Hackaday Links: December 3, 2017

Remember the Psion? Back when PDAs were a thing, the Psion was the best you could get. It was, effectively, a palm-top computer with a real qwerty keyboard. It didn’t have Bluetooth, it couldn’t browse the web, and it didn’t have WiFi, but this was an AA-powered productivity machine that could fit in your pocket. Now there’s a new palmtop from Psion engineers. The Gemini PDA is basically a smartphone with a real keyboard that runs Ubuntu. It’s also has a smaller battery than other devices with this form factor, meaning the TSA thinks it’s a smartphone. This thing is going to be cool.

TechShop, Inc. has reached an agreement to sell the company to TechShop 2.0, LLC. New ownership seeks to re-open, continue running makerspaces. Details coming soon.

Arcade monitors are cool, and vector monitors are even cooler. [Arcade Jason] created a gigantic 36″ vector monitor. It’s thirty-six inches of Gravitar, in all its vector glory.

A few links posts ago, I pointed out someone was selling really awesome, really cheap LED panels on eBay. I got my ten panels, and [Ian Hanschen] bought sixty or some other absurd amount. Now, these panels are going for $300 for a 10-pack instead of $50. Sorry about that. Nevertheless, the reverse engineering adventure is still ongoing, and eventually, someone is going to play Mario on these things.

The ESP32 is finding its way into all sorts of consumer electronics. Check this thing out. It’s an ESP32, four buttons, and a circular display. If you want to make your own Nest thermostat, or anything else that needs an awesome circular display, there you go.

Speaking of circular displays, are there any non-CRT displays that come with a polar coordinate system? Every circular LCD or OLED I’ve ever seen uses a Cartesian system, which doesn’t really make sense when you can’t see 30% of the pixels.

Hold the phone, this is far too clever. [Eduardo] needed to flash an ESP-12 module before soldering it onto a PCB. The usual way of doing this is with an absurd pogo pin jig. You know what’s cheaper than pogo pins? Safety pins. Clever overwhelming.

Over-Engineered Clock Uses No Less Than Five ESP32s

When [Proto G] enters into an Instructables contest whose only requirement is for the project to be wireless; he does so with style. Let’s put aside for a minute that he’s using a separate ESP32 board for each of the clock’s characters – that’s one for the hour, then one for the colon, one for the minutes and other colon and then the seconds. If you’re keeping count, that’s FIVE ESP32s. But like we said… put that aside and take into account that he’s using three different wireless communication protocols to make the five ESP32s get cozy with one another:

  1. His phone is connected to a cell tower.
  2. One of the ESP is connected to his phone to get the time.
  3. Two other ESPs connect to his phone and send minutes and seconds info to two more ESPs via the board’s internal communication protocol – ESPNOW

In case you’re wondering; the boards he’s using each have an OLED, battery, USB-to-serial converter and of course the ESP32. [Proto G] felt he could add some more complication to his project by crushing the programming connector on one of the boards with his chair. He had to break out the soldering iron and some jumper wire to make a quick but effective repair.

Be sure to check out his Instructables page for more great projects!

The Best Conference Badge Of 2017 Is A WiFi Lawn

It’s February, conference season hasn’t even started yet, and already there’s a winner of the best electronic badge of the year. For this year’s MAGfest, [CNLohr] and friends distributed 2,000 ESP8266-based swag badges.

These custom #badgelife badges aren’t. Apparently, MAGFest wouldn’t allow [CNLohr] to call these devices ‘badges’. Instead, these are ‘swadges’, a combination of swag and badges.  On board theses swadges is an ESP-12, a quartet of RGB LEDs, and buttons for up, down, left, right, A, B, Select, and Start. The swadge is powered by two AA batteries (sourced from Costco of all places), and by all accounts the badge was a complete success.

[CNLohr] is one of the great ESP8266 experts out there, and one of the design goals of this badge is to have all of these swadges communicate over raw WiFi frames. This turned out to be a great idea – using normal WiFi infrastructure with two thousand badges saturated the spectrum. The control system for was simply three badges, one per WiFi channel, that tells all the badges to change the color of the LEDs.

