bladeRF, your next software defined radio

SDR

By now you might have a bit weary of your small and inexpensive TV tuner dongle software defined radio. Yes, using a USB TV dongle is a great introduction to SDR, but it has limited bandwidth, limited frequency range, and can’t transmit. Enter the bladeRF, the SDR that makes up for all the shortcomings of a USB dongle, and also serves as a great wireless development platform.

The bladeRF is able to receive and transmit on any frequency between 300 MHz and 3.8 GHz. This, along with a powerful FPGA, ARM CPU, and very good ADCs and DACs makes it possible to build your own software defined WiFi adapter, Bluetooth module, ZigBee radio, GPS receiver, or GSM and 4G LTE modem.

It’s an impressive bit of kit, but it doesn’t exactly come cheap; the bladeRF is available on the Kickstarter for $400. The folks behind the bladeRF seem to be doing things right, though, and are using their Kickstarter windfall for all the right things like a USB vendor ID.

There’s a video of two bladeRFs being used as a full duplex modem. You can check that out after the break.

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Tindie gets Fundraisers for kickstarting and group buys

tindie

The etsy of electronics project, Tindie, has a brand new feature: It’s a Kickstarter-esque endeavor called a Fundraiser that allows you to sell your projects to other electron enthusiasts.

Of course the new Tindie Fundraisers may soon be just another Kickstarter clone for “exciting,” “new,” and “innovative” Arduino dev boards, something we’ve lamented before. We’re really interested in seeing Tindie used as a platform for group buys; a solution to a maker’s special hell where buying one component costs $100, but ten cost $200.

Already there are a few really cool projects up on the Tindie Fundraisers including a breadboardable Parallax Propeller dev board. Yes, someone finally made one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

In addition to the new Fundraisers, [emile] also closed on $500k of seed funding for Tindie. It’s wonderful news for something that is sorely needed by the maker community. Tindie is also hiring, so if you’re a Django/Python wizard go drop everyone’s second favorite robotic dog a line.

A thermal imaging camera for your phone

When last we heard of a cheap thermal imaging camera accessory for any smart phone, we were blown away at how easily a very expensive electronic device could be replicated with an Arduino and enough know how. Now, that thermal imaging camera is a kickstarter project and provides a cheap way to put a thermal imaging camera in the tool chest of makers the world over.

It’s called the IR-Blue, and simply by connecting your phone to the IR-Blue with Bluetooth, you can overlay the output of a thermal imaging camera on the output of your camera’s phone.

The thermal imaging sensor is basically a low-resolution camera (16 x 4 pixels) for infrared radiation. This sensor is factory calibrated to detect heat in a range between -20 and 300 ˚C. This range allows anyone to easily see where drafts in a house are coming from, where heat in a computer is being generated, or figuring out how to cook a steak.

It’s an awesome and well designed product, so we’ve got to hand it to [Andy] and the IR-Blue team for putting very expensive tools in everyone’s hands.

Kickstarter incurs the wrath of Arduino creator

[Massimo], one of the creators of the Arduino, is a little perturbed over what passes for the truth over on Kickstarter.

While [Massimo] does recognize that Kickstarter can be a force of good launching garage-designed projects into the hands of willing consumers, he noticed something was a little fishy with the recent smARtDUINO kickstarter (notice the capital letters, by the way). Right near the top of the smARtDUINO’s kickstarter page is the phrase, “For years we manufactured the ARDUINO in Italy. Now we created a new Open System: modular, scalable, the world’s cheapest and smallest!”

Being at the top of the Arduino organization, you’d think [Massimo] would have heard of these former Arduino manufacturers. The name didn’t ring a bell to him, so he called up the factory. No one at the factory had heard of them, and after a long search it was finally revealed the head of the smARtDUINO project hired two factory workers who worked for a supplier the official Arduino manufacturer uses.

[Massimo] makes the comparison of, “if he hires two factory workers from Ford he can claim he used to manufacture Ford cars.” We’re thinking that’s a little generous. It’s more like hiring two people who used to restock the vending machines in a Foxconn plant and claiming you used to build Apple computers.

With a simple trademark infringement on his hands, [Massimo] contacted Kickstarter to see what could be done. Kickstarter replied:

Thanks for writing in and bringing this to our attention. This is a matter that must be taken up directly with the project creator. You can contact them by clicking “Contact me” on the project page.
Best,
Kickstarter

For [Massimo], and us, that’s just not a sufficient answer. We’re thinking Kickstarter has an obligation to vet their projects and make sure the creators of these projects are who they say they are.

But enough about what we think. What do you, the Hackaday reader, think about this situation?

Hackaday’s official Kickstarter policy

we don’t have one… yet.

We’re getting inundated with campaigns on crowdfunding sites like kickstarter and indiegogo. Sometimes they’re really cool projects, sometimes they’re not. Unfortunately, they are all basically appeals for coverage on hackaday so they can get money. That immediately puts a negative taste in our mouths. Then again, if a hacker legitimately makes something really awesome, why wouldn’t we want to help spread the word?

We don’t want to stop a really cool project from being shared with you just because it is on kickstarter, but we also don’t want to serve as a crowdfunding advertising platform. It ends up being complicated, especially if the idea is really cool, but the details are sparse.

So, what do you think? Share your thoughts on how hackaday should handle crowdfunding in projects.

p.s. This started as a rant about how sick of the constant pleas for kickstarter coverage we’re getting. We’re trying to stay positive and constructive here, please do the same in the comments.

 

Bora board teaches binary hardware

If you’re just starting out in your quest to build really cool electronic devices, you’ll find a ton of options ready for the beginner. The Arduino makes toggling pins dead simple, and the Raspi brings the wonders of blinking a LED from the command line down from the gods and into the hands of the common man. These are all software platforms, though, and if you want to learn digital logic with hardware the best option is still a drawer full of 7400-series logic chips.

[Colin O'Flynn] hopes to change this with a beginners board for digital logic hardware design. It’s called the BORA, or Binary explORer boArd, and brings digital logic to a convenient package that is far less frustrating than a breadboard full of logic chips.

The BORA is based around a CPLD – a cousin of the FPGA-powered devices we see from time to time – that allows any student of digital logic to program the device and fill macrocells with NANDs, NORs, and ANDs.

The Xilinx device used in the BORA has about 1600 gates that can be programmed; more than enough to complete all the projects in the online lectures [Colin] has put together. You can check out the documentation for the BORA over on the official site, and the demo video after the break.

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Massively parallel computer costs $99

Even though dual, quad, and octo-core CPUs have been around for a while, it’s a far cry from truly massive parallel computing platforms. The chip manufacturer Adapteva is looking to put dozens of CPUs in a small package with their Parallella project. As a bonus, they’re looking for funding on Kickstarter, and plan to open source their 16 and 64-core CPUs after funding is complete.

The Parallella computer is based on the ARM architecture, and will be able to run Ubuntu with 1 Gig of RAM, a dual-core ARM A9 CPU, Ethernet, USB, and HDMI output. What makes the Parallella special is it’s Epiphany Multicore Accelerator – a coprocessor containing up to 64 parallel cores.

Adapteva is turning to Kickstarter for their Parallella computer to get the funding to take their Epiphany multicore daughterboard and shrink it down into a single chip. Once that’s complete, Adapteva will start shipping an ARM-powered Linux supercomputer that’s about the size of a credit card, or a Raspberry Pi under the new system of dev board measurements.

With any luck, the Parallella multicore computer will be available for $99, much less than a comparable x86 multicore computer. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what the Parallella can do in the future.