Turning Scrap Metal Into Something To Work With

Blog – Hackaday - Sun, 08/18/2019 - 16:00

Blacksmiths will frequently work to a customer’s commission, and sometimes those commissions can be somewhat unusual. [Copperrein] had just such a piece of work come his way, a ceremonial sword to be made from a supplied collection of iron and steel items. To render them into something useful he had to melt them together, and the story of how he did that is particularly interesting.

We’re introduced to the Aristotle furnace, a fairly simple top-fed air blast charcoal furnace capable of melting almost any ferrous scrap into a so-called “bloom”, a lump of iron with some slag and carbon inclusions. These furnaces are often built as holes in the ground, but he’s made his atop a portable forge at working height to save bending over it for seven hours.

The source material was a very mixed bag, so the first order was to strip it in an acid bath of any coatings which might contaminate the resulting bloom. The parts, including things as diverse as a huge wrought-iton bolt, a scythe blade, and a pair of dividers, were then cut into small pieces one by one and fed into the furnace. They melt as they progress down through the furnace, resulting in a bloom of iron. The bloom is impure and will need significant working to expel any inclusions, but the final result will be something like the wrought iron of old. Let’s hope he has a power hammer, working the bloom would be hard work by hand!

If this catches your attention, you may be interested in a bit of blast furnace iron smelting. And of course, there is also our ongoing blacksmithing series to get you going at the anvil. You could even make a nail.

Via Reddit.

Thanks [Mike] for the tip.

Categories: News

ArduRover Boat Uses Tupperware To Float

Blog – Hackaday - Sun, 08/18/2019 - 13:00

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a plastic box merrily sailing its way around a lake to symbolise how easy it is to get started in autonomous robotics. This isn’t a project we’re writing about because of technical excellence, but purely because watching an autonomous tupperware box navigate a lake by itself is surprisingly compelling viewing. The reason that [rctestflight] built the vessel was to test out the capabilities of ArduRover. ArduRover is, of course, a flavour of the extremely popular open source ArduPilot, and in this case is running on a Pixhawk.

The hardware itself is deliberately as simple as possible: two small motors with RC car ESCs, a GPS, some power management and a telemetry module are all it takes. The telemetry module allows the course/mission to be updated on the fly, as well as sending diagnostic data back home. Initially, this setup performed poorly; low GPS accuracy combined with a high frequency control loop piloting a device with little inertia lead to a very erratic path. But after applying some filtering to the GPS this improved significantly.

Despite the simplicity of the setup, it wasn’t immune to flaws. Seaweed in the prop was a cause of some stressful viewing, not to mention the lack of power required to sail against the wind. After these problems caused the boat to drift off course past a nearby pontoon, public sightings ranged from an illegal police drone to a dog with lights on its head.

If you want to use your autonomous boat for other purposes than scaring the public, we’ve written about vessels that have been used to map the depth of the sea bed, track aircraft, and even cross the Atlantic.

Categories: News

Adding A Co-Processor To Help SNES Games With Slowdown

Blog – Hackaday - Sun, 08/18/2019 - 10:00

The Super Nintendo port of Gradius III is notable for being close to the arcade original, with its large, bright and colorful graphics. However, due to the limitation of the console’s hardware, the port is also well known for having constant slowdowns during gameplay, particularly during later sections. [Vitor] hacked away at the game and made a patched version of the ROM use a co-processor to eliminate those issues.

The slowdown seen here in Gradius is not uncommon to SNES players, many games of that era suffer from it when several sprites appear on the screen at once. This is partially due to the aging CPU Nintendo chose, supposedly in order to maintain NES backwards compatibility before the idea got scrapped. Unable to complete its tasks by the time the next frame needs to be shown, the hardware skips frames to let the processor catch up before it can continue. This is perceived as the aforementioned slowdown.

Around the later stage of the SNES’s life, games started using additional chips inside the cartridges in order to enhance the console’s performance. One of them is the SA1, which is a co-processor with the same core as the main CPU, only with a higher clock rate. By using it, games had more time to run through the logic and graphics manipulation before the next frame. What [Vitor] did was port those parts of Gradius III to the SA1, essentially making it just like any other enhanced cartridge from back in the day.

