didn’t just implement greyscale but made a synchronized network of badges. He’s still using the bootloader but doesn’t send the interrupt vectors back to the kernel. This lets him use his own interrupts to generate the different levels of brightness.
The networking aspect starts with him flashing firmware to three slave badges. His master badge sends synchronization information using IR and turning the slave badges into a single displays. This way, his Rick Roll has 24×16 pixels to work with rather than the 8×16 of a single badge. Impressive. See it in action at 28:52 and check out his source code for the hack.Crypto Challenge
[Jonathan Dahan] explaining how he solved the Crypto ChallengeThe winner of the Crypto Challenge is [Jonathan Dahan]. He jumped up on stage at about 44:25 to go through the methods he used to finish the challenge first. Learn more about the parts of the crypto challenge from last week’s article.
[Jonathan] solved Mastermind by brute forcing the first entry, using 1234 as the value until he received a large number of correct information, making the subsequent guesses much easier. He used an app on his phone to interpret the Morse code but was entering one of the answers incorrectly. This led him to disassemble the hex file to get at all the strings which were the answers. The third challenge uses four columns of bits which need to align to make some type of image. He made his own help, copying them onto paper slips and playing around with it. But in the end a good night’s sleep was what did it. He skipped the fourth challenge, realizing that he had almost everything he needed to complete the final set. He simply brute-forced the last few letters to unlock the win screen.
Well done and congratulations. We love to see that so much collaboration went into this enjoyable activity!Badge Hacking Has a Purpose
It’s easy to look at these winners and feel amazed by the skill and creativity that went into each. There was a great vibe from everyone taking part in badge hacking — this was one of the best shows of community from the SuperCon. The badge hacking area was buzzing with conversation. Everyone was goofing around, looking over each other’s shoulders to ask what they were working on, and asking for help which was happily greeted by everyone around.
You don’t need to pull off an epic hack to be successful. There were people at the con who have just blinked their first LED, and others who have been elbow deep in designing silicon, yet everyone treated each other as equals because everyone is a beginner and some point and all want to see beginners acquire leet hardware skills.
We want to thank [Ari] who got up on stage at 39:56 to present his badge hack: he compiled the sample C framework and flashed it to the badge — his first time working with embedded hardware. He is proud of this first step, and he should be! We can’t wait to see him at next year’s SuperCon, wearing this year’s badge and showing off all that he managed to learn from this humble beginning.
Filed under: cons, Featured
We’ve been following the Heathkit reboot for a while now, and it looks like the storied brand is finally getting a little closer to its glory days. I was thumbing through the new issue of QST magazine while I was listening in on a teleconference for the day job – hey, a guy can multitask, can’t he? – when I spied an ad for the Heathkit GC-1006 digital clock, which they brand the “Most Reliable Clock”. As soon as the meeting was over, I headed over to the Heathkit website to check out this latest offering.
I had cautiously high hopes. After the ridiculous, feature-poor, no-solder AM radio kit (although they sensibly followed up with a solder version of that kit) and an overpriced 2-meter ham antenna, I figured there was nowhere for Heathkit to go but up. And the fact that the new kit was a clock was encouraging. I have fond memories of Heathkit clocks from the 80s when I worked in a public service dispatch center; Heathkit clocks were about the only clocks you could get that would display 24-hour time. Could this actually be a kit worth building?
Alas, the advertisement was another one of those wall-of-text things that the new Heathkit seems so enamored of. And like the previous two kits offered, the ad copy is full of superlatives and cutesy little phrases that really turn me off. Then again, most advertising turns me off, so I’m probably not a good gauge of such things. Nor am I sure I’m in the target demographic for this product – in fact, I’m not even sure to whom this product is being marketed. Is it the younger crowd of the maker movement? Or is it the old-timers who want to relive the glory days of Heathkit builds? Given the $100 price, I’d have to say the nostalgia market is the most likely buyer of this one.
