Computers, from the simplest to the most complex, aren’t very useful if they can’t provide feedback to a user. Whether that interface takes the form of a monitor, a speaker, or a simple LED, there’s almost always some kind of output. One of the most ubiquitous is the ever-present seven-segment display. They’re small, they’re easy to use, and, perhaps most important, they’re cheap.
While the displays themselves are relatively compact, they often require some sort of driver circuitry — something that translates a digit into voltage at the correct pins. These drivers can take up valuable space, especially on a breadboard, and can sometimes make using seven-segment displays cumbersome. Thankfully, [John Lonergan] has a great solution: driver boards that sit completely beneath the displays. His dual seven-segment hex display project was born out of necessity — he needed it for the breadboard CPU SPAM-1, which was getting a bit too bulky. Each module is two seven-segment displays atop a small PCB. Beneath the displays lives an 8-bit PIC microcontroller, which acts as a driver for both of the displays.
It’s so easy to restrict ourselves to thinking in two dimensions when working on electronic design — even designing multilayer PCBs often feels like working on several, distinct two-dimensional areas rather than one three-dimensional one. The concept of stacking components to save space, while fairly straightforward to implement, is a great example of the kind of problem-solving we love to see here at Hackaday. Of course, if you like the idea of 3D circuit design, you have to check out some of these incredible circuit sculptures we’ve featured in the past.
[pmig96] loves PalmOS and has set about on the arduous task of reimplementing PalmOS from scratch, dubbing it Pumpkin OS. Pumpkin OS can run on x86 and ARM at native speed as it is not an emulator. System calls are trapped and intercepted by Pumpkin OS. Because it doesn’t emulate, Palm apps currently need to be recompiled for x86, though it’s hoped to support apps that use ARMlets soon. Since there are over 800 different system traps in PalmOS, he hasn’t implemented them all yet.
Generally speaking, his saving grace is that 80% of the apps only use 20% of the API. His starting point was a script that took the headers from the PalmOS SDK and converted them into functions with just a debug message letting him know that it isn’t implemented yet and a default return value. Additionally, [pmig96] is taking away some of the restrictions on the old PalmOS, such as being limited to only one running app at a time.
As if an x86 desktop version wasn’t enough, [pmig96] recompiled Pumpkin OS to a Raspberry Pi 4 with a ubiquitous 3.5″ 320×480 TFT SPI touch screen. Linux maps the TFT screen to a frame buffer (dev/fb0 or dev/fb1). He added a quick optimization to only draw areas that have changed so that the SPI writes could be kept small to keep the frame rate performance.
Back in the 1970s, there were a few LED-based games on the market that were quickly superseded by the rise of LCDs and other fancier technologies. However, [grossofabian] wanted to recreate that classic style of game but with more modern hardware. The result is the LEDBOY, a colorful handheld game built in tribute to that era.
The handheld is based around the ATtiny 1614 microcontroller, driving a 10×10 array of NeoPixel Nano 2427 LEDs, named for their small 2.4 mm x 2.7 mm form factor. They’re RGB, too, so there’s lots of wonderful colors to play with.
Wrapped up in a neat enclosure with a rechargeable 130 mAh lithium-ion battery and some simple tactile buttons, it’s a tidy little handheld game console. Add in the CH340C chip for USB to serial duties, and it’s easy to program with the Arduino IDE, too.
Code is available on Github for those keen to take a closer look. Amusingly, the project bears a striking resemblance to a similarly-named build we featured just under 12 years ago. Time is a flat circle, and the video, my friends, is after the break.
Finding high voltage capacitors can be tricky. Sure, you can buy these capacitors, but they are often expensive and hard to find exactly what you want. [RachelAnne] needed some low-value variable capacitors that would work at 100 kV. So she made some.
Instead of fabricating the plates directly, these capacitors use laminations from a scrap power transformer. These usually have two types of plates, one of which looks like a letter “E” and the other just like a straight bar. For dielectric, the capacitors use common transparency film.
