Hackaday Links: August 7, 2016

The Starship Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C, or D) recently got a makeover. It was donated to the Smithsonian, and the workers at the Air and Space Museum took it apart and put it back together. Why? It’s the 50th anniversary of TOS. Hopefully the new show will be using some practical effects.

After years of trying, we’ve finally attained max buzzword. Here’s a pentesting hacker quadcopter drone, “a hacker’s laptop that can fly.” Why would anyone do this? Because, “You need to be close to the wireless signal to be able to read it. [Danger Drone] removes that barrier of physical access.” For just $500, you can do the same thing a coat hanger yagi can do. Amazing.

Q2 reports for 3D printer companies! Lulzbot is going gangbusters yet again. We’re looking at the greatest success of Open Source Hardware here. Stratasys, on the other hand, lost less money in Q2 2016. That’s their good news.

About a year ago, we heard about an LCD that was one inch high and ten inches long. That’s bizarre, but great for rackmount gear. The company behind this weird LCD is updating this weird and wonderful LCD and giving it touchscreen capability.

On this week’s edition of, ‘you’re going to cut your arm off with that thing’, here’s an angle grinder converted into a chainsaw.

A few weeks ago, we posted a link to this video, demonstrating an absurdly clever method for creating a mold for a fiberglass dome. You can just use a pendulum and a pile of dirt. Now, the mold for this fiberglass dome is complete. [J Mantzel] has already pulled 1/8th of his gigantic fiberglass sphere out of his mold, and there are only seven more to go. After that, he’ll find out if these sphere sections actually line up.

UK peeps! Hackaday and Tindie are doing a London Meetup! Details to come, but follow the event page on Hackaday.io.

I arrived in Vegas a day (or two) early for DEF CON. Instead of contemplating the banality of existence on the strip, I decided on a meetup at the grave of James T. Kirk. The meetup was a huge success. Walking two miles in 115° heat was not a great idea, but I didn’t die.

DEF CON Meetup At The Grave Of James T. Kirk

DEF CON is just around the corner, and that means in just a few days thousands of hardware hackers will be wandering around the casinos in Vegas. Yes, in a mere handful of hours, the tech literati will be accosted by the dead, disaffected eyes of dealers and the crass commercialization of every culture in humanity’s recorded history. The light of god does not penetrate mirrored ceilings. Vegas is terrible, it’ll be 120ºF outside, but at least there’s cool stuff happening Thursday through Sunday.

Hackaday is going to be there, but we really don’t want to spend the entire weekend walking around casinos. That’s why we’re hosting a meetup at the most unlikely place possible: Veridian III, the site of the battle between the Duras sisters and the Enterprise, the crash site of NCC-1701-D, and the final resting place of Admiral James Tiberius Kirk.

We’ll be visiting Veridian III at the Valley of Fire State Park on Wednesday, August 3rd, starting at 1pm. It’s about an hour north of Vegas. As you would expect, hats, sunscreen, good shoes, and a supply of water that could be categorized as “survivalist” are a good idea. Hackaday will be at the visitor center at 1PM, and after a half hour or so, the entire meetup will drive a few miles north to cooler looking rocks.

If you want an FAQ, here you go:

  • What’s this all about, then?
    • Drive out to the desert because cool rocks.
  • No, really, what’s up?
    • Watch Star Trek: Generations. We’re going to the filming location of Soren’s launch site on Veridian III. This is where Kirk died (on a bridge), and where he was buried by Picard.
  • Where and when?
    • Valley of Fire State Park. Here’s the Google Map. 1PM, August 3rd. It’s about an hour north of Vegas. We’re going to meet at the visitor center around 1pm. Around 1:30, we’re going a few miles north to the White Dome trailhead. Look for the Hackaday Flag. It’ll be flying on a PVC pipe taped to a car.
  • Why are you going to the desert, in August, in the middle of the day, with no plan whatsoever?
    • Because Benchoff.
  • Why would extinguishing a star alter its gravity? The mass of the star would still be there, which means the Nexus ribbon wouldn’t be deflected at all. Is this crazy? What’s going on here?
    • Because Rick Berman.
  • Why weren’t there two Picards after Picard and Kirk returned from the Nexus?
    • Rick Berman.
  • Is this really the grave site of James T. Kirk?
    • No, because Kirk was resurrected by the Borg and his katra restored by Romulans.

This meetup will be a continuation of a series of Hackaday meetups in the middle of nowhere. Earlier, we had a gathering at the childhood home of the worst president of the United States of America. That meetup was a roaring success, with people travelling from surprisingly far away. If you’re unlucky enough to be in Vegas for DEF CON a day early, this is one of the weirdest meetups you could possibly attend.

By the way, if enough people attend, it will serve as proof we can do a meetup anywhere. I have my eyes on Spillville, Iowa, Oregon’s House of Mystery, and one of the remaining Blockbuster stores in El Paso. If you support this idea, come on out.

Hackaday Links: July 3, 2016

This week, Popular Mechanics published cutaway diagrams of ships that will be seen in Star Trek: Beyond, released later this month. This is your cue for spoilers for the remainder of this paragraph. The USS Franklin looks suspiciously like – and was likely built after – the NX-01, the titular ship of Star Trek: Enterprise. The Abrams-verse Franklin was the first Warp 4 ship, yet the prime universe NX-01 was the first Warp 5 ship, with previous ships having trouble reaching Warp 2. We must now consider the Abrams-verse Trek is not a parallel universe to prime-universe Trek and should therefore be considered a completely separate canon (yes, even the destruction of Vulcan. If you see the new Star Trek movie, the NX-01 launched in 2151, and your suggested viewing beforehand is ST:ENT, S02E24, First Flight.

