Developed on Hackaday – HaDge is back to the drawing board

A couple of days back, we wrote about the HACK – a prototyping platform designed by [Michele Perla] based on the Atmel SAM R21 MCU. It’s one of the new breed of devices consisting of an ARM Cortex-M0 MCU + IEEE 802.15.4 Wireless radio bundled together. This was exciting since we could pack a lot of punch in the HaDge hardware. We planned to use the same design later to power the HaDge. Building HACK would have allowed us to get it in the hands of the software team, while the hardware folks worked on the real HaDge layout.

The HACK design was ready for review and we asked around to verify the antenna layout, which was the part we were not too sure about.  We asked Atmel for help with verifying the layout. That’s when we had the facepalm moment. They asked us – “What about FCC certification?” Since we plan to build the badges in quantities of a few hundred at the very least, it’s obvious we cannot escape from FCC certification. A design based around the R21 is ruled out – the cost of obtaining approval is pretty high. This means we need to punt the R21 and instead use an off-the-shelf radio module which is already FCC certified. Sigh.

Now the good news. This is a setback in terms of time, and effort put in by [Michele]. But beyond that, we’re good to go back to the drawing board and start afresh. First off, we decided to revert back to the Atmel D21 as the main controller. It’s a fairly decent MCU, and there’s a fairly robust tool chain available that a lot of people are familiar with. For the Radio, we are looking at some of these available options :

The last one from Microchip looks quite promising. But we’re open for better and cheaper suggestions, so please chime in with your comments.

Developed on Hackaday – It’s a Badge. No, it’s the HaDge

Sometime back, we announced start of a new project under the “Developed on Hackaday” series – a Badge for the Hackaday community. At its core, this badge is a single node in an Internet of Badges. At every event this badge is deployed at, a Hackaday Sub-Etha mesh network will be created, and each badge will be able to transmit and receive messages from other badge wearers. There are plans for an Sub-Etha to Internet gateway, so even if badge wearers are on the other side of the world, they’re still connected through the HaDge network.

Things have been moving along quickly, so I thought of doing a quick round-up and share progress with the community. First off, it has a name. HaDge, as in HackaDay Badge. Our objectives up until now were to set up a team, name the project, set up repositories and lock down on a working bill of materials. Within a few weeks, we’ve got all of that tied down. The HaDge group chat channel has been super active, and everyone’s been pitching in with ideas and suggestions. A spreadsheet seemed like a good idea – it let everyone add in their suggestions regarding candidate parts, create a feature list and then talk about it on the channel.

We realized early on that building the hardware is going to take some time. So in the interim, we need a dev kit platform to get in to the hands of the software developers so they can start working on the smarts that will power the HaDge. [Michele Perla] had already built JACK (Just another Cortex kit) – a development kit powered by the Atmel SAM D21. It’s pretty bare bone with just the bare minimum of parts to make it work while keeping an eye on reliability. The microcontroller+radio on the HaDge is the Atmel SAM R21 – a close relative of the D21, so it made sense to respin the JACK and create HACK (Hackaday Cortex kit) – a development kit powered by the Atmel SAM R21 that is going to be used as the core of the HaDge. [Michele] has worked hard single-handedly to complete the design and it is now ready to go for PCB fabrication soon. We are just awaiting some feedback and review of the Antenna part of the design. None of us on the hardware team have a strong RF-fu so we don’t want to make an avoidable mistake. If you’d like to review and help vet the HACK design, grab the design files from the github repo and let us know.

Once HACK board layout is cleared for fabrication, we’ll work on building kits that can be sent out to the software folks. We will also be working on porting the HACK design in to KiCad and this is something I have already stared work on. I started by using the neat Eagle2KiCad conversion tool by [LachlanA]. It’s not perfect, but it does reduce the work involved in porting over from Eagle to Kicad. Once that is done, hardware development for the actual HaDge will see some progress – keep a watch on the project page.

Lift Kits for Car Jacks do Exist

When needing to change a tire or work under our vehicles we humans reach for a trusty jack. The standard jack in your trunk or mounted behind the seat of your truck works fine 99% of the time. But what happens when the vehicle in need of repair has a lifted suspension, raising the frame in relation to the ground and making the stock jack now too short?

Off-Road enthusiast [am4x4] had that problem and came up with a neat solution. He made a lift kit for a roll-around mechanics jack! He started with a 1.5 ton jack from Harbor Freight. This jack had 2 small casters in the rear and one wide roller in the front. This combination works great on concrete but [am4x4] needed this to work out in the dirt so a few mods were in order.

