Speak your mind and help RadioShack suck less

radio_shack

We can all agree that RadioShack isn’t exactly the DIY mecca it once was.

What used to be a haven for amateur radio operators, tinkerers, and builders alike has devolved into a stripmall mainstay full of cell phones and overpriced junk. RadioShack knows that they have fallen out of your good graces, and since you are the demographic that put them on the map, they are appealing to the DIY community for input.

They want to know what is important to you – what you would like to see at your local RadioShack, and what would bring you back through their doors. Obviously price is a huge concern, especially with online outlets like Digikey and Mouser just a few clicks away. At the end of the day however, if you require a component RIGHT NOW, it would be nice to have the ability to grab some parts locally.

We’re well aware of the fact that this is all part of a marketing scheme, but if it helps stock your local store with a few odds and ends that are actually helpful, it won’t hurt to let your voice be heard.

Stick around to watch the video appeal from RadioShack’s brand manager, [Amy Shineman].

[Thanks komradebob]

[via ARRL.org]

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Music tank puts the boom in boombox

music_tank

When you think of Memorial Day weekend, what comes to mind? Well around here, all we can think about is this tank cum boombox that Instructable user [Elian_gonzalez] put together.

This build is actually the third version of his Music Tank, and it comes with all sorts of improvements over previous models. The tank is primarily constructed out of plywood, with cavernous compartments for holding all of its goodies. In its capacious body, the tank sports a 60 Watt stereo system that powers a pair of external speakers mounted on either side of the turret. The turret itself contains an air-powered cannon built from PVC tubing, which we imagine can be used to shoot a multitude of different projectiles.

While the concept itself is pretty cool, the tank happens to be nearly self-sustaining as well. The tank has a pretty deep battery well and uses a 50w home made solar panel to help keep things topped off while in use. [Elian] does not specify a total running time, but we imagine that it can go for hours on a nice, sunny day.

Keep reading to see a long video walkthrough of the Music Tank MK3 in action. [Read more...]

64-bit OS written entirely in assembly

The folks at Return Infinity just released a new version of their BareMetal OS, a 64-bit operating system written entirely in assembly.

The goal of the BareMetal project, which includes a stripped-down bootloader and a cluster computing platform is to get away from the inefficient obfuscated machine code generated by higher level languages like C/C++ and Java. By writing the OS in assembly, runtime speeds are increased, and there’s very little overhead for when every clock cycle counts.

Return Infinity says the ideal application is for high performance and embedded computing. We can see why this would be great for really fast embedded computing – there are system calls for networking, sound, disk access, and everything else a project might need. There’s also ridiculously small system requirements – the entire OS is only 16384 bytes – lend itself to very small, very powerful computers.

With projects that are computationally intensive, we think this could be a great bridge between an insufficient AVR, PIC or Propeller and a full-blown linux distro. There’s just some questions about the implementation – we feel like we’ve just been given a tool we don’t even know when to use. Any hackaday readers have an idea on how to use an OS stripped down to the ‘bare metal?’ What, exactly, would need 64 bits, and what hardware would it run on?

Check out the Return Infinity team calculating prime numbers on their BareMetal Node OS after the jump.

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chipKIT Uno32: first impressions and benchmarks

Following Maker Faire, we’ve had a few days to poke around with Digilent’s 32-bit Arduino-compatible chipKIT boards and compiler. We have some initial performance figures to report, along with impressions of the hardware and software.

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Minimalistic 555 Adding Machine

How many 555 timers does it take to add up two 10 digit numbers? [Alan's] 555 Adding Machine does it with 102 of them, he designed the machine as an extreme entry to the 555 contest and the original plan was to make it even more complicated. This machine uses the 555’s to implement a nine decade accumulator and multiplexer, all inputs are managed by an old school dial from a rotary phone which apparently provide nicely timed outputs. Addition and subtraction are achieved using 9s compliment arithmetic which he discusses in the video after the break, for anyone who wants to brush up on 9s compliment or 555 theory.

Alan’s website has some nice pictures (We’re particularly impressed by all that minimalistic soldering) including schematics, and a very nice 33 minute video in which he discusses in detail how the machine works and even offers some history on the Pascaline, which is mechanical calculator that works on similar principles.

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Adding persistent memory and Ethernet to vintage arcade machines

z80_bus_tapper

If you are a frequent reader, you are undoubtedly familiar with hacker [Sprite_tm]. He has been working with fellow members of the TkkrLab hackerspace to get things ready for their official grand opening on May 28th, and wrote in to share a project he recently completed to kick things off.

As part of their preparations, they have been stocking the joint with all sorts of hacker-friendly goodies including plenty of tools and Club Mate, as well as a vintage ‘1943’ arcade cabinet. The game is a group favorite, though every time the power is turned off, it loses all of the hard-earned high scores. [Sprite_tm] knew he could improve on the current paper-based score register, so he pulled the machine open to see what could be done.

He used an AVR to tap into the machine’s Z80 logic board, allowing him to read and write to the entirety of the game’s RAM whenever he pleased. This enabled him to keep tabs on the high scores, restoring them to memory whenever the machine is powered back on. The addition of the AVR also allowed him to add a TCP/IP interface, which is used to send high scores to Twitter whenever someone beats the previous record.

His modular bus tap can be used in all sorts of Z80-based hardware, so if you have some vintage equipment laying around, be sure to swing by his site for a more detailed look at the build process.

Low-cost, low-bandwidth wireless Arduino to Android communications

android_nfc

[Joe] was experimenting with his Arduino when he started thinking about how he could get it to communicate wirelessly with his Android phone. Bluetooth is an option, but it requires some extra components, and Google’s ADK works as well – just not wirelessly.

Instead, he thought it would be neat to see if he could get the two devices to communicate with a simple magnetic coil. He constructed a small 1cm diameter coil, connecting it to the Arduino via a resistor and diode. Using the Android Tricorder app, he was able to locate his phone’s magnetometer, after which he ran some tests to narrow down the best sample rate and frequency range for communications.

To transfer data between the two devices, he had to bit bang the signal in software, since the Arduino’s UART has a lower limit far faster than the 7 bps data rate he was able to achieve with the magnetometer.

While his wireless Arduino to Android bridge isn’t likely to win any awards for throughput, it is a great proof of concept project. Be sure to check out the video below to see his “poor man’s NFC” in action.

[Read more...]

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