Hack a Day
Check out all the work going on in the cabinet below this typewriter. The hack which automates a mechanical typewriter is for an art installation, but wouldn’t it be fun to build one of these to use as a résumé printer? It really makes us wish we had an old typewriter sitting around.
It would have been much easier to patch into an electric typewriter, but we have seen the string trick used on those as well. In this case a loop of string attaches to the the bar under each key, allowing a pull from below to type the character. An automotive door lock actuator ([Harvey Moon] tells us they’re not solenoids) connects to the other end of the string for every key. But then you’ve got to have a way to drive the actuators and that’s where the protoboard full of forty relays seen to the right comes into play. That image, which was taken from the demo video after the break, shows the board being testing. We’d guess more wires are added later to multiplex the array as we can’t figure out how the Arduino manages to drive all forty of them as shown. One thing we are sure about, the completed project looks and sounds amazing!
Filed under: peripherals hacks
Geeking out and complaining about inaccuracies is fun. But it is like junk food. Too much is bad for your health. We’ve done the Top 10 worst portrayals of hacking in movies/TV as well as a Part 2 due to high demand. Now it is time for the good stuff. Take it in and feel those healthy positive portrayals revitalizing your brain.
Here are the Top 10 best portrayals of hacking, based off your comments and feedback. Be sure to let us know what we missed, because there are probably some good ones that got left out.
10 Real Genius — Ice coin trick.
Dry ice in the shape of a coin. Seems feasible with the vending machines shown. It is smart and funny. However, I haven’t ever actually seen real proof that this works, so maybe I’m mistaken in including it.
09 NMAP in movies.
Dear movie making people. It takes 5 seconds to as the nearest IT guy “name some tools people use for security”. Then take a few screenshots of those tools. Not only did you save money on graphic designers, your movie suddenly just gained some added credibility.
08 Social Network.
Everything looks fairly legit, if possibly in Fast Forward.
07 Bourne Ultimatum
Someone did some homework! We see postfix, SSH, NMAP a BASH shell. I believe there’s a scene where he changes the MAC address of a router too, but I can’t find it.
06 Real Genius — [Laslo] games the game
Often dismissed as an overly hokey ending, [Laslo] arrives at the end of the movie with a trailer full of winnings from a sweepstakes. It is a bit hokey, but it is also based off of true events at CalTech. Some students at CalTech in 1975 noticed there was the following line in a sweepstakes being held by McDonald’s “Enter as often as you wish.”. And that they did, 1.2 MILLION times. Ultimately winning $10,000 worth of prizes including a car.
05 Wargames — paperclip payphone
Yeah, remember payphones? Well many of you probably remember actually doing this exact thing. Causing a bridge between the speaker housing and the coins lot would result in a free phone call.
04 Flight of the Phoenix
The movie release was pretty cheezy. However, the core story is true. A plane crashed, and from the rubble a new plane arose.
great examples of social engineering. Nothing is more effective than pizza and balloons.
War-dialing exists.Though it existed well before the movie, the name was quickly adopted.
Yep, he’s silly, but some of his stuff works. The name has become synonymous with cobbled-together-stuff though, so he wins this round. If you’d like to browse through every single hack he pulled off and see which ones you think are possible, you can find an entire list here (doesn’t work in my FireFox for some reason).
Filed under: news
Even if your band hasn’t made it big yet it’s still a lot of fun to put on a great show. This hack will help you add lighting effects to performances without having to shell out for a lighting technician. [Phil] put together a hack that lets you trigger the lights by setting a volume threshold with a pedal switch.
After reading about the hack that adds an EQ display for a pedal board he got the idea to convert the concept as control hardware instead of just for feedback. Just like the visualization project he uses an MSGEQ7 chip which takes care of the audio analysis. He’s using this for electric guitar so he only monitors three or four of the outputs using an Arduino. He built the hardware into a foot pedal by mounting a momentary push button on the lid of the enclosure. Stepping on the button causes the Arduino to save the the current audio level. Whenever it reaches that threshold again it will switch on a mains relay to drive an outlet. In this case a strobe light turns on when he starts to rock out, which explains the bizarre image above. You can get a better feel for the theatrics by watching the clip after the break.
Filed under: musical hacks
One advantage that skiers have always had over snowboarders is the ability to move through flat sections with ease. [Matt Gardner] built this prototype to help even the playing field. When he would normally need to kick, hop, or remove the board and walk he can now engage his snowboard battery propulsion system.
