Hack a Day
Back in 1991, a young [Backwoods Engineer] and his new wife went to a Valentines day get together. One of the conditions of the shindig was having the guys make – not buy – a Valentines day card. Go big or go home, he though, and after a few days he had a talking Valentines day card that would become one of his wife’s most treasured possessions.
The early 90s were a different time; in case you haven’t yet been made to feel very old yet today, 1991 is closer to 1970 than 2013 is to 1991. Likewise, the circuitry inside this heartfelt talking token of appreciation bears more resemblance to something from a 1970s electronics magazine than an Arduino project of today.
The project is powered by an old Intel MCS-48 microcontroller attached to one of the old speech synthesis chips Radio Shack used to sell. These are, in turn, connected to a programmable logic chip and a masked ROM that translates English words into phonemes for the speech synthesizer.
The entire device is constructed on a hacked up piece of perf board and a few wire wrap sockets; sturdy construction, even if the battery compartment has been replaced a few times.
As for what the talking valentine says? “”OK! Hello, I am a Talking Valentine Card. ”Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing” and in this case also needs batteries!” You can check that out after the break.
Filed under: classic hacks
We’ve been following [CNLohr]‘s process of creating an AVR-powered microscope slide running Linux and interfacing redstone circuits in Minecraft to real world electronic for a while now, but we’re really at a loss for words on how it works. Well, now there’s a video explaining everything you want to know about this amazingly complicated and overwrought thing.
The device is powered by an AVR microcontroller and Ethernet controller running [Fabrice Bellard]‘s JSLinux in a browser. [CNLohr] added a few bits to JSLinux allowing him map the x86 IO ports emulated inside JSLinux to the AVR’s IO ports. This allows him to query the status – both analog and digital – using just a browser. Very cool, but [CNLohr] can also run his Minecraft server optimized for 8-bit devices on this microscope slide server to create a bridge between real electronics and redstone circuits.
In the video after the break, you can see [CNLohr]‘s overly convoluted walk through of what’s going on with this microscope slide server. As a little bonus, you can also catch a glimpse of Hackaday at 00:20 in [CNLohr]‘s most visited / new tab thingy in Firefox. We’re honored, really.
Filed under: linux hacks, Microcontrollers
With the massive response and blog cred from his QR Code clock, [ch00f] felt it was time to step up his game and update his design to a proper commercial product. His new QR clock is bigger, brighter, cheaper, and in every way better than the old version, but these improvements came at a cost.
The LED matrices [ch00f] used in his earlier, smaller version weren’t very aesthetically pleasing. He wanted the lights to shine a brilliant white, and also be somewhat attractive when not illuminated. The 8×8 LED arrays [ch00f] picked up from Futurlec had a disgusting yellow coating on each LED that turned light emitted by the blue LEDs inside to a brilliant white. This simply wouldn’t do for a commercial product with [ch00f]‘s name on it, so he turned to the one place in the universe where everything was for sale: alibaba.com.
After some trials and tribulations with component manufacturers in China, [ch00f] had the perfect LED matrix; not too expensive, very good quality control, and something that looked really good when both unpowered and illuminated.
Now that his boards are being spun up, [ch00f] hopes to sell his QR clock on Tindie. Each 24×24 LED matrix should cost less than $100, a pretty good deal if you ask us. He’d like to know if anyone out there has any feature requests, to which we can only say he should get rid of the PCB border. Tiling a few of these displays and controlling them via serial would be much cooler than a QR Code clock.
Filed under: hardware, led hacks
Windows RT, the version of Windows being loaded onto ARM-powered tablets and netbooks such as the new Microsoft Surface, has one drawback: there are tens of thousands of apps written for x86 hardware that simply won’t run on this new ARM-powered architecture. While this may present a problem for hospitals, banks, and other institutions needing a proper Wintel platform, we’re wondering how to get classic games such as Civ III and Age of Empires running on these new tablets.
It seems with a lot of black magic, [mamaich] over at the XDA Developers forum has a solution for us. He’s created a tool for running x86 Win32 apps on Windows RT. Basically, he’s created an x86 emulator for ARM devices that also passes Windows API calls to Windows RT.
