Hackaday Links: Benchoff Rants On Flying Cars

It’s time for Computex, and that means [Linus] has dropped something. I don’t know what, but he’s dropped something. It’s a meme or something at this point. What were the highlights? Asus announced Project Precog, a laptop with two screens. Yes, a touchscreen keyboard. It’s the 2018 version of the IBM Transnote or whatever that Microsoft thing was called. Why is it called Project Precog? Because AI or whatever. Unimaginative marketing is terrible. Intel is going to launch a 28-core CPU, and AMD is introducing a 32-core CPU. Awesome, core wars. And here’s RGB RAM because stuffing a case full of cold cathode lighting is sooo early-2000s.

Need a reverse engineering challenge? Here’s something from American Science and Surplus. It’s a 48 x 12 LED matrix, loaded up with driver ICs and power regulators. $20 a piece, so stock up and save.

Finally, the main event. The biggest story in aviation this week is that a media embargo has lifted on the Kitty Hawk Flyer. Kitty Hawk is a startup funded by Larry Page, CEO’d by Sebastian Thrun, and has received $6.5 M in funding. The Flyer, a one-man decacopter, was announced to the world through CNN Money and Casey Neistat. It should be noted that in the entire media landscape, these are the two outlets most ignorant of aviation: CNN needs no explanation, and Neistat flies quadcopters through the Hudson River Corridor at 1000 feet AGL. Additionally, Kitty Hawk is not exhibiting at AirVenture next month, which leads me to believe Kitty Hawk is trying to stay out of the aviation industry or simply doesn’t want knowledgeable people asking them questions. But I digress.

The Kitty Hawk Flyer is being promoted by the company as “a personal flying vehicle… to make flying part of everyday life” and a machine that will give you, “a world free from traffic”. It is being billed by CNN and Neistat as ‘a flying car’. Kitty Hawk is just fine with allowing the media to call it as such. Additionally, Sebastian Thrun is making claims about the Flyer that are disingenuous at best, outright illegal at worst, and should draw the ire of any investors.

In the CNN Money piece, Thrun claims the Flyer is capable of traveling at 100 miles per hour, which would be illegal. The Flier is certified as a Part 103 Ultralight, and under that regulation the Flyer “is not capable of more than 55 knots calibrated airspeed at full power in level flight.” The Flyer may also be overweight. The first version of the Flyer was basically a decacopter with a seat, and weighed in at 220 pounds. Part 103 regulations have a limit of 254 pounds, and it’s entirely possible there are more than 34 pounds of chassis and fiberglass on the latest version. I should also mention the safety training, while not required for a Part 103 ultralight, is insufficient: Casey Neistat’s underwater egress training was done in a Chuck E. Cheese-style ball pit. You can breathe in a ball pit, you can’t breathe underwater.

But legality aside, a Part 103 ‘flying car’ is just about the dumbest idea ever. You can’t use it to commute, and you’re welcome to call your local FSDO to confirm that. You’re not going to fly it in New York City or San Francisco because there are airports in the way. At best, this is a ‘flying ATV’ that you would take out on your farm; a toy for rich people. At worst, it’s the latest example of the Silicon Valley philosophy of ‘ignore laws and break things’.

Hackaday Links: 👻 🎃 Spooky Edition, 2017

A few links posts ago, we wrote something about a company selling huge LED panels on eBay, ten panels for $50. Those panels are gone now, but a few lucky hackers got their hands on some cool hardware. Now there’s a project to reverse engineer these Barco NX-4 LED panels. Who’s going to be the first to figure out how to drive these things? Doesn’t matter — it’s a group project and we’re all made richer by the contributions of others.

Prague is getting a new hackerspace.

A year and a half ago, a $79 3D printer popped up on Kickstarter. I said I would eat a hat if it shipped by next year. Seeing as how it’s basically November, and they’re not selling a $79 printer anymore — it’s $99 — this might go down as one of my rare defeats, with an asterisk, of course. I’m going to go source some very large fruit roll-ups and do this at Supercon. Thanks, [Larry].

Speaking of bets, this week Amazon introduced the most idiotic thing ever invented. It’s called Amazon Key. It’s an electronic lock (dumb), connected to the Internet (dumber), so you let strangers into your house to deliver packages (dumbest). CCC is in a few months, so I don’t know if Amazon Key will be hacked by then, but I’m pretty confident this will be broken by March.

The Lulzbot Taz is one of the best printers on the market, and it is exceptionally Open Source. The Taz is also a great printer for low-volume production. It was only a matter of time until someone built this. The Twoolhead is a parallel extruder for the Taz 6. Instead of one extruder and nozzle, it’s two, and instead of printing one object at a time, it prints two. Of course it limits the build volume of the printer, but if you need smaller parts faster, this is the way to go.

