Wired Wireless Over Coax

If it’s stupid and it works, then it’s not stupid. There’s no better evidence of that than [Tobias]’ networking setup.

He recently had to distribute Ethernet through a building, and there are a few ways to do that. You can use regular ‘ol twisted pair, or fiber, but in this case running new cables wasn’t possible. WiFi would be the next obvious choice, the distance was just a bit too far for ‘regular’ WiFi links. Ethernet over power lines was an option, but there are amateur radio operators in the house, and they put out a bunch of interference and noise. The solution was to mis-use existing 75 Ohm satellite TV coax that was just sitting around.

The correct way to do this would be to use a standard DOCSIS modem and become your own cable Internet provider. The equipment to do this is expensive, and if you’re already considering running WiFI over coax, you’re too deep down the rabbit hole to spend real money. Instead, [Tobias] simply made a few u.FL to F-connector adapters from u.FL to SMA, then SMA to F-connector adapters.

There are some problems with this plan. WiFi is 50 Ohms, TV coax cable is 75 Ohms. Only one MIMO channel will be available meaning the maximum theoretical bandwidth will be 433 Mbps. WiFi is also at much higher frequencies than what coax is designed for.

With two WiFi antenna to coax adapters, [Tobias] simply connected the coax directly to a router set up to bridge Ethernet over WiFi. The entire thing worked, although testing showed it was only getting about 60 Mbps of throughput. That’s not bad for something that was cobbled together out of old parts and unused wiring. Is it surprising that this worked? No, not really, but you’ve probably never seen anyone actually do it. Here’s the proof it does work, and if you’re ever in a bind, this is how you make WiFi wired.

Which Wireless is Right Wireless?

Back in the early days of Arduino proliferation (and before you ask, yes we realize there was a time before that too), wireless was a strange and foreign beast. IR communication was definitely a thing. And if you had the funds there was this cool technology called ZigBee that was available, often in funny blue house-shaped XBee boards. With even more funds and a stomach for AT commands you could even bolt on a 2G cell radio for unlimited range. WiFi existed too, but connecting it to a hobbyist ecosystem of boards was a little hairier (though maybe not for our readership).

But as cell phones pushed demand for low power wireless forward and the progression of what would become the Internet of marking Terms (the IoT, of course) began, a proliferation of options appeared for wireless communication. Earlier this week we came across a great primer on some of the major wireless technologies which was put together by Digikey earlier in the year. Let’s not bury the lede. This table is the crux of the piece:

There are some neat entries here that are a little less common (and our old friend, the oft-maligned and never market-penetrating ZigBee). It’s actually even missing some entries. Let’s break it down:

  • Extremely short range: Just NFC. Very useful for transferring small amount of sensitive information slowly, or things with high location-relevance (like between phones that are touching).
  • Short range: BLE, Zigbee, Z-Wave, etc. Handy for so-called Personal Area Networks and home-scale systems.
  • Medium/long range: Wifi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave, LoRaWAN: Sometimes stretching for a kilometer or more in open spaces. Useful for everything from emitting tweets to stitching together a mesh network across a forrest, as long as there are enough nodes. Some of these are also useful at shorter range.
  • Very Long range/rangeless: Sigfox, NB-IoT, LTE Category-0. Connect anywhere, usually with some sort of subscription for network access. Rangeless in the sense that range is so long you use infrastructure instead of hooking a radio up to a Raspberry Pi under your desk. Though LoRa can be a fun exception to that.

You’re unlikely to go from zero to custom wireless solution without getting down into the mud with the available dev boards for a few different common protocols, but which ones? The landscape has changed so rapidly over the years, it’s easy to get stuck in one comfortable technology and miss the appearance of the next big thing (like how LoRaWAN is becoming new cool kid these days). This guide is a good overview to help catch you up and help decide which dev kits are worth a further look. But of course we still want to hear from you below about your favorite wireless gems — past, present, and future — that didn’t make it into the list (we’re looking at you 433 MHz).

An Open Controller For Woodwind Instruments

Engineers, hackers, and makers can most certainly build a musical gadget of some kind. They’ll build synths, they’ll build aerophones, and they’ll take the idea of mercury delay line memory, two hydrophones, and a really long tube filled with water to build the most absurd delay in existence. One thing they can’t seem to do is build a woodwind MIDI controller. That’s where [J.M.] comes in. He’s created the Open Woodwind Project as an open and extensible interface that can play sax and clarinet while connected to a computer.

Early prototype to test out variable resistive pressure pads

If you want to play MIDI, there are plenty of options for keyboards, drum sets, matrix pads, and even strings. If you want to play a MIDI saxophone, there aren’t many options. Keytars, for example, are more popular than MIDI woodwind controllers. [J.M.] is changing this with a MIDI controller that recreates electronic aerophones electronically.

The controller itself uses a Teensy 3.2 loaded up with an ARM Cortex M4, two MPR121 touch controllers for 24 channels of capacititve touch capability, and a pressure sensor to tell the computer how strong the user is blowing. All of this works, and [J.M.] has a few videos showing off the capabilities of his homemade controller. It’s a great piece of work, and there are a few extentions that make this really interesting: there’s the possibility of adding CV out so it can be connected to modular synths, and the addition of accelerometers to the build makes for some very interesting effects.

Check out the video below.

