A Pocket-Sized Warp Core

Designed in the 2350s at the Utopia Planita shipyards, the warp core found in Galaxy class starships Yamoto, Odyssey, Challenger, and yes, Enterprise was a incomparable work of engineering, leading to more than one Daystrom Prize for its development. We’re still at least fifteen years away from the great [Zefram Cochrane]’s birth – and another 200 years until [Richard Daystrom] is born – but now, thanks to our advanced technology, a miniature warp core is within reach.

About a year ago, [Alex] found a warp core table lamp based on the one found on the Enterprise. it called out to him, but it’s a an extremely large build and only having a Solidoodle 2 as a 3D printer, [Alex] decided to scale it down to 25%.

Inside the warp core are a few Neopixel strips driven by a 5V Trinket. It’s not the ideal solution – if all the LEDs are turned on at the same time, the Trinket will brown out. It’s enough for an accurate pulsating effect, though, and was a nice enough gift to appease even the most discerning Trek fans he gave these mini models to.

Video below.

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Castellated Breakout is Pitchin’ Brilliant!

Radio, WiFi and similar modules are getting smaller by the day. Trouble is, they end up having non-DIY-friendly, odd pitch, mounting pads. Sometimes, though, simple hacks come around to help save the day.

[Hemal] over at Black Electronics came up with a hack to convert odd-pitch modules to standard 2.54mm / 0.1″. The process looks simple once you see the detailed pictures on his blog. He’s using the technique to add 2mm pitch modules like the ESP8266 and XBee by soldering them to standard perf board. Once they are hooked to the board, just add a row of male header pins, trim the perf board and you’re done. Couldn’t get simpler.

Another technique that we’ve seen is to solder straight across the legs and cut the wire afterward. That technique is also for protoyping board, but custom-sized breakout boards are one good reason to still keep those etchants hanging around. If you have other techniques or hacks for doing this, let us know in the comments.

Hackaday.io Reaches 50,000 Registered Users

Hackaday.io, our neat project hosting site, has been around for a little more than a year. It’s been public for juuussst over 11 months, and today we’ve hit a milestone: we have over 50,000 hackers on board, documenting their builds and giving skulls for the cool projects they find. The lucky 50,000th hacker? This guy.

Over the past year, we’ve seen a ton of cool projects that have included a $300 pick and place machine, a very inexpensive machine vision camera system that’s also a very successful Kickstarter, the closest Hackaday ever get to a MOOC from a Cornell professor, and something that would be called the decapitron if it weren’t built by a NASA engineer.

All of this wouldn’t be possible without those 50,000 people on Hackaday.io. This one is for everybody out there who’s already registered. We have to give a shoutout to [Dave Darko], by far the most helpful guy on the entire site.  He has been a thorn in the side of the devs, giving us an amazing amount of feedback.

Speaking of devs, we’re going to be giving out a t-shirt and a few goodies for the 65,536th hacker to sign on (yes, an off-by-one error), for being the person who forced us to refactor everything. Considering the backroom planning, that shouldn’t be long. If you’re one of the nearly 200,000 unregistered users who visited over the last 30 days, there’s a tiny incentive to sign up.

PortableSDR Needs a Cinderella Story to Finish its Kickstarter

If you haven’t backed PortableSDR on Kickstarter, now’s the time to do it. [Michael Colton’s] project which frees a Software Defined Radio from being shackled to a computer is in the final three days and needs about $17,500 to make it.

We’d really like to see this one succeed, and not just because PortableSDR took 3rd place in the 2014 Hackaday Prize. Many a time we’ve heard people forecast the death of amateur radio (ham if you will). The ham community is special, it’s a great way to get mentorship in electronics, and deals in more than just digital circuitry. Plus, as [Greg] has pointed out, having a license and some know-how lets you build and operate really powerful stuff!

We see the PortableSDR as one way to renew interest in the hobby. We especially like it that you don’t need a license to operate the basic model — the transmitting circuits aren’t enabled when it arrives. This means you can learn about SDR, explore what’s going on over the airwaves, and only then take the leap by applying for your license and hack the unit to transmit. To be fair, the transmitter portion of the project hasn’t been published yet, which is about the only real concern we read in the Kickstarter comments. But we have faith that [Michael] will come through with that part of it. And if he needs help we’re sure he’ll have no problem finding it.

Now’s the time… let’s pull this one out in the final days!

An ATTiny Bluetooth Board

Since just about everyone who would be interested in electronics has a decent cellphone now, there’s an idea that we don’t need USB or weird serial adapters anymore. Bluetooth LE is good enough for short-range communication, and there are a ton of boards and Kickstarter projects out there that are ready to fill the need.

[Michah] has built what is probably the lowest-spec and cheapest BTLE board we’ve ever seen. It’s really just an ATTiny85 – a favorite of the crowd that’s just slightly above Arduino level – and an HM-10 Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy module.

