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Use a Flexible Touchscreen While Digging for Olaf

พฤ, 10/09/2014 - 15:00

Standard touch screens are so inflexible. [Grubm012] was tired of of glass touch screens, so at a recent company hackday, he came up with a solution. Digging for Olaf (PDF link) is a game which uses a flexible touch screen as an integral game mechanic. [Grubm012's] inspiration was the impress tactile display we featured back in 2009.

Digging for Olaf‘s implementation is relatively straightforward. A 42″ tall frame conceals a video projector and a Microsoft Kinect. The projector illuminates a spandex sheet at the top of the box. Even though the spandex isn’t a perfect rear projection screen, the light from the projector is concentrated on a small area, so the image still shows up rather well. The Kinect sensor and some clever machine vision processing are used to determine where the spandex screen is being pressed. Once a press is detected, the coordinates are sent to the game.

Digging for Olaf itself is a Unity based search and find game for kids. Players dig through the snow to find the missing parts of Olaf from Disney’s Frozen. Sound bites from the movie enhance the experience. Click past the break to see [Grubm012's] creation in action.

http://vimeo.com/107678959


Filed under: Kinect hacks, video hacks

Laser Dog Goggles Make Halloween a Nice Night for a Walk

พฤ, 10/09/2014 - 12:00

Sure, you could dress your dog up for Halloween in some pre-fab hot dog costume or a little French maid outfit, but what’s the fun in that? Hilarious as it may be, there’s no hack there. [Becky Stern] will help you out of your pet costume rut with the tutorial for her latest creation, laser dog goggles.

First things first: the laser she uses is fairly benign. You can safely stare it down for just under 30 seconds, so your pet should be okay. [Becky] offers other helpful safety suggestions, like covering the delicate battery pack with fabric to avoid scratching damage, and waiting until the adhesives are completely dry before outfitting Rover. But hey, if your dog isn’t into eye wear, don’t force it.

These are based on Doggles brand dog goggles and the Adafruit Trinket. The laser is mounted on a micro servo so that it pivots back and forth, allowing your dog to scan the ground like RoboCop or Terminator. As you might expect, [Becky]‘s tutorial includes a comprehensive list of tools and great documentation. Check out her video overview after the break.


Filed under: wearable hacks

Scrobby’s on Your Roof, Cleaning Your Solar Panels

พฤ, 10/09/2014 - 09:00

Solar panels are a great, sustainable addition to your home’s energy scheme. They’re bound to get dirty, but they can’t withstand harsh chemicals and still be effective. While there are companies that will come out and clean your installation a few times a year, the service is a recurring cost that adds up quickly. With Scrobby, his entry into The Hackaday Prize, [Stefan] sought to build a highly affordable and sustainable solution that, after installation, requires no dangerous trips back up to the roof.

Scrobby is solar-powered and cleans using rainwater. The user can set and alter the cleaning schedule over Bluetooth from their phone. [Stefan]‘s prototype was built around a Teensy 3.0, but he will ultimately use custom boards based on the Freescale KL26. In addition to the Bluetooth module, there are six ultrasonic sensors, rain and temperature sensors, and motor-driven spools for tethered movement.

Make the jump to see Scrobby get his prototype bristles installed and show off his abilities in [Stefan]‘s demo video. To register for updates, check out Scrobby’s website. If you hurry, you can donate to Scrobby’s Kickstarter campaign. The question is, who will clean Scrobby’s solar panels?

This project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.


Filed under: robots hacks, The Hackaday Prize

EEVblog Tears into the White Van Speaker Scam

พฤ, 10/09/2014 - 06:00

[Dave Jones] shows us just how bad audio equipment can get with his white van speaker scam teardown (YouTube link). Hackaday Prize judge [Dave] has some great educational videos on his EEVblog YouTube channel, but we can’t get enough of his rants – especially when he’s ranting about cheap electronics. Check out his world’s “cheapest” camcorder teardown for a classic example

This week [Dave] is tearing down some white van speaker scam A/V equipment. The White Van Speaker Scam (WVSS) is an international hustle which has been around for decades. A pair of guys in a white van stop you in a parking lot, gas station, or other public area. They tell you they’ve got some brand new A/V equipment in the back of their van that they’ll give you for a “great deal”. The speakers are always in fancy packaging, and have a name that sounds like it could be some sort of high-end audiophile brand worth thousands.

