Another California Water Crisis

It’s no secret that a vast amount of American infrastructure is in great need of upgrades, repairs or replacements. The repairs that are desperately needed will come, and they will come in one of two ways. Either proactive repairs can be made when problems are first discovered, or repairs can be made at considerably greater cost after catastrophic failures have occurred. As was the case with the I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota, we often pay in lives as well. Part of the problem is that infrastructure isn’t very exciting or newsworthy to many people outside of the civil engineering community which leads to complacency and apathy. As a result, it’s likely that you may not have heard about the latest struggle currently playing out in California even though it involves the largest dam in the United States and its potential failure.

Surprisingly enough, the largest dam in the US isn’t the famous Hoover Dam but the Oroville Dam at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. At 235 meters, it is almost 15 meters taller than the Hoover Dam. It can store over four cubic kilometers of water but whether or not it will keep storing that water into the future is currently under question. In February of this year during a flood control operation damage was observed on the dam’s spillway where a massive hole had formed which only got larger as the dam was forced to continue releasing water. The hole quickly grew, and the floodwaters eroded much of the lower half of the spillway embankment, forming a canyon. Continue reading “Another California Water Crisis”

New Part Day: The $239 Pi Clone

Linaro has announced a new ARM-based single board computer.

The HiKey 960, built in collaboration with 96Boards, gives the user 4 ARM Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.4GHz, 4 ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8 GHz, a Mali GPU (ugh), 32GB of Flash storage, 3GB of LPDDR4, HDMI 1.2, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0 type A, PCIe on an M.2 connector, and a familiar 40-pin GPIO connector whose configuration is not published yet but is one we can make a very educated guess about. This is a powerful ARM-based single-board computer that’s the same size as a credit card.

This single board computer draws more power than a Raspberry Pi (but less than 24 W with a 12V supply), but that’s what you get when you need a powerful ARM chip. Interestingly, the HiKey 960 places all the connectors on one side of the board. This is a feature very often overlooked in ARM-based single board computers; all the ports on your desktop are on the back, and it only makes sense to constrain the cables and dongles to one side of a Nintendo-shaped 3D printed enclosure.

This is not the first ARM-based single board computer that markets itself as a more powerful Pi. The Pine64 was supposed to be significantly more powerful, handle 4K HDMI, and bring Android to the desktop. The first versions of the Pine64 really, really sucked. However, most of the kinks have been worked out and the folks behind the Pine64 are now shipping a somewhat reasonable low-end Chromebookesque laptop for $89. This is a laptop for under a Benjamin, whereas the HiKey 960 will sell for $239. That’s the same price as an Intel NUC or other mini PC running an x86 CPU. Of course, the HiKey 960 will have higher performance compared to the latest Pi, or other Pi Killer such as the Asus Tinker board, but there must be a point of diminishing returns. Either way, we look forward to getting our hands on one of these powerful single board computers.

Portable Bluetooth Speaker Reacts To Sound

[IanMeyer123] should be working on his senior design project. Instead, he’s created a sound-reactive Bluetooth speaker that may not earn him an A grade but will at least keep the team entertained.

[Ian] started with the amp and power. The amp is a 15 watt, 12 volt model based on the popular TDA7297 chip. Power comes from a portable laptop battery rated at 185 Wh. [Ian] himself said that is absolute overkill for this project. While [Ian] hasn’t run any longevity tests on his setup, we’re guesstimating it would be rated in days.

Every Bluetooth speaker needs a sweet light show, right? [Ian] wrapped his 2″ full range speakers in Neopixel rings from Adafriut. The WS2812’s are driven by an Arduino. When music is playing, MSGEQ7 allows the Arduino to play a light show in time to the beat. When the stereo is off, a DS3231 real-time clock module allows the Arduino to display the time on the two rings. If you’re curious about the code for this project, [Ian] posted it on his Reddit thread. Reddit isn’t exactly a great code repository, so please, [Ian] setup a GitHub account, and/or drop your project on!

[Ian] didn’t realize how many wires would be flying around inside the speaker. That may be why the wiring looks a bit scary. All the chaos is hidden away, underneath a well-built wooden case.

If you want to see another take on a Bluetooth speaker with a Neopixel display, check [Peter’s] project here. Interested in more portable power units? This one’s for you!

Continue reading “Portable Bluetooth Speaker Reacts To Sound”