Build Your Own Nanoleaf-Like Hex Lights

Nanoleaf makes a variety of beautiful LED lighting products, with their hexagon tiles particularly popular with gamers and streamers alike. However, they do come at a significant cost, particularly if you want to put together a larger display. [Giovanni Aggiustatutto] decided to build his own version from scratch, with a nice wooden finish to boot.

The benefit of the wooden design is that the panels look nice both when they’re switched on, and when they’re switched off. [Giovanni] selected attractive okumè plywood for the build, which is affordable and has a lovely grain. The hexagons were then fitted on their back side with strips of WS2812B LEDs. The first hexagon is fitted with an ESP32 that runs the lights, with the other hexagons having their LEDs daisychained from there. 3D printed frames were then fitted to each hexagon to allow them to be connected together into a larger wall-hanging piece.

Ultimately, building your own wall lights lets you customize them to operate exactly as you want, and often lets you save a lot of money, too. We’ve featured other similar builds before, too. Video after the break.

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Mystery Signal! Are You Ready For Your Mystery Signal?

Like many people [Dan Greenall] spent a lot of time in the 1970s listening to shortwave radio. While you often think of that as a hobby involving listening to broadcast stations, some people like to listen to other communications such as airliners, ships, military, and even spy stations. These days, if you hear a strange signal you are probably only one internet search away from identifying what it is. But back then, you had to depend on word-of-mouth or magazines to figure things like that out. [Dan] found a recording of a mysterious military-like signal he made in 1971 on 14.85 MHz. He decided that maybe now, all these years later, he could finally identify it.

The operator in the recording is counting and mentions “Midway Island,” famous for a World War II battle and part of the Leeward Islands in the Pacific. Thanks to the internet and the law of six degrees of separation, [Dan] found [Chuck Kinzer] who was a Midway Navy vet.

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Quest 3 VR Headset Can Capture 3D Video (Some Tampering Required)

The Quest 3 VR headset is an impressive piece of hardware. It is also not open; not in the way most of us understand the word. One consequence of this is the inability in general for developers or users to directly access the feed of the two color cameras on the front of the headset. However, [Hugh Hou] shares a method of doing exactly this to capture 3D video on the Quest 3 headset for later playback on different devices.

The Quest 3 runs Android under the hood, and Developer Mode plus some ADB commands does the trick.

There are a few steps to the process and it involves enabling developer mode on the hardware then using ADB (Android Debug Bridge) commands to enable the necessary functionality, but it’s nothing the average curious hacker can’t handle. The directions are written out in the video’s description, along with a few handy links. (The video is embedded below just under the page break, but view it on YouTube to access the description and all the info in it.)

He also provides some excellent guidance on practical things like how to capture stable shots, editing the videos, and injecting the necessary metadata for optimal playback on different platforms, including hassle-free uploading to a service like YouTube. [Hugh] is no stranger to this kind of video and camera handling and really knows his stuff, and it’s great to see someone provide detailed instructions.

This kind of 3D video comes down to recording two different views, one for each eye. There’s another way to approach 3D video, however: light fields are also within reach of enterprising hackers, and while they need more hardware they yield far more compelling results.

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A Yamaha DX7 On A USB Dongle

The Yamaha DX7 was released in 1983, with its FM synthesis engine completely revolutionizing the electronic music world at the time. It didn’t come cheap, and still doesn’t today, but we are blessed with emulators that can give us the same sound on a budget. In that vein, [Kevin] decided to whip up a Yamaha DX7 you can carry around in a little USB dongle. 

The build centers around the use of a Raspberry Pi Zero, Zero W, or Zero 2W configured to run the MiniDEXED DX7 emulator. The Pi is then set up with a dongle adapter board that allows it to run in USB Gadget mode. The Zero line of Raspberry Pis are perfect for this use, as they draw less current and so can, under the right conditions, run off a computer’s USB port. The Pi receives MIDI commands over the USB interface, and outputs sound via a Pimoroni Audio Shim. Effectively, the result is a single-channel DX7 synth that plugs in via USB; or eight channels if you use the more powerful Zero 2W.