To be fair, $100 might not be that much to spend on a decent clock. I’m a bit of a clock snob, and I’ve gotten to the point where I can almost tell which chip is in a clock just by looking at the controls. The feature set of a modern digital clock has converged to a point where every clock has almost exactly the same deficiencies. The GC-1006 claims to address a few of my hot button issues, like not being able to set the time to the exact second – I hate that! An auto-dimming display is nice, as is a 12- or 24-hour display, a 10-minute timer (nice for hams, who are required to ID their station every 10 minutes), and a battery backup that claims to last for 4 weeks.
Is this worth buying? At this point, I’m on the fence. Looking at an unboxing video, it appears to be a high-quality kit, and it would be fun to build. But spending $100 on a clock might be a tough sell to my loan officer.
Still, I think I might take one for the team here so we have a first-hand report of what the new Heathkit is all about. And it would be nice to build another Heathkit product. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Filed under: news, rants
1 kilobyte. Today it sounds like an infinitesimally small number. Computers come with tens of gigabytes of ram, and multiple terabytes of storage space. You can buy a Linux computer with 1 gig of RAM and secondary storage as big as the SD card you throw at it. Even microcontrollers have stepped up their game, with megabytes of flash often available for program storage.
Rapidly growing memory and storage are a great testament to technology marching forward to the beat of Moore’s law. But, we should be careful not to forget the techniques of past hackers who didn’t have so much breathing room. Those were the days when code was written in assembly. Debugging was accomplished with an expensive ICE (an In Circuit Emulator… if you were working for a big company), or a few LEDs if you were hacking away in your basement.
To keep these skills and techniques in play, we’ve created The 1 kB Challenge, a contest where the only limit is what you can do with 1 kB of program memory. Many Hackaday contests are rather loose with constraints — anyone can enter and at least make the judging rounds. This time 1 kB is a hard limit. If your program doesn’t fit, you’re disqualified, and that is a challenge worth stepping up to.
That said, this is Hackaday, we want people to be creative and work around the rules. The important thing to remember is the spirit of the design constraints: this is about doing all you can with 1 kB of program space. Search out the old and wise tricks, like compressing your code and including a decompression program in your 1 kB. Crafty hacks to squeeze more into less is fine. Using the 1 kB as a bootloader to load more code from an SD card is not fine.Prizes
Any Hackaday contest needs some awesome prizes, and this one is no different.
- Grand prize is a Digi-Comp II kit from EMSL
- First prize is a Maker Select 3D printer V2
- Second Prize is a Bulbdial Clock kit from EMSL
- Third Prize is a Blinkytile kit from Blinkinlabs
The full rules, and more information can be found on the 1 kB Challenge contest page. Check it out, then put on your thinking cap, and get hacking!
Filed under: contests, Hackaday Columns, slider
In the Red Dwarf TV series, Talkie Toaster wants to know if you want toast, and if not toast, then maybe a muffin or waffle, and it will pester you incessantly until you smash it with a 14lb lump hammer and throw it in a waste disposal. Now [slider2732] has actually gone and made one of the infernal machines!
He’s hidden a PIR sensor in the toaster handle to tell an Arduino Pro Mini when someone is unfortunate enough to be passing by. The Arduino then reads sound files from an SD card reader and plays them through a 3 watt amplifier out to a speaker. For that he uses the TMRpcm library available on github.
[slider2732] cleverly mounted the speaker to the side of the toaster along with some appropriately shaped bits and pieces, and some LEDs to make it appear and work much like the circular panel that lights up on the real Talkie Toaster. We dare you to watch the video after the break, unless you really are looking for toast. As a consolation, the video also walks through making it.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks
Back when the original Internet, the digital one, was being brought together there was a vicious standards war. The fallout from the war fundamentally underpins how we use the Internet today, and what’s surprising is that things didn’t work out how everyone expected. The rebel alliance won, and when it comes to standards, it turns out that’s a lot more common than you might think.
Looking back the history of the Internet could have been very different. In the mid eighties the OSI standards were the obvious choice. In 1988 the Department of Commerce issued a mandate that all computers purchased by government agencies should be OSI compatible starting from the middle of 1990, and yet two years later the battle was already over, and the OSI standards had already lost.
