Hackaday Links: March 19, 2017

This is from the Daily Fail, but a working Apple I is going up on the auction block. It’s expected to bring in $317,693 USD. In other news, we’re going to be at the Vintage Computer Festival East at the end of the month. There is usually an Apple I there.

The most popular crowdfunding campaign of the month is Lego tape. It’s an adhesive-backed tape with studs on the top, allowing you to clip Lego pieces into place. How easy would this be to create at home? It’s really just a silicon mold and some 3M stickytape. Anyone up for a home casting challenge?

You guys know the Hackaday Overlords have a Design Lab, right? What’s a Design Lab? It’s a place filled with tools where we allow residents to come in for free, build stuff, give them training, and let them keep all their IP. It’s like a hardware accelerator, but focused on Open Source hardware. It is our gift to the community and we ask nothing in return. But that’s not important right now. We’re doing shots.

2017 will be the first year Maker Faire will have three flagship faires. New York is a given, as is the Bay Area. and A few weeks ago, Chicago grabbed the third flagship faire. If you’ve already bought tickets and scheduled your trip, terrible news: the Chicago Maker Faire has been postponed until late fall.

Flip clocks are cool. What’s a flip clock? The clock in Groundhog Day, or a bunch of flaps, gears, and a synchronous motor that displays the time. You know what’s not cool about flip clocks? They’re usually stuffed in horrible 70s plastic enclosures painted Harvest Gold or Avacado. [bentanme] found a flip clock and stuffed it in a glass jar. It’s kept in place by a few 3D printed parts that ingeniously keep the clock from moving around while still allowing you to see the gears. Neat.

Life Sized Lego Spaceship Parts

Ah, 1980s space Lego sets. You may think the pirate ship and castle sets are cooler, but you’re wrong, because spaceship. spaceship. spaceship.

These space Lego sets had some very interesting parts, with tiny two-by sloped pieces printed with Lego analogs of computers, monitors, phones, intercoms, speakers, control panels, and everything else that makes a voxellated spaceship fly to the moon. Now, these pieces are functional, and they’re nearly life-size.

[Love Hultén] took these fantastic parts, modeled them, and scaled them up to six times normal Lego dimensions. These blocks were then fitted with buttons, displays, the guts of an old telephone, and all the other accoutrements to make these bricks functional. Two computer blocks can be connected together, and it will play video games with a Lego-shaped controller. The intercom works, and the buttons on control panels can be used to turn on lights.

It should be noted the Lego family is more than just the small bricks that really hurt when you step on them. Duplo, the blocks made for children who would stuff Lego down their own throats, is twice the size of Lego. Quatro are blocks made for toddlers, and are twice the size of Duplo and four times the size of Lego. Since [Love] made blocks that are six times the size of normal Lego blocks, we’ll leave it up to the comments to determine what this class of blocks should be named.

Video below.

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Measuring the Planck Constant With Lego

For nearly 130 years, the kilogram has been defined by a small platinum and iridium cylinder sitting in a vault outside Paris. Every other unit of measurement is defined by reproducible physical phenomenon; the second is a precise number of oscillations of a cesium atom, and a meter is the length light travels in 1/299792458th of a second. Only the kilogram is defined by an actual object, until NIST and the International Committee of Weights and Measures defines it as a function of the Planck constant. How do you measure the Planck constant? With a Watt balance. How do you build a Watt balance? With Lego, of course.

A Watt balance looks like a double-armed scale where one weight can be compared to another weight of known mass. Instead of using two arms, a Watt balance only has one arm, brought into balance by a current flowing through a coil. The mechanical power in the balance – brought about by whatever is on the balance plate – can then be compared to the electrical power, and eventually the Planck constant. This will soon be part of the formal definition of the kilogram, and yes, a machine to measure this can be made out of Lego.

The only major non-Lego parts in the Lego Watt balance are a few coils of wire wound around a PVC pipe and a few neodymium magnets. These are placed on both arms of the balance, and a pair of lasers are used to make sure both arms of the balance are level. Data are collected by measuring the coils through a few analog pins on a Labjack and a Phidget. Once the voltage and current induced in each coil is measured, the Wattage can be calculated, then the Planck constant, and finally how close the mass on the balance pan is to a real, idealized kilogram. Despite being made out of Lego, this system can measure a gram mass to 1% uncertainty.

The authors have included a list of Lego parts, most of which could be found in any giant tub of Lego in an 8-year-old’s closet. The only really expensive item on the BOM is a 16-bit USB DAQ; apart from that, it’s something anyone can build.

Thanks [Matt] for the tip.

