PC Hardware Monitor Uses Tricorder-Derived Tech

The visually striking hardware monitor that [Mangy_Dog] recently put together for his new custom PC build might look like something out of the Alien franchise, but the hardware he’s built it around actually comes from a very different science-fiction property: Star Trek. Or at least, from a very impressive line of Star Trek props, anyway.

Given the incredible amount of time and effort that [Mangy_Dog] has put into developing his Star Trek: Voyager tricorder, it’s no surprise that he would decide to reuse its graphics chip and microcontroller. But while the familiar hardware might have helped jump-start this build, this was no weekend project.

He’s steadily been working on it for several months now, and even entered it into the 2022 Sci-Fi Contest back in April. Obviously he wasn’t able to complete it before the Contest deadline, but looking at the final results, we’re happy to see he kept chugging away at it.

Of course, with a project like this, the hardware is only half the battle. In the video below, [Mangy_Dog] explains the challenges involved in creating not only the firmware that runs on the monitor, but the accompanying PC-side application. This included modifying existing libraries to add support for the device’s unique flash storage arrangement, and pulling the relevant system status information out of the operating system and into a series of customizable widgets.

As impressive as the project is, [Mangy_Dog] says he’s not done yet. A second revision of the hardware and software will address several issues and add new capabilities, and considering the high degree of polish we’ve come to expect from his creations, we’re not surprised

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ESP32 Powers Covert Pentesting Device

Looking to expand their hardware design experience, [mentalburden] recently put together a low-cost handheld gadget that can be used for various security-related tasks such as logging WiFi traffic, operating as a dead drop, and performing deauthentication attacks.

The custom PCB plays host to the essentials — an ESP32-S microcontroller, AMS1117 3.3 V regulator, a SSD1306 OLED, and a couple of buttons. This lets the user navigate through a simple menu system and select whatever function they wish to enable. During testing, a pair of 18650 cells kept the electronics running for an impressive 22 hours.

A second version of the PCB fixed a few bodges that were required to get the original prototype working, and given how energy efficient the hardware ended up being,  [mentalburden] decided to drop the power supply down to a single 18650 for a total runtime of around 15 hours. A 3D printed case and some silicone buttons, produced with a simple clay mold, completed the package.

There’s still some improvements that could be made, namely integrating a battery charging circuit into the PCB and switching over to USB-C, but overall its a solid prototype with an impressive per-unit cost of less than $10 USD. Though if you’re looking for something even cheaper, we’ve seen an even more simplistic approach based on the ESP-01.

Hackaday Prize 2022: Soviet Geiger Counter Gets WiFi

[Marek] has an impressive collection of old Soviet-style Geiger counters. These are handy tools to have in some specific situations, but for most of us they would be curiosities. Even so, they need some help from the modern world to work well, and [Marek] has come up with some pretty creative ways of bringing them into the 21st century. This version, for example, adds WiFi capabilities.

This build is based on the STS-5 Geiger tube but the real heavy lifting is handled by an ESP8266 which also provides a wireless network connection. There are some limitations to using an ESP8266 to control a time-sensitive device like a Geiger tube, especially the lack of local storage, but [Marek] solves this problem by including a real-time clock and locally caching data until a network connection is re-established. Future plans for the device include adding temperature and atmospheric temperature sensors.

Eventually this Geiger counter will be installed in a watertight enclosure outside so [Marek] can keep an eye on the background radiation of his neighborhood. Previously he was doing this with another build, but that one only had access to the network over an Ethernet cable, so this one is quite an upgrade.

Launch And Track Your Model Rockets Via Smartphone

Building and flying model rockets is great fun. Eventually, though, the thrill of the fire and smoke subsides, and you want to know more about what it’s doing in the air. With a thirst for knowledge, [archy587] started building a project to monitor the vital stats of rockets in flight. 