In fact by the early nineties the dominance of TCP/IP was almost complete. In January of 1991 the British academic backbone network, called JANET (which was based around X.25 colored book protocols), established a pilot project to host IP traffic on the network. Within ten months the IP traffic had exceeded the levels of X.25 traffic, and IP support became official in November.
“Twenty five years ago a much smaller crowd was fighting about open versus proprietary, and Internet versus OSI. In the end, ‘rough consensus and running code’ decided the matter: open won and Internet won,”
—Marshall Rose, chair of several IETF Working Groups during the period
This of course wasn’t the first standards battle, history is littered with innumerable standards that have won or lost. It also wasn’t the last the Internet was to see. By the mid noughties SOAP and XML were seen as the obvious way to build out the distributed services we all, at that point, already saw coming. Yet by the end of the decade SOAP and XML were in heavy retreat. RESTful services and JSON, far more lightweight and developer friendly than their heavyweight counterparts, had won.
“JSON appeared at a time when developers felt drowned by misguided overcomplicated XML-based web services, and JSON let them just get the job done,”
—Simon St. Laurent, content manager at LinkedIn and O’Reilly author
Yet, depending on which standards body you want to listen to, ECMA or the IETF, JSON only became a standard in 2013, or 2014, respectively and while the IETF RFC talks about semantics and security, the ECMA standard covers only the syntax. Despite that it’s unlikely many people have actually read the standards, and this includes the developers using the standard and even those implementing the libraries those developers depend on.
We have reached the point where standardization bodies no longer create standards, they formalize them, and the way we build the Internet of Things is going to be fundamentally influenced by that new reality.The Standardization of IoT
Right now there’s a new standards body or alliance, pushing their own standards or groups of standards, practically every month or so. And of course there are companies, Samsung for instance, that belong to more than one of these alliances. I think it’s unlikely that these bodies will create a single standard to rule them all, not least because many Internet of Things devices are incapable of speaking TCP/IP. The demise of Moore’s Law may well mean that the entire bottom layer, the cheap throw away sensors, will never speak TCP/IP at all. It will not, as they say, be turtles all the way down.
These bodies also move slowly. Despite the fact that the member companies live on Internet time, no standards body does. The “rough consensus and running code” of the IETF era will not be replicated by today’s standards bodies. Made up of companies, not people, they’re not capable. Instead that consensus will be built outside of the existing standards bodies, not inside them.
“Today, the industry is looking at a much harder set of problems. My guess is that we’re going to end-up throwing a lot of stuff — products, code, and architecture — away, again, and again, and again. The pressure to deploy is much higher now than it was then,”
–Marshall RoseWe’re Stuck in the Unknown
No one really knows how this is going to shake out right now, and obviously the outcome of that standards battle, which I think is going to take at least a decade, will have a fundamental influence on the path our technology takes. But I don’t guarantee that any of the current players will be emerging victorious. In fact, I think there will be another rebellion much like we saw with the original network standards. Despite the rhetoric from the standards bodies I actually think most of the current architectures don’t stand much of a chance of mass adoption.
I think any architecture that stands a chance is going to have to be a lot flatter than most of the current ones—with things actually talking to other things rather than people. Significantly absent from most, if not all, of the current architectures is a degree of negotiation and micro-transaction amongst the things themselves. As the number of things grow the human attention span, the amount of interest you have in micro-managing your things, means that we simply won’t.
Beyond that, architectures that stand a chance of making the next generation of Internet of Things devices work needs to deal with selective sharing of data; both sharing of subsets of data from individual things, or a superset from multiple things. Right now we’re seeing those emerging proto-standards in interesting ways. For a brief period of time it looked like Twitter was going to become a protocol. It could, in fact, have been the protocol.Twitter Could Have Been the Standard
Back in 2010, Twitter proposed something called ‘annotations,’ it was an experimental project where you could attach 1kb of JSON to each tweet. Annotations could be strings of text, a URL, a location tag, or arbitrary bits of data. It would have fundamentally changed the way Twitter operated.
Twitter Annotations example [via SitePoint]It could, in other words, have become the backbone network — a message bus. Not just for moving data, but for moving apps. With an appropriately custom client, you could have attached small applications to a tweet. Moving code to data, rather than data to code.
