An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) isn’t something solely to have hooked up to your desktop PC. Your Raspberry Pi SBC might also benefit from it. Yet the available options aren’t too great, or are too expensive. This leads folk including [Joachim Baumann] to modify cheerfully cheap Chinese UPS HAT boards such as the Geekworm UPS HAT to fix its myriad of issues and missing features.
Inspired by a number of other hacks on this board which fixed things like needing to push a button on the UPS to boot the Raspberry Pi, [Joachim] set out to make a similar ATtiny-based solution that would address all issues, above all the fact that this Geekworm UPS does not detect when the connected SBC has turned off and will happily run the lithium battery pack dry. Finding a blog post by Simon who had reverse-engineered the board previously was immensely helpful. Continue reading “Fixing A Cheap UPS HAT For Your Raspberry Pi With A Tiny Daemon” →
It wasn’t that long ago when hard drives that boasted a terabyte of capacity were novel. But impressive though the tera- prefix is, beyond that is peta and even further is exa — as in petabyte and exabyte. A common i7 CPU currently clocks in at about 60 gigaflops (floating point operations per second). Respectable, but today’s supercomputers routinely turn in sustained rates in the petaflop range, with some even faster. The Department of Energy announced they were turning to Cray to provide three exascale computers — that is, computers that can reach an exaflop or more. The latest of these, El Capitan, is slated to reach 1.5 exaFLOPS and will reside at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.
The $600 million price tag for El Capitan seems pretty reasonable for a supercomputer. After all, a Cray I could only do 160 megaflops and cost nearly $8 million in 1977, or about $33 million in today’s money. So about 20 times the cost gets them over 9,000 times the compute power.
Continue reading “New Cray Will Reach 1.5 ExaFLOPS” →
One of the more popular ways of rolling out your own custom PCB is to simply create the model in your CAD program of choice and send it off to a board manufacturer who will take care of the dirty work for you. This way there is no need to deal with things like chemicals, copper dust, or maintaining expensive tools. A middle ground between the board manufacturer and a home etching system though might be what [igorfonseca83] has been doing: using an inexpensive laser engraver to make PCBs for him.
A laser engraver is basically a low-power laser CNC machine that’s just slightly too weak to cut most things that would typically go in a laser cutter. It turns out that the 10W system is the perfect amount of energy to remove a mask from a standard PCB blank, though. This in effect takes the place of the printer in the old toner transfer method, and the copper still has to be dissolved in a chemical solution, but the results are a lot more robust than trying to modify a printer for this task.
If you aren’t familiar with the days of yore when homebrew PCBs involved a standard desktop printer, many people still use this method, although the results can be mixed based on printer reliability. If you want to skip the middleman, and the need for a chemical bath, a more powerful laser actually can cut the traces for you, too.
Continue reading “Another Way To Make PCBs At Home” →
In the last year or so we’ve been seeing an array of portable game system builds based around “trimmed” Wii motherboards which have literally been cut down to a fraction of their original size. It turns out that most of the board is dedicated to non-essential functions, with the core Wii system contained within one specific area that can be isolated with a steady hand. But as [Gman] shows in his latest build, the same concept can also be applied to the Sega Dreamcast.
But of course, there’s a bit more to it than just taking a hacksaw to a Dreamcast motherboard. [Gman] had to supplement the trimmed system with quite a bit of additional hardware, such as a power management board he originally designed for portable Wii projects.
Other components were specifically built for this project. For example there’s a custom PCB that handles emulating the Dreamcast controller using a PIC32MZ microcontroller. He’s also using a LM49450 to pull digital audio from the motherboard over I2S, completely bypassing the analog output.
While not currently functioning, [Gman] also included an SPI OLED display and the hardware necessary to emulate basic functionality of the system’s unique Visual Memory Unit (VMU) right in the front of the system. We’re looking forward to seeing him revisit this feature in the future when he’s got the software side of things worked out.
