Before we forget — it’s cool; this one was already broken. The Merlin Pi camera’s wizardry works on two levels — [Mister M] can take still pictures and record video through the GUI he built for the touchscreen, or go retro and use the little push buttons nestled in the Merlin control panel. [Mister M] worked a Dropbox uploader into the GUI, so he doesn’t have to worry about filling up the SD card with backyard bird movies in the middle of filming them.
[Mister M] says he accidentally warped the Merlin’s battery cover while trying to soak away the sticker and had to use a piece of acrylic. Although it’s unfortunate, we think it may have been for the better given the huge hole necessitated by the camera lens. Check out the build video after the break.
Recreating Damascus steel remains a holy grail of materials science. The exact process and alloys used are long ago lost to time. At best, modern steelworking methods are able to produce a rough visual simulacra of sorts that many still consider to be pretty cool looking. Taking a more serious bent at materials science than your average knifemaker, a group of scientists at the Max Planck institute have been working to create a material with similar properties through 3D printing.
The technology used is based on the laser sintering of metal powders. In this case, the powder consists of a mixture of iron, nickel and titanium. The team found that by varying the exact settings of the laser sintering process on a layer-by-layer basis, they could create different microstructures throughout a single part. This allows the creation of parts that are ductile, while remaining hard enough to be sharpened – a property which is useful in edged weapons like swords.
While the process is nothing like that used by smiths in Damascus working with Wootz steel, the general idea of a metal material with varying properties throughout remains the same. For those eager to get into old-school metalwork, consider our articles on blacksmithing. For those interested in materials research, head to a good university. Or, better yet – do both!
Many in the community are skeptical about the security of commercial smart home devices, and for good reason. It’s not like you have to look far to find examples of poorly implemented systems, or products that are abandoned by their manufacturers and left without critical security updates. But the design flaw in this video doorbell really drives home how little thought some companies give to their customer’s security.
As explained by [Savvas], and demonstrated in the video after the break, all you need to do if you want to get into a home equipped with one of these vulnerable door bells is pop the unit off the wall and hit it with 12 volts DC.
Incredibly, the terminals that connect to the electronic lock inside the house are completely accessible on the back of the unit. They even labeled them, on the off-chance the robber forgets which wire is which. It’s not even as though the thing is held on with some kind of weird security screws, it’s just a garden variety Phillips.
In the video, [Savvas] even shows he used a little gadget attached to a QuickCharge USB battery bank to get a portable 12 VDC source suitable for tripping these locks. Which, interestingly enough, is based on a trick he read about in the Hackaday comments. Something to consider while penning your next comment on these storied pages.
[Savvas] says he’s reached out to the company to get their side of the story, but so far, hasn’t received a response. We aren’t surprised, this is a fundamental flaw in the product’s execution. Clearly they wanted to make an easy to install device that doesn’t require any additional electronics in the house, and this is the inevitable end result of that oversimplification. All the more reason to roll your own smart doorbell.
A laser cutter is a useful tool to have in any workshop. While many hackers use them for their cutting abilities, it’s important to remember that they can be great as engravers, too. [Wrickert] was well aware of this when he set his to work, producing attractive packaging for his Tindie orders.
[Wrickert] sells a variety of small PCB-based devices on Tindie, and it’s nice to have something to package them up with, rather than just sending a bare board. To do this quickly and effectively, KiCAD is used to help generate the packaging from the original PCB geometry itself. The board outlines are exported as an SVG file, reopened in KiCAD, and then used to create the required cardboard parts. The laser can then also be used to engrave the cardboard too.
It’s a tidy packaging solution that requires no messy inks or printers, and can be designed in the same software as the device itself. We’ve covered this area before, talking about what it takes to go from a home project to a saleable kit. If you’re in the game, you might find [Wrickert]’s hack to be just the ticket!
Retro consoles are great fun, packed with classic games and plenty of nostalgia. However, they also lack the polish and ergonomics of more modern hardware. Serious gamers will often find their original gamepads wearing out, too. A solution to all these problems and more is BlueRetro.
BlueRetro is a Bluetooth controller adapter for a wide variety of vintage console platforms. Developed by [Jacques Gagnon], it uses an ESP32 for its powerful wireless capabilities. One core of the ESP32 is used to speak Bluetooth and handle controller interfacing, while the other processor core handles speaking to the attached console.
The level of attention to detail is where this project really shines. [Jacques] has implemented many advanced features, like mapping axes to buttons and vice versa – essential when swapping controllers across varied systems. The output of BlueRetro is a DB25 connector, which is then used with adapter cabling to hook up to the controller ports of various consoles. It’s even capable of emulating multitap adapters for up to 7-player action.
In a video, [Jacques] shows off the hardware in use with his collection of vintage consoles, hooked up on a shelf with an impressive A/V switcher setup. It’s clear that this is the build of a hacker that doesn’t skimp on doing things the right way. We’ve seen his work before too, with a tidy RGB input mod for CRT TVs. Video after the break.
In the matter of technological advancement, we are as a species, mostly insatiable. The latest toy, the fastest silicon, the largest storage, the list goes on. Take digital cameras as an example, what was your first one? Mine was a Casio QV200 in about 1997, I still have it somewhere though I can’t immediately lay my hands on it, and it could hold a what was for its time a whopping 64 VGA-resolution pictures in its 4Mb of onboard memory.
It’s a shock to realise that nearly a quarter century has passed since then, and its fixed-focus 640×480 camera module with a UV-sensitive CMOS sensor that gave everything a slight blue tint would not even grace the cheapest of feature phones in 2020. Every aspect of a digital camera has improved beyond measure since the first models in the 1980s and early 1990s that started to resemble what we’d know today as a standalone digital camera, they have near-limitless storage, excellent lenses, huge and faithfully-reproducing sensors, and broadcast-quality video capability.
But how playful have camera manufacturers been with the form factor? We see reporters in sci-fi movies toting cameras that look nothing like their film-based ancestors. What do our real-life digital cameras have on offer as far as creative body design goes?
It is common wisdom that solderless breadboards are only good for low frequencies. But how fast can they really go? There’s been a contest going on to see who can make the fastest breadboard-mounted oscillator and [Joe Smith] has been trying to keep his leading position. He’s already managed 6 GHz and now he’s shooting for 20 GHz, as you can see in the video below.
One of the biggest challenges at these frequencies is just measuring your output. You may have a scope, but how does it do at 20 GHz? So half of the story is how [Joe] managed to monitor his output.