Hackaday Links: April 20, 2014

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[Josh] hit the same issue we’ve faced before: cable modems don’t match a form factor and usually don’t make themselves easy to mount on something. We could complain about routers as well, but at least most of those have keyhole slots so you can hang them on some screws. Inspiration struck and he fabricated his own rack-mount adapter for it. Velcro holds it in place, with a cutout bezel to see the status lights and an added fan to keep things cool.

Here’s a pair of strange but possibly interesting ones that were sent in separately. The first is an analysis of how much energy short-run CNC prototyping consumes versus traditional manufacturing. The other is an article that [Liz] wrote about getting started with CNC mill bits. She says she compiled all that she learned as she was getting started in the field and wants to save others the effort.

This one goes back several years, but who doesn’t love to hear about a voice-controlled wheelchair?

So you can solder QFN parts but you can’t hammer a nail straight into a piece of wood? The answer, friend, is a laser guided hammer. Someone hire this [Andybot] person, because the solution to the problem shows the ability to out-think an interesting dilemma: how do you put a laser in a hammer head and still use it to hit things?

We’ve seen a lot of these long-range WiFi hacks over the years. This one is worth looking at because of the work done to create an outdoor mount that will stand the test of time.

And finally, we’re still really fond of this 2-bit paper processor that helps you wrap your brain around what’s going on with those silicon wafers that rule our everyday lives. [glomCo] liked it as well, and actually coded an emulator so that you can play with it without printing anything out on paper. We think it takes away some of the fun, but what an excellent programming exercise!

The Hacklet #1

Hacklet Newsletter Issue 1

With the launch of hackaday.io, our project hosting site, we’ve seen quite a bit of interesting hacks flowing in. While we feature some of our favorite projects on the blog, we’ve decided it’s time to start a regular recap of what’s going on in the Hackaday Projects community. We call it The Hacklet, and the first issue is now available.

This installment starts off with information on our Sci-fi Contest and improvements to the Hackaday Projects site. We talk a bit about the various projects relating to the Mooltipass password manager being developed on Hackaday. The Mooltipass has its own project page, but there’s also separate projects for the low level firmware being developed. Next we look at a pair of NFC rings for unlocking Android devices, and finish off with advice on soldering tiny packages.

Check it out and let us know what you think. Our goal is to summarize some of the neat things going on in the community, and we’re always happy to get constructive feedback from the community itself. Or you can flame us… whichever you prefer.

Retrotechtacular: The Cryotron Computer

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Have you ever heard of a Cryotron Computer before? Of course not. Silicon killed the radio star: this is a story of competing technologies back in the day. The hand above holds the two competitors, the bulkiest one is obviously the vacuum tube, and the three-legged device is what became a household name. But to the right of that tube is another technological marvel that can also be combined into computing machines: the cryotron.

[Dudley Allen Buck] and his contributions to early computing are a tale of the possible alternate universe that could have been cryotrons instead of silicon transistors. Early on we find that the theory points to exotic superconductive materials, but we were delighted to find that in the conception and testing stages [Buck] was hacking. He made his first experimental electronic switches using dissimilar metals and dunking them in liquid helium. The devices were copper wire wrapped around a tantalum wire. The tantalum is the circuit path, the copper wire acts as the switch via a magnetic field that alters the resistance of the tantalum.

The name comes from the low temperature bath necessary to make the switches work properly. Miniaturization was the key as it always is; the example above is a relatively small example of the wire-wound version of the Cryotron, but the end goal was a process very familiar to us today. [Buck] was searching for the thin film fabrication techniques that would let him shoe horn 75,000 or more into one single computing platform. Guess who came knocking on his door during this period of his career? The NSA. The story gets even more interesting from there, but lest we rewrite the article we leave you with this: the technology may beat out silicon in the end. Currently it’s one of the cool kids on the block for those companies racing to the quantum computing finish line.

