[Limpkin's] new business card

[Limpkin] decided to give the whole embedded business card thing a try. Here is his finished project, a low-profile mass storage business card that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Sure, the $6 price tag could score him a hundred paper cards, but those don’t light up like this one does!

The main components on the card include an AVR microcontroller, a flash memory chip, and an ESD protection chip. The latter is to make sure a static shock on the USB connector doesn’t zap the MCU. Speaking of, he went with an AT90USB162 which runs from an external 8 Mhz oscillator. Sure, it’s not the fastest thing out there, but since there’s only 16 Mb of flash on this card we don’t think you’ll notice any data transfer delay. The processor is running the LUFA stack and has two flavors of firmware. One that enumerates as an HID keyboard to automatically use keyboard shortcuts to launch a browser and load up his website. The other implements a mass storage device.

If you don’t like the electronic route, you could always go with some laser cut metal. We’ve heard that [Kevin Mitnick's] business card has snap-out lock picking tools kind of like these.

Basking in the vintage glory of InfoAge

Last weekend’s Maker Faire wasn’t only about the latest and greatest. Some of the groups there brought up the latest and greatest from earlier eras. InfoAge is a historical science and technology learning center based out of the former Camp Evans in Wall, New Jersey, and they really know how to put on a show using old technology.

I made it to two booths at Maker Faire claimed by members or associates of InfoAge. First up is the booth from MARCH, the Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists. They’ve got a PDP-8, a PDP-11/20, a few VAXxen, IBM mainframes, entire kilobytes of core memory, and enough C64s, TRS-80s, Commodore PETs, teletypes, and punch cards to get to the moon several times over.

The feature of MARCH’s booth was a nearly 100% accurate Apple I reproduction. Yes, the same computer built by hand by [the Steves] who later went on to found Apple Computers. In the video (above, and after the break), a MARCH member demonstrates booting BASIC from a cassette interface with the help of an iPod and typing in a simple program.

Next up are the guys from the radio technology museum at InfoAge. They decided to celebrate the 100th anniversary of [Edwin Armstrong]‘s invention of the regenerative radio receiver.

The regenerative radio receiver is an extremely simple device; it can be built out of baling wire and some variants use only one tube. In the video, [Al] shows off his recreation of a regenerative receiver with fancy olde tymie components that include a variable capacitor and a B cell battery (it’s a recreation using a bunch of 9 Volts, but yes, B batteries do exist).

It goes without saying that InfoAge is really cool, and certainly worth the visit if you’re ever in the area. Bonus: it’s only 20 miles away from where [Penzias] and [Wilson] earned their Nobel Prize for discovering the Big Bang.

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Octopus submarine is something out of [Jules Verne]‘s imagination

Making an octopus on a Reprap or Makerbot isn’t that terribly hard. There were dozens of these octopuses at nearly every Maker Faire booth with a 3D printer. These octopuses have almost become a right of passage for new owners of 3D printers, and serves as a wonderful reference object on par with the Utah teapot and the Stanford bunny.

[Sean Charlesworth] wasn’t happy with any old octopus; no, he had to build a better octopus, and what better way to do as such then to make a steampunk and [Jules Verne]-inspired model submarine?

[Sean]‘s Octopod underwater salvage vehicle was almost entirely printed on a very expensive printer. Save for a few LEDs, electronics, and armature wire, the entire model sub/octopus was printed on an Objet 500 Connex printer.

The Objet is unique among most 3D printers in that it can print objects made of several types of materials. In [Sean]‘s show and tell he showed me how the tentacles were made of a hard plastic material and a bendable rubber material. [Sean] put a piece of wire through the length of each tentacle so he could pose the Octopod in just about any way imaginable.

The hull of the Octopod is an amazing amount of work. The cockpit features miniature controls, an illuminated display for a very tiny pilot, and even moving parts that include a mechanical iris in the recovery bay, a winch that works, and even doors that open and close.

[Sean] put a bunch of glamour shots of the Octopod on his web site along with a few videos of the construction process. You can check those videos alongside my interview after the break.

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Seeed Studio shows off their wares

Everyone’s favorite Open Hardware store – Seeed Studio - was at Maker Faire this last weekend. They showed off a bunch of cool toys, oscilloscopes, Arduino shields and other hardware goodness, but one of the more interesting products was from their B Squares line.

As [Colin] from Seeed showed us, each B Square is a small plastic enclosure about the size of a drink coaster. The corners of these squares are clad in metal, and each one has magnets inside. The idea behind the B Squares system is to provide power to other B Square boards via magnetic connections.

So far, Seeed has released an Arduino square, battery, solar, and LED squares, as well as iPod docks and prototyping boards. These boards can also be orthogonally, meaning it’s entirely possible to turn six B Squares into a B Cube.

These magnetic connections only provide power connections; there is currently no way to transfer data between different B Squares. We suspect, though, that anyone wanting to replicate the Apple MagSafe power adapter and invent a magnetic I2C bus would find these boards perfectly suited to the task.

Video after the break.

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Building a tilt rotor UAV

We see a lot of quadcopters, and even the occasional octocopter around here. But this build does it with just two propellers. It’s a tiltrotor build which allows the two upward-pointing propellers to tilt forward and backward. The real world equivalent of this UAV design that pops to mind is the V-22 Osprey.

The motors are mounted on a beam running perpendicular to the direction of travel. Each of them is mounted on a bearing which can be rotated by a servo motor. They rotate independently of each other, which allows for yaw. Of course roll is controlled by driving the propellers at different speeds and pitch is adjusted by tilting both mounts at the same time.

[Stephen] mentions that the tiltrotor design has several advantages over its relatives that use more than two props. This design costs less to build, uses less electricity, and makes for an easier autopilot implementation. If you want to see it in the air, don’t miss the clip after the break.

This is just the second tiltrotor build we remember seeing. The other one was a Halloween prop.

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Light bulb efficiency exhibit updated with LED bulb option

It seems like tinkerers are always being tapped to build or repair exhibit hardware. This time around it’s [Dino's] turn. He’s been asked to alter a light bulb efficiency demo so that it includes an LED option.

The idea here is that you crank a generator to power different types of light bulbs. There’s an ammeter built in, but possibly the best feedback is knowing how hard you have to crank to illuminate the most inefficient choice. As it stands there is a toggle switch to choose between incandescent and CFL bulbs. [Dino's] solution is to use a three-position rotary switch. He removes the toggle switch and replaces it with a socket for the LED bulb. A new location for the rotary switch is chosen and he does a bit of work to get it mounted securely. If you haven’t worked with this type of switch before he takes the time in the video after the break to explain how they work.

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