Unlike previous efforts we’ve seen to overclock the SNES by giving it a longer blanking time, this method works perfectly on real unmodified hardware. You can see the results of his efforts after the break, particularly around stage 2 where several bubbles fill the screen on the second video.

[Via Ars Technica, thanks Damian for the tip!]

Categories: News

Great Artificial Daylight Via Broken TVs

Blog – Hackaday - Sun, 08/18/2019 - 07:00

[DIY Perks] has long been a fan of lights that accurately mimic real daylight. Often choosing high-quality LEDs for his projects, lately he’s taken a different tack – using broken televisions to produce attractive home lighting solutions.

The hack involves removing the backlight from the damaged television or monitor. These have a powerful white light inside, but the real key is that they also features a Fresnel lens. This helps the backlight appear very similar to a real skylight, due to the way it scatters light around the room.

Due to the difficulty of driving most LED and CCFL backlights, the project strips the original lighting out and replaces it with a set of high-CRI LED strips readily available off eBay. These are easily driven from 12 volts and give a white light more similar to actual daylight compared to most backlights. With the LEDs in place, the monitor’s original diffusers and Fresnel lens are put back in place, and the light is finished off with an aluminium frame.

Fitted to an angled ceiling, the light really does look as if actual sunlight is streaming through a window on a rainy day. It’s a pleasant effect that does a great job of lighting a room, and we suspect it would be excellent for general video work, too. [DIY Perks] is no stranger to a good studio light build, after all. Video after the break.

Categories: News

Enjoy A Refreshing Beverage With The Chilled Drink Calculator

Blog – Hackaday - Sun, 08/18/2019 - 04:00

Hackers are quite often the price conscious type, unwilling to pay jacked up prices for cold beverages when they can be purchased warm and in bulk for much lower cost. However, when guests are on the way and time is running out, it’s crucial to chill the drinks down to the right temperature, and fast. To take the guessing out of the process, [Álvaro Díez] and [Tibor Pal] collaborated to create the Chilled Drink Calculator.

It’s a resource jam-packed full of everything you need to know to get your drinks cold, pronto. Based on heat transfer equations and data from empirical studies, the calculator is able to show you just how long it will take to cool practically any beverage to any temperature. There are presets for different types of container and cooling method, as well as information on the ideal serving temperatures for things like wine, beer and soft drinks. There’s even information on helpful hacks to help cool things down more quickly – with the salt and ice bath being devastatingly effective with minimal equipment requirements.

Keep the calculator in your bookmarks for the next time your pals show up with a case of beer that’s been sitting in the sun all day in the back of a pickup truck (Authors note: looking at you, Terry). Alternatively, consider building an advanced cooling apparatus.

Categories: News

Square Laser Harp is Hip

Blog – Hackaday - Sun, 08/18/2019 - 01:00

You know, we hadn’t realized how tired we were of vertical laser harps until we saw [Jonathan Bumstead]’s entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize. It’s all well and good to imitate the design of the inspiring instrument. But the neat thing about synths is that they aren’t confined to the physics of the acoustic instruments they mimic. This project elevates the laser harp into functional sculpture territory. It’s a piece of art that produces art.

And this art harp is entirely self-contained, with built-in MIDI, amplifier, and speakers. The brains of this beauty are an Arduino Mega and an Adafruit music maker shield, which give it twenty different instrument voices. Each of the six layers has two lasers, two mirrors, and two photo-resistors mounted in the corners of the plywood skeleton. The lasers and photo-resistors are mounted back to back in opposite corners, with mirrors in the other two corners to complete the paths. [Jonathan] cleverly diffused the laser light with milky slivers of film canister plastic.

This isn’t [Jonathan]’s first optical rodeo. Previous experience taught him the importance of being able to readjust the lasers on the fly, because every time he moved it, the laser modules would go out of alignment. This time, he built kinematic mounts that let him reposition the lasers using four screws that each push a corner.

There are a lot of nice touches here, especially the instrument selector wheel. [Jonathan] explains it and the rest of the harp in a fantastic demo/build video that’s just burning a hole in the space after the break.

