Launch Console Delivers Enjoyment To Software Deployment

Sometimes it feels as though all the good physical interactions with machines have disappeared. Given our current germ warfare situation, that is probably a good thing. But if fewer than ten people ever will be touching something, it’s probably okay to have a little fun and make your own interfaces for things.

Fun definitely seems to be some of the inspiration behind [sethvoltz]’s retro-style launch console. This two-factor authorization token-based system is responsible for an important task that usually receives no fanfare — deploying code to production.

The console is centered around a Yubikey, which is type of hardware dongle for 2FA. Flipping the guarded toggle switch will initiate the launch sequence, and then it’s time to insert the Yubikey into the 3D-printed lock cylinder and wait for authorization. If the Raspberry Pi decides all systems are go, then the key can be turned ninety degrees and the mushroom button mashed. You have our permission to peek at the declassified demo after the break. Stick around for a CAD view inside the lock cylinder.

Console culture was great, but the old full-size cabinets sure took up a lot of space. If you’re more of a hardware person, check out this mini-console for testing multiple servos.

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What’s In A Name For A Tool Battery Pack?

Power tools have come a long way. It used to be you needed extension cords or a generator for your tools, but now you can get just about anything with a nice rechargeable battery pack. As it turns out, most of those packs are made by the same company, and [syonyk] wanted to see how similar two different Makita packs and a Rayovac pack were. What he found was surprising. The outsides were very similar, but what was on the inside?

The Rayovac pack was easy to open and had a controller, a thermal cutoff device, and two layers of 18650 batteries. The similar Makita pack looked identical from the outside until he tried to take it apart. The maker had plugged one screw hole and used security screws instead of the Phillips heads like on the Rayovac.

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Introducing The Hackaday Calendar Of Virtual Events

For many of us, the social distancing procedures being used to help control the spread of COVID-19 have been a challenge. We can’t go to our hackerspaces, major events have been postponed or canceled entirely, and even getting parts has become difficult due to the immense pressure currently being placed on retailers and delivery services. For even the most stoic hacker, these are difficult times.

But you don’t have to go through it alone. We might not be able to meet in person, but that doesn’t mean the exchange of thoughts and ideas has to stop. Hackaday has started up a calendar of events you can use to keep track of virtual classes and hangouts that you can take part in from the comfort of your own home. You don’t even need to wear pants (but you should, just to be safe).

Hacker Check-in returns tomorrow at 5pm Eastern time and this weekend is packed with must-see entries. You can start your Saturday by taking part in a KiCad/FreeCAD meetup, sit in on the BSides Atlanta security conference, jump over to a hardware show and tell in New Delhi, and then cap things off with an introduction to quantum computing presented by Kitty Yeung.

Looking to be more than an idle participant? If you want to teach a class, host a show and tell, or put together a round-table discussion, drop a line to superconference@hackaday.io. Pretty much anything of interest to the hacking and making community is fair game, and who knows when you’ll ever get another chance at a captive audience like this. When you haven’t left the house in a week, there’s not a whole lot you won’t watch online.

It’s easy to see social distancing as an overreaction, but the numbers don’t lie. Things are serious out there, especially in the dense population centers where hacker events generally take place. By staying home and taking part in events virtually, we can do our part to control the spread of this virus and hopefully return things to normal that much sooner.

Put Down New Roots From Home With A Free-Form Tree Of Life

Mandalas are meditative objects that mean many things to myriad religions. Psychologist Carl Jung equated them with the concept of the Self as a whole, and put forth the notion that an urge to create mandalas signifies a period of intense personal growth.

[Sander van de Bor] took up the mandala challenge at the beginning of 2020 and decided to create several of them in free-form electronic style. If you’re looking for a healthy new way to deal, [Sander] has step-by-step instructions for making your own light-up tree of life by wrangling a wad of wires into a trunk and branches. Big bonus if you already find soldering to be soothing.