Motorcycle rally racing is a high-speed, exciting, off-road motorsport that involves zipping across all types of terrain on two wheels. While riding, it’s extremely important for riders to know what’s coming up next — turns, straightaways, stream crossings, the list goes on. Generally, this is handled by a roadbook — a paper scroll that has diagrams of each turn or course checkpoint, along with the distances between them and any other pertinent information. Of course, this needs to be paired with a readout that tells you how far you’ve traveled since the last waypoint so you’re not just guessing. This readout usually takes the form of a rally computer, a device that can display speed, distance traveled, and course heading (and some of the fancier ones have even more data available).
Frustrated with the lackluster interface and high cost associated with most rally computers on the market, [Matias Godoy] designed his own back in 2017, and was quick to realize he had a potential product. After several iterations he brought his idea to market with a small initial run, which sold out in a few hours!
[Matias]’s project, the Open Rally Computer (formerly the Baja Pro) packages neatly in a CNC-machined case and features a nice high-visibility LCD display, a built-in GPS receiver, and an ergonomic handlebar-mounted remote. The data is crunched by an ESP32 microcontroller, which also allows for WiFi-enabled OTA updates. The end result is a beautiful and useful device that was clearly designed with great care. Love the idea but not a rally racer? If street bikes are more your thing then fear not because there’s an open source digital dashboard out there for you too.
As an itinerant Hackaday writer I am privileged to meet the people who make up our community as I travel the continent in search of the coolest gatherings. This weekend I’ve made the trek to the east of the Netherlands for the ETH0 hacker camp, in a camping hostel set in wooded countryside. Sit down, connect to the network, grab a Club-Mate, and I’m ready to go!
Forget the CTF, Connecting To WiFi Is The Real Challenge!
There no doubt comes a point in every traveling hacker’s life when a small annoyance becomes a major one and a rant boils up from within, and perhaps it’s ETH0’s misfortune that it’s at their event that something has finally boiled over. I’m speaking of course about wireless networks.
While on the road I connect to a lot of them, the normal commercial hotspots, hackerspaces, and of course at hacker camps. Connecting to a wireless network is a simple experience, with a level of security provided by WPA2 and access credentials being a password. Find the SSID, bang in the password, and you’re in. I’m as securely connected as I reasonably can be, and can get on with whatever I need to do. At hacker camps though, for some reason it never seems to be so simple.
Instead of a simple password field you are presented with a complex dialogue with a load of fields that make little sense, and someone breezily saying “Just enter hacker and hacker!” doesn’t cut it when that simply doesn’t work. When you have to publish an app just so that attendees can hook up their phones to a network, perhaps it’s time to take another look . Continue reading “So. What’s Up With All These Crazy Event Networks Then?”→
Homebrew wireless sensors are nothing new around these parts: grab an ESP8266, hang a BME280 from the I2C pins, and you’re just a few lines of code away from joining the Internet of Things on your own terms. Builds like this are so cheap and easy that they make an excellent first project for folks looking to get into the electronics game, but what if you’re looking for something a bit more bespoke?
Rather than using WiFi or requiring some existing radio infrastructure, the boards automatically create a private network using the IEEE 802.15.4 standard at a range of up to 600 meters. A dedicated receiver isn’t necessary, to pull data off the network, one of the CC1312 boards simply gets connected to a computer through a simple FT232 adapter.
[Discreet Mayor] has already created a number of projects that use these custom radios for communication, from a pool monitoring system to a temperature sensor for the BBQ. That portable battery operated devices are able to use this common communications backbone just as well as mains powered static devices is a testament to the work that went into the firmware to make it as robust and efficient as possible.
Like the idea of long-range private networks, but less enthusiastic about having to come up with your own hardware? Not to worry. Over the summer, Espressif announced that they’re working on an ESP32 variant that includes support for IEEE 802.15.4. Just as soon as this chip shortage is over, we might even get to see the thing.