Miata Sci-Fi Digital Dash

One of the hardest, but sometimes best, things you can do for a project is to walk away. [Jroobi] had spent hundreds of hours crafting the digital dash for his MX5 Miata (video, embedded below) and after spending far too long chasing down I2C bugs, he made the difficult decision to step away for a while. However, as of May 2021, [Jroobi] returned to the project and found a power supply was under-specified and was causing brownouts that resulted in crashes.

All in all, it’s an incredible work of engineering. Everything from the massive codebase that describes all the different states to the tasteful graphic design is masterfully done. The Star-Trek-inspired theme and attention to detail really show in the different modes on the tachometer. The dynamic soft RPM limit based on engine temperature is particularly ingenious.

Under the hood of this custom dash are two Ardunios running the show. The center media console offers more controls with a generous touch screen while the instrument cluster shows most of the data. They talk over I2C to each other and communicate with other parts in the car, such as the RGB cabin lighting and the TEIN electronic suspension dampeners. Fuel and temperature levels come in as voltage levels which can be read via an ADC. The gear position is calculated based on RPMs and speed given the wheel size and the transmission in the vehicle.

It is a phenomenal labor of love and if you’re inspired to further upgrade your Miata you might want to see how to put carbs on the engine or RGB light rings in the instruments. Continue reading “Miata Sci-Fi Digital Dash”

Turning A MIG Welder Into A Metal 3D Printer

Metal 3D printers are, by and large, many times more expensive than their FDM and resin-based brethren. It’s a shame, because there’s plenty of projects that would benefit from being able to produce more heat-resistant metal parts with additive fabrication methods. [Integza]’s rocketry projects are one such example, so he decided to explore turning a MIG welder into a 3D printer for his own nefarious purposes. (Video, embedded below.)

The build is as simple as you could possibly imagine. A plastic adapter was printed to affix a MIG welding nozzle to an existing Elegoo Neptune 2 3D printer. Unfortunately, early attempts failed quickly as the heat from the welding nozzle melted the adapter. However, with a new design that held the nozzle handle far from the hot end, the ersatz metal 3D printer was able to run for much longer.

Useful parts weren’t on the cards, however, with [Integza] facing repeated issues with the steel bed warping from the heat of the welding process. While a thicker steel base plate would help, it’s likely that warping could still happen with enough heat input so more engineering may be needed. It’s not a new concept by any means, and results are typically rough, but it’s one we’d like to see developed further regardless.

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Hackaday Links: June 27, 2021

When asked why he robbed banks, career criminal Willie Sutton is reported to have said, “Because that’s where the money is.” It turns out that a reporter made up the quote, but it’s a truism that offers by extension insight into why ATMs and point-of-sale terminals are such a fat target for criminals today. There’s something far more valuable to be taken from ATMs than cash, though — data, in the form of credit and debit card numbers. And taking a look at some of the hardware used by criminals to get this information reveals some pretty sophisticated engineering. We’d heard of ATM “skimmers” before, but never the related “shimmers” that are now popping up, at least according to this interesting article on Krebs.

While skimmers target the magnetic stripe on the back of a card, simmers are aimed at reading the data from card chips instead. Shimmers are usually built on flex PCBs and are inserted into the card slot, where traces on the device make contact with the chip reader contacts. The article describes a sophisticated version of shimmer that steals power from the ATM itself, rather than requiring a separate battery. The shimmer sits inside the card slot, completely invisible to external inspection (sorry, Tom), and performs what amounts to man-in-the-middle attacks. Card numbers are either stored on the flash and read after the device is retrieved, or are read over a Bluetooth connection; PINs are stolen with the traditional hidden camera method. While we certainly don’t condone criminal behavior, sometimes you just can’t help but admire the ingenuity thieves apply to their craft.

