Hackaday Links: April 18, 2012

Sandcasting at the beach

[mkb] sent in a video he found of [Max Lamb] sandcasting a stool at a beach in England. The material is pewter, or >90% tin with a little bit copper and antimony thrown in for good measure. While we’re sure there will be a few complaints from environmentalists, it’s still a cool video to see.

Your project needs an OLED display

Here’s a Kickstarter for a tiny 96×16 OLED display. Connect this thing to any I2C bus and you get a 15×2 character display (or a graphic display if that’s your inclination) very easily. Thanks to [Chris] for sending this one in.

Here’s one for a larf

[Ryan Inman] is suing 20 companies because he got mercury poisoning from vacuum tubes. Read that last line again. Most of the companies that sell antique/repro/hard-to-find components like Angela Instruments, Antique Electronic Supply, and even eBay are listed as defendants in the case. This might put at least one company out of business even though they never sold [Ryan] a vacuum tube edit: they did sell him a neon bulb, and courts are generally idiotic when it comes to technological issues. It’s hilarious and sad, so we’ll keep you updated if we get more info.

Nostalgia, the pain from an old wound

The Adafruit blog posted an excellent piece on the Apple ][ game Rocky’s Boots, an educational game from 1982 that teaches kids how to connect logic gates. You can play this game in your browser, but we’d like to hear our stories of ancient video games that teach you engineering concepts like The Incredible Machine or Widget Workshop. Leave a note in the comments if we’re leaving any out.

A question posed to the community

A company is giving away credit card readers that plug into the headphone jack of an iDevice. [J Smith] writes in to ask us if anyone has gotten one of these and opened them up. Like [J Smith] we’re expecting something a repeat of the CueCat where free hardware is opened up to everybody. If you’ve done a teardown of one of these card readers, send it in.

3DS homebrew

[Mike] sent us a link to [neimod]’s Flickr photostream. It looks like we’re on the cusp of tearing open the Nintendo 3DS for homebrew apps. Someone who uses this much hot glue must know what they’re doing, right?

38 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: April 18, 2012

  1. The Square credit card readers are a magnetic reader (think tape head from a cassette player or reel-to-reel) and a male 4 conductor headphone style jack. I can’t remember if it had a resistor as well, but either way they are very simple.

    I got one, tore it apart, then lost it. I’ll see if I can find it, but I’m sure somebody else will beat me to creating a write up on it.

    1. Not really a “game” but the Tandy Color Computer “CoCo” had an audio spectrum analyzer cartridge. I found one on closeout (1985/1986) and gave it to my lab partner who had a CoCo.

      1. Oops! that comment was intended to standalone comment for the Adafruit link.

        Now where’s that edit button? (HaD, hint-hint)

        Edit: I have an edit button... But we're working on something for you too.

  2. so to sum it up because he’s a moron and dosn’t know how to work with/handle old electronic tubes he’s suing a bunch of companies? you gotta love america……

    1. I love America, nevertheless, I think it was Shakespeare who wrote, “First, kill all the lawyers”

      Or more recently, Douglas Adams wrote “and when the revolution came, their backs were the first against the wall”.

      1. i agree with shakespeare :P

        i think my favorit part of the document is where they list all the medicaly (i)relevant facts they could find about mercury
        the other thing is i give this guy a+ for effort not knowing who’s at fault he just sues the whole supply chain nicely done…

  3. I have one (I should have two, but they never sent the free one I was supposed to get, and I got impatient….) I was going to do a teardown on the one they sent.

    They’re fairly simple, actually. They work by having a small magnetic reader that simply records the audio produced by the lines on strip 2 of the cards, which is sent to their servers (IIRC) for decoding.

    I tried writing my own decoder, but the audio signal was too messy for me to get anything useful out of.

    A small warning, be careful when trying to get one of these “free card readers”. They want you to link it to a bank account, and they won’t send you anything unless you’ve been “verified” by them. You can get them for $10 at stores like Walmart, which come with a $10 redemption card.

    I’m honestly still not entirely sure that Square up is not one big scam just waiting to happen, but the hardware is still good.

  4. Not only un-friendly for the environment, this method of casting molten metal on the beach is incredibly dangerous.
    Molten metals and water are not mixing well together. Well, when they mix it mostly ends up in flying molten metal.
    Tin is relatively low temperature and his mold is very open so no big issue. But with more closed casting it could be catastrophic.
    And I don’t even comment his pathetic protection. Leather apron, long leather gloves and full face mask are not optional.

    1. How is it bad for the environment?

      Ever heard of green sand casting? It is sand casting that uses water as a binder. As long as there is no liquid there will be no explosion. And at this temp you are not going to disassociate water.

      Safety glasses should be fine for this. Pewter melts at about 475F, thats only 100 degrees more than standard solder. Do you get leathers on for that?

  5. OK… So help me understand. The mercury is inside the sealed tubes, right? And he’s suing because he got mercury poisoning? So the mercury got out of the tube how? What did he do? Bust ’em open and suck on them?

    Why not sue the makers of all CFL and FL out there?