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Categories: News

Sensor lets Gestures and an Arduino Control the Tunes

Blog – Hackaday - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 22:00

Every time we watch Minority Report we want to make wild hand gestures at our computer — most of them polite. [Rootsaid] wanted to do the same and discovered that the PAJ7620 is an easy way to read hand gestures. The little sensor has a serial interface and can recognize quite a bit of hand waving. To be precise, the device can read nine different motions: up, down, left, right, forward, backward, clockwise, anticlockwise, and wave.

There are plenty of libraries to read it for common platforms. If you have an Arduino that can act as a keyboard for a PC, the code almost writes itself. [Rootsaid] uses a specific library for the PAJ7620 and another — Nicohood — for sending media keys.

With those two libraries, it is very simple to write the code. You simply read a register from the sensor and determine which key to send using the Nicohood library. The serial communications is I2C and there’s a tiny optical sensor onboard along with an IR LED.

Of course, you could send other keys than media controls. We wouldn’t mind going back and forward on web pages with a gesture, for example.

We’ve seen gesture recognition with radar. We’ve also seen it with ultrasonics.


Categories: News

NFC Business Cards to FPGA Cubes, Skull Badges to Bandoliers, Here’s the Hardware from Breakfast at DEF CON

Blog – Hackaday - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 19:01

We had our biggest Breakfast at DEF CON ever on Sunday. So big, in fact, that the carefully laid plans went awry immediately.

This is the fifth year we’ve hosted the event, which kicks off the final day of DEF CON with some hardware show-and-tell. We really thought we had it all figured out, since this time we actually booked a space in Paris hotel. For the first three years we were just banditing the space — asking everyone to show up at this place and it’ll become an event. Last year we planned to have it in the Hardware Hacking Village, but the casino stopped us from bringing in pastries that morning and we ended up camping out in a dining area that wasn’t open until the afternoon.

Last weekend we had a cafe booked, with pastries and coffee on order. The only problem is that you are all too awesome. We had a couple hundred people show up and the cafe didn’t want us standing, which limited our space to the number of booth seats available. No worries, as is the tradition we spilled out into a lounge area on the casino floor and enjoyed ourselves!

Here’s some of the hardware that showed up at this gathering.

Best Badge Bandolier Banywhere!

My favorite creation of DC 27 is this badge bandolier built by [LqqkOut]. Those who are bitten by the #Badgelife bug spend much of their time at DEF CON trying to acquire all the badges. this is obviously the best way ever to wear them all at the same time. The leather bandolier has a mesh layer where the badges may be hung using zip ties so they cannot fall off. Grommets allow power to be passed from the inside of the bandolier, where a set of huge lithium batteries feed multiple regulators that can be tuned to the desired voltage.

Black Badge in the Wild

When you win one of the elite-level challenges of DEF CON you are awarded a black badge that grants you free DEF CON admission for life. I’ve very rarely seen these in the wild and it was a delight to see this black badge which was acquired by [compukidmike] upon winning the 2017 Car Hacking Village CTF at DC24.

The killer detail on this is that one of the illuminated eyeballs is able to telescope out of the head of the skull. But wait, it gets even better! Once extended, that eye can look around in all directions. The badge is the work of [LosT], the long-time DEF CON puzzle master, who did the smart thing with this build: the back is clear acrylic so you can see what’s going on. A series of Bowden cables connect the eyeball to some servo motors. It’s an incredible mechanism and a delightful surprise to see it in real life!

Business Cards, Belts, Cubes, and Panels

Hackaday’s own [Brian McEvoy] showed up and brought the best Hackaday business cards I’ve ever seen. It’s PCB with matte black solder mask. [Brian] leveraged the trick of using the copper layer as a second tone of black. This makes the use of white silk screen really stand out. The business card detects NFC and RFID reader fields; hold it up to the back of your phone and the LED comes alive.

One of the members of the Whiskey Pirate crew came down to the meetup with a very special fanny pack. Make fun of the form factor all you want, but with two huge power banks and two USB charging strips, this utility belt can power 24 devices. It makes him the belle of the ball at the end of a long conference day.

