Energy Sipping Neodymium Sphere Keeps on Spinning

At this point we’re sure you are aware, but around these parts we don’t deduct points for projects which we can’t immediately see a practical application for. We don’t make it our business to say what is and isn’t worth your time as an individual hacker. If you got a kick out of it, great. Learned something? Even better. If you did both of those things and took the time to document it, well that’s precisely the business we’re in.

So when [Science Toolbar] sent in this project which documents the construction of an exceptionally energy efficient spinning neodymium sphere, we knew it was our kind of thing. In the documentation it’s referred to as a motor, though it doesn’t appear to have the torque to do any useful work. But still, if it can spin continuously off of the power provided by a calculator-style photovoltaic cell, it’s still a neat trick.

But how does it work? It starts by cracking open one of those little solar powered toys; the ones that wave or dance around as soon as any light hits the panel in their base. As [Science Toolbar] explains, inside these seemingly magical little gadgets is a capacitor and the classic black epoxy blob that contains an oscillator circuit. A charge is built up in the capacitor and dumped into a coil at roughly 1 Hz, which provides just enough of a push to get the mechanism going.

In the video after the break, [Science Toolbar] demonstrates how you can take those internals and pair it with a much larger coil. Rather than prompting a little sunflower or hula girl to do its thing, the coil in this version provides the motive force for getting the neodymium sphere spinning. To help things along, they’re even using a junk box zero friction magnetic bearing made up of a wood screw and a magnetized screwdriver tip.

It’s an interesting example of how a tiny charge can be built up over time, and with a nice enough enclosure this will make for a pretty cool desk toy. We’ve previously seen teardowns of similar toys, which revealed a surprising amount of complexity inside that little epoxy blob. No word on whether or not the version [Science Toolbar] cannibalized was quite so clever, however.

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Look Like A Movie Hacker

On the old original Star Trek series, they bought some futuristic salt and pepper shakers to use on an episode. The problem is they didn’t look like salt and pepper shakers, so they used normal ones instead and turned the strange-looking ones into Dr. McCoy’s medical instruments. This demonstrates the value of looking like what you claim to be. So sure, you are a super skillful hacker, but if you are sitting in front of a normal looking computer desktop, how can anyone tell? After all, in the movies, hackers use exotic flashy user interfaces, right? Now thanks to eDEX-UI, you can look like a movie hacker if you use Windows, Linux, or the Mac.

As you might expect, the program isn’t very efficient or practical, but it does actually do something. In addition to a load of system information about the CPU and network, there’s a shell, a file manager, and an onscreen keyboard, too. The app uses Electron and — on Linux — AppImage, but for a toy program like this, that may not be a problem.

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LED-ifying A Guitar, Part Two

An electric guitar is all about stage presence. Need to be cooler than a single guitar? No problem — there are double neck guitars. Need to be cooler than that? No problem, the guy from Cheap Trick has a five-neck guitar. Need to be cooler than that? Robbie Robertson played a guitar with an extra mandolin neck on The Last Waltz. Where do you go from there? Obviously, the solution is putting a TV in your guitar with a boatload of individually addressable LEDs in a guitar. That’s what [Englandsaurus] is doing, and the build thread is now getting into how to turn a bunch of LEDs into a display.

In the first installment of this build thread, [Englandsaurus] went over the construction of the guitar itself and how a hundred individually addressable RGB LEDs were installed inside two pieces of plexiglass. When the guitar is displaying white at full brightness, the power draw is 500 W. This, in itself, is remarkable; no sane person would ever plug a guitar into a 500 W amp, and even 100 Watts is just too damn loud. There’s more power going to the lights here than the amplifier, and that’s awesome.

Simply sticking LEDs in a guitar does not a build log make, so how are these pixels addressed? How do you make a display out of a bunch of LEDs? This is a hell of a problem, but with Artnet and Resolume Arena 6 these pixels can be mapped into a cartesian grid, and from there it’s just putting video on the guitar.

While the first installment of this build is great and shows you how far you can take electronics in a guitar, this installment is a great demo of turning a bunch of LEDs into a display, something that applies to more than just a gigantic glowey guitar.

Move Over Strandbeest, Here’s Strider!

Father-and-son team [Wade] and [Ben Vagle] have developed and extensively tested two great walker designs: TrotBot and the brand-new Strider. But that’s not enough: their website details all of their hard-earned practical experience in simulating and building these critters, on scales ranging from LEGO-Technic to garage-filling (YouTube, embedded below). Their Walker ABC’s page alone is full of tremendously deep insight into the problem, and is a must-read.

These mechanisms were designed to be simpler than the Jansen linkage and smoother than the Klann. In particular, when they’re not taking a stroll down a beach, walker feet often need to clear obstacles, and the [Vagles’] designs lift the toes higher than other designs while also keeping the center of gravity moving at a constant rate and not requiring the feet to slip or slam into the ground. They do some clever things like adding toes to the bots to even out their gaits, and even provide a simulator in Python and in Scratch that’ll help you improve your own designs.

