Apple Lightning Video Adaptors Run IOS, Dynamically Loaded

Apple has for a very long time been a company that ploughs its own furrow when it comes to peripherals, with expensive proprietary hardware being the order of the day over successive generations of its products. One of its current line of proprietary interfaces is the Lightning connector, best thought of as an Apple-only take on the same ideas that the rest of the world knows as USB-C. There are a whole host of white dangly peripherals that can be hung from your iDevice’s Lightning port, including a pair of display adaptors that allow them to drive an HDMI or VGA monitor.  [Lisa Braun] has subjected one that had failed to a teardown, and her analysis gives some insight into the way Apple creates its peripherals.

Where you might expect these to contain mostly the equivalent of a graphics card, in fact they have a fully-fledged SoC of their own that runs its own OS with the same Darwin kernel as its host. Unexpectedly this is not held upon the adapter itself, instead it is shipped with iOS and loaded dynamically. Thus the file containing it can be retrieved from iOS and unpacked, leading to some interesting analysis. In a fascinating twist for those of us unused to Lightning’s internals, it’s revealed that the device can be driven from a USB port with the appropriate cobbled-together adapter, allowing a full-size MacOS device to interrogate it. This many not be news to readers with a long memory though, we’ve told you in the past about reverse engineering the Lightning connector.

Hackaday Links: July 28, 2019

It looks like Apple is interested in buying Intel’s modem chip business. Seriously interested; a deal worth $1 billion could be announced as early as this week. That might look like a small potato purchase to the world’s biggest company – at least by market capitalization – but since the technology it will be buying includes smartphone modems, it provides a look into Apple’s thinking about the near future with regard to 5G.

It turns out that Make Magazine isn’t quite dead yet. [Dale Dougherty], former CEO of Maker Media, which went under in June, has just announced that he and others have acquired the company’s assets and reformed under the name “Maker Community LLC.” Make: Magazine is set to resume publication, going back to its roots as a quarterly publication in the smaller journal format; sadly there’s no specific word about the fate of Maker Faire yet.

The hoopla over the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 may be over, but we’d be remiss not to call out one truly epic hack related to the celebration: the full restoration of an actual Apollo Guidance Computer. The AGC was from a test model of the Lunar Module, and it ended up in the hands of a private collector. Since November of 2018 the AGC has been undergoing restoration and tests by [Ken Shirriff], [Mike Stewart], and [Carl Claunch]. The whole effort is documented in a playlist by [Marc “CuriousMarc” Verdiell] that’s worth watching to see what was needed to restore the AGC to working condition.

With the summer sun beating down on the northern hemisphere, and air conditioners at working extra hard to keep things comfortable. [How To Lou] has a quick tip to improve AC efficiency. Turns out that just spraying a fine mist of water on the condenser coils works wonders; [Lou] measured a 12% improvement in cooling. It may not be the best use of water, and it may not work as well in very humid climates, but it’s a good tip to keep in mind.

Be careful with this one; between the bent spoon, the syringe full of amber liquid, and the little candle to heat things up, this field-expedient reflow soldering setup might just get you in trouble with the local narcotics enforcement authorities. Even so, knowing that you can assemble a small SMD board without a reflow oven might prove useful someday, under admittedly bizarre circumstances.

From the “Considerably more than 8-bits music” file, check out the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra’s “8-Bit Symphony.” If your personal PC gaming history included a Commodore 64, chances are you’ll recognize songs from titles like “Monty on the Run”, “Firelord”, “Green Beret”, and “Forbidden Forest.” Sure, composers like [Ben Daglish] and [Paul Norman] worked wonders with the three-channel SID chip, but hearing those tunes rendered by a full orchestra is something else entirely. We found it to be particularly good background music to write by.

Homekit Compatible Sonoff Firmware Without A Bridge

Generally speaking, home automation isn’t as cheap or as easy as most people would like. There are too many incompatible protocols, and more often than not, getting everything talking requires you to begrudgingly sign up for some “cloud” service that you didn’t ask for. If you’re an Apple aficionado, there can be even more hoops to jump through; getting your unsupported smart home devices working with that Cupertino designed ecosystem often involves running your own HomeKit bridge.

To try and simplify things, [Michele Gruppioni] has developed a firmware for the ubiquitous Sonoff WIFI Smart Switch that allows it to speak native HomeKit. No more using a Raspberry Pi to act as a mediator between your fancy Apple hardware and that stack of $4 Sonoff’s from AliExpress, they can now talk to each other directly. In the video after the break you can see that the iPad identifies the switch as unofficial device, but since it’s compliant with the HomeKit API, that doesn’t prevent them from talking to each other.

