Kickstarting Even More Router-Based Dev Boards

The latest and greatest thing makers and IoT solutions is apparently router hacking. While most Hackaday readers lived through this interesting phase where Linksys routers were used to connect sensors and other such digital bits and bobs to the Internet a few years ago, SOCs have improved, and now there are router-based dev boards.

The latest is the Onion Omega, an exceptionally tiny board just under two inches square. Onboard is an Atheros AR9331 chipset – the same found in a number of cheap WiFi routers – attached to 32 pins breaking out GPIOs, SPI, I2C, and USB. With WiFi and Ethernet, this is a board designed to connect sensors, motors, actuators, and devices to the Internet.

This is not the only recent router-based dev board to make it to the crowdfunding sites. A week or so ago, the Domino hit Kickstarter, featuring the same AR9331 chipset found in the Onion Omega. The Onion does have a few things going for it – cloud integration, a web-based console, and an app store that make the Onion vastly more useful for the ‘maker’ market. The Domino has a boatload of pins available, and competition is always good, right?

Earth Day: Terraforming The Earth

In 300 years, New York, London, Tokyo, and just about every major city on the planet will be underwater. Sub-Saharan Africa will extend to the equator. Arizona will get hurricanes. These are huge problems, but luckily there are a few very creative people working to terraform the Earth for this year’s Hackaday Prize.

[Danny] is working to stop desertification, and stop blowing drifts of sand from encroaching on valuable farm land. How does his project aim to do this? There are a few techniques that can mitigate or even stop the expanding deserts, including reforestation, proper water management, and using woodlots and windbreaks just like in the 1930s dust bowl.

With the right tools, these techniques are fairly simple to implement. For that, [Danny] is working on a biodegradable lattice framework that will hold soil in place just like plant roots would. It’s an interesting concept, and we can’t wait to see what kind of prototypes [Danny comes up with.

The Terra Spider takes a different tack. In true post-apocalyptic fashion, the Terra Spider will deploy thousands of robots capable of moving and removing biomatter from the environment. Each of the Terra Spiders is able to monitor the local environment, and a few dozen of these bots connected by a wireless network will be able to address a specific site’s needs to make a landscape the way it should be.


VCF East X: Amigas And Non-Apple Macs

The Amiga 1000, the original Amiga, was introduced in 1985, making this the 30th anniversary of the Commodore Amiga. Of course this needed to be represented at the Vintage Computer Festival, and [Bill Winters] and [Anthony Becker] were more than up to the task:

The guys brought with them a representation of nearly every Amiga, and also have a few neat gadgets to plug into these cool little boxes. The Amiga 1200 has been heavily upgraded with a compact flash drive. With the proper adapters and cards, this neat machine can be upgraded with Ethernet, WiFi, or just about every conceivable networking solution.

Attached to the A500 is a Gotek floppy drive emulator, a relatively standard if weird device that turns a PC floppy drive connector into a USB mass storage solution. This floppy emulator did not originally support Amiga disk formats, but with a firmware modification, everything just works. That’s a great story in itself, and something we should probably cover another time.

If you’re wondering what it was like for [Bill] and [Anthony] to dig through their garage for their exhibit, here you go.

Portable Macintoshen

The first Macintosh was released in 1984. Macintosh users wanted a slightly more portable machine, but the first ‘luggable’ Mac wouldn’t be released until late 1989. The market was there to fill the gap, with some bizarre machines exhibited by [Matt Bergeron]:

The Outbound laptop and notebook were unlicensed clones of the Macintosh. Instead of pirating the Apple ROMs, the Outbound computers required buyers to pull the ROM chips from their Macs and install them in the slightly more portable version. This was, of course, inconvenient, and we can imagine there were more than a few ROM chips cloned.

The Dynamac was a different beast, using the entire PCB from a mac SE or SE/30. To this, the creators of the Dynamac added a custom video card and electroluminescent display that was also capable of driving an external monitor. Very cool stuff.

A DIY Fourier Transform Spectrometer

Typical spectrometers use prisms or diffraction gratings to spread light over a viewing window or digital sensor as a function of frequency. While both prisms and gratings work very well, there are a couple of downsides to each. Diffraction gratings produce good results for a wide range of wavelengths, but a very small diffraction grating is needed to get high-resolution data. Smaller gratings let much less light through, which limits the size of the grating. Prisms have their own set of issues, such as a limited wavelength range. To get around these issues, [iliasam] built a Fourier transform spectrometer (translated), which operates on the principle of interference to capture high-resolution spectral data.

[iliasam]’s design is built with an assortment of parts including a camera lens, several mirrors, a micrometer, laser diode, and a bunch of mechanical odds and ends. The core of the design is a Michelson interferometer which splits and recombines the beam, forming an interference pattern. One mirror of the interferometer is movable, while the other is fixed. [iliasam]’s design uses a reference laser and photodiode as a baseline for his measurement, which also allows him to measure the position of the moving mirror. He has a second photodiode which measures the interference pattern of the actual sample that’s being tested.