[Piotr Esden-Tempski] has been crisscrossing the globe to promote his recently released FPGA platform called iCEBreaker. The demo hardware is an animated RGB cube with incredible pitch. I was happy to get a look inside to see how [Bob Miller] meticulously built the thing. Haven’t seen it running yet? You should be following @Hackaday!

My friend [Scotty Allen] (you know him from Strange Parts) showed up with the largest PCB panels at the meetup. Both of them are “art”, but it’s meme art so… anyway, he was also wearing a huge grumpy cat around his neck. Are memes the ultimate target for circuit boards?

Anyone on the hunt for awesome badge add-ons came to the right place. People were making it rain with small circuit boards. I particularly enjoyed this entire box of 1Up, Kirby, Megaman, and Mario add-ons.

A Cameo From the Hackaday Hackaday

I always get a jolt of excitement to see Hackaday shown off by the incredible people that make this a community. [James Wigglesworth] has been all over the place this year doing live demos of Dexter, the robot arm that won the 2018 Hackaday Prize. But I thought it really cool that he showed up at the breakfast with the trophy itself, which very few ever get to see!

There’s no perfect place to hold this event. It’s much more fun to have it somewhere near the con, but not in a hotel ballroom. We’ll keep trying to refine our methods for the perfect location, but as you can see, it’s the people that matter and we’re honored at the excitement and energy that made the fifth-annual Breakfast at DEF CON so much fun!

Categories: News

MIDI Harp Looks Pretty Sharp

Blog – Hackaday - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 16:00

[Julien] is one of those cool dads who shows his love with time invested rather than money spent. His daughter plays the harp, and you would not believe the price of concert harps. Even the cheap ones are several thousand USD. So naturally, he decided he would build her a MIDI concert harp from the ground up.

This plucky work in progress uses a strain gauge and an AD620 amplifier on every string to detect the tension when plucked. These amplifiers are connected to Arduinos, with an Arduino every nine strings. The Arduinos send MIDI events via USB to a Raspberry Pi, which is running the open synth platform Zynthian along with Pianoteq.

The harp is strung with guitar strings painted with silver, because he wanted capacitive touch support as well. But he scrapped that plan due to speed and reliability issues. Strain past the break to check out a brief demo video.

[Julien] used strings because he wanted to anchor the harpist in tactility. But you’re right; many if not most MIDI harps use lasers.

Categories: News

A Custom Milled Jig for Smart Bulb Programming

Blog – Hackaday - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 13:00

Who would have thought that some day we’d need programming jigs for our light bulbs? But progress marches on, and as there’s currently a number of affordable Internet-controlled bulbs powered by the ESP8266 on the market, we’re at the point where a tool to help update the firmware on the light over your kitchen sink might be something nice to have. Which is why [cperiod] created this programming jig for AiLight smart bulbs.

Flashing the AiLight bulbs is easy enough, there’s a series of test points right on the face of the PCB that you can hook up to. But if you’re updating more than one of them, you don’t want to have to solder your programmer up to each bulb individually. That’s where the jig comes in. [cperiod] says there are already some 3D printed designs out there, but they proved to be a bit finicky.

The design that [cperiod] came up with and eventually milled out on a 1610 CNC router is quite simple. It’s effectively just a holder to keep the five pogo pins where they need to be, and a jumper that lets you toggle the chip’s programming mode (useful for debugging).

The neat trick here are the “alignment pins”, which are actually two pieces of 14 gauge copper wire that have had their ends rounded off. It turns out these will slip perfectly into holes on the AliLight PCB, ensuring that the pogo pins end up on target. It works well enough that you can hold the bulb and jig in one hand while programming, it just needs a little downwards pressure to make good contact.

We’ve previously seen how easily you can replace the firmware on some of these ESP8266 bulbs. While there’s certainly a downside to these bulbs being so simple to modify, it’s hard to deny their hackability makes them very appealing for anyone looking to roll their own network-controlled lighting system.

