GlScopeClient: A Permissively-Licensed Remote Oscilloscope Utility

One of the most convenient things about modern digital oscilloscopes is that you can access the recorded data on a computer for later analysis, advanced protocol debugging, or simply the convenience of remote capture. The problem is that the software isn’t always ideal. Vendor-supplied utilities are typically closed-source and they try to nickel-and-dime you for every a-la-carte protocol and/or feature. The open-source options come with their own issues, from performance-limiting designs, to incomplete features, to license constraints. Faced with these issues, [Andrew Zonenberg] decided to take matters into his own hands and create glscopeclient, a permissively-licensed open-source remote oscilloscope utility.

The eventual goal is to allow you to do remotely anything you would normally do using the scope’s front panel, plus capture and analyze data on the computer side. The code uses a modular architecture that allows for various backends to talk to different scopes. At the moment, the only backend fully implemented is for LeCroy scopes, although this is enough to demonstrate the power of the idea. The obvious “gl” in the name gives away the secret — the code uses OpenGL for rendering, which allows for some very fancy graphics at high frame rates.

Behind the slick look, however, are some serious debugging tools. Protocol analyzers include USB, UART, JTAG, eye pattern analysis, plus FFT-based spectra with waterfall displays. The code is in GitHub, and most of the announcements and discussion seem to happen on [Andrew]’s twitter account, which you can follow @azonenberg. It’s a work-in-progress, but a serious one, and something we’re going to keep our eyes on.

You can check out a video of the program after the break.

Now, if you want to literally talk to your oscilloscope, we covered that, too.

Continue reading “GlScopeClient: A Permissively-Licensed Remote Oscilloscope Utility”

The Motor Synth Is What You Get When You Forget Hammond Organs Exist

There’s nothing new, ever. It’s all been done. But that doesn’t mean you can’t invent something interesting. A case in point is the Motor Synth, a crowdfunding project from Gamechanger Audio. It’s what you get when you combine advanced quadcopter technology with the market for modular and semi-modular synthesizers.

The core feature of the Motor Synth is an octet of brushless motors tucked behind a plexiglass window. These (either through an electromagnetic pickup or something slightly more clever) produce a tone, giving the Motor Synth four-note polyphony with two voices per key. On top of these motors are reflective optical discs sensed with infrared detectors. These are mixed as harmonics to the fundamental frequency. The result? Well, they got an endorsement from [Jean-Michel Jarre] at Superbooth earlier this month (see video below). That’s pretty impressive. Continue reading “The Motor Synth Is What You Get When You Forget Hammond Organs Exist”

Sonic Screwdriver Shuts Off Mains

In the world of Doctor Who, the sonic screwdriver is a versatile tool with a wide range of capabilities. [Hartley] wanted some of that action for himself, and built a device of his own.

Unable to recreate the broad swathe of features from the show, he settled on something easier. The device is fitted with an ATTiny85, and a 433MHz transmitter. It’s programmed to switch wirelessly controlled mains sockets on and off. This lets him control appliances in his house with a flick of a screwdriver. Power is supplied by the classic AA battery, with a boost converter stepping it up to 5V to run the electronics.

It’s all wrapped up in a 3D printed case, that was carefully designed to fit all the parts inside. A paper mockup of the PCB layout was also used in the design phase. [Hartley] took full advantage of CAD software, to ensure everything fit correctly first time.

It’s a fun project, as sonic screwdrivers often are. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Sonic Screwdriver Shuts Off Mains”

Keeping Birds At Bay With An Automated Spinning Owl

There’s nothing wrong with building something just to build it, but there’s something especially satisfying about being able to solve a real-world problem with a piece of gear you’ve designed and fabricated. When all the traditional methods to keep birds from roosting on his mother’s property failed, [MNMakerMan] decided to come up with a more persuasive option: a solar powered spinning owl complete with expandable batons.

We imagine the owl isn’t strictly necessary when you’re whacking the birds with a metal bar to begin with, but it does add a nice touch. Perhaps it will even serve to deter some of the less adventurous birds before they get within clobbering distance, which is probably in their best interest. [MNMakerMan] says the rotation speed of the bars seems low enough that he doesn’t think it will do the birds any physical harm, but it’s still got to be fairly unpleasant.

At first glance you might think that this contraption simply spins when the small 10 watt photovoltaic panel next to it catches the sun, but there’s actually a bit more to it than that. Sure he probably could just have it spin constantly whenever the sun is up, but instead [MNMakerMan] is using a ATtiny85 to control the 11 RPM geared DC motor with a IRF540 MOSFET. By adding a DS3231 RTC module into the mix, he’s able to not only accurately control when the spinner begins and ends its bird-busting shift, but implement timed patterns rather than running it the whole time. All of which can of course be fine-tuned by adjusting a couple variables and reflashing the chip.

We’ve seen plenty of automated systems for keeping cats away, and of course squirrels are a common target for such builds as well, but devices to deter birds are considerably less common among these pages. So it would seem that, at least for now, [MNMakerMan] has the market cornered on solar bird smashing gadgets. We’re sure Mom’s very proud.

Continue reading “Keeping Birds At Bay With An Automated Spinning Owl”

Linear CCDs Make For Better Cameras

Digital cameras have been around for forty years or so, and the first ones were built around CCDs. These were two-dimensional CCDs, and if you’ve ever looked inside a copier, scanner, or one of those weird handheld scanners from the 90s, you’ll find something entirely unlike what you’d see in a digital camera. Linear CCDs are exactly what they sound like — a single line of pixels. It’s great if you’re into spectroscopy, but these linear CCDs also have the advantage of having some crazy resolutions. A four-inch wide linear CCD will have thousands of pixels, and if you could somehow drag a linear CCD across an image, you would have a fantastic camera.

