If a hacker guardian angel exists, then we’re sure he or she was definitely AWOL for six long years from [Aaron Eiche]’s life as he worked on perfecting and making his Christmas Countdown clock. [Aaron] started this binary clock project in 2016, and only managed to make it work as expected in 2022 after a string of failures.
In case you’d like to check out his completed project first, then cut the chase and head over to his Github repository for his final, working version. The hardware is pretty straightforward, and not different from many similar projects that we’ve seen before. A microcontroller drives a set of LED’s to show the time remaining until Christmas Day in binary format. The LEDs show the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until Christmas and it uses two buttons for adjustments and modes. An RTC section wasn’t included in the first version, but it appeared and disappeared along the six year journey, before finding a spot in the final version.
The value of this project doesn’t lie in the final version, but rather in the lessons other hackers, specially those still in the shallow end of the pool, can learn from [Aaron]’s mistakes. Thankfully, the clock ornament is not very expensive to build, so [Aaron] could persevere in improving it despite his annual facepalm moments.
Most of us learn to read digital clocks first, which display the time in obvious numbers. Analog clocks are often learned later, with the hands taking our young brains a little longer to figure out. Once you’ve grown into a 1337h4XX0r, though, you’re ready to learn how to read a binary watch. Then you can build your own, just like [taifur] did.
The watch rocks a simplistic, bare bones design with the PCB acting as the body of the device itself. It’s not great for water resistance, or even incidental contact, but it’s a sharp look with the golden traces on display. The heart of the operation is a ATmega328P, as seen in the popular Arduino Uno, and it’s paired with a DS3231M real-time clock module to keep accurate time. 13 SMD LEDs are charged with displaying the time in binary format, with [taifur] choosing to spec a classic red color for the build. The watch is powered via a CR2032 coin cell, which you’re best advised not to swallow. So far, [taifur] has found the watch will last for over a month before the battery is tapped out.
It’s a fun build, and one that looks good when paired with a classic NATO watch strap in green. If, however, you desire a watch that definitely won’t last a month on a single coin cell, you can always build a Nixie watch instead. Video after the break.
There are many ways to tell the time, from using analog dials to 7-segment displays. Hackers tend to enjoy binary watches, if only for their association with the digital machines that seem to make the world turn these days. [Vishal Soni] decided to build one of their own.
It’s a straightforward design, that uses six bits to show the time. A red light is illuminated at the top of the watch to indicate the watch is showing minutes, and these are displayed in binary on the six blue LEDs below. Then, the watch indicates it is showing hours, and again uses the six blue LEDs to show the relevant number. Continue reading “Simple Binary Watch Uses A PCB Body”→
In a relatively short amount of time, the average capacity of USB flash drives has skyrocketed. It wasn’t so long ago that two and four gigabyte drives were considered to be on the high end, but today you can grab a 512 GB drive for less than $50 USD. In fact they’ve gotten so large that it can feel wasteful using them for some tasks, and we occasionally find ourselves wishing we could find some modern USB drives that didn’t rival the storage capacity of our whole computer.
That said, this USB-C tetrabyte drive created by [Glen Akins] might be slightly too small for our tastes. No, that’s not a typo. As in the Greek tetra, this drive can hold a massive four bytes at a time. Even better, you don’t need a computer to write to it: the 32 DIP switches let you key in the content on the fly, bit-by-bit.
As explained in a Twitter thread, [Glen] was inspired to create this gadget after another user posted a picture of a 32 position DIP switch with a caption that said it was a “One Tetrabyte SSD” back in December. He apparently couldn’t track down the same switch, but the four red Grayhill 76 Series switches arguably make it a bit clearer when entering in your bytes.
Each of the individual DIP switches are connected to one of the GPIO pins of the 8-bit EFM8UB2 microcontroller, and the code simply reads the state of each pin in order and saves the binary results in a variable to put together the “file” it presents to the OS when plugged in.
You know the old joke: There are 10 types of people in the world — those who understand binary, and those who don’t. Most of us on Hackaday are firmly in the former camp, which is why projects like this circuit sculpture binary calculator really tickle our fancies.
Inspired by the brass framework and floating component builds of [Mohit Bhoite], [dennis1a4] decided to take the plunge into circuit sculpture in an appropriately nerdy way. He wisely decided on a starter build, which was a simple 555 timer circuit, before diving into the calculator. Based on an ATMega328P in a 28-pin DIP, the calculator is built on an interesting hybrid platform of brass wire and CNC-routed wood. The combination of materials looks great, and we especially love the wooden keycaps on the six switches that make up the keyboard. There’s also some nice work involved in adapting the TLC5928 driver to the display of 16 discrete LEDs; suspended as it is by fine magnet wires, the SSOP chip looks a bit like a bug trapped in a spider web.
Hats off to [dennis1a4] for a great entry into our soon-to-conclude Circuit Sculpture Contest. The entry deadline is (today!) November 10, so it might be a bit too late for this year. But rest assured we’ll be doing this again, so take a look at all this year’s entries and start thinking about your next circuit sculpture build.
There are many ways to update an embedded system in the field. Images can fly through the air one a time, travel by sneaker or hitch a ride on other passing data. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but there are certainly a plethora of ways to get those sweet update bytes into a target system. How are those bytes assembled, and what are the tools that do the assembly? This is the problem I needed to solve.
Recall, my system wasn’t a particularly novel one (see the block diagram below). Just a few computers asking each other for an update over some serial busses. I had chosen to bundle the payload firmware images into the binary for the intermediate microcontroller which was to carry out the update process. The additional constraint was that the blending of the three firmware images (one carrier and two payload) needed to happen long after compile time, on a different system with a separate toolchain. There were ultimately two options that fit the bill.
Performing over-the-air updates of devices in the field can be a tricky business. Reliability and recovery is of course key, but even getting the right bits to the right storage sectors can be a challenge. Recently I’ve been working on a project which called for the design of a new pathway to update some small microcontrollers which were decidedly inconvenient.
There are many pieces to a project like this; a bootloader to perform the actual updating, a robust communication protocol, recovery pathways, a file transfer mechanism, and more. What made these micros particularly inconvenient was that they weren’t network-connected themselves, but required a hop through another intermediate controller, which itself was also not connected to the network. Predictably, the otherwise simple “file transfer” step quickly ballooned out into a complex onion of tasks to complete before the rest of the project could continue. As they say, it’s micros all the way down.