Categories: News

Perfecting a Bluetooth N64 Controller

Blog – Hackaday - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 10:01

Love it or hate it, the Nintendo 64 controller doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Dedicated fans are still looking for ways to use the unique trilobed controller with modern systems, and they won’t be satisfied until they perfectly replicate the original experience. [Shyri Villar] has been working on perfecting a blend of original and modern hardware that looks very promising.

The project started when [Shyri] found that you could take the internals from a modern third party Bluetooth N64 controller made by 8BitDo and put them into the original controller’s case. This would give you the original buttons back, and overall a more authentic weight and feel. Unfortunately, this usually means dumping the original N64 joystick for the 8BitDo’s.

What [Shyri] wanted to do was install the 8BitDo PCB into an original N64 controller, but adapt Nintendo’s joystick to communicate with it. Unfortunately, since the original joystick used optical encoders and the 8BitDo version uses potentiometers, there’s something of a language gap.

To bridge the divide, both the X and Y dimensions of the joystick get their own PIC12F675 microcontroller and X9C103S digital potentiometer. The microcontrollers read the X and Y values from the original joystick’s encoders, and use the digital potentiometers to provide the 8BitDo with the expected analog input. Right now the electronics are held on two scraps of perfboard tucked into the side “wings” of the controller, but hopefully we’ll see a custom PCB in the future.

If you’re more interested in going back in time with your trusty N64 controller, then you might be interested in learning more about how one hacker managed to hook it up to the MSX.

Categories: News

Cruising GitHub For Slack Webhook Tokens

Blog – Hackaday - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 07:00

GitHub is an incredibly powerful tool for sharing source code, and its value to the modern hacker can’t be overstated. But there’s at least one downside to effortlessly sharing your source: it’s now much easier for the whole world to find out when you screw up. Back in the day, if you accidentally left a username or password in a tarball hosted on your site, you could pull it down before anyone noticed. But push something like that up to GitHub, and you’ve got a problem on your hands.

For an example, look no farther than this tool that crawls GitHub for Slack webhooks written by [Michele Gruppioni]. Exploiting the fact that Slack webhook links have a predictable format, the tool searches repositories to find code that erroneously includes the authentication token. With the token in hand, an attacker now has the ability to send unsolicited messages into that channel.

But [Michele] restrained himself and didn’t Rickroll the over 6,500 Slack channels he had access to after searching GitHub with his tool. Instead, he sent them all a friendly message explaining their webhook tokens were available on GitHub, and gave them a link to where they could get more information about his project.

Most of the people who contacted him after the fact appreciated that he sent a gentle warning and not something unsavory. Still, we’d recommend caution to anyone looking to expose a vulnerability in this manner. While [Michele] had honorable intentions, it’s certainly not unheard of for an embarrassed administrator to blame the messenger.

When used properly, webhooks can be a very handy way of pushing data into your chat platform of choice. We’ve previously looked at a practical example of a weather station that pushes current conditions into a Discord channel. Just try not to accidentally commit your authentication token to the world’s largest database of open source projects, or you might receive more than you bargained for.

Categories: News

An (Almost) Free Apollo-Era Rocket

Blog – Hackaday - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 04:00

According to recent news reports, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville Alabama wants to give away a piece of history — an engineering test article of a Saturn I Block I booster. The catch? You’ll need to pay to haul it off, which will cost about $250,000. According to C|Net, the offer appears to be for museums and schools, but it’s likely that price tag would probably scare most private buyers off anyway.

On the other hand, if you are a museum, library, school, or university, you can score cheap or free NASA stuff using their GSAXcess portal. In general, you do have to pay shipping. For example, a flexible thermal blanket from the shuttle costs $37.28. A heat tile runs about $25.

The picture, by the way, is a 1965 shot of a test article at MSFC, so it is possible it is the very one that is up for grabs. You wouldn’t think there would be too many test articles still laying around from that era, so this is something of a rarity.

If you really want to buy old NASA gear — or possibly useful gear from other agencies — the GSA has several methods to take your money. A quick search on GSA Auctions found some sort of NASA control panel that was already up to about $1,300. On the other hand, a lot of two oscilloscopes (a Fluke and a Tektronix 425) was only up to $25. You can even buy a lighthouse, if you really want one.