So far, [mamaich] has been playing some classic Windows games on his Windows RT box, including Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and Space Cadet Pinball from Windows 95. A few utility apps such as 7Zip and WinRAR also work.
[mamaich]‘s plans for his build are to make x86 emulation more automatic without the need for a separate launcher tool. Then, finally, we’ll have the perfect portable platform for RTS games.
Filed under: ARM, tablet pcs hacks
Hackerspaces (or hackspace in this case) come in all shapes and sizes, from those just starting up, to some that are very impressively equipped. [Dominic] wrote in to tell us about the Nottingham Hackspace, which would fall solidly into the second category. We’d invite you to take a look at their intro video after the break, but be prepared to wish you lived near their location.
If you do happen to live there, in addition to a nicely polished website and intro video, they have nearly 4500 square feet of space at their facility. Naturally they have the now ubiquitous 3D printers, but they also have an impressive array of more traditional as well as computer-controlled tools. These include a lathe, welders, CNC router, laser cutter, and even basic PCB-making facilities. Storage space is also included, both for member projects and bicycles.
So be sure to check them out. They have around 130 members right now, but naturally would love to see you there!
Filed under: Hackerspaces
Way back before the advent of commercial DSP, musicians had really cool looking gear. One of these devices to change the sound of organs, guitars, and other electronic instruments was a Leslie speaker – a speaker cabinet with rotating horns that gives that wonderful warm warble heard on so many classic recordings. [Nigel] doesn’t have an original Leslie, but he does have a much less expensive and lighter digital effect that emulates the original Leslie sound very well. The only problem, though, is the requirement for a proprietary footswitch. No problem, then, because a transistor, a resistor, and a mint tin can take care of that.
[Nigel]‘s Leslie simulator – a Neo Instruments Ventilator – has a foot switch to control the speed of the emulated rotary speakers. There are three possible states for the speakers, fast, slow, and brake, all controlled with a TRS phono connector. Possibly in an attempt to price gouge consumers on a proprietary footswitch, Neo Instruments decided they would use the ring and tip of the phono connector to control the speed. They did so in a way that made it impossible for a single relay or switch to change the speed, however.
No problem for [Nigel], then, because with a very simple circuit consisting of just a transistor and resistor he can use any footswitch he wants with his Leslie simulator. The build doesn’t support the brake function, but he doesn’t use that anyway. Not bad for less than a dollar in parts, and a buck fifty in mint tins.
Filed under: musical hacks
With the gravitas of [Michael Douglas] in Wall Street and the technological amazement of [Zach Morris] on Saved By The Bell, the classic 1980s ‘brick’ cell phone has a lot to offer these days. Not only is it large enough to be used as a blunt weapon, it’s also useful as an anchor and more durable than an old-school Nokia. Most, if not all of these phones have gone silent since analog cellular service went dead a few years ago, but that didn’t stop [Andrew] from bringing his back to life.
The core of this build is a 128×64 OLED screen that replaced the old seven-digit, seven-segment display and a very small GSM module. The ancient PCB was discarded and a new hardware revision was created in Eagle based on an Arduino-powered microcontroller. The buttons from the original phone remained, thanks to a custom designed resistive button footprint on the PCB and a bit of conductive ink.
What’s surprising is this phone actually works. [Andrew] can not only receive texts on his phone, but also send them using his own implementation of a number pad keyboard. It’s an awesome build, and from what we can tell, the first proper DIY cell phone we’ve ever seen. About time someone got around to that, and we couldn’t have hoped for a better form factor.
Filed under: cellphones hacks
Although having a 3D printer means you can create custom object of your own design, that doesn’t change the fact that most object printed on Makerbots and RepRaps are copies, or slight derivations, of already existing object. If you need a gear, just go grab an OpenSCAD file for a gear, and a custom smart phone case can be easily made by modifying an already existing one. The problem with this approach, though, is you’ll need to learn OpenSCAD or another 3D design tool. Enter the Makerbot Customizer, a web app that allows you to create custom versions of other people’s work right in your browser.
