One of the big stories of last year was the fracture of the official Arduino supply into two competing organisations at daggers drawn, each headed by a different faction with its origins in the team that gave us the popular single board computers. Since then we’ve had Arduinos from Arduino LLC (the [Massimo] Arduino.cc, arguably the ‘original’, and Arduino trademark holder in the United States) and Arduino SRL (the [Musto] Arduino.org, and owner of the Arduino trademark everywhere except the US) , two websites, two forks of the IDE, and “real” Arduino boards available under a couple of names depending on where in the world you live due to a flurry of legal manoeuvres. Yes. it’s confusing.
Today came news of a supplier throwing its hands up in despair at the demands imposed on them as part of this debacle. Pimoroni, famous as supplier of Raspberry Pi goodies, has put up a blog post explaining why they will henceforth no longer be selling Arduinos. They took the side of Arduino LLC, and the blog post details their extensive trials and delays in making contact with the company before eventually being told they would have to agree to purchase substantial stocks both Arduino and Genuino branded versions of identical products and agree to sell them through separate supply channels for both Europe and the rest of the world before they could proceed. This is not a practical proposition for a small company, and the Pimoroni people deliver a very pithy explanation of exactly why towards the bottom of their post.
We’ve covered the Arduino versus Arduino debacle extensively in the past, this is simply the latest in a long line of stories. Pimoroni have hit the nail on the head when they make the point that the customers and suppliers really don’t care about spats between the various inheritors of the Arduino legacy, they just want an Arduino. And with so many other Arduino-compatible boards available they don’t have to look very hard to find one if the right shade of blue solder-resist or the shape of the map of Italy on the back isn’t a special concern. Can we be the only ones wishing something like this might knock a bit of sense into the various parties?
The once successful Kickstarter and National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant winner Electroloom is saying “Thanks and Farewell” to its backers, supporters, and sponsors. The startup ran out of funding while developing printer-like machine that uses electrospinning to automatedly produce ready-to-use garments.
Electroloom has been an ambitious project to explore if electrospinning could be made viable for garment manufacturing. The process that uses a high voltage to transform a resinous liquid into non-woven fabric was originally invented for textile fabrication, although its low throughput has always been a limiting factor. The method was mostly used in laboratory and medical applications. In 2014, Electroloom began developing a process that would bring the technology back to its fibrous roots, building an amazing prototype machine that could print an entire shirt in one piece. Electroloom’s Kickstarter campaign was funded in 2015, and earlier this year, an NSF research grant was awarded to the startup.
As we mentioned he starts off with a really succinct and well written tutorial on celestial coordinates that antiquity would have killed to have. If we were writing a bit of code to do our own positional astronomy system, this is the tab we’d have open. Incidentally, that’s exactly what he encourages those who have followed the tutorial to do.
The star pointer itself is a high powered green laser pointer (battery powered), 3D printed parts, and an amalgam of fourteen dollars of Chinese tech cruft. The project uses two Arduino clones to process serial commands and manage two 28byj-48 stepper motors. The 2nd Arduino clone was purely to supplement the digital pins of the first; we paused a bit at that, but then we realized that import arduinos have gotten so cheap they probably are more affordable than an I2C breakout board or stepper driver these days. The body was designed with a mixture of Tinkercad and something we’d not heard of, OpenJsCAD.
Once it’s all assembled and tested the only thing left to do is go outside with your contraption. After making sure that you’ve followed all the local regulations for not pointing lasers at airplanes, point the laser at the north star. After that you can plug in any star coordinate and the laser will swing towards it and track its location in the sky. Pretty cool.
Some people really enjoy the kind of computer mouse that would not be entirely out of place in a F-16 cockpit. The kind of mouse that can launch a browser with the gentle shifting of one of its thirty-eight buttons ever so slightly to the left and open their garage door with a shifting to the right of that same button. However, can this power be used for evil, and not just frustrating guest users of their computer?
We’ve heard of the trusted peripheral being repurposed for nefarious uses before. Sometimes they’ve even been modified for more benign purposes. All of these have a common trend. The mouse itself must be physically modified to add the vulnerability or feature. However, the advanced mice with macro support can be used as is for a vulnerability.
