NVIDIA’s Jetson line of single-board computers are doing something different in a vast sea of relatively similar Linux SBCs. Designed for edge computing applications, such as a robot that needs to perform high-speed computer vision while out in the field, they provide exceptional performance in a board that’s of comparable size and weight to other SBCs on the market. The only difference, as you might expect, is that they tend to cost a lot more: the current top of the line Jetson AGX Orin Developer Kit is $1999 USD
While the $499 price tag of the Jetson Orin Nano Developer Kit may be a bit steep for hobbyists, there’s no question that you get a lot for your money. Capable of performing 40 trillion operations per second (TOPS), NVIDIA estimates the Orin Nano is a staggering 80X as powerful as the previous Nano. It’s a level of performance that, admittedly, not every Hackaday reader needs on their workbench. But the allure of a palm-sized supercomputer is very real, and anyone with an interest in experimenting with machine learning would do well to weigh (literally, and figuratively) the Orin Nano against a desktop computer with a comparable NVIDIA graphics card.
We were provided with one of the very first Jetson Orin Nano Developer Kits before their official unveiling during NVIDIA GTC (GPU Technology Conference), and I’ve spent the last few days getting up close and personal with the hardware and software. After coming to terms with the fact that this tiny board is considerably more powerful than the computer I’m currently writing this on, I’m left excited to see what the community can accomplish with the incredible performance offered by this pint-sized system.
There are few devices that better exemplify the breakneck pace of modern technical advancement than the mobile phone. In the span of just a decade, we went from flip phones and polyphonic ringtones to full-fledged mobile computers with quad-core processors and gigabytes of memory.
While rapid advancements in computational power are of course nothing new, the evolution of mobile devices is something altogether different. The Razr V3 of 2003 and the Nexus 5 of 2013 are so vastly different that it’s hard to reconcile the fact they were (at least ostensibly) designed to serve the same purpose — with everything from their basic physical layout to the way the user interacts with them having undergone dramatic changes in the intervening years. Even the network technology they use to facilitate voice and data communication are different.
Yet, there’s at least one component they share: the lowly SIM card. In fact, if you don’t mind trimming a bit of unnecessary plastic away, you could pull the SIM out of the Razr and slap it into the Nexus 5 without a problem. It doesn’t matter that the latter phone wasn’t even a twinkling in Google’s eye when the card was made, the nature of the SIM card means compatibility is a given.
Indeed there’s every reason to believe that very same card, now 20 years old, could be installed in any number of phones on the market today. Although, once again, some minor surgery would be required to pare it down to size.
Such is the beauty of the SIM, or Subscriber Identity Module. It allows you to easily transfer your cellular service from one phone to another, with little regard to the age or manufacturer of the device, and generally without even having to inform your carrier of the swap. It’s a simple concept that has served us well for almost as long as cellular telephones have existed, and separates the phone from the phone contract.
So naturally, there’s mounting pressure in the industry to screw it up.
Editor-in-Chief Elliot Williams is joined this week by newly minted Development Editor (and definitely not brother) Al Williams to bring you the weekly highlights from our little corner of the Internet. Between the rapidly approaching deadline for the Low-Power Challenge to Samsung creating a fake Moon with artificial intelligence, there’s plenty in the news to get this episode started. From there, the Williams plural discuss using a webcam for cheap virtual reality thrills, an impressive expansion for the Flipper Zero, and whether or not finding a bug in the Nintendo DSi browser counts as retrocomputing. Stick around to hear about the fascinating work Joshua Vasquez has been doing with DIY light guide plates, and Arya Voronova’s deep-dive into PCI-Express.
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!
It’s no secret that company has struggled to find its footing since it was formed in 2017. On paper, it was an obvious venture — Virgin Galactic already had the White Knight Two carrier aircraft and put plenty of R&D into air-launched rockets, it would simply be a matter of swapping the crewed SpaceShipTwo vehicle for the LauncherOne orbital booster. But upgrades to the rocket eventually made it too large for the existing carrier aircraft, so the company instead purchased a Boeing 747 and modified it to lift their two-stage rocket out of the thick lower atmosphere. Continue reading “Virgin Orbit Pauses Operations, Seeks Funding”→
Whether it’s because they’re concerned about worsening pollution or the now endemic variants of COVID-19, a whole lot of people have found themselves in the market for a home air quality monitor thee last couple of years. IKEA noted this trend awhile back, and released the VINDRIKTNING sensor to capitalize on the trend.
