While browsing a local auction site, [Viktor] found himself bidding on a beat up Lenovo A600 all-in-one PC. He bid around $50 and won. Then came the hard part – actually making the thing work. The front glass was cracked, but the LCD was thankfully unharmed. The heat pipes looked like they had been attacked with monkey wrenches. The superIO chip’s pins were mangled, and worst of all, the MXM video card was dead.
The first order of business was to fix the superIO chip’s pins and a few nearby discrete components which had been knocked off their pads. Once that was done, [Viktor] was actually able to get the computer to boot into Linux from a USB flash drive. The next step was bringing up the display. [Viktor] only needed a coding station, so in addition to being dead, the video accelerator on the MXM wasn’t very useful to him. The Lenovo’s motherboard was designed to support video on an MXM card or internal video. Switching over meant changing some driver settings and moving a few components, including a rather large LVDS connector for the display itself. A difficult task, compounded by the fact that [Viktor’s] soldering tools were a pair of soldering guns that would be better suited to fixing the bodywork on a ’57 Chevy. He was able to fashion a hot wire setup of sorts, and moved the connector over. When he was done, only one tiny solder bridge remained!
The end result is a new coding battle station for [Viktor] and a computer which was a basket case is saved from the landfill. If you like this hack, check out [Viktor’s] low power PSU, or his 1 wire network!
Though there is nothing wrong with the raw functionality of a plain rectangular PCB, boards that work an edge of aesthetic flare into their layout leave a lasting impression on those who see them. This is the philosophy of circuit artist [Saar Drimer] of Boldport, and the reason why he was commissioned by Calrec Audio to create the look for their anniversary edition amplifier kit. We’ve seen project’s by [Saar] before and this ‘Nutclough18’ amplifier is another great example of his artistic handy work.
For the special occasion of their 50th anniversary, Calrec Audio contacted [Saar] requesting he create something a bit more enticing than their standard rectangular design from previous years. With their schematic as a starting point, [Saar] used cardboard to mock-up a few of his ideas in order to get a feel for the placement of the components. Several renditions later, [Saar] decided to implement the exact proportions of the company’s iconic Apollo desk into the heart of the design as an added nod back to the company itself. In the negative space between the lines of the Apollo desk there is a small perforated piece depicting the mill where the Calrec offices are located. The image of the mill makes use of different combinations of copper, silk and solder mask either absent or present to create shading and depth as the light passes through the board. This small piece that would have otherwise been removed as scrap can be snapped off from the body of the PCB and used as a commemorative keychain.
With the battery and speaker mounted behind the completed circuit board, [Saar’s] design succeeds in being a unique memento with a stylish appeal. There is a complete case study with detailed documentation on the Nutclough from cardboard to product on the Boldport website. Here you can also see some other examples of their gorgeous circuit art, or checkout their opensource software to help in designing your own alternative PCBs.
Normally you’d expect the sound of a pipe organ to come from something gigantic. [Matthew Steinke] managed to squeeze all of that rich melodic depth into an acoustic device the size of a toaster (YouTube link) which uses electromagnetism to create its familiar sound.
[Matthew ’s] instrument has a series of thin vertical tines, each coupled with a small MIDI controlled electromagnet. As the magnet pulses with modulation at a specific frequency, the pull and release of the tine causes it to resonate continuously with a particular tone. The Tine Organ is capable of producing 20 chromatic notes in full polyphony starting in middle C and can be used as an attachment to a standard keyboard or a synthesizer app on a smart phone. The classic style body of the instrument is made out of mahogany and babinga and houses the soundboard as well as the mini microcontroller responsible for receiving the MIDI and regulating the software oscillators sending voltage to the magnets.
[Matthew’s] creation is as interesting to look at as it is to listen to, so I’d recommend checking out the video below to hear the awesome sound it produces:
Continue reading “Using MIDI And Magnets To Produce Tones With Tines”
Our trip to Germany wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a proper European hackerspace, and the Munich Chaos Computer Club was more than accommodating in allowing us to invade their space.
Before even walking in the door, you’re greeted with one of the coolest displays you’ve ever seen. Half of the front of their building is a gigantic flipdot display. It’s astonishing in person, and although no dots were flipped during our visit, we can imagine the noise would be deafening. Simply awesome.
Walking in the door, you’re greeted with the general meeting area, conference room, couches, and a Twilight Zone pinball machine. The machine didn’t quite work when we arrived, but within five minutes, [Sprite_TM] was behind the backglass and had everything fixed within an hour.
The back room and basement have the usual assortment of tools – a 3D printer, CNC, lathe, and electronics workbench. If you need a key made, head to the basement. You’ll also find an ATM in the basement. The story with that is that the news station in Munich wanted to do a story on how easy it was to get USB access to the Windows system in an ATM. The station couldn’t do it – but they faked it – and put the ATM up on eBay. Not much money later, the ATM found its way to the space’s basement.
