Kino Wheels Gives You A Hand Learning Camera Operation

Have you ever watched a movie or a video and really noticed the quality of the camera work? If you have, chances are the camera operator wasn’t very skilled, since the whole point of the job is to not be noticed. And getting to that point requires a lot of practice, especially since the handwheel controls for professional cameras can be a little tricky to master.

Getting the hang of camera controls is the idea behind [Cadrage]’s Kino Wheels open-source handwheels. The business end of Kino Wheels is a pair of DIN 950 140mm spoked handwheels — because of course there’s a DIN standard for handwheels. The handwheels are supported by sturdy pillow block bearings and attached to 600 pulse/rev rotary encoders, which are read by an Arduino Mega 2560. The handwheels are mounted orthogonal to each other in a suitable enclosure; the Pelican-style case shown in the build instructions seems like a perfect choice, but it really could be just about anything.

To use Kino Wheels, [Cadrage] offers a free camera simulator for Windows. Connected over USB, the wheels control the pan and tilt axes of a simulated camera in an animated scene. The operator-in-training uses the wheels to keep the scene composed properly while following the action. A little bit of the simulation is shown in the brief video below, along with some of the build details.

While getting camera practice is the point of the project, that’s not to say Kino Wheels couldn’t be retasked. With a little work, these could be used to actually control at least a couple of axes of a motion control rig, or maybe even to play Quake.

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History Of The SPARC CPU Architecture

[RetroBytes] nicely presents the curious history of the SPARC processor architecture. SPARC, short for Scalable Processor Architecture, defined some of the most commercially successful RISC processors during the 1980s and 1990s. SPARC was initially developed by Sun Microsystems, which most of us associate the SPARC but while most computer architectures are controlled by a single company, SPARC was championed by dozens of players.  The history of SPARC is not simply the history of Sun.

A Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) design is based on an Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) that runs a limited number of simpler instructions than a Complex Instruction Set Computer (CISC) based on an ISA that comprises more, and more complex, instructions. With RISC leveraging simpler instructions, it generally requires a longer sequence of those simple instructions to complete the same task as fewer complex instructions in a CISC computer. The trade-off being the simple (more efficient) RISC instructions are usually run faster (at a higher clock rate) and in a highly pipelined fashion. Our overview of the modern ISA battles presents how the days of CISC are essentially over. Continue reading “History Of The SPARC CPU Architecture”

A New Gaming Shell For A Mouse

For some gamers, having a light fast polling mouse is key. [Ali] of [Optimum Tech] loved his 23-gram mouse but disliked the cord. Not seeing any options for a comparable wireless mouse, he decided to make one himself.

Trying to shortcut the process, he started with an existing wireless mouse from Razer weighing in at a hefty 58 grams. The PCB on its own weighed in at 11 grams and after swapping to a smaller battery, [Ali] had a budget of 10 to 15 grams for the shell. Here is where the meat of this project lives. The everyday objects in your life like the poles that hold up traffic signals or the device you’re reading this article on are looked at and used without much thought into why they are what they are. The design of everyday things is a surprisingly deep field and designing a curvy mouse is no exception. With a 3d version of the PCB, he went through several iterations of how to lay out the mouse triggers. The scroll wheel was removed as he didn’t need it for the game he was playing.

The shell was printed in resin and came out great. [Ali] found himself with an ultralight 4000hz wireless mouse that was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a great example of someone diving in and designing something for their personal use. Whether it’s a mouse or a chair, we love anyone taking on a design challenge. Video after the break.

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IOT Message Board Puts Fourteen-Segment Displays To Work

We’re not sure, but the number of recognizable alphanumeric characters that a seven-segment display can manage seems to have more to do with human pattern recognition than engineering. It takes some imagination, and perhaps a little squinting, to discern some characters, though. Arguably better is the fourteen-segment display, which has been pressed into service in this just-for-funsies IOT message board.

As [Steve] tells the story, this is one of those “boredom-buster” projects that start with a look through the junk bin to see what presents itself. In his case, some fourteen-segment common-cathode LEDs presented themselves, and the result was a simple but fun build. [Steve] used some clever methods to get the display stuffed onto two protoboards, including mounting the current-limiting resistors cordwood-style between the boards. A Raspberry Pi drives the display through a very neatly routed ribbon cable, and the whole thing lives in a tidy wooden box.

The IOT part of the build allows the display to show messages entered on [Steve]’s web page, with a webcam live stream to close the loop. Strangely, the display seems stuck on the “HI HACKADAY!” we entered as a test after [Steve] tipped us off, so we’re not sure if we busted it or what. Apologies if we did, [Steve]. And by the way, if your cats are named [Nibble] and [Pixel], well done!

No matter what you do with them, multi-segment displays are pretty cool. But if you think they’re something new, you’ve got another think coming.

