Hackaday Links: June 17, 2018

Do you like badges? Of course you like badges. It’s conference season, and that means it’s also badge season. Well good news, Tindie now has a ‘badge’ category. Right now, it’s loaded up with creepy Krustys, hypnotoads, and fat Pikas. There’s also an amazing @Spacehuhn chicken from [Dave]. Which reminds me: we need to talk about a thing, Spacehuhn.

On the list of ‘weird emails we get in the tip line’ comes Rat Grease. Rat Grease is the solution to rodents chewing up cabling and wires. From what we can gather, it’s a mineral oil-based gel loaded up with capsaicin; it’s not a poison, and not a glue. Rats are our friends, though, which makes me want to suggest this as a marinade, or at the very least a condiment. The flash point is sufficiently high that you might be able to use this in a fryer.

[Matthias Wandel] is the guy who can build anything with a table saw, including table saws. He posts his stuff online and does YouTube videos. A while back, he was approached by DeWalt to feature their tools in a few videos. He got a few hand tools, a battery-powered table saw, and made some videos. The Internet then went insane and [Matthias] lost money on the entire deal. Part of the reason for this is that his viewers stopped buying plans simply because he featured yellow power tools in his videos. This is dumpster elitism, and possibly the worst aspect of the DIY/engineering/maker community.

Elon Musk is the greatest inventor ever. No scratch that. The greatest person ever. Need more proof? The CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and our hearts has been given the green light to build a high-speed underground train from Chicago O’Hare to downtown. Here’s the kicker: he’s going to do it for only $1 Billion, or $55 Million per mile, making it the least expensive subway project by an order of magnitude. Yes, Subways usually cost anywhere between $500 to $900 Million per mile. How is he doing it? Luck, skill, and concentrated power of will. Elon is the greatest human ever, and we’re not just saying that to align ourselves with an audience that is easy to manipulate; we’re also saying this because Elon has a foggy idea for a ‘media vetting wiki’.

There are rumors Qualcomm will acquire NXP for $44 Billion. This deal has been years in the making, with reports of an acquisition dating back to 2016. Of course, that time, the deal was set to go through but was apparently put on hold by Chinese regulators. Now it’s the same story again; there were recent rumors of Qualcomm buying NXP, and the story was later changed to rumors. We’re waiting for an actual press release on this one. It’s just another long chapter in the continuing story of, ‘where the hell are all the Motorola app notes and data sheets?’

Hackaday Links: Benchoff Rants On Flying Cars

It’s time for Computex, and that means [Linus] has dropped something. I don’t know what, but he’s dropped something. It’s a meme or something at this point. What were the highlights? Asus announced Project Precog, a laptop with two screens. Yes, a touchscreen keyboard. It’s the 2018 version of the IBM Transnote or whatever that Microsoft thing was called. Why is it called Project Precog? Because AI or whatever. Unimaginative marketing is terrible. Intel is going to launch a 28-core CPU, and AMD is introducing a 32-core CPU. Awesome, core wars. And here’s RGB RAM because stuffing a case full of cold cathode lighting is sooo early-2000s.

Need a reverse engineering challenge? Here’s something from American Science and Surplus. It’s a 48 x 12 LED matrix, loaded up with driver ICs and power regulators. $20 a piece, so stock up and save.

Finally, the main event. The biggest story in aviation this week is that a media embargo has lifted on the Kitty Hawk Flyer. Kitty Hawk is a startup funded by Larry Page, CEO’d by Sebastian Thrun, and has received $6.5 M in funding. The Flyer, a one-man decacopter, was announced to the world through CNN Money and Casey Neistat. It should be noted that in the entire media landscape, these are the two outlets most ignorant of aviation: CNN needs no explanation, and Neistat flies quadcopters through the Hudson River Corridor at 1000 feet AGL. Additionally, Kitty Hawk is not exhibiting at AirVenture next month, which leads me to believe Kitty Hawk is trying to stay out of the aviation industry or simply doesn’t want knowledgeable people asking them questions. But I digress.

