Argos Book Of Horrors

If you live outside the UK you may not be familiar with Argos, but it’s basically what Americans would have if Sears hadn’t become a complete disaster after the Internet became popular. While they operate many brick-and-mortar stores and are a formidable online retailer, they still have a large physical catalog that is surprisingly popular. It’s so large, in fact, that interesting (and creepy) things can be done with it using machine learning.

This project from [Chris Johnson] is called the Book of Horrors and was made by feeding all 16,000 pages of the Argos catalog into a machine learning algorithm. The computer takes all of the pages and generates a model which ties the pages together into a series of animations that blends the whole catalog into one flowing, ever-changing catalog. It borders on creepy, both in visuals and in the fact that we can’t know exactly what computers are “thinking” when they generate these kinds of images.

The more steps the model was trained on the creepier the images became, too. To see more of the project you can follow it on Twitter where new images are released from time to time. It also reminds us a little of some other machine learning projects that have been used recently to create short films with equally mesmerizing imagery. Continue reading “Argos Book Of Horrors”

New Release Of FidoCadJ Draws Schematics Everywhere

Do you remember drawing your first schematic? Presumably you used a pen or a pencil and some kind of paper. Schematic capture software, though, makes it so much easier to draw schematics. There are many to choose from, but we spent some time checking out FidoCadJ and found it capable. Of course, there are many other options, but we did like that FidoCadJ runs locally and since it uses Java will run on just about any computer. Since it is open-source, you can modify it and you don’t have to worry about licensing it for your many computers or your team.

The program is a JAR file, and our first attempt to run it ran afoul of our older Java version that was the default Java Runtime Environment. But that was easy to fix, especially since a newer version was there, just not the default.

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Hackaday Links: July 26, 2020

An Australian teen is in hot water after he allegedly exposed sensitive medical information concerning COVID-19 patients being treated in a local hospital. While the authorities in Western Australia were quick to paint the unidentified teen as a malicious, balaclava-wearing hacker spending his idle days cracking into secure systems, a narrative local media were all too willing to parrot, reading down past the breathless headlines reveals the truth: the teen set up an SDR to receive unencrypted POCSAG pager data from a hospital, and built a web page to display it all in real-time. We’ve covered the use of unsecured pager networks in the medical profession before; this is a well-known problem that should not exactly take any infosec pros by surprise. Apparently authorities just hoped that nobody would spend $20 on an SDR and an afternoon putting it all together rather than address the real problem, and when found out they shifted the blame onto the kid.

Speaking of RF hacking, even though the 2020 HOPE Conference is going virtual, they’ll still be holding the RF Hacking Village. It’s not clear from the schedule how exactly that will happen; perhaps like this year’s GNU Radio Conference CTF Challenge, they’ll be distributing audio files for participants to decode. If someone attends HOPE, which starts this weekend, we’d love to hear a report on how the RF Village — and the Lockpicking Village and all the other attractions — are organized. Here’s hoping it’s as cool as DEFCON Safe Mode’s cassette tape mystery.

It looks like the Raspberry Pi family is about to get a big performance boost, with Eben Upton’s announcement that the upcoming Pi Compute Module 4 will hopefully support NVMe storage. The non-volatile memory express spec will allow speedy access to storage and make the many hacks Pi users use to increase access speed unnecessary. While the Compute Modules are targeted at embedded system designers, Upton also hinted that NVMe support might make it into the mainstream Pi line with a future Pi 4A.

Campfires on the sun? It sounds strange, but that’s what solar scientists are calling the bright spots revealed on our star’s surface by the newly commissioned ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter satellite. The orbiter recently returned its first images of the sun, which are extreme closeups of the roiling surface. They didn’t expect the first images, which are normally used to calibrate instruments and make sure everything is working, to reveal something new, but the (relatively) tiny bright spots are thought to be smaller versions of the larger solar flares we observe from Earth. There are some fascinating images coming back from the orbiter, and they’re well worth checking out.

And finally, although it’s an old article and has nothing to do with hacking, we stumbled upon Tim Urban’s look at the mathematics of human relations and found it fascinating enough to share. The gist is that everyone on the planet is related, and most of us are a lot more inbred than we would like to think, thanks to the exponential growth of everyone’s tree of ancestors. For example, you have 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, who were probably alive in the early 1800s. That pool doubles in size with every generation you go back, until we eventually — sometime in the 1600s — have a pool of ancestors that exceeds the population of the planet at the time. This means that somewhere along the way, someone in your family tree was hanging out with someone else from a very nearby branch of the same tree. That union, likely between first or second cousins, produced the line that led to you. This is called pedigree collapse and it results in the pool of ancestors being greatly trimmed thanks to sharing grandparents. So the next time someone tells you they’re descended from 16th-century royalty, you can just tell them, “Oh yeah? Me too!” Probably.