Not only will this MIT licensed firmware get your Sonoff Basic, Sonoff Slampher, or Sonoff S26 talking with your Apple gadgets, but it also provides a web interface and REST API so it retains compatibility with whatever else you might be running in your home automation setup. So while the more pedestrian users of your system might be turning the porch light on with their iPhones, you can still fire it up with a Bash script as nature intended.

Of course, if you don’t mind adding a Raspberry Pi bridge to the growing collection of devices on your network, we’ve got plenty of other HomeKit-enabled projects for you to take a look at.

Continue reading “Homekit Compatible Sonoff Firmware Without A Bridge”

Does The Cheese Grater Do A Great Grate Of Cheese?

Apple’s newest Mac Pro with its distinctive machined grille continues to excite interest, but until now there has been one question on the lips of nobody. It’s acquired the moniker “Cheese grater”, but can it grate cheese? [Winston Moy] set out to test its effectiveness in the kitchen with a piece of Pecorino Romano, a great cheese.

Of course, the video is not really about cheese grating, but about the machining process to create that distinctive pattern of intersecting spherical holes. He doesn’t have a real Mac Pro because nobody does as yet, so like others his approach was to reverse engineer the manufacturing process. He takes us through the entire thing and the rationale behind his decisions as he makes a 13-hole piece of Mac Pro-like grill from a billet of aluminium. It’s first roughly cut with a pair of decreasing-size end mills, then finished with a ball mill. He’s added an extra cut to round off the sharp edge of the hole that isn’t there on the Mac.

An unexpected problem came when he machined the bottom and the holes began to intersect, it was clear that they were doing so wrongly. Turning the piece over must be done in the correct orientation, one to note for any other would-be cheese-grater manufacturers. Finally the piece is blasted for a satin finish, and then anodised for scratch-resistance.

So, the important question must be answered: does it grate? The answer’s no, the best it can manage is something close to a crumble. He doesn’t seem bothered though, we get the impression he likes eating cheese whatever its form. The whole process is in the video below the break.

For more Apple grille examination, take a look at this mathematical analysis.

Continue reading “Does The Cheese Grater Do A Great Grate Of Cheese?”

The Process Behind Manufacturing That Mac Pro Grille

Apple released a monitor stand not so long ago with an eye-watering price tag, and in the resulting fuss you might almost be forgiven for missing the news that they also released a new computer. The distinctive grille on the new Mac Pro caused some interest among Hackaday editors, with speculation rife as to how it had been machined. It seems we’re not alone in this, because [J. Peterson] sent us a link to his own detailed analysis.

The key to the pattern lies in hemispherical holes milled part-way-through a piece of metal on a triangular tessellation, and intersecting with an identical set of holes milled at an offset from the other side. The analysis was done purely from online information as he doesn’t have a real Mac Pro, but using some clever trigonometry he is able to calculate the required offset as well as the hole depth. There are some STL files on Thingiverse, for the curious.

Should you wish to make your own copy of a Mac Pro grille you should therefore be able to use this information in programming a CNC mill to carve it from a piece of alloy plate. The interesting side of it from a manufacturing perspective though is that this is a complex shape that would be difficult to produce in numbers without either CNC or a very specialist one-off machine tool for this single purpose, and neither is a normal expenditure for a mere grille. Perhaps you might come close by rolling alloy plate between rollers whose profile matched the hole pattern, but in that event you would not equal the finish that they have achieved. Apple’s choice to use a relatively time-intensive CNC process in mass-production of a cosmetic part is probably in a large part a quality statement for their particular brand of consumer, but also sets a high bar to any would-be imitators. We applaud it for its engineering, even if we won’t be shelling out for that monitor stand.

Apple Just Killed The VESA Mount And We Couldn’t Be Happier

After the immense failure of the 2013-era Apple Pro trash can Mac, Apple has been hard at work at the next generation of workstation desktops. This week, the new Mac Pro has been announced, and the specs are amazing: We finally can buy a professional, desktop Mac with half the storage of an iPhone. The big story isn’t the next generation of cheese-grater Macs, though: the new display, the Pro Display XDR, has killed the venerable VESA mount and we couldn’t be happier.

The VESA mount, or more correctly, the VESA Mounting Interface Standard, was created in 1997 as a mounting standard for flat panel monitors and televisions. Look on the back of your monitor, and you’ll probably find a pattern of M4 threaded inserts laid out on a 75mm or 100mm square. Larger sizes, with respectively larger thread sizes, are used for gigantic wall-mounted televisions. For the last two decades, this has been the standard for mounting monitors to stands. Now this standard faces a challenger thanks to the brave designers at Apple. Continue reading “Apple Just Killed The VESA Mount And We Couldn’t Be Happier”

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.