The idea behind Customizer is simple: someone creates an OpenSCAD file with a few variables like the number of teeth on a gear or the number of turns on a screw. Customizer takes this OpenSCAD file, puts sliders and radio buttons on a web page, and allows you to create custom objects based on user-created templates.
Already we’ve seen a lot of Hackaday readers send in some pretty cool customizable things, like [Bryan]‘s coil form for DIY inductors and [Greg]‘s customizable PVC pipe couplers. If you already know OpenSCAD, it’s easy to create your own objects that are customizable by anyone on the Internet.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, Software Development
Think back to your school days when each student would make a box which would receive Valentine’s cards from their friends. We have fond memories of buying cards with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on them. We guess this tradition is still going strong. Instead of making a receptacle out of a shoe box [Dr Franken Storer] helped his seven-year-old build this remote control R2D2 with sounds and lights. Yeah, it’s totally cheating. But who can begrudge a hacker dad a little fun?
The bot started as a desktop trash can. It features a domed top which looks just like the droid, but also has a hinged opening where the cards can be placed. To the lid he attached a tilt switch that triggers a Radio Shack sound player to provide the sounds. These sound modules are popular in a lot of projects like this doorbell hack. The final touch (aside from the droid decor on the outside) was to add a remote control car that lets his son drive R2 around.
We asked for more details and he delivered. You’ll find his lengthy description of the project after the jump.
Inspiration – (Dr. Evil voice on) When I was in first grade, like many of us we were tasked with building the “best” valentine’s day card box and then seeing who won. I tricked mine out, wrapped it in foil, used pink and purple hearts, and made the opening the shape of a heart, I thought for sure I’d win. Then a girl named Ashley’s mom walked in with a 4’x4’ platform. On it was a castle, I’m taking 4-5 stories high, detailed block looking castle. Complete with operating draw bridge to put the cards in. Clearly I lost. I vowed that day that when I had my own kids, I would help them build the card holder of all card holders and avenge my loss, and I think we did that here. Of course I just told my 7 year old that I thought it’d be cool and I’d help him out, but selfishly, I’m hoping somewhere out there Ashley’s kids dad is nowhere near as cool and they are dealing with some tin foil shoe boxes…. (Dr. Evil voice off now)
My son is an avid Star Wars fan, loves it, and has recently gotten into Legos/tinkering with me. So I figured now was the time to do something fun. The idea of using a desktop sized trash can as R2 popped into my head when he came home from school talking about building his valentines box. From there I figured I’d add lights, then I thought about sounds, and my 7 year old son Seth suggested me make it move. The plan was to allow him to drive it around to collect the valentines, and as the kids added them the tilt switch would cause R2 to make movie sounds. We accomplished all goals and it only took the better part of a Saturday to do!
Step 1 – we bought the perfect size can on Amazon:
[link removed; search Amazon for Umbra mini recycled]
Step 2 – while we waited for it to arrive I found online some Japanese build your own paper R2D2, sadly the link with the PDF’s was no longer available, luckily I found where some other guy saved it and re-uploaded it on the internet. The PNG from the PDF we used is attached. I essentially took the “trash can” part of R2D2 and stretched it to fit across 3 pieces of 8.5×11 paper. The can part of the trash can is about the perfect height, and I had to trim a few inches off the paper for the perfect fit.
Step 3 – We test fitted the paper design to the can with tape – the only issue we ran into was that the can ever so slightly gets smaller at the bottom of the can than the top, given our timeline I couldn’t re-oriante the design to the proper angles to make it look and fit just right, so we fudged it a bit but it still looks great. We sprayed the paper and the can with 3M picture safe spray adhesive from Walmart and carefully applied it to the can.
Step 4 – We spray painted the top of the can with some silver plastic spray paint from Walmart, then printed some random shaped squares and the top circle design the best we could (I’ll admit I used MS Paint for the shapes!!!) We cut them out and also spray adhesived them on.
Step 5 – The radio shack parts list:
1. You need a record/play back device – http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2102855
2. You need a 7 color LED – http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3060680
3. 800 ohm resistor (or get as close as you can with what they have in stock, we bought a 470, 200, and 120 ohm resistors and tied them together.
