Mathematica and Wolfram On The Raspberry Pi


[Stephen Wolfram], possibly the only person on Earth who wants a second element named after him, is giving away Mathematica for the Raspberry Pi.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mathematica, it’s a piece of software that allows you to compute anything. Combined with the educational pedigree of the Raspberry Pi, [Wolfram] and the Pi foundation believe the use of computer-based math will change the way students are taught math.

Besides bringing a free version of Mathematica to the Raspberry Pi, [Wolfram] also announced the Wolfram language. It’s a programming language that keeps most of its libraries – for everything from audio processing, high level math, strings, graphs, networks, and even linguistic data – on the Internet. It sounds absurdly cool, and you can check out a preliminary version of the language over on the official site.

While a free version of Mathematica is awesome, we’re really excited about the new Wolfram language. If it were only an interactive version of Wolfram Alpha, we’d be interested, but the ability to use this tool as a real programming language shows a lot of promise for some interesting applications.

Pedaling at 128km/h

100mph bike

[Donhou] had a dream. To create a road bike capable of reaching 100mph (160km/h).

He damn well near did it too. The goal of this project wasn’t to set a land speed record, but more of an experiment in design, and building a really fast bike that still looks like a bicycle. In case you’re wondering though, the land speed record is currently set at 167mph by [Fred Rompelberg] who was drafting behind a dragster on the Salt Flats of Bonneville.

The bike features custom everything; a welded lightweight frame using Columbus Max tubing (to help with speed wobbles), super low handlebars for aerodynamics, and a massive 104 tooth chainring which almost scrapes the ground as you pedal. Even the rims and tires are unique — regular bicycle wheels just aren’t designed to go that fast.

We aren’t even bike nuts, but we thoroughly enjoyed the awesome 9-minute documentary on this project. Check it out after the break.

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Hackaday Links: November 24, 2013


We love home theater hacks and this one especially since it is also part of a larger home automation project. [Falldeaf] use Z-Wave wireless home automation and includes mains switching for his television. The only problem being that when power is switch back on the TV remains in the standby state. His solution was to use an ATtiny85 to detect power, then push the IR code to turn the TV on after a short delay.

[Pjkim] wanted to prototype using the Tiva Launchpad on his Mac. He managed to get a toolchain up and running that includes the TivaWare libraries. He put together a guide that shows how to set up Eclipse and Energia for the Tiva family. If you haven’t heard of Energia check out the Github Readme.

Most folks have a smartphone and you can bet that the handsets are Bluetooth enabled. But we think there is still a low percentage who are connecting their smartphone audio to wireless speakers. [Anton Veretenenko] shows how you can use some cheap KRC-86B modules from Ali Express to make your own wireless speakers. He’s even powering his hack with a single 18650 Li-Ion cell.

Taking a turn away from electronics we got a chuckle out of [CADFood's] plan to make pearls with his bicycle. He used DesignSpark Mechanical to model what amounts to a bicycle powered ball mill. It attaches to his spokes and after taking a hammer to some oyster shells he loads them up and goes for a ride. Well actually he needs to go for a bunch of rides. The idea is that about six months of bicycling will yield a cache of pearls. [Thanks Holger]

We enjoyed this article on how designing powered scooters is changing engineering education. We’re happy to see that hacking is starting to be widely accepted as a functional and effective way to gain and pass on knowledge.

If you have access to a 3D printer you can own some of the relics from the Smithsonian. They’ve been 3D scanning some pieces in their collection and you can download the models.

And finally, [GravityRoad] is working on building a delta-bot arm to use as part of a performance art project. Check out one of the most recent development videos and if that gets you interested there’s much more on the website. [Thanks Charles]


Measuring The Lifespan Of Nixie Tubes


Nixie tubes have two things going for them: they’re awesome, and they’re out of production. If you’re building a clock – by far the most popular Nixie application, you’re probably wondering what the lifespan of these tubes are. Datasheets from the manufacturers sometimes claim a lifetime as low as 1000 hours, or a month and a half if you’re using a tube for a clock. Obviously some experimentation is in order to determine the true lifetime of these tubes.

Finding an empirical value for the lifetime of Nixies means setting up an experiment and waiting a very, very long time. Luckily, the folks over at SALTechips already have a year’s worth of data.

Their experimental setup consists of an IN-13 bargraph display driven with a constant current sink. The light given off by this Nixie goes to a precision photometer to log the visual output. Logging takes place once a week, and the experiment has been running for 57 weeks so far.

All the data from this experiment is available on the project page, along with a video stream of the time elapsed and current voltage. So far, there’s nothing to report yet, but we suppose that’s a good thing.

An ARM Powered Business Card, Part Two


While most microcontroller powered business cards opt for something small and cheap, [Brian] is going in an entirely different direction. His business card features an ARM processor, some Flash storage, a USB connection, and enough peripherals to do some really cool stuff.

This is the second iteration of [Brian]‘s business card. We saw the first version, but this new version makes up for a few mistakes in the previous version. The biggest improvement is the replacement of the Molex USB plug with bare traces on the board. [Brian] couldn’t find a board house that could fab a board with the proper thickness for a USB plug, but a few strips of masking tape did enough to beef up the thickness and make his plug nice and snug. Also, the earlier version had a few pins sticking out of the board for programming purposes. This wasn’t an idea solution for a business card where it would be carried around in a pocket, so these pins were replaced with a connectorless programming adapter. Just a few exposed pads gives [Brian] all the programming abilities of the last version, without all those prickly pins to catch on clothing.

With his new business card, [Brian] has an excellent display of his engineering prowess and a very cool toy; he has a project that will turn this card into a keyboard emulator, randomly activating the Caps Lock button for a few seconds every few minutes. A great prank, and a great board to give to future employers.

Pimp My Keyboard: Automatic Lift Kit and More


Wondering what the heck a lift kit is? You know those low-riding cars that bounce? That’s the idea with this hack. [Justblair] added automatic height adjustment to his Cherry G80, and hid a few other extras while he was at it. Since there’s a fair amount of room inside the case of this model he was able to hide everything and keep just a single cord to run it all.

Certainly what catches your eye is the keyboard’s ability to rise to a typing height automatically. This is accomplished with a few servo motors and some 3D printed replacement feet. There were some hiccups along the way with under-powered servos, but bulking up to some HXT 900 9G models provide more power than is currently necessary. The automatic feature is thanks to a capacitive sensor built with a wire that loops the perimeter of the keyboard.

Of course to monitor the sensor and drive the servos you need some kind of brain. For that [Justblair] went with an ATmega32U4 breakout board. Since he had to patch into USB for power anyway he added a USB hub and routed one of the ports out the left side of the keyboard as a convenient way to connect other peripherals. There was even room to include an RFID reader which he uses to unlock his sessions (similar to the desk install from earlier this year). There’s still a lot of potential left in that hardware. To make future improvements easier the hack includes an IDC socket as an auxiliary port.

[Justblair] did a great job of sharing his work. His post links to a Github repo for the code and a Thingiverse project for the 3D printed legs. And it wouldn’t be complete without the demo video which is found below.

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