Hackaday Links: June 8, 2014


Yes, dogfighting with RC planes is cool. You know what’s even cooler? RC jousting. Considering these eight foot long planes are probably made of foam board or Depron, they’ll probably hold up for a fairly long time. The perfect application of RC FPV.

Home automation is the next big thing, apparently, but it’s been around for much longer than iPhones and Bluetooth controllable outlets and smart thermostats. Here’s a home automation system from 1985. Monochrome CRT display panel (with an awesome infrared touch screen setup), a rat’s nest of wiring, and a floor plan drawn in ASCII characters. It’s also Y2K compliant.

Here’s an idea for mobile component storage: bags. Instead of tackle and tool boxes for moving resistors and other components around, [Darcy] is using custom bags made from polyethylene sheets, folded and sealed with an impulse sealer. It’s not ESD safe, but accidentally zapping a LED with an ESD would be impressive.

Need a stepper motor test circuit? Easy, just grab one of those Polulu motor drivers, an ATtiny85, wire it up, and you’re done. Of course then you’re troubled with people on the Internet saying you could have done it with a 555 timer. This one is for them. It’s a 555, some wire, and some solder. Could have done it with discrete transistors, though.

Someone figured out Lego Minifigs can hold iDevice charge cables. +1 for the 1980s spaceman.

Remember that “electronic, color sensing, multicolor pen” idea that went around the Internet a year or so ago? It’s soon to be a Kickstarter, and man, is this thing full of fail. They’re putting an ARM 9 CPU in a pen. A pen with a diameter of 15mm. Does anyone know if an ARM 9 is made in that small of a package? We’ll have a full, “this is a totally unrealistic Kickstarter and you’re all sheep for backing it” post when it finally launches. Also, this.

29 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: June 8, 2014

  1. You can get ARM9 Thumb processors in a 10mm square BGA, so maybe that’s what it really is. But it’s still shoehorning a pretty big microcontroller into a small space, and it certainly does NOT need that much CPU power.

    1. The smallest pen is 12.5mm, the walls would need to be at least 1mm, and then you have the clearance, it would be really hard to make a functional 10mm wide board for a 10mm BGA ARM.

      That’s the easy thing though, i am really curious how the mechanical parts for mixing the ink are supposed to work, Even if you end up using an inkjet head you still need to clear out the old ink from the nib or you will end up writing in brown whatever color you chose.

      The only solution i can see is either changing the tip for each color change, or pointing the inkjet straight out the front, and with a front shaped like that you will still end up with some scatter trapped on the sides which will eventually drip out.

      1. Yeah it definitely seems like something put together by overseas business majors (“This seems possible, we just need some money right?”). One of the minor details that generates this impression…they have a diagram of the pen parts, and the nib is marked as NIB. Almost like they only knew the acronym for “New In Box” rather than any pen-based expertise.

      2. This was the first thing I thought of too.. the logic can probably all be shrunk down, just use another processor. But how is the thing actually going to work?

        I would love to see an actual prototype. It doesn’t need to be a reasonable size, but it should actually function in a reasonable way. It’s understandable that they would need some money to do research, development, more design, etc. But they should at least have something that functions… they don’t even seem to have a humongous model that can write with 2 colors when connected to an external power source or something.

    2. The part that gets me is that it’s 5 inks (who writes in white???), enough memory for music, a processor for next year’s smart phone, and only 16bit color sensor. I could, in fact, store every color that sensor could pick up in that much space. The specs are just weird.

      Like what’s not listed: How much could it write? What’s battery life? Little things like that.

      (IMHO, a color-sensing stylus is a pretty reasonable idea, and an excellent use of BLE. I could see that as a real product in the next year.)

      1. wow.. so much ignorance. If you knew anything about colors, you’d realise the reason you need white ink is that unlike your printer that prints on white paper(aka white ink), we as humans aren’t limited to drawing or writing on white paper hence a need for white ink. Ever tried printing on yellow or black paper with your printer, did it turn out well?

      2. What is even more strange, is that the site lacks a prober “about” page. The press release mentions “Mark Barker and Robert Hoffman” as the creators, yet I can not find anything about these guys. No linkedin profile, no twitter.

      3. 16bit color sensor and 1GB memory for 100’000 colors:
        34465 colors are duplicates and a singe 48 or 80 byte 5 color value takes 10kB to store
        Not to mention the importance of an ARM9 uC

  2. Don’t know about anyone else, but I cringe at the sight of “World’s First” anything. For one, it most probably isn’t. Two, who cares? Three, assuming it was the first, why would you need to tell people? Shouldn’t they recognize a product that has never been made? Or are more people clairvoyant now and I somehow missed the boat by not doing a ton of drugs?

      1. Agreed. That interface just oozes of retro 80s/90s UI goodness.
        These things must have been custom programmed for each individual customer I assume? Custom floor plans drawn? Anyone know?
        It looks like a lot of hard work must have went into creating those systems with the technical limitations of that era.

        1. It looks like custom programmed in some regards. The temp page notes “Floor plan/temperature control with the original builder’s name” — so when it was programmed for the customer they added the line for the home (eg “GARCIA RESIDENCE”).

          I’m trying to actually track down manuals and it looks like there’s not a lot out there, if anything actual manual-wise. There’s a company that has a $30k+ “upgrade” to this system which is just adding /more/ panels into the system and what looks like a horrible UI with Papyrus everywhere.

  3. I like how half of the ‘press’ locations they list on the bottom of the page are submit-your-own-PR-release sites or blogging platforms (PRlog, some random Tumblr, Skyrock, Briefingwire, Livejournal, soup.io — and of note, the Skyrock, Livejournal, and Soup.io are the same username on all three).

  4. ARM A9 not ARM 9. The ‘A’ is important here. It says that it is an application core not a mircocontroller core like ARM M0,M0+,M3,M4 (‘M’ like MCU). This kind of core is used in SoC not in MCU. Does it fit in 15mm? I don’t know but I don’t see why they should use an SoC for such an application. An SoC draw a lot more power than an MCU. The battery would not last long. The battery must be small too! I have no trust in this kickstarter.

  5. ARM 9 does not make any sense at all. This is just not the type of CPU you would use for a device like this.This reeks of some start-up class project gone too far. (Hey, once we have the financing we just hire an engineer to design the thing, right?

    1. Put a sheet of paper or polyimide tape over the plastic if you want to seal something that melts too easily even at low soldering iron temperatures.

      However a cheap impulse sealer only costs something like 20 euro at discount stores anyway.

  6. That pen’s still an interesting project to think about, how would the ink dispenser work?
    How would you fit the mechanics in that space?
    Tiny little diaphragm pumps? screws which displace ink? Inkjet system which sprays the ink out?

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