Moon Elevator Could Be Sooner Than You Think

The big expense in getting people to orbit or the moon or any other space destination is the cost of escaping the Earth’s gravity. One often-proposed solution involves building a giant space elevator from some point on the Earth to orbit. That sounds great, but the reality is the materials needed to make a giant stalk reaching from the ground to orbit don’t exist today. Cables or other structures for such an elevator would have to be so impossibly thick as to break under their own weight. However, a recent paper from a researcher at Cambridge and another at Columbia suggest that while you can’t build an elevator from the Earth’s surface to orbit, we may have the technology to build a tunnel that anchors on the moon and lets out in Earth’s orbit.

Before you dismiss the idea out of hand, have a look at the paper. A classic space elevator proposal has one point on Earth and the far end balanced with a counterweight keeping the cables under tension. The proposed lunar elevator would minimize these problems by having most of the bulk in space and on the moon.

Continue reading “Moon Elevator Could Be Sooner Than You Think”

Tiny Vacuum Cleaner Sucks (In A Good Way)

Sometimes something is remarkable not for its content, but for its size. A ball of yarn isn’t exciting for example, unless it’s a giant ball of yarn. At the other end of the scale writing your name is a quotidian event, but put it on a grain of rice and that’s ten bucks at the mall. [Toby Bateson] has been making vacuum cleaners since he was 8 years old — and he looks considerably older than that now. In of itself that’s not a big deal, but his machines are tiny. In fact, he has the Guinness Book of World Records entry for the smallest vacuum cleaner. His latest exploit? A vacuum in an Altoid’s tin!

Electronically, this is just a switch, a battery, and a motor. But if you are looking for a Dremel tool project, you are in luck. Check out the video of the diminutive device, below. Besides the Altoids tin, there is a metal pipe and some bits of a cut-up soda can.

Continue reading “Tiny Vacuum Cleaner Sucks (In A Good Way)”

Analog Gauges Keep An Eye On Computer Performance

Keeping an eye on your computer’s resource utilization can be useful, particularly if you’re regularly doing computationally intensive tasks. While it’s entirely possible to achieve this with software tools, creating a dedicated hardware monitor can be cool too. [Sasa Karanovic] did just that, with a set of old-school analog gauges.

The build uses an STM32 microcontroller to drive a series of four galvanometers through an MCP4728 digital-to-analog converter. Data on CPU, memory, network and GPU utilization is collected by a Python script, and sent over a USB serial connection. This data drives the four-channel DAC, which in turn creates the voltages which control the needle position on the gauges. Aesthetically, the build features a few nice touches, including custom gauge faces and a 3D printed enclosure with a tasteful matte finish. A custom PCB keeps the electronics and wiring neat and tidy.

[Sasa] does a great job of explaining the basic theory of the device, as well as practical considerations for working with galvanometer-based gauges. It would make a great weekend project for anyone seeking to add some vintage charm to their desktop rig. There’s also scope to monitor other variables, like hard drive usage or CPU temperature. There’s bonus points if you integrate this into a laptop; the tip line would love to know. We’ve seen LED-based monitoring systems before, too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Analog Gauges Keep An Eye On Computer Performance”

Riding The Nostalgia Train With A 6502 From The Ground Up

In the very early days of the PC revolution the only way to have a computer was to build one, sometimes from a kit but often from scratch. For the young, impoverished hobbyist, leafing through the pages of Popular Electronics was difficult, knowing that the revolution was passing you by. And just like that, the days of homebrewing drew to a close, forced into irrelevance by commodity beige boxes. Computing for normies had arrived.

Many of the homebrewers-that-never-were are now looking back at this time with the powerful combination of nostalgia and disposable income, and projects such as [Ben Eater]’s scratch-built 6502 computer are set to scratch the old itch. The video below introduces not only the how-to part of building a computer from scratch, but the whys and wherefores as well. Instead of just showing us how to wire up a microprocessor and its supporting chips, [Ben] starts with the two most basic things: a 6502 and its datasheet. He shows what pins do what, which ones to make high, and which ones get forced low. Clocked with a custom 555 circuit that lets him single-step and monitored with an Arduino Mega-based logic analyzer, we get a complete look at the fetch and execute cycle of a simple, hard-wired program at the pin level.

