A Crust-Cutting, Carrot-Chopping Robot

[3DprintedLife] sure does hate bread crust. Not the upper portion of homemade bread, mind you — just that nasty stuff around the edges of store-bought loaves. Several dozen hours of CAD later, [3DprintedLife] had themselves a crust-cutting robot that also chops vegetables.

This De-Cruster 9000 is essentially a 2-axis robotic guillotine over a turntable. It uses a Raspberry Pi 4 and OpenCV to seek and destroy bread crusts with a dull dollar store knife. Aside from the compact design, our favorite part has to be the firmware limit switches baked into the custom control board. The stepper drivers have this fancy feature called StallGuard™ that constantly reads the back EMF to determine the load the motor is under. If you have it flag you right before the motor hits the end of the rail and stalls, bam, you have a firmware limit switch. Watch it remove crusts and chop a lot of carrots with faces after the break.

This is far from the dangerous-looking robot we’ve seen lately. Remember this hair-cutting contraption?

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Electromagnetic Field 2020 Cancelled

It’s the news we were all expecting but not looking forward to hearing: this summer’s EMF Camp which was to be held at the end of July in Herefordshire, UK, has been cancelled. This is of course due to the ongoing public health measures surrounding the COVID-19 virus pandemic. With the country on lockdown for the forseeable future, this is a responsible decision for a gathering the size of EMF which hosted around 2,500 attendees in 2018.

Existing ticket holders will be refunded, and will be guaranteed a ticket to the next event in 2022. According to the announcement, EMF is in the red to the tune of at least £25,000 ($29,523) because of non-refundable payments associated with booking the event, something to remember in two years time when faced with the choice of a normal ticket or a supporters ticket.

Work on starting conference badge production has been halted, but development continues apace and will not go to waste as it will form the basis of the 2022 item. This will make them the event badge team with the earliest preparation ever, and from what we saw when we had a brief look at an early prototype last year it should be a badge worth waiting for.

We’re sure all readers will understand the gravity of the situation, and that the EMF team have taken an appropriate response to what is an extraordinary series of events. Organising a hacker camp is a tough job at the best of times, and this must have been particularly hard on them. We thank them for their work on our behalf at previous events and in preparing for this aborted one, and we look forward to the next EMF Camp in 2022.

Teardown: Nihon Kenko Magnetic Wave Tester

You never know what kind of wonders you’ll find on eBay, especially when you have a bunch of alerts configured to go off when weird electronic devices pop up. You may even find yourself bidding on something despite not being entirely sure what it is. Perhaps you’re a collector of unusual gadgets, or maybe it’s because you’ve committed to doing monthly teardowns for the hacker blog you work for. In any event, you sometimes find yourself in possession of an oddball device that requires closer inspection.

Case in point, this “Magnetic Wave Tester” from everyone’s favorite purveyor of high-end electronics, Nihon Kenko Zoushin Kenkyukai Corporation. The eBay listing said the device came from an estate sale and the seller didn’t know much about it, but with just a visual inspection we can make some educated guesses. When a strong enough magnetic field is present, the top section on the device will presumably blink or light up. As it has no obvious method of sensitivity adjustment or even a display to show specific values, it appears the unit must operate like an electromagnetic canary in a coal mine: if it goes off, assume the worst.

If you’re wondering what the possible use for such a gadget is, you’re not the only one. I wasn’t able to find much information about this device online, but the few mentions I found didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. It seems two groups of people are interested in this type of “Magnetic Wave Tester”: people who believe strong magnetic fields have some homeopathic properties, or those who think it will allow them to converse with ghosts. In both cases, these aren’t the kind of users who want to see a microtesla readout; they want a bright blinking light to show their friends.

So without further ado, let’s align our chakras, consult with the spirits, and see what your money gets you when you purchase a pocket-sized hokum detector.

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The Enlightenment Turns Light And Noise Into Sound

We’re all familiar with the subtle sounds of electrical equipment present in daily life. There’s the high-pitched whine of a CRT, the mains hum of a poorly isolated audio amplifier, and the wailing screams of inductors. Typically these sounds go unnoticed unless something is malfunctioning or otherwise wrong. However, Quiet Ensemble decided to capture these noises and turned them into a performance they call The Enlightenment.

The basic setup consists of a series of lights, most of which are theatrical in nature. There are spotlights, a series of neons, and even a few bright strobes. Copper coils are used to pick up the stray electrical noises generated by these lights in operation. These noises are then fed to mixers, amplifiers, and other audio equipment to allow the performers to control the audio as they wish.