Magic 8 Ball Provides Tech Support

ChatGPT might be making the news these days for being able to answer basically any question it’s asked, those of us who are a little older remember a much simpler technology that did about the same thing. The humble “Magic 8 Ball” could take nearly the same inputs, provided they were parsed in simple yes/no form, and provide marginal help similar to the AI tools of today. For a toy with no battery or screen, this was quite an accomplishment. But the small toy couldn’t give specific technical support help, so [kodi] made one that can.

The new 8 Ball foregoes the central fluid-filled chamber for an STM32 Blue Pill board with a few lithium batteries to power it. The original plastic shell was split in two with a hacksaw and fitted with a 3D printed ring which allows the two halves to be reconnected and separated again when it needs to charge. It uses a circular OLED to display the various messages of tech support, which are displayed when an accelerometer detects that the toy has been shaken.

Granted, most of the messages are about as helpful to solving a tech support issue as the original magic 8 Ball’s would have been, but we appreciate the ingenuity and carefree nature of a project like this. It also did an excellent job at operating in a low-power state as well, to avoid needing to charge it often. There have been a few other digital conversions of these analog fortune tellers as well, like this one which adds GIFs to each of the original answers.

The 2023 Hackaday Prize Is Ten, First Challenge Is Educational

If you were anywhere near Hackaday over the weekend, you certainly noticed that we launched the tenth annual Hackaday Prize! In celebration of the milestone, we picked from our favorite challenges of years past and came up with four of our favorite, and even one new one just to keep you on your toes. But the first challenge round is running right now, so get your hacking motors turning.

Re-engineering Education

The first challenge this year showcases educational projects, but broadly construed. Hackers tend to learn best by doing. In the Re-engineering Education challenge, we want you to help give others a chance to learn new skills. Whether you’re building a DIY radio kit, a breadboard-it-yourself computer, or even a demonstrator robot arm, if it helps pass on your hard-earned skills, we want you to enter it here.

It’s fresh on my mind because we were just playing with one this weekend, but [deshipu]’s Fluffbug robot project is a great inspiration for non-traditional education. What better way to discover the intricacies of four-legged walking machine gaits than to have one to play with on your desktop? It’s not going to take over the world, but if you can make it walk, you’ve learned something.

More obviously educational is [Joan Horvath]’s Hacker Calculus, an entry in last year’s Prize. The connections between a function’s height, and the area or volume that it integrates up to can be awfully abstract. Printing out 3D models of the resulting shapes can really help to bring the point home. Or maybe you could really drive home the speed of a comet in its orbit with a physical model? They’ve got you covered, but also ideas for generating your own plastic math toys.

When we think educational computer builds, the amazing reproduction of the WDC-1 “Working Digital Computer” by [Michael Gardi] springs instantly to mind, but perhaps it goes too far down the rabbit hole. Just another rung up on the complexity ladder gets you the Blinking Computer by [Tony Robinson]. Or if you want to figure out how an almost-commercial Z80 computer works from the ground up, consider the Baffa 2.

So what skills do you have that you want to teach other hackers? Can you embody that in a project?

All the Challenges

If you don’t have education in your sights, have a look at the rest of the 2023 Hackaday Prize Challenge rounds. We’re sure you’ll find something you like.

To enter, simply set up a project on When the challenge is running, you’ll be able to enter. Full rules over at the 2023 Hackaday Prize landing page.

Challenge Date The Details
Re-engineering Education March 25 – April 25 Educational projects of all stripes welcome. If the goal is to teach, enter it here.
Assistive Tech April 25 – May 30 The Assistive Tech challenge calls for projects that help people with disabilities to learn, work, move around, and simply live their lives to the fullest.
Green Hacks May 30 – July 4 Help reduce our impact on the planet. Do more with less, or help clean up the mess.
Gearing Up July 4 – August 8 Hackers build their own tools. What have you made that makes your making easier? Share it with us.
Wildcard August 8 – September 12 This is where anything goes. The wildcard challenge lets your projects speak for themselves.

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Debugging And Analyzing Real-Mode 16-Bit X86 Code With Fresh Bread

Running a debugger like gdb with real-mode 16-bit code on the x86 platform is not the easiest thing to do, but incredibly useful when it comes to analyzing BIOS firmware and DOS software. Although it’s possible to analyze a BIOS image after running it through a disassembler, there is a lot that can only be done when the software is running on the real hardware. This is where [Davidson Francis] decided that some BREAD would be useful, as in BIOS Reverse Engineering & Advanced Debugging.

What BREAD does is provide some injectable code that with e.g. a BIOS replaces the normal boot logo with the debugger stub. This stub communicates with a bridge via the serial port, with the gdb client connecting to this bridge. Since DOS programs are also often 16-bit real-mode, these can be similarly modified to provide light-weight in-situ debugging and analysis. We imagine that this software can be very useful both for software archaeology and embedded purposes.

Thanks to [Rodrigo Laneth] for the tip.