Hackaday Links: May 13, 2018

The dumbest thing this week is Uber’s flying car concept of the future. The braintrust at Uber envisions a world of skyports, on rooftops or on the ground that will handle 200 takeoffs and landings per hour. That is 4800 per day at a maximum. The record for the number of total takeoffs and landings for any airport was set last year at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji airport with 969 takeoffs and landings in a twenty-four hour period. Yes, Uber wants to put the world’s busiest airport in a parking lot or something. Just wait, it gets dumber. Uber’s ‘flying car’ looks like a standard quadcopter, but with stacked, non-contrarotating props, for safety. These aircraft will be powered electrically, although it’s not quite clear if this is a hybrid setup (which could actually be practical now, but without regulatory precedent) or something built around an enormous battery (impractical for anything bigger than a 152 in this decade).

This aircraft is just a render, and Uber expects it to be certified for commercial flight in two to five years. This is nearly impossible. Uber plans to fly these aircraft autonomously. This will never happen. Additionally, Uber will not manufacture or design the aircraft. Instead, they will partner with a company that has experience in aerospace — Bell or Embraer, for instance — making the render a moot point, because ultimately Uber is just going to go with whatever Bell or Embraer have on the drawing board. Uber’s entire business plan is “move fast and break laws”, which will not serve them well with the FAA. The mere mention of Uber’s self-flying car has lowered the level of public discourse and has made us all dumber.

Here’s a great example of how cheap TVs are getting. [tmv22] built a 55 inch, 4k digital photo frame for $400. The TV was one Walmart was blowing out for two hundred and sixty dollars. Add in an Odroid C2 and some various cables and hardware, and you have an absurd digital photo frame for a few benjamins.

Espressif is getting investment from Intel’s venture capital division. Espressif, is, of course, the company behind the incredibly popular ESP8266 and ESP32 chipsets designed for the Internet of Things. Before the ESP8266 module popped up for sale on SeeedStudios, no one had heard of Espressif. Intel, on the other hand, is the largest semiconductor company on the planet and recently exited the maker IoT space because of the complete and utter failure of the Curie, Joule, Edison, and Galileo product lines. I would bet a significant portion of Intel’s failure was due to their inability to release datasheets.

Awesome news for synth heads. Behringer is cloning just about every classic synth and drum machine. At Superbooth 2018, Behringer, manufacturers of the worst mixers on the planet, revealed their clone of the Roland SH-101 synthesizer. It’s called the MS-101, and yes, it has the keytar grip. Also announced is a clone of the TR-808, Odyssey One, the OB-Xa, Arp 2600, and M100 modules. Here’s some context for you: a good Detroit techno show consists of an SH-101, TB-303, TR-808 and TR-909, all made by Roland in the 80s. These vintage synths and drum machines, at current prices, would cost about $10,000, used. The prices for these clone synths haven’t been announced, but we’re looking at a Detroit techno show for $1000. That’s nuts. Here’s a video of the 808.

Hackaday Links: May 6th 2018

Way back in the day, if you were exceptionally clever, you could just solder more RAM to your computer. You did this by taking a DIP, stacking it on top of an existing RAM chip, bending out the enable pin, and soldering everything down. Wire the enable pin to an address pin, and you have more RAM. [Eric] wanted to get a game running on a Tandy 1000A, but that computer just doesn’t have enough RAM. The solution was to stack the RAMs. It’s a human centipede of deadbugging skills.

We’ve mentioned this before, but I just received another copy of either the best or worst press release I’ve ever seen. Dateline George Town, Cayman Islands: Onstellar is a cryptocurrency-based social network focusing on the paranormal. Apparently, you can use a blockchain to talk about UFOs. It gets better, though: Onstellar will be exhibiting at the world’s largest UFO conference at the beginning of June, in the middle of the Mojave, where a bunch of Air Force and Navy planes are flying all the time. It seems like you would want to have a UFO conference where there’s a lower rate of false positives, right?

A Biohacker has died. Aaron Traywick was found dead in a sensory deprivation chamber in Washington DC this week. Traywick found fame as the CEO of Ascendance Biomedical and by skirting the FDA by self-medication; he recently injected himself with a ‘research compound’ that he said could cure herpes. He was planning CRISPR trials in Tijuana.

You’ve heard of Bad Obsession Motorsports, right? It’s a YouTube channel of two blokes in a shed stuffing a Celica into a Mini. It is the greatest fabrication channel on YouTube. They haven’t uploaded anything in six months, but don’t worry: the next episode is coming out on May 18th. Yes, this is newsworthy.

As further evidence that Apple hardware sucks, if you plug both ends of a USB-C PD cable into a MacBook, it charges itself.