Needless to say anyone who buys this equipment finds they’ve been duped and are now the proud owner of some equipment which only sounds good when hitting the bottom of a dumpster. Coincidentally, a dumpster is exactly where [Dave] found his WVSS equipment.

The case of his “Marc Vincent” surround sound system turned out to be nothing more than thin chipboard hot glued together. The electronics were of such shoddy quality that few words describe them – though [Dave] is always ready to improvise. From the ultra cheap subwoofer driver to the 1990’s era vacuum fluorescent display, everything was built down to the lowest cost while still looking nice from the outside. Even the ground wire was just tack soldered to the frame. We especially liked the three vacuum tubes that weren’t even soldered in. The leads were bent over to hold them onto a PCB, while a blue LED lit the tube from below.

Click past the break to see what [Dave] found inside his “3D Optics” projector.

The “3D Optics HD-8500″ video projector turned out to be somewhat better quality. Still junky, but not bad enough put [Dave] in a screwdriver stabbing mood. The projector was a low-end 800×600 LCD model with cheap optics. The electronics were halfway decent though. It appears this is more a case of a low cost projector being massively oversold.

Have you seen the white van scammers? Ever hacked on home electronics this shoddy? Let us know down in the comments!

 


Filed under: teardown

Reverse Engineering Star Wars: Yoda Stories

พฤ, 10/09/2014 - 03:00

Star Wars: Yoda Stories was released by LucasArts in 1997 to minimal critical acclaim. As IGN said, “like Phantom Menace proved, just because it’s Star Wars doesn’t mean it’s good.” This didn’t stop [Zach] from playing it, and years later, taking an interest in reverse engineering the game.

[Zach]‘s reverse engineering of Star Wars: Yoda Stories (google cache) takes a look at the game’s data file. This binary file is parsed by the game at run time to extract sound effects, sprites, and map tiles. Perhaps the best known game data file type was Doom’s WAD file, which had purpose built editing programs from third parties.

After a quick look at the data file in HxD, [Zach] began writing scripts in C# to extract different sections of the data file. Once the sections were found, more code was used to apply a color palette and generate bitmaps.

In the end, [Zach] managed to get a couple thousand tiles of the game’s data. He found some interesting ones, such as the sports car that he replaced the X-Wing with in his mod. The engine for an earlier Lucasarts game, Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures, should be very similar, and once we find the Mac install disk and a copy of ResEdit, we’ll post something on Hackaday.io.


Filed under: software hacks

Reverse Engineering Star Wars: Yoda Stories

พฤ, 10/09/2014 - 03:00

Star Wars: Yoda Stories was released by LucasArts in 1997 to minimal critical acclaim. As IGN said, “like Phantom Menace proved, just because it’s Star Wars doesn’t mean it’s good.” This didn’t stop [Zach] from playing it, and years later, taking an interest in reverse engineering the game.

[Zach]‘s reverse engineering of Star Wars: Yoda Stories takes a look at the game’s data file. This binary file is parsed by the game at run time to extract sound effects, sprites, and map tiles. Perhaps the best known game data file type was Doom’s WAD file, which had purpose built editing programs from third parties.

After a quick look at the data file in HxD, [Zach] began writing scripts in C# to extract different sections of the data file. Once the sections were found, more code was used to apply a color palette and generate bitmaps.

In the end, [Zach] managed to get a couple thousand tiles of the game’s data. He found some interesting ones, such as the sports car that he replaced the X-Wing with in his mod. The engine for an earlier Lucasarts game, Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures, should be very similar, and once we find the Mac install disk and a copy of ResEdit, we’ll post something on Hackaday.io.


