Hackaday Prize Entry: The Cheapest Logic Analyzer

There are piles of old 128MB and 256MB sticks of RAM sitting around in supply closets and in parts bins. For his Hackaday Prize project, [esot.eric] is turning these obsolete sticks of RAM into something useful – a big, fast logic analyzer. It’s cheap, and simple enough that it can be built on a breadboard.

If using old SDRAM in strange configurations seems familiar, you’re correct. This project is based on [esot.eric]’s earlier AVR logic analyzer project that used a slow AVR to measure 32 channels of logic at 30 megasamples per second. The only way this build was possible was by hacking an old stick of RAM to ‘free run’, automatically logging data to the RAM and reading it out with an AVR later.

This project expands on the earlier projects by using bigger sticks of RAM faster, with the ultimate goal being a 32-bit, 133MS/s logic analyzer that is more of a peripheral than a single, monolithic project. With a Raspberry Pi Zero, a stick of RAM, and a few miscellaneous logic chips, this project can become anything from a logic analyzer to a data logger to an oscilloscope. It’s weird, yes, but the parts to make this very handy tool can be found in any hackerspace or workshop, making it a great trick for the enterprising hardware hacker.

Motorcycling Like It’s 1905 With A Home Made Engine

The modern motorcycle represents the pinnacle of over a century of refinement in design and manufacture of its every component. A modest outlay will secure you a machine capable of three figure speeds with impeccable handling, breathtaking acceleration and stopping power, that somehow seems also to possess bulletproof reliability that will take it to a hundred thousand miles of faithful transport.

At the dawn of the internal combustion engine age it was a different matter. Machines were little more than bicycles with rudimentary engines attached, brakes and tyres were barely capable of doing the job demanded of them, and the early motorcyclists were a hardy and daring breed.

You might think that this article would now head into retrotechtacular territory with a nostalgic look at an early motorcycle, but instead its subject has a much more recent origin. We happened upon [Buddfab]’s contemporary build of a 1905-era motorcycle, and we think it’s a bike you’d all like to see.

The bike itself is a faithful reproduction of a typical Edwardian machine. It has a modified bicycle frame with a belt drive and springer front forks. That’s all very impressive, but the engine is a masterpiece, crafting a more modern parts bin into something resembling a 1905 original. He’s taken the cylinder, piston, and half a cylinder head from an aircooled VW flat four and mated it with the crankshaft of a 125cc Honda, welding the two connecting rods together to join German and Japanese parts. With a custom-made crankcase, Lucas points, and the carburetor from a British Seagull outboard motor it both looks and sounds like an original, though we’d expect it to be significantly more reliable.

You can see videos of both bike and engine below the break, as he takes it for a spin through American suburbia. Sadly we’ll never see it passed to the definitive writer on early motorcycles for an expert view, but it would fool us completely.

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Make a Smart(ish) Watch From An Old Cell Phone

Looking for a fun junk box hack? Have one of those old Nokia phones that (in contrast to your current smartphone) just won’t give up the ghost? Tinkernut has a nice hack for you: making a smart watch from an old cell phone. Specifically, this project details how to make a smart watch that displays time, date, incoming calls and texts from a Nokia 1100 cell phone display and a few other bits.

This 3-video series covers how to extract the display, connect it to an Arduino and conecting that to an Android phone over Bluetooth. We’ve seen a few similar smart(ish) watch builds, but this one covers the whole process well, including building the Android app in the MIT AppInventor. Sure, the final result is not as polished as an Apple Watch, but it’s a lot cheaper and easier to hack…

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Reverse Swear Box Curses (For) You

If you are running out of swear words to comment the magic smoke coming from your electronics, [Howard] has just the right weekend project for you: The reverse swear box. Most swear boxes would have you drop in a coin as penance for uttering your choice phrases. Instead, at the touch of a button, this obscure but classy device randomly suggests a four letter swear word and displays it on a 14-segment LED display for immediate or later use.

It’s built upon an ATmega168 and only requires a minimum of external components. The schematics and firmware for this project are freely available on the project page. There’s also an extremely profane header file, packed with 37 case-insensitive four-letter words you may not actually want to include in your toolkit. On the other hand, many of these words score intimidatingly well at Scrabble.

Pokemon Go Cheat Fools GPS with Software Defined Radio

Using Xcode to spoof GPS locations in Pokemon Go (like we saw this morning) isn’t that much of a hack, and frankly, it’s not even a legit GPS spoof. After all, it’s not like we’re using an SDR to spoof the physical GPS signal to cheat Pokemon Go.

To [Stefan Kiese], this isn’t much more than an exercise. He’s not even playing Pokemon Go. To squeeze a usable GPS signal out of his HackRF One, a $300 Software Defined Radio, [Stefan] uses an external precision clock. This makes up for the insufficient calibration of the HackRF’s internal clock, although he points out that this might also be fixed entirely in software.

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What Could Go Wrong? I2C Edition

I should really like I2C more than I do. In principle, it’s a brilliant protocol, and in comparison to asynchronous serial and SPI, it’s very well defined and clearly standardized. On paper, up to 127 devices can be connected together using just two wires (and ground). There’s an allowance for multiple clock-masters on the same bus, and a way for slaves to signal that the master to wait. It sounds perfect.

In reality, the tradeoff for using only two wires is a significantly complicated signalling and addressing system that brings both pitfalls and opportunities for debugging. Although I2C does reduce the number of signal wires you need, it gets dangerous when you have more than a handful of devices on the same pair of wires, and you’re lucky when they all conform to the same standard. I’ve never seen twenty devices on a bus, much less 127.

But still, I2C has its place. I2C was designed to connect up a bunch of slower, cheaper devices without using a lot of copper real estate compared to its closest rival protocol: SPI. If you need to connect a few cheap temperature sensors to a microcontroller (and their bus addresses don’t clash) I2C is a great choice. So here’s a guide to making it work when it’s not working.

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Hackaday SuperConference: Call for Proposals

The 2016 Hackaday SuperConference is coming. Now is the time to submit your proposal for a talk or a workshop at the world’s greatest conference about hardware creation. The SuperCon is an unparalleled opportunity to present on a deeply technical level where you can be certain everyone in the audience is following. All of those details, the war stories of production, the out-of-stock problems and board respins, the moments when you’ve bent physics to your will, these stories will be met with awe and cheers as the audience of your peers takes the ride along with you.

SuperCon will take place in Pasadena, California on November 5th and 6th, 2016. It is a gathering of hackers, designers, and engineers passionate about learning, teaching, and celebrating what goes into making new and exciting creations. The atmosphere will be that of a hacker village, with several venues in close proximity playing host to talks, workshops, and other activities. This breaks out of the beige prison that usually accompanies hotel-based conferences and opens the weekend up for you to meet and interact with a cadre of interesting people. SuperCon is the place to share your hard-won knowledge and experience, and to add to your own arsenal of skills.

Accepted talks will be scheduled for 20-40 minutes, and workshops will be booked for 1-4 hours. In both cases, topics may include themes like techniques for rapid prototyping, new and interesting uses of technology, creativity in technical design, and stories of product development and manufacturing.

Last year’s SuperConference was incredibly successful. If you weren’t able to attend you can still work your way through all of the talks which were recorded and posted shortly after the event. That success is a credit to all of the talented presenters in the Hackaday community who put together their stories to share for the benefit of all. Thank you!

To all of you reading this now and wondering if you should propose a talk, you should! We thank you in advance for taking time out of your life to make this year’s SuperConference even more amazing by submitting your own proposal. It won’t happen without you because this is a conference of active involvement and not one of passive consumption. Be the hardware movement; this is your chance.