How to debug a faulty memory board


While this is not exactly a hack or a fail, it definitely is an inspiring example on how to debug a faulty card.

[Quinn] is one of the very few hobbyists out there that designed her own 6502 based computer. For the young readers of Hackaday, the MOS 6502 was introduced in 1975 and has been used in the Aple // line, the Commodore 64, the Vic-20, the Atari computers, the Nintendo Enterntainment System and others.

[Quinn]’s homemade new RAM board had been working for many weeks until it started to show some weaknesses by only sporadically passing the boot RAM test. Assuming the RAM was the problem, she started by making a more advanced memory test, which showed errors at random addresses.

She didn’t have any more of the same memory chips on hand which could be used with a fresh PCB. Determined to power through the issue, she etched a new board with a new memory design. Unfortunately it also gave memory errors at boot. Only one culprit was left, which is shown in the picture above. It’s a small sizing error in the board artwork which was just enough to cause a misalignment on the connector.

The article contains many details about her debugging process, so it definitely is worth the read.

Rant: Why I love what the Chromecast stands for

I’ve had my hands on this Chromecast for almost a week now and I love it. Years ago I hacked my first Xbox after seeing [Kevin Rose] do it on The Screensavers (I did the hardware mod but that’s inconsequential). Why did I do this? So that I could run Xbox Media Center, the predecessor of XBMC. Since then I’ve dreamed of a device which can be hung on the back of the TV with Velcro and run XBMC. We basically got there with the Raspberry Pi, but the Chromecast is the form-factor that I had always envisioned. This lets me watch Netflix, while the RPi runs XBMC. The two are match made in heaven for under a hundred bucks.

That’s why I love the Chromecast device itself, but the bigger picture is that I love what it stands for. Keep reading to see what i mean.

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Tiny WiFi modules, again

The CC3000 is a tiny, single-chip component that adds all the necessary hardware (save for a chip antenna) and software to get even the most minimal microcontrollers onto a WiFi network. It was announced early this year but making proper breakout boards takes time, you know? This time has finally arrived with CC3000 modules from Adafruit, and evaluation modules and booster packs from TI themselves.

Unlike other microcontroller-compatible WiFi modules out there, the CC3000 takes care of just about everything – the TCP/IP stack, security stuff, and even the configuration with TI’s SmartConfig app for desktop, laptop, or mobile devices. Realistically, you can get an ATtiny, an exceedingly sparse microcontroller, or even a Commodore 64 or Apple II on the Internet with this. It’s very, very cool.

While these breakout boards and modules are priced very well for what they do, they’re still fairly expensive to stick in a project permanently. Where the CC3000 really shines is including it in your next fabbed board. There are already Altium parts and an Eagle library that includes this part should you need help with that, and blatant advertising for our overlords at SupplyFrame if you’re looking for a source.

Google Glass controlled quadcopter


For some reason this project makes us think of the Dog Pog Grid from Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age. It’s not that there’s a ton of drones floating around this guy, it’s that he’s got one which looks like it’s his bodyguard and is controlled by the Google Glass he wears on his head. The future is now!

We find the metamorphosis of this project interesting as well. It started as a Leap motion controlled rover project. We saw a similar hack just the other day that paired a Leap Motion with a Hexapod. But [Blaine] wasn’t satisfied with that. Having had a taste for alternate control inputs he dug in and got to work making Google Glass the control interface. But the problem with moving your head to control a rover is that you can’t actually see it because looking down would cause unwanted motion. His solution was to transition to a quadcopter, which will hover at eye level when he’s looking right at it. Glass is sending raw sensor data to a server, which does the translation to control commands for the quadcopter.

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What the inside of a pneumatic transport system looks like

While most of us are familiar with pneumatic transport systems by their use at drive-up bank windows, these systems are also commonly found in hospitals ferrying samples around. When [Aidan] was in the hospital, he asked how this series of tubes routed samples from many different floors to the lab and back again. Well, give him an old tube to play around with and he’ll eventually come up with a way to record the inside of one of these pneumatic tubes, giving some insight into how this system actually works.

When asked, a tech that uses this system on a daily basis described it as a very basic physical Ethernet that sucks and blows through rotary junctions and physical hubs to route packets to different areas of the building. [Aidan] wanted to record a tube’s travels, so he wired up a small HD camera, a bunch of LEDs, and a few batteries. Sending this recording sample container revealed some of how this pneumatic system works; the containers will travel forward and stop before reversing through one of the rotary switches. You can check out the flight of the container in the video below.

Of course there are other glimpses of how stuff travels through the unseen world of getting from point A to point B. Here’s a time lapse camera going on a trip via DHL just for kicks.

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Pill dispenser tattles to the Internet when you don’t take your pills


Here’s another entry in the Parallax microMedic 2013 contest. [Tim] calls it his Propeller-based Internet Logging Pill Dispenser (PDF file), or P.I.L. Box for short.

The hardware is a base unit into which a normal plastic pill organizer is placed. We like this design, as many pharmacies will fill pill boxes for you and this doesn’t complicate that process. You simply pull out the correct box at the beginning of the week and put it in the base unit. You can see one white LED is shining on the Monday slot in the box. This lights up starting an hour before the set pill taking time. This way if you walk by it reminds you. There is also a voice tailor made to scare the elderly that comes out of the speaker, and a simple messages spelled out on the set of seven segment displays. The base unit detects when you press the button to open the pill box and counts that as a properly administered dosage.

Now, if you forget to take the pill it’s not a good thing. The server, which is running on the laptop, will rat you out. It uses the Twitter API to alert whomever is following it — meant for a relative or caregiver — that a dosage was missed. Let’s hope they’re good at keeping up with their Twitter feed!

We remember seeing one other microMedic entry so far, this heart-shaped heart simulator. But we’re going to look around and see how many other good ones we’ve missed.

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Custom made MIDI recorder for an 8 year old girl


[KDM] over at The Controller Project forums let us know about a cool project he’s been working on: a MIDI recorder for an 8-year-old girl born with two digits per hand.

The recorder – a simple woodwind instrument usually made of plastic – is a staple of grade school music classes the world over. It’s an excellent introduction to the performing arts, but for those with two fingers per hand, the fingering is a little difficult.

[KDM] contacted a manufacturer of these instruments and they were kind enough to send over a half-dozen for his experimentations. He drilled out these recorders on a lathe and started work on a simple circuit to turn this recorder into a MIDI instrument. A simple PIC micro and a few buttons were used, with a DIN 5 port on the horn of the instrument.

The build works, but we’re thinking with a small electronic wind sensor, this instrument could easily become a full-fledged MIDI wind controller that could be easily and cheaply reproduced for other budding musicians with special needs.

Oh, one more thing. We’d like to give a big shout out to the giant dork who started The Controller Project. A lot of Hackaday readers know how to work a microcontroller and a soldering iron, so how about heading over to their forums and doing some good with your skills?