I See By Your Tattoo That You Are A Hacker

We spotted [Segfault]’s new tattoo on a fast failing bird app a few days ago. We thought it was nice looking piece of skin art, but without a write up couldn’t cover it. The bearer of the tattoo pointed us to this blog post about the tattoo, and now we really like it.

It’s fun on it’s own, but when you start staring at it you realize it’s full of hidden jokes and meanings. If you like puzzles, go hunting for them before you read the blog post. We also liked the reminiscence about [Segfault]’s early electronics experimentation days, and how the 555 timer IC figured prominently in them.

We’ve not covered a lot of tattoos here at Hackaday.  Mostly we cover the technology behind skin fused or embedded hacks. But occasionally some tattoo art catches our eye, as it did in this interesting barcode tattoo.

Taking Distance Based CAD To The Next Level

For those who model CAD models regularly, a pair of calipers is essential as it allows reasonably accurate measurements to fit a specific part. However, [Jason Harris] is taking that concept to the next level with a signed distance function-based CAD tool, SDFX.

For those who don’t know, Signed Distance Functions can tell you from a given point how close the nearest part of the model is. The model is represented as a single function that offers some exciting benefits. For instance, chamfering and fileting are often quite complex in traditional CAD programs and trivial in an SDF setting. SDFX is a golang library that allows you to write golang programs to describe the model. OpenSCAD is a favorite of Hackaday as it is a beautiful parametric code-first CAD package. But the syntax and language are somewhat cludgy, to say the best. The advantage of using golang rather than a DSL is that you can use all the niceties that a full-featured language brings. For example, you can export multiple objects, make network requests, and interface with GUI libraries to recreate something like the customizer for OpenSCAD.

Objects are rendered to STL using Marching squares. Then, they can be printed in whatever slicing software suits your fancy. It’s an excellent project with a great API and almost a hundred examples.

The code is available on GitHub under an MIT License.

side by side, showing hardware experiments with capacitor gating through FETs, an initial revision of the modchip board with some fixes, and a newer, final, clean revision.

A Modchip To Root Starlink User Terminals Through Voltage Glitching

A modchip is a small PCB that mounts directly on a larger board, tapping into points on that board to make it do something it wasn’t meant to do. We’ve typically seen modchips used with gaming consoles of yore, bypassing DRM protections in a way that a software hacks couldn’t quite do. As software complexity and therefore attack surface increased on newer consoles, software hacks have taken the stage. However, on more integrated pieces of hardware, we’ll still want to return to the old methods – and that’s what this modchip-based hack of a Starlink terminal brings us.

[Lennert Wouters]’ team has been poking and prodding at the Starlink User Terminal, trying to get root access, and needed to bypass the ARM Trusted Firmware boot-time integrity checks. The terminal’s PCB is satellite-dish-sized, so things like laser fault injection are hard to set up – hence, they went the voltage injection route. Much poking and prodding later, they developed a way to reliably glitch the CPU into verifying a faulty firmware, and got to a root shell – the journey described in a BlackHat talk embedded below. Continue reading “A Modchip To Root Starlink User Terminals Through Voltage Glitching”

An automatic loom

Desktop-Sized Fully Automatic Loom Is An Electromechanical Marvel

Weaving is one of the oldest crafts in the world, and was also among the first to be automated: the Industrial Revolution was in large part driven by developments in loom technology. [Roger de Meester] decided to recreate that part of the industry’s history, in a way, by building his own desktop-sized, fully automatic loom. After a long career in the textiles industry he’s quite the expert when it comes to weaving, and as you’ll see he’s also an expert machine builder.

[Roger]’s loom is of a specific type called a dobby loom, which means that the vertical threads (the warp) can be moved up and down in various ways to create different patterns in the fabric. The horizontal wires (the weft) are created by a shuttle moving left and right, carrying a bobbin that unspools as it travels. A comb-shaped plate (the reed) then fixes the fresh weft in its place. [Roger]’s videos (embedded below) clearly show this mechanism in action, as well as the loom’s overall design.

A detail of an automatic loom, showing the end of the weft being clamped as the shuttle starts its run
A clamp hold the end of the weft as the shuttle starts its run

The 3D printed shuttle is moved back and forth through the warp by a belt-driven system that grabs the magnetic end of the shuttle. Revolving storage drums on either side of the machine enable the use of different thread colors for each shuttle run. Shuttles are exchanged by a robotic arm that picks them up and places them onto the track; there’s a clamp that grabs the end of the thread as the shuttle starts its run, and a wire cutter to detach it when the shuttle is up for replacement.