Hex Matrix Clock Is Spellbinding

Just when we think we’ve seen all possible combinations of 3D printing, microcontrollers, and pretty blinkenlights coming together to form DIY clocks, [Mukesh_Sankhla] goes and builds this geometric beauty. It’s kaleidoscopic, it’s mosaic, and it sorta resembles stained glass, but is way cheaper and easier.

The crucial part of the print does two jobs — it combines a plate full of holes for a string of addressable RGB LEDs with the light-dividing walls that turn the LEDs into triangular pixels. [Mukesh] designed digits for a clock that each use ten triangles. You’d need an ESP8266 to run the clock code, or if you’d rather sit and admire the rainbow light show unabated by the passing of time, just use an Arduino Uno or something similar.

Most of the aesthetic magic here is in the printed pieces and the FastLED library. It has a bunch of really cool animations baked in that look great with this design. Check out the demo video after the break. The audio is really quiet until the very end of the video, so be warned. In our opinion, the audio isn’t necessary to follow along with the build.

The humble clock takes many lovely forms around here, including pop art.

Continue reading “Hex Matrix Clock Is Spellbinding”

Concentric Rings Keep This Calendar Perpetually Up To Date

The variety of ways that people find to show the passage of time never ceases to amaze us. Just when you think you’ve seen them all, someone comes up with something new and unusual, like the concentric rings of this automated perpetual calendar.

What we really like about the design that [tomatoskins] came up with is both its simplicity and its mystery. By hiding the mechanism, which is just a 3D-printed internal ring gear attached to the back of each ring, it invites people in to check it out closely and discover more. Doing so reveals that each ring is hanging from a pinion gear on a small stepper motor, which rotates it to the right point once a day or once a month. Most of the clock is made from wood, with the rings themselves made using the same technique that woodturners use to create blanks for turning bowls — or a Death Star. We love the look the method yields, although it could be even cooler with contrasting colors and grains for each segment. And there’s nothing stopping someone from reproducing this with laser-cut parts, or adding rings to display the time too.

Another nice tip in this write up is the trick [tomatoskins] used to label the rings, by transferring laser-printed characters from paper to wood using nothing but water-based polyurethane wood finish. That’s one to file away for another day.

This Four-Axis Stencil Printer Is The Ultimate In SMD Alignment Tools

Here at Hackaday we love all kinds of builds, and we celebrate anytime anyone puts parts together into something else. And while we love the quick and dirty builds, there’s just something about the fit and finish of this four-axis SMD stencil printer that really pushes our buttons.

This build comes to us from [Phillip], who like many surface-mount users was sick of the various tape-and-PCB methods that are commonly used to align the solder stencil with the PCB traces. His solution is this fully adjustable stencil holder made from aluminum extrusions joined by 3D-printed parts. The flip-up frame of the device has a pair of clamps for securely holding the stainless steel stencil. Springs on the clamp guide rods provide some preload to keep the stencil taut as well as protection from overtensioning.

The stencil can move in the X-, Y-, and Z-axes to line up with a PCB held with 3D-printed standoffs on a bed below the top frame. The bed itself rotates slightly to overcome any skew in alignment of the PCB. [Phillip] was aghast at the price of an off-the-shelf slew-ring bearing for that axis, but luckily was able to print up some parts and just use simple roller bearing to do the same thing for a fraction of the cost. The frame is shown in use below; the moment when the pads line up perfectly through the stencil holds is oddly satisfying.

This puts us in mind of a recent, similar stencil printer we covered. That one was far simpler, but either one of these beats the expedient alignment methods hands down.

Continue reading “This Four-Axis Stencil Printer Is The Ultimate In SMD Alignment Tools”

Son Of Rothult

We are continuously inspired by our readers which is why we share what we love, and that inspiration flows both ways. [jetpilot305] connected a Rothult unit to the Arduino IDE in response to Ripping up a Rothult. Consider us flattered. There are several factors at play here. One, the Arduino banner covers a lot of programmable hardware, and it is a powerful tool in a hardware hacker’s belt. Two, someone saw a tool they wanted to control and made it happen. Three, it’s a piece of (minimal) security hardware, but who knows where that can scale. The secure is made accessible.

The Github upload instructions are illustrated, and you know we appreciate documentation. There are a couple of tables for the controller pins and header for your convenience. You will be compiling your sketch in Arduino’s IDE, but uploading through ST-Link across some wires you will have to solder. We are in advanced territory now, but keep this inspiration train going and drop us a tip to share something you make with this miniature deadbolt.

Locks and security are our bread and butter, so enjoy some physical key appreciation and digital lock love.