Upgrading a Laminator for Toner Transfer PCBs

If you need a circuit board now, you’re probably looking at a toner transfer process; all you need to make a PCB is a copper clad board, a laser printer, some special paper, and the usual etching chemicals. The quality of these boards is highly dependant on the quality of transferring toner to the copper, and getting the process right is as much an art as it is a science. A clothes iron is the easy way of transferring the toner to the board, but if you’re looking for repeatability, you’ll probably want a laminator.

Laminators, too, also vary in quality. The king of toner transfer laminators is the Apache AL13P. With four heated rollers and a steel chassis, it’s enough to do some serious heating. [mosaicmerc] came up with an amazing mod for his Apache laminator that takes all the guesswork out of the settings, and does it all in one pass for maximum repeatability and PCB quality.

The Apache laminator in question is a beast of a machine that drives four rollers with a synchronous motor and also has a ‘reverse’ button that sends the laminations out the front end of the printer. Stock, a toner transfer PCB would require dozens of passes through the Apache, but [merc]‘s mod takes care of everything for you.

The addition that makes this possible is a small board with a PIC12 microcontroller. This microcontroller connects the motor driver board and the display interface together, triggering the reverse button to move the board 5/8″ forward and 1/2″ back, giving the laminator an effective speed reduction of 12:1. This method also has the bonus of not tampering with the motor or control circuitry, and allows for multiple passes in the same run.

With this modification, the Apache AL13P becomes the perfect solution to transferring toner to a piece of copper, with the ability to transfer 10mil traces on 1oz copper. The board also offers some other features like thermal sensor failure shutdown and a cool-down mode that overrides the heater. If you’re looking for an easy way to step up your toner transfer PCBs, you can’t do much better than this mod.

Playing DVDs on an iPad

[Harrison Jackson] figured out how to add DVD playback to an iPad. It doesn’t require a jailbreak, or any hardware modifications to your prized tablet. The work is done with some server-side processing and played back through the browser.

The popular open-source multimedia player VLC has the ability to encode from the command line during playback. [Harry's] option flag mastery of the program allows him to convert a DVD to a 320×240 format that is iPad friendly. But this alone doesn’t get the video any closer to being on the iDevice. You’ll need to be running a webserver that can stream video. This example is on OSX, but since he’s using an Apache server it should be simple to reproduce on any Unix variant. Once you’ve enabled m3u8 files in the Apache mime-types, the iPad browser can be pointed to the file address VLC is kicking out and you’ll be watching a movie in no time.

We’ve wondered about replacing our home theater front-end with an ATV 2 running XBMC but the thought of having no optical drive in the living room requires some contemplation. If this becomes a feasible option (that isn’t downscaled from DVD quality) it will be a no-brainer to make that jump.

Don’t miss the demo video after the break. Full instruction are in the comment section of that clip.

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The basics of controlling an Arduino with PHP

You can easily add Internet-based control for your Arduino if it is close enough to your server to be connected via USB. This tutorial will give the basics you need to get it working.

The gist of this method involves a webpage that includes PHP elements. When one of those elements is manipulated, a command is sent via serial connection to the Arduino which then reacts based on what it received. This example uses an Ubuntu box that is running an Apache server. The Arduino sketch sets up the serial connection and then listens for incoming traffic. Whenever it receives a non-zero character an LED will blink. On the server side of things you’ll need to make sure that the system user that runs Apache (www-data) has permission to write to a serial port.

This base example may seem extremely simple, but there’s no end to what you can build on top of it. Different PHP events can be added to push new commands over the serial connection with matching test conditions added to the sketch.

[Thanks Jarryd]

Slowloris HTTP denial of service

[RSnake] has developed a denial of service technique that can take down servers more effectively. Traditionally, performing a denial of service attack entailed sending thousands of requests to a server, these requests needlessly tie up resources until the server fails. This repetitive attack requires the requests to happen in quick succession, and is usually a distributed effort. However, [RSnake]‘s new technique has a client open several HTTP sessions and keeps them open for as long as possible. Most servers are configured to handle only a set number of connections; the infinite sessions prevent legitimate requests from being handled, shutting down the site. This vulnerability is present on webservers that use threading, such as Apache.

A positive side effect of the hack is that the server does not crash, only the HTTP server is affected. His example perl implementation, slowloris, is able to take down an average website using only one computer. Once the attack stops, the website will come back online immediately.

Update: Reader [Motoma] sent in a python implementation of slowloris called pyloris

[photo: cutebreak]

Using Bittorrent on Amazon EC2

Bittorrent is a great distribution method for large files, but its heavy bandwidth usage can be disruptive to both work and home networks. [Brett O'Connor] has decided to push all of his torrenting activity into the cloud. Amazon’s EC2 service lets you run any number of Amazon Machine Images (AMI, virtual machines) on top of their hardware. You pay for processing time and data transferred. [Brett] put together a guide for building your own seedbox on the service. First, you set up the Security Group, the firewall for the machine. Next, you specify what AMI you want to use. In this example, it’s a community build of Ubuntu. Once you have your SSH keypair, you can start the instance and install Apache, PHP, and MySQL. TorrentFlux is the web frontend for bittorrent in this case. It manages all the torrents and you just need to click download when you want to grab the completed file.

Even if you don’t plan on setting up a seedbox, the post is a straightforward example of how-to get started with EC2. He’s not sure what the cost will be; the current estimate is ~$30/mo.

[via Waxy]

[photo: nrkbeta]

WAP controlled home automation

homeauto

[Josh] sent in a home automation project he did a little while ago. It has a total of eight switched outlets. The main focus of the project was WAP access for remote control from any cellphone. The control box is based on a design by [Ashley Roll] for controlling eight servos using a PIC microcontroller. A listener app written in Java monitors the control web page and sends signals to the board via serial port. He used opto-isolated 240V solid state relays for each of the outlets. All the pieces are available on the site and he might even do a custom control board design if there is enough interest.

LAMP on Ubuntu


Download Squad’s [Kristin Shoemaker] has just published part 2 of their guide to web development using Linux. This time around they’re installing Apache, MySQL, and PHP on Ubuntu Hardy Heron. It’s a straight forward process under Ubuntu since you just need to select the few packages in Synaptic. Once installed, she shows you how to poke at Apache to verify that it’s running. They finish up by installing phpMyAdmin and the WordPress CMS.

Having a web server installed is useful for more than just development work. Many open source tools have a simple web based interface you’ll be able to access through your local web server.