Codebender Rises from the Ashes

If you were sad that Codebender had bit the dust, cheer up. A site called codeanywhere has acquired the online Arduino development environment and brought it back to life. In addition to the main Codebender site, the edu and blocks sites are also back on the air.

Not only is this great news, but it also makes sense. The codeanywhere site is a development IDE in the cloud for many different programming languages. The downside? Well, all the people who said they’d be glad to pay to keep Codebender alive will get a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

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An Antenna that Really Cooks–Really

[9A4OV] set up a receiver using the HackRF board and an LNA that can receive the NOAA 19 satellite. Of course, a receiver needs an antenna, and he made one using a cooking pot. The antenna isn’t ideal – at least indoors – but it does work. He’s hoping to tweak it to get better reception. You can see videos of the antenna and the resulting reception, below.

The satellite is sending High-Resolution Picture Transmission (HRPT) data which provides a higher image quality than Automatic Picture Transmission (APT). APT is at 137 MHz, but HRPT is at 1698 MHz and typically requires a better receiver and antenna system.

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The Arduino Foundation: What’s Up?

The Arduino Wars officially ended last October, and the new Arduino-manufacturing company was registered in January 2017.  At the time, we were promised an Arduino Foundation that would care for the open-source IDE and code infrastructure in an open and community-serving manner, but we don’t have one yet. Is it conspiracy? Or foul play? Our advice: don’t fret. These things take time.

But on the other hand, the Arduino community wants to know what’s going on, and there’s apparently some real confusion out there about the state of play in Arduino-land, so we interviewed the principals, Massimo Banzi and Federico Musto, and asked them for a progress report.

The short version is that there are still two “Arduinos”: Arduino AG, a for-profit corporation, and the soon-to-be Arduino Foundation, a non-profit in charge of guiding and funding software and IDE development. The former was incorporated in January 2017, and the latter is still in progress but looks likely to incorporate before the summer is over.

Banzi, who is a shareholder of Arduino AG, is going to be the president of the Foundation, and Musto, AG’s CEO, is going to be on the executive board and both principals told us similar visions of incredible transparency and community-driven development. Banzi is, in fact, looking to get a draft version of the Foundation’s charter early, for comment by the community, before it gets chiseled in stone.

It’s far too early to tell just how independent the Foundation is going to be, or should be, of the company that sells the boards under the same name. Setting up the Foundation correctly is extremely important for the future of Arduino, and Banzi said to us in an interview that he wouldn’t take on the job of president unless it is done right. What the Arduino community doesn’t need right now is a Foundation fork.  Instead, they need our help, encouragement, and participation once the Foundation is established. Things look like they’re on track.

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Intel Discontinues Joule, Galileo, And Edison Product Lines

Sometimes the end of a product’s production run is surrounded by publicity, a mix of a party atmosphere celebrating its impact either good or bad, and perhaps a tinge of regret at its passing. Think of the last rear-engined Volkswagens rolling off their South American production lines for an example.

Then again, there are the products that die with a whimper, their passing marked only by a barely visible press release in an obscure corner of the Internet. Such as this week’s discontinuances from Intel, in a series of PDFs lodged on a document management server announcing the end of their Galileo (PDF), Joule (PDF), and Edison (PDF) lines. The documents in turn set out a timetable for each of the boards, for now they are still available but the last will have shipped by the end of 2017.

It’s important to remember that this does not mark the end of the semiconductor giant’s forray into the world of IoT development boards, there is no announcement of the demise of their Curie chip, as found in the Arduino 101. But it does mark an ignominious end to their efforts over the past few years in bringing the full power of their x86 platforms to this particular market, the Curie is an extremely limited device in comparison to those being discontinued.

Will the departure of these products affect our community, other than those who have already invested in them? It’s true to say that they haven’t made the impression Intel might have hoped, over the years only a sprinkling of projects featuring them have come our way compared to the flood featuring an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi. They do seem to have found a niche though where there is a necessity for raw computing power rather than a simple microcontroller, so perhaps some of the legion of similarly powerful ARM boards will plug that gap.

So where did Intel get it wrong, how did what were on the face of it such promising products fizzle out in such a disappointing manner? Was the software support not up to scratch, were they too difficult to code for, or were they simply not competitively priced in a world of dirt-cheap boards from China? As always, the comments are open.

Header image: Mwilde2 [CC BY-SA 4.0].

SHA 2017 Talk Schedule Revealed

It’s always an exciting moment when an event schedule is released, and since events in our community don’t come much larger than this August’s SHA Camp in the Netherlands, you can imagine that the announcement of their schedule of lectures of talks is something of an event in itself. The event runs over five days, and you can browse the schedule itself to make your picks.