Despite its name, the Fourier transform spectrometer doesn’t directly put out a FFT. Instead, the signal from both the reference and measurement photodiodes is passed into the sound card of a computer. [iliasam] wrote some software that processes the sampled data and, after quite a bit of math, spits out the spectrum. The software isn’t as simple as you might think – it has to measure the reference signal and calculate the velocity of the mirror’s oscillations, count the number of oscillations, frequency-correct the signal, and much more. After doing all this, his software calculates an interferogram, performs an inverse Fourier transform, and the spectrum is finally revealed. Check out [iliasam]’s writeup for all the theory and details behind his design.

Earth Day: Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are the wave of the future, whether it’s from sucking too much oil out of the ground, or because of improved battery technology. Most internal combustion engines are unsustainable, and if you’re thinking about the environment – or working on an entry for The Hackaday Prize – an electric vehicle is the way to go.
Here are a few electric vehicle projects that are competing in The Hackaday Prize that show off the possibilities for the electric vehicles of the future.

An Electric Ninja

Motorcycles are extremely efficient already, but if you want a torquey ride with a lot of acceleration, electric is the way to go. [ErikL] is hard at work transforming a 2005 Ninja 250R into an electric vehicle, both to get away from gas-sipping engines and as a really, really cool ride. Interestingly, the battery technology in this bike isn’t that advanced – it’s a lead acid battery, basically, that reduces the complexity of the build.

And They Have Molds To Make Another

Motorcycles aren’t for everybody, but neither are normal, everyday, electronic conversion cars. [MW Motors] is building a car from scratch. The body, the chassis, and the power train are all hand built.

The amazing part of this build is how they created the body. It’s a fiberglass mold that was pulled off of a model carved out of a huge block of foam. There’s a lot of composite work in here, and a lot of work had to happen before digging into the foam; you actually need to choose your accessories, lights, and other bits and bobs before designing the body panels.

While the suspension and a lot of the mechanical parts were taken from a Mazda Miata, the power and drive system are completely custom. Most of the chassis is filled with LiFeMnPO4 batteries, powering four hub motors in each wheel. It’s going to be an amazing car.

Custom, 3D Printed Electric Motors

If you’re designing an electric car, the biggest decision you’re going to make is what motor you’re going to use. This is a simple process: open up a few catalogs and see what manufacturers are offering. There’s another option: building your own motor. [Solenoid] is working on a piece of software that will calculate the specifications of a motor given specific dimensions. It will also generate files for a 3D printed motor given the desired specs. Yes, you’ll still need to wind a few miles of copper onto these parts, but it’s the beginning of completely custom electronic motors.

RetroPie portable looks like SNES Gameboy

[Mat] wanted a portable RetroPie project he could take while travelling. He made one with a laser cut plastic housing and, according to him, it turned out to be a ‘hideous deformed beast’. In version 2 he took a different approach and we must say it came out looking pretty nice.

This time [Mat] went with a 3D printed case. He designed it himself in SketchUp. Unfortunately, [Mat] doesn’t have access to a 3D printer so he had to send it out to a professional printing company to the tune of £60 ($90). Although that was a large chunk of change, he was happy with the quality of the print. The final exterior dimensions of the case is 13 x 13 x 2.5 cm.

A quick look at the controls will remind anyone of an SNES controller. [Mat] took the innards of an SNES-like USB gamepad and modeled the new case around it. Not having to cut up or otherwise modify the controller PCB makes for an easy addition to the project. Conveniently, the width of the controller was just about the same as the 4.3 inch LCD used for the gamepad’s display. Both fit nicely together.

Under the hood is a Rasberry Pi running RetroPie. An internal 2600mAh Lithium Ion battery provides up to 3.5 hours of game play. Battery charging management is provided by an Adafruit Powerboost 500 which also has a micro USB port that makes connecting an external charger easy.

RC Plane Converted To Autogyro

Out in the RC Airplane world, there is a great airframe called the Slow Stick. There is not much going on with this plane as it only has the bare necessities, a motor, wing, tail and a fiberglass tube (hence the ‘stick’ part of Slow Stick) as the fuselage. Yes, and as the name suggests it is slow. Although it’s intent is to be a starter plane for beginners, even experienced pilots like it because it is cheap, easy to repair and fun to modify. [StephanB] is the type of guy who likes to modify things so he set out to convert his Slow Stick to an Autogyro.

An Autogyro can be described as a cross between a plane and a helicopter. Like a plane it has a propeller that provides forward thrust. Unlike a plane, it does not have a wing. To provide lift, there is a large helicopter-like rotor on top of the craft but this rotor is not powered. It only spins when the craft is moving forward. Lift is created when the rotor is spinning, allowing the Autogyro to take off.

[StephanB] started by removing his Slow Stick’s wing. This takes all of 2 seconds and consists of only removing 2 rubber bands. Next he built a frame for the rotor. It was made to fit the wing mounts of the Slow Stick so that it could be quickly converted back to a plane. With a spinning Autogyro rotor, the side that the rotor is traveling in the forward direction creates more lift than the side of the rotor traveling rearward. To compensate for this unequal lift, [StephanB] added a sideways tilting rotor mount. An RC servo is connected to the mount and allows remote control of the rotor to balance out the lift.

Slow Stick Auto Gyro