This intricate mechanical dance is controlled by a set of Arduino Megas and Nanos. They drive all the servos, DC motors, and steppers while reading out an array of sensors and switches. The system can even detect several faults: the weft is checked for proper tension after each cycle, shuttles with empty bobbins are automatically discarded, while a laser keeps an eye on the warp to ensure none of the threads have snapped.

The entire machine is of [Roger]’s own design; apart from 3D-printed and CNC-machined parts, he also re-used components from various pieces of discarded machinery. His ultimate purpose is to use this machine to make specialized fabrics for medical or industrial use: for example, it can use conductive threads to make fabrics with built-in sensors.

Although this isn’t the first DIY automatic loom we’ve featured, it’s definitely the most advanced. Previous examples, like this 3D-printed miniature version or this neat computer-controlled one can’t really compare to [Roger]’s 26 cm reed width and wide customizability. If you prefer to keep things a bit simpler, you can also use a 3D-printer to directly print certain fabrics.

Continue reading “Desktop-Sized Fully Automatic Loom Is An Electromechanical Marvel”

NABU PC – A 1984 Z-80 Computer You Can Buy Today

Want to hack on brand new 8-bit 1980s hardware? Until recently you needed a time machine, or deep pockets to do this. All that has recently changed with the NABU PC. A retro machine that can be bought brand new for $59.99, (plus shipping) no time machine needed.

[Adrian] has one in his Digital Basement, and breaks it all down for us. The NABU PC was a Canadian computer.  Designed to connect to the cable TV network, the standard system had no internal secondary storage. You read that right; the NABU used the cable network to download and play games, view documents — just about anything you’d want to do with a computer. Cable modems back in the 80s — maybe someone did have a time machine?

Unfortunately, the NABU network failed. Not due to the PC’s hardware, but because the cable system back then was not designed for bidirectional data. While the NABU PC did see a limited release in Canada, was never widely successful. When production was shut down, the machines couldn’t be liquidated, as they didn’t do anything without the network. So in the warehouse, they sat, until this month, where can find them being sold on eBay.

So what’s inside a NABU? It starts with a Z-80 CPU sporting 64 kB of RAM. A TMS9918 handles video, while a General Instrument AY-3-8910 does the sound.  There are also two UARTs. An 8251 for serial io to the keyboard and joysticks, and a high-performance UART chip to handle comms with the network adapter. The keyboard is loaded with good old ALPS switches, and [Adrian] found it rather impressive.

That’s all well and good, but what can you actually do with a NABU PC? Right now, not much. The ROM software comes up and looks for the network adapter, then complains when it doesn’t find it. This means it’s hacking time! An army of retrocomputing enthusiasts are already working on bringing back the NABU computer. Check [Adrian]’s video description for all the documentation links, and check here on Hackaday for the latest updates!

This isn’t our first time watching this sort of liquidation — remember the HP touchpad?

Continue reading “NABU PC – A 1984 Z-80 Computer You Can Buy Today”

App Detects Parkinsons Disease And COVID-19 Via Audio

One of the challenges of diagnosing diseases is identifying them early. At this stage, signs may be vague or confusing, or difficult to identify. Early diagnosis is often tied to the best possible treatment outcomes, so there’s plenty of incentives to improve methods in this way.

A new voice-based method of diagnosing disease could prove fruitful in this regard. It relies on machine learning techniques to detect when patients may be suffering from certain conditions.

Continue reading “App Detects Parkinsons Disease And COVID-19 Via Audio”

Amateur Rocketry Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, November 30 at noon Pacific for the Amateur Rocketry Hack Chat with Kip Daugirdas!

This might be going out on a limb, but it seems like most of us probably fooled around with model rockets when we were younger. Those fantastic Estes kits were great fun to put together, and launching them was always a big neighborhood event, and one of the few that could make even the coolest of the cool kids pay attention to the nerds, if only for a little while. Launch day had it all — a slight element of danger, the rotten egg stink of spent propellant, a rocket gently floating back to Earth from a dizzying height of 100 meters, and the inevitable tree-climbing party to retrieve a lost rocket.

join-hack-chatBut while model rocketry is fun, it doesn’t scale up very well. If you want to reach the edge of space, you’re going to need to make the leap across the border to amateur rocketry. That’s where the big kids play, with real engineering needed to produce and control the forces required to reach altitudes of 100 km or more. Kip Daugirdas has made that leap, building rockets capable of almost getting to the Kármán line. It’s not easy — there was plenty of design work, static engine testing, and loads of test flights leading up to it, and surely more to come. Kip will stop by the Hack Chat to help us understand what’s needed to press the edge of space, and hopefully share his plans for going all the way.

Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, November 30 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.