Go Portable with GameCube Advance SP

Off the hop, we love portable consoles. To be clear, we don’t just mean handhelds like the 3DS, or RetroPie builds, but when a maker takes a home console from generations past and hacks a childhood fantasy into reality — that’s amore. So, it’s only natural that [Bill Paxton]’s GameCube re-imagined as a Game Boy Advance SP has us enthralled.

Originally inspired by an early 2000’s imagined mockup of a ‘next-gen’ Game Boy Advance, [Paxton] first tried to wedge a Wii disk drive into this build. Finding it a bit too unwieldy, he opted for running games off of SD cards using a WASP Fusion board instead. Integrating the controller buttons into the 3D printed case took several revisions. Looking at the precise modeling needed to include the L and R shoulder buttons, that is no small feat.

Sadly, this GameCube SP doesn’t have an on-board battery, so you can’t go walking about with Windwaker. It does, however, include a 15 pin mini-din VGA-style port to copy game saves to the internal memory card, a switching headphone jack, amp, and speakers. Check it out after the break!

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OpenSTF Dock Ready to Farm Clicks

Deep in the heart of a Chinese click farm — and probably used by the company your company hired to build an ‘app’ — is a magical device. Call it a Beowulf Cluster of Phones. Call it the farm. By any name, it’s a whole bunch of smartphones, smart watches, tablets, and other Smart Things all controlled remotely. This is OpenSTF, or a Smartphone Test Farm. You can build your own, but as with anything requiring a whole lot of cables and devices, if you don’t plan it well, it’s going to look like crap.

[Paul] needed an OpenSTF device lab, and found the perfect product to repurpose into a great looking enclosure. This device was the Griffin MultiDock 2, a charging station for smartphones and tablets ostensibly designed for classrooms. There really isn’t a lot going on inside this $500 phone charger, with a few modifications this enclosure can become an awesome phone farm.

This charging station is not meant to be used this way. On the outside, there are ten USB ports for ten different devices. Inside, there are three four-port USB hubs providing ten ports. ADB simply doesn’t work with this setup, so [Paul] had to completely replace the USB brains of this device. With new USB hubs, an Intel Compute Stick, and Sugru, [Paul] got OpenSTF up and running. While this would have been a fantastic waste of money had [Paul] bought this phone charging dock at full retail price, he didn’t. He apparently picked this up at a reasonable price, giving him a great looking phone farm that works just like he wanted.

Radio Controlled Pacemakers Are Easily Hacked

Doctors use RF signals to adjust pacemakers so that instead of slicing a patient open, they can change the pacemakers parameters which in turn avoids unnecessary surgery. A study on security weaknesses of pacemakers (highlights) or full Report (PDF) has found that pacemakers from the main manufacturers contain security vulnerabilities that make it possible for the devices to be adjusted by anyone with a programmer and proximity. Of course, it shouldn’t be possible for anyone other than medical professionals to acquire a pacemaker programmer. The authors bought their examples on eBay.

They discovered over 8,000 known vulnerabilities in third-party libraries across four different pacemaker programmers from four manufacturers.  This highlights an industry-wide problem when it comes to security. None of the pacemaker programmers required passwords, and none of the pacemakers authenticated with the programmers. Some home pacemaker monitoring systems even included USB connections in which opens up the possibilities of introducing malware through an infected pendrive.

The programmers’ firmware update procedures were also flawed, with hard-coded credentials being very common. This allows an attacker to setup their own authentication server and upload their own firmware to the home monitoring kit. Due to the nature of the hack, the researchers are not disclosing to the public which manufacturers or devices are at fault and have redacted some information until these medical device companies can get their house in order and fix these problems.

This article only scratches the surface for an in-depth look read the full report. Let’s just hope that these medical companies take action as soon as possible and resolve these issue’s as soon as possible. This is not the first time pacemakers have been shown to be flawed.

Hackaday Prize Entry: MakerNet

One of the biggest trends in whatever market ‘Maker’ stuff belongs to is the Legofication of electronics. Building electronics is hard, if you haven’t noticed. Anything that turns transmission lines, current loops, and RF wizardry into something a five-year-old can use has obvious applications to education. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Jeremy Gilbert] is building a fast, intuitive, modular way to explore electronics. It’s easier to use than the 100-in-1 Radio Shack spring clip kits, and you can actually make useful projects with this system.

MakerNet is [Jeremy]’s solution to the problem of complicated electronics, Arduinos connected to breadboards with DuPont cables, and apparently, to actual electronic Lego sets. The core of this system is built around the Atmel SAM D21 microcontroller, an ARM Cortex-M0+ chip that has more than enough processing power for anything deserving of the ‘maker’ label. This mainboard connects to devices through what is basically an I2C bus. Each module in the system has an in and out header. A small SAM D11 (available for $1 USD) on each module handles all the communications.