The rig works much like a paddle boat. The two wheels sticking out to either side of the board push against the slow to move the board forward. The drive train is built from an RC plane speed controller and battery, a motor and gearbox from an 18V drill from Harbor Freight, and a couple of 3D printed gears and mounting brackets. He used a 3D printer to make one drive wheel, then used that to make a silicone mold to cast the wheels used above. The entire assembly is attached to the board with a door hinge. This way the rig can be rotated out of the way (and we assume strapped to his boot) when he’s shredding down the mountain. When paired with an in-goggle HUD this will take snowboarding to the next level!
Unfortunately since it’s already April there’s no snow left to test it on, which means no demo video. But he does tell us that a test run on both grass and carpet went well.
Filed under: transportation hacks
[Jeff Joray] wrote in to show off this perpetual Pong device he built. The six by ten LED matrix acts as a game board for Pong but there are no controls. The board simply plays against itself. It’s pretty much a pong clock without the clock.
The brain of the device is a PIC 16F684 which drives the six rows of the display directly. He went with a decade counter (CD74HC401) to scan the rows one at a time. Now what would you expect to find on the underside of this hunk of protoboard? A rat’s nest of point to point wiring? If so you’re going to be disappointed. [Jeff] spent the time to generate a schematic and board layout in Eagle. While at it, he knew he was going to be using protoboard so the artwork is designed to use solder bridging as much as possible. What he ends up with is one of the cleanest mutiplexed one-off projects you’re going to find. See it in action after the jump.
Filed under: Microcontrollers
[Lee O'Donnell] is showing off his version of a MIDI organ pedal hack. We’ve been seeing a few of these lately. The organ pedals are a great stating point as they’re easy to patch into electronically, and are designed to take a beating from your feet and come out the other side no worse for wear. The build goes beyond one of our favorite MIDI pedal conversions in both features and finish.
An Arduino Nano pulls this project together. It scans the pedals constantly and converts the key presses into MIDI signals. But the design includes this fabulous looking front-end which [Lee] first prototyped in cardboard before cutting and bending his own Aluminum tread plate. A two-row character display provides a menu system, but the buttons themselves act as feedback based on the behavior of the light inside each of them. One example of this is shown early in the demo video after the break. The blue button toggles between polyphonic and monophonic mode with the light fading in and out for the latter.
Filed under: musical hacks
[Ruben van der Vleuten] wanted to get a look at the adventure a package experiences when shipped from one place to another. So he threw together this mishmash of components to record the experience. We certainly enjoyed watching the fast motion video found after the break. We wonder what the shipping agency thinks about this sort of thing?
Camera, digital storage, and battery technology have gotten to the point that it’s both cheap and easy to do this sort of surveillance. But there are a few logistical things that [Ruben] took into account to make this work quite well. First off, he need to hide the camera in a way that would ensure the package didn’t look suspicious. He ended up writing his name on the side of the box and boring a hole through one of the black letters which is smaller than a pea and very hard to spot. To make sure he wasn’t recording a ton of empty (dark) frames he also included electronics to sense motion. When the package is moving the video is always rolling. when not moving the hardware wakes for just 3 seconds every minute to shoot video.
Filed under: lifehacks
This rather bulky looking wall wart is actually a computer mouse. Sure, it may cause your hand to cramp horribly if used for any length of time. But some would say it’s worth that for the hipster value of the thing.
The rather odd shape is somewhat explained by the fact that this was sourced from Ikea. After gutting the transformer found inside the plastic case he had plenty of room to work with. He drilled a hole so that the sensor from a Logitech USB optical mouse can pick up the movement of the mouse. He also got pretty creative when it came to the buttons. The two prongs of the wall plug pivot horizontally to affect the momentary press switches inside.
After the break you can see a quick demo of the project. [Alec] doesn’t consider it to be complete. He wants to make a couple of improvements which include adding weight to make it feel more like the original wall wart, and finding a way to hide the hole he drilled for the sensor.
Filed under: peripherals hacks
A little face protection is a great idea when first testing out your homemade bow. [Austin Karls] made this recurve bow during what he calls an engineer’s Spring break.
He settled on the idea after seeing a few other projects like it on Reddit. After first drawing up a plan he headed down to the shop to cut out the wooden riser (the middle part of a bow). Unlike traditional recurve bows this is made up of three parts. Traditionally you would laminate different types of wood to achieve the flexibility and tension levels desired. But [Austin] went with a synthetic material: the tips of two skis. Each were cut to the final length and affixed to the riser with a pair of bolts.
