Bringing Back The Fidget Toy Craze With The Magic Microcontroller Cube

[Rickysisodia] had a few dead ATmega128 chips laying around that he didn’t want to just throw away, so he decided to turn them into his own light-up fidget toy. The toy is in the form of a six-sided die so small that you can hang it on a keychain. He soldered an ATmega128 on each side of the cube and added a few dot circles to give his toy the look of a functional dice. We were pretty amazed by his impressive level of dexterity. Soldering those 0.8 mm-pitch leads together seems pretty tedious if you ask us.

Then he wired a simple, battery-powered tilt switch LED circuit on perfboard that he was able to sneakily place inside the cube. He used a mercury switch, which, as you may figure, uses a small amount of mercury to short two metal contacts inside the switch, completing the circuit and lighting the LED. We would suggest going with the non-mercury variety of tilt switches just to avoid any possible contamination. You know us, anything to mitigate unnecessary disasters is kind of a good route. But anyway, the die lights up a different color LED based on the orientation of the cube and it even blinks.

This is a pretty cool hack for wowing your friends at your next PCB art meet-up. We’ll probably put this in the electronics art category, so it doesn’t get lumped in with those other ever-beloved fidget toys.

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Apollo Missions Get Upgraded Video

July 20th marked the anniversary of the first human setting foot on the moon. If you were alive back then, you probably remember being glued to the TV watching the high-tech images of Armstrong taking that first step. But if you go back and watch the video today, it doesn’t look the way you remember it. We’ve been spoiled by high-density video with incredible frame rates. [Dutchsteammachine] has taken a great deal of old NASA footage and used their tools to update them to higher frame rates that look a lot better, as you can see below.

The original film from the moon landing ran between 12 frames per second and as low as 1 frame per second. The new video is interpolated to 24 frames per second. Some of the later Apollo mission film is jacked up to 60 frames per second. The results are great.

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Die Lapping For Better CPU Performance

CPUs generate their heat in the silicon die that does all those wonderful calculations which make our computers work. But silicon conducts heat fairly poorly, so the thinner your CPU die, the better it will conduct heat out to the heatsink. This theoretically promises better cooling and thus more scope for performance. Thus, it follows that some overclockers have taken to lapping down their CPU dies to try and make a performance gain.

It’s not a simple process, as the team at [Linus Tech Tips] found out. First, the CPU must be decapped, which on the Intel chip in question requires heating to release the intermediate heat spreader. A special jig is also required to do the job accurately. Once the bare CPU is cleaned of all residual glue and heat compounds, it can then be delicately lapped with a second jig designed to avoid over-sanding the CPU.

After much delicate disassembly, lapping, and reassembly, the CPU appears to drop 3-4 degrees C in benchmarks. In overclocking terms, that’s not a whole lot. While the process is risky and complicated for little gain, the underlying premise has merit – Intel thinned things out in later chips to make minor gains themselves. Video after the break.

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Hand Depanelizer Gets Pneumatic Upgrade

In high volume production, smaller PCBs are often “panelized” so that multiple copies can be shuffled through assembly as a single piece. Each board is attached to the panel with a few strategically placed tabs, not unlike the sprues in a plastic model kit. If you only have to separate a few boards you can simply cut them with a hand nipper, but when you’re doing hundreds or thousands of boards, it quickly becomes impractical.

Which is where [Clough42] found himself recently. Looking to improve the situation without breaking the bank, he decided to automate his trusty hand-held depanelizer tool. The basic idea was to build an actuator that could stand in for his own hand when operating the tool. He already had a pneumatic cylinder that he could power the device with, he just needed to design it.

In the video below, he walks the viewer though his CAD design process for this project. His first step, which is one that’s often overlooked by new players, is creating digital representations of the hardware he’s using. This allows him to quickly design 3D printed parts that have the proper dimensions and clearances to interface with his real-world components. Remember: it’s a lot easier to adapt your 3D model to the components on hand than the other way around.

