Hackaday Links: July 14, 2019

The M5Stack is a plastic box loaded up with an ESP32, a display, some pin headers, and a few buttons. Why does this exist? It’s a platform of sorts, and we’ve seen people adding LoRa to the M5Stack as well as thermal cameras. Hot from random online retailers is the M5Stick, a smaller version of the ~Stack that still has a screen, still has pin headers, and still has an ESP32. It’s a new development platform that’s using a USB C plug (hot trends 2019), and it still has all the features of an ESP32.

Ever wonder how they put designs on skateboard decks, or graphic designs on luggage? That would be a UV printer — it’s basically an inkjet that uses UV-curing ink, but the print head has a Z axis, and the bed is usually huge. [Scotty] of Strange Parts recently took a look at a factory that makes UV printers. Yeah, there’s a lot of wiring that goes into these machines, and yeah, you can do a lot with them. Remember: the cheapest UV printers are about $3k, and yeah, you can print designs on PCBs with them.

Virgin Orbit is the Branson-branded take on the Stratolaunch; this is a rocket that uses a single 747 to loft a small rocket into the stratosphere and send it off into a sun-synchronous orbit. This week, Virgin Orbit has completed drop tests to characterize how the rocket falls away from the 747. This is also called ‘a bombing run’, and we could have used a few GoPros on the rocket itself.

Last weekend was ‘LeHack’, a French hacker/infosec conference. There was a coffee vending machine there, complete with touch screen and an offer to pay via your smartphone with an app. You know what happened. It turns out, you can take over all the accounts using the app. You can also brute force the user’s pins. Lesson learned? Why the hell does a coffee machine need an app?

The New Pallet Wood! First off, don’t make anything out of pallet wood unless you know what you’re doing; there’s some nasty chemicals in pallet wood. That said, you can make a fortune with pallet wood furniture on Etsy, and that’s doubly true if you make a pallet wood resin river table. This is the new pallet wood. Hollow core doors are easy to disassemble with a table saw, and provide two large sheets of plywood, and enough sticks to make a frame for something. What can you do with all this wood? Build a guitar, of course.

Hackaday Links: July 7, 2019

Like modular synths? Sure you do, and you need another hole to throw money into! For the last few months, Supplyframe has been hosting synthesizer and electronic music meetups in San Francisco. This week, the HDDG/Piqued meetup will have a great talk with the creator of VCV Rack. VCV Rack is an Open Source, virtual, modular synthesizer — basically a bunch of Eurorack modules inside a computer and it costs a whole lot less. The talk is this Thursday evening in SF. You should come!

The W600 is a new module (you can get it from Seeed, although it’s produced by Winner Micro in various formats) that is basically an ESP32, except it uses an ARM Cortex-M3 instead of a Tensilica core. [ultratechie] recently got their hands on one of these modules and got started with MicroPython. This seems like a capable module and it’s only three dollars, but will that be enough to catch up to the ESP32?

Purple gorilla enters art gallery. At the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam there is a new exhibit featuring the, ‘destructive beauty of the computer virus’. The curators are detailing the historical progress of the computer virus from innocent DOS viruses to Melissa to Stuxnet and ransomware.

USB C has been around for a while, but 2019 is the year everything started to become USB C. Case in point: the Raspberry Pi 4. The only problem is that the Raspberry Pi Foundation messed up their implementation of USB C. Not a problem, because here’s how you design a USB C power sink. Basically, you give each CC line its own resistor. Don’t even think about it, just copy the USB C spec. You don’t know more about USB C than the people who designed it, and you’re not really saving a ton of money by deleting one resistor. Just copy the spec.

Hackaday Links: June 30, 2019

In our continuing series of, ‘point and laugh at this guy’, I present a Kickstarter for the, “World’s First Patented Unhackable Computer Ever”.  It’s also a real web site and there’s even a patent (US 10,061,923, not showing up on Google Patents for some reason), and a real product: you can get an unhackable laptop, and you can get it in either space gray or gold finish. This gets fun when you actually dig into the patent; it appears this guy invented protected memory, with one section of memory dedicated to the OS, and another dedicated to the browser. This is a valid, live patent, by the way.

The 2019 New York Maker Faire is off. Yeah, it says it’s still going to happen on the website, but trust me, it’s off, and you can call the New York Hall of Science to confirm that for yourself. Maker Media died recently, and there will be no more ‘Flagship’ Maker Faires. That doesn’t mean the ‘mini’ and ‘featured’ Maker Faires are dead, though: the ‘Maker Faire’ trademark is simply licensed out to those organizers. In the next few weeks, there is going to be a (mini) Maker Faire in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Gilroy, California, Edmonton, Alberta, Kingsport Tennessee, and a big ‘ol one in Detroit. This raises an interesting question: where is the money for the licensing going? I’m sure some Mini Maker Faire organizers are reading this; have your checks been cashed? What is the communication with Maker Media like?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s valuable words of wisdom like that and can apply to many things. Commenting on blog posts, for example. Yes, you can throw sticks at a wasp’s nest, that doesn’t mean you should. Yes, you can 3D print Heely adapters for your shoes, but it doesn’t mean you should. It does look dope, though and you’re automatically a thousand times cooler than everyone else.