Filed under: software hacks

Hackaday 10th Anniversary: Demoscenes and Blink(1)

พฤ, 10/09/2014 - 00:00

There were two LA hackerspaces represented at our 10th anniversary party, and members from both of them were able to give a talk on the projects coming out of their labs. [Arko] from null space labs showed up with a few of his creations including CUBEX, his high altitude balloon payload and a demoscene board he’s been working on. [Tod] from Crashspace showed up with the rest of the Crash crew and helped out with the morning build-offs and labs.

A Demoscene Board

Demoscenes, for one reason or another, aren’t extremely popular in the US. In Europe, you can find teams working on programatically generated music videos year-round, coded for Commodore 64s, Amigas, even stranger computers, and x86 assembly. There’s an art to the whole thing, but for those of us on this side of the pond, there aren’t many venues to demonstrate impeccable graphics programming skill.

[Arko] wants to change this. He’s designed a demoscene board around a PIC micro with hardware graphics acceleration, USB OTG, VGA out at 640×480, and an audio out port. It’s meant to be a platform to create demos on, and already [Arko] has ported the famous Craft demo from [lft] to his platform. Edit: the Craft demo was playing on the older ATmega88 version of the board. The PIC board is a little more capable.

Being that there are so few Demo parties in the US, only building a board to play demos would be just a bit shortsighted. [Arko]‘s main reason for giving this talk was to tell everyone about the LayerOne Demoparty next year just a few miles from the Hackaday Hackaspace. It coincides with the LayerOne conference, and the board itself will soon be available for sale in the Hackaday store.

Blink(1) and How To Kickstarter

When it comes to electronics and tech Kickstarters, Blink(1) defines what it means to have a minimum viable product. It’s a USB plug, a small microcontroller, and an RGB LED. That’s it. [Tod] wanted to take this simple project and learn how to turn it into a product. [Tod] emphasised the ‘learn’ part of his plan; the alternate title for this talk was, “How to Fail Multiple Times and Still Ship 20,000 Units.”

The Blink(1) started as a standard My First Arduino Sketch, blinking three LEDs, quickly moving over to a USB LED device. This rather large USB dongle sat there for a few years until he decided to turn this into a product. It turned out building a product is a lot more involved than building a kit, with considerations to the enclosure, the packaging, and the inevitable CNC mold fails. Assembly – and the success of his first Kickstarter – was also an issue. [Tod]‘s friends ended up assembling most of the kits.

Despite these problems, [Tod] was still able to ship a few thousand units and is now working on another production run with SeeedStudio. It’s a remarkable story, with the Blink(1) used by Google, Disney, Microsoft, Facebook, and a whole bunch of other huge companies. The Blink(1) is also in the mainline Linux kernel, something you can’t say about a lot of Kickstarters out there.


Filed under: Featured, The Hackaday Prize

Hackaday 10th Anniversary: Demoscenes and Blink(1)

พฤ, 10/09/2014 - 00:00

There were two LA hackerspaces represented at our 10th anniversary party, and members from both of them were able to give a talk on the projects coming out of their labs. [Arko] from null space labs showed up with a few of his creations including CUBEX, his high altitude balloon payload and a demoscene board he’s been working on. [Tod] from Crashspace showed up with the rest of the Crash crew and helped out with the morning build-offs and labs.

A Demoscene Board

Demoscenes, for one reason or another, aren’t extremely popular in the US. In Europe, you can find teams working on programatically generated music videos year-round, coded for Commodore 64s, Amigas, even stranger computers, and x86 assembly. There’s an art to the whole thing, but for those of us on this side of the pond, there aren’t many venues to demonstrate impeccable graphics programming skill.

[Arko] wants to change this. He’s designed a demoscene board around a PIC micro with hardware graphics acceleration, USB OTG, VGA out at 640×480, and an audio out port. It’s meant to be a platform to create demos on, and already [Arko] has ported the famous Craft demo from [lft] to his platform. Edit: the Craft demo was playing on the older ATmega88 version of the board. The PIC board is a little more capable.