Many have tried, few have succeeded, and [heye.everts]’ linear CCD camera is the best attempt at making a linear CCD camera yet. It took a fuzzy picture of a tree, which is good enough for a proof of concept.

The linear CCD used in this project works something like an analog shift register. With a differential clock, you simply push values out of the CCD and feed them into an ADC. The driver board for this CCD uses a lot of current and the timings are a bit tricky but it does work with a Teensy 3.6. But that’s only one line of an image, you need to move that CCD too. For that, this project uses something resembling a homebrew CD drive. There’s a tiny stepper motor and a leadscrew dragging the CCD across the image plane. All of this is attached to the back of a Mamiya RZ67 camera body.

Does it work? Yes. Surprisingly yes. After a lot of work, an image of a tree was captured. This is an RGB CCD, and at the moment it’s only using one color channel, but it does work. It’s a proof of concept rendered in a 2000 x 3000 grayscale bitmap. The eventual goal is to build a 37.5 Megapixel medium format camera around this CCD, and the progress is looking great.

Hackaday Superconference: Pushing The Boundaries Of PCB Artwork With Brian Benchoff

The artistic elite exists in a stratum above we hoi polloi, a world of achingly trendy galleries, well-heeled collectors, and art critics who act as gatekeepers to what is considered the pinnacle du jour of culture. Artistic movements that evolve outside this bubble may be derided or ignored as naive and unsophisticated, even in complete denial of their raw creative edge. When they are discovered by the establishment a few of their artists are selected and anointed, while inevitably the crucible in which they were formed is forgotten. On the streets of Bristol the incredible work of far more graffiti artists can be seen than just that of Banksy.

Our community has an art form all of its own, in the guise of PCB artwork and the #BadgeLife community. One day you will see electronic badges from darlings of the art world behind glass in those trendy galleries, but for now they live in glorious abundance in the wild. Here at Hackaday we are lucky enough to have in Brian Benchoff a colleague who is pushing the boundaries of PCB art, and at the Hackaday Superconference he took us through one of his more recent pieces of work.

Brian's pad printer.
Brian’s pad printer.

The colour palette of a typical printed circuit board is limited by the combination of fibreglass, copper, soldermask, plating, and silkscreen its designer selects. Thus while the variety of soldermask colours and plating materials can make for an eye-catching work, they have remained a colour-tinted near monochrome. The Holy Grail of the PCB artist has been to step into the world of full colour, and Brian has been pursuing that goal by exploring pad printing to produce extra colours beyond the sodermask..

It’s a subject he’s written about here in the past, and he introduces it in the talk with a look at existing badge artwork and a mention of an expensive commercial inkjet process before considering the type of printing you see daily on the sides of promotional pens. Those company titles are deposited on pens using pad printing, an offset process in which ink is first deposited upon a photo-etched metal plate before being picked up on a silicone rubber pad for transfer to the object to be printed. It’s not the panacea for all coloured-PCB tasks, but for adding relatively small blocks of pigment to an otherwise monochromatic board it can be very successful.

The eye-catching Kiss -themed Tindie badges.
The eye-catching Kiss -themed Tindie badges.

Brian’s examples are a panelised set of Tindie badges as a homage to the rock band Kiss, and his Tide pod addon containing a serial number in an EEPROM that was part of a Blockchain-inspired game. The Kiss Tindie badges use black soldermask with extensive white silkscreen and a modest area of red pad printing for the stage makeup, while the Tide addon makes clever use of the same swoosh printed in alternate colours at 180 degrees to each other.

In both cases there is some labour involved in creating the prints, and as his detailed write-up of printing the Tide pods reminds us, the process of creating the printing plate is not exactly an easy one. But it remains the best way yet to add extra colours to a board without paying a small fortune for the inkjet process, and if you’d like to put your own designs at the bleeding edge of PCB art you might wish to read his writeups and watch the video below the break.

This is just one example of the kind of manufacturing techniques, and electronic design principles on display at the Hackaday Superconference. There’s another Supercon just around the corner, so grab your ticket and send in your own talk proposal right away!

Continue reading “Hackaday Superconference: Pushing The Boundaries Of PCB Artwork With Brian Benchoff”

Tiny Forklift Makes Unusable Space Usable

Houses with crawlspaces are fairly common in some geographic regions. The crawlspace can make it easier to access things like plumbing and electrical wiring, and can even be used as storage in homes that don’t (or can’t) have a basement. Along with improved building ventilation, these some of the perks compared to homes built on a solid slab of concrete. These crawlspaces aren’t exactly easy to get around in, though, but [Dave] has an easier way to get stuff in and out of these useful, but small, spaces.

Enter the crawl space forklift. Made with largely off-the-shelf components, the robot includes a few standard motors and linear actuators to move around and operate the front fork. That’s all pretty standard, but this build really shines with its use of FPV camera, monitor, and transmitter that allow the pilot to navigate the robot in the small space using remote control. For those safety-conscious among us, there is also a fire extinguisher ball on board which self-activates in case the robot catches on fire under his house.

This is a great, high-quality build that shows how common parts can make something revolutionary with the right idea. Identifying a problem and then building a solution, while not forgetting to spring for some safety equipment, can really make a difference even with something as simple as unoccupied space in a home. They can tackle tasks around the home, too.

Continue reading “Tiny Forklift Makes Unusable Space Usable”