New Contest: Connected World

We’re on the lookout for the most interesting connected projects, things that communicate wirelessly to do something clever. Show us your creations and you can win the Connected World contest.

Chances are you’ve already been automating the world around you with wireless connections. This could be as simple as WiFi, or as convoluted as systems separated by miles yet connected via line-of-site laser communications. It could be 433 MHz wireless modules, or Bluetooth steering wheel control for your miniature robot. We’d really like to see a washing machine with a satellite uplink but we’d better be careful what we wish for.

We’ll pick the top 20 entries based on your creativity, execution, functionality, and how well you tell the backstory. Each will receive a free PCB coupon for up to $50 from OSH Park. Additionally, we’ll award the title of Best Project, Best Aesthetic, Best Documentation, and Best Media to four entries and give each a $100 Tindie gift card.

Don’t delay, put your project up on Hackaday.io and use the dropdown box on the left sidebar to enter it in the Connected World contest.

Meet The Bootstrap Winners Of The 2019 Hackaday Prize

The twenty projects that won this year’s Hackaday Prize bootstrap competition have just been certified. The purpose of this is to help great examples of early entries offset the cost that goes into prototyping as they work on their projects throughout the summer.

We know this has had a big impact on entries in the past. When working on hard projects it’s easy to doubt yourself, but you can usually get over that with just a bit of outside validation. Alex Williams encountered this when he first entered his Open Source Under Water Glider into the 2017 Hackaday Prize. He wanted to show off his work but didn’t think there’d be much interest and wasn’t sure if he’d continue development. He was shocked by the number of people who were excited about it, continued working feverishly on it, and went on to win the grand prize.

You’ll find all 20 bootstrap winners listed below, but we wanted to feature a couple of examples to show the kind of work that is happening during the Hackady Prize. The results of the bootstrap competition have no bearing on the top prizes: they are all still up for grabs, so enter your project today!

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Hackaday Podcast Ep23: Everything Breaks… Raspberry Pi, ADS-B, Hackaday Website, And Automotive Airbags

Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams talk news and great hacks from the past seven days. Sad word this week as Maker Media, the company behind Make Magazine and Maker Faire, have closed their doors. There seems to be a lot of news about broken hardware and software to discuss, with ADS-B problems grounding hundreds of flights in the US, Hackaday itself having a site outage, the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ can be bricked with a really easy mistake, and Lewin wrote a great overview of the Takata airbag debacle. Don’t worry there are still plenty of hacks as we look at old computers that sing, microcontrollers that chiptune, beat boxes that are actually boxes, and some very neat cartridge hacks for NES and Arduboy.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (60 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

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Divide To Conquer Capacitive Touch Problems

Back in the day, all of your music was on a shelf (or in milk crates) and the act of choosing what to listen to was a tangible one. [Michael Teeuw] appreciates the power of having music on demand, but misses that physical aspect when it comes time to “put something on”. His solution is a hardware controller that he calls MusicCubes.

Music cube makes selection using RFID, and touching to the right raises the volume level

This is a multi-part project, but the most recent rework is what catches our eye. The system uses cubes with RFID tags in them for each album. This part of the controller works like a charm, just set the cube in a recessed part of the controller — like Superman’s crystals in his fortress of solitude — and the system knows you’ve made your decision. But the touch controls for volume didn’t work as well. Occasionally they would read a false touch, which ends up muting the system after an hour or so. His investigations led to the discovery that the capacitive touch plates themselves needed to be smaller.

Before resorting to a hardware fix, [Michael] tried to filter out the false positives in software. This was only somewhat successful so his next attempt was to cut the large touch pads into four plates, and only react when two plates register a press at one time.

He’s using an MPR121 capacitive touch sensor which has inputs for up to 12-keys so it was no problem to make this change work with the existing hardware. Surprisingly, once he had four pads for each sensor the false-positives completely stopped. The system is now rock-solid without the need to filter for two of this sub-pads being activated at once. Has anyone else experienced problems with large plates as the touch sensors? Can this be filtered easily or is [Michael’s] solution the common way to proceed? Share your own capacitive touch sensor tips in the comments below!