The swadge was a complete success, but with a few hundred blinkey glowey WiFi devices, you know [CNLohr] is going to come up with something cool. This time, he turned his lawn into a rave. About 175 swadges were laid out on the lawn, all controlled by a single controller swadge. The color of the LEDs on each swadge in the yard changes in response to the WiFi signal strength. By swinging the controller badge around his head, [CNLohr] turned his yard into a disco floor of swirling blinkieness. It looks awesome, although it might not visualize WiFi signals as well as some of [CNLohr]’s other ESP hacks.

This is a fantastic build and was well received by everyone at MAGFest. Be sure to check out the videos below, they truly show off the capabilities of this really cool piece of wearable hardware.

Continue reading “The Best Conference Badge Of 2017 Is A WiFi Lawn”

Hackaday Links: October 2, 2016

Hey Elon, three weeks ago I was in Burning Man in the Nevada desert and after I dug myself a nice K-hole I notice that Mars is a lot like the Nevada desert which got me thinking that if we can live here we can live on Mars but then I realized that Mars really isn’t a lot like the Nevada desert because there are toilets here but if we could build toilets on Mars it would be a lot like the Nevada desert? This week Elon Musk unveiled the Interplanetary Transport System at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara. Instead of filling the room with industry experts the highlights of the Q&A session consisted of a woman who wanted to give Elon a kiss onstage and some guy who was super, super high. Discussion of the technical feasibility of a big, heavy window on the Heart of Gold has not appeared anywhere. Zero thought has been given to the consequences of building a civilization consisting entirely of the wealthiest 1% of Earth’s population. I fully support the Interplanetary Transport System; I’m going because this planet sucks.

[FoamieNinja] over on /r/radiocontrol is experimenting with single bladed propellers. Single bladed propellers are the most efficient way of pushing air behind an engine but haven’t really seen widespread use because they’re really weird, and I don’t know if you can do a variable pitch prop like this. You can find these types of props rarely on big-sized aircraft such as vintage J-3 Cubs sporting a 40HP engine. I haven’t seen them on anything bigger.

Next weekend is the Open Hardware Summit in Portland, Oregon. Hackaday is going to be there, and there’s a BringAHack at OSH Park on Thursday. Last year at the summit, the Open Source Hardware Certification was announced. This year, OSHWA is ready to launch their certification program. The takeaway from last year is that Open Hardware Certification will be free, self-certifying, with penalties based on fines for non-compliance.

The ESP32 is here, but most of them are still in a shipping container somewhere in the Pacific. Here’s a breakout board for the Espressif ESP-WROOM-02.

The J-Core is a clean room, open source CPU and SOC. Currently, it’s only implemented in VHDL until someone has a ton of money to burn on an ASIC. Now, the J-Core is supported by Linux. That makes an ASIC just a bit more likely. Thanks [Stefano] for the tip.

MakerBot is not at the New York Maker Faire this year. This is the greatest proof of the imminent failure of MakerBot, but it does deserve some context. In 2009, MakerBot demoed their first printer, the Cupcake, at the New York Maker Faire in Queens, NY. This was, by any reasonable historical reckoning, the introduction of a simple, easy to use, consumer 3D printer to the masses. The current trend of cheap desktop printers began seven years ago this weekend. MakerBot was so successful that it can be argued that Make:, the magazine and the faire, has tried to take credit for the consumer 3D printer ecosystem, simply because they hosted the launch of the Cupcake. Over the years, everyone has tried to ride MakerBot’s coattails. Since then, a few things happened. Last month, MakerBot introduced a new line of (China-manufactured) 3D printers, and they don’t have a booth. The reasons for this could be that Maker Faire is horrifically expensive for any vendor, and MakerBot is going to be at CES next year anyway, but this is it. The MakerBot obituary was not premature. We won.