Defcon China is this week. Let me set the scene for you. Last year, at the closing ceremonies for Defcon (the Vegas one), [DT] got up on stage and announced 2018 would see the first Defcon in China. The sound of four thousand raised eyebrows erupted. We’re interested to see how this one goes down. Here are the talks It’s a bit light, but then again this is only the first year.

The Swiss Guard is now 3D printing their helmets. The personal army of the Pope also wears funny hats, and they’re replacing their metal helmets with 3D printed ones. Of note: these helmets are printed in PVC. The use of PVC has been repeated in several high-profile publications, leading me to believe that yes, these actually are printed in PVC, or everyone is getting their information from an incorrect Vatican press release This is odd, because PVC will give everyone within a five mile radius cancer if used in a 3D printer, and you wouldn’t use PVC anyway if ABS and PLA are so readily available. If you’re wondering if injection molding makes sense, giving each new recruit their own helmet means producing about thirty per year; the economics probably don’t work.

Hackaday Links: April 29, 2018

Amazon has released the Echo Dot Kids Edition, an always-on, Internet-connected microphone. According to Amazon’s Children’s Privacy Disclosure, the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition collects data such as, ‘name, birthdate, contact information (including phone numbers and email addresses), voice, photos, videos, location, and certain activity and device information. The Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition is able to read audiobooks for bedtime reading and teaches your children to live in a dystopian panopticon of Orwellian proportions. It comes in green, red, and blue.

Kim Possible! The biggest news headline this week is the coming end of the Korean War. The peninsula has been in a state of war since 1950, but leaders from both countries have agreed to negotiate a treaty to replace the 60-year-old truce. There is also an agreement between the two countries for complete denuclearization. This is great news for Hackaday. Every day, we’re eyeing our North Korean readership. Some days we get a view, some days we don’t, but year over year we’re always getting more views. Will this treaty result in even more Hackaday readers in North Korea? Only time will tell. Here’s some music. It wasn’t a chicken.

The East Coast RepRap Festival is on. Inspired by the Midwest RepRap Festival, the ERRF is happening north of Baltimore on June 23rd and 24th. What’s it going to be like? Nobody knows! This is the first time ERRF is happening, but judging by MRRF standards, it should be awesome. Also, crab season.

One of the most interesting hacks of this year is [Steve Markgraf]’s tool to allow transmit-only SDR through cheap USB 3.0 to VGA adapters. The hack relies on the Fresco Logic FL2000 chip and gives you the ability to transmit FM, TVB-T, and create your own GSM cell site. You can also spoof GPS to get something besides a rattata in Pokemon Go or hack your ankle bracelet to keep your parole officer off your back. The open question, though, is which USB to VGA adapter has the FL2000 chipset. I can confirm this one on Amazon has the relevant chipset. It’s a bit expensive at $15 (the same chipset is available from the usual eBay and AliExpress suppliers for $6), but if you’re looking for something that is available with Prime, there you go. Now we’re looking for shared OSH Park projects with a VGA input on one end and some antennas on the other. Make it happen, people.

Supercapacitors are awesome, but is it possible to fly a drone with a bank of them? Sure, for about 10 seconds. [dronelab] built a 7-cell, 200F supercap and managed to fly a little racing quad for about ten seconds. Not terribly great, but this is going to be awesome when we get multi-thousand Farad superultramegacaps.

Like Open Hardware? The Open Source Hardware Association is opening up the Ada Lovelace Fellowship for women, LGTBA+ and other minorities to attend the Open Hardware Summit. The deadline is tomorrow, so do it soon.

M3D has announced a new 3D printer that can print with four filaments. The Crane Quad is your basic i3 ripoff with an interesting extruder. It looks like it uses four tiny motors to feed filament into the main extruder motor. This isn’t really anything new; the Prusa i3 multimaterial upgrade does the same thing. However, M3D claims they have mastered color mixing. The Prusa upgrade doesn’t do mixing, and this is most likely the reason it works so well. Can M3D pull it off? This is a very, very, very hard problem.

Hackaday Links: April 22, 2018

Eagle 9 is out. Autodesk is really ramping up the updates to Eagle, so much so it’s becoming annoying. What are the cool bits this time? Busses have been improved, which is great because I’ve rarely seen anyone use busses in Eagle. There’s a new pin breakout thingy that automagically puts green lines on your pins. The smash command has been overhauled and now moving part names and values is somewhat automatic. While these sound like small updates, Autodesk is doing a lot of work here that should have been done a decade ago. It’s great.

Crypto! Bitcoin is climbing up to $9,000 again, so everyone is all-in on their crypto holdings. Here’s an Arduino bitcoin miner. Stats of note: 150 hashes/second for the assembly version, and at this rate you would need 10 billion AVRs to mine a dollar a day. This array of Arduinos would need 2 Gigawatts, and you would be running a loss of about $10 Million per day (minus that one dollar you made).