Even though we’ve reported on the death of surplus, it is still around if you know where to look. While you might not find obsolete Russian tunnel diodes in a US gov’t auction, you might just find what you need. If what you need is a rocket engine.

Thanks for the tip [Allen M.]

Categories: News

A Real All-In-One Printer Should Have a Computer In It, Too

Blog – Hackaday - Sat, 08/17/2019 - 01:00

With printers generally being cheaper to replace than re-ink, there are plenty of cast-offs around to play with. They’re a great source for parts, but they’re also tempting targets for repurposing for entirely new uses. Sure, you could make a printer into a planter, but slightly more useful is this computer built into a printer that still prints.

This build is [Mason Stooksbury]’s earlier and admittedly useless laptop-in-a-printer build, which we covered a few months back. It’s easy to see where he got his inspiration, since the donor printer’s flip-up lid is a natural for mounting a display, and the capacious, glass-topped scanner bed made a great place to show off the hybrid machine’s guts. But having a printer that doesn’t print didn’t sit well with [Mason], so Comprinter II was born. This one follows the same basic approach, with a Toshiba Netbook stuffed into an H-P ENVY all-in-one. The laptop’s screen was liberated and installed in the printer’s lid, the motherboard went into the scanner bay along with a fair number of LEDs. This killed the scanner but left the printer operational, after relocating a power brick that was causing a paper jam error.

[Mason]’s Comprinter II might not be the next must-have item, but it certainly outranks the original Comprinter on the utility spectrum. Uselessness has a charm of its own, though; from a 3D-printed rotary dial number pad to a useless book scanner, keep the pointless projects coming, please.

Categories: News

Cramming Dual SIMs & A Micro SD Card Into Your Phone

Blog – Hackaday - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 22:00

There are plenty of dual SIM phones on the market these days, but most of them are a hamstrung by packaging issues. Despite their dual SIM capability, this usually comes at the expense of the microSD card slot. Of course, hackers don’t accept such nonsense, and [Tweepy] went about crafting a solution. Sadly the make and model of phone aren’t clear.

It’s a simple case of very carefully shaving both the microSD card and the nano-SIM down until both can fit in the card tray. The SIM is slimmed down with the application of a heat gun helping to remove its plastic backing, saving precious fractions of a millimeter. The SD card is then filed down to make just enough space for the SIM to fit in underneath. Thanks to the springiness of the contacts in the phone, it’s just barely possible to squeeze both in, along with some Kapton tape to hold everything in place.

Your mileage may vary, depending on the construction of your SD card. Overall though, it’s a tidy hack that should prove useful to anyone with a dual SIM phone and limited storage. We saw a similar hack a few years ago, too.

[Thanks to Timothy for the tip!]

Categories: News

Etten-Leur lekt door fout 2000 e-mailadressen van inwoners

Security.NL maakt Nederland veilig - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 21:06
De gemeente Etten-Leur heeft door een fout de e-mailadressen van 2000 inwoners gelekt, zo heeft de gemeente via de eigen ...
Categories: News

You Need a Cyberdeck, this Board Will Help

Blog – Hackaday - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 20:31

In 1984, William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer helped kick off the cyberpunk genre that many hackers have been delighting in ever since. Years before Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web, Gibson was imagining worldwide computer networks and omnipresent artificial intelligence. One of his most famous fictional creations is the cyberdeck, a powerful mobile computer that allowed its users to navigate the global net; though today we might just call them smartphones.

While we might have the functional equivalent in our pockets, hackers like [Tillo] have been working on building cyberdecks that look a bit more in line with what fans of Neuromancer imagined the hardware would be like. His project is hardly the first, but what’s particularly notable here is that he’s trying to make it easier for others to follow in his footsteps.

There’s a trend to base DIY cyberdecks on 1980s vintage computer hardware, with the logic being that it would be closer to what Gibson had in mind at the time. Equally important, the brutalist angular designs of some of those early computers not only look a lot cooler than anything we’ve got today, but offer cavernous internal volume ripe for a modern hardware transfusion. Often powered by the Raspberry Pi, featuring a relatively small LCD, and packed full of rechargeable batteries, these cyberdecks make mobile what was once anchored to a desk and television.

