Hackaday Prize Entry: A Pic32 Game Console

The official theme of the 2015 Hackaday Prize is to build something that matters. Solving the challenges facing the world is hard, and retro video games, despite what you read on Hackaday, do not matter.

That doesn’t mean there’s not space for the weird, esoteric builds out there; we have a best product prize that will dump $100k, a six month residency in the Hackaday Design Lab, and contacts with a lot of engineers with expertise in manufacturing. [Alex]’s extremely ow cost game console on a Pic32 is exactly what this prize category is looking for.

[Alex]’s project – XORYA – is based on the Pic32MX170F256, a chip that runs up to 50MHz, has 256kB of flash, and a full 64k of RAM. This is far beyond what the guys at Atari imagined back in the 70s, allowing the XORYA to have some amazing graphics.

Right now most of the build is dedicated to fleshing out the video system, and [Alex] has a great demo: rendering the Mandelbrot set in real time in 16 colors on an NTSC display with a resolution of 160×100. That’s a single-chip game console that’s right up there with the Uzebox, and a great example of the potential of the best product category for this year’s Hackaday Prize.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Super Simple Cat Feeder

Sometimes, along comes a hack that is just that. A kludged collection of parts thrown together quickly to solve some problem. [mightysinetheta]’s Upcycled Cat Feeder is just that – no pretensions.

It’s a cat feeder built out of a drill, wall switch and mechanical clock timer for under $10. Pretty much the simplest electric cat feeder you can make. Survives power outages just fine, is single serving, but due to the noise and motion it makes, it is a perfect Pavlovian trainer for the cat. The best way to describe it is as a Rube Goldberg machine.

Set the timer for the planned feed time (up to 12 hours in advance). At the appointed time, the timer triggers, the drill rotates, the old, broken screwdriver chucked in the drill turns. The cord tied to the screwdriver winds up like a winch. This pulls up the lid covering the cat’s dinner plate. The noisy drill announces it’s dinner time. When fully raised, the lid pushes up a short piece of PCV pipe. This flips a switch, that shuts off the drill. If you need build instructions, fear not. [mightysinetheta] has detailed build instructions although the pictures are probably all you’ll need.

Check the video after the break.

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Inside The Amazon Dash Button

The Amazon Dash Button is a tiny WiFi-enabled device that’s a simple button with a logo on the front. If you get the Tide-branded version, simply press the button and a bottle of laundry detergent will show up at your door in a few days. Get the Huggies-branded version, and a box of diapers will show up. Get the sugar-free Haribo gummi bear-branded version, and horrible evil will be at your doorstep shortly.

[Matt] picked up one of these Dash Buttons for 99 cents, and since a button completely dedicated to buying detergent wasn’t a priority, he decided to tear it apart.

The FCC ID reveals the Amazon Dash Button is a WiFi device, despite rumors of it having a Bluetooth radio. It’s powered by a single AA battery, and [Matt] posted pictures of the entire board.

Since this piece of Amazon electronics is being sold for 99 cents, whatever WiFi radio chip is inside the Dash Button could be used for some very interesting applications. If you have an idea of what chips are being used in [Matt]’s pictures, leave a note in the comments.

Retrotechtacular: Gone Fission

This week’s film begins as abruptly as the Atomic Age itself, though it wasn’t produced by General Electric until 1952. No time is wasted in getting to the point of the thing, which is to explain the frightening force of nuclear physics clearly and simply through friendly animations.

[Dr. Atom] from the Bohr Modeling Agency describes what’s going on in his head—the elementary physics of protons, neutrons, and electrons. He explains that atoms can be categorized into families, with uranium weighing in as the heaviest element at the time. While most atoms are stable, some, like radium, are radioactive. This evidently means it stays up all night doing the Charleston and throwing off neutrons and protons in the process of jumping between atomic families. [Dr. Atom] calls this behavior natural transmutation.