Being that there are so few Demo parties in the US, only building a board to play demos would be just a bit shortsighted. [Arko]‘s main reason for giving this talk was to tell everyone about the LayerOne Demoparty next year just a few miles from the Hackaday Hackaspace. It coincides with the LayerOne conference, and the board itself will soon be available for sale in the Hackaday store.

Blink(1) and How To Kickstarter

When it comes to electronics and tech Kickstarters, Blink(1) defines what it means to have a minimum viable product. It’s a USB plug, a small microcontroller, and an RGB LED. That’s it. [Tod] wanted to take this simple project and learn how to turn it into a product. [Tod] emphasised the ‘learn’ part of his plan; the alternate title for this talk was, “How to Fail Multiple Times and Still Ship 20,000 Units.”

The Blink(1) started as a standard My First Arduino Sketch, blinking three LEDs, quickly moving over to a USB LED device. This rather large USB dongle sat there for a few years until he decided to turn this into a product. It turned out building a product is a lot more involved than building a kit, with considerations to the enclosure, the packaging, and the inevitable CNC mold fails. Assembly – and the success of his first Kickstarter – was also an issue. [Tod]‘s friends ended up assembling most of the kits.

Despite these problems, [Tod] was still able to ship a few thousand units and is now working on another production run with SeeedStudio. It’s a remarkable story, with the Blink(1) used by Google, Disney, Microsoft, Facebook, and a whole bunch of other huge companies. The Blink(1) is also in the mainline Linux kernel, something you can’t say about a lot of Kickstarters out there.


Filed under: Featured, The Hackaday Prize

Photography Rig Captures Holy Grail Shots

พุธ, 10/08/2014 - 21:01

You’ve seen amazing shots of water spouts and milk crowns. You’ve seen shots of bullets piercing glass ornaments, playing cards, and poor, defenseless pieces of fruit. Maybe you’ve even seen that holy grail of shots—a bullet piercing a water spout. But how is it done? How do photographers capture this two-headed mythical beast of high-speed photography? [Maurice] has cracked the code and shared it for all to see.

He uses a Camera Axe to trigger the camera, a device he came up with years ago that’s on its fifth version. His setup uses a 100mm macro lens, a key flash, and two fill flashes that sit behind a diffusing wall of whiteness. All three flashes are connected to a multi-flash board which feeds into Camera Axe. [Maurice] explains how he gets nice, tall water spouts by thickening it with xanthan gum. He adds Jet Dry to reduce the surface tension and some food coloring to keep things interesting.

[Maurice] also runs through his pellet shooting rig, which he made with some polyethylene tubing and an air compressor. He ended up shooting the pellets at 20psi, which sends them traveling at 75 feet per second. They move slowly enough that he can use his own stomach to stop them in the demonstration. Dialing in just the right settings to get the pellet to intersect the spout at the right time took some finagling, and that will hold true for anyone who attempts to recreate this setup. He gives a link to his code files in the video description to get you started. Video is after the break.


Filed under: digital cameras hacks

Brushless Motor Controller Shield for Arduino

พุธ, 10/08/2014 - 18:01

Brushless motors are ubiquitous in RC applications and robotics, but are usually driven with low-cost motor controllers that have to be controlled with RC-style PWM signals and don’t allow for much customization. While there are a couple of open-source brushless drivers already available, [neuromancer2701] created his own brushless motor controller on an Arduino shield.

[neuromancer2701]‘s shield is a sensorless design, which means it uses the back-EMF of the motor for feedback rather than hall effect sensors mounted on the motor. It may seem strange to leave those sensors unused but this allows for less expensive sensorless motors to work with the system. It also uses discrete FETs instead of integrated driver ICs, similar to other designs we have covered. Although he is still working on the back-EMF sensing in his firmware, the shield successfully drives a motor in open-loop mode.

