Cool new hardware spectacular

press release

It should come as no surprise the Hackaday tip line is regularly flooded with press releases. Everything from an infographic comparing Call of Duty 3 to Battlefield 3 (yes, totally serious), announcements that a company we’ve never heard of is getting a new CFO, to the business proposals from hat box manufacturers that wind up in our inbox on a nearly weekly basis.

With the Hackaday crew sifting though hundreds of these emails a month, you’d figure the PR people would hit gold once in a while, right? Apparently not. The coolest stuff we get in our email is usually from an engineer working on a project and doing a PR rep’s job for them. We thank them for that, so here’s two really cool pieces of hardware that showed up in the tip line recently.

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PwnPad, the pentesting tablet


Over the last few months, we’ve seen our fair share of pentesting appliances. Whether they’re in the form of a Raspberry Pi with a custom distro, or an innocuous looking Internet-connected wall wart, they’re all great tools for investigating potential security vulnerabilites at home, in the workplace, or in someone else’s workplace. Pwnie Express, manufacturers of pentesting equipment, are now releasing one of the best looking and potentially most useful piece of pentesting equipment we’ve ever seen. It’s called the PwnPad, and it allows you to get your pentesting on while still looking stylish.

Based on Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, the PwnPad combines all the goodies of a really great tablet – the ability to read NFC tags and multiband radios – with open source tools and a USB OTG cable with USB Ethernet, Bluetooth, and WiFi adapters. Everything in the PwnPad is designed for maximum utility for pentesting applications.

Of course, for those of us that already have a $200 Nexus 7, Pwnie Express says they’ll be giving away the source for their software, enabling anyone with knowledge of make to have the same functionality of the PwnPad. Of course you’ll need to get yourself a USB OTG cable and the WiFi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet adapters, but that should only add up to about $100; combined with a $200 Nexus 7, building your own is more than just a bit cheaper than Pwnie Express’ asking pre-order price of $795.

Tymkrs’ Deconstruction for the zombie apocalypse


We’ve seen a few of the projects from The Deconstruction, a 48-hour build-a-thon for hackerspaces and other groups around the globe. Of course Tymkrs, a pair of geeky vloggers famous for their building prowess, were part of The Deconstruction, and in the process they came up with a few really cool builds at their hackerspace, The Rabbit Hole, in Rochester, MN.

Their theme for The Deconstruction was “a zombie apocalypse”. Instead of homemade crossbows and electric fences, Tymkrs and the rest of The Rabbit Hole put a ‘rebuilding society’ spin on the whole zombie apocalypse and ended up building things that would be useful after Z-day.

First up is a PVC bike trailer designed to easily attach to the back of a bicycle. The frame is made out of a few pieces of 2″ PVC pipe with some nylon rope knotted together for a nice webbed platform. a 5/8″ steel rod was turned down to accept two 20″ bike wheels. A useful build, even if it’s not the zombie apocalypse.

The second build is a solar japanese lantern, combining [Addie]‘s love of solar lanterns and japanese-style lanterns into one great project. The materials for this build came from a broken solar-powered lantern with completely revamped electronics. There’s a Joule thief to keep the LED lit, and a few solar panels to charge up the batteries during the day. Of course the build wasn’t complete without a little decoration, so [Addie] drew four panels of rabbits for The Rabbit Hole team.

By far the most dangerous build undertaken by The Rabbit Hole is their can crusher. It’s a pair of snowblower tires powered by a disused garage door opener. The theory of operations is that a can will drop in between the rotating wheels, crushing the can, and sending it to a waste basket below the device. In practice, the device didn’t really live up to expectations, but it’s loud and dangerous, so we’ll give it a pass.

High powered rocket engines made from PVC pipe


For as much as we enjoy rockets, explosives, and other dangerous things, we haven’t said a word about the works of [Richard Nakka]. He’s the original hacker rocketeer with thousands of words dedicated to the craft of making things move straight up really fast. One of his more interesting builds is his series on building rocket engines out of PVC pipe written in conjunction with [Chuck Knight].

For the propellent grains, the PVC rocket didn’t use the usual potassium nitrate and sugar mixture of so many homebrew solid rockets. Instead, it uses Sorbitol, an artificial sweetener. While melting and casting the Sorbitol-based propellant grains is much easier than a sugar-based concoction,  the Sorbitol had much less thrust than a typical sugar rocket, making it the perfect candidate for a PVC engine.

For those of you wondering about the strength of a PVC engine casing, [Richard] does say making larger rocket engines out of 2 or 3-inch PVC may not make much sense due to the increased chamber pressures. There is a fairly clever reinforcement method for these PVC rockets (PDF warning) that involves using PVC couplers, but the experiments into the strength of these casings have yet to undertaken.

Thanks [Caley] for sending this one in.

Hacking a PAL SNES to output 50Hz or 60Hz with a single switch


[Derecho] grabbed a PAL format Super Nintendo but wanted to make it play nicely with a 60 Hertz NTSC screen. His hack added a single switch to choose between 50 Hz and 60 Hz.

Take a look at the image above to see his alterations to the mainboard. The jumpers soldered to the two chips at the top are by far the trickiest part of the project. Each of the pins he soldered to needed to first be lifted from the PCB pad so that they no longer make contact with the etched traces. The technique he used involves heating the pin with an iron, then gently lifting it with a pin or a razor knife/blade. If you’ve got some experience populating SMD boards with a handheld iron this shouldn’t prove too difficult. The rest of the hack involves adding a 3-position switch (along with a 2k2 resistor) to choose between output modes based on what format game is being played.

Oreo-creme hater builds Rube Goldberg CNC router to remove the Stuf


Look, we understand the need to find a project to occupy your time and interest. So we’re not going to ask the wrong question (why?) for this one. This guy hates the creme that connects the chocolate cookies to make an Oreo. So he built a complicated system to separate the cookies and remove the creme. Check out the video after the break for a hardware overview (where we catch a glimpse of an Arduino RBBB) and a complete demonstration.

Although the project is a marketing gimmick for the company, we really love the fun they had making the video and the device actually works! Drop a cookie in the chute and it will be lifted into position for cleaving with a hatchet (we’re unsure what the string mechanism on the hatchet is for). The two pieces are then grabbed by some servo-powered grippers and transferred to a CNC router bed where a Dremel tool removes the residual creme before dumping the cookies out into your hand.

Once again, marketers should take note of this style of advertising. Notice the two main features achieved here: including a product in something we’re genuinely interested in and not being annoying (we’re looking at you Head-On).

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Soluble support structure can be used with any extruder-based 3D printer


One of the issues with extruder-based 3D printing is that it can be very difficult to print objects that have voids in them. You simply must have something to deposit the soft material on until it has a chance to harden. [Matt] found a solution which should work for any extruder-based printer (with one caveat we’ll get to in a minute). He prints a support structure out of HIPS then later dissolves it using Limonene. The image on the left shows the object soaking for 24 hours. The final project is seen beside it.

The only real problem with this technique is that it requires a second extruder. Since printers build objects by layers, switching material in a single print head isn’t an option. HIPS stands for High-Impact Polystyrene. It extrudes at the same temperature as the ABS (235C) and adheres well to a heated bed kept at 115C. ABS will be unaffected by the hydrocarbon solvent Limonene, except for the residual smell of citrus.