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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Hackaday Prize Entry: USB Packet Snooping

Sometimes you run into a few problems when developing your own hardware, and to solve these problems you have to build your own tools. This is exactly how [KC Lee]’s USB Packet Snooper was created. It’s a small device that allows for capturing and analyzing Full Speed USB traffic to debug one of [KC]’s other Hackaday Prize entries.

[KC] is building an HID Multimedia Dial for this year’s Hackaday Prize. It’s kind of like the Microsoft Surface Dial or the ubiquitous Griffin PowerMate that has been on the market for the better part of two decades. This multimedia dial is bitbanging USB with an STM8, which means [KC] needs a tool to capture raw USB packets.

The design of this USB Packet Snooper is split up into two parts. The first is either a dongle or a pass-through device that simply serves as a tap between a USB device and a USB host. The logging and analysis board attaches to this dongle, and uses a rather fast ARM microcontroller to listen in on USB packets and send everything over serial to a PC.

This is a rather novel device; V-USB is limited to Low Speed USB, and other USB capture tools are far out of reach of the hobbyist budget. Software solutions on a PC obviously won’t work because [KC] doesn’t even know if he’s sending valid USB packets. This is a great tool that finally brings hobbyist-level USB analysis up to Full Speed USB.

How to Take Pictures of PCBs

While we’ve covered light box builds and other DIY photography solutions, general picture-snapping tips and tricks are a bit out of the purview of what we normally write about. Nevertheless, [Alain] just put up a great tutorial for taking pictures of PCBs. This is a great skill to have — no one cares about what you’ve built unless you have a picture of it — and the same techniques can be applied to other small bits and bobs of electronic equipment.

As with all matters of photography, light is important. [Alain] built a DIY light box using two cheap outdoor square LED panels and some scrap wood. There’s really nothing to this build: just build a box that holds soft, diffused light.

A camera is a little more complicated than a box, and here [Alain] is using an entry-level DSLR with a kit lens. The takeaway here is to set the aperture to the highest number (or smallest hole) possible while still keeping a reasonable shutter speed. This increases the depth of field and produces a picture where the board and the tops of components are in focus.

There are a few more tips for getting the best PCB pics possible including shooting in RAW for Aperture or Lightroom, getting a macro lens, and using a tripod. Like all things, there’s a law of diminishing returns, and even with a smartphone camera and a DIY light box, you can produce some fantastic pics of PCBs.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Don’t Build This

The ESP8266 is a remarkable piece of hardware. What we originally thought — and what was originally marketed as — a simple UART to WiFi bridge with Hayes modem commands has turned into one of the best embedded platforms around. It’s a powerful little microcontroller, it has WiFi, and it can send raw frames. That last bit is awesome, because it allows for some mischief or mirth making, depending on your point of view.

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Tejas] is building a WiFi Jammer with an ESP8266. It’s a small device that is able to disconnect anyone from a WiFi AP. Should you build it? No. Can you? Sure, why not.

The code for this WiFi hacking tool is taken from the creator of the ESP8266 deauth toolkit, [spacehuhn], although [Tejas] is violating the license for [spacehuhn]’s (non-Open Source) code. This fantastic piece of firmware uses management packets to send a deauthentication frame, effectively allowing anyone to disconnect any device from a WiFi router. Why would anyone want to do this? Mischief, of course, but there are also a few techniques that could allow an attacker to get a password for the WiFi.

While there are ways to protect against deauth attacks, most routers don’t have management-frame protection enabled. In any event, we’re going to see exactly how annoying deauth attacks can be this week at DEF CON. The smart money is on a small percentage of DEF CON attendees lulzing about with ESPs and the Caesar’s CTO being very, very unhappy.

Hackaday Links: July 23, 2017

Hey, you know what’s happening right now? We’re wrapping up the third round of The Hackaday Prize. This challenge, Wheels, Wings, and Walkers, is dedicated to things that move. If it’s a robot, it qualifies, if it’s a plane, it qualifies, if it passes butter, it qualifies. There’s only a short time for you to get your entry in. Do it now. Superliminal advertising.

Speaking of the Hackaday Prize, this project would be a front-runner if only [Peter] would enter it in the competition. It’s one thing to have a cult; I have a cult and a petition to ‘stop’ me.

We were completely unaware of this project, but a few weeks ago, a cubesat was launched from Baikonur. This cubesat contains a gigantic mylar reflector, and once it’s deployed it will be the second brightest object in the night sky after the moon. I don’t know why we haven’t seen this in the press, but if you have any pictures of sightings, drop those in the comments.

In a mere two years, we’ll be looking at the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. The mission control center at Johnson Space Center — where these landings were commanded and controlled — is still around, and it’s not in the best shape. There’s a Kickstarter to restore the Apollo Mission Control Center to its former glory. For the consoles, this means restoring them to Apollo 15 operational configuration.

We’ve seen 3D printed remote control airplanes, and at this point, there’s nothing really exceptional about printing a wing. This user on imgur is going a different direction with 3D printed fiberglass molds. Basically, it’s a fuselage for a Mustang that is printed, glued together, with the inside sanded and coated in wax. Two layers (3 oz and 6 oz) fiberglass is laid down with West Systems epoxy. After a few days, the mold is cracked open and a fuselage appears. This looks great, and further refinements of the process can include vapor smoothing of the inside of the mold, a few tabs to make sure the mold halves don’t break when the part is released, and larger parts in general.

The Darknet’s Casefile will take you to the limit of your existing knowledge. Join them, to go on a quest to improve your technical abilities.

This week is Def Con. That means two things. First, we’re on a hardware hunt. If you’ve been dedicating the last few months to #badgelife or other artisanal electronics, we want to hear about it. Second, [Joe Kim] made a graphic of the Tindie dog wearing a Hackaday hoodie and it’s adorable. There are a limited number of stickers of our hacker dog.

Gigabyte launched a single board computer with an Intel Apollo Lake CPU, discrete memory and storage, and a mini PCIe slot. Of course, this is being incorrectly marketed as a ‘Raspberry Pi competitor’, but whatever.