[Sander] starts by forming a circle from brass rod. This is the base for the rest of the build and will tie all the LED grounds together. The tree is twisted from a cluster of enameled copper wires that are eventually soldered together to distribute power from a coin cell out to the six SMT LEDs.

You could argue that the tree should be ground because it’s rooted to Earth, but you could also argue that the circle should be ground because the circle of life is a grounding force. Something to think about while you design and build your own, eh?

If electronic sculpture becomes your new thing, explore all the angles with the master manipulator, [Mohit Bhoite].

It’s Not An Arc Lamp, It’s A Lamp Arc

One wouldn’t expect there to be much to cause envy in the world of desk lamps, after all whether it’s a classic Anglepoise or a dollar store LED affair if it does its job of casting the requisite quantity of light where it’s needed, most of us are happy. But then we saw [Ronny Ziss]’s LED arc desk lamp, and suddenly all other lamps simply aren’t good enough any more. If it’s not a wall-to-wall arc of LEDs spanning the length of the desk, it quite simply no longer cuts the mustard. We’ve entered the world of lamp envy, folks, and it’s a poorly-illuminated place to be.

As you can see in the video below the break both the hardware and the software of this lamp are impressive in their own right, the structure being an aluminium extrusion carrying an addressable white LED strip fitted into an arc between two custom plywood blocks on the walls either side of the desk. The software is controlled through a rotary encoder, and allows command of the position, width, and brightness of the illuminated portion, as well as having a hidden Pong game. Sadly he doesn’t reveal the software or the microcontroller in question, however the task is not an onerous one and it’s likely most Hackaday readers could put it together using their board or processor of choice.

In years of lamp projects on Hackaday, we can’t find another quite like this one. Conventional lamp projects can still be stylish though.

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What Does GitHub’s Npm Acquisition Mean For Developers?

Microsoft’s open-source shopping spree has claimed another victim: npm. [Nat Friedman], CEO of GitHub (owned by Microsoft), announced the move recently on the GitHub blog.

So what motivated the acquisition, and what changes are we likely to see as a result of it? There are some obvious upsides and integrations, but these will be accompanied by the usual dose of skepticism from the open-source community. The company history and working culture of npm has also had its moments in the news, which may well have contributed to the current situation. This post aims to explore some of the rationale behind the acquisition, and what it’s likely to mean for developers in the future.

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Whirling Shutters On This Field Mill Measure Electrostatic Charges At Distance

Hardly a person hasn’t experienced the sudden, sharp discharge of static electricity, especially on a crisp winter’s day. It usually requires a touch, though, the classic example being a spark from finger to doorknob after scuffing across the carpet. But how would one measure the electrostatic charge of an object without touching it? Something like this field mill, which is capable of measuring electrostatic charge over a range of several meters, will do the trick.

We confess to not having heard of field mills before, and found [Leo Fernekes]’ video documenting his build to be very instructive. Field mills have applications in meteorology, being used to measure the electrostatic state of the atmosphere from the ground. They’ve also played a role in many a scrubbing of rocket launches, to prevent the missile from getting zapped during launch.

[Leo]’s mill works much like the commercial units: a grounded shutter rotates in front of two disc-shaped electrodes, modulating the capacitance of the system relative to the outside world. The two electrodes are fed into a series of transimpedance amplifiers, which boost the AC signal coming from them. A Hall sensor on the shutter allows sampling of the signal to be synchronized to the rotation of the shutter; this not only generates the interrupts needed to sample the sine wave output of the amplifier at its peaks and troughs, but it also measures whether the electrostatic field is positive or negative.┬áCheck out the video below for a great explanation and a good looking build with a junk-bin vibe to it.

Meteorological uses aside, we’d love to see this turned toward any of the dozens of Tesla coil builds we’ve seen. From the tiny to the absurd, this field mill should be able to easily measure any Tesla coil’s output with ease.

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