Altoid tin etching tutorial

Eminent steampunker [Jake Von Slatt] wrote a small article on etching candy tins for The Steampunk Bible, but the limited space available in the book didn’t allow for a full exposition. To make amends for his incomplete tutorial, he posted this walk through to compliment the Bible’s article.

The process is very similar to the many tutorials we’ve seen on home-etching PCBs using the toner transfer method. Removing the paint from the Altoid tin, creating a mask, printing it on the Sunday circulars, and taking an iron to the tin is old hat for home fabbers.

Unlike PCB manufacturing, [Mr. Von Slatt] doesn’t bother with Ferric Chloride or other nasty chemicals – he does everything with electrolysis. After adding a few tablespoons of table salt to a bucket of water, [Jake] takes a DC power supply and connects the positive lead to the lid and the negative lead to the base. a bit of electrical tape around the corners of the lid keeps the metal from getting too thin.

A nice Copper finish can be applied to a finished tin by swabbing on a solution of Copper Sulfate – a common ingredient in “Root Kill” products. Of course that’s not a necessary step; you can easily enjoy and elegant Altoid tin bare metal.

Adding a Compact Flash reader to a Korg Triton

[Roberto Barrios] has a Korg Triton sampling keyboard which he enjoys very much, but has grown tired of using media of yesteryear to store his work. He had the option of floppy disk or Jazz drive and for a time he was using a floppy-to-USB emulator, but the keyboard still insisted on a 1.44 Mb storage limit using that method. He decided to crack open the case and add his own CF reader.

It should be noted that this hack could have been avoided by using the 25-pin connector on the back of the keyboard. He didn’t want to have external hardware, which is understandable if you’re gigging–it’s just more equipment to keep track of. His solution uses the floppy disk drive opening to mount the card reader. His electrical connections are made with a ribbon cable. He cut off one end, and soldered the individual wires to the contacts on the motherboard. The reader is seen as a SCSI drive by the Korg firmware thanks to a SCSI-to-IDE adapter, so the storage limitation is based quite fittingly on the size of the CF card used.

Look at that cable management. You’d think it came straight from the factory like this!

Snooping around in the iclicker hardware and firmware

[Arko] was compelled to purchase an iclicker to use in some of his college courses. It’s similar in size to a television remote control except it only has six buttons and it communicates via radio frequency instead of infrared light. The idea is that classrooms have a base station that the instructor uses, and he or she can ask questions of the class and have instant feedback. Results are often projected on a screen for all to see but only the instructor can get at the breakdown of who answered in what way. In [Arko's] case, the class awards participation points that you can only get by using this device. He decided to actually learn something from the expenditure by reverse engineering the device.

Preliminary hardware inspection told him that it uses an ATmega8 microcontroller and there’s a standard 6-pin ISP footprint just waiting to be populated with a surface mount pin header. Once he soldered on that header, he tried to read out the firmware but the iClicker reset itself. He guessed that there was something going on with the power and ground lines so he soldered directly to them and was able to dump the data–the security fuses are not set. He goes on to snoop in the EEPROM to find where the device ID is stored, and then to watch some of the SPI communications to see what the microcontroller is sending to the radio chip. But there’s a lot left to discover and he’s planning at least two follow-up post to share what he finds.

Just looking to repair your dead device? Check out this tip on battery problems with the iclicker.

Beating the wrong amateur balloon record

Friday, we covered a little project that attempted to beat the UK altitude record for an amateur balloon launch. Things don’t always go as planned, but the APEX team did manage to beat the several other UK records, including ones for the longest distance and flight duration for a latex balloon.

The APEX team was originally trying to beat the altitude record set by [Darkside] and his Horus 15.5 payload that made it to 40,575 meters. The APEX balloon was launched and slowly climbed over the North Sea to the expected burst point. Unfortunately for the trackers, the balloon leveled off at about 36km and just kept going.

The total Great Circle distance of the APEX Alpha flight was 1347km, with a total flight time of 12 hours, 20 minutes. The balloon eventually drifted out the radio range of anyone aware of the project. Despite the valiant efforts of HAMs across Europe, APEX Alpha was lost in the “HAM wastelands of Eastern Europe,” somewhere over Poland.

Even though the APEX team lost contact with their balloon, Alpha was still transmitting at the time. The balloon surely burst at this point, so it could have landed anywhere from Poland to Ukraine to Russia. The APEX team is offering a reward for finding Alpha, so if you see a small styrofoam box in Eastern Europe, drop the APEX boys a line.

Of course this flight couldn’t have taken place without the efforts of HAMs across Europe. [Darkside], [2E0UPU], and so many others helped out with the tracking as Alpha passed over the Netherlands and continued towards Berlin. The last contact was made by the awesome [OZ1SKY], who was very gracious to stay up until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Not a bad flight for something that was supposed to take a swim in the North Sea. If you’d like to see the raw data from the flight, the APEX team posted everything they pulled down.

Toy car fitted with lights and sirens is a children’s delight


[Nathan], a member of the DangerousPrototypes forums, was looking for a project he could use to enter the 7400 logic competition they are holding. His kids had a small ride on police car, but the light bar on top contained no lights, and the car made no sounds when his children were in pursuit of baddies around the house. [Nathan] had all the inspiration he needed, and took to his workshop in order to fix this glaring oversight by the toys’ creators.

He designed a circuit based loosely around a Cylon-style light that he saw a while back at the Evil Mad Scientist Labs, which employed an oscillator and a 4107 decade counter to control the lights. His design uses a 74HC04 hex inverter as the oscillator, while the decade counter is used to modulate the siren’s frequency and control the rotating LED beacons.

The final result is great if you ask us. An “unnamed adult female” in the house was not nearly as impressed by the additions based upon how much time [Nathan] spent on the project, but his children were absolutely thrilled.

Continue reading to see a quick video of the revamped police car in action.

[Read more...]

How To Record 3D Video in 3D

Legalities of doing something like this aside, this concept by [MadSci labs] gives some insight into how one would go about recording a 3D movie in 3D.  Probably many of you have wondered if this could be done, but they took it one step further and actually made a device capable of doing just that.

[MadSci labs] solution involved taking some 3D glasses home from a theater, cutting them to size, and taping them to a HTC EVO 3D phone.  Each lens piece was taped over a different camera lens to separate out the two 3D elements needed to produce a stereoscopic image. Their experiment was successful, however some loss of quality was experienced.  Because of this, we’re not expecting to see a lot of in-theater movies pirated this way, but given a more professional-quality build, you never know what will happen.

You can see the “results” of their experiment after the break. As it’s not in 3D, it should give you an idea of what is going on. [Read more...]

All About the Google Autonomous Vehicle Project

There have been many self-driving cars made with different levels of success, but probably the most well-known project is the Google car.  What you may not have heard of, though is the autonomous Google cart, or golf cart to be exact. The first video after the break explains the motivation behind the cart and the autonomous vehicle project.  As with another autonomous vehicle we’ve featured before, they didn’t forget to include an E-stop button (at 1:03)!

In the second video (also after the break) Google’s Sebastian Thrun and Chris Urmson get into more of the details of how Google’s more famous autonomous Prius vehicles work and their travels around different towns in California. A safety driver is still used at this point, but the sensor package includes a roof-mounted 64-beam laser sensor, wheel encoder, radars, and a GPS sensor. With Google’s vast resources as well as their work with Streetview and Google maps, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of this technology.  I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.

[Read more...]