Hackaday Prize Entry: A Minimal ATtiny Voltage And Frequency Counter

Sometimes when you build something it is because you have set out with a clear idea or specification in mind, but it’s not always that way. Take [kodera2t]’s project, he set out to master the ATtiny series of microcontrollers and started with simple LED flashers, but arrived eventually at something rather useful. An ATtiny10 DVM and DFM all-in-one with an i2c LCD display and a minimum of other components.

The DFM uses the ATtiny’s internal 16 bit timer, which has the convenient property of being able to be driven by an external clock. The frequency to be measured drives the timer, and the time it returns is compared to the system clock. It’s not the finest of frequency counters, depending as it does on the ATtiny’s clock rather than a calibrated crystal reference, but it does the job.

The results are shown in the video below, and all the code has been posted in his GitHub repository. We can see that there is the basis of a handy little instrument in this circuit, though with the price of cheap multimeters being so low even a circuit this minimal would struggle to compete on cost.

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Mechanical Horse-Bike

Oh [Rodger Cleye]! You had us at “unicycle, duct tape, styrofoam, and tie wraps”. But watching the horse-bike in action (video below) is just about enough for us to go out and make one ourselves. (For our child, naturally. We’re far too dignified.)

If you trawl around [Rodger]’s YouTube channel, you’ll see no end of odd motorized vehicles. Like last year’s motorized horse project, or this stormtrooper speeder. But there’s just something about the way that the horse’s legs move along with the rider that is slightly more enchanting. (That’s the “unicycle” part of the build.) And, we assume, the rider gets a little bit more exercise to boot.

We’ve featured a few builds of [Rodger]’s before, including his motorized couch build that’s obviously controlled from the seat-mounted coconut, and of course a pneumatic Boba Fett rocket.

Ham Radio WiFi

Many Ham Radio operators in the United States participate in Field Day. This is an annual exercise where radio operators are encouraged to set up stations in conditions that might occur after a natural disaster. Usually, this means taking over some park or camp site, bringing generators, portable equipment, and making it all work for the weekend before you tear it back down.

It isn’t much of a Field Day without electricity. That’s why most stations use a generator, solar cells, or even batteries. Today, though, you probably need an Internet-connected computer to do logging and other features. [HamRadioConcepts] has a video (see below) that shows how they grabbed Internet from a distance for their Field Day site.

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Venduino Serves Snacks, Shows Vending is Tricky Business

Seems like just about every hackerspace eventually ends up with an old vending machine that gets hacked and modded to serve up parts, tools, and consumables. But why don’t more hackerspaces build their own vending machines from scratch? Because as [Ryan Bates] found out, building a DIY vending machine isn’t as easy as it looks.

[Ryan]’s “Venduino” has a lot of hackerspace standard components – laser-cut birch plywood case, Parallax continuous rotation servos, an LCD screen from an old Nokia phone, and of course an Arduino. The design is simple, but the devil is in the details. The machine makes no attempt to validate the coins going into it, the product augurs are not quite optimized to dispense reliably, and the whole machine can be cleaned out of product with a few quick shakes. Granted, [Ryan] isn’t trying to build a reliable money-making machine, but his travails only underscore the quality engineering behind modern vending machines. It might not seem like it when your Cheetos are dangling from the end of an auger, but think about how many successful transactions the real things process in an environment with a lot of variables.

Of course, every failure mode is just something to improve in the next version, but as it is this is still a neat project with some great ideas. If you’re more interested in the workings of commercial machines, check out our posts on listening in on vending machine comms or a Tweeting vending machine.

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Hacklet 114 – Python Powered Projects

Python is one of today’s most popular programming languages.  It quite literally put the “Pi” in Raspberry Pi. Python’s history stretches back to the late 1980’s, when it was first written by  Guido van Rossum. [Rossum] created Python as a hobby project over the 1989 Christmas holiday. He wanted a language that would appeal to Unix/C hackers. I’d say he was pretty successful in that endeavor. Hackers embraced Python, making it a top choice in their projects. This week’s Hacklet focuses on some of the best Python-powered projects on Hackaday.io.

pytoolWe start with [Jithin] and Python Powered Scientific Instrumentation tool, his entry in the 2015 Hackaday Prize. [Jithin] has created an “electronics lab in a box” style tool that can compete with commercial products with price tags in the thousands. Python Powered Scientific Instrumentation tool uses simple microcontroller powered hardware to create programmable gain amplifiers, waveform generators, LCR meters, CC sources and more. The microcontroller handles all the real-time operations. Data processing happens on a connected PC running Python scripts. Popular Python libraries like Scipy make signal processing and waveform displays easy.


