Rise And Shine With This Japanese-Inspired Clock

On the Hackaday.io page for his gorgeous “Sunrise Alarm Clock”, [The Big One] is quick to point out that his design is only inspired by Japanese lanterns, and does not use authentic materials or traditional woodworking techniques. Perhaps that’s an important fact to some, but we’ll just say that the materials used seem far less important when the end result looks this good.

Unfortunately [The Big One] hasn’t provided any interior shots of his clock, as it sounds like the aesthetics of the internal wiring isn’t quite up to the standard set by the outside of it. But he has provided a concise parts list, a wiring diagram, and source code, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s under the hood.

The clock is powered by the uBBB 32u4, an ATMega32u4 development board that [The Big One] developed in conjunction with [Warren Janssens]. It uses the popular MAX7219 LED matrix for the display, and a DS3231 RTC module to help keep the time. There’s also a DFPlayer Mini module onboard that allows him to play whatever sound effects or music he wants when the alarm goes off.

Of course the star of the show is the LED strips which illuminate the shōji-style column. These have apparently been wrapped around a coffee can of all things, which not only serves as a convenient way of holding the strips, but [The Big One] says actually makes the speaker sound a bit better. Hey, whatever works.

This isn’t the first “lantern” clock to grace these pages, but compared to the high-tech presentation of previous projects, we can’t help but be impressed by the grace and elegance of this wooden masterpiece.

Google Creates Debuggable IPhone

Apple is known for a lot of things, but opening up their platforms to the world isn’t one of those things. According to a recent Google post by [Brandon Azad], there do exist special iPhones that are made for development with JTAG ports and other magic capabilities. The port is in all iPhones (though unpopulated), but is locked down by default. We don’t know what it takes to get a magic iPhone, but we are guessing Google can’t send in the box tops to three Macbook Pros to get on the waiting list. But what is locked can be unlocked, and [Brandon] set out to build a debuggable iPhone.

Exploiting some debug registers, it is possible to debug the A11 CPU at any point in its execution. [Brandon’s] tool single steps the system reset and makes some modifications to the CPU after key instructions to prevent the lockdown of kernel memory. After that, the world’s your oyster. KTRW is a tool built using this technique that can debug an iPhone with a standard cable.

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Hackaday Links: November 3, 2019

Depending on how you look at it, the Internet turned 50 years old last week. On October 29, 1969, the first message was transmitted between two of the four nodes that made up ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor network. ARPANET was created after a million dollars earmarked for ballistic missile defense was diverted from the Advanced Research Projects Agency budget to research packet-switched networks. It’s said that ARPANET was designed to survive a nuclear war; there’s plenty of debate about whether that was a specific design goal, but if it was, it certainly didn’t look promising out of the gate, since the system crashed after only two characters of the first message were sent. So happy birthday, Internet, and congratulations: you’re now old enough to start getting junk mail from the AARP.

Good news for space nerds: NASA has persuaded Boeing to livestream an upcoming Starliner test. This won’t be a launch per se, but a test of the pad abort system intended to get astronauts out of harm’s way in the event of a launch emergency. The whole test will only last about 90 seconds and never reach more than 1.5 kilometers above the White Sands Missile Range test site, but it’s probably a wise move for Boeing to be as transparent as possible at this point in their history. The test is scheduled for 9:00 AM Eastern time — don’t forget Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend in most of the US — and will air on NASA Television.

Speaking of space, here’s yet another crowd-sourced effort you might want to consider getting in on if you’re of an astronomical bent. The Habitable Exoplanet Hunting Project is looking for a new home for humanity, and they need more eyes on the skies to do it. An introductory video explains all about it; we have to admit being surprised to learn that the sensitive measurements needed to see exoplanets transiting their stars are possible for amateur astronomers, but it seems doable with relatively modest equipment. Such are the advances in optics, CCD cameras, and image processing software, it seems. The project is looking for exoplanets within 100 light-years of Earth, perhaps on the hope that a generation ship will have somewhere to go to someday.

Space may be hard, but it’s nothing compared to running a hackerspace right here on Earth. Or at least it seems that way at times, especially when those times include your building collapsing, a police raid, and being forced to operate out of a van for months while searching for a new home, all tragedies that have befallen the Cairo Hackerspace over the last few years. They’re finally back on their feet, though, to the point where they’re ready to host Egypt’s first robotics meetup this month. If you’re in the area, stop by and perhaps consider showing off a build or even giving a talk. This group knows a thing or two about persistence, and they’ve undoubtedly got the coolest hackerspace logo in the world.

And finally, no matter how bad your job may be, it’s probably not as bad as restoring truck batteries by hand. Alert reader [rasz_pl] tipped us off to this video, which shows an open-air shop in Pakistan doing the dirty but profitable work of gutting batteries and refurbishing them. The entire process is an environmental and safety nightmare, with used electrolyte tossed into the gutter, molten lead being slung around by the bucketful, and not a pair of safety glasses or steel-toed shoes (or any-toed, for that matter) to be seen. But the hacks are pretty cool, like pouring new lead tabs onto the plates, or using a bank of batteries to heat an electrode for welding the plates together. We’ve talked about the recyclability of lead-acid batteries before and how automated plants can achieve nearly 100% reuse; there’s nothing automated here, though, and the process is so labor-intensive that only three batteries can be refurbished a day. It’s still fascinating to watch.

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SmallKat: An Adorable And Dynamic Robot

SmallKat is a cute little robot with a lot of capability designed around teaching and experimenting with dynamic robot control. It’s a shame we haven’t covered SmallKat yet, as it’s both a finalist in the 2019 Hackaday Prize and was one of the Bootstrap Winners this year.

