Radio MDZhB

If you have a shortwave receiver, tune it to 4625 kHz. You’ll hear something that on the surface sounds strange, but the reality is even stranger still. According to the BBC, the radio station broadcasts from two locations inside Russia — and has since 1982 — but no one claims ownership of the station, known as MDZhB. According to the BBC:

[For 35 years, MDZhB] has been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.
Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it.

If you don’t have a shortwave handy, you can always try one of the many web-based software defined radios. Search for 4.6 MHz, and pick a location that should have propagation to Russia and you are all set.

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New Release Makes EAGLE and Fusion 360 Besties

The latest release of EAGLE builds a bridge between mechanical design and electronic design. Version 8.3 rolls in the ability to synchronize between EAGLE and Fusion 360. You can now jump between mechanical design and PCB layout without the need for extra steps in between. This is the first release of EAGLE that highlights what the Autodesk purchase actually means.

Just over a year ago, Autodesk bought EagleCAD which is one of the more popular PCB design suites for students, electronic hobbyists, and Open Hardware engineers. While there were some questions about the new license structure of EAGLE under the Autodesk banner, there was a promise of a faster development schedule and the possibility for integration of EAGLE with Autodesk’s CAD programs. Now it’s finally time for EAGLE and Fusion 360 to become besties.

The EAGLE and Fusion 360 integration update includes an online library editor with managed libraries. These online libraries are the ‘cloud’ solution to a folder full of custom EAGLE libraries filled with parts. These libraries package 3D models with the EAGLE libraries, simplifying mechanical design. You can place components on your PCB, then pull that layout into Fusion 360 to see how the board will work with your enclosure. Component placements that collide with the enclosure can be adjusted in Fusion before jumping back to EAGLE to fix the routing.

Embedded passive designs. The resistors *are* the PCB.

There are a few other interesting items in the release notes for EAGLE 8.3. At the top of the list is a new ‘board shape’ object. This is more than just a milling layer for a board outline — the board shape object can now be checked with DRC to ensure components aren’t too close to an edge. This also allows for new features like customizable cutouts and embedded passive designs, or putting resistors and caps in the layers of a PCB instead of placing them as discrete components.

With this release, there is a new Single Layer Mode. This mode only highlights the active layer of the PCB, leaving all other layers grayed out. To be honest, this feature should have been in EAGLE ten years ago, but late is better than never.

For the last year, those of us not complaining about the new EAGLE licensing situation have been watching the updates to EAGLE creep out of Autodesk. There has been a lot of speculation on what Autodesk would bring to the table when it comes to electronic design. This is it. It looks like Autodesk is fulfilling their promise to integrate electronic and mechanical design. The latest EAGLE release looks great, especially with the addition of walk-around routing and something resembling push and shove traces added earlier this year, combined with this update for the mechanical side of design projects.

You can check out a promo video from Autodesk of the new EAGLE release below.

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Eclipse Megamovie: Thousands of Cameras for Citizen Science

On August 21, 2017, the Moon will cast its shadow across the entire breadth of the United States for the first time in almost a century. It is estimated that 12 million people live within the path in which the sun will be blotted out, and many millions more are expected to pour into the area to experience the wonders of totality.

We’d really love it if you would tell us where you’ll be during the eclipse by creating your own event page, but that’s not what this article’s about. With millions gathered in a narrow swath from Oregon to South Carolina, and with the eclipse falling on a Monday so that the prior two weekend days will be filled with campouts at prime viewing locations, I expect that Eclipse 2017 will be one big coast-to-coast party. This is an event that will attract people of all stripes, from those with no interest in astronomy that have only the faintest idea of what’s actually happening celestially, to those so steeped in the science that they’ll be calling out the exact beginning of totality and when to expect Baily’s Beads to appear.

I suspect our readership leans closer to the latter than the former, and some may want to add to the eclipse experience by participating in a little citizen science. Here’s how you can get involved.

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Dedicated Button for Toggling Screens

Anyone who regularly presents to an audience these days has known the pain of getting one’s laptop to work reliably with projection hardware. It’s all the more fraught with pain when you’re hopping around from venue to venue, trying desperately to get everything functioning on a tight schedule. [Seb] found that the magic keystrokes they used to deal with these issues no longer worked on the Macbook Pro Touchbar, and so a workaround was constructed in hardware.

The build itself is simple – an Adafruit Trinket serves as the brains, with a meaty 12mm tactile button used for input. The Trinket emulates a USB keyboard and sends the Cmd-F1 keypress to the computer when the button is pressed. The button’s even mounted in a tidy deadbugged fashion.

While it’s not at all complicated from a build standpoint, the key to this project is that it’s a great example of using the tools available to solve real-life problems. When you’re in a rush with 300 people waiting for your talk to start, the last thing you need to be worrying about is a configuration issue. [Seb] now has a big red button to mash to get out of trouble and get on with the job at hand. It does recall this much earlier hack for emulating a USB keyboard with an Arduino Uno or Mega. It’s a useful skill to have!

 

All the Hardware Badges of DEF CON 25

Hardware is the future. There is no better proof of this than the hardware clans that have grown up around DEF CON, which in recent years has become known as Badgelife. I was first drawn to the custom hardware badges of the Whiskey Pirates at DC22 back in 2014. Hardware badges were being made by several groups at that time but that was mainly happening in isolation while this year the badge makers are in constant contact with each other.

