A Cloud Of Lightning Detectors

strikes

Here’s an interesting project to plot every lightning strike on Earth. Blitzortung is a project that uses many extremely low-cost sensor boards packed with an amplifier, microcontroller, and an Ethernet socket to detect lightning strikes. When multiple stations send all that data up to a server, the location of lightning strikes can be calculated, even if they’re hundreds of miles away from any station.

Each station works by detecting a change in the local EM field caused by a lightning strike with either a large loop antenna or a smaller ferrite core antenna. These signals can be amplified and turned into usable data, time stamped, and sent out on the Internet. From there, it’s a simple time of flight calculation to precisely locate where lightning strikes.

The hardware is actually pretty simple, with based on an STM32F4 Discovery board. A controller includes an Ethernet port, GPS unit, LCD, and all the hardware associated with detecting lightning strikes.

If you’d like to see what’s possible with a huge network of lightning detectors connected to the Internet you can check out LightningMaps for a look at what’s possible.

Thanks [Sean] for sending this in.

Tetris Duel with the Raspberry Pi

Tetris Duel

Building a multiplayer network game with multiple Raspberry Pis can be very difficult. Doing it in assembly is outright insane! This is exactly what a group of first year students at Imperial College London did; they created a network based multiplayer Tetris game for the Raspberry Pi.

[Han], [Piotr], [Michal], and [Utsav] have created this entire game from bare metal assembly, and it only consists of 4000 lines of code! The code is well documented, so be sure to look through their Github repository. This project is a great reference for those looking to learn bare metal assembly and networking. They even chose to use the old NES controllers, a very nice touch. While we have featured what seems like a million different Tetris games in the past, this is the first multiplayer version. See Tetris Duel in action in the video after the break!

This is a shout-out to all of you students out there. Take the time to create quality documentation for your class project, and upload it to the internet. Not only is it a great resume boost, but it could very well end up on Hackaday!

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Hackaday Links: June 29, 2014

hackaday-links-chain

Ever see a really cool build on YouTube with no build details at all? Frustrating, right? That’s us with the NES Keytar covering the Game of Thrones theme. He’s using a Raspi with the sound chip in the NES to do live chiptunes. Freakin’ awesome. There’s also the ST:TNG theme as well.

A few years ago the folks at Oculus had an idea – because of cellphones, small, high resolution displays are really cheap, so why not make VR goggles? At Google IO this week someone figured out everyone already has a cellphone, so just wrap it in some cardboard and call it a set of VR goggles. You can get a kit here, but the only difficult to source components are the lenses.

What happens when you put liquid nitrogen under a vacuum? Well, it should evaporate more, get colder, and freeze. Then it breaks up into solid nitrogen snow. No idea what you would do with this, but there ‘ya go. Oh, [NC], we’re going to need a writeup of that LN2 generator.

About a month ago, the House4Hack hackerspace in South Africa told us of their plans to bring a glider down from 20km above the Earth. They finally launched it, The CAA only allowed them to glide back from 6km (20,000 feet), but even from there the foam glider hit 230kph (124 knots). That’s a little impressive for a foam FPV platform, and we’re betting something with a larger wingspan would probably break a spar or something. Shout out to HABEX.

All the electronic dice projects we’ve seen have one thing in common: they’re not cubes. Thus uberdice. It’s six nine-pixel displays on the faces of a cube, powered by a battery, and controlled by an accelerometer. Yes, it is by far the most complicated die ever made, but it does look cool.

Simple Touch Controller Frees Up USB Port

touch screen demonstration using text

[typ.o] was working on a Raspberry Pi project and found himself running short on USB ports. The project required a touch screen interface, which takes up one of the ports. Since he was only using the screen in text mode, he decided to ditch the original USB controller and make his own.

The ever popular Attiny85 is deployed to handle the task, and is interfaced between the resistive touch panel and the Raspberry pi, using only three pins from the GPIO port. The Attiny85 runs off the 3 volt supply from the raspi, so no level shifter is needed, helping to keep his board super simple.