The Kitty Hawk Flyer is being promoted by the company as “a personal flying vehicle… to make flying part of everyday life” and a machine that will give you, “a world free from traffic”. It is being billed by CNN and Neistat as ‘a flying car’. Kitty Hawk is just fine with allowing the media to call it as such. Additionally, Sebastian Thrun is making claims about the Flyer that are disingenuous at best, outright illegal at worst, and should draw the ire of any investors.

In the CNN Money piece, Thrun claims the Flyer is capable of traveling at 100 miles per hour, which would be illegal. The Flier is certified as a Part 103 Ultralight, and under that regulation the Flyer “is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight.” The Flyer may also be overweight. The first version of the Flyer was basically a decacopter with a seat, and weighed in at 220 pounds. Part 103 regulations have a limit of 254 pounds, and it’s entirely possible there are more than 34 pounds of chassis and fiberglass on the latest version. I should also mention the safety training, while not required for a Part 103 ultralight, is insufficient: Casey Neistat’s underwater egress training was done in a Chuck E. Cheese-style ball pit. You can breathe in a ball pit, you can’t breathe underwater.

But legality aside, a Part 103 ‘flying car’ is just about the dumbest idea ever. You can’t use it to commute, and you’re welcome to call your local FSDO to confirm that. You’re not going to fly it in New York City or San Francisco because there are airports in the way. At best, this is a ‘flying ATV’ that you would take out on your farm; a toy for rich people. At worst, it’s the latest example of the Silicon Valley philosophy of ‘ignore laws and break things’.

Hackaday Links: May 20, 2018

One of the more interesting pieces of tech from Hollywood that never seems to become a reality is a location tracker. Remember the ‘movement tracker’ in Alien that found the cat in the locker? Yeah, like that. Something that reports the direction and distance to a target, kind of like a PKE Meter from Ghostbusters. I think there was something like this in Predator. On Indiegogo, there’s a device that tracks other devices. It’s called the Lynq, and it’s a small, handheld device that tells you the distance and bearing of other paired devices. Hand them out to your friends, and you’ll be able to find each other at Coachella. While the device and use case is interesting, we’re wondering how exactly this thing works. Our best guess is that each device has a GPS module inside, and communicates with other paired devices over the 900MHz band. It’s a bit pricey at $80 per unit (although you need at least two to be useful), but this is a really interesting project.

The SDRPlay SDR1 and SDR2 are — as you would guess — software defined radio receivers, that retail for $2-300. Problem: a few of these units were stolen from a warehouse, and are winding up on eBay. Solution: SDRPlay has decided to disable the specific receivers ‘via the serial number’. In a move just slightly reminiscent of FTDIgate, a manufacturer has decided to brick products that are stolen or infringe on IP. It’s a solution, but I wouldn’t want to be on the customer service team at SDRPlay.

A few years ago, [Oscar] created the PiDP-8/I, a computer kit that miniaturized the venerable PDP-8/I into a desktop form factor, complete with blinkenlights and clicky switches. It’s a full simulation of a PDP-8 running on a Raspberry Pi, and if you took the PiDP-8/I back to 1975, you could, indeed, connect it to other computers. But the PDP-8/I isn’t the most beautiful minicomputer ever created. That honor goes to the PDP-11/70, a beast of a machine wrapped in injection molded plastic and purple toggle switches. Now, after years of work, [Oscar] has miniaturized this beast of a machine. The PiDP-11/70 is a miniature remake of the PDP-11/70, runs a Raspberry Pi, and is everything you could ever want in a minimainframe. The price will be around $250 — expensive, but have you ever tried to find a PDP-11 front panel on eBay?

The Nvidia TX2 is a credit card-sized computer with a powerful ARM processor and a GPU. The TX2 is a module designed for ‘AI at the edge’, or something along those lines, meaning you can take a trained data set, load it onto an SD card, and the TX2 will do all the fancy image processing and OpenCV without a connection to the Internet. The obvious application for the TX2 is something like an ‘AI camera’, and now this is finally a product. The DNNCam is a 4k, 60FPS camera attached to a TX2 and stuffed into an IP67-rated enclosure. If you’re thinking of building anything like a security camera attached to a GPU, this is the all-in-one solution. It’s pricey, yes, but the TX2 module isn’t exactly cheap.

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.