Hackaday Links: January 21, 2018

You know what next week is? Sparklecon! What is it? Everybody hangs out at the 23b Hackerspace in Fullerton, California. Last year, people were transmuting the elements, playing Hammer Jenga, roasting marshmallows over hot resistors, and generally having a really great time. It’s the party for our sort of people, and there are talks on 3D projection mapping and a hebocon. I can’t recommend this one enough.

The STM32F7 is a very, very powerful ARM Cortex-M7 microcontroller with piles of RAM, oodles of Flash, DSP, and tons of I/O. It’s a relatively new part, so are there any breakout or dev boards for it? Sure thing. [satsha] used a desktop CNC mill to create what is probably the simplest possible breakout board for the STM32F7. There’s not much here — just some parts for power and a few LEDs — but this is all you need to get one of these powerful chips up and running.

It’s cold and dark and you can’t fly RC airplanes in January. It’s not because planes and quadcopters don’t work in the cold (they should work better, but I’d love to see a graph of battery temperature and density altitude), it’s that your hands don’t work in the cold. What’s the solution? Just strap some motorcycle handwarmer thingies onto your transmitter. With a 2200 battery strapped to the back, you’ll get about an hour of runtime for these handwarmers.

The BBC is reporting the latest advancement in Hyperloop technology. Is it a fundamentally different way of digging tunnels that isn’t simply scaling down the size of tunnel boring machines? No. Is it improvements in material science that would allow the seals on a 500-mile-long steel pressure chamber to exist? No. Does this latest advancement mitigate the ‘hillbillies with guns’ problem that would turn every Hyperloop car into a literal bullet screaming towards one of the most spectacular deaths possible? No. The chief executive of the Virgin Hyperloop project has something better in mind. A smartphone app, “that would connect future Hyperloop passengers with other modes of transport on arrival.”

Hackaday Links: The ‘S’ In ‘CES’ Stands For Snake Oil

Remember IRDA? Before we had Bluetooth and WiFi, the cool kids connected their computers and printers together over fancy Infrared connections. Yes, your computer probably still has the drivers, but the hardware is nowhere to be found. For good reason, too: we now have Bluetooth and WiFi. This year, at CES, IRDA is making a comeback. MyLiFi is a product from OLEDCOMM that puts infrared connectivity in a lamp. All you need to do is plug an Ethernet cable into a desk lamp, a proprietary dongle into your computer, and you too can reap the benefits of a wireless connection with a range measured in meters. One of the selling points of this product is that this gives you wireless Internet ‘without radio waves’, marketing to the idiots who think RF causes cancer or whatever. It’s a stupid product that’s a highlight of the entire trade show.

During this year’s CES, Intel tweeted, “With each person on earth soon to be producing ~1.5 GB of #data each day, it is a resource without limits“. Two criticisms: First, ‘Earth’ should be capitalized. Second, data mined from individuals — which includes personal data and metadata including where you were, and who you talked to — is a resource to be extracted by capitalism. Welcome to the post-privacy society, brought to you by #CES2018.

Oh, crap, we’re getting into cryptocurrency…

Kodak has announced their own blockchain. Is Kodak going to the moon? Yes, but hold on: this might be a good idea. Kodak wants to use a blockchain for ‘image rights management’, where photographers can register, archive, and license their work. It’s a blockchain, and also a solution to a problem: something you don’t see much of these days. Shares of KODK shot up from $3.15 on Monday to somewhere north of $10 this week. Is it a good idea? Who knows, but someone put the word ‘blockchain’ in a press release and made a buttload of cash.

The guy behind the Maker Movement wants to create a blockchain platform for Makers. Who’s this guy behind the Maker Movement? Mark Hatch, former CEO of TechShop and someone who is purportedly on the board of Maker Media (Oh, that’s how Make got the scoop on the TechShop closure -ED). He’s creating a Blockchain for Makers. This blockchain will take two forms. The first is to allow ‘easy confirmation of skills’? Is little Bobby certified to use the table saw? Check the Blockchain. The second barb in our paw is a ‘currency token’ that provides an easy way to pay for related goods or services. There’s no mention if these services are makerspace dues, or some sort of payment system where creators can collect money from people who really really want Raspberry Pis stuffed into 3D printed Nintendos.

