Art Eavesdrops on Life and Pagers

Before cell phones, pagers were the way to communicate on the go. At first, they were almost a status symbol. Eventually, they became the mark of someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t carry a cell phone. However, apparently, there are still some users that clutch their pagers with a death grip, including medical professionals. In an art project called HolyPager, [Brannon Dorsey] intercepted all the pager messages in a city and printed them on a few old-style roll printers. The results were a little surprising. You can check out the video below.

Almost all the pages were medical and many of them had sensitive information. From a technical standpoint, [Brannon’s] page doesn’t shed much light, but an article about the project says that it and other art projects that show the hidden world or radio waves are using our old friend the RTL-SDR dongle.

Pagers use a protocol — POCSAG — that predates our modern (and well-founded) obsession with privacy and security. That isn’t surprising although the idea that private medical data is flying through the air like this is. Decoding POCSAG isn’t hard. GNU Radio, for example, can easily handle the task.

We’ve looked at pager hacking in the past. You can even run your own pager network, but don’t blame us if you get fined.

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Hexbright Repair Keeps Torch Out of Landfill

The Hexbright was a Kickstarter project from a few years ago, to create an open source, rechargeable LED light. [Nick] quite likes them, and has learned a thing or two about keeping them operational.

The torches have a few key issues which [Nick] lists for us, before outlining the necessary repairs. These problems highlight certain design flaws, something one might expect for a hardware product from a new startup. Components inside are easily damaged if the device is dropped, and there is no reverse polarity protection on the battery.

It’s always disappointing to see a product in the marketplace fail to take into account such rudimentary things, but in the meantime, repair is always possible. The guide highlights the basic parts and tools required, which is important, but also goes the extra mile and gives important hints and tips on how to effectively execute the repair in a quick and easy fashion.

Overall, it may not be a hack, but what [Nick] has done both educated on us the mistakes made by a crowdfunded hardware startup and also taught us how to write a useful and thorough repair guide. It’s not just about the parts that need to be replaced, it’s about the best method to replace them. The details and the order of operations always helps – anyone that’s ever attempted a serious automotive repair knows this, for example.

We see a lot of great repair hacks here – like this excellent use of a 3D printer to reproduce belts for old hardware.

Hackaday Links: Not A Creature Was Stirring, Except For A Trackball

Hey, did you know Hackaday is starting an Open Access, peer-reviewed journal? The Hackaday Journal of What You Don’t Know (HJWYDK) is looking for submissions detailing the tools, techniques, and skills that we don’t know, but should. Want to teach everyone how to make sand think? Write a paper and tell us about it! Send in your submissions here.

Have you noticed OSH Park updated their website?

The MSP430 line of microcontrollers are super cool, low power, and cheap. Occasionally, TI pumps out a few MSP430 dev boards and sells them for the rock-bottom price of $4.30. Here ya go, fam. This one is loaded up with the MSP430FR2433.

lol, Bitcoin this week.

Noisebridge, the San Francisco hackerspace and one of the first hackerspaces in the US, is now looking for a new place. Why, you may ask? Because San Francisco real estate. The current price per square foot is triple what their current lease provides. While we hope Noisebridge will find a new home, we’re really looking forward to the hipster restaurant that’s only open for brunch that will take its place.

The coolest soundcards, filled with DOS blips and bloops, were based on the OPL2 and OPL3 sound chips. If you want one of these things, you’re probably going to be digging up an old ISA SoundBlaster soundcard. The OPL2LPT is the classic sound card for computers that don’t have an easily-accessible ISA bus, like those cool vintage laptops. The 8-Bit Guy recently took a look at this at this neat piece of hardware, and apart from requiring a driver to work with any OPL2-compatible game, this thing actually works.

NVIDIA just did something amazing. They created a piece of hardware that everyone wants but isn’t used to turn electricity into heat and Bitcoin. This fantastic device, that is completely original and not at all derivative, is sold in the NVIDIA company store for under five dollars. Actually, the green logo silk/art on this PCB ruler is kinda cool, and I’d like to know how they did that. Also, and completely unrelated: does anyone want ten pounds of Digikey PCB rulers?

Wishing the Family a Sinusoidal Christmas

When it’s time to put together the annual Christmas card, most families take a few pictures of the kids, slap on a generic greeting, and call it a day. It used to be fairly common for the whole family to get dressed up and pose for a special Christmas picture, but who has the time anymore? It’s not like we have hours and hours to slave over a unique and memorable gift we can mail out to a dozen (or more) people.

Unless you’re [Chris Wolsey], anyway. Rather than take the easy way out and simply mailing some pictures of his daughter out to friends and family, he recorded her giving a Christmas greeting and turned the waveform of her voice into a framed physical memento. Way to wreck the curve for the rest of us, [Chris].

Evolution of the printed waveform.

