Parts Bin Spooky Eye Build

Halloween is a great holiday for hacks, bringing out the creativity in even the most curmudgeonly wielder of a soldering iron. [tdragger] was looking to have some good old fashioned Halloween fun, and got to thinking – putting together this great Spooky Eyes build in their attic window.

The effect itself is simple – just two glowing orange LEDs spaced the right distance apart, placed in the highest window in the house. As every young child knows, the attic is almost the spookiest room in the house, second only to the basement.

Various effects were programmed in to the Arduino running the show, like breathing and blinking effects, to give that frightful character. For maintenance and programming purposes, [tdragger] wanted to have the Arduino remotely mounted, and searched for a solution. Rather than leaning on a wireless setup or something modern and off-the-shelf, instead some old RJ11 telephone extension cables were pressed into service. These allowed the eyes to be placed in the window, allowing the Arduino to be placed in a more accessible location.

It’s a basic project, but one that has a good fun factor. Sometimes it’s good to use what you’ve got to hand, so that the buzz of enjoyment isn’t dampened by the long wait for shipping. For something bigger, check out this giant staring eyeball.

All Your iPhone Are Belong To Us

Apple’s commitment to customer privacy took the acid test after the San Bernadino shooting incident. Law enforcement demanded that Apple unlock the shooter’s phone, and Apple refused. Court cases ensued. Some people think that the need to protect the public outweighs the need for privacy. Some people think that once they can unlock one iPhone, it won’t stop there and that will be bad for everyone. This post isn’t about either of those positions. The FBI dropped their lawsuit against Apple. Why? They found an Israeli firm that would unlock the phone for about $5,000. In addition, Malwarebytes — a company that makes security software — reports that law enforcement can now buy a device that unlocks iPhones from a different company.

Little is known about how the device — from a company called Grayshift — works. However, Malwarebytes has some unverified data from an unnamed source. Of course, the exploit used to break the iPhone security is secret because if Apple knew about it, they’d fix it. That’s happened before with a device called IP-box that was widely used for nefarious purposes.

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DIY Power Supply and TS100 Outlet Combo Shows off Great Layout

Here’s a combination of two important electronics workbench tools into a single, cleanly-assembled unit. [uGen] created a DC power supply complete with a plug for the popular TS100 soldering iron, and it looks great! Most of the main components are familiar offerings, like a LM2596 DC to DC buck converter board and a DPS3003 adjustable DC power supply unit (we previously covered a DIY power supply based around the similar DPS5005.) The enclosure is an economical, featureless desktop instrument case whose panels were carefully cut to fit the necessary components. There’s one limitation to the combo: the unit uses a switch to either power an attached TS100 iron, or act as a general DC power supply. It cannot do both at once. So long as one doesn’t mind that limitation, it’s a nice bundle made from very affordable components.

It’s easy for something to look like a hack job, but to look clean and professional involves thoughtful measurement, planning, and assembly. Fortunately, [uGen] has supplied all the drawings and bill of materials for the project so there’s no need to start from scratch. Also, don’t forget that if the capabilities of the DPS power supply units leave you wanting a bit more, there is alternative firmware in the form of OpenDPS; it even offers a remote control feature by adding an ESP8266.

Building a Tricorder Prop Worthy of Mr Spock

We’ve all been there. You want to assemble a proper Star Trek: The Original Series landing party prop set, but the TOS tricorders you can find on the market are little more than overpriced toys. Imagine the embarrassment of beaming down to Cestus III with a plastic tricorder. The Metrons wouldn’t have even bothered with the trial by combat with such a sorry showing.

Unhappy with the state of Star Trek props, [Dean O] decided to take matters into his own hands. He purchased a TOS tricorder from Diamond Select Toys and set out to modify it into something a bit closer to Starfleet standards. Anything painted metallic silver on the toy was replaced with a machined aluminum duplicate, adding some much needed heft. He even spruced up the controls and display.

To start, [Dean] stripped the tricorder down, separating all of the silver plastic parts and finding aluminum stock that was close enough to the desired dimensions. This ended up being .125″ plate for the sides, and .500″ bars for the horizontal dividers. To make the side panels he placed the original plastic parts over the aluminum, marked the mounting holes with a punch, and used the belt sander to shape them.

[Dean] then put in a more screen accurate Moire disc, and went as far as to get real watch crowns for the buttons (just like the prop used in the show). In a particularly bold move, he even drilled out the center of watch crowns to install plastic light pipes for LED illumination.

Last year we saw a build that crammed a Raspberry Pi into the same Diamond Select tricorder toy to excellent effect. Now somebody just needs to combine both projects and they’ll have the slickest tricorder in the Alpha Quadrant.

Water Level Sensors, Alexa in a Fish, and Modular Synths During World Create Day

On Saturday we saw a flood of interesting hacks come to life as more than 100 community organized meetups were held for World Create Day. Thank you to all of the organizers who made these events possible, and for everyone who decided to get together and hack.

Students Learning Hardware Design in Islamabad, Pakistan

The students at LearnOBots took on a slew of great projects during World Create Day like a smart medicine dispenser, electronics that control mains appliances, parking sensors, and a waste bin that encourages you to feed it. The group did a wonderful job of showing off their event by publishing several updates with pictures, stories, and video presentations from all the students. Nice work!


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CUDA is Like Owning a Supercomputer

The word supercomputer gets thrown around quite a bit. The original Cray-1, for example, operated at about 150 MIPS and had about eight megabytes of memory. A modern Intel i7 CPU can hit almost 250,000 MIPS and is unlikely to have less than eight gigabytes of memory, and probably has quite a bit more. Sure, MIPS isn’t a great performance number, but clearly, a top-end PC is way more powerful than the old Cray. The problem is, it’s never enough.

Today’s computers have to processes huge numbers of pixels, video data, audio data, neural networks, and long key encryption. Because of this, video cards have become what in the old days would have been called vector processors. That is, they are optimized to do operations on multiple data items in parallel. There are a few standards for using the video card processing for computation and today I’m going to show you how simple it is to use CUDA — the NVIDIA proprietary library for this task. You can also use OpenCL which works with many different kinds of hardware, but I’ll show you that it is a bit more verbose.
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Emulating Handheld History

There’s a certain class of hardware only millennials will cherish. Those cheap ‘LCD Video Games’ from Tiger Electronics were sold in the toy aisle of your old department store. There was an MC Hammer video game. There was a Stargate video game. There was a Back To The Future video game. All of these used the same plastic enclosure, all of them had Up, Down, Left, Right, and two extra buttons, and all of them used a custom liquid crystal display. All of them were just slightly disappointing.

Now, there’s an effort to digitize and preserve these video games on archive.org, along with every other variety of ancient handheld and battery powered video game from ages past.

Double Dragon. You remember this, don’t you?

This is an effort from volunteers of the MAME team, who are now in the process of bringing these ‘LCD Video Games’ to the Internet Archive. Unlike other games which are just bits and bytes along with a few other relatively easily-digitized manuals and Peril Sensitive Sunglasses, preserving these games requires a complete teardown of the device. These are custom LCDs, after all. [Sean Riddle] and [hap] have been busy tearing apart these LCDs, vectorizing the segments (the game The Shadow is seen above), and preserving the art behind the LCD. It’s an immense amount of work, but the process has been refined somewhat over the years.

Some of these games, and some other earlier games featuring VFD and LED displays, are now hosted on the Internet Archive for anyone to play in a browser. The Handheld History collection joins the rest of the emulated games on the archive, with the hope they’ll be preserved for years to come.