4. 9v battery
5. Metal LED holder (makes it look cooler and easier to mount to the trash can lid) – http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062559
Step 6 – Last two parts – we bought an $8 RC car at walmart, and a tilt switch from the Best Buy mobile audio install bay.
2. New Bright RC/Truck (local walmart had them for $9, radioshack had a similar sized truck but it was $13, so we returned it)
Step 7 – See the pictures. I cut the huge clear plastic housing off of the tilt switch from best buy, and zip-tied it through a hole I drilled in the side of the swinging trash can lid
Step 8 – Drill and mount the LED to the front of the can ( used the second LED holder with no LED to mimic what R2 looks like, but mounted it too high)
Step 9 – Record R2D2 sounds from the internet onto the radioshack device – we found some great ones on Youtube.
Step 10 – since it was going to 1st grade, I cut the “record” switch to prevent accidently losing the R2 sounds at school, and the mic off of the recording device once we had the sounds, we also removed the play back switch and soldered leads to the tilt switch to active the sounds.
Step 11 – Splice into the 9v battery leads and wire them to the LED/resistors as shown:
Step 12 – We took paper the size of the bottom of the trash can, and held the RC truck over it. We traced around the tires, then transferred that pattern to the bottom of the can and used a utility knife to cut out the 4 rectangle holes for the drive wheels (allowing extra space for the front wheels to turn). I also notched and area to make the on/off easier to get to, and we then zip tied the truck to the bottom of the can. To finish it, we cut a cardboard circle and laid it over the truck to give a false bottom to the can and keep cards from getting caught in the wheels while driving.
Step 13 – Hook up the 9v, test your tilt switch, and go for a drive! Seth loves R2, and though he was bummed I couldn’t mimic the rockets that allow R2 to fly in one part of the movie, he still loves me for what we did accomplish. I’ll update you on whether or not he wins once I know!
Step 14 – Optional – Seth wanted to add legs, so after the fact he freehand drew them, colored them himself, and then we cut them out of cardboard and attached them, I have to agree with him they completed the look!
If we had more time, and a bigger budget, it would have been cool to make R2’s head spin after a card was dropped in, but there is always next year, and my 2 year old to live through in the future!
Filed under: Holiday Hacks
[Fabian] ran across a very, very inexpensive RFID reader on Deal Extreme a while ago and with money to burn, added it to his cart. When the USB RFID reader arrived, he noticed something fairly odd about it (French, Traduction). The RFID reader presented itself to his computer as a USB HID device that spit out characters into a text editor whenever an RFID card was waved above the coil. The only problem was these characters weren’t the hex values recorded on the RFID card. So what’s going on here?
As it turns out (Anglais), this random piece of Chinese electronica sends 10 bytes of data to the computer, just like this well-documented RFID reader. Apparently, both these RFID readers take the hex value of an RFID card, convert those bytes to base 10, and pass each digit through a lookup table. Exactly why it does this is anyone’s guess, but since [Fabian] figured out how it worked, he could also figure out how to reverse the process.
Unfortunately, the RFID reader in question is currently out of stock at Deal Extreme. Seeing as how most of the electronics available there are remarkably similar and differ only in the name printed on the enclosure, though, we wouldn’t be surprised if a nearly identical RFID reader was available elsewhere.
Filed under: security hacks
It hasn’t been a week since Minecraft for the Raspberry Pi has been released, and already we’re seeing some cool builds that bridge our analog world with Minecraft voxel land. [Martin] got his hands on the Raspi version of Minecraft and decided to take advantage of the API Mojang threw into the build by making a huge analog block clock that keeps real world time in the Minecraft universe.
Basically, [Martin] created a small Python script that draws the face and hands of a clock in a Minecraft world. The Minecraft API comes with neat functions such as drawCircle, and drawLine, so making a real clock face is as simple as getting the system time and doing a bit of trig.
After the break you can check out [Martin]‘s Minecraft clock in action. If you’re running the Pi version of Minecraft, you can also get this running on your machine with the code on [Martin]‘s git.
