Hackaday Prize Entry: Detecting New Meteor Showers

Go out to a field on a dark night, far away from city lights, and you might just see a shooting star. A single meteor is just a tiny fraction of all the space dust that hits our atmosphere every day; most of it goes completely unnoticed. To get a better idea of where these meteoroids come from, [Dario] and [Denis] have come up with a network of meteor-detecting ground stations to search for these extraterrestrial visitors and make it possible to retrieve the largest of these fallen stars.

This project started at the Croatian Meteor Network, a team with about two dozen surveillance cameras pointed skyward as an unblinking eye, looking for meteoroids entering the Earth’s atmosphere over the Balkans and the Adriatic sea. When two cameras detect a meteor, the path it came from – and its orbit around the Sun – can be computed. The team has already found a possible new meteor shower (PDF) that is active from late August to the middle of September.

With hundreds of cameras scattered around the globe, it’s possible to triangulate the position of these meteors and their orbit around the Sun, just like what was done with the innumerable Russian dash cams after the Chelyabinsk meteor. It’s a great project, and also one that requires a lot of computer image processing – a favorite around these parts.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hack your C++ with LLVM

Have you ever wanted to analyze or mutate some C or C++ code? You can do some simple pattern matching with regular expressions, but there’s always some special case or another that will break your logic. To do it right, you need to develop an entire parser, perhaps using a formal grammar and a tool like Yacc. That’s a big job, though, just to change all the floats to doubles.

[Adrian Sampson] wrote a blog entry to make you go from “mostly uninterested in compilers to excited to use LLVM to do great work.” LLVM – the Low Level Virtual Machine compiler infrastructure — provides tools for a lot of languages, including CLANG for C and C++. [Adrian] points out a few key differences between LLVM and other compilers and tools you might use for a similar purpose:

  • LLVM uses a consistent intermediate representation that is human-readable
  • It is extremely modular
  • It is both highly hackable and an industrial-strength, well-supported compiler

He points out that compiler tools aren’t just for compiling. You can use them to analyze source code, build simulators, and inject code for security or testing, among other things (speaking of security testing, check out the use of LLVM to analyze binaries for security issues in the video after the break). The high hackability of LLVM is due to its modular nature. By default, a front end chews up the C or C++ code into the intermediate representation. Then multiple passes can modify the representation before handing it off for the next pass. The final pass does actual code generation for the target processor.

Continue reading “Hack your C++ with LLVM”

Cute Countdown Timer Reminds you of Impending Doom

As things get busy, whether it be an upcoming product launch, a pregnancy, or even the release of your favorite game (or movie!) sometimes it’s nice to have a little countdown timer. Not an app on your phone, but a tangible, physical timer to set on your desk. Which is why SevenSeg is such a cute idea.

[Mohit] wanted to design something that was simple, but aesthetically pleasing — he’d seen free-form electronic projects before and wanted to give it a shot. What he came up with is pretty elegant! A seven segment display is connected via 1/32″ brass rods to the controller, a Particle Photon — which is kind of like a Teensy with WiFi for the internet of things. After putting a few resistors in line with the display, and a bit of frustrating bending of wire later, and SevenSeg was complete.

Continue reading “Cute Countdown Timer Reminds you of Impending Doom”

Retrotechtacular: The Trautonium Was Elemental to Electronic Music

Electrical engineer and music enthusiast [Freidrich Trautwein] was dissatisfied. He believed that the equal tempered scale of the piano limited a player’s room for expression. And so in 1930, [Trautwein] and an accomplished pianist named [Oskar Sala] began work on an electro-mechanical instrument that would bring the glissando of the string section’s fretless fingerboards to the keyboard player. [Trautwein] called his creation the Trautonium.

Sound is produced in the instrument by sawtooth frequency generators. It is then passed through filters and manipulated by the resistive string-based manuals. Frequency and intonation are varied relative to the position of the player’s finger along a length of non-conductive string and to the amount of pressure applied. This resistive string is suspended above a conductive metal strip between a pair of posts. A small voltage is applied to the posts so that when the string touches the metal strip below, the player manipulates a voltage-controlled oscillator. A series of metal tongues, also non-conductive, hover above the string. These are placed at scale intervals and can be used like keys.

This early synthesizer is capable of producing many kinds of sounds, from crisp chirps to wet, slapping sounds and everything in between. In fact, all of the sound effects in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller The Birds were produced on a modified Trautonium by the instrument’s one and only master, [Oskar Sala]. He went on to score hundreds of films by watching them with the Trautonium at his fingertips, recording and layering his compositions into an eerie wall of sound.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: The Trautonium Was Elemental to Electronic Music”

BeagleBone Green Hands-On: Lower Price, Same Horsepower

Although the BeagleBone Green was announced at the Bay Area Maker Faire last May, there hasn’t been much said about it on the usual forums and IRC channels. Now, it’s finally out and I got my hands on one of them. Through a cooperation between the BeagleBoard foundation and Seeed Studios, the best small Linux board for doing real work with small Linux boards is now cheaper, a little more modern, and green.

