Friday Hack Chat: 8-Bit Micros With Microchip

A few years ago, Microchip acquired Atmel for $3.56 Billion. There are plenty of manufacturers of 8-bit microcontrollers, but everyone makes 8051s, and the MSP430 isn’t as popular as it should be. Microchip’s acquisition of Atmel created what is probably the largest manufacturer of 8-bit micros, with a portfolio ranging from ATtinys smaller than a grain of rice to gigantic PICs.

This Friday, we’re hosting a Hack Chat with the Technical Marketing Engineer of 8-bitters at Microchip. If you love AVR, this is the guy to talk to. If you’re still rocking the vintage 1993 PICkit, this is the guy to talk to.

On the docket for this Hack Chat are some new PICs and some very interesting peripherals coming down the line. ADCC — A2D with computation — is on the table, along with configurable logic cells. This Hack Chat is also going to go over Microchip design tools like MP Lab Xpress.

Of course, these Hack Chats are a question and answer session for the community. We’re encouraging everyone to ask a few questions about what Microchip is doing. We’ve opened up a discussion guide for this Hack Chat. If you have a question, just add it to the list.

If you can’t make the Hack Chat, don’t worry. We’re going to have a transcript of the entire chat. That should be available here shortly after the chat concludes.

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, June 9th. Here’s a fancy time and date converter if you need timezone help.

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

Hackaday Prize Entry: The FPGA Commodore

The history of Commodore 8-bit computers ends with a fantastically powerful, revolutionary, and extraordinarily collectible device. The Commodore 65 was the chicken lip’ last-ditch effort to squeeze every last bit out of the legacy of the Commodore 64. Basically, it was a rework of a 10-year-old design, adding advanced features from the Amiga, but still retaining backwards compatibility. Only 200 prototypes were produced, and when these things hit the auction block, they can fetch as much as an original Apple I.

For their Hackaday Prize entry, resident hackaday.io FPGA wizard [Antti Lukats] and a team of retrocomputing enthusiasts are remaking the Commodore 65. Finally, the ultimate Commodore 8-bit will be available to all. Not only is this going to be a perfect replica of what is arguably the most desirable 8-bit computer of all time, it’s going to have new features like HDMI, Ethernet, and connections for a lot of FPGA I/O pins.

The PCB for this project is designed to fit inside the original case and includes an Artix A200T FPGA right in the middle of the board. HDMI and VGA connectors fill the edges of the board, there’s a connector for a floppy disk, and the serial port, cartridge slot, and DE9 joystick connectors are still present.

You can check out an interview from the Mega65 team below. It’s in German, but Google auto-generated and auto-translated captions actually work really, really well.

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You Won’t Believe That Fidget Spinners Are Obvious Clickbait!

I don’t know why fidget spinners are only getting popular now. They’ve been selling like hotcakes on Tindie for a year now, and I’ve been seeing 3D printed versions around the Internet for almost as long. Nevertheless, fidget spinners — otherwise known as a device to turn a skateboard bearing into a toy — have become unbelievably popular in the last month or so. Whatever; I’m sure someone thinks my complete collection of Apollo 13 Pogs from Carl’s Jr. with modular Saturn V Pog carry case and aluminum slammer embossed with the real Apollo 13 mission patch is stupid as well.

However, a new fad is a great reason to drag out an oscilloscope, measure the rotation of a fidget spinner, take a video of the whole endeavor, and monetize it on YouTube. That’s just what [Frank Buss] did. It’s like he’s printing money at this point.

The measurement setup for this test is simple enough. [Frank] connected a small solar cell to the leads of his $2k oscilloscope, and placed the cell down on his workbench. This generated a voltage of about 28mV. Spinning the fidget spinner cast a shadow over the cell that was measured as a change in voltage. Oscilloscopes measure frequency, and by dividing that frequency by three, [Frank] calculated his fidget spinner was spinning at the remarkable rate of 2200 RPM.

Is this a stupid use of expensive equipment? Surprisingly no. The forty thousand videos on YouTube demonstrating a “99999+ RPM Fidget Spinner” all use cheap digital laser tachometers available for $20 on eBay. These tachometers top out at — you guessed it — 99999 RPM. Using only an oscilloscope and a solar cell [Frank] found in his parts drawer, he found an even better way to push the envelope of fidget spinner test and measurement.

Using this method, even an inexpensive 40MHz scope can reliably measure three-bladed fidget spinners up to 800,000,000 RPM. Of course, this calculation doesn’t take into account capacitance in the cell, you’ll need a margin for Nyquist, and everything within 20 meters will be destroyed, but there you go. A better way to measure the rotation speed of fidget spinners. It’s technically a hack.

You can check out [Frank]’s video of this experiment below. If you liked this post, don’t forget to like, rate, comment and subscribe for even more of the best Fidget Spinner news.

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The IP Of The Infinite Build Volume 3D Printer

Last week, the Blackbelt 3D printer launched on Kickstarter. What makes the Blackbelt 3D printer different than any other 3D printer on Kickstarter? This printer has an infinite build volume. It’s built for continuous production. As long as you have a large enough spool of filament, this printer will keep producing plastic parts with no downtime in between. The Blackbelt is a truly remarkable and innovative machine. Yes, it’s a bit expensive, but it’s designed for production and manufacturing, not some guy tinkering in his garage.