Building something like this is really hard, a classic social network chicken and egg proposition. But Twitter already had the users and, at least at the time, an army of third party developers. It was not to be, by the end of 2011 they were alternative history.
“Annotations is still more concept than reality. Maybe some day we’ll have more to say about them”
—Taylor Singletary, then a developer advocate at Twitter.
Perhaps they dropped the idea because they could see, not it failing, but it being too successful. With the accompanying calls for openness, and the invasion of the clones that would duplicate Twitter at the API level, if not at the backend.As with Everything: IoT as a Service
Right now perhaps the easiest way to get one Internet of Things device to talk to another isn’t a standard, it’s a service. Right now the standard Internet of Things messaging bus belongs to one company, and that company is IFTTT. “If This Then That” is currently one of the few ways that consumers can get the incompatible things in their life to talk to one another. For someone building a device, that doesn’t come cheaply.
In the long term however it’s unlikely we’re going to let one company become the backhaul for consumer Internet of Things traffic. It’s unlikely that there will be one platform to rule them all. I don’t think it’s going to be long till IFTTT starts to see some complaints about that, and inevitably clones.
In the end I think the standard (or realistically the multiple standards) that will become the Internet of Things as we know it, or will know it, currently sit as “slide ware” being pitched to venture capitalists. The standards exist as throw away slides, where the founders wave their hands and say “We’ll be doing this, so we can do this other thing that makes money.”
The standards for the Internet of Things will be a rebellion against the standards bodies. It will be developers deciding that what they’re doing is good enough for now, that they should do it that way untill people make up their minds about what we all really should be doing. Whatever that is will end up being good enough for everybody and will win this particular standards war.
Filed under: Featured, Interest, Network Hacks, slider
A rumor that has been swirling around the Raspberry Pi hardware community for a significant time has proven to have a basis in fact. The Raspberry Pi 2 has lost its BCM2836 32-bit processor, and gained the 64-bit BCM2837 processor from its newer sibling, the Raspberry Pi 3. It seems this switch was made weeks ago without any fanfare on the release of the Pi 2 V1.2 board revision, so we are among many news sources that were caught on the hop.
The new board is not quite a Pi 3 masquerading as a Pi 2 though. The more capable processor is clocked at a sedate 900MHz as opposed to the Pi 3’s 1.2GHz and there is no Bluetooth or WiFi on board, but the new revision will of course benefit from the extra onboard cache and the 64-bit cores.
This move almost certainly has its roots in saving the cost of BCM2836 production in the face of falling Pi 2 sales after the launch of the Pi 3. It makes sense for the Foundation to keep the Pi 2 in their range though as the board has found a home in many embedded products for which the Pi 3’s wireless capabilities and extra power consumption are not an asset.
Avid collectors of Pi boards will no doubt be running to add this one to their displays, but given that the Pi 2 sells for the same price as a Pi 3 we suspect that most Hackaday readers will go for the faster board. It is still a development worth knowing about though, should you require a faster Pi that is a little less power-hungry. The full specification for the revised board can be found on the Raspberry Pi web site.
The Pi has come a long way since the morning in 2012 when our community brought down the RS and Farnell websites trying to buy one of the first models. This BCM2837 board joins a BCM2837-powered Compute Module as well as the Pi 3. It’s worth reminding you though that there are other players to consider, earlier this year we brought you a look at the Odroid C2, and of course the infamous Apple Device.
Pi 2 header image: Multicherry [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Editorial Note: We originally covered this in Sunday’s Links article but thought it warranted another, expanded mention.
Filed under: news, Raspberry Pi
Ignore the article, watch the video at the top of the page. The article is about some idiot, likely not even a hacker, who bought a drone somewhere and nearly rammed it into a plane. He managed this with concentrated idiocy, intention was not involved. While these idiots are working hard to get our cool toys taken away, researchers elsewhere are answering the question of exactly how much threat a drone poses to an airplane.
Airplanes are apparently armored to withstand a strike from an 8lb bird. However, even if in a similar weight class, a drone is not constructed of the same stuff. To understand if this mattered, step one was to exactly model a DJI Phantom and then digitally launch it at various sections of a very expensive airplane.
