Hackaday Links: January 21, 2018

You know what next week is? Sparklecon! What is it? Everybody hangs out at the 23b Hackerspace in Fullerton, California. Last year, people were transmuting the elements, playing Hammer Jenga, roasting marshmallows over hot resistors, and generally having a really great time. It’s the party for our sort of people, and there are talks on 3D projection mapping and a hebocon. I can’t recommend this one enough.

The STM32F7 is a very, very powerful ARM Cortex-M7 microcontroller with piles of RAM, oodles of Flash, DSP, and tons of I/O. It’s a relatively new part, so are there any breakout or dev boards for it? Sure thing. [satsha] used a desktop CNC mill to create what is probably the simplest possible breakout board for the STM32F7. There’s not much here — just some parts for power and a few LEDs — but this is all you need to get one of these powerful chips up and running.

It’s cold and dark and you can’t fly RC airplanes in January. It’s not because planes and quadcopters don’t work in the cold (they should work better, but I’d love to see a graph of battery temperature and density altitude), it’s that your hands don’t work in the cold. What’s the solution? Just strap some motorcycle handwarmer thingies onto your transmitter. With a 2200 battery strapped to the back, you’ll get about an hour of runtime for these handwarmers.

The BBC is reporting the latest advancement in Hyperloop technology. Is it a fundamentally different way of digging tunnels that isn’t simply scaling down the size of tunnel boring machines? No. Is it improvements in material science that would allow the seals on a 500-mile-long steel pressure chamber to exist? No. Does this latest advancement mitigate the ‘hillbillies with guns’ problem that would turn every Hyperloop car into a literal bullet screaming towards one of the most spectacular deaths possible? No. The chief executive of the Virgin Hyperloop project has something better in mind. A smartphone app, “that would connect future Hyperloop passengers with other modes of transport on arrival.”

Hackaday Links: The ‘S’ In ‘CES’ Stands For Snake Oil

Remember IRDA? Before we had Bluetooth and WiFi, the cool kids connected their computers and printers together over fancy Infrared connections. Yes, your computer probably still has the drivers, but the hardware is nowhere to be found. For good reason, too: we now have Bluetooth and WiFi. This year, at CES, IRDA is making a comeback. MyLiFi is a product from OLEDCOMM that puts infrared connectivity in a lamp. All you need to do is plug an Ethernet cable into a desk lamp, a proprietary dongle into your computer, and you too can reap the benefits of a wireless connection with a range measured in meters. One of the selling points of this product is that this gives you wireless Internet ‘without radio waves’, marketing to the idiots who think RF causes cancer or whatever. It’s a stupid product that’s a highlight of the entire trade show.

During this year’s CES, Intel tweeted, “With each person on earth soon to be producing ~1.5 GB of #data each day, it is a resource without limits“. Two criticisms: First, ‘Earth’ should be capitalized. Second, data mined from individuals — which includes personal data and metadata including where you were, and who you talked to — is a resource to be extracted by capitalism. Welcome to the post-privacy society, brought to you by #CES2018.

Oh, crap, we’re getting into cryptocurrency…

Kodak has announced their own blockchain. Is Kodak going to the moon? Yes, but hold on: this might be a good idea. Kodak wants to use a blockchain for ‘image rights management’, where photographers can register, archive, and license their work. It’s a blockchain, and also a solution to a problem: something you don’t see much of these days. Shares of KODK shot up from $3.15 on Monday to somewhere north of $10 this week. Is it a good idea? Who knows, but someone put the word ‘blockchain’ in a press release and made a buttload of cash.

The guy behind the Maker Movement wants to create a blockchain platform for Makers. Who’s this guy behind the Maker Movement? Mark Hatch, former CEO of TechShop and someone who is purportedly on the board of Maker Media (Oh, that’s how Make got the scoop on the TechShop closure -ED). He’s creating a Blockchain for Makers. This blockchain will take two forms. The first is to allow ‘easy confirmation of skills’? Is little Bobby certified to use the table saw? Check the Blockchain. The second barb in our paw is a ‘currency token’ that provides an easy way to pay for related goods or services. There’s no mention if these services are makerspace dues, or some sort of payment system where creators can collect money from people who really really want Raspberry Pis stuffed into 3D printed Nintendos.

In drone news, I am reporting there are no fixed-wing drones on display at CES. Last year, Underwater ROVs outnumbered autonomous fixed-wing aircraft, and this year the scales tipped even further towards submersibles. The laws of physics don’t change for 1/10th scale aircraft, and fixed-wing drones will be more efficient than their multicopter counterparts at nearly every task.

We all know (or should) that safes in Las Vegas hotel rooms aren’t secure. CES 2018 has finally innovated on the hotel safe and come up with something you really don’t want to put your money, wallet, or passport in. It’s an Internet of Things safe. What are the features? Well, it’s small and lightweight and provides little in the way to mount anything. That’s great if you just want to steal the entire safe. But what about breaking into the safe? Don’t worry, the entire thing is made out of plastic. A quick whack to the top of the safe will open it right up.

