Astronaut Or Astronot: Shipping Is Killing Us, Man

We’re busy trying to get everyone to vote for their favorite entries in The Hackaday Prize. To encourage this, last week we gave away a pretty nice oscilloscope to a random person on, only because they voted for their favorite projects. Generous, and the shipping to Brazil is going to murder us.

For this round, we are putting up a Bukito 3D printer on the line. To make things extra special, we’re doing this at a little shindig we’re holding at i3 in Detroit.

As you can see by the video above, we’re having a great time with great mead. Also, we just gave away a 3D printer. This is the guy. Send you congratulations to his profile. We’ll shoot you an email, [Damian]. Oh, we’re shipping to New Zealand this time.

Vintage Radio Rocks With Modern Technology

old soviet transistor radio

[Madis] had an old Soviet Russian Neywa 402 transistor radio sitting on the shelf. It looked cool, but unfortunately that’s about all it did. Built in the 70’s one can only wonder about the past life of the radio. And one can only wonder what the past owner thought about the future of it, if they thought about it at all? Would they have thought that several decades in the future, a hardware hacker would introduce some strange and mysterious technology to breath new life into it? Probably not. But that’s exactly what happened.

[Madis] picked up a Bluetooth speaker from Ebay for a whopping $10. And like any good hacker, he immediately took it apart and ditched the original speaker. Wired up to the vintage radio, the Bluetooth receiver can be charged via a USB cable, which neatly tucks away in the back of the case. And with a few taps of his smart phone, he can stream audio to his new vintage Bluetooth speaker.

Though a simple hack, [Madis] does a great job at breathing new life into an antique electronic device. Check out the video after the break for a demonstration.

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An Amazing DIY Single Board ARM Computer with BGA

DIY Single Board Computer ARM

Typically, you buy a single board Linux computer. [Henrik] had a better idea, build his own ARM based single board computer! How did he do it? By not being scared of ball grid array (BGA) ARM processors.

Everyone loves the Raspberry Pi and Beagle Board, but what is the fun in buying something that you can build? We have a hunch that most of our readers stay clear of BGA chips, and for good reason. Arguably, one of the most important aspects of [Henrik’s] post is that you can easily solder BGAs with cheaply available tools. OSH Park provides the inexpensive high-quality PCBs, OSH Stencils provides the inexpensive stencils, and any toaster oven allows you to solder even the most difficult of components. Not only does he go over the PCB build, he also discusses the bootloader, u-boot, and how to get Linux running.

Everything worked out very well for [Henrik]. It’s a good thing too, cause we sure wouldn’t want to debug a PCB as complicated as this one. What projects have you built that use a BGA? Let us know how it went!

Hamtramck Disneyland

Mike posing near the central part of the build... lots to see here!

With a few hours of down time I convinced [Caleb Kraft] to go to Hamtramck Disneyland with me. You’ve heard of it, right? I certainly hadn’t. I sounded like gibberish when [Chris Thompson] suggested it to us. Just a 10 minute drive away from Recycle Here! (where the Red Bull Creation is being held).

Without a street address we never would have found it. The spectacle is simply a house on a normal looking street in Hamtramck, Michigan. We were just a few doors down, creeping down the street, before we spied a flash of color between the houses. Swinging around the corner and into the alley this marvel opened up to us. The work of [Dmytro Szylak] started about twenty years ago. He built and built and built for years, a produced some backyard art that impossible to view without beaming with joy. You won’t spend much time there, but seeing for yourself is worth a few minutes side trip. For those that will never have a chance, here are the pictures I snapped.

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Museums Should be More Popular Than Theme Parks

One of the field trips that we set up as part of our Detroit tour was a trip to The Henry Ford Museum. After a rather disappointing first half hour wandering around the static exhibits of nicely polished cars we latched onto the part of the museum that’s starts the serotonin pump for anyone who is engineering-minded. There are amazing displays of early industrialization, including steam engines for factories, early power generators, and examples of early assembly line machinery. We’re going to cover that stuff in depth but editing it all together will take some time.

For now we wanted to give you a quick glimpse at a delightful exhibit of a Model T. You don’t just look at it; every morning the museum staff takes apart the entire vehicle and throughout the day helps museum-goers walk through the process of putting it back together.

Why isn’t this the model to supplant amusement parks? This hands-on work with real equipment — not just a model made to stand up to the masses — is pure gold for occupying curious people of all ages. The interaction with museum staff adds a tangible human element to the institution, and you just might learn something more than history in the process!