The Mechaduino is a Hackaday Prize entry that turns steppers into closed-loop servos. It’s a phenomenal idea, and now it’s a Kickstarter.

Walk into a dollar store, and you’ll find stupid solar powered electronic flower pots. They’re bits of plastic that shake a plastic flower back and forth when placed in the sun. They’re selling millions, and I have no idea why. [Scott] put a jolly wrencher on one of these flower pots. Really, this is just an exercise in 3D printing, but [Scott] printed the jolly wrencher. We don’t see a lot of that, due to how difficult it is to render the wrencher in OpenSCAD.

In just a few hours, Juno will perform an insertion burn around Jupiter. Does this mean pretty pictures? Not quite yet. This is the closest a spacecraft has ever gotten to Jupiter, and over thirty or forty orbits, Juno will fly between Jupiter’s massive radiation belts. Here’s the NASA trailer.

This video recently caught the Internet’s attention. It’s squares and circles that when put next to a mirror look like circles and squares. Yes, it’s weird. People have 3D printers, so of course these ambiguous objects were quickly reverse engineered and printed. Here’s how they work

It looks like Brexit has caught up to Mouser. Here’s their country select dialog for eu.mouser.com. Thanks [Tom] for the screencap.

Talking Star Trek

Speech generation and recognition have come a long way. It wasn’t that long ago that we were in a breakfast place and endured 30 minutes of a teenaged girl screaming “CALL JUSTIN TAYLOR!” into her phone repeatedly, with no results. Now speech on phones is good enough you might never use the keyboard unless you want privacy. Every time we ask Google or Siri a question and get an answer it makes us feel like we are living in Star Trek.

[Smcameron] probably feels the same way. He’s been working on a Star Trek-inspired bridge simulator called “Space Nerds in Space” for some time. He decided to test out the current state of Linux speech support by adding speech commands and response to it. You can see the results in the video below.

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Star Trek Pi

Every time we yell out, “OK Google… navigate to Velvet Melvin’s” we feel like a Star Trek character. After all, you’ve never seen Captain Kirk (or Picard) using a keyboard. If you get that same feeling, and you have a Raspberry Pi project in mind, you might enjoy the Raspberry Pi LCARS interface.

You can see the results in the video below. The interface uses PyGame, and you can customize it with different skins if you don’t want a Star Trek look.

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Running Calculus on an Arduino

It was Stardate 2267. A mysterious life form known as Redjac possessed the computer system of the USS Enterprise. Being well versed in both computer operations and mathematics, [Spock] instructed the computer to compute pi to the last digit. “…the value of pi is a transcendental figure without resolution” he would say. The task of computing pi presents to the computer an infinite process. The computer would have to work on the task forever, eventually forcing the Redjac out.

Calculus relies on infinite processes. And the Arduino is a (single thread) computer. So the idea of zeno_03running a calculus function on an Arduino presents a seemingly impossible scenario. In this article, we’re going to explore the idea of using derivative like techniques with a microcontroller. Let us be reminded that the derivative provides an instantaneous rate of change. Getting an instantaneous rate of change when the function is known is easy. However, when you’re working with a microcontroller and varying analog data without a known function, it’s not so easy. Our goal will be to get an average rate of change of the data. And since a microcontroller is many orders of magnitude faster than the rate of change of the incoming data, we can calculate the average rate of change over very small time intervals. Our work will be based on the fact that the average rate of change and instantaneous rate of change are the same over short time intervals.

Continue reading “Running Calculus on an Arduino”

Decoding data hiding in Star Trek IV

1986: The US and Russia signed arms agreements, Argentina won the world cup, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home hit the theaters. Trekkies and the general public alike enjoyed the film. Some astute hams though, noticed a strange phenomenon about halfway through the film. During a pivotal scene, Scotty attempts to beam Chekov and Uhura off the Enterprise, but has trouble with interference. The interference can be heard over the ubiquitous Star Trek comm link. To many it may sound like random radio noise. To the trained ear of a [Harold Price, NK6K] though, it sounded a heck of a lot like packet radio transmissions.

cray-2By 1989, the film was out on VHS and laser disc. With high quality audio available, [Harold] challenged his friend [Bob McGwier, N4HY] to decode the signal. [Bob] used the best computer he had available: His brain. He also had a bit of help from a Cray 2 supercomputer.

[Bob] didn’t own his own Cray 2 of course, this particular computer was property of the National Security Agency (NSA). He received permission to test Frequency Shift Keyed (FSK) decoder algorithms. Can you guess what his test dataset was?

The signal required a lot of cleanup: The original receiver was tuned 900 Hz below the transmission frequency. There also was a ton of noise. To make matters worse, Scotty kept speaking over the audio. Thankfully, AX.25 is a forgiving protocol. [Bob] persevered and was able to obtain some usable data. The signal turned out to be [Bill Harrigill, WA8ZCN] sending a Receive Ready (RR) packet to N6AEZ on 20 meters. An RR packet indicates that [Bill’s] station had received all previous packets and was ready for more.  [Bob] called to [Bill], who was able to verify that it was probably him transmitting in the 1985 or 1986, around the time the sound editors would have been looking for effects.

That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, especially considering it was 1989. Today, we carry supercomputers around in our pockets. The Cray 2 is roughly equivalent to an iPhone 4 in processing power. Modern laptop and desktop machines easily out class Seymour Cray’s machine. We also have software like GNU Radio, which is designed to decode data. Our challenge to you, the best readers in the world, is to replicate [Bob McGwier’s] work, and share your results.