TréPhonos Calls Up History In Houston

Houston’s historic third ward, aka “The Tre,” is ripe rife with history, and some of that history is digitally preserved and accessible through an art installation in the form of repurposed payphones. We love payphones for obvious reasons and seeing them alive and kicking warms our hearts. Packing them with local history checks even more boxes. Twenty-four people collaborated to rebuild the three phones which can be seen in the video after the break, including three visual artists, three ambassadors, and eighteen residents who put their efforts into making the phones relevant not only to the ward but specifically to the neighborhood. One phone plays sound clips from musicians who lived or still live in the ward, another phone has spoken word stories, and the third has field recordings from significant locations in The Tre.

Each phone is powered by a solar cell and a USB battery pack connected to a Teensy with an audio adapter board, and a 20 watt amplifier. Buttons 1-9 play back recorded messages exclusive to each phone, star will record a message, and zero will play back the user-recorded message. Apps for smart phones are easy for young folks to figure out but the payphones ensure that these time capsules can be appreciated by people of any age, regardless of how tech savvy they are and that is wise as well as attractive. The coin return lever and coin slot also have associated sound clips unlike regular payphones so the artists get extra credit.

Did we say that we love payphones? Yes, yes we did. The very first post on Hackday was for a redbox and that got the ball rolling.

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A Tiny IDE For Your ATtiny

When writing code for the ATtiny family of microcontrollers such as a the ATtiny85 or ATtiny10, people usually use one of two methods: they either add support for the chip in the Arduino IDE, or they crack open their text editor of choice and do everything manually. Plus of course there are the stragglers out there using Eclipse. But [Wayne Holder] thinks there’s a better way.

The project started out as a simple way for [Wayne] to program the ATtiny10 in C under Mac OS, but has since evolved into an open source, cross-platform integrated development environment (IDE) for programming a wide range of ATtiny chips in C, C++, or Assembly. Not only does it integrate the source code editor and programmer, but it even bundles in documentation for common variants of the chips including block diagrams and pinouts; making it a true one-stop-shop for ATtiny hacking.

His IDE runs under Java, including OpenJDK, and [Wayne] provides a stable pre-built executable for those who don’t want to clone the whole GitHub repository. He’s included the GNU/AVR toolchains, though notes that testing so far has been limited to Mac OS, and he’s interested in feedback from Windows and Linux users. Assembly is done either with GNU AVR-AS, or an assembler of his own design, though the latter is currently limited to the ATTiny10.

To actually get the code onto the chip, the IDE supports using the Arduino as a programmer as well as dedicated hardware like the BusPirate or the USBasp. If you go the Arduino route, [Wayne] has even come up with a little adapter board which he’s made available through OSH Park to help wrangle the diminutive chips.

The ATtiny10 might have something of a learning curve, but in exchange this family of tiny microcontrollers offers an incredible amount of capability. When you’re working with what’s essentially a programmable grain of rice, the only limit is your own creativity.

Drone Gives Up Its Wireless Secrets To Zigbee Sniffer

There’s something thrilling about decoding an unknown communications protocol. You start with a few clues, poke at the problem with some simple tools, and eventually work your way up to that first breakthrough that lets you crack the code. It can be frustrating, but when you eventually win, it can be very rewarding.

It seems that [Jason] learned this while decoding the wireless conversation between his mass-market quad and its controller. The quad in question, a Yuneec Q500, is one of those mid-range, ready-to-fly drones that’s targeted at those looking to get in the air easily and take some cool pictures. Unsure how the drone and controller were talking, [Jason] popped the covers and found a Zigbee chipset within. With the help of a $14 Zigbee USB dongle and some packet sniffing software from TI, [Jason] was able to see packets flowing, but decoding them was laborious. Luckily, the sniffer app can be set up to stream packets to another device, so [Jason] wrote a program to receive and display packets. He used that to completely characterize each controller input and the data coming back from the drone. It’s a long and strange toolchain, but the upshot is that he’s now able to create KML in real time and track the drone on Google Earth as it flies. The video below shows the build and a few backyard test flights.

Congratulations to [Jason] for breaking the protocol and opening up drones like this for other hackers. If you’re interested in learning more about Zigbee sniffing, you can actually hack a few smarthome gadgets into useful sniffers.

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A Crash Course In 3D Printed Venturi Pumps

Venturi pumps, commonly referred to as aspirators, are a fantastic way of moving around things which you might not want spinning around inside of a pump, and one of the easiest ways to create a vacuum. According to his research, [Tuval Ben Dosa] believed such a device would be a good way to move corrosive gasses which would normally eat up a blower fan; all he had to do was figure out how to 3D print one to his specifications.