After a few test shots he gained confidence in the design and did away with the face mask. Now if you’re in the market to take your existing bow and add some firepower to it you’ll want to look in on this shotgun enhanced compound bow.
Filed under: weapons hacks
Last year, we had a ton of fun competing in the RedBull creation contest. The idea is that RedBull hosts this big contest where teams compete by making awesome stuff. Finalists get to take a trip to Brooklyn for a build off extravaganza. Frankly, we think this is how ALL advertising budgets should be spent.
This year, however, we will not be participating as a team in the contest. We’ll be helping judge it!
In previous years, RedBull has sent out some custom hardware for people to use. Last year it was basically an Arduino on a custom PCB with some cool touch sensors. This year, they’ve sent out this multi purpose LED controller shield that looks pretty impressive.
You can see all the details along with a breakdown of the board from the creator himself, after the break.
From [JoeJoe], the creator of the board:Basically, it is kind of an LED lighting multi-tool with some extra sensors and output devices on-board. The board is controlled over I2C using an Arduino Uno R3, or you can air-wire pretty much any device that supports 400KHz (fast mode) I2C to the breakout pads. We’ve tested it with some of custom networked devices and with Raspberry Pi, for example. The I2C addresses of each device are written on the silkscreen of the board, though some peripherals (on PIC microcontrollers for example) expect you to use that address shifted one bit to the left (they don’t automatically add in the low read/write bit).
Onboard you will find the following:
- Two smart devices for driving 12V RGB LED strip. Each device will drive up to four strips, for a total of 24 discrete channels. There are built-in macros for color fades over time, pulsing, random color sweeps, etc which offload the necessity of controlling of these effects from the Arduino. To use these, follow the wiring specified on the silkscreen for the strip, and hook up at 12V power supply to the pads/terminal block at the top of the board. I *suppose* these could also be used to PWM any sort of device that was within the current/power specs of the MOSFET, but I’d definitely suggest snubber diodes if you were to attempt any DC motor controlling. We included 5M of RGB strip in the package.
- One “addressable LED strip multi-tool” device. This handles the timing for controlling up to 256 RGB pixels of addressable strip based on the WS2811, WS2801, or LPD8806 IC. We have included 1M of high-density WS2811 strip, which is the default mode for the device. Using the library macros, you can write a framebuffer to the strip, set up gradients between two colors across a number of pixels, rotate or auto-rotate the current framebuffer at a given speed, and create a effects such as ‘comet’ chase. To use this device, you’ll hook 5v up to the marked location in the lower left of the board.
- One DMX driving device. This is in the lower right of the board, and is for driving 3-channel (RGB mode) DMX fixtures. You can cut apart a 3-pin XLR cable and connect this to LED PAR cans, or any other sort of DMX fixture (fog machine maybe?). Using the library you can write a universe of DMX which will be output continuously to the A and B pins with correct timing.
- One 512Kbit EEPROM, which may be preloaded with something interesting. We included very rudimentary read/write functions for dealing with this on the byte level, but there are better 24LC512 libraries out there that could be used also.
- One tri-axis MEMS accelerometer. The library has functions to read X,Y, and Z. This Kionix unit also has a lot of functionality that we haven’t implemented such as high-pass filtering, tap and double detection, orientation change detection, and adjustable sensitivity (+2g,+4g,+6g).
- One 12-bit DAC. This will output a waveform between 0 and 3.3V which I’m sure someone will find a good use for.
- One temperature sensor. The library has basic functions to read the current temperature and convert the result to Celsius.
- One generally awesome looking circuit board which will nest lovingly with last year’s bullduino in eternal harmony.
Filed under: news
We’re surprised that we haven’t come across any of [Robert Murray-Smith's] projects before. Looking through his collection of YouTube uploads proves that he’s a very active amateur chemist (we assume this is a hobby because he performs the experiment in a mayonnaise jar). The video we’re featuring today is about ten minutes of his technique for synthesizing graphene. The video can be watched after the break. Be warned that the audio doesn’t sync with the video because he overdubbed the presentation to fix up the poor audio quality from the original.
Graphene is something of a compound-du-jour when it comes to electronic research. You may remember reading about using DVD burners to make graphene film that will go into thinks like super-capacitors to replace batteries. [Robert] starts off his process with a jar of 98% sulfuric acid and 75% phosphoric acid. He pours in powdered graphite (chemical proportions are important here) and gives it a swirl. Next some potassium permanganate is added over about five or ten minutes. From there it goes on the stir plate for three days of constant stirring. During this time the solution will go from green to brown, indicating the presence of graphene oxide.
