Live Streaming Goes Pro with a Hacked Backpack

If you haven’t been paying attention, live streaming has become a big business. Streamers are getting out of their basements and moving around among us. While IRL streams may not be our cup of tea, the technology behind creating a solid high upstream bandwidth wireless internet connection is. Sure you can stream with a phone, the top streamers want something a bit more reliable. Enter [Gunrun], who has designed a backpack just for mobile streaming.

The backpack starts with a Sony AS300  Camera. [Gunrun] likes this particular camera for its exceptional audio capabilities. Network connections are handled with no less than four LTE modems. You never know which carrier will have good service out in the field, so the modems are available from a variety of carriers.

The real problem is bonding connections between LTE modems from various carriers, setting up streaming accounts, and piping captured data from an HDMI capture over those accounts. The average hacker would go at it with an HDMI capture card and a Linux Laptop. Most streamers need a more plug and play solution though, so [Gunrun] uses a LiveU Solo HDMI video encoder for the task.

This isn’t a cheap solution, all those parts together along with a beefy battery, LTE data plans, and of course a backpack to hold it all makes for a package north of $2000. Even at this price, plenty of streamers have been following [Gunrun’s] instructions and building their own setup.

Hackers do a bit of live streaming too – check out how [cnlohr] reverse engineered the Vive, while valve engineers played along in the chat.

Visualizing Verilog Simulation

You don’t usually think of simulating Verilog code — usually for an FPGA — as a visual process. You write a test script colloquially known as a test bench and run your simulation. You might get some printed information or you might get a graphical result by dumping a waveform, but you don’t usually see the circuit. A new site combines Yosys and a Javascript-based logic simulator to let you visualize and simulate Verilog in your browser. It is a work in progress on GitHub, so you might find a few hiccups like we did, but it is still an impressive piece of work.

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There Is A Cost To Extended Lifetime Products. It’s 7.5%.

Silicon and integrated circuits come and go, but when it comes to extended lifetime support from a company, it’s very, very hard to find fault with Microchip. They’re still selling the chip — new — that was the foundation of the Basic Stamp. That’s a part that’s being sold for twenty-five years. You can hardly find that sort of product support with a company that doesn’t deal in high-tech manufacturing.

While the good times of nearly unlimited support for products that are decades old isn’t coming to an end, it now has a cost. According to a press release from Microchip, the price of these old chips will increase. Design something with an old chip, and that part is suddenly going to cost you 7.5% more.

The complete announcement (3MB PDF), states, in part:

…in the case of extended lifecycle product offerings, manufacturing, assembly and carrying costs are increasing over time for
these mature technology products and packages. Rather than discontinue our mature product, Microchip will continue to support our
customer needs for product availability, albeit increasing the prices in line with increased cost associated with supporting mature
product lines….

For all orders received after 31 August, pricing for the products listed will be subject to an increase of 7.5%

The PDF comes with a list of all the products affected, and covers the low-end ATtinys, ATMegas, and PICs that are used in thousands of tutorials available online. The ATtiny85 is not affected, but the ATMega128 is. There are a number of PICs listed, but a short survey reveals these are low-memory parts, and you really shouldn’t be making new designs with these anyway.

The Quest For High Powered Blinky And Buzzing

Sometimes, we need devices to notify us of something. The oven timer is going off. Your phone has a push notification. The smoke detector battery is getting low. All of these problems can be solved with a buzzer or an LED. It’s a simple and cheap problem to solve.

But what if you need to know if something’s wrong with a diesel engine that throwing out 90 dB of noise? What if you’re not guaranteed to be around that engine? What if you need to tell everyone within a half mile that something is wrong. Again, LEDs and beepers, but the standard, off-the-shelf implementation isn’t going to cut it. You need massive amounts of buzzers and LEDs, and you’re going to need to drive them all with some reasonably high current. How do you solve that problem?

This is the problem [Tegwyn] had to solve for another one of his Hackaday Prize entries. The solution is what you would expect — buzzers and LEDs — but he’s putting some serious current behind these devices. There are, in fact, thermal considerations taken into account when you’re beeping this many buzzers.

