Open Sesame Raspberry Pi Style

[Don] installed an Android tablet into his wife’s vehicle and realized he wanted to allow it to operate and monitor the garage door. His biggest challenge? Meeting the (what he refers to) as the WAF or Wife Acceptance Factor. He decided to use a Web app on a Raspberry Pi, along with a handful of switches and a relay. His list of goals were straightforward:

  • Provide the status of the door (open/closed/unknown)
  • Open and close the door
  • Work across multiple platforms
  • Secure enough to connect to the Internet
  • Reliable and simple

Continue reading “Open Sesame Raspberry Pi Style”

ATtiny Does 170×240 VGA With 8 Colors

The Arduino is a popular microcontroller platform for getting stuff done quickly: it’s widely available, there’s a wealth of online resources, and it’s a ready-to-use prototyping platform. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you want to enjoy programming every bit of the microcontroller’s flash ROM, you can start with an arbitrarily tight resource constraint and see how far you can push it. [lucas][Radical Brad]’s demo that can output VGA and stereo audio on an eight-pin DIP microcontroller is a little bit more amazing than just blinking an LED.

[lucas][RB] is using an ATtiny85, the larger of the ATtiny series of microcontrollers. After connecting the required clock signal to the microcontroller to get the 25.175 Mhz signal required by VGA, he was left with only four pins to handle the four-colors and stereo audio. This is accomplished essentially by sending audio out at a time when the VGA monitor wouldn’t be expecting a signal (and [lucas][Rad Brad] does a great job explaining this process on his project page). He programmed the video core in assembly which helps to optimize the program, and only used passive components aside from the clock and the microcontroller.

Be sure to check out the video after the break to see how a processor with only 512 bytes of RAM can output an image that would require over 40 KB. It’s a true testament to how far you can push these processors if you’re determined. We’ve also seen these chips do over-the-air NTSC, bluetooth, and even Ethernet.

Continue reading “ATtiny Does 170×240 VGA With 8 Colors”

Xilinx FPGAs in C for Free

When you think of developing with FPGAs, you usually think of writing Verilog or VHDL. However, there’s been a relatively recent trend to use C to describe what an FPGA should do and have tools that convert that to an FPGA. However, at least in the case of Xilinx parts, this capability is only available in their newest tool (Vivado), and Vivado doesn’t target the older lower-cost FPGAs that most low-cost development boards use.

[Sleibso] who blogs for Xilinx, has an answer. It turns out you can use the Vivado C compilation tools to generate code for older FPGAs; it just involves a less convenient workflow. Vivado (even the free version) generates unique files that the rest of the tool uses to pick up compiled C code. However, it also generates RTL (Verilog or VHDL) as a by-product, and you can import that into the older ISE tool (which has a perfectly fine free version) and treat it as you would any other RTL files.

There’s an example of using the Vivado tool in the video below. [Sleibso] points out that the video is three years old, and the talk about licensing on the video is out of date. The free tools now including this capability. [Sleibso] talks about using a Spartan 6, but the same split workflow should work with most devices ISE supports.

Continue reading “Xilinx FPGAs in C for Free”

The Most Brilliant Use of Crowdfunding Yet: Medical Research

Since the rise of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the world has been blessed with $100 resin-based 3D printers, Video game consoles built on Android, quadcopters that follow you around, and thousands of other projects that either haven’t lived up to expectations or simply disappeared into the ether. The idea of crowdfunding is a very powerful one: it’s the ability for thousands of people to chip in a few bucks for something they think is valuable. It’s a direct democracy for scientific funding. It’s the potential for people to pool their money, give it to someone capable, and create something really great. The reality of crowdfunding isn’t producing the best humanity has to offer. Right now, the top five crowdfunding campaigns ever are two video games, a beer cooler, a wristwatch with an e-ink screen, and something to do with Bitcoin. You will never go broke underestimating people.

[Dr. Todd Rider] wants to change this. He might have developed a way to cure nearly all viral diseases in humans, but he can’t find the funding for the research to back up his claims. He’s turned to IndieGoGo with an audacious plan: get normal people, and not NIH grants, to pay for the research.

