Real Time Satellite Tracker Shows You What’s Going Over Your Head

Whilst modern technology relies heavily on satellites, it’s easy to forget they’re there; after all, it’s hard to comprehend mostly-invisible lumps of high-density tech whizzing around above you at ludicrous speeds. Of course, it’s not hard to comprehend if you’ve built a real-time satellite tracker which displays exactly what’s in orbit above your head at any given time. [Paul Klinger]’s creation shows the position of satellites passing through a cylinder of 200 km radius above the tracker.

Each layer of LEDs represents a specific band of altitude, whilst the colour of the LEDs and text on the screen represent the type of object. The LEDs themselves are good old WS2812b modules, soldered to a custom PCB and mounted in a 3D-printed stand. The whole thing is a really clean build and looks great – you can see it in action in the video after the break

On the software side, a Raspberry Pi is in charge, running Python which makes use of pyorbital for some of the heavy lifting. The data is taken from space-track.org, who provide a handy API. All the code is on the project GitHub, which also includes the 3D print and PCB files.

[Paul] answers questions in the reddit thread, and gives more detail in this reddit comment. The project was inspired by one of our favorite sites: stuffin.space.

Some of the satellites the device displays are de-commisioned and inactive. Space junk is a significant problem, one which can only be tackled by a space garbage truck.

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Jump into AI with a Neural Network of your Own

One of the difficulties in learning about neural networks is finding a problem that is complex enough to be instructive but not so complex as to impede learning. [ThomasNield] had an idea: Create a neural network to learn if you should put a light or dark font on a particular colored background. He has a great video explaining it all (see below) and code in Kotlin.

[Thomas] is very interested in optimization, so his approach is very much based on mathematics and algorithms of optimization. One thing that’s handy is that there is already an algorithm for making this determination. He found it on Stack Exchange, but we’re sure it’s in a textbook or paper somewhere. The existing algorithm makes the neural network really impractical, but it makes training easy since you can algorithmically develop a training set of data.

Once trained, the neural network works well. He wrote a small GUI and you can even select among various models.

Don’t let the Kotlin put you off. It is a derivative of Java and uses the same JVM. The code is very similar, other than it infers types and also adds functional program tools. However, the libraries and the principles employed will work with Java and, in many cases, the concepts will apply no matter what you are doing.

If you want to hardware accelerate your neural networks, there’s a stick for that. If you prefer C and you want something lean and mean, try TINN.

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Wave-Powered Glider Delivers Your Message In A Bottle

Setting a bottle adrift with a message in it is, by most measures, an act of desperation. The sea regularly swats mighty ships to their doom, so what chance would a tiny glass bottle have bobbing along the surface, subject as it is to wind, waves, and current? Little to none, it would seem, unless you skew the odds a bit with a wave-powered undersea glider to the help the bottle along.

Before anyone gets too worked up about this, [Rulof Maker]’s “Sea Glider” is about a low-tech as a device with moving parts can be. This craft, built from a scrap of teak and a busted wooden ruler, is something that could be assembled in a few hours from whatever you have on hand, even if you’re marooned on an uncharted desert isle. The body of the craft sprouts a set of horizontal planes that can swivel up and down independently. The key to providing a modicum of thrust is that each plane is limited to a 90° swing by stop blocks above and below the pivot. The weighted glider, tethered to the bottle, bobs up and down below the waves, flapping the planes and providing a tiny bit of thrust.

Was it enough to propel the bottle any great distance? We won’t ruin the surprise, but we will say that [Rulof]’s essentially zero-cost build appears to have improved the message in a bottle bandwidth at least somewhat. It’s not a Hackaday Prize-winning robotic sea glider, but it’s a neat hack nonetheless.

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Robot + Trumpet = Sad Trombone.mp3

[Uri Shaked] is really into Latin music. When his interest crescendoed, he bought a trumpet in order to make some energetic tunes of his own. His enthusiasm flagged a bit when he realized just how hard it is to get reliably trumpet-like sounds out of the thing, but he wasn’t about to give up altogether. Geekcon 2018 was approaching, so he thought, why not make a robot that can play the trumpet for me?

