Hackaday Links: October 22, 2017

A few weeks ago, the popcorn overflowed because of an ambiguous tweet from AdafruitDid Adafruit just buy Radio Shack? While everyone else was foaming at the mouth, we called it unlikely. The smart money is that Adafruit just bought a few fancy stock certificates, incorporation papers, and other official-looking documents at the Radio Shack corporate auction a few months ago. They also didn’t pick up that monster cache of Trash-80s, but I digress.

Here’s some more popcorn: Adafruit just applied for the ‘Radiofruit’ trademark. Is this Adafruit’s play to take over the Radio Shack brand? Probably not; they put a bunch of radio modules on Feather boards, and are just doing what they do. It does demonstrate Adafruit’s masterful manipulation effective use of social media, though.

Remember those 2D tilty maze rolling marble labyrinth game things? Here’s a 3D version on Kickstarter. It’s handheld, so this really needs a gimbal and associated twisty knobs.

In a video making the meme rounds, someone found an easter egg in the gauge cluster of a Russian GAZ van. It plays Tetris.

It’s Sunday, so it’s time to talk Star Trek. Here’s something interesting that hit my email: a press release telling me, “Trekkies Scramble To Get The First Toothbrush In Space As Seen On Star Trek Discovery”. This is the toothbrush, and here is the press kit. Dumb? Not at all. Star Trek has a long history of using off-the-shelf tools and devices for props. For example, the hyperspanners seen in Star Trek: Enterprise were actually this non-contact thermometer available from Harbor Freight. At least the hyperspanners and thermometers came out of the same injection mold.

There’s a new LimeSDR board on CrowdSupply. It extends any LimeSDR to 10 GHz.

Kerf bending is the application of (usually laser-cut) slots to bend plywood around corners. You’ve seen it a million times before, and done correctly the technique can produce some very interesting results. What about metal, though? You need a pretty big laser for that. [Proto G] is using a 2000 W fiber laser to experiment with kerf bending in stainless steel. It works as you would expect, and we eagerly await someone to replicate this, if only to see another 2000 Watt laser in action.

Hackaday Links: October 8, 2017

On the top of the popcorn pile for this weekend is an ambiguous tweet from Adafruit that was offered without comment or commentary. [Lady Ada] is holding some sort of fancy incorporation papers for Radio Shack. The smart money is that Adafruit just bought these at the Radio Shack auction a month or so ago. The speculation is that Adafruit just bought Radio Shack, or at least the trademarks and other legal ephemera. Either one is cool, but holy crap please bring back the retro 80s branding.

A Rubik’s Cube is a fantastic mechanical puzzle, and if you’ve never taken one apart, oh boy are you in for a treat. Here’s an RGB LED Rubick’s Cube with not enough detail as to how each square is getting powered. Here’s an open challenge for anyone: build an RGB LED Rubick’s Cube, and Open Source the design.

Last weekend, the front fell off the engine of an Air France A380 flying over Greenland. As with all aircraft incidents, someone has to find the missing bits. It only took a week to find a mangled cowling on an ice sheet. This is incredibly impressive; if you want a comparison to another accident, it took three months to find the fan disk for UA 232 in an Iowa cornfield.

Poorly thought out Kickstarters don’t grab our attention like they used to, but this is an exception. The Aire is a mashup of one of those voice-activated home assistants (Alexa, whatever the Google one is named…) and a drone. The drone half of the build is marginally interesting as a ducted fan coaxial thingy, and building your own home assistant isn’t that hard with the right mics and a Raspberry Pi. The idea is actually solid — manufacturing is another story, though. It appears no one thought about how annoying it would be to have a helicopter following them around their house, or if the mics would actually be able to hear anyone over beating props. Here’s the kicker: this project was successfully funded. People want to buy this. A fool and his or her money…

Processing is cool, although we’re old skool and still reppin’ Max/MSP. It looks like the first annual Processing Community Day is coming up soon. The Processing Community Day will be at the MIT Media Lab on October 21st, with talks from the headliners of the Processing community.

Maker Faire NYC was two weekends ago, the TCT show in Birmingham was last week, and Open Hardware Summit was in Denver this weekend. Poor [Prusa] was at all of them, racking up the miles. He did, however, get to ride [James from XRobots.co.uk]’s electric longboard. There’s some great videos from [James] right here and here.

Speaking of Open Hardware Summit, there was a field trip to Sparkfun and Lulzbot this Friday. The highlight? The biggest botfarm in the states, and probably the second largest in the world. That’s 155 printers, all in their own enclosures, in a room that’s kept at 80° F. They’re printing ABS. Control of the printers is through a BeagleBone running Octoprint. These ‘Bones and Octoprint only control one printer each, and there is no software layer ‘above’ the Octoprint instances for managing multiple printers simultaneously. That probably means the software to manage a botfarm doesn’t exist. There have been attempts, though, but nothing in production. A glove thrown down?

Building This TARDIS Is Anything But A Snap

As an avid fan of the show Dr Who, [Adam Sifounakis] saw a model for a laser-cut TARDIS that piqued his curiosity that eventually grew into a multi-week project involving multiple setbacks, missteps, revamps and — finally — gratification. Behold, his sound activated TARDIS.

First and foremost, assembling and painting the model was a fun puzzle — despite a few trips to the store — with a little backtracking on the painting due to impatience. Next, the creation of a pulsing soft white LED circuit timed with an audio clip to really sell the image of a mini-TARDIS proved to be a tedious ordeal, paying off in the end with a satisfying glow through the vellum-diffused windows on the model.