The next step, apparently, was to put a drone into an air cannon and launch it at an aluminum sheet. The drone explodes quite dramatically. Some people have the best jobs.
The study is still ongoing, but from the little clips seen; the drone loses. Along with the rest of us.
Perhaps the larger problem to think about right now is how to establish if a “drone” has actually been involved in an incident with a passenger aircraft. It seems there are a lot of instances where that claim is dubious.
Filed under: drone hacks
In the early 1980s when the 8-bit microcomputer boom was well under way, [Alan Faulds] was a student, and an owner of a Sinclair ZX81. He had ambitions to use it, in his words, “to control the world“, but since the Sinclair lacked an I/O port he was thwarted. He bought an expander board and a couple of I/O card PCBs from the British electronic supplier Maplin in the days when they were a mail order parts stockist rather than a chain of stores chasing Radio Shack’s vacated retail position.
Sadly for [Alan], he didn’t have the cash to buy all the parts to populate the boards, then the pressures of a final year at university intervened, and he never built those Maplin kits. They sat forgotten in their padded envelope for over three decades until a chance conversation with a friend reminded him of his unfinished student project. He sought it out, and set about recreating the board.
The ZX81 had a single port: a PCB edge connector at its rear that exposed all the Z80 processor’s lines. It was notorious for unreliability, as the tiniest vibration when a peripheral was connected would crash the machine. Maplin’s expansion system featured a backplane with a series of edge connector sockets, and cards with bare PCB edge connectors. Back in the 1980s it was easy to find edge connectors of the right size with the appropriate key installed, but not these days. [Alan] had to make one himself for his build.
The I/O card with its 8255 and brace of 74 series chips was a double-sided affair with vias made through the use of little snap-off hand-soldered pins. [Alan] put his ICs in sockets, a sensible choice given that when he powered it up he found he’d put a couple of the 74 chips in the wrong positions. With that error rectified the board worked exactly as it should, giving the little ZX three I/O ports, albeit with one of them a buffered output.
We haven’t featured the little Sinclair micro as often as we should have here at Hackaday, it seems to have been overshadowed by its ZX Spectrum successor. We did show you a VGA ZX81 emulated on an mbed though, and a rather neat color video hack for its Brazilian cousin.
Filed under: classic hacks
What with wearable tech, haptic feedback, implantable devices, and prosthetic limbs, the boundary between man and machine is getting harder and harder to discern. If you’re going to hack in this space, you’re going to need to know a little about electromyography, or the technique of sensing the electrical signals which make muscles fire. This handy tutorial on using an Arduino to capture EMG signals might be just the thing.
In an article written mainly as a tutorial to other physiatrists, [Dr. George Marzloff] covers some ground that will seem very basic to the seasoned hacker, but there are still valuable tidbits there. His tutorial build centers around a MyoWare Muscle Sensor and an Arduino Uno. The muscle sensor has snap connectors for three foam electrodes of the type used for electrocardiography, and outputs a rectified and integrated waveform that represents the envelope of the electrical signal traveling to a muscle. [Dr. Marzloff]’s simple sketch just reads the analog output of the sensor and lights an LED if it detects a muscle contraction, but the sky’s the limit once you have the basic EMG interface. Prosthetic limbs, wearable devices, diagnostic tools, virtual reality — the possibilities are endless.
We’ve seen a few EMG interfaces before, mainly of the homebrew type like this audio recorder recruited for EMG measurements. And be sure to check out [Bil Herd]’s in-depth discussion of digging EMG signals out of the noise.
Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Medical hacks
The Internet of Things is a horrific waste of time, even though no one knows exactly what it is. What would make it better? Classic Commodore gear, of course. Now you can run your smart home with a Commodore 64 and Commodore Home, the newest smart home framework from [retro.moe].
Commodore Home comes with the standard smart home features you would expect. The home lighting solution is a dot matrix printer, a few gears, and string tied to the light switch. Activate the printer, and the lights turn on and off. Brilliant. Multiple light switches can be controlled by daisy chaining printers.