MuCCC is more than just a space with tools, though: in the european hackerspace tradition, there are frequent presentations and talks that would fit in at an academic conference. Last Tuesday, [nicolas] presented a few techniques to protect cryptographic keys from physical integrity attacks, i.e. an evil maid attack or a SWAT team invading your router closet. It’s a daemon that listens to an AVR loaded up with sensors through a GPIO pin. If there is physical intrusion in the device – barometric pressure or light – keys resident in memory can be erased.
You can check out a gallery of pics from the space below.
The stores of Club Mate. There was also a vending machine.
Flip dot display in a junk box.
This test equipment was donated, but it’s still amazingly good
No, that’s not a Darwin. It’s close, though, and the only printer of this design I’ve seen at a hackersapce
There’s an ATM in the basement. Apparently, a news station in Munich bought an ATM to demonstrate how easy it is to crack. The news station couldn’t crack it. It was then sold on eBay and wound up at the space. Yes, you can now play Solitaire on it.
[Sprite_TM] came into the space and found a broken Twilight Zone game. 30 minutes later, it was fixed.
ARRL handbook in Germany. Okay.
Outside of the space.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, the United States Army provided regular status reports to both its interior members and the American public through a half-hour documentary television show called The Big Picture. Since the program was produced by the government, every episode immediately entered the public domain. This particular report tells the story of the T-48 project that culminated in the 90mm M48 Patton tank.
The film opens by providing a brief history of tanks and the lessons learned about them between WWI and the Korean War. The Army sought a more robust vehicle that could handle a wide variety of climates and terrain, and so the process of information gathering began. After a series of meetings at the Pentagon in which all parties involved explored every facet, the project was approved, and a manila folder was officially designated to the project and labeled accordingly.
We then tour the R&D facility where new tank materials and components are developed and tested. It is here that the drive gears are put through their paces on a torsion machine. Air cleaners are pitted against each other to decide which can filter out the finest dust and sand. After careful analysis, different tank shell materials are test welded together with various, well-documented electrodes, and these panels are taken outside so their welds can be directly fired upon.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: The (Long, Arduous) Birth Of A Tank”
While the ubiquitous TI-83 still runs off an ancient Zilog Z80 processor, the newer TI-Nspire series of graphing calculators uses modern ARM devices. [Ivoah] managed to get Debian Linux running on a TI-Nspire calculator, and has written a guide explaining how it’s done.
The process uses Ndless, a jailbreak which allows code to run at a low level on the device. Ndless also includes a full SDK, emulator, and debugger for developing apps. In this case, Ndless is used to load the Linux kernel.
The root filesystem is built on a PC using debootstrap and the QEMU ARM emulator. This allows you to install whatever packages are needed via apt, before transitioning to the calculator itself.
With the root filesystem on a USB flash drive, Ndless runs the Linux loader, which starts the kernel, mounts the root filesystem, and boots in to a Debian system in about two minutes. As the video after the break demonstrates, this leaves you with a shell on the calculator. We’re not exactly sure what to do with Linux on a graphing calculator, but it is a neat demonstration.
Continue reading “Running Debian On A Graphing Calculator”
The Thalmic Myo is an electronic arm band with an IMU and myoelectric sensors, able to measure the orientation and muscle movements of an arm. This device has uses ranging from prosthetics to Minority Report-style user interfaces. Thalmic is also a Y Combinator company, with $15 million in funding and tech press gushing over the possible uses of this futuristic device. Truly, a remarkable story for the future of user interfaces and pseudo-medical devices that can get around most FDA regulations.
A few months ago, Thalmic released a firmware update to the Myo that blocks raw access to the myoelectric sensors. Anyone wanting to develop for the Myo now needs to submit an application and pay Thalmic and their investors a pound of flesh – up to $5000 for academic institutions. The current version of the firmware only provides access to IMU data and ‘gestures’ – not the raw muscle data that would be invaluable when researching RSI detection, amputee prosthetics, or a hundred other ideas floating around the Thalmic forums.
Thalmic started their company with the idea that an open SDK would be best for the community, with access to the raw sensor data available in all but the latest version of the firmware. A few firmware revisions ago, Thalmic removed access to this raw data, breaking a number of open source projects that would be used for researchers or anyone experimenting with the Thalmic Myo. Luckily, someone smart enough to look at version numbers has come up with an open library to read the raw sensor data. It works well, and the official position of Thalmic is that raw sensor data will be unavailable in the future. If you want to develop something with the Myo, this library just saved your butt.
Thalmic will have an official statement on access to raw sensor data soon.
Quick aside, but if you want to see how nearly every form of media is crooked, try submitting this to Hacker News and look at the Thalmic investors. Edit: don’t bother, we’re blacklisted or something.
Update: Thalmic has updated their policy, and will be releasing a firmware version that gives access to the raw EMG sensor data later on. The reasons for getting rid of the raw sensor data is twofold:
- Battery life. Streaming raw data out of the armband takes a lot of power. Apparently figuring out ‘gestures’ on the uC and sending those saves power.
- User experience. EMG data differs from person to person and is hard to interpret.