The motor controller is commanded over the Arduino’s serial interface, and will support a serial interface to ROS (Robot Operating System) in the future. This shield could be a good alternative to hobby RC controllers for robots that need a customizable open-source motor controller. The PCB design and source code are available on GitHub.

 


Filed under: Arduino Hacks

Using a Standard Coil for NFC Tag Implant Reading

พุธ, 10/08/2014 - 15:00

A few months ago Hackaday covered the xNT crowdfunding campaign which aimed at making an NTAG216 based NFC implant for different purposes. I actually backed it, found that standard NFC readers don’t perform well and therefore decided to try using a standard coil as an antenna for better reading performances.

Most NFC readers typically only have a small sweet spot where implant reading is possible. This is due to what we call coupling factor which depends on the reading distance and reader & NFC tag antenna geometries. Having a smaller antenna diameter increases the coupling factor and makes implant positioning easier.

In my detailed write-up you’ll find a good introduction to impedance matching, a process where a few passive components are added in series/parallel with an antenna to bring its complex impedance close to a RF signal transmitter’s. This usually requires expensive tools but allows optimal power transmission at a given frequency.

You may find our xNT coverage here.


Filed under: wearable hacks, wireless hacks

Acoustic Impulse Marker Tracks Sounds With a Pencil

พุธ, 10/08/2014 - 12:00

Two students at Cornell University have put together a rather curious sound tracking device called an Acoustic Impulse Marker.

[Adam Wrobel] and [Michael Grisanti] study electrical and computer science, and for their final microcontroller class they decided to build this device using the venerable ATmega 1284p.

The system uses a three-microphone array to accurately position sharp noises within 5 degrees of accuracy. The microcontroller detects the “acoustic delay” between the microphones which allows it to identify the location of the sound’s source vector. It does this using an 8-stage analog system which converts the sounds from each microphone into a binary signal, which identifies when each microphone heard the noise. The resultant 3 binary signals are then compared for their time delay, it selects the two closest microphones, and then does a simple angle calculation based on the magnitudes of each to determine the sounds position.

When the sound is identified, its location is sent to a 180 degree servo, which is geared at a 1:2 ratio to a pencil “pointer” which gives it a full 360 degrees of pointing capabilities.

The system works best for sharp sounds, but occasional picks up speech as well.

[via Hacked Gadgets]


Filed under: digital audio hacks, Microcontrollers

The Effects are IN the Guitar? It’s so Simple…

พุธ, 10/08/2014 - 09:00

We’ve all had that problem. Up on stage, rocking out Jimi Hendrix-style on guitar with your band, but frustrated at having to mess around with foot pedals to control all of the effects. [Richard] solved this problem in a unique way: he put a preamp and a microcontroller in a guitar that can create some very interesting effects.

For the musically challenged, electric guitars often have several sets of electromagnetic pickups that detect vibrations in the strings at different points along the strings. Selecting different pickup combinations with a built-in switch changes the sound that the guitar makes. [Richard] wired the pickups in his Fender Stratocaster to the microcontroller and programmed it to switch the pickups according to various patterns. The effect is somewhat like a chorus pedal at times and it sounds very unique.

The volume and tone knobs on the guitar are used to select the programmed patterns to switch various pickups at varying speeds. This has the added bonus of keeping the stock look of the guitar in tact, unlike some other guitars we’ve seen before. The Anubis preamp, as it is called, is a very well polished project and the code and wiring schematic are available on the project site along with some audio samples.


Filed under: musical hacks

120 Node Rasperry Pi Cluster for Website Testing

พุธ, 10/08/2014 - 06:00

[alexandros] works for resin.io, a website which plans to allow users to update firmware on embedded devices with a simple git push command. The first target devices will be Raspberry Pis running node.js applications. How does one perform alpha testing while standing up such a service? Apparently by building a monster tower of 120 Raspberry Pi computers with Adafruit 2.8″ PiTFT displays. We’ve seen some big Raspberry Pi clusters before, but this one may take the cake.