[Full Disclosure: The Henry Ford provided Hackaday with free admission — Thank You!]

The Hacklet #7 – MIDI


This week’s Hacklet is all about projects which use MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface for the uninitiated. MIDI was designed from the ground up as an open communications standard for musical instruments. Nearly every major instrument company participated in the design of the standard. MIDI was first demonstrated in January of 1983, with the communications standard document following in August. Hackers, makers, and musicians immediately ran with it, using MIDI to do things the designers never dreamed of.

SAMSUNG[Robert’s] 9×9 Pixel Muon Detector/Hodoscope  is a great example of this. [Robert] is using 18 Geiger Muller Tubes to detect cosmic particles, specifically muons. The tubes are stacked in two rows which allows him to use coincidence detection. Rather than just plot some graphs or calculate impact probabilities, [Robert] hacked a Korg Nanokey 2 MIDI controller to output MIDI over USB messages corresponding to the detected muons. Check out his video to see a sample of the music of the universe!


diyMPCNext up is [Michele’s] DIY MPC style MIDI controller. [Michele] needed a simple low-cost drum controller that wouldn’t wake his neighbors. He loved Akai MPC controllers, so he rolled his own. [Michele] investigated force sensitive resistors but found they were very expensive. At a cost of $8 USD each, his resistors alone would be nearly the cost of a low-end MPC!  [Michele] created his own sensitive pads using a sandwich of copper tape and 3M Velostat conductive sheets. An HCF4067 routes all the analog lines to a single pin of Teensy 3.0, which then converts the analog resistor outputs to MIDI messages.

pic-midi-1vo[Johan] loves his analog synths, and wanted them to be able to talk MIDI too. He built MIDI2VC, a circuit which converts MIDI to 1V/Octave (similar to  CV/Gate). 1V/Octave is an analog control system used in some early synthesizers, as well as many modern analog creations. Pitches are assigned voltages, and as the name implies, each octave is 1 volt. A4 on the keyboard is represented by 4 volts, while A5 is 5 volts. [Johan] used a Microchip PIC16LF1823 to receive and convert the MIDI signals. The PIC outputs I2C data to an MCP4725 DAC which drives the analog side of the house.

eldanceLong before DMX512 came on the scene, hackers were controlling lights via MIDI. [Artis] continues this with El Dance, a wireless system for controlling electroluminescent wire worn by dancers. Similar in function to  [Akiba’s] EL wire system, [Artis] took a lower cost route and used the venerable NRF24L01 radio module. He added an antenna which gives the modules a range of about 30 meters. The computer running the dance routine’s music sees the transmitter side of the link as a MIDI instrument. Standard note on and off commands activate the EL wire strings.

midi-vibeOur final hack comes from [Jen] who built a MIDI Vibrator Inductor Synth. [Jen] performs in an experimental music band called My Wife, with instruments as varied as violins and sewing machines. [Jen] must be a fan of Van Halen’s Poundcake as she’s using a similar technique, with a MIDI twist. An Arduino converts MIDI notes to analog values, which are sent to a motor controller board. The motor controller uses PWM to drive a vibrator motor at the frequency of the note being played. Like all DC motors, the vibrator puts out a ton of electromagnetic noise, which is easily picked up by [Jen’s] electric bass.

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet! Tune in next week for more projects from!


Home Made Lightbulb is a Fun Proof of Concept

home made lightbulb

Do you ever look at some of the most classic and world-changing inventions and think, “Darn, I totally could have invented that if I was born 100 years ago!”. Sometimes its a lot of fun to try to recreate these inventions making use of period-accurate materials — like this jar-based carbon filament light bulb!

The project is made out of simple household materials that you probably already have. A jar, some pencil lead, a clothes hanger, some nuts and bolts, a bit of silicone, piano wire and a bit of JB weld. The only thing you might not have is some compressed CO2 — unless you have a kitchen fire extinguisher, a paintball gun, or one of those home-made pop carbonation machines… Alternatively you can just buy some dry ice and let it sublimate in the bottle before you seal the bulb.

No fancy tools are needed (except for an air nozzle for filling the bulb), and it’s not too difficult to construct. The trickiest part is probably drilling small holes through the screw, but if you choose nice brass screws it’ll be quite easy to do.

Once it’s all assembled, plug it into a car battery and enjoy your inefficient 1-lumen light bulb! Still — pretty fun experiment!