Filed under: Raspberry Pi
[The Backwoods Engineer] tested out a new accessory kit for the STM32-F4 Discovery board. The image above shows two boards communicating with the UDP protocol. Notice the extra PCB into which each Discovery board has been plugged. This is a third-party add-on which adds Ethernet, RS-232, SD card slot, and a connector for LCD or Camera. We’ve had one of these F4 Discovery boards on hand for a while and haven’t figured out a good way to connect external hardware to the huge dual pin-headers. This doesn’t solve the problem — the base board also includes dual headers to break-out all the pins — but having Ethernet, serial, and SD certainly reduces the need to add all that much more. The other drawback to the hardware is that the sample firmware is targeted at the IAR Embedded Workbench which is neither free, nor in the realm of affordable for hobbyists.
The NIC used on the baseboard has auto-crossover capabilities so the boards were connected using a regular Cat6 patch cable. This example has the boards constantly sending UDP packets with the module on the right reporting status information to a terminal via the serial connection.
Filed under: ARM, Network Hacks
Yet another project that proves you need to acquire a laser cutter. This Airsoft turret rotates, tilts, and includes a hopper for ammo.
All of the pieces were cut from acrylic. The base includes a bracket which keeps the large rotating gear level by sandwiching it between the layers. That and the tilt mechanism are pretty straight forward. The module responsible for loading the BBs is pretty neat though. It uses a gear with round teeth the same diameter as the ammo. Once a BB is picked up it is forced upward into the tubing that feeds the gun. Get the full picture from the demo video after the break.
The one thing [The Liquider] is wondering about is how to provide feedback for the tilt and rotate functions. We can’t think of an easier way than to use simple rotary encoders. The Arduino Mega he wishes to use as a driver will have no problem interfacing with reflectance sensors and the acrylic makes it simple to mount this type of black and white encoder wheel.
Filed under: weapons hacks
[Kenneth Finnegan's] post about this 24-Port HP ProCurve 2824 Ethernet Switch teardown was a delight to read. He’s taking an introduction to networking class at California Polytechnic State University. One of their labs included virtual machines shooting thousands of new MAC addresses at the thing all at once. Despite it’s ability to switch data at a blazing fast rate, it’s ability to deal with that many new hardware identifiers was less than impressive. He wanted to find out why and it just so happened he had one of these in his parts bin at home (which he refers to as if it’s a high-powered RPG character).
The mainboard is divided into three major blocks: the power supply, the switching hardware, and the processor that makes this a manged switch. Although he covers all of these pieces (and the switching stuff is very interesting to learn about) it is the processor section that was causing the aforementioned slowdown. It’s a 266MHz PowerPC chip with a measly 64 MB of RAM. Of course this doesn’t need to be any more powerful since all traffic from previously ‘learned’ MAC addresses gets handled by the switching block and never touches the processor portion.
Don’t miss the end of his post where he discusses how the filtering caps, and semi-isolated ground planes help to tame the beast created from all of this high-speed switching.
Filed under: Network Hacks, teardown
This is a simple project. It uses an Android device to switch an LED driven by the Arduino. Connectivity is provided by the Bluetooth module inserted in the breadboard. But one look at the UI on the Android device and you might think this is anything but simple. The truth is that [Kerimil] didn’t spend forever learning Java and programming the app. Instead he’s showing off the power of App Inventor to get your Android controls up and running fast.
Check out the third button down; when was the last time you added voice commands to your project? It’s worth clicking through to see just how simple that portion was. App Inventor — a Google cast-out that is now maintained by MIT — is a graphical tool that unlocks the power of an Android handset to those with the most basic of programming understanding. For instance, the voice controls shown off after the break are provided by a single bracket which uses conditional statements to ‘listen’ for the words on, off, and blink. You’ll find the voice recognition diagram after the break as well.
You could try to go completely graphical with this project. There’s the option of programming the Arduino side of the project in a similar way.
Filed under: arduino hacks
This project is the warm center of [Alan Kharsansky's] thesis in Electronic Engineering. It’s an all-in-one control board for a quadcopter. This is the second iteration of the board, the first version he actually etched himself. As you can see after the break the firmware is not quite ready for prime-time. But that doesn’t stop us from appreciating the design choices he’s made.
