386 Too Much Horsepower? Try a 186, in an FPGA!

Typically when we hear the term “System-on-Chip” bandied around, our mind jumps straight to modern ARM-based processors that drive smartphones and embedded devices around us. Coming a little bit more out of left field is [Jamie]’s 80186 core, that runs on Intel FPGAs.

[Jamie] ran the core through a few vintage PC benchmarks.
[Jamie] has implemented the entire set of 80186 instructions in Verilog, and included some of the undocumented instructions too. This sort of attention to detail is important – real world parts don’t always meet the original specifications on paper, and programmers can come to rely on this. The key to compatibility is understanding how things perform in the real world, not just on the spec sheet.

Not content to simply simulate a CPU, all the necessary peripherals for a complete working system have been worked into the design as well. There’s RAM, a UART, as well as CGA graphics and a PS/2 controller that is necessary if you’d like to actually use any sort of human input device.

[Jamie] has released the code under a GPL licence, and it’s available at GitHub. It’s a good basis if you want to play around with what was once a commercial CPU at a logic level. The development guide is also available if you need to really drill down into the details. It’s a cool project, and makes a great contrast to [Jamie]’s previous work – the Oldland 32-bit core.

 

 

Mini Millennium Falcon Is Envy Of the Neighborhood

Here’s a tip for any readers who may be expecting a child in the near future: there’s about a two year period where you can basically use your child as a Halloween prop. They’re too young to express any serious interest in what they want to dress up as, and as an added bonus, they generally spend most of their time being rolled around in a wheeled contraption anyway. As long as you can keep the little one warm and securely seated in the thing, you’ve essentially got free reign to put them into all sorts of elaborate vehicles.

Case in point, the awesome build that [shnatko] has dubbed the “Millennium Flyer”. Built atop his daughter’s plastic Radio Flyer wagon, the Millennium Flyer is constructed out of wood and foam board. By using the mounting holes in the wagon originally intended for an optional canopy, the ship itself can be removed to fly again next year.

[shnatko] notes that he possess no particular talent for the fine arts, so he decided to skin his build by printing out a high resolution image of the Millennium Falcon he found online. The amount of patience (not to mention printer ink) that this method took is considerable, but we think the final results speak for themselves.

To finish off his build [shnatko] found a blue cold cathode light from his PC modding days and rigged it up with a laptop battery he had laying around. Some foam ribs and wax paper to diffuse the light give it that iconic look from the “real” Falcon.

Between this build and the AT-AT rocking horse from a few weeks back, it seems we are in the golden age of childhood Star Wars conveyances. Though we wouldn’t mind seeing this get mounted to a racing Power Wheels either.

3D Printing Belts for Vintage Hardware

It may be hard for some of the younger readers to believe, but there was a time when hardware was full of little rubber belts. Tape decks, VCRs, even some computers: they all had rotating parts that needed to transfer power to other components, and belts were a cheap and quiet way to do it. Unfortunately, now decades later we realize that these little belts are often the Achilles heel of classic hardware, getting brittle and breaking long before the rest of the components are ready to give up the fight.

Which is exactly what [FozzTexx] found when trying to revive his newly purchased Commodore PET 2001. The belt inside of the cassette drive had become hard and fallen to pieces, and rather than hunt around for a replacement, [FozzTexx] reasoned he might be able to print one out of a flexible 3D printer filament like NinjaFlex. Besides, this wasn’t the only piece of vintage tech in his house that needed a belt replacement, so he figured it would be a worthwhile experiment.

As the original belt was little more than dust, [FozzTexx] had to design his replacement from scratch. He started by cleverly replicating the path the belt would need to take with string, and then measuring the inside diameter of the string circle with his calipers. [FozzTexx] then reduced the diameter by 5% to take into account the stretching of the new belt.

The profile of the belt was square, which made modeling and 3D printing much easier. [FozzTexx] just subtracted a smaller circle from a larger one in 2D, and then extruded that circle into the third dimension by 1.18 mm to match the height of the original part. Careful measurement paid off, and the newly printed NinjaFlex belt had his Commodore loading and saving programs on the first try.

We’ve covered the difficulty in sourcing replacement belts for old hardware previously, so it will be interesting to see if others are able to make use of the research [FozzTexx] has done here. Of course, longevity concerns are always brought up when NinjaFlex is used, so hopefully [FozzTexx] keeps us updated.

Hybrid Interface Brings Touchscreen to Rigol Scope

With pervasive smartphones and tablets, the touch interface is assumed for small LCD screens, and we’ve likely all poked and pinched at some screen, only to find it immune to our gestures. Manufacturers have noticed this and begun adding touch interfaces to instruments like digital oscilloscopes, but touch interfaces tend to be an upgrade feature. But thanks to this hybrid oscilloscope touchscreen interface, even the low-end scopes can get in on the action.