He goes on from there, but it’s clear he hasn’t found an iron-clad route to his end goal of isolating the graphene for use in constructing things like those super-capcitors we mentioned earlier. If you’ve got a home lab and some interest perhaps you can contribute to his efforts.
Filed under: chemistry hacks
This is a Yamaha XG card, the SW60XG to be exact. It’s an audio card for a PC which extends the MIDI standard to include over six hundred instruments. By today’s standards the almost twenty year old card isn’t all that powerful, but it is interesting to see it used as a standalone device.
[Benji Kimba] posted the video overview of his project which you can watch after the break. The image above is found at about 2:35 seconds and about twenty seconds later you get a look at how he patched into the conductors on the edge connector on both sides followed by the MIDI in and out connections. Finally, we get a look at a proper schematic at the four minute mark which details the pull-up resistors, hardware reset circuit, and the optoisolator he added for the MIDI connections themselves.
Filed under: news
Here’s a really fascinating circuit that implements a combination lock using relays and logic gates. Even with the schematic and written explanation of how it works we’re still left somewhat in the dark. We’ll either pull out some paper and do it by hand this weekend, or build it chunk by chunk in a simulator like Atanua. Either way, the project sparked our interest enough that we want to get elbow deep into its inner workings.
From the description we know that it uses a combination of CD4017, CD4030, CD4072, and CD4081 chips. You’re probably familiar with the 4017 which is a decade counter popular in a lot of project. The other chips provide XOR, OR, and AND gates respectively. The relays were chosen for two purposes. One of them activates when a correct combination has been entered, effectively serving as the output for the combo lock. The other two are for activating the clock and affecting a reset if the wrong combination is entered.
It makes us wonder if this would be incredibly simple to brute force the combination by listening for sound of the reset relay activating? It’s hard to tell from the video after the break if you can discern a wrong digit from a right once just based on sound.
Filed under: security hacks
Charlieplexing is a technique that allows you to drive a larger number of LEDs than wouldn’t be possible with the same number of I/O pins on a traditional multiplexed matrix. If we lost you there just think of it as lots of blinky lights connected to a small number of pins. It works by leveraging the one-way nature of a diode. Current will only flow through an LED in one direction so if you hook up your display in a clever way you can drive multiple LEDs from one I/O by switching the polarity of that pin between voltage and ground. [M.Rule] recently looked at using Charlieplexing with LED modules. His conceptual approach to the problem is different from those we remember seeing before and it’s worth a look.
Instead of just using the formula to calculate how many LEDs he can drive [M.Rule] is using a table of I/O pins to establish how many and in what order these displays can be connected. Each colored set of blocks represents an LED module. The graphic above shows how 18-pin can be utilized. He even filled in the unused pin combinations with input buttons.
Filed under: led hacks, Microcontrollers
Let’s wind down the weekend with some projects that didn’t quite warrant their own feature, but we think they’re still worth a look.
First up is a quick tip on cracking the lids on those hard to open jars of food. [Jason] says just grab about a foot of duct tape and the lid will come flying off. And while you’re searching for that roll of tape why not grab some foil tape to build a cooking oven. [Gabriel] built this solar oven by covering curved wedges of cardboard with foil tape and combining them to form a parabolic reflector.
Next we’ve got a trio of hacks that will come in useful in your home shop or at the local Hackerspace. Organization is key, and here’s a resistor storage system that uses #6 envelopes [via Reddit]. Also useful is the tip from [Felix] about using a tile saw to get clean cuts on your circuit boards. And if you’ve ever been plagued by a laser cutter job that doesn’t fully sever the material [Dan] wrote a guide on using a fence so that you can reposition the piece for another run.
Finally, we’re hoping we weren’t the only ones that didn’t realize the Raspberry Pi has an unpopulated footprint for a reset button. Now we’ve got to figure out if it’s okay to leave the PSU plugged in (based on it’s current consumption while the RPi is in power down) and hack together some sort of TV-based reset circuit for our RPi XBMC setup.
Filed under: Hackaday links
We’ve heard quite a number of radio ads lately trying to sell an automatic lawn mowing robot (like a Roomba for your grass). But wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to hack your own from an existing lawnmower? That’s what [Daniel Epperson] did. In fact, the project has been ongoing for years. But he wrote in to share the latest development which adds solar charging capabilities to the robot mower.
