Review and a build: Makey Makey, a banana piano, and Mario

We’ve been getting a lot of emails on the Hackaday tip line about the Makey Makey. This business-card sized circuit board turns everything – bananas, Play-Doh, water, and people – into a touch interface.

There have been a ton of blogs that have written about the Makey Makey Kickstarter and debut at the Bay Area Maker Faire, but Hackaday has been mum on the pending release of the Makey Makey. There’s a reason for that: [Jay] and [Eric], the MIT Media Lab rats who came up with the Makey Makey, offered to send a demo board out to somebody at Hackaday. Well, here’s the review of all the cool stuff you can make with the Makey Makey.

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The Gauntlet: A 1 Watt Laser Module

This is the gauntlet; a place where things are tortured in ways that only an engineer could appreciate.

Today’s victim is a 1.0W green laser module, manufactured by Suzhou Daheng under the brand name “DHOM”.

As far as Chinese laser manufacturers go, Suzhou Daheng is about one rung lower than CNI in terms of quality. Although US companies like Coherent blow these guys out of the water, both are still reputable nonetheless.  As far as Chinese lasers themselves go, this one seems a bit conservatively rated; a nice change from the “1000MW 532nm laser cat toy burning module” that’s not too uncommon on dealextreme and the like.

More after the break…
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chipKIT Uno32: first impressions and benchmarks

Following Maker Faire, we’ve had a few days to poke around with Digilent’s 32-bit Arduino-compatible chipKIT boards and compiler. We have some initial performance figures to report, along with impressions of the hardware and software.

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Hands-on with eZ430-F2013

At the beginning of the Month we came across a coupon code for a free eZ430-F2013 development stick. TI has given these things now and again so we took the opportunity to acquire one. It arrived yesterday and we’ve spent just a bit of time looking it over. Above you can see the first project completed; Hello World on a salvaged Nokia cell phone screen. Join us after the break for our thoughts on the device, as well as more pictures and details.

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Spy Video TRAKR: first impressions

At the Bay Area Maker Faire this past May, we had our first glimpse of Wild Planet’s Spy Video TRAKR, a $130 radio-controlled toy with some surprises under the hood.

On the surface, the Spy Video TRAKR — the latest addition to the popular Spy Gear toy line — is an R/C tank with a video camera and night vision, with the added ability to download new “apps” from the internet for extra functions. With a little detective work, one uncovers the TRAKR’s secret double life: it’s also an eminently hackable robotics platform! Prior Spy Gear toys have been popular hack targets, providing inexpensive, mass-produced sources of unusual items such as head-mounted displays. Rather than throw up barriers, Wild Planet has chosen to embrace this secondary market, with plans to release development tools and documentation making it possible to extend the device’s capabilities.

Read on for our image-heavy unboxing and initial impressions.

Top 5 Twitter Clients For Android

With the growing popularity of the Android OS for smartphones, it has become a contender for the likes of Apple’s iPhone. With the rise of Android came the facet it revolves around; Open Source. Besides it revolving around being open sourced it also has deep roots with social media. There has been an outbreak of different Twitter applications for the Android devices, each with their ups and downs suited for different types of users ranging from the socialite to the power users of twitter. These are the top 5 Twitter clients for Android (A phone running Android 2.1 OS – Éclair – will be used but most of these will be compatible with 1.5 & 1.6 OS and will be stated if they are not available to all OS versions) :

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ARM cortex-M3 prototyping on a budget

NGX Technologies sent us this Blueboard LPC1768-H to play with. It’s basically a breakout board for an NXP LPC1768 ARM cortex-M3 microcontroller (datasheet). The board adds a few extra goodies, such as a choice of mini-USB connector or barrel-jack to provide regulated power to the chip. There’s also a clock crystal for the internal RTC and an Atmel 256kb EEPROM chip. This chip has 70 I/O ports, accessed through the pin headers on top and bottom of the board. The 20-pin header to the left is for a JTAG programmer (yes, you’ll need a separate programmer). Coming in at only $32.78 this is a very accessible route for projects that require more power than some of the traditional hobby controllers. The shipping seems to have come down since NGX’s last offering, now it would be under $10 to ship to the States.

The LPC1768 is the same controller from the mbed that we reviewed. What’s missing is some of the interface hardware and the boot-loader, but the tradeoff comes with a $66 savings. This is to mbed what an AVR board is to the Arduino, a way to get even closer to the hardware.

There are a few things we think are missing. Most notably, there isn’t a datasheet or user guide for the board itself.  The only information available is a schematic (PDF), but that should be enough for those already well versed in working with microcontrollers. There is also a 12MHz clock crystal on the board but it doesn’t seem to be jumpered in case you wanted to use a different frequency. We’re not sure if this is much of an issue, the internal RC oscillators offer a lot of flexibility including operation up to 100MHz.

We feel this is a solid platform that will help to get more people into ARM development because of its low price. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.