LAMEBOY is Handheld Gaming on the ESP8266

We’ve had our eye on [davedarko’s] LAMEBOY project for a while now, a handheld setup in roughly the same form factor as the classic Nintendo Game Boy. It’s remarkable how approachable portable electronic design has become, and that’s really what makes this interesting. The design is beautiful, and the closer you look, the more respect you have for what [dave] is doing.

Right now his proof of concept has a 3D printed enclosure whose face is the printed circuit board. We love how the lower left corner of the PCB slips under a pocket in the case, which makes it possible to use just one screw to secure the two together in the upper right.

The LAMEBOY is built around an ESP8266 module. Anyone who has used one knows this chip contains a fair amount of horsepower, but very little I/O. [Dave] has a lot going on with an LCD screen, six user buttons, a USB to I/O chip, and an SD card slot. He took two approaches to solve this dilemma. First he grabbed a PCF8574 port expander, and second he’s offloaded the color control of the screen backlights to an ATtiny85 (running a BlinkM clone).

Below you can see some early game tests on the perfboard prototype. We haven’t seen game play on the most recent prototype (there is a screen color test video in his latest project log) but it sounds as though [dave] plans to make use of the Gamebuino framework. This should mean that there will be no shortage of cool ROMs to load.

Continue reading “LAMEBOY is Handheld Gaming on the ESP8266”

Milling a Flow Sensor to Safeguard a Laser Tube

Powerful lasers get powerfully hot and if you don’t keep them cool you’ll pay the price. After two such experiences [NixieGuy] got smart and milled this flow sensor as a failsafe.

Laser cutters are awesome. But acquiring one can be expensive, and keeping them in working order is no small feat. From the gunk that builds up as a byproduct of vaporizing the cutting stock, to keeping the optics focused correctly, it’s a game that forces you to become a laser cutter operator and not merely a user. One of the worst things to deal with is having to replace a burnt out laser tube. They do have a life to them but in this case the filter on the water cooling system clogged and the tube cooked itself. Twice.

Flow sensor shown in the upper right.

This flow sensor now acts as an interconnect with the laser enable line. Starting with an acrylic rod, [NixieGuy] machined out a center hole for a magnetic stopper, then milled three channels for water to pass around it. Each end of the rod was turned on a lathe to interface with plastic tubing of the water cooling system, and a slot was milled on the outside for a reed switch.

The demo video is below. You can see that when water flows it pushes the magnetic stop up (against gravity) where it engages the reed switch, allowing the laser to operate. If something impedes the flow of water (even if the pump still runs) the laser will be disabled and (hopefully) prevent future tube loss.

Want to see some of the oops moments faced by many a laser cutter operator? Check our guide on how to fail at laser cutting.

Continue reading “Milling a Flow Sensor to Safeguard a Laser Tube”

We’re Using the Word Firmware Wrong

I had an interesting discussion the other day about code written for an embedded system. I was speaking with Voja Antonic about ‘firmware’. The conversation continued forward but I noticed that he was calling it ‘software’. We later discussed it and Voja told me he thought only the parts of the code directly interacting with the microcontroller were firmware; the rest falls under the more generic term of software. It really had me wondering where firmware stops being firmware and is merely software?

The topic has remained on my mind and I finally got around to doing some dictionary searches. I’m surprised that I’ve been using the word differently and I think most of the people I’ve heard use it are doing the same — at least as far as dictionary definitions are concerned. My go to sources are generally Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries and both indicate that firmware is a type of software that is indelible:

Permanent software programmed into a read-only memory.

computer programs contained permanently in a hardware device (such as a read-only memory)

According to this definition, I have never written a single bit of firmware. Everything I have written has been embedded software. But surely this is a term that must change with the times as technology progress so I kept digging.

Continue reading “We’re Using the Word Firmware Wrong”

Have Some Candy While I Steal Your Cycles

Distributed computing is an excellent idea. We have a huge network of computers, many of them always on, why not take advantage of that when the user isn’t? The application that probably comes to mind is Folding@home, which lets you donate your unused computer time to help crunch the numbers for disease research. Everyone wins!