The C64 Mini is a pocket-sized Linux device with an HDMI port meant to play C64 games.   There were high hopes when the C64 Mini was announced, but it turned out the keyboard isn’t actually a mini keyboard. Now someone had the good sense to combine one of these ‘smartphone chips running an emulator in a retro case’ products with a full-sized keyboard. The C64 will be around by Christmas, and yeah, it has a full working keyboard.

Hackaday Links: June 16th, 2019

OpenSCAD has been updated. The latest release of what is probably the best 3D modeling tool has been in the works for years now, and we’ve got some interesting features now. Of note, there’s a customizer, for allowing parametrizing designs with a GUI. There’s 3D mouse support, so drag out that weird ball mouse from the 90s. You can export in SVG, 3MF, and AMF. Update your install of OpenSCAD now.

New Hampshire is the home of BASIC, and now there’s a sign on the side of the road saying so. This is a New Hampshire state historical marker honoring BASIC, invented at Dartmouth College in 1964. Interestingly, there are 255 historical markers in New Hampshire, usually honoring bridges and historical figures, which means there’s an off-by-one error depending on implementation.

Because robots a great way to get kids into technology — someone has to repair the future robot workers of the world — DJI has release the RoboMaster S1. It’s a robot with four Mecanum wheels, something like a Nerf turret, a camera, and WiFi. The best part? It’s programmable, either through Scratch or Python. Yes, it’s drag-and-drop programming for line following robots.

If you have a C by GE Smart Light Bulb and connect a new router to your home network, you will need to disassociate your C By GE Smart Light Bulb with your old network. To do this, you first need to turn your bulb on for eight seconds, then turn off for two seconds, then turn on for eight seconds, then turn off for two seconds. Then turn the bulb on for eight seconds, and finally turn the bulb off for two seconds. Finally, turn the bulb on for eight seconds, then turn the bulb off for two seconds. Your bulb should blink three times, indicating it has dissociated with the WiFi network. If this procedure does not work, your light bulb is running an older version of firmware. This is why you put a physical reset button on your stuff, people.

Have a lot of Raspberry Pi hats but you want to play around with the ESP32? No problem, because here’s a Pi-compatible GPIO ESP32 board. It needs a catchier name, but this is an ESP32 that’s mostly compatible with the 40-pin connector found on all Pis. Here’s a Crowd Supply link.

 

Hackaday Links: June 9, 2019

The Chicago Pile led to the Manhattan Project, which led to the atomic bomb. In Germany, there were similar efforts with less success, and now we have physical evidence from the first attempted nuclear reactor in Germany. In Physics Today, there’s a lovely historical retrospective of one of the ‘fuel cubes’ that went into one of Germany’s unsuccessful reactor experiments. This is a five-centimeter cube that recently showed up in the hands of a uranium collector. In the test reactor, six hundred of these cubes were strung along strings and suspended like a chandelier. This chandelier was then set inside a tub surrounded by graphite. This reactor never reached criticality — spectroscopy tells us the cube does not contain fission products — but it was the best attempt Germany made at a self-sustaining nuclear reaction.

The biggest failing of the Arduino is the pinout. Those header pins aren’t all on 0.1″ centers, and the board itself is too wide to fit on a single solderless breadboard. Here’s the solution to that problem. It’s the BreadShield, an Arduino Uno-to-Breadboard adapter. Plug an Uno on one end, and you get all the pins on the other.

There’s a new listing on AirBnB. this time from NASA. They’re planning on opening the space station up to tourism, starting at $35,000 USD per night. That’s a cool quarter mil per week, launch not included. The plan appears to allow other commercial companies (SpaceX and whoever buys a Boeing Starliner) to accept space tourists, the $35k/night is just for the stop at the ISS. Costs for launch and landing are expected to be somewhere between $20 and $60 Million per flight. Other space tourists have paid as much: [Dennis Tito], the first ‘fee-paying’ space tourist, paid $20M for a trip to the ISS in 2001. [Mark Shuttleworth] also paid $20M a year later. Earlier space ‘tourists’ paid a similar amount; Japanese journalist [Toyohiro Akiyama] flew to Mir at a cost of between $12M and $37M. Yes, the space station is now an AirBnB, but it’s going to cost twenty million dollars for the ride up there.

We’re getting into conference season, and there are two hardware cons coming up you should be aware of. The first is Hardwear.io, keynoted by [Christopher Tarnovsky], famous for DirecTV hacks. There will be other talks by [@TubeTimeUS] on cloning the Sound Blaster and [John McMaster] on dropping acid. All of this is going down this week at The Biltmore in Santa Clara, CA. The second upcoming conference of note is Teardown, the hardware conference put on by Crowd Supply. That’s in Portland, June 21-23, with a presence from the Church of Robotron.

