DOE Announces a High Performance Computing Fortran Compiler Agreement

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and its three national labs this week announced they have reached an agreement for an open-source Fortran front-end for Higher Performance Computing (HPC). The agreement is with IBM? Microsoft? Google? Nope, the agreement is with NVIDIA, a company known for making graphics cards for gamers.

The heart of a graphics card is the graphics processor unit (GPU) which is an extremely powerful computing engine. It’s actually got more raw horsepower than the computer CPU, although not as much as many claim. A number of years ago NVIDIA branched into providing compiler toolsets for their GPUs. The obvious goal is to drive sales. NVIDIA will use as a starting point their existing Fortran compiler and integrate it with the existing LLVM compiler infrastructure. That Fortran, it just keeps chugging along.

You can try out GPU programming on your Raspberry Pi. Yup! Even it has one, a Broadcom. Just follow the directions from Raspberry Pi Playground. You’re going to get your hands dirty with assembly language so this is not for the faint hearted. One of the big challenges with GPUs is exchanging data with them which gets into DMA processing. You could also take a look at [Pete Warden’s] work on using the Pi’s GPU.

Still wondering about the performance of CPU vs GPU? Here’s Adam Savage taking a look…

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Building A Better 3D Printed Gun

Back in 2013, [Cody Wilson] of Defense Distributed designed and built the world’s first completely 3D printed pistol. He called his gun the Liberator, after a World War II-era single-shot pistol designed to be cheap and easy to manufacture, easy to conceal, and for members of the French Resistance, ‘a great gun to obtain a better gun’.

cyl[Cody]’s Liberator turned out to be a great gun to obtain two or three fewer fingers. Not only was this a single-shot pistol, it was a single barrel pistol; with each round fired requiring a new 3D printed barrel. Tests were carried out, explosions happened, and we couldn’t even get the thing to print. For all the media hubbub, for all the concerned legislators, the first 3D printed pistol was much ado about nothing.

3D printers are still an extremely interesting technology, and if history has proved one thing, it’s that engineers and tinkerers will keep building guns. Last week, [James Patrick] released his latest design for a working 3D printed gun. It still fires the .22lr of the Liberator, but this is a double action revolver, it won’t blow up, and if you drop it, it won’t discharge. It’s the little things that count.

[James]’ revolver is either a 6 or 8-shot revolver uses a pepper-box design, where the gun has multiple chambers and barrels in one gigantic cylinder. The double action design first rotates the cylinder to the next chamber, pulls back a striker loaded up with a firing pin nail, and (hopefully) fires a round. In the video below, [James] goes over the design of his action, and ends up showing off a few test firings of his newly designed gun.

What’s very interesting about this build is how closely the development of 3D printed firearms is following the development of historical firearms. First, we had guns that probably shouldn’t be fired, ever. Now, the technology for 3D printed guns is about up to 1830 or thereabouts. Give it a few more years and we’ll be up to 1911.

Disclaimer: if you live in the US and think this sort of thing should be illegal, contact your state representative and tell them you support a constitutional convention to remove the personal right to own and operate firearms. This right has been upheld many, many times by the judiciary, and a constitutional convention is the only way your wishes could be carried out. Your state representative probably doesn’t read Hackaday; there is no need to comment here. Let’s talk about engineering and technology instead.

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Hacklet 85: Alternative Audio Amplifiers

When you think of amplifiers, you’re probably thinking of audio or some big ‘ol power amps for radios. While interesting, there are some very interesting ‘alternative’ amplifiers floating around that are more than just power amps, and exceedingly useful, to boot.

1601181393316190625[Ronald] bought an XMS amplifier a few years ago, and although it worked well, every time he changed the input, the loudness had to be toggled. One thing led to another, and he realized this amplifier had a four-channel audio processor that could be controlled by I2C. This was the beginning of his Network Amplifier.

Inside the box is a Raspberry Pi that controls a PT2314-based amplifier. Also included is a 2×16 character LCD, a few LEDs, switches, and a rotary encoder.  There was an Android app that controlled the amplifier, but this was discarded for a better looking web-based solution. Now [Ronald] has every audio source available over WiFi.

973501443636885535What if you want an audio amplifier without a speaker? Wait, what? That’s what [DeepSOIC] is doing with his experiments in ion wind loudspeakers.

‘Ion wind lifters’ have been around for decades now, mostly in the labs of slightly off-kilter people who believe this is the technology aliens are using to visit earth. Nevertheless, ion wind lifters produce an airflow, and if you make that wind variable, you get sound. Pretty cool, huh?