In drone news, I am reporting there are no fixed-wing drones on display at CES. Last year, Underwater ROVs outnumbered autonomous fixed-wing aircraft, and this year the scales tipped even further towards submersibles. The laws of physics don’t change for 1/10th scale aircraft, and fixed-wing drones will be more efficient than their multicopter counterparts at nearly every task.

We all know (or should) that safes in Las Vegas hotel rooms aren’t secure. CES 2018 has finally innovated on the hotel safe and come up with something you really don’t want to put your money, wallet, or passport in. It’s an Internet of Things safe. What are the features? Well, it’s small and lightweight and provides little in the way to mount anything. That’s great if you just want to steal the entire safe. But what about breaking into the safe? Don’t worry, the entire thing is made out of plastic. A quick whack to the top of the safe will open it right up.

Hackaday Links: January 7, 2018

Whelp, Spectre and Meltdown are the tech news du jour right now, and everyone is wondering: what is the effect of this problem on real hardware in real server rooms? Epic Games patched their machines and found something shocking. The CPU utilization for one of their online services increased about 100%. We don’t know what this server is doing, or what this process is, but the Spectre and Meltdown patches will increase CPU load depending on the actual code running. This is bad for Epic — they now have to buy an entirely new server farm. This is doubly bad for Intel, and there is speculation of a class action suit floating around the darker corners of the Interwebs.

It is with a heavy heart that I must report the passing of John Young, the only person to have commanded four different classes of spacecraft (five if you include the lunar rover), including the first launch of the Space Shuttle. He was, simply, the most badass astronaut to ever live. Need proof of that? His heart rate during the launch of a Saturn V was seventy.

By the time this post is published, you’ll have less than twenty-four hours to submit your project to the Coin Cell Challenge. Get to it!

A short reminder that Shmoocon is a mere two weeks away. What is Shmoocon? A totally chill cyber/sec/hacker con at the Washington D.C. Hilton (yes, where Reagan was shot). We’ll be there, and we’re looking for some like-minded Hackaday peeps to chill out with. Want a meetup? Reply in the comments.

A few years ago, the ESP8266 appeared out of the blue in a few Chinese reseller’s web shops, and everything has been gravy since. Now there’s a new magic do-everything chip appearing on AliExpress and Taobao. It’s the RDA5981, a chip with an ARM Cortex M4 core, 32Mbit of Flash, 192k or user RAM, b/g/n WiFi, I2S, and enough peripherals to be useful. Given the support for a MIC, line in, MP3, WAV, WMA and AAC, it appears this is an all-in-one chip designed for Bluetooth speakers or some other audio application. You can find modules on Alibaba and a few breakout boards on Taobao.

According to my sources (the press releases that somehow slipped through the ‘CES’ filter on my email), the world’s fastest, smallest, biggest, least expensive, and newest drone is set to be unveiled at CES in Vegas this week.

Hackaday Links: October 15, 2017

For the last few months we’ve been running The Hackaday Prize, a challenge for you to build the best bit of hardware. Right now — I mean right now — you should be finishing up your project, crossing your t’s and dotting your lowercase j’s. The last challenge in the Prize ends tomorrow. After that, we’re going to pick 20 finalists for the Anything Goes challenge, then send the finalists off to our fantastic team of judges. Time to get to work! Make sure your project meets all the requirements!

It’s been a few weeks, so it’s time to start talking about Star Trek. I’m paying ten dollars a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery. I was going to pay that anyway, but I think this might actually be worth it. Highlights include Cardassian voles and Gorn skeletons. Also on the Star Trek front is The Orville, [Seth MacFarlane]’s TNG-inspired show. The Orville has far surpassed my expectations and is more Star Trek than Discovery. Leave your thoughts below.

It’s a new edition of Project Binky! Two blokes are spending years stuffing a 4WD Celica into a Mini. It’s the must-watch YouTube series of the decade.

AstroPrint now has an app. If you’re managing a 3D printer remotely and you’re not using Octoprint, you’re probably using AstroPrint. Now it’s in app format.

Have fifty bucks and want to blow it on something cool? A company is selling used LED display tiles on eBay. You get a case of ten for fifty bucks. Will you be able to drive them? Who knows and who cares? It’s fifty bucks for massive blinkies.

[Peter] is building an ultralight in his basement. For this YouTube update, he’s making the wings.

Oh it’s deer season, so here’s how you make deer jerky.

