Trackball Split Keyboard Will Roll Into Your Heart

One of the nicest problems to have with a split keyboard, even a monoblock split, is deciding what to put in the middle. Most people go for either the mouse, or else their beverage of choice. Some might sub in a bowl of snacks later on in the day. Personally, we most often use the space for holding notes.

[AlSaMoMo] went with the mouse, but decided to make it a permanent installation. They planted a trackball in the middle of Batreeq, their awesome little monoblock split. For a while now, [AlSaMoMo] has been using 30-key ‘boards and wanted to see about integrating a trackball. Not only that, Batreeq has a fun-looking scroll ring and haptic feedback. Plus, it just looks fantastic.

Even though Batreeq is vaguely bat-shaped, the word translates to ‘penguin’, which, on second glance, the keyboard does appear a bit villainous. But fear not, Batreeq’s PCB is open source, as are all of [AlSaMoMo]’s keyboards.

Want to have more space between your hands? Check out this split that uses VGA connections.

Via KBD #103

Sick Beats: Using Music And Smartphone To Attack A Biosafety Room

Imagine a movie featuring a scene set in a top-secret bioweapons research lab. The villain, clad in a bunny suit, strides into the inner sanctum of the facility — one of the biosafety rooms where only the most infectious and deadliest microorganisms are handled. Tension mounts as he pulls out his phone; surely he’ll use it to affect some dramatic hack, or perhaps set off an explosive device. Instead, he calls up his playlist and… plays a song? What kind of villain is this?

As it turns out, perhaps one who has read a new paper on the potential for hacking biosafety rooms using music. The work was done by University of California Irvine researchers [Anomadarshi Barua], [Yonatan Gizachew Achamyeleh], and [Mohammad Abdullah Al Faruque], and focuses on the negative pressure rooms found in all sorts of facilities, but are of particular concern where they are used to prevent pathogens from escaping into the world at large. Continue reading “Sick Beats: Using Music And Smartphone To Attack A Biosafety Room”

Tidy POV Display Using The ESP32

Chinese Youtuber [corebb] presents the second version of his POV display. The earlier version used 5050-sized SMT addressable LEDs, which didn’t give great resolution, so he rev’d the design to use a much higher number (160 to be exact) of APA102 LEDs. These are 2mm on the side, making them a little more difficult to handle, so after some initial solder paste wobbles, he decided to use a contract assembly house to do the tricky bit for him. This failed as they didn’t ‘understand’ the part and placed them the wrong way around! Not to be deterred, he had another go with a modified solder stencil, and eventually got the full strip to light up correctly.

Based on an ESP32 (using the Arduino stack) and SDCard for control, and a LiPo cell charged wirelessly, the build is rather tidy. A couple of hall effect switches are mounted at the start of each of the two arms, presumably lining

Real-time video streaming? Check!

up with a magnet on the case somewhere, although this isn’t clear. The schematic and PCB appear to have been designed with JLCEDA, which is a repackaging of EasyEDA. We can see the attraction with the heavy integration of this with the JLC and LCSC services. It appears that he even managed to get streamed video working — showing a live video from a webcam — which is quite an undertaking to pull off when you think how much processing needs to happen in real-time. As he alludes to in the video, trying to increase the resolution beyond this point is not viable with the processing capability of the ESP32.

A resin-printed case finishes off the build, with a screw-thread mount added to the rear, to allow typical camera mounts to be used to hold the thing down. A smart move we think.

We love POV displays around here, this spherical POV display is especially fabulous, but you don’t need fancy hardware if you have a handy ceiling fan and a bit of protoboard spare.

Continue reading “Tidy POV Display Using The ESP32”

Two landline phones connected to a set of wires and boards

How To Build Your Own Analog Phone Network

Analog phones may be nearly obsolete today, but having served humanity for well over a century they’re quite likely to pop up in drawers or attics now and then. If you’ve got a few of them lying around and you think it’d be cool to hook them up and make your own local telephone system, check out [Gadget Reboot]’s latest work. His video series shows all the steps towards making a fully-functional wired phone system.

Of course, dedicated phone exchanges for home or small business use are not hard to find, but [Gadget Reboot] decided it would be way more interesting to design his own system from the ground up. To begin with, he used off-the-shelf subscriber line interface circuits (SLICs) to implement the correct voltages, currents and impedances to drive analog phones. He then added a DTMF decoder chip to allow the phone to dial a number, and hooked up both systems to an ESP8266 which controls the entire system. It implements the different states of picking up, dialing, ringing and hanging up, and also generates the corresponding audio signals.