However, the Blackbelt 3D website includes two words that have sent the 3D printer community into an uproar. ‘Patent Pending’ is something no one in the community wants to see given the history of the industry and a few poor decisions from the first movers during the great 3D printer awakening of 2010. The idea of an infinite build volume printer that allows for continuous production is not new; we saw one last March at the Midwest RepRap Festival. The question, therefore, is what is covered by the upcoming Blackbelt patents, what is the prior art, and is it still possible to build an Open Source printer that uses these innovative techniques?

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Sub Gigahertz RF

For all the press WiFi and Bluetooth-connected Internet of Things toasters get, there’s still a lot of fun to be had below one Gigahertz. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Adam] is working on an open source, extensible 915 and 433 MHz radio designed for robotics, drones, weather balloons, and all the other fun projects that sub-Gigaherts radio enables.

The design of this radio module is based around the ADF7023 RF transceiver, a very capable and very cheap chip that transmits in the usual ISM bands. The rest of the circuit is an STM32 ARM Cortex M0+, with USB, UART, and SPI connectivity, with support for a battery for those mobile projects.

Of course, you can just go out and buy an ISM radio, but that’s not really the point of this project. [Adam] has come up with an excellent board here, all designed in KiCad, all while flexing his RF muscle. There are RF shields here, too, so it’s far more than just a design challenge, this is an assembly and sourcing problem as well. It’s a great project, and an excellent example of what we’re looking for in The Hackaday Prize.

Exposing Dinosaur Phone Insecurity With Software Defined Radio

Long before everyone had a smartphone or two, the implementation of a telephone was much stranger than today. Most telephones had real, physical buttons. Even more bizarrely, these phones were connected to other phones through physical wires. Weird, right? These were called “landlines”, a technology that shuffled off this mortal coil three or four years ago.

It gets even more bizarre. some phones were wireless — just like your smartphone — but they couldn’t get a signal more than a few hundred feet away from your house for some reason. These were ‘cordless telephones’. [Corrosive] has been working on deconstructing the security behind these cordless phones for a few years now and found these cordless phones aren’t secure at all.

The phone in question for this exploit is a standard 5.8 GHz cordless phone from Vtech. Conventional wisdom says these phones are reasonably secure — at least more so than the cordless phones from the 80s and 90s — because very few people have a duplex microwave transceiver sitting around. The HackRF is just that, and it only costs $300. This was bound to happen eventually.

This is really just an exploration of the radio system inside these cordless phones. After taking a HackRF to a cordless phone, [Corrosive] found the phone technically didn’t operate in the 5.8 GHz band. Control signals, such as pairing a handset to a base station, happened at 900 MHz. Here, a simple replay attack is enough to get the handset to ring. It gets worse: simply by looking at the 5.8 GHz band with a HackRF, [Corrosive] found an FM-modulated voice channel when the handset was on. That’s right: this phone transmits your voice without any encryption whatsoever.

This isn’t the first time [Corrosive] found a complete lack of security in cordless phones. A while ago, he was exploring the DECT 6.0 standard, a European cordless phone standard for PBX and VOIP. There was no security here, either. It would be chilling if landlines existed anymore.

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Hackaday Links: June 4, 2017

Quick question: what was the first personal computer? We love pointless arguments over technological history, so let’s just go down the list. It wasn’t an IBM, and the guy who invented the personal computer said he didn’t invent the personal computer. The Apple I is right out, and there were some weird Italian things that don’t quite count. Here’s an auction for, “The first personal computer”, a MICRAL N, released in 1974. There’s an 8080 running at 500kHz with 16kB of RAM and ‘mixed memory’. This is an important bit of history that belongs in a museum, and the auction will start at €20,000. The starting price might be a bit high; recently an original Apple I sold at auction for €90,000. This is a pittance for what these things usually go for. Is the market for vintage retrocomputers dropping out from underneath us? Only time will tell.

In Upstate NY? There’s a Hacker con going on June 16-17. You can get 20% off your ticket to ANYCon by using the code ‘HACKADAY’.

Colorblind? Hackaday readers suffer from colorblindness at a higher rate than the general population. [João] created this really neat tool to differentiate colors on a screen. Windows only, but still handy.

Everyone’s excited about the $150 3D printer that will be released by Monoprice sometime this summer. Here’s a $99 3D printer. Yes, it’s a Kickstarter so the standard warnings apply, but this bot does have a few things going for it. It uses actual NEMA 17 motors, and the people behind this printer actually have experience in manufacturing hardware. The downsides? It’s entirely leadscrew driven, so it’s going to be very, very slow.

What do you call the dumbest person with an EE degree? An engineer. It’s at this point where you should realize the value of a tertiary education is not defined by the most capable graduates; it’s defined by the least capable graduates.

Here’s your Sunday evening viewing: [Bunnie] gave a talk on RISC-V and the expectations of Open Hardware.

Hey, OpenBuilds has a new Mini Mill. It’s a basic CNC router designed for small ~1HP Bosch or Dewalt laminate trimmers. Small, but capable.

Kerbal Space Program, the only video game that should be required study materials at the Air Force Academy, Embry-Riddle and for everyone working at NASA, has been acquired by Take-Two Interactive. By all accounts, this is good news. According to reports, the original dev team left for Valve a few months ago, reportedly because of terrible conditions at Squad, the (former) developer of KSP.

The Stratolaunch carrier aircraft has rolled out of the hangar. It’s two 747s duct speed taped together.