NAS firmware hack: Synology running on QNAP hardware

[XVortex] pulled off a pretty incredible firmware hack. He managed to get a firmware upgrade for Synology running on a QNAP machine. These are both Network Attached Storage devices, but apparently the Synology firmware is better than what QNAP supplies with their offerings.

The nice thing is that this is not a one-off hack. You can download the raw image and give it a spin for yourself. A few words of warning though. It will only work on models which use the Atom and ICH9R chipset, you’re out of luck if you have one sporting an ARM processor. You will also need to format the drives once the new firmware is flashed so do this before you fill them up.

This harkens back to the days when DD-WRT was first being run on Linksys routers. We don’t remember if that started with upgrade image hacks like this one uses, or if the source code was available (Linksys was compelled to release it once it was proven they were in violation of the GPL).

See a proof video of this hack after the break.

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3D Print in Wax, Cast in Metal

What does dry ice, ethonal, wax beads, and a blender have in common? It was the first attempts at making media for this wax 3D printer that [Andreas] has been building up. Wanting to produce 3D printed objects out of metal, and finding that direct metal laser sintering machines were still out of reach of reason, he set out to find a different way.

After trying a few different methods of making the powdered wax himself, he decided that it was much more time effective to just buy the stuff. Using the commercially available powered wax mixed with activated carbon, and a custom printer, the wax is blasted with a moderately high powered laser. More wax powder is applied over the freshly sintered layer, and the 3d part is built upwards. Once he has the part in wax, he can then make a mold of it and cast metal using the Lost Wax Casting method.

While the quality is not perfect, and you still need a roughly 2500$ laser setup (which was borrowed from his school) its surely a step into the future.

Join us after the break for a quick video.

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Fractal viewer can zoom and enhance like on CSI

This fractal viewer is a great way to get your feet wet with Field-Programmable Gate Arrays. The project will give you some experience working with video output, user input, and a whole bunch of math and memory management. [Hamster] built it using the Papilio Plus board which hosts a Spartan 6 FPGA. This continues his odyssey into the realm of hardware design; part of which we looked at back in December.

The arcade Megawing for the dev board gives him easy access to the controls needed to scroll and zoom on the fractal design. Calculations to generate the shape are being run at 240 MHz, with the VGA output running at 80 MHz. The device has enough horse power and SRAM to show an 800×600 pixel output with a 60 Hz refresh rate.

We really liked the logic diagram that [Hamster] drew up when planning how the calculations would be handled. It’s not overly complex, but it took us a while to conceptualize how everything fits together. It’s certainly an improvement from his last attempt as we couldn’t make heads or tails out of that flow chart.

If you’re just interested in the pretty shapes and colors there’s a demo embedded after the break.

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A SOPA we still can’t get behind

[Brad] had an extremely productive January 18th. Considering how many websites went dark to protest SOPA, we can’t blame him. While considering what he could get done if popular Internet time sinks went dark on command, [Brad] thought of the Stop Online Productivity Avoidance box. This build will redirect all traffic to sites like reddit, hacker news, and (gasp!) hack a day to a simple web page that asks the eternal question, “shouldn’t you be working right now?”

The box has two modes: in SOPA mode, the whole Internet is at [Brad]‘s fingertips. In NOPA mode, an Arduino communicates with a Python script running on the router to pull up an Internet blacklist. A simple button would be too easy to override, so there’s a ‘nuclear mode’ that shuts off these time sinks for one hour. The only way around the blacklist is to restart the router, a process that takes 15 minutes and will kill the entire Internet for the duration. Not something you’d like to do if you’re slightly bored.

All the code for the SOPA box is up on github and you can check out [Brad]‘s demo of the SOPA box after the break.

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Firmware programmer for a cheap Bluetooth module

Here’s a nifty programmer for a cheap Bluetooth module. So just how cheap is this part? Does $6.60 sound like an extreme deal?

The information on this hack is spread throughout a series of posts. The link above goes to the completed programmer (kind of a look back on the hack). But you might start with this post about module firmware options. Just because you can get the part inexpensively doesn’t mean that it’s going to work as you expected. [Byron] sourced similar devices from different suppliers and found they were not running the same firmware; the footprints were the same but he features were not. With his help you can tailor the code to your needs and reflash the device.

The programmer that he build has a nice slot for the module which interfaces with the programming lines using pogo pins (spring-loaded contacts). It connects to the CSR BC417 chip’s SPI pins in order to flash the firmware. If you’ve had any experience working with these cheap parts we’d love to hear your tale in the comment section.

[Thanks MS3FGX]

Easy tactile controls and displays for your flight simulator

If you’ve been thinking of adding some tactile controls and readouts for your flight simulators this guide should give you the motivation to get started with the project. [Paul] explains how to build controls and connect them to the simulator data. He makes it look easy, and thanks the interface examples in his code it actually is.

Here he’s built the hardware using a Teensy controller board. The controller communicates via USB and the software is cross-platform. He’s controlling the heading information of the X-Plane simulator using the rotary encoder for fine adjustments and the buttons for increments of 100. But he doesn’t stop there. He’s working on an auto-throttle design that uses a servo motor to move the throttle lever. A potentiometer can be used to vary the throttle, with the servo mapped to the position of that knob. But it works both ways, dragging the virtual throttle on-screen will do the same.

This is one way to make flight simulators more interesting without devoting a whole room of your house to the cause. Don’t miss [Paul's] fantastic demo video after the break.

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Lamp upgrade makes you a hot-head

[Cameron] decided to give his twenty-year-old headlamp a makeover. He uses it when he’s out for a run and wanted to have more light to see where he’s going, as well as a red tail light on the back. The stock design uses an incandescent bulb on the front of the head band, and a battery pack on the back. He managed to convert the device to output 700 lumens without major changes to the form factor of the unit.

The first change he decided on is to use a Cree XLamp which provides the 700 lumens of light by drawing about 9.5 Watts of power. Obviously the original battery pack isn’t going to do well under that kind of load, so he also sourced a 5000 mAh Lithium battery. A bit of circuit design and PCB layout gives him two driver chips for the four-element LED module, a charging circuit for the battery, and an ATtiny13 to drive the head lamp and flash the red LED tail light. See the blinky goodness in the video after the break.

That’s a lot of light, but we wonder if he experiences a warm forehead from the heat sink used to keep that LED package cool? [Read more...]

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