Hot Air Surgery Revives a Cheap Windows Tablet

[Jason Gin] recently wrote in to tell us about his adventures replacing the eMMC storage chip on a cheap Windows tablet, and we have to say, it’s an impressive amount of work for a device which apparently only cost him $15. Surely much better pieces of hardware have been tossed in the trash for less serious failures than what ailed his DigiLand DL801W tablet. We’d love to see the lengths this guy would go to restore something a bit higher up the food chain.

As any good hacker knows, you can’t fix the problem until you understand it. So the first step [Jason] took was to conduct some troubleshooting. The tablet would only boot to the EFI shell, which didn’t do him much good since there was no on-screen keyboard to interact with it. But he had the idea of trying to connect a USB keyboard via an OTG adapter, and sure enough that got him in. Once he was able to enter commands into the EFI shell, he attempted to read from a few different sectors of the eMMC drive, only to get the same nonsense repeating data. So far, not looking good.

But before he fully committed to replacing the eMMC drive, he wanted a second opinion. Using the same USB OTG adapter, he was able to boot the tablet into a Windows 10 environment, and from there got access to some drive diagnostic tools. The software reported that not only was the drive reporting to be half the appropriate size, but that writing to the chip was impossible.

With the fate of the tablet’s Foresee NCEMBS99-16G eMMC chip now confirmed, [Jason] decided it was time to operate. After pulling the tablet apart and masking off the PCB with Kapton tape to protect it from the heat, he slowly went in with his hot air rework station to remove the failed chip. But rather than put another low-end chip in its place, he used this opportunity to replace it with a Samsung KLMBG4GEND-B031. Not only does this chip have twice the capacity of the original, it should be noticeably faster.

With the new Samsung eMMC chip installed, [Jason] put the tablet back together and was able to successfully install Windows 10 onto it. Another piece of tech saved from the big landfill in the sky.

If the casual confidence of this particular repair wasn’t enough of a clue, this isn’t the first time he’s showed some unruly eMMC chips who’s boss.

Nerds Unite: Prosthetics Inspired by Comics and Beyond!

Open Bionics is a company creating prosthetics inspired by heroines, heroes and the fictional worlds they live in. The designs emblazoned on their first set of bionic hands include ones drawn from Queen Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, and Marvel’s Iron Man. The best thing about what they are doing is they offer you, dear reader, a chance to lend your own super powers of design and engineering. Open Bionics offers up 3D print files for several hand designs, hardware schematics and design files for their controller boards, firmware, and software to control the robotic hands with. Other than their website, you can also find all of the files and more on their GitHub account. If you’d like to devote a good amount of time and become a developer, they have a form to contact them through. To help with sourcing parts for your own build, they sell cables for tendons, muscle sensors, and fingertip grips in their online store

 We first came to learn about this company through a tipster [Dj Biohazard] who pointed to a post about their partnership with an 11-year-old Tilly, who is pictured on the left. Her bionic hand is an Open Bionics prototype whose design is based on the video game, Deus Ex. The best way products like these are improved are through the open source community and people like her.

Specific improvements Open Bionics state on their website are:

  • The customised bionic arms are manufactured in under 24 hours and the revolutionary socket adjusts as the child grows.
  • The bionic arms are light and small enough for those as young as eight.
  • The bionic arms use myoelectric skin sensors to detect the user’s muscle movements, which can be used to control the hand and open and close the fingers.

Read more about Tilly’s story and her partnership with Open Bionic’s on Womanthology. Tilly seems to have a dream of her own to “make prosthetics a high fashion piece – something that amputees can be proud to wear.” 

We at Hackaday have written about several open source prosthetic developments such as a five-day event S.T.E.A.M. Fabrikarium program taking place at Maker’s Asylum in Mumbai and the work of [Nicholas Huchet]What superhuman inspired designs would you create? 

Marble Chooses its own Path

[Snille]’s motto is “If you can’t find it, make it and share it!” and we could not agree more. We wager that you won’t find his Roball sculpture on any shopping websites, so it follows that he made, and subsequently shared his dream. The sculpture has an undeniable elegance with black brackets holding brass rails all on top of a wooden platform painted white. He estimates this project took four-hundred hours to design and build and that is easy to believe.

Our first assumption was that there must be an Arduino reading the little red button which starts a sequence. A 3D-printed robot arm grasps a cat’s eye marble and randomly places it on a starting point where it invariably rolls to its ending point. The brains are actually a Pololu Mini Maestro 12-channel servo controller. The hack is using a non-uniform marble and an analog sensor at the pickup position to randomly select the next track.