The project mounts an M0 Feather microcontroller board into the rocket, along with a 900 MHz LoRa transmitter and a GPS module. This allows the rocket’s journey to be measured and logged, and is particularly useful for when a craft floats off downrange during parachute recovery. There’s also a relay module onboard, which dumps power from a dedicated separate battery into the rocket motor igniter. This allows the rocket to be fired wirelessly.

On the ground, the setup uses an ESP32 fitted with another LoRa module to receive signals from the rocket. It’s designed to hook up to an Android smartphone over its USB-C port. This allows data received from the rocket to be displayed in an Android app, including the rocket’s GPS location overlaid on Google Maps.

Being able to remotely ignite your rockets and track their progress brings some high-tech cool to the launch pad. You’ll be upgrading your rockets with micro flight controllers and vectored thrust in no time. Just be sure whatever tech you’re using is compliant with the rules for model rocketry in your local area.

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Hackaday Prize 2022: Digital Dice Towers Built In Beautiful Retro Cases

Retro hardware often looks fantastic, but we may find we no longer need it for its original function. [John Anderson] found that to be the case with some old Heathkit gear, and set about giving them a fun overhaul.

With the help of AVR microcontrollers, the devices have been repurposed into electronic dice towers for playing Dungeons & Dragons. A seed is generated based on the chip’s uptime, and supplied to a pseudorandom number generator that emulates dice rolls. The devices can be configured to roll a variety of dice, including the usual 6, 8, 10, and 20-sided varieties. Plus, they can be set to roll multiple dice at a time — useful when you’re rolling complicated spells and attacks in combat.

[John] has converted a variety of Heathkit devices, from Morse code trainers to digital multi-meters. They provide their beautiful cases and a great retro aesthetic, and we think they’d make fitting table decoration for retro cyberpunk tabletop games, too.

Creating your own electronic dice is a great way to get familiar with programming microcontrollers. Video after the break.

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DOOM Runs On The EMFCamp Tidal Badge

If it’s got a chip and a screen, someone’s trying to run DOOM on it. The latest entry in this fad is from [Phil Ashby], who figured out how to get the game running on the EMFCamp Tidal Badge as seamlessly as possible.

The badge is based on the ESP32-S3. It’s the latest version of the ESP32, which can run the iconic shooter pretty easily. However, [Phil] set himself a trickier challenge. He wanted to port DOOM to the badge while having it remain compatible with the MicroPython platform already on it. Plus, he wanted to be able to distribute it easily with the TiDAL Hatchery, a platform for sharing apps for the badge.

In the end, it took some deft hacking to make the game run on a microcontroller platform that isn’t really set up for running “applications.” It took some tricks to scale the video output and get the colors right, of course, but it’s there and working.

The state of the art is now so advanced that they managed to port DOOM into DOOM so you can DOOM while you DOOM. Video after the break.

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Tiny Pinball Machine Also Runs X86 Code

As arcades become more and more rare, plenty of pinball enthusiasts are moving these intricate machines to their home collections in basements, garages, and guest rooms. But if you’re not fortunate enough to live in a home that can support a space-intensive hobby like pinball machines, there are some solutions to that problem. This one, for example, fits on the palm of your hand and also happens to run some impressive software for its size.

The machine isn’t a mechanical pinball machine like its larger cousins, though. Its essentially a 3D printed case made to look like a pinball machine with two screens attached. It does have a working plunger for launching the ball and two buttons on the sides for the approximation of authenticity, but it’s actually running Pinball Fantasies — a pinball simulator designed to run on x86 hardware from the 90s. This sports an ESP32 on the inside, which has just enough computing capability to run an x86 emulator that can load these games in DOS.

The game includes haptic feedback and zips along at 60 frames per second, which really brings the pinball experience to its maximum level given the game’s minuscule size. It’s impressive for fitting a lot into a small space, both from physical and software points-of-view. For more full-sized digital pinball builds, take a look at this one which comes exceptionally close to replicating the real thing.

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