He scoured the internet and found that someone else had taken pains 20 years ago to imitate embouchure with a pair of latex lips (think rubber glove fingers filled with water). Another soul had written about measuring air flow with regard to brass instruments. Armed with this info, [Uri] and partners [Ariella] and [Avi] spent a few hours messing around with air pumps, latex, and water and came up with a proof of concept that sounds like—and [Uri]’s description is spot-on—a broken robotic didgeridoo. It worked, but the sound was choppy.

Fast forward to Geekcon. In a flash of brilliance, [Avi] thought to add capacitance to the equation. He suggested that they use a plastic box as a buffer for air, and it worked. [Ariella] 3D printed some fingers to actuate the valves, but the team ultimately ended up with wooden fingers driven by servos. The robo-trumpet setup lasted just long enough to get a video, and then a servo promptly burned out. Wah wahhhh. Purse your lips and check it out after the break.

If [Uri] ever gets fed up with the thing, he could always turn it into a game controller a la Trumpet Hero.

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The Incredible Judges Of The Hackaday Prize

The time to enter The Hackaday Prize has ended, but that doesn’t mean we’re done with the world’s greatest hardware competition just yet. Over the past few months, we’ve gotten a sneak peek at over a thousand amazing projects, from Open Hardware to Human Computer Interfaces. This is a contest, though, and to decide the winner, we’re tapping some of the greats in the hardware world to judge these astonishing projects.

Below are just a preview of the judges in this year’s Hackaday Prize. We’re sending the judging sheets out to them, tallying the results, and in less than two weeks we’ll announce the winners of the Hackaday Prize at the Hackaday Superconference in Pasadena. This is not an event to be missed — not only are we going to hear some fantastic technical talks from the hardware greats, but we’re also going to see who will walk away with the Grand Prize of $50,000.


Mitch Altman

Mitch’s early claim to fame is inventing the TV-B-Gone, a device that is so devious it got several Gizmodo reporters banned from CES for life. I suppose the idea was to punish those Gizmodo reporters, but as we all know being banned from CES is a blessing in disguise. Mitch has been published in Make Magazine, 2600, and is a mentor at the HAX accelerator. He is the co-founder of Noisebridge, the legendary San Francisco hackerspace, president and CEO of Cornfield Electronics, and makes his way around to various hacker gatherings where he’s always more than eager to teach people the ins and outs of electronics, soldering, and teaching cool things.

Chris from Clickspring

Clickspring, or Chris as he’s called by people IRL, has made his mark by being one of the best machinist channels on YouTube. Chris began making videos several years ago by recreating a brass clock in his home machine shop. Over the course of several months and millions of views on YouTube, Chris delved deep into the technology of making a clock out of brass stock using the most minimal machine tools. Currently, Chris is working on a multi-part video series where he’s constructing a replica of the Antikythera Mechanism using only technology that would have been available to a Greek engineer around the year 100 BC. This is, simply, one of the greatest feats of experimental archaeology, and it’s happening right now on Chris’ YouTube channel.

Kristin Paget

Kristin ‘Hacker Princess’ Paget is currently working at Lyft designing security systems for self-driving cars and futzing about with wireless security. For fun, she builds IMSI catchers and RFID cloners, and has given talks at the Hackaday Superconference about the laws of IoT Security and at Shmoocon about how terrible contactless credit cards actually are. When it comes to wireless security, Kristin is who you want to talk to, and she was instrumental in getting the FBI off my back that one time.

Ayah Bdeir

Ayah Bdier is the founder and CEO of littleBits, an award-winning platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that are empowering kids everywhere to create inventions large and small. Bdeir is an engineer, interactive artist, and one of the cofounders of the Open Hardware Summit. An alumna of the MIT Media Lab, Bdeir was named a TED Senior Fellow in 2013. She’s been featured on CNBC for building the future with next-generation toys, and talking about the importance of providing children with educational and gender-neutral toys.