With the appropriate valves, hoses, and a foot pedal attached to the pneumatic cylinder, he’s able to operate the cutter completely hands-free. He still has to manually move the panel around, but at least it saves him from the repetitive squeezing motion.

With a tool like this and a custom testing jig, you’ll be producing PCBs like the pros in no time.

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Stay At Home, HOPE And DEF CON Will Come To You

We’ve often heard conferences like HOPE and DEF CON called Hacker Summer Camp (although there are certainly more camp-like camps that also fit the bill). As we get into the hot parts of the summer, heading indoors for security talks, workshops, and untold shenanigans sounds like a good idea… if it weren’t for an ongoing pandemic. The good news is that you can still get a strong dose of these cons over the next three weekends as they’re being offered virtually.

Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) is a biennial conference hosted in NYC. After much drama about the dank Hotel Pennsylvania hiking prices astronomically for the con, a new venue was found and we all breathed a sigh of relief. The best laid plans, etc. etc. — you know how this turns out. But beginning this Saturday, July 25th, over 100 speakers will present in HOPE’s first-ever live online presentation. Hackaday is a proud sponsor of HOPE 2020.

DEF CON happens every year, and every year we tell you that DEF CON has been cancelled. What do you do if it has actually been cancelled when the boy constantly cries wolf? Well it’s not cancelled, it’s morphed into what is called DEF CON Safe Mode — an online offering for all to enjoy. Go head, hook your computer up to the online version of DEF CON, what could go wrong? Find out when the virtual con goes live starting August 6th.

These are not the same as meeting up IRL. There are so many chance interactions and spectacles to see that you simply cannot spark with a virtual offering. However, the platform for presenters, the coming together to talk, learn, and share about privacy, security, and internet freedom are meaningful and worth our time. So support your favorite cons by joining in, even when it’s from the comfort of your own couch.

Model Hydroelectric Plant Is An Illuminating Educational Tool

There’s more than one way to light up a strip of LEDs. Have you tried building your own hydroelectric power plant to do it? Well, now you can. Replicating [Matic Markovi─Ź]’s entry into the 2020 Hackaday Prize is bound to teach you something, if not many things, about the way hydroelectric power is generated and the way the variables play into it.

In [Matic]’s model, water from an adjustable-height reservoir flows into a 3D-printed Pelton turbine. The water jet hits the turbine’s cupped fins at a 90┬░ angle, causing the assembly to spin around rapidly. This mechanical energy charges a brushless DC motor that’s connected to an Arduino Nano, which rectifies the AC from the generator and uses it to light up an RGB strip like an equalizer display that represents the power being generated.

This is easily one of the coolest educational displays we’ve ever seen. The reservoir can move up and down over a 55 cm (21.6″) range with the flick of a three-way toggle, which makes it easy to see that the higher the reservoir, the more power is generated. [Matic] has the STLs and INOs in the usual places if you want to make your own. Flow past the break for a demonstration, followed by an exploded render that gets put back together by invisible hands.

Your hydroelectric setup doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to work. One man’s trash can be another man’s off-grid phone charger.

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Beyond Printf(): Better Logging Practices For Faster Debugging

All of us who do some programming know that logging is a time-tested way to output messages about the internal state of our code. With varying degrees of adjustable granularity, these messages allow us to keep track of not only the state of the application, but also its overall health. When things do end up going FUBAR, these log messages are usually the first thing we look at as a software equivalent of a Flight Data Recorder in an airplane.

Spending some time and care in not only designing the logging system, but also in deciding what should be logged and at what level, can make our future self appreciate life a lot more. We’re all familiar with the practice of ‘printf-debugging’, where logging is added as part of the usual post-crash autopsy as one tries to figure out what exactly went wrong. It’s one way of doing it, and eventually it works, but we can do much better.

People are lazy, and you’re only going to stick to good logging practices if they are at least as easy if not easier than sprinkling printf() statement throughout the code. Yet at the same time we want to be able to handle things like log levels and newlines without too much extra typing. The most successful logging libraries are built with this

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