Preserving Floppy Disks

Time is almost up for magnetic storage from the 80s and 90s. Various physical limitations in storage methods from this era are conspiring to slowly degrade the data stored on things like tape, floppy disks, and hard disk drives, and after several decades data may not be recoverable anymore. It’s always worth trying to back it up, though, especially if you have something on your hands like critical evidence or court records on a nearly 50-year-old floppy disk last written to in 1993 using a DEC PDP-11.

This project all started when an investigation unit in Maryland approached the Bloop Museum with a request to use their antique computer resources to decode the information on a 5.25″ floppy disk. Even finding a floppy disk drive of this size is a difficult task, but this was further compounded not just by the age of the disk but that the data wasn’t encoded in the expected format. Using a GreaseWeazle controlled by a Raspberry Pi, they generated an audio file from the data on the disk to capture all available data, and then used that to work backwards to get to the usable information.

After some more trials with converting the analog information to digital and a clue that the data on the disk was not fragmented, they realized they were looking at data from a digital stenography machine and were finally able to decode it into something useful. Of course, stenography machines are dark magic in their own right so just getting this record still requires a stenographer to make much sense out of it.

Two white Chevy Bolt hatchbacks sit side-by-side, immobilized in the street, their roofs festooned with sensors and an orange cone on their hoods like a snowman's nose pointed toward the sky.

Coning Cars For Fun And Non-Profit

Self-driving cars are being heralded as the wave of the future, but there have been many hiccups along the way. The newest is activists showing how autonomous vehicles are easy to hack with a simple traffic cone.

As we’ve discussed before, self-driving cars aren’t actually that great at driving, and there are a number of conditions that can cause them to fail safe and stop in the middle of the road. Activist group Safe Street Rebel is exploiting this vulnerability by “coning” Waymo and Cruise vehicles in San Francisco. By placing a traffic cone on the vehicle’s hood in the way of the sensors and cameras used to navigate the streets, the vehicles are rendered inoperable. Continue reading “Coning Cars For Fun And Non-Profit”

Infinite Z-Axis Printer Aims To Print Itself Someday

“The lathe is the only machine tool that can make copies of itself,” or so the saying goes. The reality is more like, “A skilled machinist can use a lathe to make many of the parts needed to assemble another lathe,” which is still saying quite a lot by is pretty far off the implication that lathes are self-replicating machines. But what about a 3D printer? Could a printer print a copy of itself?

Not really, but the Infini-Z 3D printer certainly has some interesting features that us further down the road to self-replication. As the name implies, [SunShine]’s new printer is an infinite Z-axis design that essentially extrudes its own legs, progressively jacking its X- and Y-axis gantry upward. Each leg is a quarter of an internally threaded tube that engages with pinion gears to raise and lower the gantry. When it comes time to grow the legs, the print head moves into each corner of the gantry and extrudes a new section onto the top of each existing leg. The threaded leg is ready to use in minutes to raise the gantry to the next print level.

The ultimate goal of this design is to create a printer that can increase its print volume enough to print a copy of itself. At this moment it obviously can’t print a practical printer — metal parts like bearings and shafts are still needed, not to mention things like stepper motors and electronics. But [SunShine] seems to think he’ll be able to solve those problems now that the basic print volume problem has been addressed. Indeed, we’ve seen complex print-in-place designs, assembly-free compliant mechanisms, and even 3D-printed metal parts from [SunShine] before, so he seems well-positioned to move this project forward. We’re eager to see where this goes. Continue reading “Infinite Z-Axis Printer Aims To Print Itself Someday”

Backyard LED Sculpture Inspired By Las Vegas Sphere

The Las Vegas Sphere is a large building. It stands 112 meters high and 157 meters wide, and is covered in a full 54,000 square meters of LED displays. That’s a little difficult to recreate at home for the typical maker. A scaled-down version is altogether more achievable though, as demonstrated by [DrZzs & GrZzs].