The end result is a mechanical, and at times, brutal soundscape that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Homeworld soundtrack. Flashing strobes contribute rhythm while the rest of the lights lend their droning and whining to fill out the ensemble.

If it’s a little too niche for your tastes, the Triforium may be more to your liking. Video after the break.

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GSM Phone Network At EMF Camp Built On Raspberry Pi And LimeSDR

The Electromagnetic Field 2018 hacker camp in the UK will have its own GSM phone network, and as we have already covered its badge will be a fully-functional GSM phone. This is as far as we are aware a first in the world of badges, and though it may not be a first in hacker camp connectivity it is still no mean achievement at the base station side. To find out more we talked to two of the people behind the network, on the radio side Lime Microsystems‘ [Andrew Back], and on the network side Nexmo‘s developer advocate, [Sam Machin].

There are sixteen base stations spread around the site, of which each one is a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ with a LimeSDR Mini. Development of the system was undertaken prior to the release of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s PoE board, so they take a separate 24V supply which powers the Pi through a DC-to-DC converter. This arrangement allows for a significant voltage drop should any long cable runs be required.

On the software side the base stations all run the Osmocom (Open Source Mobile Communications) cellular base station infrastructure package. It was a fine decision between the all-in-one Osmocom NITB package and the fully modular Osmocom, going for the former for its reliability. It was commented that this would not necessarily be the case at a future event but that it made sense in the present. It appears on the network as a SIP phone system, meaning that it can easily integrate with the existing DECT network. Let’s take a look at how the network operates from the user side, and the licencing loophole that makes everything possible.

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2018 Electromagnetic Field Badge: It’s An Entire Phone!

As is always the case with a significant hacker camp, we’ve been awaiting the official badge announcement for the upcoming Electromagnetic Field 2018 hacker camp with huge interest. These badges, for readers who may have been on Mars for the past few years, are part of a lively scene of wearable electronics at hacker conferences and camps, and can usually be expected to sport a fully-fledged computer in their own right along with other special functionality.

The announcement of the 2018 badge, dubbed the TiLDA Mk4, does not disappoint. We’d been told that there would be an on-site GSM network for which the welcome packs would contain a SIM, and the well-prepared among us had accordingly dusted off our old Nokia handsets alongside our DECT phones. What we hadn’t expected was that the SIM would be for the badge, because the Mk4 is a fully-fledged hackable mobile phone in its own right. The network will be fully functional for  calls and texts within the camp, though since it does not explicitly say so we expect that external calls may be an impossibility. Afterwards though it will remain a usable device on any GSM network, giving it a lease of post-camp life that may see more of them staying in use rather than joining the hacker’s dusty collection in a drawer.

Beyond the party-piece phone it appears to follow the lead of its 2016 predecessor, with the same Python environment atop a TI chipset including an MSP432E4 ARM Cortex M4F microcontroller running at 120MHz with 256kB of internal and 8MB of external RAM, a CC3210 WiFi processor, and the usual battery of sensors, LEDs and GPIOs. Importantly, it also has a Shitty Add-on connector. The 2016 badge was remarkably easy to develop for, and we expect that there will soon be an impressive array of apps for this badge too. If any reader would like to put together a Hackaday feed reader app, we can’t offer you fortune but fame such as we can bestow awaits.

We’ll bring you more information as we have it about the TiLDA Mk4, as well as a hands-on report when one lands in front of us. Meanwhile you’d like to see a retrospective of past EMF badges as a demonstration of where this one has come from, have a read of our coverage of the 2016 and 2014 badges.

Looking Forward To Electromagnetic Field 2018

There is an air of excitement among the hackerspaces of Europe, because this month is hacker camp season. In Denmark they have Bornhack beginning on Thursday, in Italy IHC was held earlier in the month, while here in the UK we are looking forward to Electromagnetic Field. We’re excited be at Eastnor Castle for Electromagnetic Field at the cusp of August and September for several days under canvas surrounded by our community’s best and brightest work. We’ll even have a Hackaday Readers’ Village this year!

If you’ve never been to a hacker camp before, this is one that’s not to be missed. Technically this is camping, but where every structure from the smallest tent upwards has mains power and gigabit Ethernet. It’s the equivalent of a music festival if you replace the music with technology and other cool stuff from our world. There are talks on a huge variety of fascinating subjects, the chance to see up close some of the things you’ll have read about here on Hackaday, and best of all, a significant proportion of Europe’s hackerspace communities all together in one place. They are a uniquely stimulating and exciting environment.

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