    Thanks for nothing. Kill an entire cottage industry. This is one of those rare cases I hope the companies win.

    1. He claims that the tubes were “defective and unreasonably dangerous”.
      It does not say whether they broke to easily, leaked or were contaminated on the outside.

      I don’t know if one can expect significant exposure to mercury from handling faultless tubes, even in large amounts.
      If not, then I somewhat understand his anger. If he expected to be safe by employing the necessary precautions (and this condition was truly brought upon him by faulty tubes), then obviously he is looking for others to blame.

      However, I don’t think that is the case here. He is suing all the companies that produced and sold his tubes (including Ebay itself, lol) without any proof which, if any, of the tubes were specifically defective. Hence, he alleges that all these tubes are inherently defective and dangerous, or at least not labeled as such.

      Then again, this is in the US, famous for warning labels such as “Coffee may be hot”, so maybe he has a shot at this.

      1. OK. I see what you’re saying. Hopefully the jury can see the truth. I know guys that are more than three times my age who worked with tubes far longer than I’ve been alive and I’m quite certain at least one of them manufactured tubes back in the day and they don’t suffer from mercury poisoning.

        Hell, I used to bust open tubes in my dads junkyard as a tot and I’m not the least bit ditzy.

        Just another McDonalds woman.

      2. his claims are just ridiculous when you handle old/antique equipment for 8 years you really should know what your doing. his case is how should i put it…. its like eating can food thats 50 years over exp date and then sue the manufacturer because the cans where “defectiv” and he got food poisoning from it. its just plain ridiculous.
        im normally a very tollerant guy but such idiocy just enrages me….

    2. ok, so hes suing 21 individual companies… So unless he went and intentionally bought and broke the tubes from everywhere he could find them, then there is no way he got poisoned from all of them. 21 independent companies don’t make defective tubes and sell them to the same guy… Almost too bad he survived the poisoning…

    3. I did a Google search on the guy a year or so ago. He’s a know-it-all sort, all of whose problems are because of somebody else. You know the type.

      He apparently thought it was lead poisoning at first and tried to sue a bunch of people over that. When that didn’t go so well, he switched to mercury.

      I wish there were something we could do for Cascade. They’re in Portland (the Oregon one) and the lawsuit is in a Pennsylvania courtroom. It’s not like they can just drive over to it. They don’t have the money for an attorney nor to take time away from the business to fly across country, so unless they can piggyback on one of the other companies’ attorneys they’re SOL.

      1. Sounds like he’s just out to make a quick buck any judge with even the slightest amount of common sense would throw the case out as a frivolous law suit.
        Really there needs to be tort reform to stop idiots like this as the same kind of greedy wastes of carbon atoms almost killed the civil aviation industry back in the 1970s.

    4. Same here I hope the companies win and then turn around and counter sue this guy.
      I think his claims are baloney as there is more mercury in those Chinese CLFs then there is in a typical vacuum tube.
      If he busted open a mercury rectifier on purpose then it’s his own fault he got sick as what part of mercury rectifier did he not understand.

    5. I think the point of his lawsuit is to get a settlement. At least one of those companies would rather settle out of court than deal with the negative publicity. That’s why he’s going after all of them at once. It’s a common practice that should result in being banned from a courtroom as a plaintiff.

  6. Here’s a link for a tiny 128 x 128 Color LCD display. Connect this thing to any SPI bus and you get a 128 x 128 character display (or a graphic display if that’s your inclination) very easily. You can draw things on screen, display images (although the library may need some work), change the background color of text and such. It uses emulated SPI rather than true SPI but it’s pretty snappy and responsive.


    It also comes in Arduino Shield form.


    Available now, no kickstarter required.

    Although the driver(s) could use some work to be updated to 1.0 IDE.

    1. I have 2 of those. Those are old nokia clone LCD displays, and have a really bad viewing angle, not to mention very ugly large pixels. OLED displays have tiny pixels, which look good and are not backlit, but give off light themselfs. Whole different ball park.

  7. Well that sucks. I live about 12 blocks from Cascade Surplus Electronics. They’re my best supply of electronic components when I need them.

    I hope they don’t go out of business :(

    1. Yeah, that really sucks Cascade surplus is being sued. I can bike to there pretty easily from my house and I feel like a kid in a windowless candy store every time I go in! I had always wanted a comically huge resistor and he had a neat one with 8 terminals, 200 ohms between each, that he sold me for $5!

  8. I used to sell Rocky’s Boots when I was young and worked for Radio Shack. There was another one from the same company called Robot Odyssey that was a lot more sophisticated. You could pack logic into chips and then place them into robots to solve the game. These games need to be updated to modern tech and rereleased. Does anyone know the copyright status of them?

      1. Nope, that really was the full title of the game. It’s right on the box (which I still have, for Apple II). The anecdote about their intending to make sequels is from an interview with a staffer at The Learning Company. That bit of trivia has nearly become lost to history- most sources (including Wikipedia, I see) drop the Roman numeral 1 in the title, because it makes even less sense now than it did then.

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