Many hobby robots move by repeating a pre-programmed sequence of movements. Most hexapods for example follow this line of thought. However, robots like Spot and the MiniCheetah show a different world where robots determine the locations of their limbs by their current state, the measured state of their environment, and some imagined future. These robots are capable of so much more than their predecessors.

However, even a cost-effective version of these robots climb into the tens of thousands of dollars at a steep curve. SmallKat will help there: based around hobby servos and an ESP32 the hardware stays affordable. Data can be streamed to a much larger computer for experimentation which saves on some of the weight that supporting a larger device like a Pi would add.

This device will let students experiment with all kinds of dynamic models and even machine learning-based movements without breaking the bank. There’s even a nice software studio for experimentation to aid in the learning process.  Video of it shuffling around after the break.

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DIY Cassette Tape Guitar Delay

Digital delay pedals are pretty good nowadays and even the cheaper ones do a pretty good job at emulating the sound of old analog delay effects. And that’s good, because the original delay effects can run you a pretty penny. If you’re in to DIY electronics, though, analog delay effects can still be built without breaking the bank, and, as an example, [Matsound] has made a tape delay using an old tape deck and regular cassette tapes.

The core of the build is a portable 3-head cassette recorder, in this case a Marantz PMD430. The circuit has been around for a while – it was originally found in an issue of Stompboxology in the 90’s. The basic idea is that with a three-head recorder (erase, record, play) the distance between the record and play heads creates a delay and you increase this delay by slowing down the recorder’s motor. You combine the output from the recorder with the dry signal from your input and, viola, tape delay.

[Matsound] added a cool feature where you can control the speed of the motor with a control voltage, so if you connect it to a keyboard and produce different voltages from different keys, you get weird, spacey effects. The video gives an overview of the features and some details of the build process are in the video’s description.

A nice build built into a nice case and a great effect! Maybe you wouldn’t take it out gigging with you, but it sure sounds pretty good!  Other delay pedals have been mentioned on the site before, like this digital delay pedal and here’s another take on the cassette tape delay.

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Eth0 Autumn 2019: Tiny Camp, Creative Badge

The Dutch organisation eth0 has run a series of informal small camps over the years, never with an attendance too far into three figures, and without pre-planned events or entertainment. What happens is at the instigation of the attendees, and the result is a weekend of much closer socialising and working together on projects than the large camps where you spend your time running around to catch everything.

The largest of hacker camps offer all the lights, robots, tschunk, and techno music you can stomach; they can be a blast but also overwhelming. I made my way eth0 over the past week weekend, enjoying the more intimate size and coming away having made friendships from spending time with great people at a large private camping hostel near Lichtenvoorde. This is in the far east of the country near the German border, to which in the company of a British hardware hacker friend I traveled in the tiny European hatchback. Netherlands roads are so easy to navigate!

A prototype tensegrity structure. Image: Igor Nikolic.
A prototype tensegrity structure. Image: Igor Nikolic.

At the event was the usual array of activities, though since it was a restricted photography affair I’m short on wider shots that would include people. This year’s hit came from surplus flipdot displays from retired German buses, with plenty of glitches as their quirks were figured out by our friends Nilkas Fauth and Jan Henrik. Something tells me I’ll be seeing a lot of those fluorescent circles in the future.

I’d brought along the nucleus of a textile village, and RevSpace in the Hague had added their embroidery machine to my overlocker and sewing machines. Its operator was Boekenwuurm from Hackalot in Eindhoven who was kind enough to embroider a Wrencher for me, and now I want one of these 600-Euro machines even if I can’t afford one. She and RevSpace’s Igor Nikolic were experimenting with inflatables and tensegrity structures, creating prototypes with an eye to more impressive installations at future camps.

An entertaining tale of a couple of days hanging out with friends in the Netherlands countryside could probably be spun into a reasonable tale, but there was something more interesting still at this camp. It had a badge, courtesy of the prolific badge.team Dutch badge crew. It didn’t come with their trademark ESP32 firmware though, instead in keeping with the budget of the event it was a prototyping board on which attendees could create their own badges. What came forth from that was extremely impressive, and continued after the event.

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Intercontinental Radio Communications With The Help Of Fly Fishing Reels

All of us have experience in trying to explain to a confused store assistant exactly what type of kitchen implement you’re looking for, and why it is a perfectly suitable part for your autonomous flying lawn mower. Or in the case of [MM0OPX] trying to find fly fishing reels that are suitable for his  Adjustiwave multi-band VHF-HF  ham radio antenna.

HF radios allow intercontinental communication but require very large antennas which can be tricky to tune properly, and this antenna helps ease both these problems. The basic configuration is quarter wave, linear loaded (folded), vertical antenna. A quarter wave length radiator wire runs up a fibreglass pole, folds over the top, and comes back down, to form a shorter, more practical antenna while remaining the required length. Ground plane radial wires are usually added to improve performance by helping to reflect signals into antenna.

[MM0OPX] expanded this concept by using two pairs of fly fishing reels to quickly adjust the length of the radiators and radials. One reel holds the actual antenna wire while the second holds fishing braid, which is tied to the end of the wire to provided tension. The radials wire is exactly the same, it just runs across the ground.

The four reels are mounted to a plastic junction box, which houses the feed line connector and matching transformer, which is attached to the base of a fibreglass pole with hydraulic pipe clamps. Each wire is marked with heat shrink at defined points to allow quick tuning for the different frequencies. [MM0OPX] tried a couple of wire types and found that 1 mm stainless steel cable worked best.

This being Hackaday, we are big fans of repurposing things, especially when the end product is greater than the sum of its parts, as is the case here. Check out the walk around and build discussion videos after the break. Continue reading “Intercontinental Radio Communications With The Help Of Fly Fishing Reels”