Less is More: A Micromatrix Display in a Square Inch

In your living room, the big display is what you want. But in an embedded project, often less is more. We think [bobricius] will agree since he submitted a tiny 4×5 LED display into our square inch challenge. The board features an ATtiny CPU and twenty SMD LEDs in a nice grid. You can see them in action, scrolling to some disco music in the video below.

There is plenty of room left in the CPU for bigger text strings — the flash memory is just over 10% full. A little side-mounted header makes it easy to program the chip if you want to change anything.

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How Big is Your Oscilloscope? One Inch?

We are anxious to see the finished product of [Mark Omo’s] entry into our one square inch project. It is a 20 megasample per second oscilloscope that fits the form factor and includes a tiny OLED screen. We will confess that we started thinking if you could use these as replacements for panel meters or find some other excuse for it to exist. We finally realized, though, that it might not be very practical but it is undeniably cool.

There are some mockup PCB layouts, but the design appears feasible. A PIC32MZ provides the horsepower. [Mark] plans to use an interleaved mode in the chip’s converters to get 20 megasamples per second and a bandwidth of 10 MHz. It appears he’ll use DMA to drive the OLED. In addition to the OLED and the PIC, there’s a termination network and a variable gain stage and that’s about it.

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One Square Inch Expanded in the Time Dimension

No, we’re not talking about spooky feats of General Relativity. But you should know that the Return of the Square Inch Project just got its deadline extended.

If you missed the call the first time around, our favorite user-contributed contest on Hackaday.io is up and running again. Hackaday.io tossed in some good money for prizes, and folks started thinking about what functionality they could cram inside a 25.4 mm x 25.4 mm square. But while one constraint can help bring out creativity, adding a tight deadline to a tight squeeze caused a number of our entrants to ask for an extension.

If you’re working on the Square Inch Project, you’ve got until October 1st to get your boards ready. Breathe a quick sigh of relief and then get back to soldering! We’re looking forward to seeing all the great entries.

Learn FPGA Fast with Hackaday’s FPGA Boot Camp

FPGAs have gone from being a niche product for people with big budgets to something that every electronics experimenter ought to have in their toolbox. I am always surprised at how many people I meet who tell me they are interested in using FPGAs but they haven’t started. If you’ve been looking for an easy way to get started with FPGAs, Hackaday’s FPGA boot camp is for you. There’s even a Hackaday.io chat in the group specifically for FPGA talk for questions and general discussion!

While it is true FPGAs aren’t for everything, when you need them you really need them. Using FPGAs you can build logic circuits — not software simulations, but real circuits — and reap major performance benefits compared to a CPU. For digital signal processing, neural networks, or computer vision applications, being able to do everything essentially in parallel is a great benefit. Sometimes you just need the raw speed of a few logic gates compared to a CPU plodding methodically through code. We expect to see a lot more FPGA activity now that Arduino is in the game.

These boot camps gather together some of the material you seen spread over many articles here before, plus new material to flesh it out. It’s designed for you to work through more like a training class than just some text to read. There’s plenty of screenshots and even animations to help you see what you are supposed to be doing. You’ll be able to work with simulations to see how the circuits we talk about work, make changes, and see the results. We’ll focus on Verilog — at least for now — as it is close to C and easier for people who know C to pick up. Still not convinced? Let’s run though the gist of the boot camp series.

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Friend in Need Gets Junk Bin PC for Cramped Quarters

If you doubt the power of the Hackaday community, check this one out. Stalwart reader and tipster [starhawk] has pitched in to help a friend in need, someone he met through Hackaday.io. Seems this friend’s current living arrangements are somewhat on the cramped side, and while he’s in need of a PC, even a laptop would claim too much space.

So with a quick trip to the store and a few items from the junk bin, [starhawk] whipped up an all-in-one PC the size of a tablet for his friend. As impressed as we are by the generosity, we’re more impressed by the quality of his junk bin. The heart of the compact machine is a motherboard from a Wintel CX-W8, scarcely larger than a Raspberry Pi model A. After the addition of a larger heatsink and fan, the board was attached via a sheet of plastic to the back of a 7-inch touchscreen, also a junk bin find. A cheap picture frame serves as the back of the all-in-one, complete with Jolly Wrencher, of course. Alas, the DC-DC converter was one of the only purchased items, bringing the cost for the build to all of $22, including the $15 for a wireless keyboard/touchpad on clearance from Walmart. After some initial power troubles, the fixes for which are described in this update, the machine was ready to ship.

