Hackaday Links: July 30, 2017

What are you doing next weekend? How about going to the Vintage Computer Festival West at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Hackaday is sponsoring, and there are always a ton of awesome builds. Last year, someone played Tron on a Commodore PET. Not a video game — the movie.

In case anyone forgot, I created the most desirable independent hardware badge this year at Def Con. It’s a hilarious joke, I got three from OSH Park, thirty more in different colors from Seeed, and something, somewhere, jumped a shark. [Drew Fustini] also shared these PCBs on OSH Park. There were four orders. This is hilarious.

‘Member Minecraft? Redstone was awesome, and people built computers out of red dust and torches. Now it’s not as cool with all the fancy redstone components, and simpler is always better. Here’s bitmap logic, or a complete computer made with pixels. There’s already an 8-bit computer for this thing.

Frag somebody and own their computer. [Justin] recently found an exploit in Valve’s Source engine (TF2, CSGO, Portal 2…) that allows for remote code execution on clients and servers by loading a custom ragdoll model.

High bandwith, low-power, and long range. If you’re doing RF, you may pick two. LoRa is the RF solution that picked low power and long range. There are quite a few companies behind it, but we really haven’t seen many products using LoRa here in the states yet (then again, products that would use LoRa shouldn’t be very visible…). Now there’s an Open Source LoRa backend server. This is somewhat significant; LoRa isn’t a completely Open protocol, and all licensing goes through Semtech and the LoRa Alliance.

Four Chords Should Be Enough For Anyone

You might be surprised at how many pop songs are exactly the same. Cat Scratch Fever is the exact same song as Smoke on the Water. Even one of Yeezy’s songs is strikingly similar to a weird 90s French electronic group. Musically, though, there are an incredible number of songs that follow a I-V-vi-IV progression. Let it Be is one of them, as is Beast of Burden. Lady Gaga’s Poker Face is another. Now, finally, we have automated most of the pop songs you know and love. [Sven] has created a small MIDI device that only plays a I-V-vi-IV progression, and it’s everything you could ever imagine.

The idea for this build comes from an Axis of Awesome routine demonstrating the fact that hundreds of pop songs follow the same progression. After the idea, the implementation, like the music all those millennials are listening to, is simple.

The 4chord MIDI is a small board with an old Nokia display, four buttons, a single USB port, and an ATMega328 microcontroller. Using MIDI over USB, it plays the I-V-vi-IV progression in any key. It plays in chord mode, arpeggiated mode, or mixed mode at any sensible tempo.

You can check out a video of the 4chord playing several hundred songs simultaneously below.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: The Arduino Powered LED Persistence Of Vision Rechargeable 3D Printed Fidget Spinner

It had to come to this. For his entry into this year’s Hackaday Prize, [Sean Hodgins] created a persistence of vision fidget spinner. This isn’t just any PoV fidget spinner — this is the ultimate in fidget spinner technology. It’s rechargeable, and there’s an Arduino inside. The enclosure is 3D printed. It improves morale. It is everything you ever wanted in a fidget spinner, and it’s the last fidget spinner project [Sean] will ever make.

We’ve seen electronic fidget spinners before, but never to this degree of polish. The fidget spinner that teaches coding is fantastic, but it’s not quite as refined as connoisseurs of fine fidgets would like. The Internet of Fidget Spinners is likewise a worthy effort and even includes RGB LEDs and WiFi, but [Sean]’s POV fidget spinner is on another plane of reality. This spinner uses batteries that can be recharged, and there’s even a 3D printed (sintered, even!) enclosure that fits everything into a small, compact package. It is, by far, the most elegant fidget spinner we’ve ever seen, and it measures its own rotation speed. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

You can grab all the sources for this amazing fidget spinner on [Sean]’s GitHub, or check out the under-monetized demo video he made below.

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Building a DEF CON Badge in Two Weeks

DEF CON is starting right now, and this is the year of #badgelife. For the last few years, independent hardware wizards have been creating and selling their own unofficial badges at DEF CON, but this year it’s off the charts. We’ve already taken a look at Bender Badges, BSD Puffer Fish, and the worst idea for a conference badge ever, and this is only scratching the surface.

This is also a banner year for the Hackaday / Tindie / Supplyframe family at DEF CON. We’re on the lookout for hardware. We’re sponsoring the IoT village, [Jasmine] — the high priestess of Tindie — and I will be spending some time in the Hardware Hacking Village, praising our overlords and saying the phrase, ‘like Etsy, but for electronics’ far too much. We’ll be showing people how to solder, fixing badges, and generally being helpful to the vast unwashed masses.