Hackaday Links: January 7, 2018

Whelp, Spectre and Meltdown are the tech news du jour right now, and everyone is wondering: what is the effect of this problem on real hardware in real server rooms? Epic Games patched their machines and found something shocking. The CPU utilization for one of their online services increased about 100%. We don’t know what this server is doing, or what this process is, but the Spectre and Meltdown patches will increase CPU load depending on the actual code running. This is bad for Epic — they now have to buy an entirely new server farm. This is doubly bad for Intel, and there is speculation of a class action suit floating around the darker corners of the Interwebs.

It is with a heavy heart that I must report the passing of John Young, the only person to have commanded four different classes of spacecraft (five if you include the lunar rover), including the first launch of the Space Shuttle. He was, simply, the most badass astronaut to ever live. Need proof of that? His heart rate during the launch of a Saturn V was seventy.

By the time this post is published, you’ll have less than twenty-four hours to submit your project to the Coin Cell Challenge. Get to it!

A short reminder that Shmoocon is a mere two weeks away. What is Shmoocon? A totally chill cyber/sec/hacker con at the Washington D.C. Hilton (yes, where Reagan was shot). We’ll be there, and we’re looking for some like-minded Hackaday peeps to chill out with. Want a meetup? Reply in the comments.

A few years ago, the ESP8266 appeared out of the blue in a few Chinese reseller’s web shops, and everything has been gravy since. Now there’s a new magic do-everything chip appearing on AliExpress and Taobao. It’s the RDA5981, a chip with an ARM Cortex M4 core, 32Mbit of Flash, 192k or user RAM, b/g/n WiFi, I2S, and enough peripherals to be useful. Given the support for a MIC, line in, MP3, WAV, WMA and AAC, it appears this is an all-in-one chip designed for Bluetooth speakers or some other audio application. You can find modules on Alibaba and a few breakout boards on Taobao.

According to my sources (the press releases that somehow slipped through the ‘CES’ filter on my email), the world’s fastest, smallest, biggest, least expensive, and newest drone is set to be unveiled at CES in Vegas this week.

Hackaday Links: Not A Creature Was Stirring, Except For A Trackball

Hey, did you know Hackaday is starting an Open Access, peer-reviewed journal? The Hackaday Journal of What You Don’t Know (HJWYDK) is looking for submissions detailing the tools, techniques, and skills that we don’t know, but should. Want to teach everyone how to make sand think? Write a paper and tell us about it! Send in your submissions here.

Have you noticed OSH Park updated their website?

The MSP430 line of microcontrollers are super cool, low power, and cheap. Occasionally, TI pumps out a few MSP430 dev boards and sells them for the rock-bottom price of $4.30. Here ya go, fam. This one is loaded up with the MSP430FR2433.

lol, Bitcoin this week.

Noisebridge, the San Francisco hackerspace and one of the first hackerspaces in the US, is now looking for a new place. Why, you may ask? Because San Francisco real estate. The current price per square foot is triple what their current lease provides. While we hope Noisebridge will find a new home, we’re really looking forward to the hipster restaurant that’s only open for brunch that will take its place.

The coolest soundcards, filled with DOS blips and bloops, were based on the OPL2 and OPL3 sound chips. If you want one of these things, you’re probably going to be digging up an old ISA SoundBlaster soundcard. The OPL2LPT is the classic sound card for computers that don’t have an easily-accessible ISA bus, like those cool vintage laptops. The 8-Bit Guy recently took a look at this at this neat piece of hardware, and apart from requiring a driver to work with any OPL2-compatible game, this thing actually works.

NVIDIA just did something amazing. They created a piece of hardware that everyone wants but isn’t used to turn electricity into heat and Bitcoin. This fantastic device, that is completely original and not at all derivative, is sold in the NVIDIA company store for under five dollars. Actually, the green logo silk/art on this PCB ruler is kinda cool, and I’d like to know how they did that. Also, and completely unrelated: does anyone want ten pounds of Digikey PCB rulers?

Hackaday Links: December 17, 2017

Where do you go if you want crazy old electronic crap? If you’re thinking a ham swap meet is the best place, think again. [Fran] got the opportunity to clean out the storage closet for the physics department at the University of Pennsylvania. Oh, man is there some cool stuff here. This room was filled to the brim with old databooks and development boards, and a sample kit for the unobtanium Nimo tube.

The Gigatron is a Hackaday Prize entry to build a multi-Megahertz computer with a color display out of TTL logic. Now, all this work is finally paying off. [Marcel] has turned the Gigatron into a kit. Save for the memories, this computer is pretty much entirely 74-series logic implemented on a gigantic board. Someone is writing a chess program for it. It’s huge, awesome, and the kits should cost under $200.

What’s cooler than BattleBots, and also isn’t Junkyard Wars? BattleBots, but in drone form. Drone Clash was originally announced in March, but now they’re moving it up to February to coincide with the TUS Expo. What could be better than flaming piles of lithium?