If you’re messing around with Z-Wave modules and Raspberry Pis, there’s a contest for you. The grand prize is an all-expense paid trip to CES2018 in Las Vegas. Why anyone would be enthusiastic about a trip to CES is beyond me, but the Excalibur arcade has Crazy Taxi, so that’s cool.

Go is the language all the cool kids are using. GoCV gives Go programmers access to OpenCV.

Lego Boosts Their Robotic Offering

Kids often have their first exposure to robots in school using Lego Mindstorm kits. Now Lego is rolling out Boost — a robotic kit targeting all Lego builders from 7 years old and up. The kit is scheduled to be on the market later this year (it appeared at the recent CES) and will sell for about $160.

[The Brothers Brick] had a chance to try the kit out at CES (see the video below) and you might find their review interesting. The kit provides parts and instructions to build five different models: a cat, a robot, a guitar, a 3D printer, and a tracked vehicle. You can check out the official page, too.

Continue reading “Lego Boosts Their Robotic Offering”

CES2017: Astrophotography In The Eyepiece

If you’ve never set up a telescope in your back yard, you’ve never been truly disappointed. The Hubble can take some great shots of Saturn, nebulae, and other astronomical phenomena, but even an expensive backyard scope produces only smudges. To do astronomy properly, you’ll spend your time huddled over a camera and a computer, stacking images to produce something that almost lives up to your expectations.

At CES, Unistellar introduced a device designed to fit over the eyepiece of a telescope to do all of this for you.

According to the guys at Unistellar, this box contains a small Linux computer, camera, GPS, and an LCD. Once the telescope is set up, the module takes a few pictures of the telescope’s field of view, stacks the images, and overlays the result in the eyepiece. Think of this as ‘live’ astrophotography.

In addition to making Jupiter look less like a Great Red Smudge, the Unistellar module adds augmented reality; it knows where the telescope is pointing and will add a label if you’re looking at any astronomical objects of note.

While I wasn’t able to take a look inside this extremely cool device, the Unistellar guys said they’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign in the near future.

CES17: Arduino Unveils LoRa Modules For The Internet Of Things

WiFi and Bluetooth were never meant to be the radios used by a billion Internet of Things hats, umbrellas, irrigation systems, or any other device that makes a worldwide network of things interesting. The best radio for IoT is something lightweight which operates in the sub-Gigahertz range, doesn’t need a lot of bandwidth, and doesn’t suck down the power like WiFi. For the last few years, a new low-power wireless communication standard has been coming on the scene, and now this protocol — LoRa — will soon be available in an Arduino form factor.

The Primo, and NRF

It’s not LoRa, but the Arduino Primo line is based on the ESP8266 WiFi chip and a Nordic nRF52832 for Bluetooth. The Primo comes in the ever-familiar Arduino form factor, but it isn’t meant to be an ‘Internet of Things’ device. Instead, it’s a microcontroller for devices that need to be on the Internet.

Also on display at CES this year is the Primo Core which we first saw at BAMF back in May. It’s a board barely larger than a US quarter that has a few tricks up its sleeve. The Primo Core is built around the nRF52832, and adds humidity, temperature, 3-axis magnetometer and a 3-axis accelerometer to a square inch of fiberglass.

The Primo Core has a few mechanical tricks up its sleeve. Those castellated pins around the circumference can be soldered to the Alice Pad, a breakout board that adds a USB port and LiPo battery charger.

LoRa

Also on deck at the Arduino suite were two LoRa shields. In collobration with Semtech, Arduino will be releasing the pair of LoRa shields later this year. The first, the Node Shield, is about as simple as it can get — it’s simply a shield with a LoRa radio and a few connectors. The second, the Gateway Shield, does what it says on the tin: it’s designed to be a gateway from other Arduino devices (Ethernet or WiFi, for example) to a Node shield. The boards weren’t completely populated, but from what I could see, the Gateway shield is significantly more capable with support for a GPS chipset and antenna.

A partnership with Cayenne and MyDevices

Of course, the Internet of Things is worthless if you can’t manage it easily. Arduino has struck up a partnership with MyDevices to turn a bunch of low-bandwidth radio and serial connections into something easy to use. Already, we’ve seen a few builds and projects using MyDevices, but the demos I was shown were extremely easy to understand, even if there were far too many devices in the room.

All of this is great news if you’re working on the next great Internet of Things thing. The Primo Core is one of the smallest wireless microcontroller devices I’ve seen, and the addition of LoRa Arduino shields means we may actually see useful low-bandwidth networks in the very near future.