Hackaday Links: June 25th, 2017

There will be no special badges for DEFCON. Everyone will still have badges — and our expectations are tempered because of the one year on / one year off schedule for electronic badges — there just won’t be mind-bending puzzles wrapped up in the official badges. What this means: it probably won’t matter if you’re late for linecon, and someone in the DEFCON hive mind still has a Facebook. Also, DEFCON is canceled.

In the past, we have decried the very existence of fidget spinners. It’s what the kids are into, after all. However, an electronic fidget spinner is an interesting engineering challenge. It combines the mechanical fun of bearing science, the exacting precision of balancing stuff, and stuffing electronics where no electronics should be. This Kickstarter is perhaps the best electronic fidget spinner we’ve seen. The electronics are powered by a coin cell and are packed into one of the spaces for the ‘wing’ bearings, and two additional weighted bearings allow the spinner to balance. There’s a small magnet for a hall effect sensor in the ‘stator cap’ so RPM can be measured. This design uses the most common mold for a fidget spinner, making it very manufacturable. Compare this design to the Internet of Fidget Spinners, a POV fidget Spinner, another POV fidget spinner, an educational electronic fidget spinner, or this amazing technique to measure the speed of a fidget spinner that will blow your mind, and you’ll see this Kickstarter project is clearly the superior design.

You kids are spoiled with your programmable drum machines like your 808 and 909. Back in the day, drum machines were attached to organs, and only had a few patterns. You couldn’t change the patterns, you could only change the speed. [Jan] has created one of these prehistoric drum machines in a microcontroller. You get hard rock, disco, reggae, rock, samba, rumba, cha-cha, bossa nova, beguine, synthpop, boogie, waltz, jazz rock, and slow rock. Awesome.

There’s a new electronics magazine. It’s called DIYODE, and we’re all kicking ourselves for not coming up with that name.

Do you need a new password? Humans really aren’t good at coming up with random numbers, and if you need a completely random alphanumeric password, it’s best left to a computer. Have no fear, because there’s now a website that generates the single most secure password on the planet. This password, “H4!b5at+kWls-8yh4Guq”, features upper and lowercase characters, numbers, symbols, and twenty unique characters. This password was developed by security researchers and encryption specialists in Europe, so you know it has absolutely nothing to do with the NSA, CIA, or any other American three-letter agency.

Speaking of three-letter agencies, last Wednesday was International Selfie Day! That doesn’t mean you still can’t get in on the action. Take a selfie right now and upload it to social media! What’s facial recognition?

Looking for a great little ESP32 breakout board with all the bells and whistles? Olimex has a new board out with Ethernet, a MicroSD card slot, and 20 GPIOs broken out.

Hackaday Prize Entry: 3D Printed Linear Actuator Does 2kg+

The rabbit hole of features and clever hacks in [chiprobot]’s NEMA17 3D Printed Linear Actuator is pretty deep. Not only can it lift 2kg+ of mass easily, it is mostly 3D printed, and uses commonplace hardware like a NEMA 17 stepper motor and a RAMPS board for motion control.

The main 3D printed leadscrew uses a plug-and-socket design so that the assembly can be extended easily to any length desired without needing to print the leadscrew as a single piece. The tip of the actuator even integrates a force sensor made from conductive foam, which changes resistance as it is compressed, allowing the actuator some degree of feedback. The force sensor is made from a 3M foam earplug which has been saturated with a conductive ink. [chiprobot] doesn’t go into many details about his specific method, but using conductive foam as a force sensor is a fairly well-known and effective hack. To top it all off, [chiprobot] added a web GUI served over WiFi with an ESP32. Watch the whole thing in action in the video embedded below.

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Radio Decoding Swiss Army Knife in a NES Controller

If you wanted to name a few things that hackers love, you couldn’t go wrong by listing off vintage console controllers, the ESP system-on-chip platform, and pocket tools for signal capture and analysis. Combine all of these, and you get the ESP32Thang.

At its heart, the ESP32Thang is based around a simple concept – take an ESP32, wire up a bunch of interesting sensors and modules, add an LCD, and cram it all in a NES controller which helpfully provides some buttons for input. [Mighty Breadboard] shows off the device’s basic functionality by using an RFM69HW module to allow the recording and replay of simple OOK signals on the 433 MHz band. This is a band typically used by all sorts of unlicenced radio gear – think home IoT devices, wireless doorbells and the like. If you want to debug these systems when you’re out and about, this is the tool for you.

This is a fairly straightforward build at the lower end of complexity, but it gets the job done with style. The next natural step up is a Raspberry Pi with a full software defined radio attached, built into a Nintendo DS. If you build one, be sure to let us know. This project might serve as some inspiration.

With the wide availability of SPI and I2C modules these days, combined with the ease of programming provided by the Arduino environment, this is a project that just about any hacker could tackle after passing the blinking LED stage. The fact that integrating such hardware is so simple these days is truly a testament to the fact that we are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Hackaday Prize Entry: ESP32 Monster and Getting Started Quickly

Prolific hacker [kodera2t] is working on his own “ESP32 monster board” dev board for the still-newish ESP32 WiFi module. His board has everything: Ethernet, OLED, LiPo, and even CAN-bus. But all that peripheral connectivity is worth nothing if you can’t program the microcontroller to use it.

