Bringing Nautical Charts To A Sunlight Readable Display

Road atlases are still published, but you wouldn’t know it if you have a smartphone and Google Maps. Most pilots who got their license a decade ago started on paper maps, but the iPad rules the cockpit today. On a single SD card, you can store maps for every square mile of the Earth’s surface. [Erland] figured it was high time for digital maps to go nautical and built a tablet-like device to display charts while sailing.

The Pi Chart is, of course, powered by a Raspberry Pi running a few dozen lines of JavaScript and HTML. Software wise, there’s not much to this build save for the new OpenGL-based rendering that allows for ultra smooth map rendering.

The hardware is where this build becomes useful, and for that, [Erland] is using a sunlight readable Pixel Qi display. A Li Ion battery provides about 10 hours of runtime, and a Bluetooth enabled GPS dongle tells the Pi exactly where the boat is.

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Colin Furze Gets Burned

Consider this a public service announcement. [Colin Furze], besides being a raging lunatic, seems to have the nine lives of a cat. Well, he’s not always so lucky, and now that we’ve recovered from being grossed out by the results, we’re glad that [Colin] posted this “fail” video.

Basically, he’s firing up one of his jet engines, and there’s a big fireball. He wasn’t wearing any protective clothing. This is hardly a spoiler — please don’t watch the video below if you’re grossed out by people visiting the doctor’s office to get their horrible second degree burns all up and down their forearm treated. You’ve probably learned the lesson already just by looking at the preview image.

Naturally, we’ve covered [Colin]’s videos before. He’s either very lucky or a little bit more careful than he lets on. We’ve seen him play with fire and not get burned, and stick a jet engine on a go-kart. We’re not gonna tell you what to do, but if that were us, we’d be wearing at least long sleeves and a helmet.

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Ultimate Battery Backup Mod

Unless your main workstation is a laptop, you’ve probably got a APC or similar battery backup kicking around. But have you ever thought of modifying it to make it a bit more useful? After all, it can be used as a useful DC power supply…

[The 8-Bit Guy] shows us how he modified his APC to include a voltage readout, and direct DC output jacks. As it turns out you can get a lot more battery life if you’re not using the built-in pesky AC/DC power inverter! Stick around after the break for a very informative video on how he did it.
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Teensy 3.1 Controlled VFO

[Tom Hall], along with many hams around the world, have been hacking the Silicon Labs Si5351 to create VFOs (variable frequency oscillators) to control receivers and transmitters. You can see the results of his work in a video after the break.

vfo board[Tom] used a Teensy 3.1 Arduino compatible board, to control the Si5351 mounted on an Adafruit breakout board. An LCD display shows the current frequency and provides a simple interface display for changing the output. A dial encoder allows for direct adjustment of the frequency. The ham frequency band and the frequency increment for each encoder step are controlled by a joystick. When you get into the 10 meter band you definitely want to be able to jump by kHz increments, at least, since the band ranges from 28 MHz to 29.7 MHz.

So what is the Si5351? The data sheet calls it an I2C-Programmable Any-Frequency CMOS Clock Generator + VCXO. Phew! Let’s break that down a bit. The chip can be controlled from a microprocessor over an I2C bus. The purpose of the chip is to generate clock outputs from 8 kHz to 160 MHz. Not quite any frequency but a pretty good range. The VCXO means voltage controlled crystal oscillator. The crystal is 25 MHz and provides a very stable frequency source for the chip. In addition, the Si5351 will generate three separate clock outputs.

[Tom] walks through the code for his VFO and provides it via GitHub. An interesting project with a lot of the details explained for someone who wants to do their own hacks. His work is based on work done by others that we’ve published before, which is what hacking is all about.

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Hacklet 98 – Underwater ROVs

A few motors, propellers, a camera, maybe a wire tether, and some waterproof electronics. Throw it all together and baby you’ve got an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) cooking! It all sounds simple on the surface, but underwater ROVs are a tough challenge. We’ve all seen deep-sea ROVs searching the wreck of the Titanic, or working to stop the flow of oil below the Deepwater Horizon. Plenty of hackers, makers, and engineers have been inspired to build their own underwater ROVs. This week on the Hacklet, we’re spotlighting at some of the best ROV projects on!

borgcubeWe start with [Tim Wilkinson] and BorgCube ROV. [Tim] has jumped into the world of underwater ROVs with both feet. BorgCube is designed to operate in the unforgiving salt waters of the Pacific Ocean. This ROV can see in stereo, as [Tim] plans to use a head mounted VR display like the Oculus Rift to control it. [Tim] wanted to use a Raspberry Pi as the brains of this robot. Since the Pi Compute module can handle two cameras, it was a natural fit. The electronic speed controls are all low-cost Hobby King R/C car units. [Tim] created a custom circuit board to hold all 12 ESCs. This modular design allows individual controllers to be swapped out if one meets an untimely doom. BorgCube is just getting wet, but with 37 project logs and counting, we’re sure [Tim] will keep us posted on all the latest action!


