THP Entry: The Improved Open Source Tricorder


Since [Gene Roddenberry] traveled back in time from the 23rd century, the idea of a small, portable device has wound its way through the social consciousness, eventually turning into things like smartphones, PDAs, and all the other technological gadgetry of modern life. A few years ago, [Peter Jansen] started The Tricorder Project, the start of the ultimate expression of [Mr. Roddneberry]‘s electronic swiss army knife. Now [Peter] is building a better, smaller version for The Hackaday Prize.

[Peter]‘s first tricorders borrowed their design heavily from The Next Generation props with a fold-out section, two displays, and a bulky front packed to the gills with sensors and detectors. Accurate if you’re cosplaying, but not the most practical in terms of interface and human factors consideration. These constraints led [Peter] to completely redesign his tricorder, disregarding the painted wooden blocks found on Enterprise and putting all the electronics in a more usable form factor.

A muse of sorts was found in the Radiation Watch, a tiny, handheld Geiger counter meant as an add-on to smartphones. [Peter] envisions a small ~1.5″ OLED display on top, a capacitive sensing wheel in the middle, and a swipe bar at the bottom. Basically, it looks like a 1st gen iPod nano, but much, much more useful.

Plans for what to put in this improved tricorder include temperature, humidity, pressure, and gas sensors, a 3-axis magnetometer, x-ray and gamma ray detectors, a polarimeter, colorimeter, spectrometer, 9-axis IMU, a microphone, a lightning sensor, and WiFi courtesy of TI’s CC3000 module. Also included is something akin to a nuclear event detector; if it still exists, there has been no nuclear event.

It’s an astonishing array of technology packed into an extremely small enclosure – impressive for something that is essentially a homebrew device.Even if it doesn’t win the Hackaday Prize, it’s still an ambitious attempt at putting data collection and science in everyone’s pocket – just like in Star Trek.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

Discovering a Wifi Enabled 10MHz Oscilloscope


As most of our readers know, [Mike] was visiting Bay Area Maker Faire  last weekend with a big Jolly Wrencher on his back. During his tour he encountered the neat oscilloscope shown in the video above, made by the Belgian company Velleman. Even though it only has a 10MS/s sampling rate and a 10MHz bandwidth, our guess is that it may still be useful for some hobbyists out there as it can communicate with any PC/smartphone/tablet using its Wifi interface.

Inside the black box is a 3.7V 1800mAh Li-ion battery with a USB port to recharge it or update the oscilloscope’s firmware. As seen in the video, the tablet’s touchscreens may enable more natural interaction with the user interface. The protocol used to export the acquired samples is open, which may allow users to create their own analysis program. The oscilloscope uses an 8 bit analog to digital converter and a 4K samples buffer.

I2S Audio And SPI Display With An Ethernet Module

LCD[kgsws] is working on a small project that requires some audio and a display of some sort. While this project can be easily completed with a bigish microcontroller or ARM board, he’s taking a much simpler route: the entire project is built around a cheap router module, giving this project amazing expandability for a very meager price.

The router module in question is the HLK-RM04 from Hi-Link, commonly found via the usual Chinese resellers for about $25. On board this module is a UART, Ethernet, and a WiFi adapter along with a few GPIO pins for interfacing with the outside world.

[kgsws] is using the native SPI pins on this module to control the clock and data lines for the tiny LCD, with a GPIO pin toggling the chip select. I2S audio is also implemented, decoded with an 8-bit DAC, the MCP4801.

It’s an extremely inexpensive solution for putting audio and video in a project, and since this board has Ethernet, WiFi, and a few more GPIO pins, it’s can do much more than whatever [kgsws] is planning next.

Hackaday Links: January 5, 2014


While we can’t condone the actual use of this device, [Husam]‘s portable WiFi jammer is actually pretty cool. It uses a Raspberry Pi and an Aircrack-ng compatible dongle to spam the airwaves with deauth packets. The entire device is packaged in a neat box with an Arduino-controlled LCD and RGB LEDs. Check out an imgur gallery here.

You can pick up a wireless phone charger real cheap from any of the usual internet outlets, but try finding one that’s also a phone stand. [Malcolm] created his own. He used a Qi charger from DealExtreme and attached it to a 3D printed phone stand.