Security is important in the smart home, and while the intruder alarm isn’t completely functional, future versions of Commodore Home will dial a modem, log into a BBS, and leave a message whenever an authorized person enters your home.
All of this is possible thanks to advances in UniJoystiCle technology, also from [retro.moe]. This device takes a standard ESP8266 WiFi module and turns it into a smartphone-to-joystick port bridge for the Commodore 64.
Unlike every other piece of IoT hardware being sold today, Commodore Home won’t stop working when the company behind it goes belly up; Commodore has been dead for twenty years already. You can grab all the software for Commodore Home over on the Githubs, or you can check out the video below.
Filed under: classic hacks
The Raspberry Pi 2 is getting an upgrade. No, this news isn’t as big as you would imagine. The Raspberry Pi 2 is powered by the BCM2836 SoC, an ARM Cortex-A7 that has served us well over the years. The ‘2836 is going out of production, and now the Raspberry Pi foundation is making the Pi 2 with the chip found in the Raspberry Pi 3, the BCM2837. Effectively, the Pi 2 is now a wireless-less (?) version of the Pi 3. It still costs $35, the same as the Pi 3, making it a rather dumb purchase for the home hacker. There are a lot of Pi 2s in industry, though, and they don’t need WiFi and Bluetooth throwing a wrench in the works.
So you’re using a Raspberry Pi as a media server, but you have far too many videos for a measly SD card. What’s the solution? A real server, first off, but there is another option. WDLabs released their third iteration of the PiDrive this week. It’s a (spinning) hard disk, SD card for the software, and a USB Y-cable for powering the whole thing. Also offered is a USB thumb drive providing 64 GB of storage, shipped with an SD card with the relevant software.
Mr. Trash Wheel is the greatest Baltimore resident since Edgar Allan Poe, John Waters, and Frank Zappa. Mr. Trash Wheel eats trash, ducks, kegs, and has kept Inner Harbor relatively free of gonoherpasyphilaids for the past few years. Now there’s a new trash wheel. Professor Trash Wheel will be unveiled on December 4th.
YOU MUST VOICE CONTROL ADDITIONAL PYLONS. With an ‘official’ StarCraft Protoss pylon and a Geeetech voice recognition module, [Scott] built a voice controlled lamp.
Here’s an interesting think piece from AdvancedManufacturing.org. The STL file format is ancient and holding us all back. This much we have known since the first Makerbot, and it doesn’t help that Thingiverse is still a thing, and people don’t upload their source files. What’s the solution? 3MF and AMF file formats, apparently. OpenSCAD was not mentioned in this think piece.
Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links
Ever since Jimi Hendrix brought guitar distortion to the forefront of rock and roll, pedals to control the distortion have been a standard piece of equipment for almost every guitarist. Now, there are individual analog pedals for each effect or even digital pedals that have banks of effects programmed in. Distortion is just one of many effects, and if you’ve built your own set of pedals for each of these, you might end up with something like [Brian]: a modular guitar pedal rack.
Taking inspiration from modular synthesizers, [Brian] built a rack out of wood to house the pedal modules. The rack uses 16U rack rails as a standard, with 3U Eurorack brackets. It looks like there’s space for 16 custom-built effects pedals to fit into the rack, and [Brian] can switch them out at will with a foot switch. Everything is tied together with MIDI and is programmed in Helix. The end result looks very polished, and helped [Brian] eliminate his rat’s nest of cables that was lying around before he built his effects rack.
MIDI is an extremely useful protocol for musicians and, despite being around since the ’80s, doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. If you want to get into it yourself, there are all kinds of ways that you can explore the studio space, even if you play an instrument that doesn’t typically use MIDI.
Filed under: musical hacks
During the development of the greatest member of the Apple II family, the Apple IIgs, someone suggested to [Woz] that a sort of universal serial bus was needed for keyboards, mice, trackballs, and other desktop peripherals. [Woz] disappeared for a time and came back with something wonderful: a protocol that could be daisy-chained from keyboard to a graphics tablet to a mouse. This protocol was easily implemented on a cheap microcontroller, provided 500mA to the entire bus, and was used for everything from license dongles to modems.
