Arduino-compatible, quad-core ARM dev board


The Advent of the Raspberry Pi has seen an explosion in the market for ARM dev boards, sometimes even with pinouts for Arduino shields. The UDOO, though, takes those boards and ramps up the processing power for some very, very interesting builds.

The UDOO comes equipped with a dual or quad-core ARM CPU running at 1GHz with 1 GB of RAM. Also on board is the Atmel SAM3X8E – the same chip in the new Arduino DUE - and has pinouts for all those Arduino shields you have lying around.

In addition to serving your next project as a souped-up Raspberry Pi, UDOO also includes 78 (!) GPIO pins, Gigabit Ethernet, a camera connector, one SATA port (on the quad-core version), and an LVDS header for attaching LCD monitors. Basically, the UDOO is the motherboard of an ARM-powered laptop with the pinouts to handle Arduino shields. It’s just like [Bunnie]‘s laptop, only this time you can actually buy it.

The UDOO doesn’t come cheap, though: on the UDOO Kickstarter, the dual-core version is going for $150 while the quad-core is priced at $170. Still, if you need the power to run a pair of Kinects or want to build an awesome torrent box, you’d be hard pressed to find a more powerful board.

Hand placing flash die to make USB drives


It’s a stretch to call this one a hack, but USB thumb drives are around us constantly and we always assumed that the boards inside were machine populated (like with a pick and place machine). [Bunnie] tells us otherwise. He recently had the chance to tour a factory where USB flash drives are made.

The image above shows a worker populating a set of boards with the flash memory dies. The waffle-grid to the right holds the dies. Each is a tiny glint of a component. The worker is not in a clean room, and is using a bamboo tool to pick up the pieces. [Bunnie] explains that he’s seen the tools before but doesn’t fully comprehend how they work. He figures that the hand-cut manipulator has just the right amount of grab to pick up the die, but will also release it when it touches down on the dot of glue applied to the landing zone on the board.

If you’re into this sort of thing you should check out the PCB factory tour we saw a couple of years back. The article link is dead but the embedded tour video still works.

[Thanks pl]

Glowing Easter eggs more fun than a dye job


This is a project to keep in mind for the kids next Easter. It uses electronics to light up your eggs instead of dying them (translated).

The project still has one foot in the old tradition as it starts by blowing out the eggs. The larger hole on the bottom, which was used to evacuate the yoke an albumen, ends up being just the right size to insert an LED. You could simply hook these up to a battery and resistor, but [Rene] decided to add some functionality by hiding an Arduino board in the fake grass of the Easter basket. This way the way the RGB LEDs can glow, blink, and rotate through different colors. And the foil covered chocolate bunnies aren’t just for show. He wired them up to the I/O pins of the Arduino to use as a switch. When they’re both placed on the same piece of foil it completes the circuit and starts the light show. See for yourself in the clip after the jump.

Of course for the older kids you’re going to need something more complicated to keep their attention.

[Read more...]

“Hacking the Xbox” Released for Free in Honor of [Aaron Swartz]

Hacking the Xbox Cover

[Bunnie], the hardware hacker who first hacked into the original Xbox while at MIT, is releasing his book on the subject for free. The book was originally released in 2003, and delves into both the technical and legal aspects of hacking into the console.

The book is being released along with an open letter from [Bunnie]. He discusses the issues he faced with MIT legal and copyright law when working on the project, and explains that the book is being released to honor [Aaron Swartz]. [Swartz] committed suicide in January following aggressive prosecution by the US government.

The book is a great read on practical applications of hardware hacking. It starts off with simple hacks: installing a blue LED, building a USB adapter for the device’s controller ports, and replacing the power supply. The rest of the book goes over how the security on the device was compromised, and the legal implications of pulling off the hack.

[Bunnie]‘s open letter is worth a read, it explains the legal bullying that hackers deal with from a first hand prospective. The book itself is a fantastic primer on hardware hacking, and with this release anyone who hasn’t read it should grab the free PDF.

Hackerspace develops ways to get Peeps to spill their secrets


Whether you call it enhanced interrogation or torture, the subject is a lot less serious when the victim is a sugary confection. The LVL1 Hackerspace in Louisville, Kentucky recently held an event focused on getting Peeps — the bunny-shaped sugar-covered marshmallow treats — to spill their guts. Participants developed a range of tongue-in-cheek torture devices then demonstrated their functionality on the bunnies.

You shouldn’t be surprised that the event posting starts with Peep waterboarding. But from there the rigs do get a lot more creative. For instance, the electric chair above connects the bunny to a stun gun (there’s no mention of what that big set of capacitors has to do with this. There’s also an Iron Maiden which is really more of a Plastic Maiden. It subjects the marshmallow to multiple stab woulds using a plastic egg as an enclosure and a hair brush head as the spikes. You can’t mutilate Peeps without at least one being sent through a microwave. But perhaps our favorite is The Rack. A pair of them were built, one was laser cut and the other was constructed free-hand. Both are a whimsical take on a historically brutal implement.

MIT Media Lab’s month in Shenzhen


When you’ve got a month worth of blog postings it’s pretty difficult to choose one photograph that sums it all up. This one shows the tour group from MIT Media Lab in ESD garb ready for their tour of Okano SMT and Speaker Factory. It was part of a tour of Shenzhen aimed at bringing graduate students up to speed on what it means to manufacture products in the city. Luckily, Freaklabs member [Akiba] was one of the staff members of the program and blogged extensively about the experience. At first glance his page full of post abstracts looks really boring, but click through because both his recount and the commented images associated with each day are fun and fascinating ways to tag along with the group.

If you’re really good with faces you can pick [Bunnie Huang] out of the lineup above (he’s the third from the right). He had the original idea for the program and brought aboard a few others to help make the thing a success. The group toured a wide range of factories and parts markets in the city. This included your traditional electronics manufacturing venues but there was even a side trip to a diaper and feminine napkin plant to see the non-electronic factories in operation. In addition to tours there were lectures by industry members like HAXLR8R, a group that specializes in helping start-ups navigate the manufacturing jungle.

Birth of an Arduino

Hey look, an Arduino without its clothes on. This one’s just started its journey to becoming the ubiquitous prototyping tool. The image is from [Bunnie's] recent tour of the fab house where Arduino boards are made.

As it says on every true Arduino board, they’re made in Italy. [Bunnie's] trip to the factory happened in Scarmagno, on the outskirts of Torino. The process starts with large sheets of FR4 copper clad material, usually about 1 by 1.5 meters in size. The first task is to send the sheets through a CNC drill. With all of the holes done it’s time for some etch resist; the image above is just after the resist has been applied. A robotic system takes over from here, running the panels through the chemicals which first etch away the copper, then remove the resist and plate the remaining traces. From there it’s off to another machine for solder mask and silk screen.

There are videos of each step available. But our favorite piece is the image at the end that shows a pallet with stacks of completed PCB panels which are headed off to be populated with components.

[via Reddit]