You can see the effort he made to keep the board symmetrical which will help when it comes time to balance the aircraft. At the center of the PCB is the jewel of the sensor array, a combination accelerometer and gyroscope. This location will help easy the trouble of designing PID algorithms to drive the four propellers. Also included in the sensor array is a magnetometer for navigation, and a barometric pressure sensor which can be used as an altimeter. There are four multipurpose connectors used to drive the motors and provide feedback to the boards. He also included two more sets of pads on the board (without their own connectors) in case he wants to add more motors in the future. The quadcopter can be controlled from a base station via the XBee module.
Filed under: drone hacks
No matter how many advances in electronics we find, we’re constantly surprised at the lack of progress in robot chassis. Sure, it should be a simple task to make a capable robot that looks cool, but aside from the Veter project team, no one else seems to be advancing the state of robot mechanics.
We’ve seen robotic chassis and hardware from the Veter team before, and this new version brings a whole lot more to the table. While the camera. GPS, compass, and ultrasonic sensors are the same from the previous build, there’s a whole lot more software inspired by [Sebastian Thrun]‘s autonomous car class to make this build a little more capable.
While the Veter team is using a Beagleboard for their on-board computer, it should be possible to change the hardware over to a more economical Raspberry Pi. Even then, it won’t be a cheap build, but we doubt you’ll find a better robotics platform for less.
Filed under: robots hacks
Sweden is coming out of the depths of a cold, dark winter. What better time, then, to enjoy the last few weeks of frigid temperatures, short days, and frozen lakes and rivers? That’s what Orsa Speed Weekend is all about; tearing across a frozen lake by any means necessary, including jet powered snowmobiles.
This pulse jet comes from the fruitful minds at Svarthalet Racing (Google Translation) who have put an amazing amount of work into their fuel-injected pulse jet snowmobile during these last cold winter months. They’ve even gone so far as to do some analysis regarding how much horsepower their snowmobile has. Surprisingly, it’s not much more horsepower than a small car, but that’s due to the hilarious inefficiency of pulse jets compared to more conventional engines.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen jet powered snowmobiles build for Orsa Speed Weekend. We’ll just hope this year a few more videos will show up in our tip line.
Filed under: transportation hacks
Here’s another Flora Arduino based project from [Becky Stern]. It’s a backpack with brake lights and turn signals for use when motorcycling, but it should work just as well for bicyclists. From this view the project looks pretty normal, but things get downright crazy when she decided to use the WS2801 pixels for the LEDs. Sure they take all the work out of driving an array of LEDs, and they offer full color and dimming levels. But when you see the bulk of cabling and PCBs this adds to the project (shown in the video after the break) we think you’ll agree that this was an interesting choice.
That issue aside the project is a lot of fun. The system doesn’t patch into the motorcycle’s electronics. Instead, it uses an accelerometer to detect when the brakes are applied and light the LEDs according. The turn signals are switched with an RF remote control that can be mounted on the handlebars.
Anyone looking to hack outerwear with electronics can learn form the fabrication techniques used here. [Becky] details how to make holes in the bag and sew parts to them, as well as using Sugru to waterproof vulnerable components.
Filed under: transportation hacks, wearable hacks
[Michael] posted up-to-date GPS data sets in the GPX format. These data sets are an alternative to paid updates. Since GPX is a published standard which uses an XML style formatting for location data [Michael's] time was spent getting the original sets and finding a way to translate them for his Garmin EXTREX GPS.
The original data comes from — hang on, this is a mouthful — the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Facility Aeronautical Data Distribution System (FADDS). He had to apply for permission to download it and to use it in producing a custom GPS build. He grabbed the Airport waypoints and navaid sets, then studied accompanying files detailing the data structure before writing his own Visual Basic 2010 program to spit out the GPX files. He says he wanted to make them available in the spirit of the Open Hardware/Software movement. This may be most interesting for pilots (the kind that put Nooks on the dashboard, not the kind who watch the aircraft from the ground), but we’re sure there’s a myriad of uses for non-pilots alike.
Filed under: gps hacks