This board was developed as a means to connect sensors for a vintage motorcycle to an iOS device for display and data logging. A small, cheap board was needed that could be powered by a LiPo battery, and [Micah] created a board that fit his needs perfectly.

Four of the six IO pins on the ‘Tiny85 are broken out on a pin header; two are used to communicate with the BTLE module. It’s simple, fairly cheap, and can be powered by a battery. Exactly what you need if you want a wireless sensor board. All the files can be found in the Git repo and everything is open source. Not bad.

Celebrating the Omnibus Launch

On Thursday night Hackaday hosted an event in San Francisco to commemorate the launch of the 2014 Hackaday Omnibus. Our first print edition, compiled to commemorate some of the finest original content which we published last year should begin shipping as early as today. To celebrate the occasion, we were graced by a full house of amazing guests. Is it lame to say some of the people I respect most in the world were there?

Lightning Talks

Whenever you get a lot of people together, a good rule of thumb is to seize the opportunity to have them speak about what they’re doing. It’s not a big “ask” either; 8-minutes on what you’re passionate about is pretty simple.

[Jonathan Foote] gave a talk on generating RGBY colors from Hue. The project is ongoing but explores the concept of mixing colors of light with one additional source added to traditional red, green, and blue. [Priya Kuber] recently moved to San Francisco. She recently concluded more than a year of standing up the Arduino office in India (relevant but unrelated video). Her talk covered the emerging maker/hacker hardware scene in India which is showing amazing growth. [Chris McCoy] demonstrated his Raver Rings which began a Kickstarter on the same day. [Elecia White] of embedded.fm spoke about the educational opportunities that podcasts and other delivery medium provide and the responsibility we all have to guide our continued learning. [Emile Petrone] talked about an upcoming feature for his site Tindie which will add manufacturer information and ratings to the mix. And rounding things out [Dave Grossman] gave a talk on his Virtual Carl project which used video footage of his grandfather, combined with a Raspberry Pi and peripherals to create a remembrance of the man in virtual form.

Demos

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[Ben Krasnow] shows off the chamber containing supercritical carbon dioxide.
During the rest of the evening there were a few spectacular demos going on. First, [Ben Krasnow] who is well known for his Applied Science series (among a million other accolades), brought at least two demos with him. The first was a pressure chamber made out of two massively thick discs of acrylic separated by a metal ring. Inside the void he had pumped and pressurized CO2. When the chamber is heated it, the contents become Supercritical Carbon Dioxide and the visual transition between liquid and gas disappears.

He also showed off a lens that can be focused electronically. This is not mechanical, there are zero moving parts. Instead a droplet of oil floating in water is the lens. A 75V, AC power supply pulls on the droplet, altering the meniscus to focus the lens. He didn’t fabricate the device from scratch, but the concept is completely new to us and quite interesting.

[Brian Benchoff] poses with Othermill hardware
[Brian Benchoff] poses with Othermill hardware
Othermill is located in the SF area. They produce a desktop milling machine which is spectacular at routing PCBs. The little wonder isn’t limited to that though. Above you can see [Brian] holding up a milled wooden plaque which has milled mother-of-pearl inlays. The table is also strewn with other examples in wax, metal, wood, and more.

Cocktail Hour

The rest of the evening was devoted to conversation on all topics. Get enough hardware geeks in one room and they’ll solve the world’s problems, right? That’s a conversation for another post.

Couldn’t make it to this one but still in the San Francisco area at least occasionally? We held this at the Supplyframe office. They host a ton of great events like the Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic.

[Thanks to Richard Hogben for the photos!]

Use Ruby to Make Any Window A Blinken Window

[Akhil Stanislavose] wanted to spice up his window decorations for the holidays. Inspired by blinkenlights, he decided to make his front window interactive. The Blinken Window is a grid of 6 x 10 programmable LEDs running on a Raspberry Pi. Since a RasPi doesn’t have enough GPIO pins for 60 LEDs, [Akhil] built an expander board using 8 daisy chained standard CD4094 (74HC595 could also be used) shift registers to accommodate them.

[Akhil] designed a PCB to replace the expander board for future use. It is modular in nature so that many of them can be connected together to provide as many outputs as one needs, allowing any size window to become a Blinken Window. The PCBs are still being fabricated, but the Eagle files are available for download (zip file). Ruby was used to implement the API. You can find the project files on GitHub, which also features a simulator that you can run on your computer to see how an animation or game will end up looking on the window. In the demo video, [Akhil] demonstrates how you can use the Blinken Window to play a version of Pong using your smartphone as the controller. [Akhil] has also provided a few basic animation examples that can be expanded upon. We’d enjoy seeing an implementation of Tetris. There’s so many fun ways to turn regular windows into dynamic displays, we’re starting to look scornfully at our own lazy, air leaking windows.

See the Blinken Window in action after the break.

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