[Tillo] based his cyberdeck on what’s left of a Commodore C64c, reusing the original keyboard for that vintage feel. That meant he needed to adapt the keyboard to something the Raspberry Pi could understand, for which some commercially available options existed already. But why not take the idea farther for those looking to create their own C64c cyberdecks?

He’s currently working on a new PCB specifically designed for retrofitting one of these classic machines with a Raspberry Pi. The board includes niceties like a USB hub, and should fill out some of those gaping holes left in the case once you remove the original electronics. [Tillo] has already sent the first version of his open source board out for fabrication, so hopefully we’ll get an update soon.

In the meantime, you might want to check out some of the other fantastic cyberdeck builds we’ve covered over the last couple of years.

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Categories: News

Hands-On: Queercon 16 Hardware Badge Shows Off Custom Membrane Keyboard

Blog – Hackaday - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 19:01

Year over year, the Queercon badge is consistently impressive. I think what’s most impressive about these badges is that they seemingly throw out all design ideas from the previous year and start anew, yet manage to discover a unique and addictive aesthetic every single time.

This year, there are two hardware badges produced by the team composed of Evan Mackay, George Louthan, Tara Scape, and Subterfuge. The one shown here is nicknamed the “Q” badge for its resemblance to the letter. Both get you into the conference, both are electronically interactive, but this one is like a control panel for an alternate reality game (ARG) that encourages interactivity and meaningful conversations. The other badge is the “C” badge. It’s more passive, yet acts as a key in the ARG — you cannot progress by interacting with only one type of badge, you must work with people sporting both badge types so that Queercon attendees who didn’t purchase the Q badge still get in on the fun.

The most striking feature on this badge is a custom membrane keyboard tailored to playing the interactive game across all badges at the conference. But I find that the eInk screen, RJ12 jack for connectivity, and the LED and bezel arrangements all came together for a perfect balance of function and art. Join me after the break for a closer look at what makes this hardware so special.

How Many Badges Have a Custom Keyboard?

At first glance it’s easy to miss how special that keyboard is. It takes up the circular area on the face of the badge and three things catch my eye, challenging what I thought these membrane keyboards could be. First, the full-color printing and surface finish are both incredibly well-done. Second, this is not a boring key layout (okay, the direction keys are slightly boring) but one custom tailored to the ARG. And finally, there are LEDs lurking behind this keyboard!

Evan MacKay says he warmed to the idea of using a membrane keyboard when he discovered they can be printed in CMYK full color. The process is actually rather easy, requiring a mechanical drawing and the art for the printing process, both sent as a PDF file. The manufacturer gave them samples of the spacers used to incorporate LEDs under the membrane — these come in 5, 7, or 10 mils. Looking at the underside of the keyboard you can see the spaces for both LED and the domes of the buttons. The stackup was delivered with adhesive layer already installed. Just peel off the backing and stick it to your PCB.

These keys are embossed into the membrane which means there is not a separate mechanism to spring them back. This caused an occasional failure of a stuck button, but usually the button could just be popped back out again. The next level up would have been to include metal domes that pop back after pressing, but of course this adds to the cost.

A stunning 2.9″ 128×296 eInk display delivers a hi-res playground for displaying your name and playing the ARG. It delivers a lot more versatility than the character LCD screens used in last year’s badge (but I must say I loved that idea too!).

On the two long sides of the screen you’ll find six side-view RGB LEDs. Originally these were not meant to have bezels, but early testing proved too much light was leaking on the top side of the parts so black 3D printed brackets were added. The outer edge of the PCB has twelve more full-color LEDs, six on top (top view style) and six on bottom (side-view style).

The badges are powered by a TI CC2640R2 which has an ARM Cortex-M3 core and brings Bluetooth to the party. Control of the LEDS is provided by a Holtek HT16D35B LED controller which is a 28×8 constant current driver. A pair of AA batteries powers the badge using Evan’s favorite Skyworks voltage regulator which keeps the badge running even as the cells droop down as low as 1.2 V — I think it’s the AAT1217.