Are you going to be at Hamvention? Hamvention is the largest amateur radio meetup in the Americas, and this year is going to be no different. Unfortunately, I’ll be dodging cupcake cars that weekend, but there is something of note: a ‘major broadcaster’ is looking for vendors for a ‘vintage tech’ television series. This looks like a Canadian documentary, which adds a little bit of respectability to this bit of reality television (no, really, the film board of Canada is great). They’re looking for weird or wacky pieces of tech, and items that look unique, strange, or spark curiosity. Set your expectations low for this documentary, though; I think we’re all several orders of magnitude more nerd than what would be interesting to a production assistant. ‘Yeah, before there were pushbutton phones, they all had dials… No, they were all attached to the wall…”

The new hotness on Sparkfun is a blinky badge. What we have here is a PCB, coin cell holder, color changing LED, and a pin clasp. It’s really not that different from the Tindie Blinky LED Badge. There is, however, one remarkable difference: the PCB is multicolored. The flowing unicorn locks are brilliant shades of green, blue, yellow, pink, purple, and red. How did they do it? We know full-color PCBs are possible, but this doesn’t look like it’s using a UV printer. Pad printing is another option, but it doesn’t look like that, either. I have no idea how the unicorn is this colorful. Thoughts?

Defcon is canceled, but there’s still a call for demo labs. They’re looking for hackers to show off what they’ve been working on, and to coax attendees into giving feedback on their projects.

Hackaday Links: April 15th, 2018

San Fransisco is awash in electric scooters. Three companies — Lime, Bird, and Spin — have been dumping ‘smart’ electric scooters on the sidewalks of San Fransisco over the last few weeks. The business plan for all these companies is to allow anyone to ride them via an app. $1 unlocks the scooter, and rides are fifteen cents a minute. No one, it appears, is looking at the upside of abandoned, dead electric scooters: they’re a remarkable source of lithium batteries and brushless motors. Hello, my name is Mr. Cyberpunk. My friends and I drive around the city collecting abandoned electric scooters to harvest their batteries and motors. A quick hit from a drill in the middle of the top panel of a Bird scooter disables the cellular modem, but then you don’t get to harvest the Particle dev board. You’re welcome, Mr. Doctorow, for the scene in your next novel.

There are a huge number of tips and tricks that are obvious if you already know them, and genius if you don’t. Working with wood? Need to hide a gap? Use sawdust and wood glue to make DIY wood filler. The trick here is using sawdust from whatever you’re trying to hide a gap in, but it’s not a bad idea to keep a few small containers of different sawdusts if you’re working with exotic tropical hardwoods. Titebond III, mango.

Ever since the Bayeux tapestry meme generator of 2003, embroidery has been recognized as a legitimate art form. [Irene Posch] is using traditional embroidery skills to create a computer. Conductive thread exists, but you can’t make a computer out of just wire; you need some sort of switching element. This is a relay computer, with the relays built out of beads, coils of conductive thread, and a tiny flippy bit. This is the best picture you’re going to get of the relay. This is still a work in progress and the density of components means this will probably never meet any reasonable definition of ‘computer’, but it is digital logic, done completely with tools in the embroidery toolset.

You know what’s awesome? Hashtag Badgelife. What is Badgelife? It’s the hardware demoscene of independent electronic conference badges, mostly going down at DEF CON every year. This year, Badgelife is bigger than ever. Want proof? AND!XOR, the folks behind the infamous Bender badge and last year’s Hunter S. Rodriguez badge have unleashed this year’s design. It was a Kickstarter, until it sold out. The DC Furs have launched their pre-order whatever for a badge filled with LEDs and fleas. Most surprisingly, there will now be an official mini-village of Badgelife at this year’s Defcon! This is a hardware demoscene, people, and if you want to be as cool as the guys rocking Amiga homebrew in 1993, you gotta get on board with the badgelife.

Hackaday Links: April 8, 2018

SiFive raised $50 Million in funding. SiFive is a semiconductor working on two fronts: they want to democratize silicon prototyping, and they’re the people making the HiFive series of microcontrollers and SoCs. The HiFives are built on the RISC-V instruction set, a Big-O Open instruction set for everything from tiny microcontrollers to server CPUs. With RISC-V, you’re not tied to licensing from ARM or their ilk. Recently SiFive introduced an SoC capable of running Linux, and the HiFive 1 is a very fast, very capable microcontroller that’s making inroads with Nvidia and Western Digital. The new round of funding is great news for anyone who wants Open Source hardware, and the silicon prototyping aspect of it is exceptionally interesting. Great news for SiFive.