The tower is made up of 5 hinged sections of plywood. Each section contains 24 Pis, two Ethernet switches and two USB hubs. The 5 sections can be run on separate networks, or as a single 120 node monster cluster. When the sections are closed in, they form a pentagon-shaped tower that reminds us of the classic Cray-1 supercomputer.

Rasberry Pi machines are low power, at least when compared to a desktop PC. A standard Raspi consumes less than 2 watts, though we’re sure the Adafruit screen adds to the consumption. Even with the screens, a single 750 watt ATX supply powers the entire system.

[alexandros] and the resin.io team still have a lot of testing to do, but they’re looking for ideas on what to do with their cluster once they’re done pushing firmware to it. Interested? Check out their Reddit thread!


Filed under: Raspberry Pi

PrintBot Prints On The Ground, Uses Talcum Powder

พุธ, 10/08/2014 - 03:01


Yes, this is a printing ‘bot but it’s not a 3D Printer. Even though it’s called Printbot, don’t get it confused with other products that may begin with ‘Print’ and end in ‘bot’. Printbot is half Roomba, half old inkjet print carriage drive and the remaining half is a small PC running Windows CE.

The whole point of this ‘bot is to draw/write/print things on the floor. No, not in ink, in talcum powder! The Roomba drives in one axis as the powder is systematically dropped in the ‘bots wake. It works one line at a time, similar to how a progressive scan TV displays an image on the screen. The PC on board the Printbot reads 8-bit gray scale images from a USB drive, re-samples the image and outputs the image one line at a time to an external microcontroller. The microcontroller is responsible for driving the Roomba forward as well as moving the hopper’s position and dispensing the powder in the correct place. Check out the small photo below. That black and white strip is not there for good looks. It is part of the encoder positioning system that is responsible for communicating the location of the hopper back to the microcontroller.

To dispense the talcum powder there is a funnel that acts as a hopper. Down the center of the funnel is a drill bit that prevents any powder from falling out. A small DC motor rotates the drill bit for a specific amount of time and just the right amount of powder comes out of the funnel spout. The funnel is then moved to the next spot that requires a powdery deposit and the process repeats itself.

Now if only someone could come up with a robot vacuum to follow the Printbot and clean up all that mess!

Do you think this is cool but don’t dig the talcum powder? Check out this similar setup from back in the day which uses a marker to write in a dot matrix style.

 


Filed under: robots hacks

Retrotechtacular: The Future’s So Bright, We’re Gonna Need Photochromic Windowpanes

พุธ, 10/08/2014 - 00:00

This is a day in the life of the Shaw family in the summer of 1999 as the Philco-Ford Corporation imagined it from the space-age optimism of 1967. It begins with Karen Shaw and her son, James. They’re at the beach, building a sand castle model of their modular, hexagonal house and discussing life. Ominous music plays as they return in flowing caftans to their car, a Ford Seatte-ite XXI with its doors carelessly left open. You might recognize Karen as Marj Dusay, who would later beam aboard the USS Enterprise and remove Spock’s brain.

The father, Mike Shaw, is an astrophysicist working to colonize Mars and to breed giant, hardy peaches in his spare time. He’s played by iconic American game show host Wink Martindale. Oddly enough, Wink’s first gig was hosting a Memphis-based children’s show called Mars Patrol. He went on to fame with classics such as Tic Tac Dough, Card Sharks, Password Plus, and Trivial Pursuit.

Mike calls up some pictures of the parent trees he’s using on a screen that’s connected to the family computer. While many of today’s families have such a device, this beast is almost sentient. We learn throughout the film that it micromanages the family within an inch of their lives by keeping tabs on their physiology, activities, financial matters, and in James’ case, education.

The computer home-schools him two days a week, mostly through a giant flat screen display. Separate consoles give him recorded lectures and test his recall of the material, which is pretty poor. Meanwhile, his mother engages the kitchen console to conjure a tailored menu for the family’s lunch based on their dietary needs and the health records it keeps. She haggles a bit on Mike’s behalf, and the computer goes to work. It selects the frozen portions and runs them through the microwave. Karen’s only job is to transfer the food to plates and pull beverages from dispensers.