Right now, [Jeremy] is experimenting with a dozen or so modules including a captouch board, an LED matrix, OLED display, rotary encoders, and lots of blinky LEDs. It’s just a prototype, but that’s exactly what we’re looking for at this stage of the Hackaday Prize. After looking at the video [Jeremy] produced (below), there’s a lot of promise here.

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Use the Force to Turn On This Lamp

Holocrons are holographic data storage devices used in the Star Wars universe by both Jedi and Sith as teaching devices or for storing valuable information. After the fall of the Jedi, they became rare and closely guarded artifacts. [DaveClarke] built one to light the room.

[DaveClarke] built the lamp around a Particle Photon – a STM32 ARM-M0 based microcontroller with a Cypress wifi chip. All [Dave] needed for the workings were an IR proximity sensor, a servo and a bunch of super-bright white LEDs. When the sensor detects something, it starts up the system. The servo rotates a gear which raises the lamp and fades in the LEDs. The next time the sensor detects something, the servo lowers the lamp and the lights begin to fade out. And since the Photon is connected to the cloud, the system can be accessed with a web interface as well.

Okay, so it’s just an IR sensor detecting reflected infrared light and not the Force that’s used to turn it on, but it’s still pretty cool. There are plenty of pictures and videos at [DaveClarke]’s site, along with a schematic, 3D printer designs, and the source code. The whole thing was designed using Autodesk Fusion 360 and 3D printed in about 30 hours and press-fits together. A very simple yet clever design. There have been some other great lamps on the site, like this blossoming flower lamp or this laser cut lamp with which also has a unique switch.

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The Internet of Cigars

We know, we know. They are bad for you. You shouldn’t start, but some people do love a cigar. And a fine cigar is pretty particular about drying out. That’s why tobacconists and cigar aficionados store their smokes in a humidor. This is anything from a small box to a large closet that maintains a constant humidity. Of course, who could want such a thing these days without having it connected to the Internet?

This fine-looking humidor uses a Raspberry Pi. When the humidity is low, an ultrasonic humidifier adds moisture to the air. If it gets too high, a fan circulates the air until it balances out. Who knew cigar smoking could be so high-tech? The humidity sensor is an AM2302. There’s also a smart USB hub that can accept commands to turn the fan and humidifier on and off.

The wooden cabinet was an existing humidor, apparently. [Atticakes] says he spent about $100 total but that a commercial equivalent would have been at least $250. You can find his source code on GitHub.

If you are vehemently anti-cigar, we should point out that there are other uses for such a device. Because of Denver’s low humidity, for example, the Colorado Rockies baseball team store game balls in a large humidor.

For the record, a zip lock bag can do in a pinch. Without something, the experts say the cigar starts to change negatively in two or three days.

First networkable humidor we’ve seen? Hardly. If you need something to light that stogie, we suggest a laser.

Sense Hat Comes Alive

Remember the Raspberry Pi Sense Hat? Originally designed for a mission to the International Space Station, the board has quite a few sensors onboard as well as an 8×8 RGB LED matrix. What can you do with an 8×8 screen? You might be surprised if you use [Ethan’s] Python Sense Hat animation library. You can get the full visual effect in the video below.

The code uses an array to represent the screen, which isn’t a big deal since there are only 64 elements. Turning on a particular element to animate, say, a pong puck, isn’t hard with or without the library. Here’s some code to do it with the library:

for x in range(0,7):
 ect.cell(image,[0,x],[randint(0,255), randint(0,255), randint(0,255)],0.1)
 ect.cell(image,[0,x],e,0.1)
for x in range(7,0, -1):
 ect.cell(image,[0,x],[randint(0,255), randint(0,255), randint(0,255)],0.1)
 ect.cell(image,[0,x],e,0.1)

Each loop draws a box with a random color and then erases it before going to the next position. The second for loop makes the puck move in the opposite direction. You can probably deduce that the first argument is the screen array, the second is the position. The third argument sets the color, and the final argument sets an animation timer. Looking at the code, though, it does look like the timer blocks which is probably not going to work for some applications.

If that’s all there was, this wouldn’t be worth too much, but you can also draw triangles, circles, and squares. For example:

ect.circle(image,(4,4), 3, [randint(0,255), randint(0,255), randint(0,255)], 0.1)

We covered the Sense Hat awhile back. Of course, it does a lot more than just light up LEDs as you can see from this weather dashboard.

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