Hackaday Links: June 2, 2019

The works of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Cervantes combined do not equal the genius of Rick And Morty. Actually, the word ‘genius’ is thrown around a bit too much these days. Rick and Morty has surpassed genius. This cartoon is sublime. It is beyond any art that could be created. Now, you might not have a high enough IQ to follow this, but Rick and Morty is, objectively, the best art that can be produced. It just draws upon so much; Rick’s drunken stammering is a cleverly hidden allusion to Dostoevsky’s Netochka Nezvanova, absolutely brilliantly providing the back-story to Rick’s character while never actually revealing anything. Now, you’re probably not smart enough to understand this, but Teenage Engineering is releasing a Rick and Morty Pocket Operator. Only the top percentages of IQs are going to understand this, but this is game-changing. Nothing like this has ever been done before.

The Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 is the high water mark of computer peripheral design. Originally released in 2003, the IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 was an instant classic. The design is nearly two decades old, but it hasn’t aged a day. That said, mouse sensors have gotten better in the years since, and I believe the original tooling has long worn out. Production of the original IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 stopped a long time ago. Microsoft tried to revive the IntelliMouse a few years ago using a ‘BlueTrack’ sensor that was ridiculed by the gaming community. Now Microsoft is reviving the IntelliMouse with a good sensor. The Pro IntelliMouse is on sale now for $60 USD.

It has come to my attention that wooden RFID cards exist. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone because wood veneer exists, thin coils of wire exist, and glue exists. That said, if you’re looking for an RFID card you can throw in the laser cutter for engraving, or you just want that special, home-made touch, you can get a wooden RFID card.

Lego has just released an Apollo Lunar Lander set, number 10266. It’s 1087 pieces and costs $99. This is a full-scale (or minifig-scale, whatever) Apollo LEM, with an ascent module detachable from the descent module. Two minifigs fit comfortably inside. Previously, the only full-scale (or, again, minifig-scale) Apollo LEM set was 10029, a Lego Discovery kit from 2003 (original retail price $39.99). Set 10029 saw a limited release and has since become a collectible: the current value for a new kit is $336. The annualized ROI of Lego set 10029-1 is 13.69%, making this new Apollo LEM set a very attractive investment vehicle. I’m going to say this one more time: Lego sets, and especially minifigs, are one of the best long-term investments you can make.

A Weinermobile is for sale on Craigslist. Actually, it’s not, because this was just a prank posted by someone’s friends. Oh, I wish I had an Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

Rumors are swirling that Apple will release a new Mac Pro at WWDC this week. Say what you will about Apple, but people who do audio and video really, really like Apple, and they need machines with fast processors and good graphics cards. Apple, unfortunately, doesn’t build that anymore. The last good expandable mac was the cheese grater tower, retired in 2013 for the trash can pro. Will Apple manage to build a machine that can hold a video card?  We’ll find out this week.

Hackaday Links: May 26, 2019

Thinkpads are great, especially the old ones. You find a T420, and you can have a battery hanging off the back, a battery in the optical drive bay, and for some old Thinkpads, there’s a gigantic ‘slice’ battery that doubles the thickness of your laptop. Here’s the most batteries in a Thinkpad ever, with the requisite reddit post. It’s 27 cells, with an all-up capacity of 212 Watt-hours. There are two interesting takeaways from the discussion here. First, this may, technically, be allowed on a commercial flight. The FAA limit is 100 Watt-hours per battery, and the Ultrabay is a second battery. You’re allowed two additional, removable batteries on a carry on, and this is removable and reconfigurable into some form that the TSA should allow it on a plane. Of course no TSA agent is going to allow this on a plane so that really doesn’t matter. Secondly, the creator of this Frankenpad had an argument if Hatsune Miku is anime or not. Because, yeah, of course the guy with a Thinkpad covered in Monster energy drink stickers and two dozen batteries glued on is going to have an opinion of Miku being anime or not. That’s just the way the world works.

Prices for vintage computers are now absurd. The best example I can call upon is expansion cards for the Macintosh SE/30, and for this computer you have a few choice cards that have historically commanded a few hundred dollars on eBay. The Micron XCEED Color 30 Video Card, particularly, is a special bit of computer paraphernalia that allows for grayscale on the internal monitor. One of these just sold for two grand. That’s not all, either: a CPU accelerator just sold for $1200. These prices are double what they were just a few years ago. We’re getting to the point where a project to reverse engineer and produce clones of these special cards may make financial sense.

The biggest news in consumer electronics this week is the Playdate. It’s a pocket game console that has a crank. Does the crank do anything? No, except that it has a rotary encoder, so this can nominally be used for games. It will cost $150, and there are zero details on the hardware other than the industrial design was done by Teenage Engineering. There’s WiFi, and games will be delivered wireless on a weekly basis. A hundred thousand people are on the wait list to buy this.

If you want a pick and place in your garage workshop, there aren’t many options. There’s a Neoden for about ten grand, but nothing cheaper or smaller. The Boarditto is a two thousand dollar pick and place machine that fits comfortably on your desk. It has automatic tape feeders, a vision system, and for the most part it looks like what you’d expect a small, desktop pick and place machine to be. That’s all the information for now, with the pre-order units shipping in December 2019.