The Atari Lynx went down in history as the first portable console with a color LCD. There was a problem with the Lynx; the display was absolutely terrible. [RetroManCave] found someone selling an LCD upgrade kit for the Lynx, and the results are extremely impressive. The colors aren’t washed out, and since the backlight isn’t a fluorescent light bulb (yes, really), this Lynx should get a bit more run time for each set of batteries.

Like dead tree carcasses? You need to butcher some dead tree carcasses. The best way to do this is on a proper workbench, and [Paul Sellers] is working on a video series on how to make a workbench. He’s up to episode 3, where the legs are mortised. This is all done with hand tools, and the videos are far more interesting than you would think.

If you need some very small, very blinky wearables, here’s an option. This build is literally three parts — an LED matrix, an ATtiny2313, and a coin cell battery. Seems like this could be an entry for the Coin Cell Challenge we have going on right now.

Hackaday Links: December 10, 2017

We have a contest going on right now challenging you to do the most with a coin cell. There are already quite a few interesting entries, and a few Hackaday writers are getting into the action by asking the question, ‘how do you open up a coin cell?’. The first thoughts were to open a lithium coin cell up while submerged in oil, but eBay came to the rescue with the cases for CR2025 cells. Of course that’s a thing.

Also falling into the, ‘of course that’s a thing’ category, there’s a project on Hackaday.io to execute arbitrary code on a calculator. A small group of calculator hackers have discovered an exploit on a line of Casio calculators running the obscure nX-U8/100 architecture. Right now, there’s not much to the project — just an LCD filled with bits of memory. However, this is a project we’re keenly watching, and we can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Hold onto your butts, because the ultimate multimeter is here. [Dave Jones] of the EEVBlog has released the 121GW Multimeter on Kickstarter. What’s cool about this meter? SD card logging, the ability to send data over Bluetooth, a 15V diode test voltage, a burden voltage display, and a whole bunch of hackable features. If you have a Fluke on your Christmas list, you would do well to check out the 121GW.

Also on Kickstarter, a new LattePanda board has been released. What’s a LattePanda? It’s a small single board computer built around a low-voltage Intel processor. This board features an Intel m3-7Y30 processor, comparable to the processor you’d get in a proper laptop that doesn’t have an i3, 8 gigs of DDR3, 64 gigs of eMMC, 802.11ac, BlueTooth 4.2, USB 3.0 with a Type C connector, HDMI, and a whole bunch of GPIOs. Yes, it runs Windows (but why would you?). If you need a somewhat beefy x86 system in a small form factor, there ‘ya go.

We’ve seen 3D printed remote-controlled airplanes, but never one this big. The guys at Flite Test printed a 1.6 meter Spitfire. It’s got flaps, it’s got retracts, and it’s friggin’ huge. The files for the print came from 3DLabPrint, and it flies beautifully, despite being a Spitfire. Want to see the video? Here ya go.

Hackaday Links: December 3, 2017

Remember the Psion? Back when PDAs were a thing, the Psion was the best you could get. It was, effectively, a palm-top computer with a real qwerty keyboard. It didn’t have Bluetooth, it couldn’t browse the web, and it didn’t have WiFi, but this was an AA-powered productivity machine that could fit in your pocket. Now there’s a new palmtop from Psion engineers. The Gemini PDA is basically a smartphone with a real keyboard that runs Ubuntu. It’s also has a smaller battery than other devices with this form factor, meaning the TSA thinks it’s a smartphone. This thing is going to be cool.

TechShop, Inc. has reached an agreement to sell the company to TechShop 2.0, LLC. New ownership seeks to re-open, continue running makerspaces. Details coming soon.

Arcade monitors are cool, and vector monitors are even cooler. [Arcade Jason] created a gigantic 36″ vector monitor. It’s thirty-six inches of Gravitar, in all its vector glory.

A few links posts ago, I pointed out someone was selling really awesome, really cheap LED panels on eBay. I got my ten panels, and [Ian Hanschen] bought sixty or some other absurd amount. Now, these panels are going for $300 for a 10-pack instead of $50. Sorry about that. Nevertheless, the reverse engineering adventure is still ongoing, and eventually, someone is going to play Mario on these things.

The ESP32 is finding its way into all sorts of consumer electronics. Check this thing out. It’s an ESP32, four buttons, and a circular display. If you want to make your own Nest thermostat, or anything else that needs an awesome circular display, there you go.

Speaking of circular displays, are there any non-CRT displays that come with a polar coordinate system? Every circular LCD or OLED I’ve ever seen uses a Cartesian system, which doesn’t really make sense when you can’t see 30% of the pixels.

Hold the phone, this is far too clever. [Eduardo] needed to flash an ESP-12 module before soldering it onto a PCB. The usual way of doing this is with an absurd pogo pin jig. You know what’s cheaper than pogo pins? Safety pins. Clever overwhelming.