This is one of those rare videos that was over too soon and left us looking for more. [Ben] promises a follow-up to add a ROM chip and a more complex program, and we can’t wait to see that. He’s selling kits so you can build along if you don’t already have the parts. There seems to be a lot of interest in 6502 builds lately, some more practical than others. Seems like a good time to hop on the bandwagon.

Continue reading “Riding The Nostalgia Train With A 6502 From The Ground Up”

Pew Pew In The Palm Of Your Hand

It’s often said that “getting there is half the fun”, and we think that can be just as true when building hardware as it is during the roadtrip to your favorite hacker con. Many of us enjoy the process of planning, designing, and building a new gadget as much as playing with it when it’s done. We get the impression [Radomir Dopieralski] feels the same way, as he’s currently working on yet another iteration of his PewPew project.

For the uninitiated, [Radomir] has already created a number of devices in the PewPew line, which are designed to make programming games on “bare metal” easier and more approachable for newcomers by using CircuitPython.

The original version was a shield for the Adafruit Feather, which eventually evolved into a standalone device. The latest version, called the M4, includes many niceties such as a large TFT screen and an acrylic enclosure. It’s also switched over to the iconic Game Boy layout, to really drive home that classic gaming feel.

As [Radomir] explains, previous versions of the PewPew were designed to be as cheap and easy to manufacture as possible, since they were to be used in game programming workshops. But outside of that environment, they left a little something to be desired. With the M4, he’s created something that’s much closer to a traditional game system. In that respect it’s a bit like the Arduboy: you can still use it to learn game development, but it’s also appealing enough that you might just play other people’s games on it instead.

Pictorial Guide To The Unofficial Electronic Badges Of DEF CON 27

DEF CON has become the de facto showplace of the #Badgelife movement. It’s a pageant for clever tricks that transform traditional green rectangular circuit boards into something beautiful, unique, and often times hacky.

Today I’ve gathered up about three dozen badge designs seen at DC27. It’s a hint of what you’ll see in the hallways and meetups of the conference. From hot-glue light pipes and smartphone terminal debugging consoles to block printing effects and time of flight sensors, this is a great place to get inspiration if you’re thinking of trying your hand at unofficial badge design.

If you didn’t catch “The Badgies” you’ll want to go back and read that article too as it rounds up the designs I found to be the craziest and most interesting including the Car Hacking Village, Space Force, SecKC, DC503, and Frankenbadge. Do swing by the Hands-On articles for the AND!XOR badge and for [Joe Grand’s] official DC27 badge. There was also a lot of non-badge hardware on display during Hackaday’s Breakfast at DEF CON so check out that article as well.

Enough preamble, let’s get to the badges!

Continue reading “Pictorial Guide To The Unofficial Electronic Badges Of DEF CON 27”

3D Print A Complete Wind Generator

For many of us our landscapes are dotted with wind turbines, the vast majority of which are horizontally aligned as if they were giant aircraft propellers. A much rarer sight is the vertical wind turbine, which remains a staple of the wind power experimenter. [Troy] and his brother have posted a video showing a small wind 3D printed vertical turbine, which unusually includes an alternator made from scratch as well as the rotor itself.

The machine adopts a Savonius rotor design with three scoops, which offers simplicity and high torque at a lower rotational speed than some of the alternatives. The scoops are assembled from a number of 3D-printed sections, and directly drive the generator which uses a large number of coils on a stator encircled by a rotor containing an array of magnets. A simple rectifier and three-terminal regulator produces a 5-volt output.

Sadly there was not enough wind to give it a decent test for the video, but they demonstrate it with a very large fan standing in. We like the alternator design but we’d be interested to see how the sectional rotors hold up in outdoor conditions, and perhaps that regulator could benefit from a switch-mode component. If you fancy a go he says he’ll release the files as open source if there’s enough interest. We’re interested [Troy], please do!

Many wind turbines have passed through these pages over the years, and for contrast here’s a horizontal 3D printed example.

Continue reading “3D Print A Complete Wind Generator”