The C Badge and the ARG

This is the C badge available to all Queercon attendees who chose not to purchase the Q badge. The Crew badge pictured here is unpopulated, but on the attendee version you can see a jack that looks like Ethernet or telephone. It is neither, and I’m amused by the silk screen on the back that reads “DO NOT PLUG INTO PHONE JACK PLZ!”. It’s an RJ12 6P6C connector that works with the cable provided with each Q badge. It is the method for connecting between badges to further the ARG.

People pursuing the interactive game must seek out holders of both Q badges and C badges to exchange digital tokens. The Q badges hold locks, coins, and cameras while the C badges hold keys, cocktails, and flags. As the game progresses, missions can be downloaded from handlers (the staff badges). There’s even a base station in the chill out room that can report your progress. Each time someone checks at one of these pillars, their overall progress is added to the sum total and the pillar begins to change color — it’s a scoreboard for the common good.

The overall presentation for the Queercon 16 badge is a home run. Tara Scape headed up the art design for this year’s conference and incorporated it into the badge, from the PCB art to the membrane keyboard, and even the inside of the box. It’s a total package that feel like you’ve been given a gift and will be cherished by everyone who got to unwrap this colorful little gem that helped guide their experience at the conference.

Evan has been on the badge team for seven years now and I asked if it was taking its toll. He gave me an emphatic, no. It seems he has plenty of energy for the next big build. I can’t imagine how to top this excellent example of small-run hardware done right, but I’m sure they’ll pull it off somehow. From the first QC badge I ever saw (the floppy disk) to the swooping lines of the squid the brilliant cube of QC14, clever use of old-stock displays, and now onto the “Rainbow Blade Runner” motif this year, the back catalog from this badge team is a gilded tome of inspiration.

Categories: News

Hackaday Podcast 031: Holonomic Drives, Badges of DEF CON, We Don’t Do On-Chip Debugging, and Small Run Manufacturing Snafus

Blog – Hackaday - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 18:01

Mike Szczys and Kerry Scharfglass recorded this week’s podcast live from DEF CON. Among the many topics of discussion, we explore some of the more interesting ways to move a robot. From BB-8 to Holonomic Drives, Kerry’s hoping to have a proof of concept in time for Supercon. Are you using On-Chip Debugging with your projects? Neither are we, but maybe we should. The same goes for dynamic memory allocation; but when you have overpowered micros such as the chip on the Teensy 4.0, why do you need to? We close this week’s show with a few interviews with badge makers who rolled out a few hundred of their design and encountered manufacturing problems along the way. It wouldn’t be engineering without problems to solve.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (41 MB)

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Episode 031 Show Notes:
Categories: News

Broken HP-48 Calculator Reborn As Bluetooth Keyboard

Blog – Hackaday - Fri, 08/16/2019 - 17:00

Considering their hardware specification, graphing calculators surely feel like an anachronism in 2019. There are plenty of apps and other software available for that nowadays, and despite all preaching by our teachers, we actually do carry calculators with us every day. On the other hand, never underestimate the power of muscle memory when using physical knobs and buttons instead of touch screen or mouse input. [epostkastl] combined the best of both worlds and turned his broken HP-48 into a Bluetooth LE keyboard to get the real feel with its emulated counterpart.

Initially implemented as USB device, [epostkastl] opted for a wireless version this time, and connected an nRF52 based Adafruit Feather board to the HP-48’s conveniently exposed button matrix pins. For the software emulation side, he uses the Emu48, an open source HP calculator emulator for Windows and Android. The great thing about Emu84 is that it supports fully customizable mappings of regular keyboard events to the emulated buttons, so you can easily map, say, the cosine button to the [C] key. The rest is straight forward: scanning the button matrix detects button presses, maps them to a key event, and sends it as a BLE HID event to the receiving side running Emu84.

As this turns [epostkastl]’s HP-48 essentially into a regular wireless keyboard in a compact package — albeit with a layout that outshines every QWERTY vs Dvorak debate. It can of course also find alternative use cases, for examples as media center remote control, or a shortcut keyboard. After all, we’ve seen the latter one built as stomp boxes and from finger training devices before, so why not a calculator?

Categories: News