A slack channel just for those working on their own DEF CON badges sprung up. This served as tech support, social hour, and feature brainstorming for all on the channel. In the past badges were developed without much info getting out during the design process. This year, there was a huge leap forward thanks to a unified badgelife API: the badge makers colluded with each on a unified communcations protocol. In the multitude of images below you frequently see Rigado modules used. These, and some others using different hardware, adopted a unified API for command and control, both through makers’ “god mode” badges, and for wireless gaming between participant badges.

I was able to get into the badge makers meetup on Thursday of DEF CON. What follows is the result of a frantic few hours trying to get through the sheer volume of badges and people to share with you all the custom hardware on display. One thing is for sure — there were literally thousands of custom badges built and sold/distributed during DEF CON. I can’t wait to see what the artisanal hardware industry will look like in five years time.

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Look What People Brought to Breakfast at DEF CON

Sunday was our Breakfast at Hackaday meetup and a swarm of folks showed up, take a look at the hardware they brought with them! Vegas can be a tough place to set up a meetup — especially if you don’t want to rent a room. We filtered into a Starbucks across the street from Caesar’s and ended up packing the high-top table areas. It turns out you get a really funny look from the baristas when you go through the coffee line and ask for four dozen pastries and a few buckets of coffee.

The size of the space made it hard to get a picture of the entire crowd. I did manage to get a posed photo with the people who showed up about a half hour early. Once it filled up all I got for crowd shots were people with their back to me and heads down comparing hardware projects — that might actually be more appropriate for DEF CON where people generally don’t want to be photographed (case in point our bandanna wearing friend).

 

There was a ton of different hardware on hand. If you look at a picture of the swag and pastries tables, look closely at the high-top behind that. There were a couple of people hacking on RTL-SDRs before we arrive (which means they were at least 45 minutes early).

I’m a fan of wearing your hardware projects at events and this year was really great for that. First, a Captain Phasma helmet from The Force Awakens. It’s 3D printed in ABS, using an acetone/ABS slurry to glue (actually to weld) the parts before sanding and painting to finish the job.

Most of the hacks on hand were unofficial hardware badges built specifically for DEF CON. I was at the Badge Build’s meetup and have a megapost on everything I saw there coming out a bit later. But here we get a look at the dragonfly badge which [Kerry] brought along with him as well as the rectangular PCB that was the prototype. The AND!XOR crew was in the house and I decided to bug [Hyr0n] about the password hashes I was trying to crack from their badge’s firmware. He pulled up the app and it wasn’t surprising to see so many of the Bender on a bender badges in the area. Their botnet was a huge hit this year!

At some point, I was handed this book-like box which had been laser cut and etched out of plywood. It’s a beautiful piece and I had no idea what I would find inside. Turns out it’s a complete quadcopter-badge fun kit. I must have been so enthralled with the electronics when we covered this badge a few weeks back that I completely missed the beautiful box they built for it.

Inside the box, you’ll find two versions of the badge (one that flies, the other that blinks and has a red PCB handkerchief), a separate PCB that is the controller, and a goodie bag with extra batteries and charging hardware. We didn’t fire this up at the meetup, but we’ll have it at the Hackaday Superconference for you to play with. It was really great to get a group picture with so many of the people who worked on making this badge happen.

There was one high-top over in the corner that had been mobbed with people all morning and I only got a look at it when the crowd started to clear out around noon. [Brian McEvoy] built a custom controller for OpenSCAD and did a great job of bringing along a demo. A tablet is running the software, with the controller connected via USB. There are 3 knobs on the right that allow you to adjust height, width, and depth. The fourth knob is for adjusting precision. That precision is displayed in a very clever way. You can see the LED strip with has a red dot on the right (the decimal point) and three colored pixels to the left of it. These are the tens, hundreds, and thousands, but just turn the crank until the red dot is at the other end of the strip and you’ll be setting precision to tenths, hundreths, etc. [Brian] even added a button you can hold down to 10x the precision without making a permanent adjustment. The project is driven by a Teensy LC board.

Is wonderful to see the Hackaday Community turn out for a meetup like this even though so much other stuff is going on at DEF CON. Thank you to all of you for coming to say hi, share your stories, and show off your handy work!

Arduino vs. Arduino: Musto Out, Banzi In

Federico Musto, who until two days ago owned the largest part of Arduino AG has been bought out, having today been replaced by a combination of Massimo Banzi and Fabio Violante.

This should bring to a close the saga that began with a fork where two companies called themselves “Arduino” and bizarrely continued for almost a year after the reconciliation of the two was announced. What remains today is one corporation called Arduino AG, now captained by Massimo Banzi as Chairman and CTO, and Fabio Violante as CEO.

Massimo Banzi was one of the original founders of Arduino and one side of the trademark litigation during the period in which there were two companies. With the buyout of Musto, Banzi moves back to the top spot. This change in leadership occurred as a company called BCMI bought all shares of Arduino AG. BCMI was started by four of the original Arduino co-founders; you could say the old gang rides again.

Arduino AG is in essence a hardware company, manufacturing and selling the officially branded Arduino boards. But right now they still maintain the official codebase which most people see as belonging to the community. Despite changes at the top, the proof will still be in the pudding. When will we see the Arduino Foundation come to life and take control of the Arduino IDE? Hackaday will continue to look into it and provide updates.