The system becomes even more interesting through the implementation of a multi-exchange layout, just like in large-scale phone systems: when a number is dialled that’s connected to a different exchange, then a connection must be made between two exchanges in order to complete the call. Large-scale systems use dedicated protocols like SS7, but [Gadget Reboot] preferred to keep things simple and used an RS-485 connection. The two ESPs check each others status and if everything’s in order, a relay connects the two lines and the circuit is completed.

The current system is a bit of a mess of wires, but it works, and [Gadget Reboot] plans to make a cleaner setup based on custom circuit boards, possibly expanding it with functions like modem support. In any case it’s already way more advanced than a simple electromechanical system. Want to know more about classic phone networks? We’ve got you covered.

Continue reading “How To Build Your Own Analog Phone Network”

Termi2 Is Siri Like It’s 1976

What are your plans for the long weekend? If you don’t have time or don’t want to dive into a new project, why not dust off something left unfinished, or do as Hackaday alum [Cameron Coward] did recently and upgrade an old project with a new brain.

In this case, the project in question is a terminal typewriter — a Texas Instruments Silent 700 Terminal, to be exact — into a sort of late ’70’s version of Siri. The terminal typewriter is a special beast that used an acoustic coupler to send and receive both beeps and boops from distant mainframes. Whereas the first iteration of Termi used a Raspberry Pi Zero W to run a script that queries Wolfram Alpha, [Cameron] decided that between the login requirement, the boot time, and the weird formatting required to get it to work, that there had to be a better way.

Turns out that the better way is to use an ESP32 and read the “serial port”, which is a proprietary port with two serial connections — one for the acoustic coupler, and one for regular serial communication. Our favorite thing about this build, no matter the brain, is that there is a permanent record of all the questions and answers. Be sure to check out the video after the break.

Continue reading “Termi2 Is Siri Like It’s 1976”

Books You Should Read: Why Buildings Fall Down

People with long commutes usually come up with tricks to stay focused and alert and avoid the dangerous tendency to zone out during the drive. One trick I used to use was keeping mental track of the various construction projects I’d pass by on my way to work, noticing which piers on a new highway overpass were nearing completion, or watching steelworkers put together the complex rebar endoskeletons of a new stretch of roadway.

One project I loved to watch back in the 80s was a new high-rise going in right next to the highway, which fascinated me because of the construction method. Rather than putting together a steel frame, laying out decking, and covering each floor with concrete, the workers seemed to be fabricating each floor at ground level and then jacking them up on the vertical steel columns. I was fascinated by this because every time I passed by the floors were in a different position, spreading out vertically as the building grew.

And then one day, it just wasn’t there anymore. Where there had been columns stretching nine stories into the city sky with concrete slabs lined up ready to be jacked up into their final positions, there was just an enormous hole in the ground with a ghastly gray cloud of concrete dust rising from it. It was April 23, 1987, and what was once going to be a luxury apartment building called L’Ambience Plaza in Bridgeport, Connecticut lay pancaked into the ground, entombing the bodies of 28 construction workers.

Continue reading “Books You Should Read: Why Buildings Fall Down”

Hardware Store Chemicals Transform Sheets Into Waterproof Tarps

For hackers in the Northern Hemisphere, the seasons of wet and cold are upon us. Staying dry is every bit as important as staying warm, so what better than a hack or two to keep us warm and dry! All you’ll need is a bed sheet, some rope, and a run to the local hardware store, and a bit of knowledge. [NightHawkInLight] has us covered with the excellent video “Recycled Bedsheets Make The Best Waterproof Tarps” as seen below the break.

[NightHawkInLight] brings old traditional methods into the 21st century by turning away from oil, beeswax and canvas in favor of a recycled bed sheet made waterproof with silicone. The video goes into just enough detail so that you can reproduce their results without fear of working with the powerful solvent being used.

Cheap hardware store grade silicone sealant is thinned by naphtha, worked into the old bed sheet, and then hung out to dry overnight. The result? A perfectly waterproof sheet that’s just as pliable as before treatment. But how can you use it like a tarp, when there are no eyelets? If you watch the video for no other reason, check out the neat attachment trick at the end, where traditional technology is brought to the fore once again with nothing more than a rock and a slip knot.

We can imagine that the uses for such inexpensive, durable home made tarps are many. Perhaps one could put it to use when building your own Custom Cycling Camper.

Continue reading “Hardware Store Chemicals Transform Sheets Into Waterproof Tarps”