First the front roller was scrapped and replaced by two large 8 inch diameter tires. To get these to fit the bolt holes for the roller were enlarged to the same diameter as the wheel bearings. A new solid axle was then made from 5/8 inch solid rod. Those may look like pneumatic tires but they are actually solid rubber and only cost $6 each, also from Harbor Freight. These tires not only raise the jack up several inches but also increase the surface area contacting the ground. This better distributes the weight of the vehicle and prevents the jack from pushing itself into the ground.

In the back, the small stock casters were removed and replaced with larger, heavier duty ones. Even with the larger casters, the jack leans rearward. [am4x4] plans on making an extension to level the jack out but for now, it works well and is definitely a conversation piece at the off-road get togethers.

Hacked auxiliary port for a car stereo

We’re not sure if [Apachem25] is just lucky, or if installing Auxiliary ports on most car stereos is this easy. The dealership wanted $95 to put one in, but he managed to add a 3.5mm audio-in port to his car stereo for just a couple of bucks.

The connector on the back of his head unit is a 2×4 set of pins recessed in a protective plastic ring. It turns out that the audio connector cable for a PC CD-ROM drive has a 1×4 socket that is perfect for this. [Apachem25] simply clipped one of those cables in half and used both ends to interface with the Aux port. He found the pin-out for his particular model on the Internet. He needed a specific resistance value between two of the pins to get the deck to let him use the input. All that he needed was a quick bit of soldering. The left, right, and ground are brought around the side and soldered to an audio jack he added in the face plate of the unit.

If you’re still rockin’ the cassette deck our favorite automotive Bluetooth solution is still this one for a classic Beetle.

[via Reddit]

Put that headphone jack anywhere you want it


Check out this brand new Yamaha keyboard. The fact that we’re seeing the guts means that [Todd Harrison] can kiss his warranty goodbye. But by now you should know that he doesn’t look to others when something goes wrong with his electronics. This time around he’s not repairing anything. He didn’t like having to plug in headphones on the rear of the keyboard. He cracked it open and relocated the headphone jack to a more convenient location.

As you can see, there’s a ton of room inside once the MDF base which holds the speakers and some sounding boxes has been removed. While he’s in there he takes a good look at the mechanics of the keys. They’re weighted with metal rods (seen above) to help the electronic instrument feel more like an acoustic version to the player. But he doesn’t neglect the chance to gawk at all the electronics as well.

After pulling out the PCB that has the headphone jack on it he goes to work with a solder sucker. With the solder gone he cuts through the glue that holds the jack on the board. All that’s left is to solder some wire in its place and give it a nice project box as an enclosure. To complete the hack he mounts the box on the MDF base and now the headphones connect on the front. See the entire process in the video after the break.

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Guitar foot controller uses DSP for audio effects


This a screenshot taken from [Pierre’s] demonstration of an electric guitar effects pedal combined with DSP and Pure Data. He pulls this off by connecting the guitar directly to the computer, then feeds the computer’s audio output to the guitar amp.

The foot controls include a pedal and eight buttons, all monitored by an Arduino. Pure Data, a visual programming language, interprets the input coming from the Arduino over USB and alters the incoming audio using digital signal processing. [Pierre] manages the audio connection using the JACK Audio Connection Kit software package.

In the video after the break he’s using a laptop for most of the work, but he has also managed to pull this off with a Raspberry Pi. There’s no audio input on the RPi board, but he’s been using a USB sound card anyway. The other USB port connects the Arduino and he’s in business.

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How to add audio in to the Sony NEX-5 line of DSLR cameras

[Tynan] loves his Sony NEX-5 camera but he’s fed up with not being able to choose any external microphone when recording video. Recently he set out to remedy that, and managed to add an audio in jack without modify the camera itself.

The real trick here is to modify how a microphone accessory connects to the camera. In [Tynan’s] tutorial video (embedded after the break) he uses the enclosure from a flash module as a connector. After removing the electronics he’s left with plenty of room for the guts of a Sony microphone accessory. Those include the PCB and wiring, but not the microphone element itself. A 3.5mm audio jack is added to the flash case, and soldered to the microphone cable. Now he has a modular audio-in jack. The only problem is that his tinkering resulted in mono only. If you don’t mind spending a bit more time reverse engineering the scrapped microphone we bet you can parlay that into a true stereo option.

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