After lunch, Karen does some online shopping and Mike grumbles over her purchases and the family’s other expenses from his office. He can check their bank balance, budget, and remaining car payments. Continuing the theme of having a dedicated monitor for each thing, the office has three of them, each seemingly single-purpose. There’s also an electronic post office where he can write a letter to anyone using a stylus on a tablet.

The Shaw’s home is powered by a fuel cell equipped with blinkenlights. It also provides pure water, burns their waste, heats and cools the air, controls humidity, and removes pollen, dust, and bacteria. What it certainly does not do is periodically release a burst of vapor that keeps them calm and docile, occasionally forgetting what year it is or who ground the first telescope.

We don’t want to spoil the whole thing. Watch as Karen uses up her vast amounts of free time throwing pots, and Mike fulfills the computer’s exercise regimen set out for him in a turtleneck for some reason. Bizarre as this film may be, many of the Philco-Ford Corporation’s dreams came true. The analog controls and cordboard-looking switching is amusing, but the idea of chemical vapor cleaning closets is just scary. Bonus: here’s a short video of Walter Cronkite showing off the very same office.

Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

 


Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular

Hackaday 10th Anniversary: Non-Binary Computing

อังคาร, 10/07/2014 - 21:00

When [Thundersqueak] was looking for a project for The Hackaday Prize, she knew it needed to be a special project. IoT devices and microcontrollers are one thing, but it’s not really something that will set you of from the pack. No, her project needed to be exceptional, and she turned to logic and balanced ternary computing.

[Thundersqueak] was inspired to design her ternary computer from a few very interesting and nearly unknown historical computing devices. The first was the [Thomas Fowler] machine, designed all the way back in 1838. It could count to several thousand using a balanced ternary mechanical mechanism. The [Fowler] machine was used to calculate logs, and the usual boring mathematical tasks of the time.

A bit more research turned up the Setun, an electronic computer constructed out of vacuum tubes in 1958. This computer could count up to 387,000,000 with eighteen ternary digits. On the binary machine you’re using right now, representing that would take twenty-nine binary digits. It’s about a 2.5 times more efficient way of constructing a computer, and when you’re looking for the right vacuum tubes in 1950s USSR, that’s a great idea.

[Thundersqueak] isn’t dealing with vacuum tubes – she has a world of semiconductors at her fingertips. After constructing a few truth tables for ternary logic, she began designing circuits to satisfy the requirements of what this computer should do. The design uses split rails – a negative voltage, a positive voltage, and ground, with the first prototype power supply made from a 741 Op-amp. From there, it was just breadboarding stuff and checking her gates, transistors, and truth tables to begin creating her ternary computer.

With the basic building blocks of a ternary computer done, [Thundersqueak] then started to design a basic ALU. Starting with a half adder, the design then expanded to a full adder with ripple carry. We’re sure there are plans for multiplying, rotating, and everything else that would turn this project into a CPU.


Filed under: Featured, The Hackaday Prize

Internet-Connected TI-84

อังคาร, 10/07/2014 - 18:00

Just before the days where every high school student had a cell phone, everyone in class had a TI graphing calculator. In some ways this was better than a cell phone: If you wanted to play BlockDude instead of doing trig identities, this was much more discrete. The only downside is that the TI calculators can’t easily communicate to each other like cell phones can. [Christopher] has solved this problem with his latest project which provides Wi-Fi functionality to a TI graphing calculator, and has much greater aspirations than helping teenagers waste time in pre-calculus classes.

The boards are based around a Spark Core Wi-Fi development board which is (appropriately) built around a TI CC3000 chip and a STM32F103 microcontroller. The goal of the project is to connect the calculators directly to the Global CALCnet network without needing a separate computer as a go-between. These boards made it easy to get the original Arduino-based code modified and running on the new hardware.