Does this one seem familiar? It should — [starhawk] built a similar “laptop” for himself a while back when he was low on funds. Now it seems like he’s paying it forward, which we appreciate. For more details on how he pulled this all of, check out The Anytop, [starhawk’s] portable computer anyone can build. It was his 2017 Hackaday Prize entry!

No, Cat, This Is Not The Litter Box

Hackaday.io user [peterquinn] has encountered a problem with his recently unruly cat peeing under the dining table. Recognizing that the household cat’s natural enemy is the spray bottle, he built an automatic cat sprayer to deter her antics.

The build is clear-cut: an Arduino Uno clone for a brain, an MG995 servo, PIR sensor, spray bottle, and assorted electronics components. [peterquinn] attached the servo to the spray bottle with a hose clamp — ensuring that the zero position is pointing at the trigger — and running a piece of cabling around the trigger that the servo will tug on. Adding a capacitor proved necessary after frying the first Uno clone, as the servo powering up would cause the Uno to reset.

The code is set up to trigger the servo — spraying the cat twice — once the PIR detects the cat for more than ten seconds. After toying with a few options, [peterquinn] is using a 9V, 2A power supply that works just fine. For now, he hopes the auto-sprayer should do the trick. If it somehow doesn’t work, [peterquinn] has mused that a drastic upgrade to the vacuum may be necessary.

Win Big Prizes With Repairs You Can Print

Another month, another contest, and this time we’re looking for the best 3D printed repairs you’ve built.

The Repairs You Can Print Contest on Hackaday.io is a challenge to show off the real reason you bought a 3D printer. We want to see replacement parts, improved functionality, or a tool or jig that made a tough repair a snap. Think of this as the opposite of printing low poly Pokemon or Fallout armor. This is a contest to demonstrate the most utilitarian uses of a 3D printer. Whether you fixed your refrigerator, luggage, jet engine, vacuum cleaner, bike headlight, or anything else, we want to see how you did it!

The top twenty projects in the Repairs You Can Print contest will be rewarded with $100 in Tindie credit. That’s a Benjamin to spend on parts, upgrades, and components to take your next project to the next level!

Students and Organizations Can Win Big

The Best Student and Best Organization will win a Prusa i3 MK3!

This contest is open to everyone, but we’re also looking for the best projects to come from students and hackerspaces. We’ll be giving away two amazing 3D printers to the best Student entry and best Organization entry. These two top projects will be awarded an Original Prusa i3 MK3 with the Quad Material upgrade kit. This is one of the finest 3D printers you can buy right now, and we’re giving these away to the best student, hackerspaces, robotics club, or tool lending library.

If you have a project in mind, head on over to Hackaday.io and create a project demonstrating your 3D printed repair!

What is This Contest All About?

This contest is all about Repairs You Can Print, but what does that actually mean? Instead of printing Pokemon or plastic baubles on your desktop CNC machine, we’re looking for replacement parts. We’re looking for commercial, off the shelf items that were broken, but repaired with the help of a 3D printer. Is your repair good enough to show off as part of the contest? Yes! That’s the point, we want to see the clever repair jobs that people often don’t spend much time talking about because they just work.

Need some examples? Sure thing.

A while back, [Elliot Williams], one of the fantastic Hackaday Editors, had a broken vacuum cleaner. The wheels were crap, but luckily they were designed as a single part that snaps into a swivel socket. Over six or so years, the original wheels in this vacuum gave out, but a replacement part was quickly printed and stuffed into the socket. The new wheels have been going strong for a year now. That’s an entire year of use for a vacuum for five cents worth of plastic and an hour’s worth of printing time.

Need another example? My suitcase was apparently dragged behind a luggage cart for miles at either ORD or PHL. When it arrived on the baggage carousel, one wheel was shredded, and the wheel mount was ground down to almost the axle. The rest of the bag was still good, and I just removed the old wheel, salvaged the bearings, and printed a new wheel out of PLA. This suitcase has now traveled 60,000 miles with a 3D printed wheel, and it’s only now looking worse for wear.

How To Get In On The Action

We’re looking for the best repairs, jigs, and tools you’ve ever printed. To get started, head on over to Hackaday.io, create a new project, and document your repair. The Repairs You Can Print contest will run from Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 through 12 PM PST Tuesday, February 20th, 2018. Here’s a handy count down timer for ‘ya.