pymusicNext up is [Bill Peterson] with jamPi. [Bill] loves his music keyboard, but hates having to lug around a laptop, audio interface, and all the associated cables. He needed a device which would be as flexible as a PC-based synthesizer, but as simple and compact as a MIDI sound module. JamPi does all this and more. [Bill] is using fluidsynth to generate sound. The control and interface software is handled in Python with the help of the fluidsynth.py module. All this functionality is wrapped up in a simple box with a 2 line character LCD. Now [Bill] is ready to jam anytime, anywhere.

openmv-featureNext is [i.abdalkader] with OpenMV, his entry in the 2014 Hackaday Prize. [i.abdalkader’s] goal was to create “the Arduino of machine vision”. He’s well on his way to accomplishing that. In 2015, OpenMV had a successful Kickstarter campaign. After a few manufacturing glitches, customers are now receiving their devices. OpenMV is a low-cost Python-powered machine vision device. An ARM microcontroller coupled to a simple image sensor makes up the core of the device. The camera is programmed in MicroPython, with the help of many image processing libraries created by the OpenMV team. [i.abdalkader] even created his own IDE using Glade and PyGTK.

pyfaceFinally we have [osannolik] with Calibration and Measurement Tool. Have you ever want to display a few debug parameters from your embedded project, but didn’t have the display real estate (or any display at all)? What about changing a parameter without pulling out your JTAG setup and firing up your debugger? [Osannolik] has created a simple Python powered PC-based front end which can be used as a Swiss army knife for developing embedded systems. Variables can be displayed in real-time, parameters changed. Even graphs are available thanks to pyqtgraph.

If you want more Python-powered goodness, check out our new Python-powered project list! Did I miss your project? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. 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 Hackaday.io!

Raspberry Pi Zero Becomes Mighty Miniature Minecraft Machine

In a clever bit of  miniaturization, [JediJeremy] has nearly completed a gyro-mouse controller for a Raspberry Pi Zero! Ultimately this will be a wearable Linux-watch but along the way he had some fun with the interface.

Using the MPU6040 gyroscope/accelerometer card from a quadcopter, [JediJeremy] spent a week writing the driver to allow it to function as a mouse. Strapping an Adafruit 1.5″ PAL/NTSC LCD screen and its driver board to the Zero with rubber bands makes this one of the smallest functional computer and screen combos we’ve seen. Simply tilt the whole thing about to direct the cursor.

It presently lacks any keyboard input, and [JediJeremy] has only added a single button for clicking, but look at this thing! It’s so tiny! In his own words: “I think this is the first computer that I can accidentally spill into my coffee, rather than vice versa.”

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The Dual-Core, ARM-Powered Commodore 64

There is no CPU that is better understood than the 6502 and its cousins the 6510, 6507, 6509, and whatever we’re calling the CPU in the NES. With this vast amount of documentation, just about anything can be done. Want a discrete and un-discreet 6502? Sure thing. It’s the NMOS version, though. Want an emulated version. Sure. With libraries porting the 6502 to every platform ever, there’s only one place left to go: putting a 6502 in a Commodore 64. Make it dual-core, too, so we can run CP/M.

This build is based on one of [telmomoya]’s earlier builds – a soft-core 6510 running on an ARM Cortex M3. The inspiration for this build came from a 6502 emulator running on an Arduino, which got [telmomoya] wondering what would happen if he attached some external RAM, CIA or a SID. Doing this on an Arduino is hard, but there are a few 5 Volt tolerant ARM chips out there, and with a few banks of SRAM, [tel] quickly had an emulated 6502 running EhBasic.

Running an emulated 6502 on an ARM chip is nothing new. What makes this build spectacular is the adaptation to the C64 motherboard. Since [telmomoya] was already breaking out the data and address lines to go to the SRAMs, it didn’t take much extra work to simply build an adapter for the DIP40 CPU socket on a C64. A few 74-series logic chips made the interface easy, and after a bit of soldering, [telmomoya] had a Commodore 64 powered by an ARM chip.

If you’re emulating one chip, you can emulate two, and with the Commodore 64, this leads to a few interesting possibilities. The C64 had a CP/M cartridge — a cartridge that contained a Z80 CPU, sharing the data and address bus with the 6510. This cartridge allowed the ‘toy computer’ C64 to run the ‘business’ CP/M operating system (and the Z80 made the Commodore 128 much cooler).  Since [telmomoya] was already emulating a CPU, emulating a second CPU wasn’t really that hard.

It’s a phenomenal build, and great if you’ve ever wanted to speed up VisiCalc.