The Pixelhead Megasphere, as it is known, is 1.98 meters high and 2.4 meters in diameter. That makes it altogether easier to fit in an average backyard, and it comes with a much smaller pricetag than the $2 billion used to build the Las Vegas Sphere. It runs 20,028 individual addressable LED pixels, and runs on four 12-volt 100-amp power supplies. As seen here, it’s only running at 15%, so it can go plenty brighter to really get those power supplies toasty. The sphere is controlled by Xlights, with the LEDs interfaced via Kulp controller boards. It’s able to run a variety of different animations at a good frame rate, with [DrZzs & GrZzs] busy whipping up different designs for Halloween. The eye of Sauron is a particularly nice example.

We’ve seen some other neat LED spheres before, too. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Backyard LED Sculpture Inspired By Las Vegas Sphere”

Hackaday Prize 2023: AutoDuct Smart Air Duct

Modern building techniques are relying more and more on passive elements to improve heating and cooling efficiencies, from placing windows in ways to either absorb sunlight or shade it out to using high R-value insulation to completely sealing the living space to prevent airflow in or out of the structure. One downside of sealing the space in this fashion, though, is the new problem of venting the space to provide fresh air to the occupants. This 3D printed vent system looks to improve things.

Known as the AutoDuct, the shutter and fan combination is designed to help vent apartments with decentralized systems. It can automatically control airflow and also reduces external noise passing through the system using a printed shutter mechanism which is also designed to keep out cold air on windy days.

A control system enables features like scheduling and automatic humidity control. A mobile app is available for more direct control if needed. The system itself can also integrate into various home automation systems like Apple’s HomeKit.

A 100% passive house that’s also as energy-efficient as possible might be an unobtainable ideal, but the closer we can get, the better. Some other projects we’ve seen lately to help climate control systems include this heat pump control system and this automatic HVAC duct booster fan system.

Image of the presenter on the podium, in front of the projector screen with graphs shown on it

Supercon 2022: [Alex Whittemore] On Treating Your Sensor Data Well

If you build your own devices or hack on devices that someone else has built, you know the feeling of opening a serial terminal and seeing a stream of sensor data coming from your device. However, looking at scrolling numbers gets old fast, and you will soon want to visualize them and store them – which is why experienced makers tend to have a few graph-drawing and data-collecting tools handy, ready to be plugged in and launched at a moment’s notice. Well, if you don’t yet have such a tool in your arsenal, listen to this 16-minute talk by [Alex Whittemore] to learn about a whole bunch of options you might not even know you had!

For a start, there’s the Arduino Serial Plotter that you get for free with your Arduino IDE install, but [Alex] also reminds us of the Mu editor’s serial plotter – about the same in terms of features, but indisputably an upgrade in terms of UX. It’s not the only plotter in town, either – Better Serial Plotter is a wonderful standalone option, with a few features that supercharge it, as [Alex] demonstrates! You don’t have to stop here, however – we can’t always be tethered to our devices’ debugging ports, after all. Continue reading “Supercon 2022: [Alex Whittemore] On Treating Your Sensor Data Well”

Hackaday Podcast 236: The Car Episode, Building Leonardo’s Water Mill, Reviving Radio Shack

Elliot and Dan got together this time around to recap the week in hacks, and it looks like the Hackaday writing crew very much had cars on their minds. We both took the bait, with tales of privacy-violating cars and taillights that can both cripple a pickup and financially cripple its owner. We went medieval — OK, more like renaissance — on a sawmill, pulled a popular YouTuber out of the toilet, and pondered what an animal-free circus would be like. Is RadioShack coming back? Can an ESP32 board get much smaller than this? And where are all the retro(computer)virus writers? We delve into these questions and more, while still saving a little time to wax on about personal projects.

And although the show is peppered with GSM interference for the first few minutes it’s not actually a clue for the What’s That Sound. (Elliot says sorry!¬† And edited most it out by swapping over to the backup recording for most of the rest of the show.)

Check out the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Download it yourself if that’s your jam.

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 236: The Car Episode, Building Leonardo’s Water Mill, Reviving Radio Shack”