How to trigger the lights? [Sifounakis] initially wanted a capacitive sensor to trigger the sound effects, but that way lay dragons — and madness — so he went with snap-activated effect to activate the TARDIS like the Doctor himself. After struggling with building his own microphone setup, he switched to an electret mic with adjustable gain which worked like a charm. Setting up this TARDIS’ Adafruit Pro Trinket brain involved a snag or two, and after that it was smooth sailing!

Until he hit another hitch with the power circuit too, that is. Luckily enough, adding a capacitor to give the circuit a bit more juice on boot solved the issue. All that was left to do was dismantle and rebuild his circuit after all this troubleshooting and substitutions, and — finally — install it in his model.

With much satisfaction and a final rework of the LED pulsing effect, it was done. Check it out!

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You Probably Don’t Want To Find This Toilet In Your Washroom

Ok, this one is a bit bizarre, but in perfect keeping with the subject matter: a talking toilet ripped from the pages of the Captain Underpants children’s books. Hackaday.io user [hamblin.joe]’s county fair has a toilet decorating contest and at the suggestion of their neighbour’s son, [hamblin.joe] hatched a plan to automate the toilet using an Arduino in the fashion of the hero’s foes.

Two Arduinos make up this toilet’s brains, an Adafruit Wave Shield imbues it with sound capabilities, and a sonic wave sensor will trigger the toilet’s performance routine when someone approaches. A windshield wiper motor actuates the toilet bowl lid via a piece of flat iron bar connected to a punched angle bracket. Installing the motor’s mount was a little tricky, since it had to be precisely cut so it wouldn’t shift while in the toilet bowl. A similar setup opens the toilet tank’s lid, but to get it working properly was slightly more involved. Once that was taken care of there was enough room left over for a pair of 12V batteries and a speaker. Oh, and a pair of spooky eyes and some vicious looking teeth.

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Reflective Sensor Becomes Kart Racing Lap Counter

Once you have a track and a kart to race on it, what’s missing? A lap counter that can give your lap times in hardcopy, obviously! That’s what led [the_anykey] to create the Arduino-based Lap Timer to help him and his kids trim those precious seconds off their runs, complete with thermal printer for the results.

The hardware uses an infrared break-beam sensor module (a Velleman PEM10D) to detect when a kart passes by. This module is similar to a scaled-up IR reflective object sensor; it combines an IR emitter and receiver on one end, and is pointed at a reflector placed across the track, up to 10 meters away. When a kart breaks the beam, the module reports the event to the rest of the hardware. Only needing electronics on one side allows the unit to be self-contained.

An obvious shortcoming of this system is the inability to differentiate between multiple karts, but for timing a single driver’s performance it does the trick. What’s great about this project is it showcases how accessible hardware is today; a device like this is possible to put together with what are essentially off-the-shelf components available to any hobbyist, using an Arduino as the glue to hold it together. We’d only comment that a red-tinted piece of plastic as an overlay for the red display (and a grey-tinted one for the green) would make the LED displays much easier to read. Still, this is a very clean and well-documented build. See it in action in the video embedded below.

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A Table From Beyond Infinity

Infinity mirrors are some far-out table mods and make a great centerpiece. Instructables user [bongoboy23] took a couple steps beyond infinity when designing this incredible table tailor-made for our modern age.

Poplar and pine wood make up the framing, and red oak — stained and engraved — make for a chic exterior. Programmed with Arduino and run on a Teensy 3.1, the tabletop has 960 LEDs in forty sections. There are, four USB ports hidden behind sliding panels, as well as a two-port AC outlet and an inductive charging pad and circuit.  A hidden Adafruit TFT touchscreen display allows the user to control the table’s functions. Control is limited to changing lighting functions, but Pac-Man, Snake, and text features are still to come!

Weighing in at $850, it’s not a cheap build, but it looks amazing.

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T-Rex Runner Runs on Transistor Tester

If you’ve ever spent time online buying electronic doodads — which would mean almost all of us — then sooner or later, the websites get wind of your buying sprees and start offering “suggested” advertisements for buying more useless stuff. One commonly offered popular product seems to be a universal component tester, often referred to as a “Mega328 Transistor Tester Diode Triode Capacitance ESR Meter”. These consist of an ATmega328, an SPI LCD display, a Button, a ZIF socket and a few other components. Almost all of them are cheap clones of the splendid AVR-TransistorTester project by [Markus Frejek]. [Robson Couto] got one of these clone component testers, and after playing with it for a while, decided to hack it and write a T-Rex runner game for it.

The T-Rex runner game is Chrome’s offering for you to while away your time when it can’t connect to the internet. It needs just one button to play. This is just the kind of simple game that can be easily ported to the Component Tester. The nice take away from [Robson]’s blog post is not that he wrote a simple game for an ATmega connected to an LCD display, but the detailed walk through he provides of the process which can be useful to anyone else wanting to dip their feet in the world of writing games.

After a bit of online sleuthing and some multimeter testing, he was able to figure out that the LCD controller chip was connected to Port D of the ATmega, which meant the use of software SPI via bit-banging. He then looked inside the disassembled firmware to find writes to Port D to figure out pin assignments. Of course not long after all this work he found a config.h file with the pin mappings.

Armed with this information he was able to use the Adafruit ST7565 library to drive the LCD, but not before having to flip the image. The modified fork of his ST7565 library is available on GitHub. His game code is also available, but reading through the development process is pretty interesting. Check out a video of the Runner game in action after the break.

In an earlier post, we did a product review of one of these cheap Transistor Testers, and if you have one of these lying around, give [Robson]’s game a spin — it could be handy while you wait for your reflow oven to finish its soldering cycle.

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