Continue reading “An Open Controller For Woodwind Instruments”

Bradley Gawthrop Loves Wiring and so Should You

Wiring is one of those things that we’ve all had to do on a project, but probably didn’t give a lot of thought to. It’s often the last thing that happens during the build, and almost certainly doesn’t get approached with any kind of foresight. You look at the components you need to connect, dig through the parts bins until you find something that looks like it should fit, and tack it in with a blob of solder and perhaps some hot glue if you’re feeling really fancy. We’re all guilty of it from time to time, but Bradley Gawthrop is here to tell you there’s a better way.

If you’re hoping his talk from the 2017 Hackaday Superconference contains “One crazy trick” for turning your normal rat’s nest of wiring into a harness worthy of the Space Shuttle, sorry to disappoint. Bradley acknowledges it takes some extra planning and a couple specialized tools, but the end results speak for themselves. While his talk is a must-watch for anyone looking to master the arcane arts of electron corralling, his post-talk chat with Elliot Williams after the break is a great primer for the how and why of everyone’s least favorite part of building their own hardware.

Bradley will be at Supercon again this year. It’s one anecdote for the concentration of awesome people you find at the event. We’re now just two seeks away so go get your ticket and then join us after the break for the interview.

Continue reading “Bradley Gawthrop Loves Wiring and so Should You”

Superdeep Borehole Samples Create Non-boring Music

In the 1970s, the Soviet Union decided to dig a hole for science. Not just any hole, the Kola Superdeep Borehole reached a depth of over 12 kilometers, the deepest at the time and the second deepest today by just a few meters. Since this was one of the few holes dug this deep that wasn’t being drilled for oil, the project was eventually abandoned. [Dmitry] was able to find some core samples from the project though, and he headed up to the ruins of the scientific site with his latest project which produces musical sounds from the core samples.

The musical instrument uses punched tape, found at the borehole site, as a sort of “seed” for generating the sounds. Around the outside of the device are five miniature drilling rigs, each holding a piece of a core sample from the hole. The instrument uses the punched tape in order to control the drilling rigs, and the sound that is created is processed by the instrument and amplified, which creates some interesting and rather spooky sounds. The whole thing is controlled by an Arduino Mega.

Not only does the project make interesting sounds from a historically and scientifically significant research station and its findings, but the project has a unique and clean design that really fits its environment at the abandoned facility. The other interesting thing about this project is that, if you want to make the trek, anyone can go explore the building and see the hole for themselves. If you’re wondering about the tools that could be used to make a hole like this, take a look at this boring project.

Continue reading “Superdeep Borehole Samples Create Non-boring Music”

Return of the Infamous Triforium

The Triforium is a public art installation in Los Angeles, weighing 60 tons and standing six stories tall. Built in 1975, it was designed to combine light and sound, all under the control of computer hardware of the era.

Sadly, it was plagued with technical problems from the start, and over the years, became an object of ridicule. However, this “polyphonoptic” masterpiece will live once again, thanks to the dedicated effort of The Triforium Project. The Triforium Project are hosting a series of free public performances on Friday nights in October and November, so if you’re in the area, be sure to check it out. The series starts tonight, so get on it!

The team were able to recover the original software that ran the sculpture’s effects — stored on 8-bit paper tape, which was not uncommon for the era. These were manually transcoded, and an emulated version of the original program has been created. In the interest of not causing further damage to the sculpture, the original lights are being left untouched. Instead, an LED system will be fitted to the sculpture to enable it to be relit.

Quartz bells of the original carillon

A reflection pool at the base of the sculpture is long gone, as is the original audio source. When first built it housed a carillon — a musical instrument that uses a bell for each note in the scale. In the case of the Triforium, the carillon was made of 79 quartz bells played either manually or by the computer and amplified over a speaker system.

In 2006 that carillon was removed (replace with a digital audio source) but the gods of dumpster diving were smiling that day. It was snapped up by someone who recognized the uniqueness of the instrument and shared their story as a brief webpage. We hope that some day this will also be restored to working condition and played along with the Triforium in an exhibition. The sound of a carillon is amazing to hear in person, and we suspect the timbre of quartz bells to add an indescribable layer to the experience.

For those who can’t make it to an upcoming public performance, you can at least get a feel for the scupture through Google Street View. We do love a good public art piece here at Hackaday — whether it’s a giant head, a set of wings, or doodles in the sand.

[Thanks to JohnU for the tip!]

Talking Clock? That’s Nothing New

Do you talk to your alarm clock? I do. I was recently in a hotel room, woke up in the middle of the night and said, “Computer. What time is it?” Since my Amazon Echo (which responds to the name Computer) was at home, I was greeted with silence. Isn’t the future great?

Of course, there have been a variety of talking clocks over the years. You used to be able to call a phone number and a voice would tell you the time. But how old do you think the talking clock really is? Would you guess that this year is the 140th anniversary of the world’s first talking clock? In fact, it doesn’t just hold the talking clock record. The experimental talking clock Frank Lambert made is also the oldest surviving recording that can be still be played back on its original device.

In 1878, the phonograph had just been invented and scratched out sounds on a piece of tin foil. Lambert realized this wouldn’t hold up to multiple playbacks and set out to find a more robust recording medium. What he ended up building was a clock that would announce the time using lead to record the speech instead of tin foil.

Continue reading “Talking Clock? That’s Nothing New”