The Apple Desktop Bus, or ADB, was a decade ahead of its time, and was a mainstay of the Mac platform until Apple had the courage to kill it off with the iMac. At that time, an industry popped up overnight for ADB to USB converters. Even today, there’s a few mechanical keyboard aficionados installing Teensies in their favorite input devices to give them a USB port.
While plugging an old Apple keyboard into a modern computer is a noble pursuit — this post was written on an Apple M0116 keyboard with salmon Alps switches — sometimes you want to go the other way. Wouldn’t it be cool to use a modern USB mouse and keyboard with an old Mac? That’s what [anthon] thought, so he developed the ADB Busboy.
The ADB Busboy is the exact opposite of [tmk]’s ADB to USB converter firmware for the Teensy. Instead of turning an old ADB keyboard into a USB device, [anthon]’s ADB Busboy turns USB keyboards and mice into ADB devices. Now, every USB keyboard and mouse is compatible with almost every Macintosh ever made, save for the 128, 512, Mac Plus, PowerBook 150, and arguably a few other portable models.
Why would anyone want to do this? Because it’s neat. Check out the animated thing [anthon] made:
There’s no release for the ADB Busboy quite yet. [anthon] still needs to implement and test a few features, design a PCB, an enclosure, and hopefully sell these USB to ADB converters to some nerds who have far too many old computers in their basement. They’re collector’s items, get off my back.
[anthon] has a site up where he’ll eventually announce this project’s release. You can sign up for an email alert when that happens.
Filed under: classic hacks, peripherals hacks
A first-time visitor to any bio or chem lab will have many wonders to behold, but few as captivating as the magnetic stirrer. A motor turns a magnet which in turn spins a Teflon-coated stir bar inside the beaker that sits on top. It’s brilliantly simple and so incredibly useful that it leaves one wondering why they’re not included as standard equipment in every kitchen range.
But as ubiquitous as magnetic stirrers are in the lab, they generally come in largish packages. [BantamBasher135] needed a much smaller stir plate to fit inside a spectrophotometer. With zero budget, he retrofitted the instrument with an e-waste, Arduino-controlled magnetic stirrer.
The footprint available for the modification was exceedingly small — a 1 cm square cuvette with a flea-sized micro stir bar. His first stab at the micro-stirrer used a tiny 5-volt laptop fan with the blades cut off and a magnet glued to the hub, but that proved problematic. Later improvements included beefing up the voltage feeding the fan and coming up with a non-standard PWM scheme to turn the motor slow enough to prevent decoupling the stir bar from the magnets.
[BantamBasher135] admits that it’s an ugly solution, but one does what one can to get the science done. While this is a bit specialized, we’ve featured plenty of DIY lab instruments here before. You can make your own peristaltic pump or even a spectrophotometer — with or without the stirrer.
Filed under: chemistry hacks, tool hacks
[Eric] at MkMe Lab has a dream: to build a cheap, portable system that provides the electronic infrastructure needed to educate kids anywhere in the world. He’s been working on the system for quite a while, and has recently managed to shrink the suitcase-sized system down to a cheaper, smaller form-factor.
The last time we discussed [Eric]’s EduCase project was as part of his Hackaday Prize 2016 entry. There was a lot of skepticism from our readers on the goals of the project, but whatever you think of [Eric]’s motivation, the fact remains that the build is pretty cool. The previous version of the EduCase relied on a Ku-band downlink to receive content from Outernet, and as such needed to stuff a large antenna into the box. That dictated a case in the carry-on luggage size range. The current EduCase is a much slimmed-down affair that relies on an L-band link from the Inmarsat satellites, with a much smaller patch antenna. A low-noise amp and SDR receiver complete the downlink, and a Raspberry Pi provides the UI. [Eric]’s build is just a prototype at this point, but we’re looking forward to seeing everything stuffed into that small Pelican case.
Yes, Outernet is curated content, and so it’s not at all the same experience as the web. But for the right use case, this little package might just do the job. And with a BOM that rings up at $100, the price is right for experimenting.
Filed under: misc hacks