The Animated Gif Camera, Brought To You By A Raspberry Pi

No one watches video anymore. Cable cutters are digging into Verizon’s profits, and YouTube is a shadow of its 2005 self. What are people consuming now? Animated gifs. This is the bread and butter of the meme economy. Personally, all my investments are sunk deep into Gandolf / Balrog gifs, with each character replaced with Trump and Hillary. I expect a tidy profit on November 9th.

With animated gifs being the de facto method of sharing moving pictures, the world will belong to those who can create them. Phones are fine, but strangely video cameras, DSLRs, and other high-end photography equipment are the norm. This is idiotic, of course, because high-definition images are just a fad, and audio is useless.

Finally, there’s an answer. [Nick Brewer] created a camera that only takes animated gifs. I cannot stress this enough: this animated gif cam is a serious contender for a technical Oscar. Kubrick wept.

For the hardware, [Nick] went with a Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi camera. A combination of software ranging from PiCamera, GraphicsMagick, and GifCam turns this tiny bit of hardware into a machine dedicated to content creation in the hippest new medium. Other hardware includes a battery – either a normal LiPo ‘pouch’ cell, or an 18650 cell. Other hardware includes an Adafruit Powerboost 500 charge controller and a neat illuminated push button.

The 3D-printed enclosure is where this project really shines. Hearkening back to an older time, this camera includes a real viewfinder for all your gonzo giffing. The camera is charged through a completely normal USB port, and even the Pi’s SD card is accessible without disassembling the camera. There are even some paper wrappers for this camera to give it a 90s disposable camera aesthetic.

Of course, this isn’t the first camera dedicated to the creation of animated gifs. Before the C.H.I.P., Next Thing Co released OTTO, a camera designed for gifs. [Nick]’s project, though, is a camera dedicated completely to gifs. It is the greatest technical achievement of our time, for the creation of content in the greatest artistic medium.

Hackaday Links: October 23, 2016

It’s the Hack ‘O Lantern edition! First up, Slic3r is about to get awesome. Second, Halloween is just around the corner, and that means a few Hackaday-branded pumpkins are already carved. Here’s a few of them, from [Mike] and [yeltrow]:

The latest edition of PoC||GTFO has been released. Holds Stones From The Ivory Tower, But Only As Ballast (PDF and steganography warning). This edition has a reverse engineering of Atari’s Star Raiders, [Micah Elisabeth Scott]’s recent efforts on USB glitching and Wacom tablets, info on the LoRa PHY, and other good stuff. Thanks go to Pastor Manul Laphroaig.

Oh cool, we can be outraged about something. The Freetronics Experimenters Kit is a neat little Arduino-based ‘Getting Started In Microcontrollers’ kit. This kit was sold by Jaycar. Recently, Jaycar ripped off the kit and sold it under the Duiniotech name. The box was copied, the instruction manual was copied, and there’s a lot of IP being violated here. Can Freetronix do anything? Legally, yes, but it’s not worth it.

[Oscar] broke his phone, but it still works great as an SMD soldering camera/microscope thing.

Pobody’s Nerfect in Australia so here’s a 3D printed didgeridoo. What’s a didgeridoo? It’s an ancient instrument only slightly less annoying than bagpipes. It’s just a tube, really, and easily manufactured on any 3D printer. The real trick is the technique that requires circular breathing. That’s a little harder to master than throwing some Gcode at a printer.

[Chris Downing] is the master of mashed up, condensed, and handheld game consoles. His latest is another N64 portable, and it’s a masterpiece. It incorporates full multiplayer capability, uses an HDMI connector for charging and to connect the external breakout box/battery, and has RCA output for full-size TV gameplay. Of note is the breakout board for the custom N64 chip that puts pads for the memory card and a controller on a tiny board.

WarWalking With The ESP8266

[Steve] needed a tool to diagnose and fix his friend’s and family’s WiFi. A laptop would do, but WiFi modules and tiny OLED displays are cheap now. His solution was to build a War Walker, a tiny handheld device that would listen in WiFi access points, return the signal strength, and monitor the 2.4GHz environment around him.

The War Walker didn’t appear out of a vacuum. It’s based on the WarCollar Dope Scope, a tiny, portable device consisting of an off-the-shelf Chinese OLED display, an ESP8266 module, and a PCB that can charge batteries, provide a serial port, and ties the whole thing together with jellybean glue. The Dope Scope is a capable device, but it’s marketed towards the 1337 utilikilt-wearing, The Prodigy-blasting pentesters of the world. It is, therefore, a ripoff. [Steve] can build his version for $6 in materials.

The core of the build is an ESP-based carrier board built for NodeMCU. This board is available for $3.77 in quantity one, with free shipping. A $2 SPI OLED display is the user interface, and the rest of the circuit is just some perfboard and a few wires.

The software is based on platformio, and dumps all the WiFi info you could want over the serial port or displays it right on the OLED. It’s a brilliantly simple device for War Walking, and the addition of a small LiPo makes this a much better value than the same circuit with a larger pricetag.