After a TI-BASIC program is loaded on the graphing calculator, it is able to input the credentials for the LAN and access the internet where all kinds of great calculator resources are available through the Global CALCnet. This is a great project to make the math workhorse of the classroom even more useful to students. Or, if you’re bored with trig identities again, you can also run a port of DOOM.


Filed under: wireless hacks

CNC Router Converted To 3D Printer

อังคาร, 10/07/2014 - 15:00

3D Printers have come down significantly in price over the past few years. Nowadays it is even possible to get a 3D printer kit for between $200-300. It’s arguable how well these inexpensive printers perform. [Jon] wanted a printer capable of quality prints without breaking the bank. After researching the different RepRap types that are available he concluded he really wasn’t up for a full machine build. He had previously built a CNC Router and decided it was best to add a hot end and extruder to the already built 3 axis frame.

The CNC Router frame is made from aluminum, is very rigid and has a 2′ by 2′ cutting area. All axes glide smoothly on THK linear bearings and are powered by NEMA 23 motors driven by Gecko 540 stepper drivers. The router was removed from the machine but the mounting bracket was left on. The bracket was then modified to hold the extruder and hot end. With 3D Printers there is typically a control board specifically designed for the task with dedicated outputs to control the temperature of the hot end. Since [Jon] already had the electronics set up for the router, he didn’t need a specialized 3D Printer control board. What he does need is a way to control the temperature of the hot end and he did that by using a stand-alone PID. The PID is set manually and provides no feedback to the computer or control board.

[Jon] used liked Mach3 for controlling his CNC Router so he stuck with it for printing. He’s tried a few slicers but it seems Slic3r works the best for his setup. Once the g-code is generated it is run though Mach3 to control the machine. [Jon] admits that he has a way to go with tweaking the settings and that the print speed is slower than most print-only machines due to the mass of the frame’s gantry and carriage. Even so, his huge whistle print looks pretty darn good. Check it out in the video after the break…


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Dusty Junk-bin Downconverter Receives FM on an AM Radio

อังคาร, 10/07/2014 - 12:00

This amateur radio hack is not for the faint of heart! With only three transistors (and a drawer-full of passive parts), [Peter Parker, vk3ye] is able to use a broken-looking AM car radio to receive FM radio signals (YouTube link) on 2 meters, an entirely different band.

There are two things going on here. First, a home-made frequency downconverter shifts the 147 MHz signal down to the 1 MHz neighborhood where the AM radio can deal with it. Then, the AM radio is tuned just slightly off the right frequency and the FM signal is slope detected.

The downconverter consists of a local tuned oscillator and a mixer. The local oscillator generates an approximate 146 MHz signal from an 18 MHz crystal, accounting for two of the three transistors. Then this 146 MHz signal and the approximately 147 MHz signal that he wants to listen to are multiplied together (mixed) using the third transistor.

If you’re not up on your radio theory, a frequency mixer takes in two signals at different frequencies and produces an output signal that has various sums and differences of the two input signals in it. It’s this 147 MHz – 146 MHz = 1 MHz FM signal, right in the middle of the AM radio band’s frequency range, that’s passed on to the AM radio.

Next, the AM radio slope detects the frequency-modulated (FM) signal as if it were amplitude modulated (AM). This works as follows: FM radio encodes audio as changes in frequency, while AM radios encode the audio signal in the amplitude, or volume, of the radio signal. Instead of tracking the changing frequency as an FM radio would, slope detectors stick on a single frequency that’s tuned just slightly off from the FM carrier frequency. As the FM signal gets closer to or farther away from this fixed frequency, the received signal gets louder or quieter, and FM is detected as AM.

At 5:23, [vk3ye] steps through the circuit diagram. As he mentions, these are old tricks from circa 50 years ago, but it’s very nice to see a junk-box hack working so well with so few parts and receiving (very) high frequency FM on an old AM car radio. A circuit like this could make a versatile front end for an SDR setup. It makes us want to warm up the soldering iron.

Thanks [Morris] for the tip.


Filed under: radio hacks

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