In a bit of foreshadowing into how weird 2020 was going to be, back in January of that year we mentioned reports of swarms of mysterious UAVs moving in formation at night across the midwest United States. We never heard much else about this — attention shifted to other matters shortly thereafter — but now there are reports out of Arizona of a “super-drone” that can outrun law enforcement helicopters. The incidents allegedly occurred early this year, when a Border Patrol helicopter pilot reported almost colliding with a large unmanned aerial system (UAS) over Tucson, and then engaged them in a 70-mile chase at speeds over 100 knots. The chase was joined by a Tucson police helicopter, with the UAS reaching altitudes of 14,000 feet at one point. The pilots didn’t manage to get a good look at it, describing it only as having a single green light on its underside. The range on the drone was notable; the helicopter pilots hoped to exhaust its batteries and force it to land or return to base, but they themselves ran out of fuel long before the drone quit. We have to admit that we find it a little fishy that there’s apparently no photographic evidence to back this up, especially since law enforcement helicopters are fairly bristling with sensors, camera, and spotlights.

When is a backup not a backup? Apparently, when it’s an iCloud backup. At least that’s the experience of one iCloud user, who uses a long Twitter thread to vent about the loss of many years of drawings, sketches, and assorted files. The user, Erin Sparling, admits their situation is an edge case — he had been using an iPad to make sketches for years, backing everything up to an iCloud account. When he erased the iPad to loan it to a family member for use during the pandemic, he thought he’s be able to restore the drawings from his backups, but alas, more than six months had passed before he purchased a new iPad. Apparently iCloud just up and deletes everythign if you haven’t used the account in six months — ouch! We imagine that important little detail was somehere in the EULA fine print, but while that’s not going to help Erin, it may help you.

And less the Apple pitchfork crowd think that this is something only Cupertino could think up, know that some Western Digital external hard drive users are crying into their beer too, after a mass wiping of an unknown number of drives. The problem impacts users of the WD My Book Live storage devices, which as basically network attached storage (NAS) devices with a cloud-based interface. The data on these external drives is stored locally, but the cloud interface lets you configure the device and access the data from anywhere. You and apparently some random “threat actors”, as WD is calling them, who seem to have gotten into some devices and performed a factory reset. While we feel for the affected users, it is worth noting that WD dropped support for these devices in 2015; six years without patching makes a mighty stable codebase for attackers to work on. WD is recommending that users disconnect these devices from the internet ASAP, and while that seems like solid advice, we can think of like half a dozen other things that need to get done to secure the files that have accumulated on these things.

And finally, because we feel like we need a little palate cleanser after all that, we present this 3D-printed goat helmet for your approval. For whatever reason, the wee goat pictured was born with a hole in its skull, and some helpful humans decided to help the critter out with TPU headgear. Yes, the first picture looks like the helmet was poorly Photoshopped onto the goat, but scroll through the pics and you’ll see it’s really there. The goat looks resplendent in its new chapeau, and seems to be getting along fine in life so far. Here’s hoping that the hole in its skull fills in, but if it doesn’t, at least they can quickly print a new one as it grows.

 

AD409 Microscope Review

It wasn’t that long ago that if you had an optical microscope in your electronics shop, you had a very well-supplied shop indeed. Today, though, a microscope is almost a necessity since parts have shrunk to flyspeck-size. [Maker Mashup] recently picked up an AD409 and posted a video review of the device that you can see below.

The microscope in question has a 10-inch screen so it is a step up from the usual cheap microscope we’ve seen on a lot of benches. Of course, that size comes at a price. The going rate for a new on is about $400.

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Listen To The RF Around You

These days, we are spoiled for choice with regard to SDRs for RF analysis, but sometimes we’re more interested in the source of RF than the contents of the transmission. For this role, [Maker_Wolf] created the RFListener, a wideband directional RF receiver that converts electromagnetic signal to audio.

The RF Listener is built around a AD8318 demodulator breakout board, which receives signals using a directional broadband (900 Mhz – 12 Ghz) PCB antenna, and outputs an analog signal. This signal is fed through a series of amplifiers and filters to create audio that can be fed to the onboard speaker. Everything is housed in a vaguely handgun shaped enclosure, with some switches on the back and a LED amplitude indicator. [Maker_Wolf] demonstrates the RFListener around his house, pointing it at various devices like his router, baby monitor and microwave. In some cases, like with a toy drone, the modulation is too high frequency to generate audio, so the RF listener can also be switched to “tone mode”, which outputs audio tone proportional to the signal amplitude.