The device must have sold pretty well, because last month the Swedish flat-packer unveiled the considerably more capable (and more expensive) VINDSTYRKA. Now thanks to the efforts of [Oleksii Kutuzov] we’ve got a fantastic teardown of the new gadget, and some more information on the improvements IKEA made over its predecessor.
Certainly the most obvious upgrade is the addition of an LCD readout that displays temperature, humidity, and how many particulates the device detected in the air. There’s even a “traffic light” colored indicator to show at a glance how bad your air supply is. The other big change is the addition of wireless, though unlike the WiFi hacks we saw for the VINDRIKTNING, this built-in capability uses Zigbee and is designed to plug into IKEA’s own home automation ecosystem.
But even if you aren’t looking to modify the device from its original configuration (how did you find this website?), it seems pretty clear the VINDSTYRKA is a well-built piece of kit that will serve you and your family well. Which is more than what could be said for some of the cheapo environmental sensors flooding the market.
The Fisher-Price See ‘n Say was introduced back in 1964, and since then has helped teach countless children the different sounds made by farm animals. But what about our urban youth? If they’re going to navigate a concrete jungle, why not prepare them to identify the sound of a jackhammer or the chime that plays before an announcement goes out over the subway’s PA system?
That’s the idea behind this hacked See ‘n Say [John Park] put together for Adafruit. Now we should note up front that no vintage toys were sacrificed during the production of this gadget — it seems Fisher-Price (predictably) dropped the tiny record player these toys used to use for a cheap electronic board sometime in the 90s. A quick check with everyone’s favorite A-to-Z megacorp shows you can pick up one of these new-school models for around $25 USD.
Cracking open the electronic version of the See ‘n Say reveals a circular PCB with a series of membrane buttons that are pressed by the mechanics of the spinning pointer. As it so happens, there are handy test points next to each of these buttons, which makes it simple to wire up to a microcontroller.
In this case, it’s Adafruit’s KB2040, which is connected to a MAX98357A amplifier board over I2S. A small boost converter module is used to wring 5 volts out of the toy’s pair of AA batteries. The original speaker is repurposed, though [John] adds a physical power switch to keep the boost converter from flattening the alkaline batteries when not in use.
On the software side, all you’ve got to do is load the MCU with your sounds and write a bit of code that associates them with the button being pressed on the PCB. [John] gets his city sounds from Freesound, a community-maintained database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds, and provides the CircuitPython code necessary to tie everything together.
The last step is the artwork. For this project, [Brian Kesinger] provided some swanky vintage-looking imagery that perfectly fits the See ‘n Say style. The art is available under the NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license, so you’re free to use it in your own version. Though naturally, that assumes you’ve decided to use the same sounds as [John] — the beauty of this project is that you could easily load it up with whatever sounds you’d like Hacker Junior to learn. Possibly a well-known Australian YouTuber?
If anyone feels inclined to build a Hackaday-themed See ‘n Say based on this project, we’ve love to see it.
For a device advertised as the “Multi-tool Device for Hackers”, the Flipper Zero already offers a considerable list of onboard capabilities. But some hard decisions had to be made to get the retail price down, so features like WiFi and Bluetooth had to be left off. Luckily, there’s an expansion interface along the top of the device which makes it possible to plug in additional hardware.
One of those expansions is the “Mayhem Hat” from [Erwin Ried]. This board adds many requested features to the Flipper Zero, as well as some that might not seem as obvious. The addition of an ESP32-CAM brings WiFi and Bluetooth to the party, while also unlocking access to the highly-capable ESP32Marauder firmware and the plethora of security research tools therein.
But the camera also enables some interesting features, such as motion detection and the ability to read QR codes. It even lets you use the Flipper as an impromptu digital camera, complete with an onscreen viewfinder reminiscent of the Game Boy Camera.
What’s more, the Mayhem Hat features its own expansion capabilities. There’s a spot to plug in either a CC1101 or NRF24l01 radio module, both of which are supported by community developed plugins that allow the user to sniff out and hijack signals. There are also extra pins for connecting your own sensors or hardware. In the demo video below you can see the device automatically detect the popular DHT11 environmental sensor and display the current temperature and humidity readings.