The LEDs for this project are a handful of blindingly bright 1209 and 1206 SMD parts, and the buzzer is an obnoxiously loud SMD 97 dB buzzer. There are eight buzzers on this board. So, how do you drive these power-hungry devices? [Tegwyn] is using an L293E half-bridge motor driver, in a ‘Power-DIP’ package for relatively effective heat dissipation. Does it work? Oh, yes, and it’s very annoying. Take a look at the video below and judge for yourself. You can, indeed, make something louder and more annoying by adding more power.

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Air Wrench Becomes a Milling Machine Power Drawbar

We sometimes wonder if designers ever actually use their own products, or even put them through some sort of human-factors testing before putting them on the market. Consider the mechanism that secures toolholders to the spindle of a milling machine: the drawbar. Some mills require you to lock the spindle with a spanner wrench, loosen the drawbar with another wrench, and catch the released collet and tool with – what exactly?

Unwilling to have the surgical modifications that would qualify him for the Galactic Presidency, [Physics Anonymous] chose instead to modify his mill with a power drawbar. The parts are cheap and easily available, with the power coming from a small butterfly-style pneumatic wrench. The drawbar on his mill has a nearly 3/8″ square drive – we’d guess it’s really 10 mm – which almost matches up with the 3/8″ drive on the air wrench, so he whipped up a female-to-female adapter from a couple of socket adapters. The wrench mounts to a cover above the drawbar in a 3D-printed holster. Pay close attention to the video below where he goes through the Fusion 360 design; we were intrigued by the way he imported three orthogonal photos on the wrench to design the holster around. That’s a tip to file away for a rainy day.

This is a great modification to a low-cost milling machine. If you’re in the process of buying machine tools, you should really check out our handy buyer’s guides for both milling machines and lathes. It’ll let you know what features to look out for, and which you’ll have to add later.

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FOSSCON 2018: Developing the FreedomBox

The modern Internet can be a dangerous place, especially for those who might not have the technical wherewithal to navigate its pitfalls. Whether it’s malware delivered to your browser through a “drive-by” or online services selling your data to the highest bidder, its gotten a lot harder over the last decade or so to use the Internet as an effective means of communication and information gathering without putting yourself at risk.

But those are just the passive threats that we all have to contend with. What if you’re being actively targeted? Perhaps your government has shut down access to the Internet, or the authorities are looking to prevent you from organizing peaceful protests. What if you’re personal information is worth enough to some entity that they’ll subpoena it from your service providers?

It’s precisely for these sort of situations that the FreedomBox was developed. As demonstrated by Danny Haidar at FOSSCON 2018 in Philadelphia, the FreedomBox promises to help anyone deploy a secure and anonymous Internet access point in minutes with minimal user interaction.

It’s a concept privacy advocates have been talking about for years, but with the relatively recent advent of low-cost ARM Linux boards, may finally be practical enough to go mainstream. While there’s still work to be done, the project is already being used to provide Internet gateways in rural India.

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Unleash Your Inner Starship Captain with this Immersive Simulator Console

We like a good video game as much as the next person. Heck, a few hours wasted with “Team Fortress 2” on a couple of big monitors is a guilty pleasure we’ll never be ashamed of. But this starship bridge simulation console brings immersive gameplay to a new level, and we wholeheartedly endorse it even if we don’t quite get it.

The game in question is “Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator”, a game played by anywhere from 2 to 11 players, each of whom mans a different station on the bridge of a generic starship, from Engineering to Communications to the vaunted Captain’s chair. The game is generally played on laptops linked together in a LAN with everyone in the same room, and as cool as that sounds, it wasn’t enough for [Angel of Rust]. The whole mousing back and forth to control the ship seemed so 21st-century, so he built detailed control panels for each of the bridge stations. The level of detail is impressive, as is the thought put into panel layouts and graphics. The panels are mostly acrylic in MDF frames, which allows for backlighting to achieve the proper mood. With the help of a bunch of Arduinos, everything talks to the game software over DMX, the protocol used mainly for stage lighting control. There’s a cool demo video below.

This is uber-nerd stuff, and we love it. Pyrotechnics and atmospherics would be a great addition for “realistic” battles, and dare we hope that someday this ends up on a giant Stewart platform flight simulator for the ultimate experience?

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