[Thanks Frederick]

Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

Hackaday Links: April 13, 2014

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Check out this Pokemon Yellow cartridge for Super Nintendo. Wait, what? That is a Game Boy game! Well there is a Super Gameboy cartridge that lets you play them on SNES. This mashes the guts of the two into a custom-decorated SNES cart. Now if you’re more interested in the guts of that Super Game Boy cartridge you’ll want to check out this classic hack which dumped the ROM from it. [Thanks Nick]

Here are a couple of interesting things from our friends over at Adafruit. First off, they have a high-res gallery of the Raspberry Pi compute module and carrier boards which we heard about earlier in the week. Also, the latest Collin’s Lab has a great video on soldering. We especially appreciated the discussion of soldering iron tips and their effect on heat transfer.

[Marius] got tired of the static shock from the office coat rack. You know, like the scene straight out of Office Space? But he didn’t disassemble the infrastructure to solve the issue. Instead he connected it directly to ground. Just make sure you stick the wire in the correct hole!

It’s as if Hackaday is on a quest for the most perfect DIY cyclonic separator. Here’s the latest offering which you can cut out from sheet stock by hand. It’s the alternative for those of us without access to a 3D printer.

If you think it’s too difficult to build what we refer to as a Daft Punk table you need to check out what [Dan] pulled off. He proves that your LED matrix coffee table project doesn’t have to take up a ton of time or cost an exorbitant amount of cash.

We should have mentioned this to you before the weekend so you’d have something to watch: you can now download BBS: The Documentary from the Internet Archive. We’ve watched the entire thing and it’s fantastic. If you know what a dial-up modem handshake sounds like, you’re going to be awash in nostalgia. If you don’t know the delight of those sounds you need to watch this and see how things used to be back in the day when connecting your computer to a network definitely wasn’t what the cool kids were doing. [Thanks Larry]

Developed on Hackaday: The Top PCB dilemna

The Hackaday community offline password keeper is slowly coming together. A few days ago we received the top PCB for Olivier’s design (shown above). If you look at the picture below, you may see the problem we discovered when opening our package: the soldermask was the wrong color! Given the board is meant to be placed behind a tinted acrylic panel, this was quite a problem…

After using some spray paint, we managed to get to the point shown in the bottom left of the picture. The next task was to find the best way to illuminate the input interface with reverse mount LEDs. Using a CNC mill we machined openings (top right PCB) but also removed some epoxy on both PCB’s sides, thinking it would provide a better light diffusion. We then wrote part of the Mooltipass PWM code and took these pictures:

[Read more...]

Developed on Hackaday: 2 Days Left to Submit your Design!

We’re sure that many of Hackaday readers already know that one of the two main components of the Mooltipass project is a smart card, containing (among others) the AES-256 encryption key. Two weeks ago we asked if you’d be interested coming up with a design that will be printed on the final card. As usual, many people were eager to contribute and recently sent us a few suggestions. If you missed the call and would like to join in, it’s not too late! You may still send your CMYK vector image at mathieu[at]hackaday[dot]com by sunday. More detailed specifications may be found here.

In a few days we’ll also publish on Hackaday a project update, as we recently received the top and bottom PCBs for Olivier’s design. The low level libraries will soon be finished and hopefully a few days later we’ll be able to ship a few devices to developers and beta testers. We’re also still looking for contributors that may be interested in helping us to develop browser plugins.

The Mooltipass team would also like to thank our dear readers that gave us a skull on Hackaday projects!

Fail of the Week: Rewiring Robosapien

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Our first thought was “check out all of those TO-92 components!”, but then we saw the wiring nightmare. [Tom] picked up a Robosapien from an estate sale for just $10. Most hackers couldn’t resist that opportunity, but the inexpensive acquisition led to a time-consuming repair odyssey. When something doesn’t work at all you crack it open to see what’s wrong. He was greeted with wiring whose insulation was flaking off.

This is no problem for anyone competent with a soldering iron. So [Tom] set to work clipping all the bad wire and replacing it with in-line splices. Voila, the little guy was dancing to his own tunes once again! But the success was short-lived as the next day the robot was unresponsive again. [Tom] plans to do some more work by completely replacing the wires as soon as he receives the replacement connectors he ordered. So what do you think, is this an issue that will be resolved with a wire-ectomy or might there be actual damage to the board itself?


2013-09-05-Hackaday-Fail-tips-tileFail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Wednesday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story – or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.