Hackaday Links: May 12, 2019

The future of the musical instrument industry is in tiny, cheap, handheld synthesizers. They’re sold as ‘musical toys’. They bleep and bloop, and that’s about it. Korg may have just released the minimum viable product for this category, and thus the most popular product for this category. On the surface, the Korg Nu:Tekt doesn’t look like much, just a box with three knobs, a speaker, a (crappy) keyboard, and a few buttons. I/O includes MIDI in, Sync in and out, audio in, and headphones out. What’s inside is what counts. There’s a high-powered ARM core (STM32F446, a Cortex-M4 running at 180 MHz) and a ton of RAM. What’s the play here? It’s compatible with the Korg Prologue/Minilogue SDK, so you can put the same sounds from the flagship synthesizer on a tiny box that fits in your pocket. Things are starting to get weird, man. This is a toy, with the same sounds as the ‘pro’ level synth. Let it be known that the synth market is the most interesting segment of consumer electronics right now.

Bird, that ride share scooter startup, is now selling their scooters. It costs thirteen hundred dollars. Alternatively, you can pick some up for cheap at your city’s impound lot. Or for the low, low, price of free.

Razer, the company that makes garish computer peripherals aimed at ‘gamers’ and other people who are sucked deep into the existential turmoil of disempowerment, depression, and playing video games all day, are building a toaster. Gamers aren’t known for eating food that isn’t prepared by their mom, but the Razer consumer community has been clamoring for a professional gaming toaster since it was first teased on April Fool’s Day three years ago. You only eat so many cold Pop Tarts straight out of the box, I guess.

Everyone loves cupcake cars, and this year we’re in for a treat! We’re ringing the bell this weekend with the 6th annual Hackaday x Tindie meetup for the Bay Area Maker Faire. We got a few things going on here. Next Thursday we’ll be greeted with talks by The Only Makers That You Want To Meet. That’s HDDG, the monthly San Francisco meetup happening at the Supplyframe office, and it’s going to be packed to the gills this month. Don’t miss it. Next Saturday, we’re renting a bar close to the Faire. The 6th Annual Hackaday x Tindie MFBA Meetup w/ Kickstarter is usually at an Irish pub in San Mateo, but we’re getting a bigger venue this year. You’ll be able to move around in this venue.

Hackaday Links: May 5, 2019

Simulacra and simulation and Kickstarter videos. The Amigo Robot is a 4-wheeled omnibot robot on Kickstarter. It does STEM or STEAM or whatever. Oh neat, injection molded magnetic pogo pins, that’s cool. Watch the video for this Kickstarter, it is a work of postmodern horror. We live in a post-reality world, and this is beyond parody.  You have the ubiquitous cheerful whistling, a ukulele, tambourine and a glockenspiel. You’ve got a narrator that falls squarely into the uncanny valley and a cadence that could have only been generated by a computer. You’ve got grammar that is very much correct, but somehow wrong; ‘It is the key to interact with family pets’. This is really, really bad.

Who is Satoshi? The creator of Bitcoin, a person or persons known as Satoshi Nakamoto, has been an open question for years now, with many people claiming they are the one that invented Bitcoin (with the implication that they’re in control of the first coins and therefore a multi-Billionaire). Newsweek found someone named Dorian Nakamoto, but that guy didn’t make Bitcoin. Wired magazine used back-dated blog posts to identify the creator of Bitcoin. Needless to say, the creator of Bitcoin has not been identified yet. Now, there’s an unveiling of sorts coming up. gotsatoshi.com has a live countdown and doesn’t use Rockapella as a house band. This bears repeating, again: there is exactly one way to prove the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. To prove you are Satoshi, all you need to do is move some of the first Bitcoins. That’s it, that’s all you need to do, and it’s not going to happen when the gotsatoshi.com countdown hits zero.