[Kevin] readily admits that there probably isn’t much use for a DX7 dongle, given that you could just load a DX7 emulator in your DAW of choice instead. Regardless, it’s a fun build, and one that ably demonstrates the USB Gadget mode of operation for the Raspberry Pi. Video after the break. Continue reading “A Yamaha DX7 On A USB Dongle”

The Other Kind Of Static Hazard To Your Logic Circuits

We’ve all heard of the dangers of static electricity when dealing with electronics, and we all take the proper precautions when working with static-sensitive components — don’t we? But as much as we fear punching an expensive hole in a chip with an errant spark, electrostatic discharge damage isn’t the only kind of static hazard your digital designs can face.

To be fair, the static hazard demonstrated by [Shane Oberloier] in the video below isn’t really an electrostatic problem. “Static” in this case refers to when a change to an input of a logic circuit gives an unexpected output until the circuit stabilizes. The circuit shown is pretty simple, with three inputs going into a combination of AND and NOT gates before going into an OR gate. The static hazard manifests as a glitch in the output when the middle input line’s logical state is toggled; according to the circuit’s truth table, the output shouldn’t change under these conditions, but the oscilloscope clearly captures a high-low-high blip. [Dr. Shane]’s explanation of why this happens makes perfect sense: the inverter on that input line has a brief but non-zero propagation time, putting the whole circuit in an ambiguous state before finally settling down to the correct output value.

So how do you fix something like this? This gets into the Boolean weeds a bit, and we won’t pretend to fully understand it, but at least for this case, [Dr. Shane] was able to add a single AND gate to sum the two other inputs and pipe the output into another input of the OR gate. That has the effect of canceling out the race condition caused by the inverter, but at the expense of a more complicated circuit, of course.

We found this to be a fascinating and informative discussion of a potential pitfall in logic design. But, if you still want to see some MOSFETs executed with static electricity, who are we to object?

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Hackaday Podcast 245: The Silver Swan, ET’s Umbrella Antenna, Model Tanks Vs Space Shuttle Tires

This week, Editor-in-Chief Elliot Williams and Managing Editor Tom Nardi link up through the magic of the Internet to go over some of their favorite stories from the last week. After revealing the bone-chilling winners of this year’s Halloween contest, the discussion switches over to old-timey automatons, receiving deep space transmissions with a homebrew antenna that would make E.T. proud, and the treasures that can be found while poking around in a modern car’s CAN bus.

They’ll also go over how NASA saved the taxpayers a bunch of money by hacking a remote controlled WWII tank, CNC controlled microscopes, and a cinema-quality camera you can probably build from what you’ve already got in the parts bin. Finally, they’ll detail an ambitious effort to recreate an old computer’s motherboard with a new feature in KiCad, and muse over all the interesting things that become possible once your test equipment can talk to your computer.

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 and enjoy listening with a cold turkey sandwich.

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A Toe-Tappin’ Set Of Morse Code Pedals

What’s the worst thing about traditional Morse keyers? If you ask us, it’s the fact that you have to learn how to do two distinct things with one hand, and switch between them quite quickly and often.

This set of Morse code foot pedals is meant for those who are unable to use traditional methods of keying. It uses a retrofitted wireless keyboard to read Z and X as dit and dah, respectively, and convert the Morse code into text.

[Tevendale_Engineering] started by getting the controller out of the keyboard and figuring out which combination of pads sends Z and X. Then they wired those up with copper tape. The pedals themselves are made from 1/2″-thick wood, foam core board, and Nerf bullets to provide springiness.

There’s no solder here; it’s all copper tape and alligator clip test leads. So if this isn’t your hack for the day, we don’t know what is.

Not so great at Morse code? Here’s a clock that will train you on the numbers, at least.