Want to get a look at the entire project? Start with step one, which includes a table of contents for the other build logs.

The Day Hackaday’s Theme Was Broken

Today at about 10:00 AM Pacific time, Hackaday’s site host had an outage. All websites on the WordPress VIP Go platform were down, and that includes Hackaday. For about 45 minutes you couldn’t load any content, and for a bit more than two hours after that all we could display was a default WordPress theme with an alarmingly bright background.

At first, we were looking at a broken home page with nothing on it. We changed some things around on the back end and we had a black text on white background displaying our latest articles. Not ideal, but at least you could catch up on your reading if you happened to check in right at that time.

But wait! Unintended consequences are a real drag. Our theme doesn’t have comments built into the front page and blog page views, but the WordPress stock themes do. So comments left on those pages were being blasted out to your RSS feeds. I’d like to apologize for that. Once it was reported, we turned off comments on those pages and deleted what was there. But if you have a caching RSS reader you’ll still see those, sorry about that.

As I type this, all should be back to normal. The front end was restored around 1:00 PM Pacific time. We’ve continued our normal publishing schedule throughout, and we hope you have had a good laugh at this debacle. It might be a few days before I’m able to laugh about it though.

Something’s Fishy About This Computer

Aquariums are amazingly beautiful displays of vibrant ocean life, or at least they can be. For a lot of people aquariums become frustrating chemistry battle to keep the ecosystem heathly and avoid a scummy cesspool where no fish want to be.

This hack sidesteps that problem, pulling off some of the most beautiful parts of a living aquarium, while keeping your gaming rig running nice and cool. That’s right, this tank is a cold mineral oil dip for a custom PC build.

It’s the second iteration [Frank Zhao] has built, with many improvements along the way. The first aquarium computer was shoe-horned inside of a very tiny aquarium — think the kind for Beta fish. It eventually developed a small crack that spread to a bigger one with a lot of mineral oil to clean up. Yuck. The new machine has a much larger tank and laser cut parts which is a step up from the hand-cut acrylic of the first version. This makes for a very nice top bezel that hangs the PC guts and provides unobtrusive input and output ports for the oil circulation. A radiator unit hidden out of sight cools the oil as it circulates through the system.

These are all nice improvements, but it’s the aesthetic of the tank itself that really make this one special. The first version was so cramped that a couple of sad plastic plants were the only decoration. But now the tank has the whole package, with coral, more realistic plants, a sunken submarine, and of course the treasure chest bubbler. Well done [Frank]!

Circuit Bending Those Adorable Voices

Leapfrog make some pretty awesome kids electronics. Especially admirable is the low cost, the battery life, and the audio quality of these devices. This circuit bending hack takes advantage of those audio circuits by turning the Alphabet Pal into your lead vocalist. The performance in the demo video begins with some impressive tricks, but just wait for it because by the end the little purple caterpillar proves itself an instrument worthy of a position beside that fancy Eurorack you’ve been assembling.

The image above provides a great look inside the beastie. [Jason Hotchkiss] mentions he’s impressed by the build quality, and we have to agree. Plus, look at all of those inputs — this is begging to leave toyland and join the band. With an intuitive sense that can only be gained through lots of circuit-bending experience, he guessed that the single through-hole resistor on the PCB was used to dial in the clock speed. That made it easy to throw in a trimpot for pitch-bending and he moved on to figure out individual note control.

All of those caterpillar feet are arranged in a keyboard matrix to detect button presses. After pulling out the oscilloscope for a bit of reverse engineering, [Jason] grabbed a PIC microcontroller and added it to the same solder points as the stock ribbon connector. The result is that the buttons on the feet still work, but now the Alphabet Pal also has MIDI control.

Take a look at the writeup for full details, and the video after the break to hear it in action. If you’re a fan of circuit-bent toys, this pretty pink keyboard hack always impressed us, especially the spring reverb that was added!

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