CNC machines controlled by a Pi abound, but here’s a word of warning about buying a ‘bargain’ CNC machine from China from [Rob] via our tips line:

In the “homebrew” community, I know some people have their own CNC machines – I’ve seen a hundred and one projects using Raspberry Pis to run homemade CNCs and so on, so I guess there is a good supply of open-source/freeware to software to control them with.
However, some people, like a mate at work, might be tempted by a good “bargain” from China.  No names, no pack drill, but just before last Christmas, my mate bought a “cheap” CNC system from China – It was about three or four thousand Euros, if I remember rightly.  It has been working well and he done some work for our work as well. No problems.
Last week, our firm was contacted by Siemens. They claimed that someone at our firm has been using unlicensed Siemens software.  At first no-one knew what they were on about.  Someone thought it might be about some CAD system or other – we had been trialing a few to see which suited us best, but we had stuck well within the restrictions for the trials.
Then we found out it was the software on his CNC machine.  Because he had used his work laptop with it, the system had “phoned home” and alerted Siemens that an unlicensed version was being used.  Siemens then demanded EUR 32,000 – yes, thirty two THOUSAND Euros to license the software.  That was something like EUR 27,000 for the commercial license and EUR 5 000 for the second one.  It was explained that he had bought the CNC system from where-ever and had a license issued by the manufacturer.  I license that Siemens do not acknowledge.  They have now accepted that he bought and used it in good faith that it was fully legit, so they waived the commercial license and are now demanding “only” EUR 5,000, but that still comes with the threat – pay up or we take you to court…

We’re all very familiar that Dassault Systems will start hitting you up for that Solidworks license you didn’t pay for, but this is effectively firmware for a CNC machine that is phoning home through a laptop. In effect it’s a reverse Stuxnet, brought to you by a cheap Chinese CNC machine.

Here’s a hot tip for anyone who wants to do something people want. Direct to garment printers (DTG printers) are pretty much inkjet printers modified to print on t-shirts. ‘dtg printer’ is one of Hackaday’s perennial top search terms, most likely because of a post we did ten years ago. If you want to join the cool kids club and do something people desperately want, find a cheap inkjet and turn it into a DTG printer.

Red Hat has changed its logo. Red Hat, the company that somehow makes money on Open Source software, changed their logo this week. The branding for Red Hat hasn’t been very good since 2016 or thereabouts, and the branding for the Fedora project has been taking hits for just as long, m’lady. Beyond that, customer surveys revealed that the old ‘Shadowman’ logo evoked feelings like, ‘sinister, secretive, evil, and sneaky’. The new logo removes the shadowman entirely, and makes the hat the focus of attention. There is now official confirmation that there is a black band around the crown of the hat (in the Shadowman logo, this band could be confused for a shadow), and the crown is sharper. The jury is still out on the fedora vs. trilby argument, and indeed the argument is even more divisive now: the difference between a trilby and a fedora is in how they are worn, and by removing the Shadowman from the logo we now have fewer context clues to make the determination. Bet you didn’t think you were going to read two hundred words about the Red Hat logo today, did you?

Hackaday Links: April 28, 2019

Lego is releasing a series of Braille bricks. As near as we can tell, these Braille bricks are standard 2 x 4 bricks, with studs corresponding to Braille letters on the top. There are also screen/pad printed legends on top. I don’t mean to be a downer, but why, exactly, is this being created now? Did it really take fifty years for someone to say, ‘hey, if you don’t put some studs on top of a brick, it becomes Braille?’ How is this not already a thing? This isn’t me being facetious — how did it take so long for this to be invented?

KiCon is this weekend, so here’s a tip for everyone in Chicago right now: get a hot dog. Don’t put ketchup on it, or else someone will shoot you.

KiCon and Moogfest in one weekend? Yes, and that means new toys. The Matriarch is Moog’s latest synthy boi and the apparent successor to last year’s Moog Grandmother. The Matriarch is a four-note paraphonic synth that is semi-modular; no, you don’t need patch cables to make noises, but there are ninety-odd patch points for modular fun. It’s two grand, which is getting up there in the synth game. If only Radio Shack were still around and sold Moog synths…

We’re all aware that Russia launches rockets out of Baikonur cosmodrome, and the first stages eventually make their way onto the steppes of Kazakhstan. The locals, few there are, end up recycling these rockets, scrapping them, and sometimes taking space tourists and photojournalist out to the crash site of these boosters. Russia has other spaceports, and now we’re getting pictures of booster crashes from the frozen north. These rockets came from the Plesetsk cosmodrome and fell in the boreal forests near Arkhangelsk where hunters discovered them. Yes, these boosters are carcinogenic, but that’s what you do when a few tons of aluminum and titanium fall in your backyard.

No spoilers, but oh man the after-credits scene in Endgame was hilarious.