If you wanted a robot that simply moved, you’d use wheels. We like walkers because they look amazing. When we wrote [Wade] saying that one of Trotbot’s gaits looked animal-like, he pointed out that TrotBot got its working name from a horse-style gait (YouTube). Compared to TrotBot, the Strider family don’t have as much personality, but they run smoother, faster, and stronger. There’s already a 3D-printing-friendly TrotBot model out there. Who’s going to work something up for Strider?

How much do we love mechanical walkers? Enough to post about bicycles made with Jansen linkages, remote-controlled toy Strandbeests both with weaponry and without, power-drill-powered walking scooters, and of course basically anything that Theo Jansen is up to.

If a trip to [Wade] and [Ben]’s website doesn’t get you working on a walker project, physical or virtual, we don’t know what will.

(And from the editorial department of deconfusion: the image in the banner is TrotBot, but it was just too cool to not use.)

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Fail of the Week: Did My Laser Cutter Tube Really Burn Out?

All the cool kids are doing it these days, or more like for many years now: you can get a laser cutter for a song if you don’t mind doing your own repairs and upgrades — you know, being a hacker. The downside is that some failures can really ruin your day. This is what [Erich Styger] encountered with his cutter that is just a bit more than a year old. This Fail of the Week looks at the mysterious death of a CO2 laser tube.

This is the infamous K40 laser cutter. Our own [Adam Fabio] just took one on a couple of months back and [Erich] even references Hackaday coverage of the K40 Whisperer project as what pushed him over the edge to make the purchase. We’ve followed his blog as he acquired the cutter and made upgrades along the way, but after an estimated 500 hours of use, a horrible teeth-gnashing screech sprung forth from the machine. [Erich’s] reaction was to hit the e-stop; that’s certainly why it’s there.

Chasing down the problem is a story well-told, but as is often the case with these FotW articles, in the end what caused the failure is not entirely known. We’d love to hear what you think about it in the comments below.

The investigation began at the power supply for the laser, but that didn’t yield any answers. Next he moved to the tube itself, noticing that the wire connection to the tube’s anode wasn’t soldered. The anode is an unknown material he suspects to be graphite and he found a video showing the “soldering” process for connecting a wire. (We added quotes to that as the video he linked doesn’t actually solder anything but the wrapped wire strands themselves.) The solution he found is a great tip to take away from the story. It’s a socket by TE Connectivity to which he soldered the wire. Assuming it’s power rated for the task, and won’t fall off during normal operation, this is a great way to do it.

But we digress. Even with the connection made, the old tube had to be replaced with a new one. It’s also notable that the portion of that anode inside the bad tube is orange in color when a new tube would be black like the part on the outside. Does this hint at why that tube died, and could this have been avoided? If you have insight, help us learn from this failure by leaving a comment below.

Five Year Old Bug Spawns Router Botnet Monster

In the news has been yet another router botnet. [Hui Wang] and [RootKiter] of 360Netlab announced their discovery of what they call the “BCMUPnP_Hunter” rootkit. They estimate this botnet to be running on over 100,000 routers worldwide.

There are two elements of this story that I found particularly baffling. First, this botnet infects routers using a vulnerability that was first reported by Defensecode over five years ago, in 2013! The second oddity is the wide range of devices that are vulnerable and are now part of the botnet. Dozens of brands and at least 116 models have been found to be infected.

One of the details of this story hasn’t been reported entirely accurately. The bug is not built into the Broadcom chipset. Unlike Spectre and Meltdown, it’s not actually a hardware fault. Broadcom distributes a Software Development Kit (SDK) that enables device manufacturers like D-Link, TP-Link, and Linksys to quickly develop firmware for routers using Broadcom chips. The vulnerability lies in this code, rather than part of the hardware itself.

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Overlooked Minimalism in Assistive Technology

If your eyes are 20/20, you probably do not spend much time thinking about prescription eyeglasses. It is easy to overlook that sort of thing, and we will not blame you. When we found this creation, it was over two years old, but we had not seen anything quite like it. The essence of the Bear Paw Assistive Eating Aid is a swiveling magnet atop a suction cup base. Simple right? You may already be thinking about how you could build or model that up in a weekend, and it would not be a big deal. The question is, could you make something like this if you had not seen it first?

Over-engineered inventions with lots of flexibility and room for expansion have their allure. When you first learn Arduino, every problem looks like a solution for that inexpensive demo board and one day you find yourself wearing an ATMEGA wristwatch. Honestly, we love those just as much but for an entirely different reason. When all the bells and whistles are gone, when there is nothing left but a robust creation that, “just works,” you have created something beautiful. Judging by the YouTube comments of the video, which can be seen below the break, those folks have no trouble overlooking the charm of this device since the word “beard” appears 95 times and one misspelling for a “bread” count of one. Hackaday readers are a higher caliber and should be able to appreciate its elegance.

The current high-tech solution for self-feeding is a robot arm, not unlike this one which is where our minds went when we heard about an invention about eating without using hands, and we will always be happy to talk about robot arms.

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