Obviously, this means we need our own unofficial DEF CON badge. We realized this on July 10th. That gave us barely more than two weeks to come up with an idea for a badge, design one, order all the parts, wait on a PCB order, and finally kit all the badges before lugging them out to DEF CON. Is this even possible? Surprisingly, yes. It’s almost easy, and there are zero excuses for anyone not to develop their own hardware badge for next year’s con.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Pan And Tilt Sprinkler

There are a few very popular irrigation systems entered into this year’s Hackaday Prize. In fact, last year’s winner for the Best Product portion of the Prize was the Vinduino, a soil moisture monitor for vineyards. Most of these irrigation systems use drip irrigation or are otherwise relatively small-scale. What if you need something a little more powerful? That’s where [Patrick]’s PTSprinkler comes in. It’s a massive lawn sprinkler coupled to a computer controlled pan and tilt mount. Think of it as a remote controlled Super Soaker, or the Internet of squirt guns. Either way, it’s a great entry for this year’s Hackaday Prize.

The PTSprinkler is designed to use as many low-cost, off-the-shelf components as possible. This started out with a heavy duty outdoor pan-tilt stage an irrigation solenoid valve.

The idea for this sprinkler is to first manually define a shape on the lawn that the sprinkler should cover. From there, the electronics figure out a fill pattern for this grassy polygon. So far, [Patrick] has an electronics board that will move the pan/tilt stage with the help of a Raspberry Pi. You can check out a video of that in action below.

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Friday Hack Chat: Crowd Supply

Crowdfunding is a mixed bag, at best. On one hand, you have fantastically successful products like Pebble, Oculus, and the Kano personal computer that managed to take in money, turn out a product, and become a successful company. (If even just for a while, the Pebble was great.) On the other hand, you have obvious scams like a color-picking pen that are run by a literal Nigerian scammer.

Crowd Supply is different. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms, to get on Crowd Supply you’ll need a working prototype. Where other platforms can measure their success by how many campaigns were successfully funded, and how many of those campaigns successfully delivered rewards to backers, I’m not aware of any Crowd Supply campaigns that have ever failed completely.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’ll be talking with [Josh Lifton], CEO of Crowd Supply. Topics will include determining if there’s a market for your product, the ins and outs of fulfillment, to shipping your product. We’re taking questions from the community, and there’s a question sheet we’ll be reading from.

Josh has a PhD from the MIT Media Lab and holds a BA in physics and mathematics from Swarthmore College. Prior to Crowd Supply, Josh worked in a variety of technology settings, from instrumenting thousands of audience members with custom wearable computers for a Cirque du Soleil performance to, most recently, serving as head of engineering at Puppet Labs.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat will take place at noon Pacific time on Friday, July 28th. Confused about where and when ‘noon’ is? Here’s a time and date converter!

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Rapidly Prototyping RF Filters

RF filters are really just a handful of strategically placed inductors and capacitors. Yes, you can make a 1 GHz filter out of through-hole components, but the leads on the parts turn into inductors at those frequencies, completely ruining the expected results in a design.

The solution to this is microstrip antennas, or carefully arranged tracks and pads on a PCB. Anyone can build one of these with Eagle or KiCad, but that means waiting for an order from a board house to verify your design. [VK2SEB] has a better idea for prototyping PCB filters: use copper tape on blank FR4 sheets.

The first, and simplest, filter demonstrated is a simple bandstop filter. This is really just a piece of fiberglass with copper laminated to one side. Two RF connectors are soldered to the edges and a strip of copper tape strung between them. Somewhere around the middle of this copper tape, [VK2SEB] put another strip of copper tape in a ‘T’ configuration. This is the simplest bandstop filter you can make, and the beauty of this construction is that it can be tuned with a razor blade.

Of course, a filter can only be built with copper tape if you can design them, and for that [SEB] is turning to software. The Qucs project is a software tool for designing and simulating these microstrip filters, and after inputting the correct parameters, [SEB] got a nice diagram of what the filter should look like. A bit of taping, razor blading, and soldering and [SEB] had a working filter connected to a spectrum analyzer. Did it work? To a limited extent; the PCB material probably wasn’t right, and board houses are more accurate than a razor blade, but [SEB] did manage to create a 10 GHz filter out of fiberglass and copper tape.

You can check out the video for this experiment below.

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