Web Interface Controls Nixie Tube Clock

We love our clocks around here and we love nixie tubes as well. The combination of the two almost seems to be a no-brainer. With the modern twist of an ESP8266, Reddit user [vladco] built a minimalist nixie tube clock.

The build starts with the nixie tubes, Russian In4s, each one mounted on its own small circuit board. Each board is chained together and they’re mounted on a wooden frame. The frame is mounted inside a nice wooden case which was designed in Fusion 360 and milled out of oak at a local hackerspace.

There are no controls on the case. No buttons or knobs. This clock is set via the EPS8266 which gets the time and updates the shift registers that set the numbers on each of the tubes. The clock dims at night so it’s not as bright. [vladco] wrote a web UI to set the time and interact with the  tubes.

The code and files for the case and circuit board are available online. The result is a nice, minimalist clock for your desk. There are plenty of clock builds on the site, several built from nixie tubes, including another nixie tube clock with an ESP8266, and another.

via Reddit

A Function Generator In Its Purest Form

If you have a modern function generator on your bench it is quite likely to contain a direct-digital synthesis circuit that creates arbitrary waveforms using a microprocessor controlled DAC. If you have a cheap function generator it’s likely to contain a one-chip solution that generates approximations to sine and triangle waveforms through modifying a square wave with a set of filters.

These methods both produce adequate waveforms for most of your function generator needs, but they are both far from perfect for the purist. Both methods introduce some distortion, and to address this [michal777] has produced a generator that takes the process back to basics with all stages implemented using building block ICs and transistors. The circuit follows the same square-wave-modifying path as the cheaper integrated devices, but with significant attention paid to the design to ensure that it does as good a job as possible. It also makes for a fascinating dive into function generator design.

The generator hardware has been neatly fitted onto a PCB with a riser for a set of front panel controls. He shares a few pictures of previous designs. We particularly like one that appears to have been fitted into a redundant cooking pot.

We’ve brought you a few function generators over the years. If you’ve got one of the cheaper examples, we’ve even covered how you might improve it a little.

Hackaday Links: May 5, 2019

Simulacra and simulation and Kickstarter videos. The Amigo Robot is a 4-wheeled omnibot robot on Kickstarter. It does STEM or STEAM or whatever. Oh neat, injection molded magnetic pogo pins, that’s cool. Watch the video for this Kickstarter, it is a work of postmodern horror. We live in a post-reality world, and this is beyond parody.  You have the ubiquitous cheerful whistling, a ukulele, tambourine and a glockenspiel. You’ve got a narrator that falls squarely into the uncanny valley and a cadence that could have only been generated by a computer. You’ve got grammar that is very much correct, but somehow wrong; ‘It is the key to interact with family pets’. This is really, really bad.

Who is Satoshi? The creator of Bitcoin, a person or persons known as Satoshi Nakamoto, has been an open question for years now, with many people claiming they are the one that invented Bitcoin (with the implication that they’re in control of the first coins and therefore a multi-Billionaire). Newsweek found someone named Dorian Nakamoto, but that guy didn’t make Bitcoin. Wired magazine used back-dated blog posts to identify the creator of Bitcoin. Needless to say, the creator of Bitcoin has not been identified yet. Now, there’s an unveiling of sorts coming up. gotsatoshi.com has a live countdown and doesn’t use Rockapella as a house band. This bears repeating, again: there is exactly one way to prove the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. To prove you are Satoshi, all you need to do is move some of the first Bitcoins. That’s it, that’s all you need to do, and it’s not going to happen when the gotsatoshi.com countdown hits zero.

CNC machines controlled by a Pi abound, but here’s a word of warning about buying a ‘bargain’ CNC machine from China from [Rob] via our tips line:

In the “homebrew” community, I know some people have their own CNC machines – I’ve seen a hundred and one projects using Raspberry Pis to run homemade CNCs and so on, so I guess there is a good supply of open-source/freeware to software to control them with.
However, some people, like a mate at work, might be tempted by a good “bargain” from China.  No names, no pack drill, but just before last Christmas, my mate bought a “cheap” CNC system from China – It was about three or four thousand Euros, if I remember rightly.  It has been working well and he done some work for our work as well. No problems.
Last week, our firm was contacted by Siemens. They claimed that someone at our firm has been using unlicensed Siemens software.  At first no-one knew what they were on about.  Someone thought it might be about some CAD system or other – we had been trialing a few to see which suited us best, but we had stuck well within the restrictions for the trials.
Then we found out it was the software on his CNC machine.  Because he had used his work laptop with it, the system had “phoned home” and alerted Siemens that an unlicensed version was being used.  Siemens then demanded EUR 32,000 – yes, thirty two THOUSAND Euros to license the software.  That was something like EUR 27,000 for the commercial license and EUR 5 000 for the second one.  It was explained that he had bought the CNC system from where-ever and had a license issued by the manufacturer.  I license that Siemens do not acknowledge.  They have now accepted that he bought and used it in good faith that it was fully legit, so they waived the commercial license and are now demanding “only” EUR 5,000, but that still comes with the threat – pay up or we take you to court…

We’re all very familiar that Dassault Systems will start hitting you up for that Solidworks license you didn’t pay for, but this is effectively firmware for a CNC machine that is phoning home through a laptop. In effect it’s a reverse Stuxnet, brought to you by a cheap Chinese CNC machine.