The calibration and calculation of the touched character location is done by a Python script running on the raspi. [typ.o] is a fan of the KISS principle, and it shows. Be sure to check out his site for all source code, schematics and a video demonstrating this simple but effective solution.

Counting Really, Really Fast With An FPGA

fast

During one of [Michael]‘s many forum lurking sessions, he came across a discussion about frequency counting on a CPLD. He wondered if he could do the same on an FPGA, and how hard it would be to count high clock rates. As it turns out, it’s pretty hard with a naive solution. Being a bit more clever turns the task into a cakewalk, with a low-end FPGA being able to count clocks over 500 MHz.

The simplest solution for counting a clock would be to count a clock for a second with a huge, 30-bit counter. This is a terrible idea: long counters have a lot of propagation delays. Also, any sampling would have to run at least twice as fast as the input signal – not a great idea if you’re counting really fast clocks.

The solution is to have the input signal drive a very small counter – only five bits – and sample the counter using a slower clock on board the FPGA. [Michael] used a 5-bit Gray code, getting rid of the problem of the ‘11111’ to ‘00000’ rollover of a normal binary counter.

Because [Michael] is using a 5 bit clock with 31 edges sampled at 32 MHz, he can theoretically sample a 992 MHz clock. There isn’t a chance in hell of the Spartan 6 on his Papilio Pro board ever being able to measure that, but he is able to measure a 500 MHz clock, something that would be impossible without his clever bit of code.

A Tiny Robot Family

tiny

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, a lot of young electronics hobbyists cut their teeth with BEAM robots – small robots made with logic chips and recycled walkmans that tore a page from papers on neural nets and the AI renaissance of the 80s. Twenty years later, a second AI renaissance never happened because a generation of genius programmers decided the best use of their mental faculties was to sell ads on the Internet. We got the Arduino, though, and the tiny robot family is a more than sufficient spiritual successor to the digital life of the old BEAM bots.

The tiny robot family is [shlonkin]‘s growing collection of small autonomous vehicles that perceive the world with sensors and act with different behaviors. They all contain an ATtiny85, a small battery, two motors, and at least one phototransistor and a LED. One robot has left and right eyes pointing down, and can act as a line follower. Another has a group of LEDs around its body, allowing it to signal other bots in all directions. The goal of the project is to create a whole series of these tiny robots capable of interacting with the environment and each other. Video of the line follower below.

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2600 And Why Publishing Sucks

26002600: The Hacker Quarterly is the premier (print) infosec publication out there, and depending on who you talk to, the best publication out there that has anything to do with modifying electronics, infiltrating networks, and all the other goodies we post on a daily basis. They’ve also been around for longer than most of our readership, and to lose them would be a terrible loss for anyone who calls themselves a hacker.

Being a print publication, they are completely at the mercy of their distributors. Any sort of media is a very, very dirty business, so when 2600’s distributors recently decided to not pay them for a few previous issues… well, that’s a problem.

2600’s most recent distributor, Source Interlink, was recently dropped as the distributor for Time, throwing the entire company into panic mode. Source Interlink then rebranded itself as TEN: The Enthusiast Network, distributing a disturbing amount of hotrod magazines to bookstores across the country. With this change in names and a little corporatespeak, TEN: The Enthusiast Network has yet to pay 2600 what they’re due.

This isn’t the first time 2600 has faced near oblivion thanks to a distributor. They almost went out of business in 1997 when their distributor declared bankruptcy. 2600 have proven themselves to be resilient folk, though, and all bets are on them making it through this little impasse. Still, they’re still out six months worth of revenue, deep in debt, and they’re putting on a huge conference in a few weeks. It’s really not good timing.

If you’d like to help 2600, buy July’s issue, make them number 1 on Kindle, or buy a ticket for HOPE X. Hackaday is going to have a booth there (awesome!), and we’ll be putting a post up on that when  the already amazing list of speakers is finalized.

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