What’s Black, White, And Red On 20 Sides?

You won’t need to pack a full set of dice for your next game with this DIY Multifunctional Eink Gadget. [Sasa Karanović] brings us a fun device that combines a few essential aspects of tabletop gaming, D6, D12, and D20 dice rolling and a hero dashboard. While they have grand plans for a BLE networked future application, we admire the restraint to complete a V1 project before allowing scope-creep to run amok. Well played!

For this project, [Sasa] realized it needed to be battery powered and just choosing the right display for a battery powered application can be daunting. Even if you aren’t building this project, the video after the break includes a nice intro to electronic ink and low power microcontrollers for the uninitiated. We even see a graph of the completed board’s power draw from the button wake up, display refresh, and low power sleep. The project has some neat tips for building interaction into case design with the use of the display and a flexible bezel as integrated buttons. Continue reading “What’s Black, White, And Red On 20 Sides?”

Network Programming

If you want a book on network programming, there are a few classic choices. [Comer’s] TCP/IP books are a great reference but sometimes is too low level. “Unix Networking Programming” by [Stevens] is the usual choice, but it is getting a little long in the tooth, as well. Now we have “Beej’s Guide to Network Programming Using Internet Sockets.” While the title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, the content is right on and fresh. Best part? You can read it now in your browser or in PDF format.

All the topics you’d expect are there in ten chapters. Of course, there’s the obligatory description of what a socket is and the types of sockets you commonly encounter. Then there’s coverage of addressing and portability. There’s even a section on IPV6.

Continue reading “Network Programming”

Bringing The PIO To The FPGA

We’ve seen some pretty incredible hacks using the Raspberry Pi 2040. However, one of the most exciting bits of hardware onboard is the Programmable I/O (PIO). Not content with it just being a part of RP2040-based projects, [Lawrie Griffiths] has been porting the PIO to Verilog so anyone can enjoy it.

This particular implementation is based only on the spec that Raspberry Pi provides. For assembling PIO code, [Lawrie] uses Adafruit’s pioasm assembler they use for their MicroPython framework. There’s a simulator to test different programs, and the project targets the Blackice MX and the Ulx3s. A few example programs are included in the repo, such as outputting a pleasant guitar note over I2S and driving a chain of WS2812s.

The project is still incomplete but slowly making progress. It’s an incredible feat of reverse engineering. While the simulator can be used to debug programs, step through instructions, and inspect waveforms, the ultimate value of bringing the PIO to other systems is that now we can re-use the code. Things like the can2040, an implementation of the CAN bus protocol using the PIO. Or even a PIO-based USB host.

The Thousand Year (Radioactive) Diamond Battery

The Holy Grail of battery technology is a cell which lasts forever, a fit-and-forget device that never needs replacing. It may seem a pipe-dream, but University of Bristol researchers have come pretty close. The catch? Their battery lasts a very long time, but it generates micropower, and it’s radioactive.

They’re using a thin layer of vapour-deposited carbon-14 diamond both as a source of beta radiation, and as a semiconductor material which harvests those electrons. They’re expected to be used for applications such as intermittent sensors, where they would slowly charge a supercapacitor which could release useful amounts of power in short bursts.

It’s being touted as an environmental win because the carbon-14 is sourced from radioactive waste, but against that it’s not unreasonable to have a concern about the things being radioactive. The company commercializing the tech leads with the bold question: “What would you do with a power-cell that outlasts the device it powers?“, to which we would hope the answer won’t be “Throw it away to be a piece of orphaned radioactive waste in the environment when the device it powers is outlasted”. We’ll have to wait and see whether devices containing these things turn up on the surplus market in a couple of decades.

Fortunately the carbon-14 lives not in cartoonish vats of radioactive green slime but safely locked away in diamond, about the safest medium for it to be in. The prototype devices are also tiny, so we’re guessing that the quantity of carbon-14 involved is also small enough to not be a problem. We’re curious though whether they could become a valuable enough commodity to be reused and recycled in themselves, after all something that supplies energy for decades could power several different devices over its lifetime. Either way, it’s a major improvement over a tritium cell.

Handheld PC Looks Great

[Bytewelder] fondly remembers the Palm III and Sharp HC-4500, so taking on the design of Decktility, a custom handheld cyberdeck , was a natural next step. The blog post goes into much detail about the design decisions and challenges throughout the project. The end result, though, looks great.

The device uses a Raspberry Pi CM4 and an IPS touchscreen. The bulk of the design work was to get the power system working. There is a custom FET board and an Arduino that manages charging and battery state.

Continue reading “Handheld PC Looks Great”

Dear Ubuntu…

Dear Ubuntu,

I hope this letter finds you well. I want to start by saying that our time together has been one of creativity and entertainment, a time in which you gave me the tools to develop a new career, to run a small electronics business, make fun things, and to write several thousand articles for Hackaday and other publications, but for all that it’s sadly time for our ways to part. The magic that once brought us together has faded, and what remains is in danger of becoming a frustration.

In our early days as an item you gave me for the first time a Linux distro that was complete, fast, and easy to use without spending too much time at the CLI or editing config files to make things happen; you gave me a desktop that was smooth and uncluttered, and you freed me from all those little utilities that were required to make Windows usable. You replaced the other distros I’d been using, you dual-booted with my Windows machines, and pretty soon you supplanted the Microsoft operating system entirely.

Ubuntu and me and a trusty Dell laptop, Oxford Hackspace, 2017.
Me and Ubuntu in 2017, good times.

We’ve been together for close to two decades now, and in that time we’ve looked each other in the eye across a variety of desktop and laptop computers. My trusty Dell Inspiron 640 ran you for over a decade through several RAM, HDD, and SSD upgrades, and provided Hackaday readers with the first few years of my writing. Even the Unity desktop couldn’t break our relationship, those Linux Mint people weren’t going to tear us asunder! You captured my text, edited my videos and images, created my PCBs and CAD projects, and did countless more computing tasks. Together we made a lot of people happy, and for that I will always be grateful. Continue reading “Dear Ubuntu…”

Design For 3D Printing Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, May 24 at noon Pacific for the Design for 3D Printing Hack Chat with Eric Utley!

Like a lot of enabling technologies, 3D printing has had a strange trajectory. It started out as a laboratory oddity, moved on to industrial applications, and finally filtered down to the DIY set, first as scratch-built machines and later as inexpensive commodity printers that can be found almost anywhere. Pretty much everyone who needs a 3D printer now has one.

Not all additive manufacturing technologies are created equal, though, and there are plenty of applications for 3D printed parts where FDM just won’t cut it. Luckily, any of us can get access to the latest and greatest manufacturing technologies through job houses that specialize in everything from metal 3D printing to sheet metal fabrication, CNC machining, and even small-run injection molding. We may not be able to afford any of the machines, but in a lot of cases we can afford to rent time of them and get high-quality parts quickly.

join-hack-chatBut that raises another question: Is my design ready for printing? What works on an Ender on your shop bench might not quite translate to the latest SLS printer, and sending off an iffy design could just end up wasting time and money. Whether you’re sending your designs out and running them up on your own printer, you want to know what you’re doing will work. That’s why we’ve asked Eric Utley, an applications engineer with Protolabs, to stop by the Hack Chat. With 12 years of additive manufacturing experience, he’ll be able to help you tune up your designs and make sure they’re ready to print.

Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, May 24 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.