Here’s a hot tip for anyone who wants to do something people want. Direct to garment printers (DTG printers) are pretty much inkjet printers modified to print on t-shirts. ‘dtg printer’ is one of Hackaday’s perennial top search terms, most likely because of a post we did ten years ago. If you want to join the cool kids club and do something people desperately want, find a cheap inkjet and turn it into a DTG printer.

Red Hat has changed its logo. Red Hat, the company that somehow makes money on Open Source software, changed their logo this week. The branding for Red Hat hasn’t been very good since 2016 or thereabouts, and the branding for the Fedora project has been taking hits for just as long, m’lady. Beyond that, customer surveys revealed that the old ‘Shadowman’ logo evoked feelings like, ‘sinister, secretive, evil, and sneaky’. The new logo removes the shadowman entirely, and makes the hat the focus of attention. There is now official confirmation that there is a black band around the crown of the hat (in the Shadowman logo, this band could be confused for a shadow), and the crown is sharper. The jury is still out on the fedora vs. trilby argument, and indeed the argument is even more divisive now: the difference between a trilby and a fedora is in how they are worn, and by removing the Shadowman from the logo we now have fewer context clues to make the determination. Bet you didn’t think you were going to read two hundred words about the Red Hat logo today, did you?

Ripping Up A Rothult

NFC locks are reaching a tipping point where the technology is so inexpensive that it makes sense to use it in projects where it would have been impractical months ago. Not that practicality has any place among these pages. IKEA carries a cabinet lock for $20USD and does not need any programming but who has a jewelry box or desk drawer that could not benefit from a little extra security? Only a bit though, we’re not talking about a deadbolt here as this teardown shows.

Rothult has all the stuff you would expect to find in an NFC scanner with a moving part. We find a microcontroller, RFID decoder, supporting passives, metal shaft, and a geartrain. The most exciting part is the controller which is an STM32L051K8 processor by STMicroelectronics and second to that is the AS3911 RFID reader from AMS. Datasheets for both have links in the teardown. Riping up a Rothult in the lab, we find an 25R3911B running the RFID, and we have a link to that PDF datasheet. Both controllers speak SPI.

There are a couple of things to notice about this lock. The antenna is a flat PCB-mounted with standard header pins, so there is nothing stopping us from connecting coax and making a remote antenna. The limit switches are distinct so a few dabs of solder could turn this into an NFC controlled motor driver. Some of us will rest easy when our coworkers stop kidnapping our nice pens.

Rothult first came to our attention in a Hackaday Links where a commenter was kind enough to tip us off to this teardown. Thanks, Pio! If this whets your appetite for NFC, we have more in store.

3D Printed Weather Station Gets A Wireless Upgrade

A weather station can be anything from a fun home science exercise, all the way up to a useful tool for planning and weather prediction. [Rob Ward] is one such person who has developed their own weather station, and it recently got a wireless upgrade.

We first featured [Rob]’s work back in 2018, noting that a largely 3D-printed weather station was a particularly useful tool for the home experimenter. The utility of this is now improved, with the addition of a 433 MHz wireless link from the weather sensors back to the base station. Over on Github, [Rob] does a great job of explaining the basics of the Manchester encoding scheme used, and has developed a system that can decode signals from Oregon Scientific weather stations, too.

[Rob] uses the weather station to report weather conditions at Lake Tyers Beach, providing useful information for anyone in the area who might be considering a visit to the coast. It’s not quite as fun as asking whoever’s around on the CB road channel, but it’s a darn sight more accurate for your trouble. Video after the break.

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Toolpath Painting Brings Out That First Layer Sparkle

In the 3D-printing community, [Mark Peeters] may be known-and-loved for his drooloop printing, but that’s not enough to stop him from pushing the spectrum of printing tricks even further. Dubbed Toolpath Painting, [Mark] is taking that glorious sheen from the bottom layer of a 3D print and putting it to work to make eye-catching deliberate visual displays.

[Mark’s] work comes in two flavors. The first capitalizes on a fairly wide 2mm nozzle and translucent filaments to create vibrant sun catchers. The second relies on the reflective patterns of an opaque filament where the angle of the extrusion lines determine the type of sheen. [Mark’s] progress is beautifully captured on his twitter feed where he rolls out variations of this style.

Photographs simply don’t do justice to this technique, but you need not be left unsatisfied. Mark has left us with a thorough introduction to creating these patterns on your own printer in the video after the break.

Eager to put that printer to work on other avant-garde styles? Have a look at some other inspirational techniques from a prior MRRF, or have a go at texturing your prints with some velocity painting.

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Clock Radio Receives Upgrade

Before everyone had a cell phone alarm to wake them up in the mornings, most of us used clock radios that would faithfully sit by our beds for years. You could have either a blaring alarm to wake you up, or be gently roused from slumber by one of your local radio stations. These devices aren’t as commonly used anymore, so if you have one sitting in your parts drawer you can make some small changes and use it to receive radio stations from a little further away than you’d expect.

This Panasonic clock radio from [Ryan Flowers] has several upgrades compared to the old clock radio hardware. For one, it now can receive signals on the 7 and 14 MHz bands (40 and 20 meters). It does this by using separate bandpass filters for each frequency range, controlled by a QRP Labs VFO kit which can switch between the two filters automatically once programmed. The whole thing is powered by 8 AA batteries, true to form with a clock radio from the ’90s.

[Ryan] notes that his first iteration was a little quiet but he’s now able to receive radio stations from as far away from Japan with this receiver. Even without a license, you can make these changes and listen in to stations from all around the world, as long as you don’t start transmitting. If you want to make a small upgrade from this clock radio though, it’s not that hard to get into.

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