The circuit is completely analog, and the design was first done in Falstad Circuit Simulator, followed by some breadboard prototyping, and a custom PCB for the final version. As is, it’s already an interesting exploration device, but it would be even more so if it was possible to adjust the receiver bandwidth and frequency to turn it into a wideband foxhunting tool.

Electric RC Plane Flies For Almost 11 Hours

Electric RC aircraft are not known for long flight times, with multirotors usually doing 20-45 minutes, while most fixed wings will struggle to get past two hours. [Matthew Heiskell] blew these numbers out of the water with a 10 hour 45 minute flight with an RC plane on battery power. Condensed video after the break.

Flight stats right before touchdown. Flight time in minutes on the left, and miles travelled second from the top on the right.

The secret? An efficient aircraft, a well tuned autopilot and a massive battery. [Matthew] built a custom 4S 50 Ah li-ion battery pack from LG 21700 cells, with a weight of 2.85 kg (6.3 lbs). The airframe is a Phoenix 2400 motor glider, with a 2.4 m wingspan, powered by a 600 Kv brushless motor turning a 12 x 12 propeller. The 30 A ESC’s low voltage cutoff was disabled to ensure every bit of juice from the battery was available.

To improve efficiency and eliminate the need to maintain manual control for the marathon flight, a GPS and Matek 405 Wing flight controller running ArduPilot was added. ArduPilot is far from plug and play, so [Matthew] would have had to spend a lot of timing tuning and testing parameters for maximum flight efficiency. We are really curious to see if it’s possible to push the flight time even further by improving aerodynamics around the protruding battery, adding a pitot tube sensor to hold the perfect airspeed speed on the lift-drag curve, and possibly making use of thermals with ArduPilot’s new soaring feature.

A few of you are probably thinking, “Solar panels!”, and so did Matthew. He has another set of wings covered in them that he used to do a seven-hour flight. While it should theoretically increase flight time, he found that there were a number of significant disadvantages. Besides the added weight, electrical complexity and weather dependence, the solar cells are difficult to integrate into the wings without reducing aerodynamic efficiency. Taking into account what we’ve already seen of [rcflightest]’s various experiments/struggles with solar planes, we are starting to wonder if it’s really worth the trouble. Continue reading “Electric RC Plane Flies For Almost 11 Hours”

Video De-shaker Software Measures Linear Rail Quality

Here’s an interesting experiment that attempts to measure the quality of a linear rail by using a form of visual odometry, accomplished by mounting a camera on the rail and analyzing the video with open-source software usually used to stabilize shaky video footage. No linear rail is perfect, and it should be possible to measure the degree of imperfection by recording video footage while the camera moves down the length of the rail, and analyzing the result. Imperfections in the rail should cause the video to sway a proportional amount, which would allow one to characterize the rail’s quality.

To test this idea, [Saulius] attached a high-definition camera to a linear rail, pointed the camera towards a high-contrast textured pattern (making the resulting video easier to analyze), and recorded video while moving the camera across the rail at a fixed speed. The resulting video gets fed into the Deshaker plugin for VirtualDub, of which the important part is the deshaker.log file, which contains X, Y, rotate, and zoom correction values required to stabilize the video. [Saulius] used these values to create a graph characterizing the linear rail’s quality.

It’s a clever proof of concept, especially in how it uses no special tools and leverages a video stabilizing algorithm in an unusual way. However, the results aren’t exactly easy to turn into concrete, real-world measurements. Turning image results into micrometers is a matter of counting pixels, and for this task video stabilizing is an imperfect tool, since the algorithm prioritizes visual results instead of absolute measurements. Still, it’s an interesting experiment, and perfectly capable of measuring rail quality in a relative sense. Can’t help but be a bit curious about how it would profile something like these cardboard CNC modules.