lunaNext up is [MrCullDog] with Luna I ROV. Inspired by a professional underwater ROV, [MrCullDog] decided to build a deep diving unmanned vehicle of his very own. Like BorgCube above, many of Luna I’s motors and drive components come from radio controlled hobby electronics. [MrCullDog] is bringing some 3D printed parts into the mix as well. He’s already shown off some incredibly well modeled and printed thruster mounts and ducts. The brains of this robot will be an Arduino. Control is via wired Ethernet tether. [MrCullDog] is just getting started on this project, so click the follow button to see updates in your Feed.

cavepearlNext up is [Edward Mallon] with The Cave Pearl Project. Not every underwater system needs motors – or even a human watching over it. The Cave Pearl Project is a series of long duration underwater data loggers which measure sea conditions like temperature and water flow. [Edward’s] goal is to have a device which can run for a year on just three AA batteries. An Arduino Pro Mini captures data from the sensors, time stamps it, and stores it to a micro SD card. If the PVC pipe enclosure keeps everything dry, the data will be waiting for [Edward] to collect months later. [Edward] isn’t just testing in a swimming pool, he’s been refining his designs in open water for a couple of years now.


If you want to see more under (and above) water projects, check out our updated waterborne projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy! Just drop me a message on That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Nissan Leaf Batteries Upgrade Old Truck Conversion

[Jay]’s Chevy S-10 electric conversion needed new batteries. The conversion was originally done with a bank of lead acids underneath the truck bed. With lithium battery factories so large they can boost an entire state’s economy being built, [Jay] safely assumed that it just wasn’t worth it to spend the money to replace it with a new set of the same.

Just like unwrapping a present, from around a tree.
One brand new battery pack!

You should remember the beginnings of this story from our coverage nearly a year ago. Being the kind of clever you’d expect from someone who did their own EV conversion, he purchased a totaled (yet nearly new) Nissan Leaf with its batteries intact. It took a little extra work, but after parting out the car and salvaging the battery packs for himself he came out ahead of both a new set of replacement lead acids and an equivalent set of lithium cells.

He has just completed the first test drives with the conversion, having built 48 Leaf cells into blocks resembling the volumes the old batteries occupied. He had to add some additional battery management, but right-off-the-bat, the conversion netted him more amps and 650lbs (295kg) less weight for the same power.  Nice!

We linked to all the posts tagged leaf on [Jay]’s blog. There’s a lot going on, and the articles aren’t all linked to each other. It’s a really cool build and there are definitely tricks to learn throughout the whole process. If you have an hour to kill, [Jay] recorded the entire 26-hour process in a 66-minute video that is embedded below. It’s fun to watch him build up and mount the different modules and gives you a deep appreciation for his devotion to the project.

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At Last! A SIL-Duino!

There are some standard components that have been so continuously refined as to have become if not perfect then about as good as they’re going to get. Take the Arduino Uno for instance, and compare it with its ancestor from a decade ago. They are ostensibly the same board and they are compatible with each other, yet the Uno and its modern clones have more processing power, memory and storage, a USB interface rather than serial, and a host of small component changes to make them better and cheaper.

You’d think that just another Arduino clone couldn’t bring much to the table then. And you’d be right in a broad sense, just what is there left to improve?

[Clovis Fritzen] has an idea for an Arduino clone that’s worth a second look. It’s not an amazing hardware mod that’ll set the Arduino world on fire, instead it’s a very simple design feature. He’s created an Arduino that mounts vertically on a single row of pins. Why might you find that attractive, you ask? A SIL vertical Arduino takes up a lot less breadboard space than one of the existing DIL Arduinos. A simple idea, yet one that is very useful if you find yourself running out of breadboard.

[Clovis] took the circuit of an Arduino Uno and simplified it by removing the USB interface, so this board has to be programmed through its ICSP header. And he’s made it a through-hole board for easy construction by those wary of SMD soldering. The resulting board files can all be found on GitHub.

Every now and then along comes a hack so simple, obvious, and useful that it makes you wonder just why you didn’t think of it yourself. Many of us will have used a DIL Arduino and probably found ourselves running out of breadboard space. This board probably won’t change the world, but it could at least make life easier in a small way for some of us who tinker with microcontrollers.

This is just the latest of many Arduino clones to find its way onto these pages. In 2013 we asked why the world needed more when featuring one made as a PCB design exercise. There’s even a Hackaday version called the HaDuino developed by [Brian Benchoff]. But while it’s true that Yet Another Vanilla Arduino Clone brings nothing to the table, that should not preclude people from taking the Arduino and hacking it. Every once in a while something useful like this project will come from it, and that can only be a benefit to our community.