A while back, [John] noticed an old tube radio in an antique store. No, he didn’t replace the guts with a Raspberry Pi and an SD card full of MP3s. He just brought it back to working condition. After fixing the wiring (no ground cord on these old things), repairing the speaker cone, putting some new twine on the tuner and replacing the caps, [John] has himself a new old radio. Here’s a video of the complete refurbishment.

Here’s a Sega Master System (pretty much a Game Gear) running on an STM32 dev board. Also included are some ROMs for some classic games – Sonic the Hedgehog, Castle of Illusion, and The Lion King. If you have this STM Discovery board you can grab the emulator right here.

[Spencer] wanted a longer battery life in his iPhone, so he did what any engineering student would do: he put another battery in parallel.

Breadboarding something with an AVR or MAX232? Print out some of these stickers and make sure you get the pinouts right. Thanks, [Marius].

Ask Hackaday: Can you Hack an Appliance into a Spy Device?


A story surfaced a few days before Halloween on Russian news site Rosbalt (yep, that’s in Russian), claiming Russian authorities intercepted Chinese-made electric irons and kettles: each equipped with microphones and WiFi. You can read a summary in English on the BBC’s website. The “threat” imposed by these “spy appliances” is likely the result of gross exaggeration if not downright fear mongering against Chinese-made products. It’s not worth our (or your) effort to speculate on what’s really happening here, but the situation does present a fun exercise.

Say you wanted to spice up your pen testing by altering a small home appliance: how easily could you build it? Let us know in the comments which appliance would serve as the best “host” for the modifications and what features you would include. Could you manage all the components listed in the article–a microphone, WiFi (any chance of cracking unsecured networks?), plus some vague indication that it “spreads viruses?” There’s a video below with a few glimpses of the electronics in question, but unless you speak Russian it probably won’t offer much insight.

[Read more...]

Making Use of the Trancend WiFi SD Card


[CNLohr] spends most of his time on the Internet, but sometimes real life drags him away from his keyboard. These “vacations”, as he calls them, don’t have a good Internet connection and forces him to rely on flaky cell phone connections that go up and down at the drop of a hat. Figuring this would be a great opportunity for some hardware hacking, [CNLohr] came up with an ‘Internet-o-mometer’ – a device powered by a Trancend WiFi SD card that uses an 8×8 LED display to show the current status of his phone’s Internet connection.

This build uses the Trancend WiFi SD card motherboard we’ve seen before. When the card boots, it tries to connect to his phone’s WiFi connection.  When it connects, a green smiley face is displayed on the LED matrix. When a whole lot of files are downloaded or, more specifically, the ping to is more than 4 seconds, a red frowny face indicates the Internet connection is down.

In other Trancend WiFi SD card news, a whole lot of people including [Dan Krause] (thanks for the tip) have been working on a complete replacement OS for these neat little cards. Right now the OS is in very rough shape, but there is a pre-built system available should anyone want to experiment. [CNLohr] is also working on a compact, double-sided version of his SD card motherboard and we’ll be happy to feature a link to his Tindie store when he sends that in.

A Motherboard for a WiFi Enabled SD Card


Over the last few months, a few very capable hackers have had a hand in cracking open a Transcend WiFi-enable SD card that just happens to be running a small Linux system inside. The possibilities for a wireless Linux device you can lose in your pocket are immense, but so far no one has gotten any IO enabled on this neat piece of hardware. [CNLohr] just did us all a favor with his motherboard for these Transcend WiFi SD cards, allowing the small Linux systems to communicate with I2C devices.

This build is based upon [Dmitry]‘s custom kernel for the Transcend WiFiSD card. [CNLohr] did some poking around with this system and found he could use an AVR to speak to the card in its custom 4-bit protocol.

The ‘motherboard’ consists of some sort of ATMega, an AVR programming header, a power supply, and a breakout for the I2C bus. [Lohr] wired up a LED array to the I2C bus and used it to display some configuration settings for the WiFi card before connecting to the card over WiFi and issuing commands directly to the Linux system on the card. The end result was, obviously, a bunch of blinking LEDs.

While this is by far the most complex and overwrought way to blink a LED we’ve ever seen, this is a great proof of concept that makes the Transcend cards extremely interesting for a variety of hardware projects. If you want your own Transcend motherboard, [CNLohr] put all the files up for anyone who wants to etch their own board.


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