The SHA team have made their own picks, but with so many stages and speakers they are only a tiny selection. Running a Hackaday eye over the schedule, here are the ones that caught our eye.

[Kliment] has a workshop, Surface Mount Electronics Assembly for Terrified Beginners, in which you assemble a 20€ surface-mount power supply kit. [Editor’s Note: We’ve seen this one live — you can do it!]

[dennisdebel]’s lecture, from glass fiber to fiber glass noodles caught our eye. Using mung bean vermicelli, or ‘glass noodles’, for data transmission, is not something you hear about every day.

If you are a regular at European hardware hacker camps, you may have encountered the chiptune extravaganza performances of [Gasman], otherwise known as [Matt Westcott]. Hie lecture, Zero to chiptune in one hour, will create, from scratch, a chiptune cover version of a pop song chosen by the audience, all on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

The Hackeboy handheld game console is a project from a small Hamburg-based indie game label.[Axel Theilmann] describes the process of building the handheld console they always dreamed of.

One of the final lectures of the event comes from [Niek Blankers], and will describe in detail the SHA2017 badge. How it was designed, and showcasing what some of the attendees will by then have managed to do with it.

Finally, if you want to see a Hackaday scribe talking about fun and games with little plastic bags of parts, you could do worse than seeking out From Project To Kit, all you will need to know about turning your personal electronic projects into a kit business.

Watch this space for more from SHA Camp as we get it. Meanwhile you can take a look at our coverage of the SHA2017 badge launch.

Harrier-like Tilt Thrust in Multirotor Aircraft

A traditional quadcopter is designed to achieve 6 degrees of freedom — three translational and three rotational — and piloting these manually can prove to be a challenge for beginners. Hexacopters offer better stability and flight speed at a higher price but the flight controller gets a bit more complex.

Taking this to a whole new level, the teams at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) and Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) have come together to present a hexacopter with 6 individually tiltable axes. The 360-degree tilt in rotors allows for a whopping 12-degrees of freedom in flight and allows the UAV to fly in essentially any direction including parallel to walls.

In addition to the acrobatic capabilities of the design, the team has done some testing with autonomous control using external cameras. Their blog contains videos of their testing at various stages and it interesting to see the project evolve over a short span of nine months. Check out the video below of the prototype in action.

With Amazon delivering packages via drone and getting patents for parachute labels, UAV design is evolving faster now than ever. We can’t wait to see where this 12 DOF takes the state of the art. Continue reading “Harrier-like Tilt Thrust in Multirotor Aircraft”

Giving a Camera Mount a Little (Magnetic) Attractiveness

It’s probably safe to say that most hackers and makers don’t really want to fuss around with the details of making video documentation of their work. They would rather spend their time and energy on the actual project at hand…you know — the fun stuff.

[Daniel Reetz] has been wanting more mounting options for his camera mount to make it easier and quicker to set up.  One end of his existing camera mount is a clamp. This has been working for [Daniel] so far, but he wanted more options. Realizing that he has plenty of ferrous metal surfaces around his shop, he had an idea — make a magnetic base add-on for his camera mount.

In the video, [Daniel] walks us through the process of creating this magnetic camera mount add-on, starting with the actual base. It is called a switchable magnetic base (or mag-base as he calls it) and looks like a handy little device. This was surely the most expensive part of the build, but looks like it should last a very long time. Basically, it’s a metal box with magnets on the inside and a rotating switch on the outside. When the switch is in one position, the box’s bottom is magnetic. Rotate the switch to the other position, and the bottom is no longer magnetic. These switchable magnetic bases come with a stud on top for attaching other things to it, which it looks like [Daniel] has already done. From there on out though, he explains and shows the rest of the build.

Some mild steel rod was cut and modified to slip into the pipe. The rod is held in place by a set screw which allows for easy adjustment of the mount’s height. Then he welds the rod to a washer which is, in turn, welded to a tube. After the welding, he takes the whole thing to a deburring wheel to clean it up. After that, the final touches are made with some spray paint and a custom 3D printed cap.

Sprinkled throughout the video are some useful tips, one of them being how he strips the zinc off of the washer with acid prior to welding. The reason for this is that you don’t want to weld over zinc because it produces neurotoxins.

Now [Daniel] can attach his camera mount quickly just about anywhere in his shop with the help of his new magnetic base.

There’s no shortage of camera mount hacks that we’ve covered. Here’s another one involving a magnet, but also has an automatic panning feature. Do you need a sliding camera mount? How about a motorized sliding camera mount — enjoy.

Continue reading “Giving a Camera Mount a Little (Magnetic) Attractiveness”