But what if your CPU cycles are being used for profit without your knowledge? Over the weekend this turned out to be the case with Showtime on-demand sites which mined Monero coins while the users was pacified by video playback. The video is a sweet treat while the cost of your electric bill is nudged up ever so slightly.

It’s an interesting hack as even if the user notices the CPU maxing out they’ll likely dismiss it as the horsepower necessary to decode the HD video stream. In this case, both Showtime and the web analytics company whose Javascript contained the mining software denied responsibility. But earlier this month Pirate Bay was found to be voluntarily testing out in-browser mining as a way to make up for dwindling ad revenue.

This is a clever tactic, but comes perilously close to being malicious when done without the user’s permission or knowledge. We wonder if those ubiquitous warnings about cookie usage will at times include notifications about currency mining on the side? Have you seen or tried out any of this Javascript mining? Let us know in the comments below.

All the Speakers Plus We’re Heating It Up a Day Early

Things are getting real now. Check the list below for the last round of confirmed speakers to the 2017 Hackaday Superconference. This brings our slate of speakers to 32, but we’re not done yet.

Hackaday is adding an extra day to the Superconference by starting the festivities on Friday. Again this year we have an excellent custom hardware badge in development. It’s hard to pull yourself away during the Supercon for badge hacking so this year you can check in on Friday and let the hacking begin. Since you’ll be in town early, we’re also throwing a party at Supplyframe office (minutes walk from the main venue) for all Supercon speakers and attendees.

But we’re still not done. 32 talks, an epic hardware badge, and an extra day of festivities, what else could there be you ask? Two things: workshops and the Hackaday Prize party. Supercon will play host to eight hardware workshops this year. We’ll announce workshop presenters and topics next week but I can tell you they’re superb this year!

Continue reading “All the Speakers Plus We’re Heating It Up a Day Early”

Huge Names Confirm Their Supercon Appearances

We’re excited to announce the next batch of speakers for the 2017 Hackaday Superconference.

We are especially pleased to welcome Michael Ossmann as a speaker. He presented an RF design workshop at the 2014 Superconference which was sold out, standing room only, and still turned away dozens of people before becoming a hit on the Internet. This year he takes the stage with colleague Dominic Spill as they focus on infrared communications and the uses and abuses of such.

Dr. Christal Gordon threw down an incredible talk on biologically inspired sensors last year and we suspect she will outdo herself this year. Her talk will cover the fanciest of cutting-edge sensors and the trade-offs of selecting the new hotness for your designs. Coming out of this you will know when to go with a suite of tried and true components and when to make the leap to new tech.

Several of this year’s Hackaday Prize Judges will be on hand and presenting talks. In addition to Christal Gordon and Danielle Applestone (announced as a speaker last week), we’re thrilled to have Anouk Wipprecht — internationally known for her work in fashion and engineering, pushing the boundaries of how technology can interface with humans — as a speaker. Nadya Peek from the Center for Bits and Atoms who spoke at Supercon in 2016 with a harrowing tale of an impromptu engineering challenge in Shenzhen has confirmed that she will speak this year.

The ever-popular Sprite_TM will be at Supercon. He has a reputation for bringing the house down with fantastic presentations, be it the Tamagochi Matrix or the Tiniest Game Boy. And we are proud to present the Art Director for Hackaday — Joe Kim will be speaking about the curious connection between art and technology and how developments in one push the other forward.

Ever wonder about the air you’re breathing in the house or at work. So does Natalia Mykhaylova whose work begins to monitor and catalog that information. She will discuss the state of our HVAC systems and what it looks like to bring them into the information age.

Below you’ll find the confirmed speakers we’re announcing today. We’ll have more, as well as a list of confirmed talks next week. Get your ticket now, they will sell out.

Continue reading “Huge Names Confirm Their Supercon Appearances”

Superconference Speakers Revealed

You’ll find the best hardware talks at the Hackaday Superconference. This year, we received over 140 proposals for a few dozen speaking slots. Although we’re still working through the proposals, today we can announce a few of the accepted and confirmed speakers so far. Below you’ll find about a third of the total slate of speakers.

Get Your Ticket to the Hackaday Superconference — they’re almost gone!

Continue reading “Superconference Speakers Revealed”