Hackaday Prize Entry: The Fog – The Cloud At Ground Level

I did not coin the phrase in this article’s headline. It came, I believe, from an asinine press release I read years ago. It was a stupid phrase then, and it’s a stupid phrase now, but the idea behind it does have some merit. A collaborative Dropbox running on hardware you own isn’t a bad idea, and a physical device that does the same is a pretty good idea. That’s the idea behind the USB Borg Drive. It’s two (or more) mirrored USB thumb drives linked together by condescending condensation saying you too can have the cloud in both your pockets.

Like all good technology, the USB Borg Drive began as a joke. [heige] and his colleague were passing USB sticks back and forth to get software running on a machine without Internet. The idea of two USB sticks connected together via WiFi blossomed and the idea of the USB Borg Drive was born.

An idea is one thing, and an implementation another thing entirely. This is where [helge] is stumbling. The basic idea now is to use a Raspberry Pi Zero containing a WiFi adapter, USB set up in peripheral mode, some sort of way to power the devices, and maybe a way to set IDs between pairs of devices.

There’s still a lot of work for [heige] to do, but this is actually, honestly, not a terrible idea. Everything has a USB port on it these days, and USB mass storage is available on every platform imaginable. It’s the cloud, at ground level. A fog, if you will, but not something that sounds that stupid.

Hackaday Prize Entry: The Open Voice Factory

Joe’s little brother Richard has never been able to speak. When Richard turned 19, he received a device not unlike the voice box of Stephen Hawking. Suddenly, Richard was able to communicate using thousands of words, and everyone could understand him. In the UK, there are thousands of people who could benefit from this technology, but can’t afford one. This is the inspiration for the Open Voice Factory, a device that allows anyone to create pages of touch screen interfaces and parses them into functioning speech aids.

The basic idea behind the Open Voice Factory is — wait for it — PowerPoint. Hold on, this actually makes sense. The Open Voice Factory is designed so caregivers can create and modify the touchscreen ‘pages’ with different words and actions. PowerPoint is universal, and everybody’s grandmother knows how to use it. In this regard, the software that is the leading cause of death for astronauts isn’t a terrible choice.

That PowerPoint stack is sent off to an online Factory that parses the commands and assembles a web page built for touch screen interaction. It’s brilliantly simple, relies on a cloud service so it’s highly marketable, and requires only a minimal hardware investment for each user. Consider the fact that computers – especially Macs – have had exceptional text to speech capabilities for twenty years now, and you wonder why something like this hasn’t come along sooner. It’s an awesome idea, and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

You Might Not Be Able To Read This

Early today, some party unleashed a massive DDoS attack against Dyn, a major DNS host. This led to a number of websites being completely inaccessible. DNS is the backbone of the Internet. It is the phone book that turns URLs into IP addresses. Without it, the Internet still works, but you won’t be able to find anything.

Over the past few months, security professionals have suggested — in as responsible terms as possible — that something big could happen. In early September [Bruce Schneier] wrote, Someone Is Learning How To Take Down The Internet. The implication of this very general warning is that someone — possibly a state actor, but don’t be too sure about that — was figuring out how to attack one of the core services of the web. The easiest way to effectively ‘turn off the Internet’ for everyone is a Distributed Denial of Service attack against root servers, DNS servers, or some other service that plays a key role in the web.

Dyn is responding well to the attack this morning, and the Internet is safe from attack for the time being. As for who is responsible for the attack, what the goal is, and if this will happen again, no one knows. An attack on this scale is most certainly someone with a very large pocketbook or a state actor (Russia, China, the US, UK, Germany, Israel, or the like) but that’s not a given. It’s also not given the DDoS attacks have stopped. You might not be able to read this, but if you can, it might be a good idea to find a shortwave radio.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Antigravity Arm Floaties

A few years ago, [Mike] heard about orthotic devices for people in wheelchairs that make it easier to them to move their arms. His daughter had the opportunity to demo one of these devices, and the results with the device were good. The fights with the insurance company were not so good, but this really was a device that could be made on a 3D printer with a few rubber bands, after all. Thus, [Mike] invented 3D printed antigravity arm floaties.

The name basically tells the story — these antigravity arm floaties work well to counter the pull of gravity for individuals with low muscle tone. [Mike]’s daughter found the professional, official, not-covered-by-insurance version useful, so [Mike] decided to build his own. There’s really not much to it – it’s just a few 3D printed parts attached to a wheelchair with a few rubber bands giving the mechanical linkages some resistance.

In the true hacker spirit, [Mike] took the basic idea of these spring-loaded arm floaties and put a new twist on it. He’s using a chain as the mechanism that allows freedom of movement in the XY plane. This makes the device slightly better, and is by every account an improvement on the commercial version. That’s what you get when you can iterate quickly with a 3D printer, making this project an excellent example of what we’re looking for in the Assistive Technology portion of the Hackaday Prize.