Interview with [Damien George], Creator of the Micro Python project

upython

[Damien George] just created Micro Python (Kickstarter alert!), a lean and fast implementation of the Python scripting language that is optimized to run on a microcontroller. It includes a complete parser, compiler, virtual machine, runtime system, garbage collector and was written from scratch. Micro Python currently supports 32-bit ARM processors like the STM32F405 (168MHz Cortex-M4, 1MB flash, 192KB ram) shown in the picture above and will be open source once the already successful campaign finishes. Running your python program is as simple as copying your file to the platform (detected as a mass storage device) and rebooting it. The official micro python board includes a micro SD card slot, 4 LEDs, a switch, a real-time clock, an accelerometer and has plenty of I/O pins to interface many peripherals. A nice video can be found on the campaign page and an interview with the project creator is embedded after the break.

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How Hacker News Page Rankings Really Work

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Page rankings are the secret sauce of websites that automatically aggregate user submissions. The basic formula used by Hacker News was published a few years back. But there are several pieces of the puzzle that are missing from that specification. [Ken Shirriff] recently published an analysis that digs deeper to expose the article penalization system used by Hacker News’ ranking engine.

One might assume that the user up and down votes are what determine a page’s lifespan on the front page. But it turns out that a complex penalization system makes a huge difference. It takes into account keywords, and domain names but also weighs controversy. It’s a bit amusing to note that this article on the topic was itself penalized, knocking it off of the front page.

You can get the full details of the system from his post, but we found his investigation methods to be equally interesting. He scraped two pages of the news feed every minute using Python and the Beautiful Soup package (a pretty common scraping practice). This data set allowed him to compare the known algorithm with actual results. What was left were a set of anomalies that contained enough sense for him to reverse engineer the unpublished formulas being used.

Raspi Mini Laser Engraver

raspiLaserEngraver

If you’ve got a lot of spare parts lying around, you may be able to cobble together your own laser engraver without too much trouble. We’ve already seen small engraver builds that use an Arduino, but [Jeremy] tipped us off to [Xiang Zhai's] version, which provides an in-depth guide to building one with a Raspberry Pi.

[Xiang] began by opening up two spare DVD writeable drives, salvaging not only their laser diodes but the stepper motors and their accompanying hardware, as well as a handful of small magnets near each diode. To assemble the laser, he sourced an inexpensive laser diode module from eBay and used a vise to push the diode into the head of the housing. With the laser snugly in place and the appropriate connecting wires soldered on, [Xiang] whipped up a laser driver circuit, which the Raspi will later control. [Xiang] worked out the stepper motors’ configuration by following [Groover's] engraver build-(we featured it a few years back)-attaching the plate that holds the material to be engraved onto one axis and the laser assembly to the other.

Check out [Xiang's] project blog for details explaining the h-bridge circuits as well as the Python code for the Raspi. As always, if you’re attempting any build involving a laser, please use all necessary precautions! And if you need more information on using DVD burners for their diodes, check out this hack from earlier in the summer

Wireless Encryption Between Galileo and a MSP430

[Mark] recently finished his latest project, where he encrypts wireless communications between the new Intel Galileo and a Texas Instruments MSP430. The wireless interfaces used are the very common nRF24L01+ 2.4GHz transceivers, that had a direct line of sight 15 feet range during [Mark]‘s tests. In his demonstration, the MSP430 sends an encrypted block of data representing the state of six of its pins configured as inputs. This message is then received by a sketch running on the Galileo and stored in shared memory. A python script then wakes up and is in charge of decrypting the message. The encryption is done using AES-128bits in Electronic Codebook mode (ECB) and semaphores are used to prevent simultaneous accesses to the received data. As it is the first project using an Intel Galileo we received, don’t hesitate to send us a tip if you found other ones.

Writing a FUSE Filesystem in Python

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Have you ever thought a particular project could be better if you could just control the file access directly? [Stavros Korokithakis] did, specifically for a backup program he was working on. What followed was the realization that writing a FUSE filesystem, particularly in Python, isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Really, through the power of open source, the heavy lifting has already been done for us. If you’d like to try it yourself, you’ll need to install fusepy. From that point, you simply need to define the filesystem methods you will be using.

Python isn’t going to win any speed contests in the filesystem space, but that isn’t really the point. Using this technology opens up a huge opportunity for new ways of accessing data. If you let your mind wander, you can conceive of encrypted filesystems, seamless remote data access, new key-value storage designs, etc. Perhaps even more interesting is the idea of using Python to communicate with a physical device… maybe a proc filesystem to keep track of your robot telemetry? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

We had success using [Stavros'] example script on Linux and OSX. (Fair warning if you’re on a Mac, the pip version of fusepy seems to be linked against fuse4x rather than OSXFUSE, but once you’ve got the prerequisites installed, you’re golden.) We didn’t have a Windows machine to test. Can anyone confirm if the same is possible there?

HHH: Sniffing Proprietary CNC to Hack in G-Code Support

hhh-proprietary-g-code-hack

Here’s a beautiful desktop CNC mill which had one big drawback: it used a proprietary interface for driving it. To increase the flexibility of the tool it was hacked to work with G-Code.

The project is a Hackaday Hackerspace Henchmen submission from rLab, the Reading Hackspace in the UK. [Barnaby] explains the entire project after the break. The machine itself wasn’t altered, but a translator script was written in Python after capturing a bunch of packets and working out the protocol. This script listens for G-Code and does the translation into the type of commands the machine is expecting to receive.

If you know of a CNC hack from your own hackerspace send us the story for a chance to win some loot.

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STL Fun: Converting Images To STL Geometry

stl image conversion

There’s been some good .STL manipulation tips in this week.

The first one is called stl_tools, and it’s a Python library to convert images or text to 3D-printable STL files. The examples shown are quite impressive, and it even does a top notch job of taking a 2D company logo into 3D! We can see this being quite handy if you need some quick 3D text, and either don’t use CAD, or really just need a one click solution. Now if only .STLs were easier to edit afterwards…

The second one is a Javascript based Leap Motion Controller STL manipulator, which lets you pick STLs and manipulate them individually with your fingers. If you happen to have a Leap, this could be a great way to show off 3D parts at a presentation or hackerspace talk, especially if you want to add a [Tony Stark] vibe to your presentation! Stick around after the break to see it in action — Now all we need are some good hologram generators…

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