Hackaday Links: April 21, 2019

A Russian company has developed a drone with a very interesting control scheme. It’s a VTOL fixed wing, that takes off like a bicopter, transitions to use wings for lift, flies around for half an hour or so, and then lands on its tail. This is a big ‘un; the reported weight is 50 pounds. Although the available footage really doesn’t give any sense of scale, we would estimate the wingspan as somewhere between four and five feet. Fixed-wing VTOLs are close to the holy grail of current drone science — wings actually generate lift, and VTOL means Uber can deliver McDonalds to your driveway.

What happens when you give an idiot a USB killer? $60,000 in damages. A former student at the College of St. Rose killed 59 computers with a USB killer, basically a charge pump that dumps a hundred or so volts back into a USB port, destroying the computer. Yes, you can just buy USB killers on the Internet, and yes you can film yourself zapping computers and posting the videos on social media. Both are dumb ideas.

This week was huge for the preservation of our digital culture. The source for the original Infocom games, such as Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have been archived and released. This is a rather interesting development, as these games were written in Zork Implementation Lanugage (ZIL), a language that is used by no one and there’s almost zero documentation. Yes, we have the source, but not a compiler. It’s Lisp-ish, and there are people working to make new games in this language. Also this week is the release of the source for Leisure Suit Larry. Hackaday readers will be familiar with Leisure Suit Larry as the protagonist is a 38-year-old loser who lives in his mother’s basement. This game goes off the rails when the protagonist decides to leave the basement, but it was written a long time ago, and I guess Al Lowe didn’t foresee the Internet or something. Tip of the very fancy hat to @textfiles here.

You in Jersey? The Vintage Computer Festival East is May 3-5th, and it’s bound to be a grand time. Keynotes are by Steve Bellovin, co-inventor of USENET, Ken Thompson (!), co-inventor of UNIX, and Joe Decuir, co-inventor of the Atari VCS, Atari 800, and the Commodore Amiga. There’s also a Software Store (new this year), which we can only hope is like walking into Babbage’s. Protip: while you’re there, go up to Asbury Park and visit the Silverball Museum. It’s a whole lot of pinball.

For easier production and assembly of circuit boards, you should only place your components on one side. Doing so means you don’t have to flip the board and run it through the pick and place again, and you don’t have to worry about glue. This is a single-sided circuit board. There’s only one side. It’s a Mobius PCB, the flex-circuit version of a handmade circuit board made with a conductive pen.

Hackaday Links: April 14, 2019

Look at this prototype Apple smartphone from 1993! For a long time, Apple has been in the phone game, with many failed attempts to combine a laptop screen with a phone. The most noteworthy attempt would be the Snow White phone designed around 1982, but this didn’t go to market. Apple tried again in 1993 with the Walt phone, and now we have someone willing to tear open a prototype. The guts are apparently a contemporary PowerBook (something along the lines of a PowerBook 140 or 170), which means you’re probably looking at a 68030 processor and between 2 and 8 Megabytes of RAM. The rest of the hardware looks fairly standard; SCSI drive and a fax/modem adapter. The software, though, is Hypercard. Here’s the video of the thing booting, and it’s an interesting look at the ‘computer appliance’ trend from the late 90s; once again, Apple was ahead of the curve.

Disregarding any of the implications of geopolitics of the time (as we do with these sorts of things), the Horten Ho 299 was a jet-powered flying wing that first flew in 1944. It’s in the Smithsonian now (and on display, at Dulles) and is a weird, strange, but incredibly interesting footnote in aviation history (because of the implications of geopolitics at the time, but again, we’re not going to get into that). Now the Horten flies again. A company unrelated to Herr Horten has recreated the one-man flying wing. It’s a real experimental aircraft now. Sure, it’s a piston-powered airplane, but if you want to fly something that looks even cooler than something Burt Rutan grew out of fiberglass, this is what you want.

For the past few months, Hackster has been running a BadgeLove contest, now the entries are closed and the winners are here. The Badge Of All Badges is a contactless/NFC badge, the blinkiest has some awesome documentation, and the best art is directly from Pokemon Yellow.

Vinyl has made a comeback, and so far we’ve been accepting of that. The album art is better when it’s bigger, and a record is more of an experience than popping in a CD or streaming some music. There’s a reason your favorite Beatles song is the B-side of Abbey Road. What’s the next frontier of high-end audio? Reel to reel, and Thorens is making a new tape machine. First off: it costs thirteen thousand dollars. It’s a quarter inch tape, and yeah, you can totally find a machine that will play quarter inch tapes for far less money.