As it turns out, getting sound into CAD software isn’t exactly straightforward. To start, he made a recording of his daughter saying the words “Happy Christmas From the Wolsey Family” with Audacity, and then took a screenshot of the resulting waveform. This screenshot was then brought into Adobe Illustrator and exported to SVG, which Fusion 360 (and most other CAD packages) is able to import.

Now that the wave was in Fusion 360 he could scale it to a reasonable size, and use the revolve function to bring it into three dimensions. Cutting that object in half down the length then gave [Chris] a shape which should, theoretically, be printable on his FDM printers. But unfortunately, it wasn’t so easy. His personal Anet A8 had a tough time printing it, and the Prusa i3 MK2 at work didn’t fare much better. In the end, he had to make the leap to SLA, getting the shape printed on a Form 2 via 3D Hubs.

With the finalized shape in hand, [Chris] just need to put them into production. Printing them all via 3D Hubs wasn’t really an option, so he decided to make a mold and cast them in resin. He printed up a mold box, and after fiddling around with the mix a bit, was able to settle on a resin which allowed him to de-mold the shapes just 30 minutes after pouring.

Finally, he made frames for each cast waveform, and printed up a little label explaining just what the recipient was looking at; even going as far as showing which word corresponded to which section of the shape.

This is a fantastically executed and documented project, and while it’s too late to whip up your own version this year, we have no doubt they’ll be a few people “borrowing” this idea next time the holidays roll around.

It’s never too early to start planning for next Christmas. We’ve covered unique takes on the traditional holiday card before, as well as a sleighful of holiday decorating projects.

Programmable Christmas Tree is a JavaScript Interpreter

Here at Hackaday, we find Christmas time very exciting because it means an influx of holiday-themed hacks that really help us get into the festive mood. [Andrew’s] programmable Christmas tree hosted at HackMyXmas is certainly one of our favorites. The project consists of a 500 RGB LEDs wrapped around a typical Christmas tree and controlled by a Teensy.  However, not settling for the typical, simple and cyclical pattern for the LEDs, [Andrew] decided the tree had to be programmable of course! So, a single board computer (a C.H.I.P) running Linux was used to provide a Wifi connection and a web server to easily program the tree.

This is where things get very interesting. The C.H.I.P board hosts a comprehensive website that conveniently gives you the option to program the LEDs using either, Scratch like draggable blocks (using Googles Blockly) or even pure JavaScript. Once the perfect pattern is conceived, you can test run it on the online simulator or even send it off straight to the Tree, watching it blink in all its glory on the provided live stream.

We applaud [Andrew] mammoth effort for invoking programming in such a fun way! You can check out the live stream of [Andrew]’s Christmas tree below.

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Hackaday at 34C3

It’s that time of year. While the rest of the Christmas-celebrating world sits around and plays with the toys that they got out from under the tree, German nerds head off to the biggest European hacker con: the 34th annual Chaos Communications Congress, running Dec. 27th through 30th.

The CCC is both a grandparent among hacker cons, and the most focused on using technology to improve the world and bringing folks together. (The “communications” in the name is a dead giveaway.) This year’s motto, “tuwat!” is slangy-dialecty for “do something!” and is call to get up off the couch and use your super-powers for good.

If you can’t get over to Leipzig to join us, you’ll be able to read our extensive coverage starting up shortly after the opening ceremonies, and probably stretching well into 2018. And since the CCC media folks manage to stream every talk, hackers all over the world can follow along live. Most talks are in English, so get together with folks in your hackspace and have a video night!

And if you are in Leipzig, be on the lookout for [Elliot] who will be wandering around, attending workshops, and writing down as much as possible. Show me something cool, rave about a particularly good talk, or just say “hi”.

Fairy Dust clipart courtesy [sonoftroll].

LED Christmas Tree Is Perfect Holiday Build

Soon the most wonderful time of the year will be upon us. Families all over the globe will gather together to exchange gifts, eat good food and enjoy some quality time with each other. For many, it will be the first time they’ve seen each other since the last holiday season. For us hackers –  this translates to a time we get to talk about ourselves and show off a little about what we do. Been taking it easy this year? Have no hacks to talk about? Well, it’s not too late! Break out the soldering iron and whip up the perfect conversation starter – an LED Christmas tree!

[Gumix] took a handful of those flickering LEDs and a step down DC-DC converter to make his simple but elegant tree. No microcontroller here… no code is running. As soon as power is applied, the flickering LEDs do all the work to create a visual delight.

Flickering LEDs have been the focus of a few hackers. They’re basically LEDs designed to flicker like a real candle. [cpldcpu] hooked a scope to one and guessed that a linear shift-register was responsible for the randomness behind the flickering, which would be confirmed several months later.

Be sure to check out [Gumix] LED tree and the video demonstration below.

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