ARM dev board with USB uploading

Machbox

[George and Bogdan] wrote in to tell us about a cool Kickstarter they’ve been working on. It’s called the MatchboxARM, and like other tiny-yet-powerful ARM dev boards floating around, this one features a very fast and capable processor and more than enough pins for just about any project. One interesting feature of this board, however, makes it stand out from the pack: it has a USB mass storage-based bootloader, meaning uploading new code is as easy as a drag and drop.

This isn’t the first dev board we’ve seen to sport this feature: the Stellaris Launchpad has had this for a while and even the lowly ATtiny85, in the form of a Digispark has a mass storage-based bootloader. The MatchboxARM, though, brings this together with a very powerful ARM microcontroller with enough I/Os, ADCs, PWM pins, and I2C and SPI ports for the most complicated projects.

Pair of aquarium builds are masterpieces inside and out

two-aquarium-builds

As you start to take in all that was involved with building these two aquariums it boggles the mind. At the time of writing the forum thread is 56 pages long and it’s not just filled up with the adoration of [Big Mr Tong's] fans. He did so much work that every page is packed with progress pictures that cover the range of topics: plumbing, electrical, mechanical, artistic…. wow!

The curse project was sparked by a friend giving him a couple of huge acrylic cylinders which were a perfect size for custom aquariums. [Tong] even had a couple of ideas in mind for underwater artwork to fill them with. One is a replica of statue ruins that give you the feeling that the tank is a piece of Atlantis capture for your own entertainment. The other is a fascinating replica of a plumbing stack. You know, the large cast-iron pipes that carry away waste? But these are actually PVC parts with modeling clay accents. They were broken, cut, melted, sanded, and who knows what else, to arrive at this look. The different aquariums feature different lighting techniques. There’s custom-made filter baffles. We could go on and on but we won’t so check out the link at the top for all the details.

In the end he went beyond the original cylinders and built his own square tank for the pipe design. It’s a steam-punk piece so there’s even analog dials to display the vital signs of the habitat.

Just looking to maintain a tank you already own? How about building an automatic chemical dispenser.

OSH Park adds board sharing feature

osh-park-board-sharing

OSH Park continues to get better and better. We think the recent addition of Project Sharing is a huge feature! Obviously this lets you order up the open source goodness posted by others with a minimum amount of effort. But to us there are a couple of other things that make this valuable.

First off, the ability to browse through the projects can be a huge inspiration for your own work. Secondly, the board files themselves are available for download, and it looks like you can post links to your repository if you so choose when sharing your project. This makes OSH Park something of a Thingiverse for PCBs. Browse through what’s offered then download the files to etch yourself or just to use as reference to see how others do things when laying out the traces. And of course the rock bottom prices offered make this a no-brainer for shared breakout board designs.

The Twitter post calls this the “early stages” of the feature. We can’t wait to see what they come up with as it matures.

A Macbook Air and a Thunderbolt GPU

GPU

When Intel and Apple released Thunderbolt, hallelujahs from the Apple choir were heard. Since very little in any of Apple’s hardware lineup is upgradeable, an external video card is the best of all possible world. Unfortunately, Intel doesn’t seem to be taking kindly to the idea of external GPUs. That hasn’t stopped a few creative people like [Larry Gadea] from figuring it out on their own. Right now he’s running a GTX 570 through the Thunderbolt port of his MacBook Air, and displaying everything on the internal LCD. A dream come true.

[Larry] is doing this with a few fairly specialized bits of hardware. The first is a Thunderbolt to ExpressCard/34 adapter, after that an ExpressCard to PCI-E adapter. Couple that with a power supply, GPU, and a whole lot of software configuration, and [Larry] had a real Thunderbolt GPU on his hands.

There are, of course, a few downsides to running a GPU through a Thunderbolt port. The current Thunderbolt spec is equivalent to a PCI-E 4X slot, a quarter of what is needed to get all the horsepower out of high-end GPUs. That being said, it is an elegant-yet-kludgy way for better graphics performance on the MBA,

Demo video below.

[Read more...]

How to play a Game Boy emulator on Chromecast

gameboy-on-chromecast

It’s small, it’s blurry, but it’s working. Here’s a proof of concept for playing emulators on a Chromecast which uses the original Game Boy as an example.

Notice that there are two screens shown in the demo. Out of focus in the background is the television with the Chromecast displaying the game play. In the foreground is a computer with a browser open which lists off the control setup. These are the button mappings for an Xbox 360 controller. The emulator is a JavaScript Game Boy emulator. This is loaded on the Chromecast through a simple html file (called the receiver in the repo). The sender — also a simple html file — loads another JavaScript package on the computer which translates the controller’s button presses to keyboard inputs and sends them out to the receiver.

This puts stars in our eyes about emulator hacks. We’d love to see this boiled down to smartphone and Chromecast as the two pieces of hardware, with the touchscreen as the gaming input.

[Read more...]

FLAMEnco guitar

flamenco

[John] says, “I noticed an unfortunate lack of many flamethrower guitars on the web so I filled the need. ” That’s just awesome by us.

This series of guitar-mounted flamethrowers started with a small build, able to shoot a six-foot flame for about 40 seconds. Yes, very theatrical, but not something you’d want to change out after every song. From there the builds progressed to systems with more barrels, more fuel tanks, and a huge system that shoots 18-foot long flames colored with standard pyrotechnic supplies.

It should go without saying that this stuff probably isn’t something you should try at home. That being said, you really have to admire the craftsmanship and tenacity to make a guitar mounted flamethrower. Just don’t bring it to an indoor gig.

[Read more...]

Trust hacking: How the Bitcoin system works

how-bitcoin-network-functions

[Scott Driscoll] sent us a link to his Bitcoin explanation a couple of weeks ago. We glanced at it but moved on rather quickly. It’s been popping up here and there and we finally gave it the time it deserved. This video is interesting in that it doesn’t just focus on what the Bitcoin actually is, but how the Bitcoin system works when it comes time for money to change hands.

Quite early on in the explanation he mentions that “The Bitcoin system is amazingly designed so that no trust is needed”. That’s a powerful statement. For instance, if you sell your car, one of your friends will probably tell you not to take a check. That’s because a check means you’re trusting that the buyer actually has a balance in their account to cover the transaction. With Bitcoin the transaction carries its own proof that the currency is available by including information about the past transactions through which those Bitcoins were acquired.

If you have some idea of what public/private key pairs are you’re already equipped to understand [Scott's] lecture. After you make it through the 22 minute video maybe you should get down to work doing some Bitcoin mining at home.

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