First off let’s discuss the fact that this is not an electric lawnmower. This is the Prius of lawnmowers, bringing together hybrid technology to cut the grass with the gasoline powered motor, and to propel the rig with electricity. [Danny's] worked hard to shoe-horn just about every feature imaginable (other than autonomy) into the thing, and that’s why the batteries can be charged from mains, an alternator powered by the gas motor, and now from the PV panel mounted on top of it. Get the entire project overview in his roundup post.
This a wireless video feed and the mower is driven by remote-controlled. So you can give your yard a trim without getting sweaty. After the jump we’ve embedded a clip of an earlier revision demonstrating that remote control. If you’re not interest in having all the features you could simply build an analog version.
Filed under: home hacks, robots hacks
It’s easy to dismiss this one at first glance. But once you hear [Tychsen81] playing the thing you’ll want to know more.
He posted the demonstration way back in 2009. It wasn’t until a year later that he filmed the particulars of how the thing was made. The strings are actually bass guitar strings, an A and D string that are tuned down to E and A to play along with Black Sabbath’s “Ironman”. The neck is made out of two boards. One serves as the fingerboard, which is fretless. The other is mounted under that in order to provide negative space for the bridge while keeping the strings at the right height for the fingerboard. The water bottle helps to amplify the sound and that’s why the bottom end of the strings pivot on the bridge, pass through the neck, and are anchored on the bottom edge of the bottle.
We’ve embedded both the demo and the build videos after the break.
If this gets you thinking about making your own instruments you will also be interested in the Whamola.
Filed under: musical hacks
[Chris] has been having some real problems getting PLA to stick to the build platform of his Printrbot. This is of course not limited to this brand of printers, and affects all extruder-based hardware using the PLA as a source material. He came up with a couple of ways to fix the problem.
The first is something we’re quite familiar with. The image above shows [Chris] applying a thin layer of hairspray to the platform. This is a technique the we use with our own 3D printer. The sheets of paper are used as a mask to help keep the sticky stuff off of the threaded rod. For more info on the hairspray trick [Chris] recommends that you read this article.
The second technique uses a slurry made from saturating a bottle of acetone with ABS leftovers. In the clip after the break he shows off a glass jar of the solvent with scraps from past print jobs hanging out inside. After a couple of days like that it’s ready to use. He takes a paper towel, wets it with the solution, and wipes on a very small amount. He does mention that this will eventually eat through the Kapton tape so apply it rarely and sparingly.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks
[Hans Peter] wanted to move away from using full Arduino boards in his projects. One of the components he rarely used after the development stage is the USB hardware. Once the firmware is flashed to the chip he didn’t need it any longer. So he tried his hand with some really small SMD parts by building this USB to serial Arduino programmer.
The chip he went with isn’t the FTDI part we’re used to. Instead of using an FT232RL, he opted for its smaller cousin the FT230x. This chip doesn’t fully implement the communications protocol of the 232, but it does work with AVRdude and that’s all that really matters. Above you can see [Hans'] creation next to the official Arduino USB-to-serial programmer. He used the same connection scheme, but went with an edge connector for the USB instead of using a mini-B jack.
It’s pretty impressive to see his prototyping work with the 16-pin QFN package. He soldered it dead-bug style to a couple of SIL pin headers in order to test it on a breadboard. The first board he assembled was too loose in the USB port, but he added some tape to the back to make it thicker, and coated the edge connector traces with a bit of solder and that did the trick.
Filed under: arduino hacks
This hack has got to be every gamer’s dream. Someone actually took the time to dig through the binary file of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and fix the errors that made it an abomination of a title for the Atari 2600.
This is quite a feat in many ways. First off, you need to know the game well enough to understand where they problems lie. The Internet is a huge help in that regard as there’s no shortage of sources complaining about the game’s shortcomings. This turns out to be one of the articles strongest points as the author takes time to address the most common myths about bugs in the game. From there he goes on to discuss the problems that were actually fixed. Some are just general tweaks like the color fix listed above. But most of them are genuine improvements in the game play, like the falling fix which prevents E.T. from falling in this pit when his feet are obviously not anywhere near the edge.
So you couldn’t get your hard earned bucks back for a bummer of a game back in the day. But at least a few decades later you can fix the things that made it suck and play it through the way it should have been.
Filed under: software hacks