Put simply: if you take a “T” shaped pipe and pass a fluid (such as air or water) through the straight section, a vacuum will be created on the shorter side due to the Venturi effect. As long as you don’t mind the substance you wish to pump getting mixed into your working fluid, it’s a simple way to bring something “along for the ride” as the fluid makes its way through the pipe.

[Tuval] needed a way to remove the chlorine gasses produced by his PCB etching station, and an aspirator seemed like the perfect solution. He just needed to pump clean air through a Venturi, which would suck up the chlorine gas on the way through, and ultimately carry it outside. But he soon found that while a pump based on the Venturi effect is simple conceptually, getting it to work in the real world is a bit trickier. Especially when you’re dealing with something like 3D printing, which brings in its own unique challenges.

He tried modeling a few designs he found online in 3D and printing them out, but none of them worked as expected. The most common problem was simply that no vacuum was being generated, air was freely moving out of both sides. While [Tuval] doesn’t claim to have any great knowledge of fluid dynamics, he reasoned that the issue was due to the fact that most Venturi pumps seem designed to move water rather than air. So he designed a new version of the pump which had a more pronounced nozzle on the inlet surrounded by a cavity in which the gases could mix.

His modified design worked, and now anyone with a 3D printer can run off their own Venturi device for quickly and easily giving potentially harmful fumes or gases the boot. If this is one of those things you’d feel more comfortable buying than building, don’t worry, we’ve previously covered using a low-cost aspirator as a vacuum source in the home lab.

Sound-Triggered Eye Protection For The Forgetful Among US

Eyes are fragile things. They tend to fail under extreme heat, pressure, and are easily damaged by flying objects. Enterprising humans have developed a wide range of eye protection solutions, but most only work when the user remembers to put them on. [gocivici] had just such a problem, forgetting to put his safety glasses back on when working. Naturally, the solution was found through hacking.

The build starts with a regular baseball cap. [gocivici] fitted an Arduino nano, which is connected to a small microphone. The Arduino uses the microphone to determine the sound level in the room. Above a certain trigger level, the Arduino triggers a servo to move protective glasses into place in front of the wearer’s eyes, protecting them from flying shrapnel from whatever they may be working on.

It’s a fun build, that obviously still has the pitfall that you’re going to get hurt if you forget to wear your magic hat for the day. Another approach could be putting your multimeter display in your goggles so you never want to take them off in the first place. Video after the break.

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The Deep Space Energy Crisis Could Soon Be Over

On the face of it, powering most spacecraft would appear to be a straightforward engineering problem. After all, with no clouds to obscure the sun, adorning a satellite with enough solar panels to supply its electrical needs seems like a no-brainer. Finding a way to support photovoltaic (PV) arrays of the proper size and making sure they’re properly oriented to maximize the amount of power harvested can be tricky, but having essentially unlimited energy streaming out from the sun greatly simplifies the overall problem.

Unfortunately, this really only holds for spacecraft operating relatively close to the sun. The tyranny of the inverse square law can’t be escaped, and out much beyond the orbit of Mars, the size that a PV array needs to be to capture useful amounts of the sun’s energy starts to make them prohibitive. That’s where radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) begin to make sense.

RTGs use the heat of decaying radioisotopes to generate electricity with thermocouples, and have powered spacecraft on missions to deep space for decades. Plutonium-238 has long been the fuel of choice for RTGs, but in the early 1990s, the Cold War-era stockpile of fuel was being depleted faster than it could be replenished. The lack of Pu-238 severely limited the number of deep space and planetary missions that NASA was able to support. Thankfully, recent developments at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) appear to have broken the bottleneck that had limited Pu-238 production. If it pays off, the deep space energy crisis may finally be over, and science far in the dark recesses of the solar system and beyond may be back on the table.

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Hackaday Podcast Ep5 – Undead Lightbulbs, Home Chemistry, and the Strength of 3D printing

Catch up on interesting hacks from the past week with Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams. This week we discuss the story behind falling lifetime ratings for LED bulbs, look at finite element analysis to strengthen 3D printed parts, admire the beauty of blacksmithing, and marvel at open source Lidar development. We delve into great reader suggestions for Blue Pill projects sparked by last week’s podcast, discuss some history of the V2 rocket, and cover Chromecast control hardware, glowing home chemistry, K40 laser cutter add-ons, and more.

Links for all discussed on the show are found below. As always, join in the comments below as we’ll be watching those as we work on next week’s episode!

Direct download (64.6 MB)

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