The BeagleBone Green is an update to the venerable BeagleBone Black, the dev board based on a TI ARM Cortex-A8. It’s an extremely capable machine with a few interesting features that make it the perfect device for embedded applications. With the BeagleBone Green, the BB Black gets a small hardware refresh and a drastic reduction in price. If you want to do real work on a Linux board, this is the one to get. Check out the review below for everything that’s been updated, everything that’s the same, and why this is one of the most interesting developments in small Linux boards in recent memory.

Continue reading “BeagleBone Green Hands-On: Lower Price, Same Horsepower”

LightBlue Bean+ adds Battery, Connectors, Price

PunchThrough, creators of the LightBlue Bean, have just launch a Kickstarter for a new version called LightBlue Bean+. The tagline for the hardware is “A Bluetooth Arduino for the Mobile Age” which confirms that the hardware is targeted at a no-hassle, get it connected right now sort of application.

lightblue-bean-plus-thumbFor those unfamiliar, the original LightBlue Bean is a single board offering meant to marry Bluetooth connectivity (think Cellphones with BTLE) to the capabilities of a microcontroller-based hardware interface. The Bean+ augments this hardware with a 300m+ range increase, an integrated LiPo (600mAh or more), and headers/connectors where there were only solder pads before.

On the software side of things the Bean+ has four firmware options that make it speak MIDI, ANCS, HID, or Peer-to-Peer, only not all at the same time. The good news is that these are ecosystem upgrades and will work for existing Bean hardware too. The entire thing comes with online-platform integration and easy to use Smartphone tools to guide you through connecting and making something useful.

The board includes a battery tending circuit that allows it to be charged via the USB port but can run over a year between recharges if you use it judiciously. There is a slider switch near the pin sockets marked “A3, A4, A5” which toggles between 3.3v and 5v so that no level shifters are needed for sensors and other hardware you might use with it. The white connectors seen near the bottom of this image are Grove connectors. These provide I2C and Analog support to that ecosystem of add-on boards.

All in all this is a pretty sweet upgrade. The MSRP will be $45 but early backers can get in around 10-25% less than that. The price doesn’t mean it’s a no-brainer to pick one up, but the header options make this much more versatile and reusable than the original Bean and we like the idea of a rechargeable battery of the coin cells used by Bean+’s predecessor. It is an each choice for drop-in no hassle connectivity when bottom line isn’t your top concern.

Original LightBlue Bean is available in the Hackaday Store.

Tindie Becomes A Part Of The Hackaday Family

A little over two years ago, we announced that Hackaday became a part of Supplyframe. This was a natural fit: both sides are comprised of hardware engineers, computer scientists and hackers alike. We immediately pooled forces and set out to make Hackaday bigger, with a broader mission. So far, it has been an amazing journey: Hackaday.io is approaching 100,000 registered users, The Hackaday Prize is in its second year, and the Hackaday Store is about to fulfill its 5,000th order.

The main theme behind all of this is fostering collaboration, learning, and providing incentives for everyone in the community to stop procrastinating and try to build something amazing. Hackaday.com is here to inspire, Hackaday.io to help develop projects in the open, and the Hackaday Store is to provide a way to turn passion projects into a self-sustainable lifestyle. While the road to community-powered innovation might not be easy, it’s something we’re all incredibly passionate about, and will continue investing in to further this goal.

With that in mind, we’re very excited to announce that everyone’s favorite hardware marketplace – Tindie, has been acquired by Supplyframe and will be joining the Hackaday family! Apart from the fact that most of us are personal fans of the website, we believe that Tindie fills an important gap in helping projects cross the chasm between prototype and initial production. Crowdfunding provides access to capital for some (and access to laughs for others), but it’s not always the way to go. You might not be ready to quit your day job or take on a project full-time. You might be working on rev1 of the project and want to try the “lean manufacturing” thing. Or maybe you’re building something for your own purposes and have some extras lying around. Tindie is a platform that has helped launch many such projects, and we’re incredibly lucky to have it be a part of Hackaday.

Now what?

Naturally, the question that’s on everyone’s mind is, what happens next? Are we going to mess things up? Paint Tindie in black? Change the fee structure? While we have ideas on things that we could help with, our main goal will be making sure that the Tindie community continues to thrive. The only changes we’re interested in are the ones that make the community stronger. We are fascinated with the challenges surrounding the supply chain and will be looking into tools to help sellers improve margins and ship better products. Hackaday.io and Tindie combined represent the world’s largest repository of (working) Open Hardware products, so we will be looking into more closely integrating the two. We will also make efforts to grow the overall Tindie audience, as every new buyer helps move the community forward.

All of these are some of the ideas, but we’re ultimately looking at you for guidance: things we should do, problems we should attack, dreams of future capabilities.

Wish us luck in this new adventure.

Aleksandar Bradic
CTO
Supplyframe