It only makes sense that [Matt Heinz] started with one of the most hackable scopes for this build, which was his Master’s thesis project. Using an Android tablet as an auxiliary interface, [Matt] is able to control most of the main functions of the scope remotely. Pinching and expanding gestures are interpreted as horizontal and vertical scaling, while dragging the displayed waveform changes its position and controls triggering. While it’s not a true touchscreen scope, the code is all open source, so can a true aftermarket Rigol touchscreen be far away?

Rigol hacks abound here — you can talk to them in Linux, increase the bandwidth, or just get a look at their guts.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Microfluidics Control System

Microfluidics is the fine art of moving tiny amounts of liquid around and is increasingly used in fields such as biology and chemistry. By miniaturizing experiments, it’s possible to run many experiments in parallel and have tighter control over experimental conditions. Unfortunately, the hardware to run these microfluidic experiments is expensive.

[Craig]’s 2017 Hackaday Prize entry involves creating a microfluidics control system for use by researchers and students. This device allows for miniaturized experiments to be run. This allows more projects to be run in parallel and far more cheaply, as they don’t use as many resources like reagents.

[Craig]’s rig consists of an ESP32, a 40-channel IO expander, 3 pressure regulators tuned to different pressures, and around 2 dozen solenoid valves mounted to manifolds. Solutions are moved around with a combination of two pumps, with one providing positive pressure and one serving as a vacuum pump.

Far cheaper than professional microfluidics systems, [Craig]’s project aims to assist biohackers and underfunded researchers in their pursuits.

Books You Should Read: V-2 By Walter Dornberger

In an era where we can watch rockets land on their tails Buck Rogers-style live on YouTube, it’s difficult to imagine a time when even the most basic concepts of rocketry were hotly debated. At the time, many argued that the very concept of a liquid fueled rocket was impossible, and that any work towards designing practical rocket powered vehicles was a waste of time and money. Manned spacecraft, satellite communications, to say nothing of landing on other worlds; all considered nothing more than entertainment for children or particularly fanciful adults.

Walter Dornberger (Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1980-009-33 / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

This is the world in which V-2, written by the head of the German rocket development program Walter Dornberger, takes place. The entire history of the A-4/V-2 rocket program is laid out in this book, from the very early days when Dornberger and his team were launching rockets with little more than matches, all the way up to Germany’s frantic attempts to mobilize the still incomplete V-2 rocket in face of increasingly certain defeat at the end of World War II.

For those fascinated with early space exploration and the development of the V-2 rocket like myself, this book is essentially unparalleled. It’s written completely in the first person, through Dornberger’s own eyes, and reads in most places like a personal tour of his rocket development site at the Peenemünde Army Research Center. Dornberger walks through the laboratories and factories of Peenemünde, describing the research being done and the engineers at work in a personal detail that you simply don’t get anywhere else.

But this book is not only a personal account of how the world’s first man-made object to reach space was created, it’s also a realistic case study of how engineers and the management that pays the bills often clash with disastrous results. Dornberger and his team wanted to create a vehicle to someday allow man to reach space, while the Nazi government had a much more nefarious and immediate goal. But this isn’t a book about the war — the only battles you’ll read about in V-2 take place in meeting rooms, where the engineers who understood the immense difficulty of their task tried in vain to explain why the timetables and production numbers the German military wanted simply couldn’t be met.

Continue reading “Books You Should Read: V-2 By Walter Dornberger”

Google’s Inception Sees This Turtle as a Gun; Image Recognition Camouflage

The good people at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory [CSAIL] have found a way of tricking Google’s InceptionV3 image classifier into seeing a rifle where there actually is a turtle. This is achieved by presenting the classifier with what is called ‘adversary examples’.

Adversary examples are a proven concept for 2D stills. In 2014 [Goodfellow], [Shlens] and [Szegedy] added imperceptible noise to the image of a panda that from then on was classified as gibbon. This method relies on the image being undisturbed and can be overcome by zooming, blurring or rotating the image.

The applicability for real world shenanigans has been seriously limited but this changes everything. This weaponized turtle is a color 3D print that is reliably misclassified by the algorithm from any point of view. To achieve this, some knowledge about the classifier is required to generate misleading input. The image transformations, such as rotation, scaling and skewing but also color corrections and even print errors are added to the input and the result is then optimized to reliably mislead the algorithm. The whole process is documented in [CSAIL]’s paper on the method.

What this amounts to is camouflage from machine vision. Assuming that the method also works the other way around, the possibility of disguising guns (or anything else) as turtles has serious implications for automated security systems.

As this turtle targets the Inception algorithm, it should be able to fool the DIY image recognition talkbox that Hackaday’s own [Steven Dufresne] built.

Thanks to [Adam] for the tip.