Lego House: Right Next To Denmark’s Legoland, But Way Cooler

If there is one thing that most Hackaday readers will know about Denmark, it is that it’s the home of the Lego brick. The toy first appeared at the end of the 1940s from the factory of Ole Kirk Christiansen‘s Lego company in Billund, central Denmark, and has remained inseparable from both the town and the country ever since.

When spending a week in Denmark for the BornHack hacker camp it made absolute sense to take a day out to drive up to Billund and visit the famous Legoland theme park. All those childhood dreams of seeing the fabled attraction would be satisfied, making the visit a day to remember.

Your first view of the Lego House, in the centre of Billund.
Your first view of the Lego House, in the centre of Billund.

The Danes at Bornhack however had other ideas. By all means go to Legoland they said, but also take in Lego House. As a Brit I’d never heard of it, so was quickly educated. It seems that while Legoland is a kid’s theme park, Lego House is a far more Lego-brick-focused experience, and in the view of the Danish hackers, much better.

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New Teensy 4.0 Blows Away Benchmarks, Implements Self-Recovery, Returns To Smaller Form

Paul Stoffregen did it again: the Teensy 4.0 has been released. The latest in the Teensy microcontroller development board line, the 4.0 returns to the smaller form-factor last seen with the 3.2, as opposed to the larger 3.5 and 3.6 boards.

Don’t let the smaller size fool you; the 4.0 is based on an ARM Cortex M7 running at 600 MHz (!), the fastest microcontroller you can get in 2019, and testing on real-world examples shows it executing code more than five times faster than the Teensy 3.6, and fifteen times faster than the Teensy 3.2. Of course, the new board is also packed with periperals, including two 480 Mbps USB ports, 3 digital audio interfaces, 3 CAN busses, and multiple SPI/I2C/serial interfaces backed with integrated FIFOs. Programming? Easy: there’s an add-on to the Arduino IDE called Teensyduino that “just works”. And it rings up at an MSRP of just $19.95; a welcomed price point, but not unexpected for a microcontroller breakout board.

The board launches today, but I had a chance to test drive a couple of them in one of the East Coast Hackaday labs over the past few days. So, let’s have a closer look.

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Espionage On Display As GCHQ Hosts A Temporary Exhibit

At the top of the British electronic intelligence agency is the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a very public entity whose circular building can easily be found by any inquisitive soul prepared to drive just off the A40 in Cheltenham which is about two hours west of London. But due to the nature of its work it is also one of the most secretive of UK agencies, from which very little public information is released. With over a century of history behind it and with some truly groundbreaking inventions under its belt it is rumoured to maintain a clandestine technology museum that would rewrite a few history books and no doubt fascinate the Hackaday readership.

Perhaps the most famous of all its secrets was the wartime Colossus, the first all-electronic stored program digital computer, which took an unauthorised book in the 1970s to bring to public attention. Otherwise its historical artifacts have been tantalisingly out-of-reach, hinted at but never shown.

A temporary exhibition at the Science Museum in London then should be a must-visit for anyone with an interest in clandestine technology. Top Secret: From ciphers to cyber security occupies the basement gallery, and includes among other exhibits a fascinating selection of artifacts from the Government agency. On a trip to London I met up with a friend, and we went along to take a look.

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Resin Printers Are Now Cheaper, Still Kind Of A Hassle

Your run-of-the-mill desktop 3D printer is based on a technology known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), where the machine squirts out layers of hot plastic that stick to each other. But that’s not the only way to print a Benchy. One of the more exotic alternative techniques uses a photosensitive resin that gets hardened layer by layer. The results are impressive, but historically the printers have been very expensive.

But it looks like that’s finally about to change. The [3D Printing Nerd] recently did a review of the Longer3D Orange 10 which costs about $230, less than many FDM printers. It isn’t alone, either. Monoprice has a $200 resin printer, assuming you can find it in stock.

The resin isn’t cheap and it’s harder to handle than filament. Why is it harder to handle? For one is smells, but more importantly, you aren’t supposed to get it on your skin. The trade off is that the resulting printed parts look fantastic, with fine detail that isn’t readily possible with traditional 3D printing techniques.

Some resin printers use a laser to cure resin at particular coordinates. This printer uses an LCD to produce an image that creates each layer. Because the LCD exposes all the resin at one time, each layer takes a fixed amount of time no matter how big or detailed the layer is. Unfortunately, using these displays means the build area isn’t very large: the manufacturer says it’s 98 by 55 millimeters with a height of up to 140mm. The claimed resolution, though, is 10 microns on the Z-axis and 115 microns on the LCD surface.

Getting the prints out of the printer requires you to remove the uncured resin. In the video, they used a playing card and two alcohol baths. After you remove the uncured resin, you’ll want to do a final curing step. More expensive printers have dedicated curing stations but on this budget printer, you have to cure the parts separately. How? By leaving them out in the sun. Presumably, you could use any suitable UV light source.

There are a few other similar-priced options out there. Sparkmaker, Wanhao (resold by Monoprice). If you’re willing to spend more, Prusa has even thrown their orange hat into the ring. If you were wondering if you could use the LCD in your phone to do this, the answer is sort of.

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Hands-On: AND!XOR DEF CON 27 Badge Ditches Bender, Adopts Light Pipes

The newest offering from the AND!XOR team is out and it delivered exactly what hardware badges were missing: light pipes. No joke, the DEF CON 27 edition AND!XOR badge will be most recognizable because of two arcs of light pipe material blinging RGB goodness in three dimensions. But if you can peel your eyes away from that oddity there’s a lot to love about the new design.

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Review: Shi Yi Tool Sy365-8 Desoldering Iron, Second Cheapest You Can Find

Is the second cheapest tool you can find any better than the cheapest one?

Readers with long memories will recall there was a time when I amused myself by tacking inexpensive tools or electronic devices to my various orders from the Chinese electronic Aladdin’s Cave. Often these inexpensive purchases proved to be as disastrous or ineffective as you might expect, but sometimes they show unexpected promise, true diamonds in the rough. It’s been a while and life has intervened over the last year, but it’s time to resume this harmless diversion.

Memories Of An Explosive Conclusion

A particularly memorable review came in April 2018, when I bought a five pound ($6.30) desoldering iron. I described it then as an “unholy lovechild of a cheap solder sucker and an even cheaper soldering iron“, and while that was an accurate portrayal it also showed promise as a useful tool that would fill a niche in my requirements. Desoldering is always slightly annoying, and a heated desolder pump genuinely does make a difference. Unfortunately for me, the cheap desoldering tool was not a product I’d recommend that anyone try for themselves. A combination of questionable electrical safety and a propensity to explosively deconstruct itself meant it has languished unused in my big box of cheap junk, and I’m still without a decent desoldering solution. It is time to buy something better, and in the rich tradition of reviewing inexpensive stuff I decided to pick up the next cheapest desoldering iron I could find. Eight pounds ($10) secured me a Shi Yi Tool Sy365-8, and I set to on this review. Continue reading “Review: Shi Yi Tool Sy365-8 Desoldering Iron, Second Cheapest You Can Find”

Hands-On: GreatFET Is An Embedded Tool That Does It All

There’s a new embedded hacking tool on the scene that gives you an interactive Python interface for a speedy chip on a board with oodles of GPIO, the ability to masquerade as different USB devices, and a legacy of tricks up its sleeve. This is the GreatFET, the successor to the much loved GoodFET.

I first heard this board was close to launch almost a year ago and asked for an early look. When shipping began at the end of April, they sent me one. Let’s dig in for a hands-on review of the GreatFET from Great Scott Gadgets.

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