The Nintendo 2DS inspired enclosure is completely 3D printed. A Prusa i3 with textured PEI bed was used to achieve the gorgeous dappled look on the system’s front panel, while the buttons were done on a Form 2 SLA printer. With a mold made from the printed buttons, [Gman] was able to cast the final pieces using a variety of colors until he found a combination he was happy with.
If you’re not Team Sega and would rather hack up your own tiny versions of Nintendo’s hardware, look no further than this fully functional trimmed Wii built into an Altoids tin.
Autonomous vehicle development is a field of technology that remains relatively elusive to the average hacker, what with the needing a whole car and all. Instead of having to deal with such a large scale challenge, [Piotr Sokólski] has instead turned to implementing the same principles on the scale of a small radio-controlled car.
Wanting to lower the barrier of entry for developing software for self-driving cars, he based his design off of something you’re likely to have lying around already: a smartphone. He cites the Google Cardboard project for his inspiration, with how it made VR more accessible without needing expensive hardware. The phone is able to control the actuators and wheel motors through a custom board, which it talks to via a Bluetooth connection. And since the camera points up in the way the phone is mounted in the frame, [Piotr] came up with a really clever solution of using a mirror as a periscope so the car can see in front of itself.
The software here has two parts, though the phone app one does little more than just serve as an interface by sending off a video feed to be processed. The whole computer vision processing is done on the desktop part, and it allows [Piotr] to do some fun things like using reinforcement learning to keep the car driving as long as possible without crashing. This is achieved by making the algorithm observe the images coming from the phone and giving it negative reward whenever an accelerometer detects a collision. Another experiment he’s done is use a QR tag on top of the car, visible to a fixed overhead camera, to determine the car’s position in the room.
This might not be the first time someone’s made a scaled down model of a self-driving vehicle, though it’s one of the most cleverly-designed ones, and it’s certainly much simpler than trying to do it on a full-sized car in your garage.
Continue reading “A Car Phone — No, Not That Kind” →
I’m often asked to design customer and employee tracking systems. There are quite a few ways to do it, and it’s an interesting intersection of engineering and ethics – what information is reasonable to collect in different contexts, anonymizing and securely storing it, and at a fundamental level whether the entire system should exist at all.
On one end of the spectrum, a system that simply counts the number of people that are in your restaurant at different times of day is pretty innocuous and allows you to offer better service. On the other end, when you don’t pay for a mobile app, generally that means your private data is the product being bought and sold. Personally, I find that the whole ‘move fast and break things’ attitude, along with a general disregard for the privacy of user data, has created a pretty toxic tech scene. So until a short while ago, I refused to build invasive tracking systems – then I got a request that I simply couldn’t put aside…
Continue reading “Following Pigs: Building An Injectable Livestock Tracking System” →
[MisterM] seems to specialize in squeezing new electronics into old but good-looking technology. His latest creation focuses on a space-age specimen: an interesting car radio from 1963 that could be pulled out from the dashboard and taken along wherever. The beat goes on, thanks to a shiny built-in speaker on the bottom.
He replaced the non-working radio guts with a Raspberry Pi 3 running RetroPie and a Picade controller board. A Pimoroni Blinkt LED strip behind the radio dial glows a different color for each emulated console, which we think is a nice touch. [MisterM] built this console to play in his workshop, and even made a dock for it. But in a lovely homage to the original radio, it’s self-contained and can be taken to the living room or to a friend’s house. There’s also a USB port for whenever player two is ready to enter. For [MisterM]’s next trick, he’ll be converting an 80s joystick.
We love that [MisterM] repurposed the dials as housings for start and select buttons. As he points out, this keeps them out of the way while he’s wildly working the controls. Just enter the Konami Code to unlock the build video below.
Do you dream of playing Donkey Kong absolutely everywhere? Check out the ultraportable mintyPi 2.0.
Continue reading “Vintage Car Radio Now Plays Games And Chiptunes” →