Voting roundup

With the election coming up in less than a week, voting machine security (or the lack thereof) is critical, especially with the popularity of early voting this year. While we’ve previously discussed voting machine insecurities, it looks like the problems haven’t been fixed, and in some cases, it’s escalated. Voters in states like West Virginia and Tennessee have complained about voting machines “flipping” their votes, even after they were recalibrated as in the video above. Voters have been advised to avoid voting straight Republican or Democratic tickets, to avoid the likelihood of their votes being flipped. What if you actually do want to vote a straight ticket? Video the Vote is an organization that advises documenting as much of your voting process as possible. Other ways you can protect your vote include voting absentee so that a paper trail is available, and refusing to accept provisional ballots, which are often thrown out. After seeing videos of ROM swapping and finding out that the locks can be opened with hotel minibar keys, we’re waiting to see what’s going to fail this year… and voting absentee.

Swarming robot ants

European researchers in the I-SWARM project are hard at work developing small, autonomous robots that can work together and communicate to perform different functions. They successfully built two types of robots: the I-SWARM, and the Jasmine robots. The I-SWARM robots are three millimeters in size, are powered by a solar cell, and move by vibration. The Jasmine robots are the size of two-Euro coins, have small wheels, and are powered by battery. These tiny robots have several advantages over their bulky predecessors, such as high redundancy, greater flexibility, and the ability to manage tough terrain. They could even be used to repair larger robots. They also come with distinct challenges. Because of their minuscule size, programming memory is necessarily limited, and the team had to come up with special algorithms to manage and control the machines. Though they haven’t been able to meet their goal of making a thousand of them, the researchers are hopeful and confident about their abilities to mass produce the robots cheaply.

[via io9]

Tesla turbines for fun and profit

[Rick] has been building Tesla turbines in various ways and posting his projects to youtube. For those who are unfamiliar, a tesla turbine is a fanless turbine that uses a smooth central disk spun by friction from a gas or fluid. Since the turbine itself has no protrusions, it is extremely stable. There are lots of other benefits, which can be explored on the Wikipedia page. [Rick], as you can see from the video above has found several uses for them, from Halloween props, to generators for lights, to an automated shake flashlight shaker, you can even watch him rev one up to destruction. Though most of these are at relatively low speeds, he has shown that he can make one from CD spindles that is stable enough to reach 10,000 RPM. [Rick] admits that all they really do is spin fast and make cool noises, but they do that pretty well.

Update: Moments after this was published, we found an instructable by [Rick] on how to build a blender using a tesla turbine.

CNC pumpkin carving

How do hardware geeks carve pumpkins?  With giant home made CNC mills, that’s how. Using the open source CNC kit from Lumenlab.com, they converted a photograph into g-code, then fed it to the machine. After about 20 minutes of pumpkin drilling, they had this beautiful jack-o’-lantern. We are definitely jealous. Keep up the good work Lumenlab.

PSP SNES controller mod

[foo] sent in this amazingly well done mod to add an SNES controller to a PSP. He was contacted with a request to mod a PSP for someone who had limited use of one hand. The PSP controls were too difficult for her, but miraculously, she could play an SNES controller well. The quality of the mod is very nice. [foo] has added a port on the back that the controller plugs into. Other than the port on the back, the PSP looks completely stock and functions fine. When plugged in, the cable and plug act as a stand for the PSP too. Check out the video after the break for more.

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Aspire One 3G hack

[tnkgrl] is back with part three of her Acer Aspire One hacking. This time she’s adding in 3G. You may look at the picture the above and think, “Cake. She just plugged the card in”. No, the Acer doesn’t ship with the mini-PCIe slot or the SIM card holder. First you have to solder a right angle mini-PCIe connector to the board pads and bridge two others to provide power. The SIM holder was another problem. She wasn’t able to find a pin compatible one. The one she installed is mounted to a riser so she could change the wiring order (let her know if you can find the correct part). This mod definitely requires some good soldering skills and she warns that even she managed to destroy a SIM in the process.

The Dell Mini 9 is another netbook that doesn’t have the appropriate connectors soldered on board, but JKK has a work-around. You need a 3G modem that has the SIM card on board. You plug it into the WiFi slot after taping over a few pins and then use a USB WiFi card instead.

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