 

These are just a few of the amazingly accomplished judges we have lined up to determine the winner of this year’s Hackaday Prize. The winner will be announced on November 3rd at the Hackaday Superconference. There are still tickets available, but if you can’t make it, don’t worry. We’re going to be live streaming everything, including the prize ceremony, where one team will walk away with the grand prize of $50,000. It’s not an event to miss.

A Close Look at the Prusa i3 MK3

The Prusa i3 MK3 is, for lack of a better word, inescapable. Nearly every hacker or tech event that I’ve attended in 2018 has had dozens of them humming away, and you won’t get long looking up 3D printing on YouTube or discussion forums without somebody singing its praises. Demand for Prusa’s latest i3 printer is so high that there’s a literal waiting list to get one.

At the time of this writing, over a year after the printer was officially put up for sale, there’s still nearly a month lead time on the assembled version. Even longer if you want to wait on the upgraded powder coated bed, which has unfortunately turned out to be a considerable production bottleneck. But the team has finally caught up enough that the kit version of the printer (minus the powder coated bed) is currently in stock and shipping next day.

I thought this was a good a time as any to pull the trigger on the kit and see for myself what all the excitement is about. Now that I’ve had the Prusa i3 MK3 up and running for a couple of weeks, I can say with confidence that it’s not just hype. It isn’t a revolution in desktop 3D printing, but it’s absolutely an evolution, and almost certainly represents the shape of things to come for the next few years.

That said, it isn’t perfect. There’s still a few elements of the design that left me scratching my head a bit, and some parts of the assembly weren’t quite as smooth as the rest. I’ve put together some of those observations below. This isn’t meant to be a review of the Prusa i3 MK3 printer, there’s more than enough of those already, but hopefully these assorted notes may be of use to anyone thinking of jumping on the Prusa bandwagon now that production has started really ramping up.

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Vibrosight Hears When You are Sleeping. It Knows When You’re Awake.

No matter how excited you are to dive headfirst into the “Internet of Things”, you’ve got to admit that the effort and expense of going full-on Jetsons is a bit off-putting. To smarten up your home you’ve generally got to buy all new products (and hope they’re all compatible) or stick janky after-market sensors on the gear you’ve already got (and still hope they’re all compatible). But what if there was a cheap and easy way to keep tabs on all your existing stuff? The answer may lie in Cold War era surveillance technology.

As if the IoT wasn’t already Orwellian enough, Vibrosight is a project that leverages a classic KGB spy trick to keep tabs on what’s going on inside your home. Developed by [Yang Zhang], [Gierad Laput] and [Chris Harrison], the project uses retro-reflective stickers and a scanning laser to detect vibrations over a wide area. With this optical “stethoscope”, the system can glean all kinds of information; from how long you’ve been cooking something in the microwave to whether or not you washed your hands.

The project takes its inspiration from the optical eavesdropping system developed by Léon Theremin in the late 1940’s. By bouncing a beam of light off of a window, Theremin’s gadget was able to detect what people inside the room were saying from a distance. The same idea is applied here, except now it uses an automated laser scanner and machine learning to turn detected vibrations into useful information that can be plugged into a home automation system.

For Vibrosight to “listen” to objects, the user needs to place retro-reflective tags on whatever they want to include in the system. The laser will periodically scan around the room looking for these tags. Once the laser finds a new tag, will add it to a running list of targets to keeps an eye on. From there Vibrosight is able to take careful vibration measurements which can provide all sorts of information. In the video after the break, Vibrosight is shown differentiating between walking, jogging, and running on a treadmill and determining what kind of hand tools are being used on a workbench. The team even envisions a future where Vibrosight-ready devices would “hum” their IP address or other identifying information to make device setup easier.

If all this talk of remote espionage at a distance has caught your interest, we’ve covered Theremin’s unique surveillance creations in the past, and even a way to jam them if you’re trying to stay under the radar.

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