The amplifier for this project uses a tube to modulate kilovolt supply through the ion ‘blower’. Does it work? Sure does. [DeepSOIC] got a piece of 0.2 mm nichrome wire to discharge ions into the air, after which the ions drift into the second electrode. The result is sound, and the entire project is built deadbug style. It really doesn’t get cooler than this.


2981611414932529525Continuing with the tube amp trend, [Marcel] built the cheapest little tube amp around.

The design of an audio tube amp is fairly simple business. First, you start with a big ‘ol transformer, and rectify the AC into DC. This gets fed into a preamp tube, and this is fed into a bigger power tube.

In about 50 years of development, tube designers had the technology down pat by the mid 1950s, and triode/pentode tubes were created. This allowed tube designers to condense two amplifier stages into a single tube. While this setup was usually used for cheap, toy-like electronics, you can still buy the ECL82 tube today.

[Marcel] took one of these tubes, added a rectifier tube, transformer, and big cap to create the simplest possible tube amp. Use it for guitars, use it for hi-fis, it’s all the same. It’s not going to sound great, but it is a very easy amp to build.

All of these interesting audio amplifier projects are curated on this new list! If you have a build that amplifies sound in an interesting way, don’t be shy, just drop [Adam] a message on and he’ll add it. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Garbage can CNC Machine Build

Forget sourcing parts for your next project from some fancy neighborhood hardware store. If you really want to show your hacker chops, be like [HomoFaciens] and try a Dumpster dive for parts for a CNC machine build.

OK, we exaggerate a little – but only a little. Apart from the control electronics, almost everything in [HomoFacien]’s build could be found by the curb on bulk-waste pickup day. Particle board from a cast-off piece of flat-pack furniture, motors and gears from an old printer, and bits of steel strapping are all that’s needed for the frame of a serviceable CNC machine. This machine is even junkier than [HomoFacien]’s earlier build, which had a lot more store-bought parts. But the videos below show pretty impressive performance nonetheless.

Sure, this is a giant leap backwards for the state of the art in DIY CNC builds. but that’s the point – to show what can be accomplished with almost nothing, and that imagination and perseverance are more important for acceptable results than an expensive BOM.

With that in mind, we’re throwing down the gauntlet: can anyone build a CNC machine from cardboard and paperclips?

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Tiny Arcade, Based on Arduino

Who can resist video games when they’re packed up in tiny, tiny little arcade machines? [Ken]’s hoping that you cannot, because he’s making a cute, miniature Arduino-based arcade game platform on Kickstarter. (Obligatory Kickstarter promo video below the break.)

The arcades are based on [Ken]’s TinyCircuits Arduino platform — a surprisingly broad range of Arduino modules that click together using small snap connectors in place of pin headers. The system is cool enough in its own right, and it appears to be entirely open source. Housing these bits in a cute arcade box and providing working game code to go along with it invites hacking.

There’s something about tiny video cabinets. We’ve seen people cram a Game Boy Advance into a tiny arcade cabinet and re-house commercial video game keyfobs into arcade boxes. Of course, there’s the Rasbperry Pi. From [Sprite_TM]’s cute little MAME cabinet to this exquisite build with commercially 3D-printed parts, it’s a tremendously appealing project.

But now, if you’re too lazy to build your own from scratch, and you’ve got $60 burning a hole in your pocket, you can get your own tiny arcade — and tiny Arduino kit — for mere money. A lot of people have already gone that route as they passed the $25k funding goal early yesterday. Congrats [Ken]!

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Robotic Tabletop

Remember pin art? That’s the little box full of pins that you can push something into and the pins take on the shape. You usually use your hand, but any small object works (including, if you are brave enough, your face). [Sean Follmer] (formerly at the MIT Media Lab) developed the reverse of this: a surface made of pins driven by motors. Under computer control, the surface can take on shapes all by itself.

The square pins can be seen in the video below moving and manipulating blocks and using them to build structures out of the blocks. By using the right sequence of pin motions, the blocks can be flipped and even stacked. Magnetic blocks offer even more options.

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Turning a Car into a Playstation Controller

For a rather obscure brand advertisement, Nissan decided to turn one of their cars into a giant Playstation 4 controller to play a game of football (soccer).

The first question to pop into our heads was why? And that’s because Nissan is a major sponsor of UEFA Champions League. From there, it became why not? We love the companies that get their hands dirty on a hacking level, and actually do something instead of just funneling money into your standard billboard advertising — it’s just more fun this way.

The second question you should be asking yourself is how do you play soccer using a car? Well, it’s pretty simple. Steering is your left and right controls, the indicator switch is forward and backward, the windshield wipers kick the ball, a steering wheel button lets you run faster, the brake pedal passes the ball, and the gas pedal shoots. Simple right? As one of the prototype testers describes:

It’s kinda like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, it really messes your head up — but it’s really enjoyable when you get it right.

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