If meticulously bending brass is your idea of a good time, he also has a video of a lengthier sculpture with less automation, but it’s bent brass porn. If marbles are more your speed, you know we love [Wintergatan] and his Incredible Marble Music Machine. If that doesn’t do it for you, you can eat it.

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Hacking a Pint-Sized Mercedes

[Jonas] bought an electric Mercedes “ride on” toy for his one-year-old son. At least that’s his story. However, the vehicle has become a target for dad’s obsession with hacking and he’s already done quite a few upgrades. Even better, he did quite a bit of analysis on what’s already there. He isn’t done, but he’s promised quite a bit in the next installment which isn’t out yet.

The original car can take a driver or it can use remote control. [Jonas] has an ambitious list of ideas, some of which are still not complete:

  • Speed along with softer acceleration and braking
  • Improve the radio controller
  • Proper rubber tires
  • Proper stereo system
  • Individual brake disks on the front wheels
  • Improved horn
  • Proper seat belt or maybe even a new seat

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Clever Approach to Stylus Alignment

Digitally stored music is just data. But not long ago, music was analog and required machines with moving parts. If you have never owned a record player, you at least know what they look like, now that there’s a(nother) vinyl revival. What you may not be aware of is that the player’s stylus needs to be aligned. It makes sense, that hypersensitive needle can’t be expected to perform well if it’s tearing across a record like a drift racer.

There are professional tools for ensuring alignment, but it’s not something you’ll need each day. [Ali Naci Erdem] shows us his trick for combining a printable template with a mirror to get the same results without the professional tool costs. Instead of ordinary printer paper, he prints the template on a piece of clear plastic and lays it across a small mirror. These are both items which can be picked up at a hobby store, which is not something we can say about a record player mirror protractor.

We love music hacks like this informative introduction to circuit bending, the wonderful [Martin] from Wintergatan, or if you want to get weird, an organ made from Furbies.

What’s Inside A Neonode Laser Sensor?

Every once in a while, you get your hands on a cool piece of hardware, and of course, it’s your first instinct to open it up and see how it works, right? Maybe see if it can be coaxed into doing just a little bit more than it says on the box? And so it was last Wednesday, when I was at the Embedded World trade fair, and stumbled on a cool touch display floating apparently in mid-air.

The display itself was a sort of focused Pepper’s Ghost illusion, reflected off of an expensive mirror made by Aska3D. I don’t know much more — I didn’t get to bring home one of the fancy glass plates — but it looked pretty good. But this display was interactive: you could touch the floating 2D projection as if it were actually there, and the software would respond. What was doing the touch response in mid-air? I’m a sucker for sensors, so I started asking questions and left with a small box of prototype Neonode zForce AIR sensor sticks to take apart.

The zForce sensors are essentially an array of IR lasers and photodiodes with some lenses that limit their field of view. The IR light hits your finger and bounces back to the photodiodes on the bar. Because the photodiodes have a limited angle over which they respond, they can be used to triangulate the distance of the finger above the display. Scanning quickly among the IR lasers and noting which photodiodes receive a reflection can locate a few fingertips in a 2D space, which explained the interactive part of the floating display. With one of these sensors, you can add a 2D touch surface to anything. It’s like an invisible laser harp that can also sense distance.

The intended purpose is fingertip detection, and that’s what the firmware is good at, but it must also be the case that it could detect the shape of arbitrary (concave) objects within its range, and that was going to be my hack. I got 90% of the way there in one night, thanks to affordable tools and free software that every hardware hacker should have in their toolbox. So read on for the unfortunate destruction of nice hardware, a tour through some useful command-line hardware-hacking tools, and gratuitous creation of animations from sniffed SPI-like data pulled off of some test points.

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The M1 NerfBot: When Prototypes Evolve

What do you get when you cross a self-taught maker with an enthusiasm for all things Nerf? A mobile nerf gun platform capable of 15 darts per second. Obviously.

The M1 NerfBot built by [GrimSkippy] — posting in the ‘Let’s Make Robots’ community — is meant to be a constantly updating prototype as he progresses in his education. That being the case, the progress is evident; featuring two cameras — a webcam on the turret’s barrel, and another facing forward on the chassis, a trio of ultrasonic sensors, controlled by an Xbox 360 controller, and streaming video to a webpage hosted on the M1 itself, this is no mere beginner project.

Perhaps most compelling is how the M1 tracks its targets. The cameras send their feeds to the aforementioned webpage and — with a little reorganization — [GrimSkippy] accesses the the streams on an FPV headset-mounted smartphone. As he looks about, gyroscopic data from the phone is sent back to the M1, translating head movement into both turret and chassis cam movement. Check it out!

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