A Lego Game Controller; Just for the Hack of It


[StrangeMeadowlark] decided one day to create this badass Arduino-based gaming controller. Not for any particular reason, other than, why the heck not?!

It looks like a tiny Lego spaceship that has flown in from a nearby planet, zooming directly into the hands of an eager Earthling gamer. With buttons of silver, this device can play Portal 1 and 2, Garry’s Mod, Minecraft, and VisualBoy Advance. Although more work is still needed, the controller does the job; especially when playing Pokemon. It feels like a Gameboy interface, with a customizable outer frame.

Sticky, blue-tack holds a few wires in place. And, most of the materials are items that were found around the house. Like the gamepad buttons on top; they are ordinary tactile switches that can be extracted from simple electronics. And the Legos, which provide an easy way to build out the body console, rather than having to track down a 3D printer and learning AutoCAD.

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Hackaday Links: January 12, 2014


[Kyle] teaches photography and after being dismayed at the shuttering of film and darkroom programs at schools the world over decided to create a resource for film photography. There’s a lot of cool stuff on here like mixing up a batch of Rodinal developer with Tylenol, lye, and sodium sulphite, and assessing flea market film cameras. There are more tutorials coming that will include setting up a dark room, developing prints, and playing around with large format cameras.

[hifatpeople] built a binary calculator out of LEGO® bricks or toys. It started off as a series of logic gates built out of LEGO® bricks or toys in the LEGO® Digital Designer. These logic gates were combined into half adders, the half adders combined into full adders, and the full adders combined into a huge plastic calculator. Unfortunately, buying the LEGO® bricks or toys necessary to turn this digital design into a physical model would cost about $1000 using the LEGO® Pick-A-Brick service. Does anyone have a ton of LEGO® Technic® bricks or toys sitting around? We’d love to see this built.

Think you need a PID controller and fancy electronics to do reflow soldering in a toaster oven? Not so, it seems. [Sivan] is just using a meter with a thermocouple, a kitchen timer, and a little bit of patience to reflow solder very easily.

The folks at DreamSourceLabs realized a lot of electronic test equipment – from oscilloscopes and logic analyzers to protocol and RF analyzers were all included a sampling circuit. They designed the DSLogic that puts a sampler and USB plug on one board, with a whole bunch of different tools connected to a pin header. It’s a pretty cool idea for a modular approach to test equipment.

Adafruit just released an iDevice game. It’s a resistor color code game and much more educational than Candy Crush. With a $0.99 coupon for the Adafruit store, it’s effectively free if you’re buying anything at Adafruit anytime soon. Check out the video and the awesome adorable component “muppets”.

Drawing with Legos


There are a number of elaborate Lego creations out there, but you probably haven’t seen something quite like [Andrew Carol’s] Lego drawing machine. He drew inspiration from the film Hugo and from automata of the 1800’s, specifically [Jaquet-Droz]’s Draughtsman, which we featured in a Retrotechtacular article not too long ago.

[Andrew’s] hand-cranked creation is divided into three components: a plotter, an “encoded pen stroke program”—which stores messages in links of pieces—and a reader that translates the links into pen strokes. The plotter moves the pen in the Y axis and moves the paper in the X to mark on the page, and also has a simple lift mechanism that temporarily raises the pen on the Z axis to interrupt pen strokes between letters (or drawings).

[Andrew] describes the chain reader by comparing it to a film projector, feeding the message through the mechanism. Although you won’t find a detailed how-to guide explaining the devices’ inner-workings on his site, there are some clues describing basic components and a couple of videos, both of which are embedded below.

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IP over LEGO train carrier

[Maximilien] sent in a networking protocol built out of a LEGO train set. Unlike IP over Avian Carrier this system won’t be killed by plate-glass windows or birds of prey, but we’d hate to step on [Max]’s work in bare feet.

The system uses a USB flash drive to carry data around to different nodes. At each node, [Max] removed the power from the tracks and added a relay to start the train up again. A mechanical switch detects the presence of the train, and an Arduino makes the link to the Linux boxes via serial-over-USB.

The physical connection of the flash drive is with four wires and aluminum foil contacts. To send data, the system waits for the train to arrive at the ‘station’, mounts the drive, checks if there is data for it, and sends what needs to be sent. After unmounting the drive, power is applied to the local rail and the train continues on its journey.

[Max] admits that the latency on his network is terrible, but the bandwidth should be fairly good. As the old saying goes, ‘Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes.’ We’re not quite sure how that applies to LEGO trains, but there you go. Check out the gallery of [Max]’s work after the break.

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