There was a time when creating a new IC was a very expensive proposition. While it still isn’t pocket change, custom chips are within reach of sophisticated experimenters and groups. As evidence, look at the Moushik CPU from the SHAKTI group. This is the group’s third successful tapeout and is an open source RISC-V system on chip.
The chip uses a 180 nm process and has 103 I/O pins. The CPU runs around 100 MHz and the system includes an SDRAM controller, analog to digital conversion, and the usual peripherals. The roughly 25 square mm die houses almost 650 thousand gates.
This is the same group that built a home-grown chip based on RISC-V in 2018 and is associated with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. We aren’t clear if everything you’d need to duplicate the design is in the git repository, but since the project is open source, we presume it is.
If you think about it, radios went from highly-specialized equipment to a near-disposable consumer item. So did calculators and computers. Developing with FPGAs is cheaper and easier every year. At this rate it’s not unreasonable to think It won’t be long before creating a custom chip will be as simple as ordering a PCB — something else that used to be a big hairy deal.
Of course, we see FPGA-based RISC-V often enough. While we admire [Sam Zeloof’s] work, we don’t think he’s packing 650k gates into that size. Not yet, anyway.
As far as consumer network hardware goes, we’re all expected to be pretty happy with 802.11n WiFi and Gigabit Ethernet over Cat 6 cables. For most home users, that’s plenty of bandwidth for streaming movies and posting K-pop fancams to Twitter on a daily basis. If you want a fatter pipe, things can get expensive, fast. However, [TobleMiner] found a way to use surplus server-grade cards in a regular PC – providing huge bandwidth on a budget.
HPE’s FlexibleLOM standard consists of a special edge connector on HPE servers that lets the end-user fit a variety of network adapters in a form factor designed specifically for blade and rack mount servers. At the electrical level, it’s simply PCI-Express 8x. FlexibleLOM network cards are built for high-speed data center use, often featuring SFP+ and QSFP+ interfaces capable of 10 gigabit and 40 gigabit speeds, respectively.
These cards can be had for under $20 on eBay, but won’t fit in a standard PCI-Express slot. Enter [ToberMiner]’s adapter, which hooks up the relevant PCI-Express lines to where they need to go, and mechanically adapts the FlexibleLOM hardware to fit in a regular ATX PC case.
Art is something that is always hard to classify, but by and large is most celebrated when it stimulates an emotional response for the intended audience. We’d say [Alexander Miller] achieved that in spades, with his elegant piece The Emergence and Decay of Computation.
An installation piece done for The School for Poetic Computation’s 2019 spring showcase, it consists of a series of receipt printers suspended from a height by their own paper. The thermal printers output a pattern from a cellular automata — a mathematical simulation that generates patterns that emerge from initial conditions, of which Conway’s Game of Life is perhaps the most popular. Fed data by an attached Raspberry Pi, as printing continues, the printers gradually lower themselves into a tank of water, permanently killing the hardware.
Ultraviolet (UV) curing lamps are crucial if you have a resin 3D printer or work with UV adhesives. Some folks line an old Amazon shipping box with foil and drop a spotlight somewhere inside. Other folks toss their work under the all-natural light source, Sol. Both options have portability and reliability problems, but [AudreyObscura] has it covered with a reflective mat lined with UV strip lights. This HackadayPrize2020 finalist exemplifies the ideal that good ideas are often simple, and this has a remarkably short bill of materials.
Foil bubble insulation is the medium because it provides structure and reflectivity, but it doesn’t cooperate with the LED strip’s adhesive. [AudreyObscura] demonstrates that masking tape as an interfacing layer makes everyone play nicely. A fine example of an experienced maker, their design covers bundling wires and insulating connections to keep everything tidy and isolated. With different arrangements, this can form a tunnel lit from above, a chimney lit from the walls, or you can drape it over some scaffolding.
[FacelessTech] was recently charmed by one of our prized possessions as a kid — the Magic 8-Ball — and decided to have a go at making a digital version. Though there is no icosahedron or mysterious fluid inside, the end result is still without a doubt quite cool, especially for a project made on a whim with parts on hand.
It’s not just an 8-ball, it also functions as a 6-sided die and a direct decider of yes/no questions. Underneath that Nokia 5110 screen there’s an Arduino Pro Mini and a 3-axis gyro. Almost everything is done through the gyro, including setting the screen contrast when the eight ball is first powered on. As much we as love that aspect, we really like that [FacelessTech] included a GX-12 connector for easy FTDI programming. It’s a tidy, completely open-source build, and there’s even a PCB. What’s not to like? Be sure to check out the video after the break to see it in action.
It’s all those little things. A month ago, I was working on the axes for a foam-cutting machine. (Project stalled, will pick back up soon!) A week ago, somewhere else on the Internet, people were working on sliders that would ride directly on aluminum rails, a problem I was personally experiencing, and recommended using drawer-glide tape — a strip of PTFE or UHMW PE with adhesive backing on one side. Slippery plastic tape solves the metal-on-metal problem. It’s brilliant, it’s cheap, and it’s just a quick trip to the hardware store.
Just a few days ago, we covered another awesome linear-motion mechanical build in the form of a DIY camera rig that uses a very similar linear motion system to the one I had built as well: a printed trolley that slides on skate bearings over two rails of square-profile extruded aluminum. He had a very nice system of anchoring the spacers that hold the two rails apart, one of the sticking points in my build. I thought I’d glue things together, but his internal triangle nut holders are a much better solution because epoxy doesn’t like to stick to anodized aluminum. (And Alexandre, if you’re reading, that UHMW PE tape is just what you need to prevent bearing wear on your aluminum axes.)
Between these events, I got a message thanking me for an article that I wrote four years ago on debugging SPI busses. Apparently, it helped a small company to debug a problem and get their product out the door. Hooray!
So in one week, I got help from two different random strangers on a project that neither of them knew I was working on, and I somehow saved a startup. What kind of crazy marvelous world is this? It’s become so normal to share our ideas and experience, at least in our little corner of the Internet, that I sometimes fail to be amazed. But it’s entirely amazing. I know we’ve said it before, but we are living in the golden era of sharing ideas.
Thanks to all of you out there, and Read More Hackaday!
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The Volkswagen Beetle is a true automobile icon, and while it may not be the fastest or most breathtaking looking car ever built, its unmistakable shape with those elegant curvy fenders and bulgy lights holds a special place in many people’s hearts. And then it inspires them to build minibikes from those same parts.
The idea of the Volkspod is to take the Beetle’s two front fenders, weld them together to one symmetric body, and turn it into a small motorcycle. [Jonah]’s version does all that, but instead of taking a whole minibike as core of the project, he only uses a minibike frame and substitutes the engine with a 2000 Watt e-bike motor along with an e-bike battery pack. Fitting the frame within the dimensions of the fender construct required some extra welding work, but in the end, it all came nicely together, and with its red paint job, it kinda looks like something from a vintage post-apocalyptic sci-fi cross-genre movie. Watch him taking it for a spin in the video after the break.