Due to my vocation, I am awash in press releases every day. This doesn’t give me access to technology trends, far from it. It gives me access to marketing trends. Want to know about the fog, or ‘the cloud at ground level’? The first time anyone with two brain cells saw that phrase was in an unsolicited email, and it’s in my inbox. The latest trend — and I assure you this didn’t happen last year — is advertising explicit targeted towards April 20th. 4/20 is now mainstream, because marketing decided you can sell stuff to stoners. I’m looking at an email right now that starts with, “Hi Brian, With 4/20 fast approaching I thought you’d be interested….” There’s another one for vapes. This year, 4/20 has become a consumer holiday, so this year be on the lookout for the new, innovative ways you’re being sold stuff.

Hackaday Links: April 7, 2019

It’s April, which means all the people responsible for doubling the number of badges at DEF CON are hard at work getting their prototypes ready and trying to fund the entire thing. The first one out of the gate is Da Bomb, by [netik] and his crew. This is the same team that brought you the Ides of DEF CON badge, a blinky wearable multiplayer game that’s SPQR AF. Da Bomb is now a Kickstarter campaign to get the funding for the run of 500, and you’re getting a wearable badge filled with puzzles, Easter eggs, and a radio-based sea battle game that obviously can’t be called Battleship, because the navy doesn’t have battleships anymore.

Speaking of badges and various badge paraphernalia, there’s a new standard for add-ons this year. The Shitty Add-On V.1.69bis standard adds two pins and a very secure shrouded connector that solves all the problems of last year’s standard. [AND!XOR] just released a Shitty Brooch that powers all Shitty Add-Ons with a CR2032 battery. All the files are up on the Gits, so have fun.

You can 3D print anything if you don’t mind dealing with supports. But how to remove supports? For that [CCecil] has a great tip: use Chap stick. This is a print that used supports and it’s perfectly clean, right off the bed. By inserting a suspend (M600) command at the z-height of the top of the interface layer, then adding Chap stick on the top layer, everything comes off clean. Neat.

Speaking of 3D printing, here’s a project for anyone with the patience to do some serious modeling. It’s a pocket Soviet record player, although I think it’s more properly called a gramophone. It’s crank powered, so there’s a spring in there somewhere, and it’s entirely acoustic with zero electronics. Yes, you’re going to need a needle, but I’d be very interested in seeing somebody remake this using modern tools and construction materials.

Hackaday Links: March 31, 2019

You can now make flexible circuit boards of unlimited length. Trackwise was contracted out for making a wiring harness for the wing of a UAV and managed to ship a 26 meter long flexible printed circuit board. This is an interesting application of the technology — UAVs are very weight sensitive and wiring harnesses are heavy. Wings are straight, but they flex, and you need wires going from tip to tip. Flex circuits do all of this well, but first you need a technology that allows you to manufacture circuits that are as long as a wing. This is apparently something called ‘reel-to-reel’ technology, or some variant of continuous production. Either way, it’s cool, and we’re wondering what else this kind of circuit enables.

You may have noticed a few odd-shaped buildings going up in the last few years. These are buildings designed for indoor skydiving. Two went up around DC in the last year or so. What if you didn’t need a building? What if you could make an outdoor, vertical wind tunnel? Here you go, it’s the Aerodium Peryton.

KiCon, the first and largest gathering of hardware developers using KiCad, is happening April 26th in Chicago.

If KiCad isn’t your thing, PyCon is in Cleveland May 1-9. It couldn’t come at a better time: after losing LeBron, the Cleveland economy has plummeted 90%. Cleveland needs an industry now, and tech conferences are where it’s at. Go Browns.

For one reason or another, a few tech blogs wrote about a product on Tindie last week. It’s the SnapOnAir Raspberry Pi Zero PCB. This turns a Raspberry Pi Zero into a tiny, battery-powered handheld computer with a keyboard and display. This is just a PCB, and you’ll need to bring your own switches, display, and other various modules, but it is a compact device and if you need a small, handheld Linux thing, this is a pretty good solution.

Oh noes April Fools is tomorrow, which means the Internet will be terrible. Tip ‘o the hat to Redbox, though: they were the only one that sent out a press release to their waste of electrons by last Friday.