Fishing for AirPods with Magnets

Note to self: if you’re going to hack at 4 in the morning, have a plan to deal with the inevitable foul ups. Like being able to whip up an impromptu electromagnetic crane to retrieve an AirPod dropped out a window.

Apartment dweller [Tyler Efird]’s tale of woe began with a wee-hours 3D print in need of sanding. Leaning out his third-story window to blow off some dust, he knocked one AirPod free and gravity did the rest. With little light to search by and a flight to catch, the wayward AirPod sat at the bottom of a 10-foot shaft below his window, keeping company with a squad of spiders for two weeks. Unwilling to fork over $69 and wait a month and a half for a replacement, [Tyler] set about building a recovery device. A little magnet wire wound onto a bolt, a trashed 100-foot long Ethernet cable, and a DC bench supply were all he needed to eventually fish up the AirPod. And no spiders were harmed in the making of this hack.

Need to lift something a little heavier than an AirPod? A beefy microwave oven transformer electromagnet might be the thing for you. And confused about how magnets even work in the first place? Check out our primer on magnetism.

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False Claims On Kickstarter: What’s New?

Kickstarter and its ilk seem like the Wild West when it comes to claims of being “The world’s most (Insert feature here) device!” It does add something special when you can truly say you have the world record for a device though, and [MellBell Electronics] are currently running a Kickstarter claiming the worlds smallest Arduino compatible board called Pico.

We don’t want to knock them too much, they seem like a legit Kickstarter campaign who have at time of writing doubled their goal, but after watching their promo video, checking out their Kickstarter, and around a couple of minutes research, their claim of being the world’s smallest Arduino-compatible board seems to have been debunked. The Pico measures in at an impressive 0.6 in. x 0.6 in. with a total area of 0.36 sq.in. which is nothing to be sniffed at, but the Nanite 85 which we wrote up back in 2014 measures up at around 0.4 in. x  0.7in. with a total area of around 0.28 sq.in.. In this post-fact, fake news world we live in, does it really matter? Are we splitting hairs? Or are the Pico team a little fast and loose with facts and the truth?

There may be smaller Arduino compatible boards out there, and this is just a case study between these two. We think when it comes to making bold claims like “worlds smallest” or something similar perhaps performing a simple Google search just to be sure may be an idea.

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Hackaday Links: July 30, 2017

What are you doing next weekend? How about going to the Vintage Computer Festival West at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Hackaday is sponsoring, and there are always a ton of awesome builds. Last year, someone played Tron on a Commodore PET. Not a video game — the movie.

In case anyone forgot, I created the most desirable independent hardware badge this year at Def Con. It’s a hilarious joke, I got three from OSH Park, thirty more in different colors from Seeed, and something, somewhere, jumped a shark. [Drew Fustini] also shared these PCBs on OSH Park. There were four orders. This is hilarious.

‘Member Minecraft? Redstone was awesome, and people built computers out of red dust and torches. Now it’s not as cool with all the fancy redstone components, and simpler is always better. Here’s bitmap logic, or a complete computer made with pixels. There’s already an 8-bit computer for this thing.

Frag somebody and own their computer. [Justin] recently found an exploit in Valve’s Source engine (TF2, CSGO, Portal 2…) that allows for remote code execution on clients and servers by loading a custom ragdoll model.

High bandwith, low-power, and long range. If you’re doing RF, you may pick two. LoRa is the RF solution that picked low power and long range. There are quite a few companies behind it, but we really haven’t seen many products using LoRa here in the states yet (then again, products that would use LoRa shouldn’t be very visible…). Now there’s an Open Source LoRa backend server. This is somewhat significant; LoRa isn’t a completely Open protocol, and all licensing goes through Semtech and the LoRa Alliance.

Find Instructions Hidden In Your CPU


There was a time when owning a computer meant you probably knew most or all of the instructions it could execute. Your modern PC, though, has a lot of instructions, many of them meant for specialized operating system, encryption, or digital signal processing features.

There are known undocumented instructions in a lot of x86-class CPUs, too. What’s more, these days your x86 CPU might really be a virtual machine running on a different processor, or your CPU could have a defect or a bug. Maybe you want to run sandsifter–a program that searches for erroneous or undocumented instructions. Who knows what is lurking in your CPU?

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Looking Forward To SHA2017

We’re at the start of August, which can only mean one thing. Europe’s hackers and makers are about to converge in a field somewhere for a long weekend of sitting around drinking beer and Club-Mate, eating unhealthy street food, being assaulted by some of the most underground chiptune electronic dance music on the planet, sharing the fruits of their labours with their peers, and gazing lovingly upon other people’s hacks. This year it’s the turn of the Netherlands, for over the first full weekend in August that country will host the SHA2017 outdoor hacker camp in a scouting camp on the polders. It promises to be quite an event, with just short of 4000 attendees spread over several fields, arenas, and social areas, and we’re going to be there. Tent and power lead with Schuko plug sorted, massive pile of stickers secured, DECT phone charged, emergency supplies of PG Tips packed.

There is so much to take in at these events that it can sometimes be difficult to catch everything. One can do the rounds as diligently as possible and still miss some of the cool stuff, so this is where you come in. Are you going to SHA? Are you bringing anything you consider cool to the event? Tell us about it in the comments, we’d love to hear about it as would we’re sure the rest of our readers.

Meanwhile, if you think you’ve missed the boat, don’t panic! At the time of writing, there are about 180 tickets still unsold, but they’ll be going fast! Head over to the SHA2017 tickets site to get yours.

(The stripey header, in case you were wondering, is SHA2017’s branding using as you might have guessed, the SHA algorithm to generate HTML colours. What you see are the colours for “Hackaday”.)

Hackaday Prize Entry: 18-DOF Hexaopod Aiming to Float

[Ken Conrad] didn’t like spiderbot projects he saw on the Internet: they mostly had 2 degrees of freedom per leg—if not fewer. He set out to make a hexapod robot with 18 DOF and the ability to move in any direction. Measuring around 20” from tip to tip, the custom, 3D-printed chassis was designed around eighteen SG90 9g micro servos. Each leg has 3 servos, one to move the tip, one for the middle, and one to move the entire leg back and forth, crab-style.

Perhaps the most intriguing notion of the project are the big paddle-like legs. [Ken] hopes get the robot to achieve some degree of flotation by laying its lower legs flat, staying afloat either due to surface tension, or maybe with the help of some buoyant material added to the legs.

[Ken] still has to figure out a control system for this beast, but we’re in awe of his creative use of zip-ties in place of traditional fasteners.

Autonomous Boat Sails the High Seas

As the human population continues to rise and the amount of industry increases, almost no part of the globe feels the burdens of this activity more than the oceans. Whether it’s temperature change, oxygen or carbon dioxide content, or other characteristics, the study of the oceans will continue to be an ongoing scientific endeavor. The one main issue, though, is just how big the oceans really are. To study them in-depth will require robots, and for that reason [Mike] has created an autonomous boat.

This boat is designed to be 3D printed in sections, making it easily achievable for anyone with access to a normal-sized printer. The boat uses the uses the APM autopilot system and Rover firmware making it completely autonomous. Waypoints can be programmed in, and the boat will putter along to its next destination and perform whatever tasks it has been instructed. The computer is based on an ESP module, and the vessel has a generously sized payload bay.

While the size of the boat probably limits its ability to cross the Pacific anytime soon, it’s a good platform for other bodies of water and potentially a building block for larger ocean-worthy ships that might have an amateur community behind them in the future. In fact, non-powered vessels that sail the high seas are already a reality.

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