The example in this case is a Logitech G-series gaming mouse. The mouse has the ability to store multiple personal settings in its memory. That way someone could take the mouse to multiple computers and still have all their settings available. [Stefan Keisse] discovered that the 100 command limit on the macros for each button are more than enough to get a full reverse shell on the target computer.
Considering how frustratingly easy it can be to accidentally press an auxiliary button on these mice, all an attacker would need to do is wait after delivering the sabotaged mouse. Video of the exploit after the break.
Here at the Vintage Computer Festival, we’ve found oodles of odds and ends from the past. Some, however, have gotten a modern twist like [bitfixer’s] recent Commodore PET project upgrades.
First off is [bitfixer’s] Augmented Reality upgrade. By the power of two iPhones and one raspberry Pi, the user dons a Google-Cardboard-esque heads-up-display and can visualize a 3D, ASCII rendering of the world before them. Not only does this view show up in the HUD, however, it’s also streamed to a Raspberry Pi whch then serializes it info a video display on the Commodore PET.
This hack builds on some of [bitfixer’s] prior work getting ASCII video streaming up-and running. Of course, the memory on the Commodore PET is nowhere near capable of being able to process these images. In fact, streaming and storing the video data onto the PET’s memory would fill it up in under one second! Instead, [bitfixer] relies on some preprocessing thanks to the far-more-powerful (by comparison) Raspberry Pi and iPhone processors that are capturing the images.
Next off is [bitfixer’s] full-color video display on the same Commodore PET. Again, leveraging another RaspPi to encode and reduce the video to bitmap images, the Commodore PET simple grabs these images and streams them to the screen as fast as possible–at a beloved 5.8 frames per second.
Rarely on these pages have I read such a fluff piece! Al Williams’ coverage of Emacs versus Vim was an affront to the type of in-depth coverage our Hackaday readers deserve. While attempting to be “impartial” he gave a seven-sentence summary of Vim, the Ultimate Editor. Seven sentences! Steam is pouring out of my ears like Yosemite Sam.
Al, like a lot of you out there, thinks that he “knows how to use vi”. I’m here to tell you that he doesn’t. And unless you’ve spent the last few years alone in a cave high in the Himalayas, with only food, drink, a laptop, and Vim Golf, you probably don’t either. Heck, I don’t consider myself a Vim master, but I’m going to write this overwrought essay praising it (using Vim, naturally).
The reason I’m writing this is not to perpetuate the vi-versus-Emacs war. That idea is silly anyway, and was probably invented by Emacs folks to steal some of vi’s limelight. You see, vi-versus-Emacs is a red herring. Vi and Vim are so strange, so different from any other editor you might use, that it makes Emacs look simply boring in comparison: it’s just a normal editor with decent extensibility (if you can stand Lisp), horrible key combinations that may or may not cause carpal tunnel syndrome, and code bloat that rivals Microsoft Word. If you’re comfortable using Pico or Nano or Joe or Notepad++ or Gedit or Kate, or anything else for that matter, you can be comfortable using Emacs in a month or so. It’s really just another editor. Yawn.
Vi is something else. It’s a programming language for editing text that’s disguised as an editor. If you try to use it like a normal text editor, you will suffer. If you approach your text editing chores like factoring code into functions, you’re starting to understand Vi.
Here at VCF, we stumbled across a gigantic contraption that spanned several tables. Rube Goldberg machine this was not. Instead, this device actually does something useful! [Tim Robinson’s] differential analyzer can solve differential equations through several stages of mechanical integrators. The result is a pen-plot graph of the solution to the input equation, input by displacing a rod as a function of time.
Differential analyzers have been around for over a century. [Tim’s] claim to fame is that this particular DA is constructed entirely from Meccano-branded parts. We’re thrilled to see Meccano, over 100 years old at this point, continue to find new uses outside the toy box.
The differential analyzer is riddled with mechanisms that are bound to swing some heads for a double-take. Since the input shaft that transmits the input function f(x), has very little friction, the result can only be carried through the remainder of the machine with some means of torque amplification. To do so, [Tim], and most other DA designers implement a torque analyzer. For [Tim], though, this feat proved to be more difficult (and more triumphant) than other solutions, since he’s using a set of parts that are entirely from Meccano. In fact, this feature took [Tim] through about 20 iterations before he was finally satisfied.
VCF West continues to run through the end of the weekend at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. If you haven’t already packed your bags for DEF CON, stop by for a few more bewildering brain teasers.