PhilRobokit Anito is not an Arduino

A few people over at the Philippine hackerspace PhilRobotics a PIC-based dev board that takes a lot of cues from ‘the microcontroller board everyone loves to hate,’ the Arduino.

There are a few differences between the PIC16F877a used in the Anito and the ATMega328 used in the Arduino: The PIC has a little less than half the Flash memory of the ‘Mega and less RAM, but has a slightly higher clock rate. It would have been nice to have a dev board with Arduino style headers powered by one of those new PIC32MX chips, if only because of a few really, really awesome projects we’ve seen. We’ll take whatever we can get, though, even if it provides a little more ammo for the PIC/AVR holy war.

One really interesting aspect of the Anito is the IDE. Written in Python, the PhilRoboKit IDE has all the features of everyone’s favorite IDE that is written in Wiring, plus a few extra features: autocomplete is a huge bonus, as is the ability to upload programs over Pickit2 ISP header. The IDE is available for Windows and Linux (no Mac port yet), and should be enough to get you off the ground in the PIC dev world.

Sonic screwdriver controls your TV, doesn’t work on wood

Sure, you could pretend to be the Doctor with a simple plastic sonic screwdriver. It might even have a LED on the tip, and if you’re really splurging a tiny speaker for sound effects. Yep, you could make due with an inelegant version of the Doctor’s Gallifreyan army knife, or you could get this amazingly detailed sonic screwdriver replica.

Instead of a plastic or resin replica, this replica of the 11th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver is made out of die-cast, copper plated metal with a jade green  polycarbonate tip. This replica has a few tricks up its sleeve; instead of just lighting up and providing a few sound effects at opportune times, it also can serve as a programmable infrared remote with a gesture interface  thanks to a three-axis accelerometer. If that’s not enough, the copper ‘rods’ just below the tip also serve as a touch interface for the microcontroller on board.

For as many jaw dropping light saber builds we’ve seen we’re genuinely surprised we haven’t seen more sonic screwdriver builds. It’s really cool this toy can serve as a remote control, but we’re betting a few Hackaday readers can replicate this replica with an extendable jewel cage and maybe even a Bluetooth gesture controller.

If you’d like your own sonic screwdriver, you can pick one up at ThinkGeek (for the US) or Forbidden Planet (for the UK). After the break is a video released by ThinkGeek showing off the this truly awesome remote control.

Tip ‘o the hat to [Zerocool] for sending this one in.

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Building a CRT and bathing yourself in x-rays

For the Milan design week held last April, [Patrick Stevenson Keating] made a cathode ray tube and exhibited it in a department store.

The glass envelope of [Keating]‘s tube is a very thick hand-blown piece of glass. After coating the inside of the tube with  a phosphorescent lining, [Keating] installed an electrode in a rubber plug and evacuated all the air out of the tube. When 45,000 Volts is applied to the electrode, a brilliant purple glow fills the tube and illuminates the phosphor.

Since the days of our grandfathers, CRTs have usually been made out of thick leaded glass. The reasoning behind this – and why your old computer monitor weighed a ton – is that electron guns can give off a substantial amount of x-rays. This usually isn’t much of a problem for simple devices such as a Crookes tube and monochrome CRTs. Even though [Keating] doesn’t give us any indication of what is being emitted from his tube, we’re fairly confident it’s safe for short-term exposure.

Despite being a one-pixel CRT, we can imagine using the same process to make a few very interesting pieces of hardware. The Magic Eye tube found in a few exceptionally high-end radios and televisions of the 40s, 50s, and 60s could be replicated using the same processes. Alternatively, this CRT could be used as a Williams tube and serve as a few bits of RAM in a homebrew computer.

You can check out the tube in action while on display after the break, along with a very nice video showing off the construction.

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Flying Batman is a load of bull

Batman’s ability to fly is a falsehood. Or at least so says science. We didn’t know science was into disproving super-hero movies (that’s a deep well to drink from) but to each his own. But back in December the Journal of Physics Special Topics took on the subject with their scholarly paper entitled Trajectory of a Falling Batman. The equations presented in the two-page white paper may be above your head, but the concepts are not.

It’s not that Batman can’t fly in the way explained in the film. It’s that he can’t land without great bodily harm. By analyzing the cape in this frame of the film, researchers used Batman’s body height to establish wing span and area. The numbers aren’t good. Top speed will reach about 110 km/h with a sustained velocity of 80 km/h. That’s 80 mph at top speed and just under 50 mph when he comes in for a landing.

Oh Batman, how you’ve let us all down. If you liked this paper, you should dig through the archives. We always wondered if [Bruce Willis] could have actually saved the world from an asteroid.

[via Dvice]

[Todd] literally debugs this printing calculator

This printing calculator is a thrift store find. [Todd Harrison] picked it up for a measly $3, and it still works! But the device is about twenty years old and he thinks it’s time to clean up the aging hardware.

After cracking open the case he digs out some of the stuff that has made its way inside. This includes a few dried up moths (debugging complete). While everything is open he gives a tour of the components. The calculator has a VFD which is definitely worth the price tag of the unit even if you just want to reuse the display in another project. But that’s not all. The printing head would be a fun thing to play with as well. We could see using this in projects similar to some of the thermal printer hacks we’ve seen.

When put back together, and given a new ink ribbon, the unit is ready for another 10-years of holding down one corner of your desk. Don’t miss [Todd's] tear-down and clean-up video after the break.

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Reading bar codes with Arduino and unaltered CueCat

[Damcave] decided to try out some bar code reader projects. He got his hands on a CueCat years ago. The problem is that it outputs encrypted character sets instead of a clear text string. To get around this he used his Arduino to decrypt the CueCat’s data output.

Originally you could get you hands on a CueCat for free. It was meant to work like QR codes do now — you see a bar code, you scan it to get to a web address. It never really took off but you can still get your hands on one for about twelve clams. We’ve seen projects that clip a pin on the processor to disable to encryption. But [Damcave] didn’t want to mess with the hardware. Instead he connected the Arduino via the PS/2 connector and used software to translate the data. The encryption format has long been know so it was just a matter of translating the steps into an Arduino function.

Energia brings Arduino IDE to the TI Launchpad

The Arduino IDE is an abstraction layer for the AVR chip which the board is based around. So it’s no surprise that it is now possible to use the Arduino IDE with the TI Launchpad board. This makes it dead simple for beginners to play around with the inexpensive and low-power MSP430 platform. This is all thanks to a lot of hard work on part of the Energia developers.

The project branches from Arduino so the look, feel, and function are all about the same. Most notably, the color scheme has migrated to red to match the board color of the Launchpad. You can configure the hardware the same way by selecting a COM port and target board. Almost everything is already working, but you should check the known issues page so that you don’t try to use a function that hasn’t been ported. Right now the list includes the random and random seed functions, as well as tone, notone, and micros. There is also an issue with analogWrite; it will only produce half the requested frequency and duty cycle can only be set from 0-50%. Still this is a great development if you’re most comfortable working from this IDE.