The Arduino environment for the ESP32 is coming along quite nicely, but it’s not yet fully featured enough to run all of [kodera2t]’s hardware. To take advantage of all that, he needs to use Espressif’s SDK — called the “IoT Development Framework” or IDF for short. In his latest project log, [kodera2t] goes through everything necessary to get the IDF up and compiling on OSX. (It’s strangely similar to the Linux procedure.) Read through the official instructions here, if you want more, but we think [kodera2t] hits all the high points.

While we’re tooting [kodera2t]’s horn, check out his old project — an Arduino shoehorned into an SD card — or watch his alter-ego [Toshiro Kodera] give a serious talk about his day job, engineering radio-frequency meta-materials.

ESP32 Hamster Wheel Tracker Tweets Workout Stats

Even with all the hamster wheel trackers out there (and on this site) there’s room for improvement. [Bogdan] upgraded his hamster wheel from an Arduino and datalogging shield to an ESP32, and unleashed some new capabilities one does not ordinarily associate with hamster wheels.

[Bogdan]’s project logs distance in feet, duration of current session in time, RPM, overall revolutions, speed in MPH, and overall number of sessions, as well as a couple of system monitoring stats. It also tracks multiple wheels, as [Piontek] (the hamster) has two. However, thanks to the ESP32, [Bogdan]’s wheel tracker tweets its stats and updates a ThingSpeak dashboard with [Piontek]’s workouts.

In addition to its functionality, [Bogdan] made a point to make the project look and feel FINISHED. He designed custom 3D parts including a front plate, hooks for attaching the control box to the cage, and mounts for attaching the sensor to the wheel.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: WiFi ePaper

[Frank Buss] designed an electronic version of a sticky note: a WiFi enabled, solar-powered ePaper, with magnets embedded in the casing. It’s based on the new ESP32, and the idea is that you can update it via your smart-phone or over the internet via a cloud app to show any message you want. Being an ePaper display, the power consumption is greatly reduced, at least if you are cautious using the ESP32.

The final version plans to poll a server once per hour to get a new image to display. Depending on the final size and battery constraints, our guess is that it could probably poll often. Of course, that depends on the available charging light, which is usually reduced when you are inside the house. The project also has 3 buttons to provide user input, which can be customized for a wide array of actions, as [Frank Buss] notes:

For example install it on the fridge of your grandma, who might not be very proficient in using modern internet connected devices. Then you can send her birthday wishes, or remind her of schedules. And the buttons could be used as a feedback channel, like confirming a date. Or when installed at a public place, it can act as a bulletin board. Or it can be used for a modern form of internet connected graffiti or other art projects. The possibilities are infinite.

This project immediately reminds us of the recent SHA2017 badge we covered some days ago, with a bigger display and solar panel or the e-ink wifi display project from last year.

The latest version is being tested with a black/white/red ePaper display, as we can see in the video:

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Hackaday Links: May 21, 2017

It’s time to talk about something of supreme importance to all Hackaday readers. The first trailer for the new Star Trek series is out. Some initial thoughts: the production values are through the roof, and some of this was filmed in Jordan (thank the king for that). The writers have thrown in some obvious references to classic Trek in this trailer (taking a spacesuit into a gigantic alien thing a la TMP). There are a few new species, even though this is set about 10 years before waaaait a second, those are the Klingons?

In other news, [Seth MacFarlane] is doing a thing that looks like a Galaxy Quest series. We can only hope it’s half as good as a Galaxy Quest series could be.

The Dayton Hamvention should have been this week, but it’s never going to happen again. The Hara Arena, the traditional venue for the biggest amateur radio meet on the continent (thankfully) closed this year. Last year it was looking old and tired. This year, Hamvention moved to Xenia, Ohio, and it looks like we’re still getting the best ham swap meet on the planet. Remember: if you  drove out to Hamvention, the Air Force museum is well worth the visit. This year they have the fourth hangar open, full of space craft goodness.

Last week we saw an Open Source firmware for hoverboards, electric unicycles, and other explodey bits of self-balancing transportation. [Casainho], the brains behind this outfit, recently received an eBike controller from China. As you would expect, it’s based on the same hardware as these hoverboards and unicycles. That means there’s now Open Source firmware for eBikes.

Last year, [Cisco] built a cute little walking robot. Now it’s up on Kickstarter.

This week saw the announcement of the Monoprice Mini Delta, the much-anticipated 3D printer that will sell for less than $200. For one reason or another, I was cruising eBay this week and came upon this. They say yesterday’s trash is tomorrow’s collectors’ item, you know…

A new Tek scope will be announced in the coming weeks. What are the cool bits? It has a big touchscreen. That’s about all we know.

The ESP32 is the next great wonderchip, and has been for a while now. The ESP32 also has a CAN peripheral stuffed in there somewhere, and that means WiFi and Bluetooth-enabled cars. [Thomas] has been working on getting a driver up and running. There’s a thread on the ESP32 forum, a Hackaday.io page, and a GitHub page.

What do you do when you have a nice old Vacuum Fluorescent Display and want to show some stats from your computer? You build a thing that looks like it’s taken from a cash register. This is a project from [Micah Scott], and it has everything: electronics 3D modeling, magnets, print smoothing, creating snap-fit parts, and beautiful old displays.

Here’s something that randomly showed up in our Tip Line. [Mark] recently found some unused HP 5082-7000 segment displays in a collection of electronic components (pics below). According to some relevant literature, these were the first LED display package available, ever.  They were released in 1969, they’re BCD, and were obviously very expensive. [Mark] is wondering how many of these were actually produced, and we’re all interested in the actual value of these things. If anyone knows if these are just prototypes, or if they went into production (and what they were used for), leave a note in the comments.