Guess what’s in just a few weekends? The Vintage Computer Festival Southeast. The VCFSE is Hotlanta’s own vintage computer festival, with a whole host of speakers, exhibits, and consignment to tickle those vintage dopamine receptors. On deck for the speakers is [Michael Tomczyk], one of the people responsible for the VIC-20, and [Scott Adams], no the other [Scott Adams], creator of adventure-style games for personal computers but not that adventure-style game. The exhibits will include Japanese retro computers, simulating an ENIAC and a mechanical keyboard meetup. If you’re around Georgia, this is an event worth attending.

Conference season is just around the corner, and you know what that means. It’s time to start ramping up for #badgelife. What is badgelife? It’s a hardware demoscene of electronic conference badges. This year, the badgelife scene has stumbled upon something everyone can get in on. Add-ons! They’re electronic hats (or shields, or capes) for all the badges. Physically, it’s a 2×2 pin header. Electronically, it’s power, ground and I2C. Want to prototype your own add-on? Good news, there’s a development board.

The Titius-Bode law states the semi-major axes of planets follow a geometric progression. The (simplified, incorrect) demonstration of this law states Mercury orbits at 0.25 AU, Venus at 0.5 AU, Earth at 1 AU, Mars at 2 AU, and continues to the outer planets. The Titius-Bode law is heavily discredited in the planetary science community, and any paper, talk, or manuscript is rejected by scientific editors out of hand. The Titius-Bode law is the planetary science equivalent of flat Earth conspiracy theories and Nazi moon bases; giving any consideration to the idea confirms you’re a moron. This week, some consulting firm posted something that is the Titius-Bode law on their blog. Why? So it could be submitted to Hacker News for that sweet SEO. This submission was upvoted to the top position, and is a wonderful springboard to argue an interesting point on media literacy. I posit the rise of news aggregators (facebook, twitter, digg, reddit, and HN), is the driving force behind ‘fake news’ as lay people become the gatekeepers. Prove me wrong.

The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed there are cell-site simulators (Stingrays, IMSI-catchers, or otherwise known as your own private cell phone base station) around Washington DC. It’s unknown who is operating these simulators, or even where they are. There are two things to read between the lines with this information: Duh, there are rogue Stingrays in DC. Holy crap duh. I bet there are also some around midtown Manhattan. You can buy the stuff to do this on eBay. Personally, I’ve found half a dozen Stingrays or other rogue cell stations this year (guess where?). Second, why is this a news item now? Is this a signal that the DHS will start clamping down on stuff you can buy on eBay? Hop to it, people; cellular hardware is a great way to make a liquid nitrogen generator.

Hackaday Links: Some Sort Of Fool’s Day, 2018

A few years ago, writing for a blog called Motherboard of all things, [Emanuel Maiberg] wrote PC Gaming Is Still Way Too Hard. The premise is that custom building a gaming PC is too hard, because you have to source components and comparison shop. Again, this was written for Motherboard. Personally, I would have shopped that story around a bit more. Now, the same author is back again, telling us PC Building Simulator is way more fun than building a real computer. It’s my early nomination for worst tech article of the year.

Speaking of motherboards, This is a GoFundMe project to re-create the Amiga 4000 mainboard, with schematics. Building PCs is too hard, but the Amiga architecture is elegant. Some of these boards are dying due to electrolytic capacitor and battery leakage. This project is aiming to deconstruct an original A4000 board and turn it into Gerbers and schematics, allowing new boards to be manufactured. Building a PC is way too hard, but with this GoFundMe, you won’t have to design an entire system from scratch. Don’t worry, I already tipped off the Motherboard editors to this one.

Alright, story time. In 6th grade science class, the teacher was awesome. On the days when there was really no chance of any learning happening (the day before Christmas break, the last day of school), the teacher broke out the Electric Chicken. What’s an Electric Chicken? It’s a test tube rack, two wires, and a Wimshurst generator. “Here, grab ahold of this for as long as you can.” It got even cooler when you get a bunch of kids to hold hands and tell them pride is better than pain. Here’s a Kickstarter for a mini Wimshurst generator. It’s made out of PCBs! Hat tip to [WestfW] for finding this one.

It’s no secret that I get a lot of dumb press releases. Most of these are relegated to the circular file folder. It’s also no secret I get a lot of ICO announcements hitting my email. These, also, are trashed. I recently received a press release for an ICO that goes beyond anything else. ONSTELLAR is a blockchain-powered social media network for paranormal and metaphysical enthusiasts.  It’s the crypto for Coast to Coast AM listeners, UFO enthusiasts, and people who think PKE meters are real. This is it, we’ve reached peak crypto.

If you want to decapsulate an IC — and why wouldn’t you? — the usual way of doing things involves dropping acid, ego death, toxic chemicals, and a fume hood. There is another way. Here’s [A Menadue] decapping a quartz watch IC with just fire. The process is about as ‘hold my beer’ as you would expect. Just take a small butane torch, heat up a chip, and recover the die. A bit of ultrasonic cleaning later and you get a pretty clean chip. Microscope not included.