Artificial transmutation became a thing in the 1930s after scientists converted nitrogen into oxygen. After a couple of celebratory beers, they decided to fire a neutron at a uranium nucleus just to see what happened. The result is known as nuclear fission. This experiment revealed more about the binding force present in nuclei and the chain reaction of atomic explosions that takes place. It seemed only natural to weaponize this technology. But under the right conditions, a reactor pile made from graphite blocks interspersed with U-235 and -238 rods is a powerful and effective source of energy. Furthermore, radioactive isotopes have advanced the fields of agriculture, industry, medicine, and biochemistry.

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Xilinx Borrows Code For Their Own Devices

Back in 2012, [tmbinc] discovered a neat little undocumented feature in the Xilinx ISE: the ability to use TCP/IP instead of JTAG cables. [tmbinc] was working on an Open Hardware USB analyzer and discovered the nearly undocumented Xilinx Virtual Cable, a single ‘shift’ command that opens up a TCP connection and sends JTAG data out to another computer on the network. It’s extraordinarily useful, [tmbinc] wrote a daemon for this tool, and everything was right with the world.

Yesterday, [tmbinc] discovered the Xilinx Virtual Cable again, this time in one of Xilinx’s Github repos. The code was extraordinarily familiar, and looking closer at a few of the revisions, he saw it was very similar to code he had written three years ago.

The offending revision in the Xilinx repo is nearly identical to [tmbinc]’s Xilinx Virtual Cable Driver daemon. Variable names are the same, the variables are declared in the same order, and apart from whitespace, code conventions are the same. This is not to say someone at Xilinx stole code from [tmbinc], but if this were a computer science lab, there would be an academic disciplinary hearing. What’s worse, Xilinx plastered their copyright notice at the top of the code.

In an issue [tmbinc] raised, he said he was flattered, but clarified that his code was developed entirely from scratch. He believes the Xilinx code was derived from his own code written three years ago. Since [tmbinc]’s code was uploaded without a license, it defaulted to All Rights Reserved. This does not bode well for the Xilinx legal department.

In any event, you really, really have to wonder what Xilinx’s internal documentation looks like if a random person on the Internet can discover a barely-documented protocol, write a daemon, put it on the Internet, and have someone at Xilinx use that code.

Thanks to the anonymous tipster for sending this into the Hackaday tip jar.

Chill with Hackaday this Saturday after BAMF

It’s that time of year again, the pilgrimage to see and be seen in the Bay Area for Maker Faire. We’re excited to explore what people have been feverishly trying to finish up over the last weeks and months. But all that rubbernecking is tiring, and it makes us thirsty. It is with great joy that we officially announce Hackaday’s Second Annual BAMF Meetup.

Last year we closed our eyes and landed a finger on the Google Map. Further inspection revealed our digit had landed on O’Neil’s Irish Pub. It’s just our kind of place, nice with a comforting hint of dive-bar, plenty of seating, and a great drink selection. So we’re doing it again this year.

We’ll be there on Saturday starting at 7pm. Be so kind as to RSVP just to tell us know you’re coming. We love seeing what hardware people bring; last year we oohed and aahed over a top-secret smartphone prototype shown off alongside all the home-builds people were pulling out of pockets and backpacks.

You have to do something with your Saturday nights… This decision is an easy one to make. See you in a few days!

Robo Lamp is Too Damn Cute!

Remember the Pixar lamp? Well, [Rick] from [Phlegmatic Prototyping] decided to build his own.

It’s actually the third iteration of the project, the first being made from a cheap camera sensor, an ATMega328, a computer mouse and laser cut parts. The second iteration… sounds like it was the Pixar Lamp — and due to possible copyright infringement [Rick] decided not to show it off. Which brings us to number three, Robolamp the Third.

Quite obviously not the Pixar lamp now, [Rick] designed the whole thing in 3D CAD and had it printed at Shapeways. It uses a CMUCAM5 vision sensor that detects color hues, allowing the lamp to track colorful objects, like an orange, which ends up looking painfully cute. Just take a look at the video.

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