The research [Dr. Rider] has developed is called the DRACO, the Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer. It works by relying on the singular difference between healthy cells and infected cells. Infected cells contain long chains viral double-stranded RNA. The DRACOs attach themselves to these long strands of RNA and cause those cells to commit suicide. The research behind the DRACO was published in 2011, and since then [Dr. Rider] has already received funding from more traditional sources, but right now the project is stuck in the ‘funding valley of death’. It’s easy to get funding for early research, but to get the millions of dollars for clinical trials it takes real results – showing efficacy, and proving to pharmaceutical companies or VCs that the drug will make money.

So far, results are promising, but far from the cure for HIV and the common cold the DRACO promises to be. [Dr. Rider] has performed a few tests on cell cultures and mice, and the DRACOs have been effective in combating everything from the common cold, to the flu to dengue hemorrhagic fever.

The IndieGoGo campaign is flexible funding, meaning all the money raised will go towards research even if the funding goal is not met. Right now, just over $50,000 has been raised of a $100,000 goal. That $100k goal is just the first step; [Dr. Rider] thinks he’ll need about $2 Million to test DRACOs against more viruses and hopefully show enough progress to get additional traditional funding. That $2 Million is a little less than what Solar Roadways raised, meaning no matter what [Dr. Rider] will make one important medical discovery: people are very, very, very dumb.

Continue reading “The Most Brilliant Use of Crowdfunding Yet: Medical Research”

An Omnibus In Every Stocking

We know that hackers like to procrastinate. But right now is the limit. This is the last day you can order the Omnibus Volume 2 and have it (most likely) in your hands in time to put one in everyone’s stocking. Tomorrow will be too late.

Take advantage of the promo code which expires at the end of tomorrow. Use coupon code OMNIBUS2015 and get $7 off the price. There were 100 of those codes left at the time of writing.

What is the Omnibus all about? Check out [Brian’s] explanation of what makes the Omnibus so special. This body of work is a huge achievement and I’m proud that we’re able to recognize the effort of everyone here at Hackaday with something you hold in your hands which will live forever.

A Pragmatic Guide To Motors With Jonathan Beri

[Jonathan Beri] is a Maker of all sorts, with an affinity for robots, APIs, and Open Source. By day he works on making Android & iOS SDKs easier to use and by night he can found begging a PID controller to “just work already.” Recently he contributed to, “Make: JavaScript Robotics,” printed by Maker Media (2015).

[Jonathan] covers a lot of ground during his motors talk at the 2015 Hackaday SuperConference. He discusses brushed DC, stepper, servo, and brushless motors. Although just scraping the surface of each type of motor [Jonathan] touches the important details you can use to determine which type of motor is best for your project. The slide show he has put together has quite a bit of information and tips for beginners that might go overlooked when choosing a motor. For instance a list of 30 attributes that should be considered when selecting a motor. Included in that list are the 7 attributes [Jonathan] places priority on when he chooses a motor for one of his projects. We’ll delve deeper into that after the break.

Continue reading “A Pragmatic Guide To Motors With Jonathan Beri”

Self-Driving Acura, Built in a Garage

[George Hotz], better known by his hacker moniker [GeoHot], was the first person to successfully hack the iPhone — now he’s trying his hand at building his very own self-driving vehicle.

The 26-year-old already has an impressive rap sheet, being the first to hack the PS3 when it came out, and to be sued because of it.

According to Bloomberg reporter [Ashlee Vance], [George] built this self driving vehicle in around a month — which, if true, is pretty damn incredible. It’s a 2016 Acura ILX with a lidar array on its roof, as well as a few cameras. The glove box has been ripped out to house the electronics, including a mini-PC, GPS sensors, and network switches. A large 21.5″ LCD screen sits in the dash, not unlike the standard Tesla affair.

Oh, and it runs Linux. Continue reading “Self-Driving Acura, Built in a Garage”