Hey, did you hear? Hackaday is having a conference the weekend after next. This year, we’re opening up the doors a day early and having a party at the Evil Overlord’s offices. Tickets are free for Supercon attendees, so register here.

At CES this year, we caught wind of one of the coolest advances in backyard astronomy in decades. The eVscope is ‘astrophotography in the eyepiece’, and it’s basically a CCD, a ton of magic image processing, and a small display, all mounted inside a telescope. Point the scope at a nebula, and instead of seeing a blurry smudge, you’ll see tendrils and filaments of interstellar gas in almost real-time. Now the eVscope is on Kickstarter. It’s a 4.5 inch almost-Newtonian (the eyepiece is decoupled from the light path, so I don’t even know how telescope nomenclature works in this case), an OLED display, and a 10-hour battery life.

Is the fidget spinner fad over? Oh, we hope not. A technology is only perfected after it has been made obsolete. Case in point? We can play phonographs with lasers. The internal combustion engine will be obsolete in automobiles in twenty years, but track times will continue going down for forty. Fidget spinners may be dead, but now you can program them with JavaScript. What a time to be alive!

Audio tomphoolery even an idiot tech blogger can see through! I received a press kit for a USB DAC this week that included the line, “…low drop out voltage regulators running at 3.3 V, meaning the 5 V USB limit is well preserved.” Yes, because you’re running your system at 3.3 V, you won’t draw too much current from a USB port. That’s how it works, right?

[Peter Sripol] is building an ultralight in his basement. The last few weeks of his YouTube channel have been the must-watch videos of the season. He’s glassed the wings, installed all the hardware (correctly), and now he has the motors and props mounted. This is an electric ultralight, so he’s using a pair of ‘150 cc’ motors from HobbyKing. No, that’s not displacement, it’s just a replacement for a 150 cc gas engine. On a few YouTube Live streams, [Peter] did what was effectively a high-speed taxi test that got out of hand. It flew. Doing that at night was probably not the best idea, but we’re looking forward to the videos of the flight tests.

Easy LED Panel

Imagine how impressed your friends will be when you tell them about your homebrew 4K LED panel. Just don’t tell them it is a 64X64 grid. (Hey, that’s 4K LEDs total!) We’ll keep your secret. [Tom Nelson] has a good write up on how to create such a panel from 16X16 WS2812B panels.

At first glance, this doesn’t sound like a tough project. But if you read [Tom’s] log, you’ll see that he has a lot of good advice about heat management and the use of a diffuser to get good performance. The build uses several ECG-P2-2 controllers, plus it is mechanically neatly done.

The 64 cm square array is a precursor to a planned 128X128 display that [Tom] wants to build. He mentions he will release the custom driver software for the panel, so check his site for more details. We’ve seen some panels and diffusers before if you want to start with something smaller and work your way up.

RGB LED Matrices With The STM32 and DMA

A few years ago, [Frans-Willem] bought a few RGB LED panels. Ten 32×16 panels is a lot of LEDs, and to drive all of these panels requires some sufficiently powerful hardware. He tried working with an FPGA development board, but that didn’t have enough memory for 24-bit color. The microcontroller du jour – a TI Stellaris – couldn’t get more than 16 bits of color without flickering. With a bunch of LEDs but no way to drive them, [Frans-Willem] put the panels in a box somewhere, waiting for the day they could be used to their fullest capacity.

This day came when [Frans-Willem] was introduced to the STM32 series of chips with the F1 Discovery board. While looking for some electronic playthings to use with this board, he stumbled upon the LED panels and gave them one more try. The results are spectacular, with 33 bits of color, with animations streamed over a router over WiFi.

The panels in question are HUB75 LED panels. In the 32×8 panels, there are six data pins – two each for each color – four row select pins, and three control pins. The row select pins select which row of pixels is active at any one time. Cycle through them fast enough, and it will seem like they’re all on at once. The control pins work pretty much like the control pins of a shift register, with the data pins filling in the obvious role.

The code that actually drives the LEDs all happens on an STM32F4 with the help of DMA and FSMC, or the Flexible Static Memory Controller found on the chip. This peripheral takes care of the control lines found in memory, so when you toggle the write strobe the chip will dump whatever is on the data lines to a specific address in memory. It’s a great way to take care of generating a clock signal.

For sending pixels to this display driver, [Frans-Willem] is using the ever-popular TP-Link WR703N. He had originally planned to send all the pixel data over the USB port, but there was too much overhead, a USB 1.1 isn’t fast enough. That was fixed by using the UART on the router with a new driver and a recompiled version of OpenWRT.

All the software to replicate this project is available on Github, and there’s a great video showing what the completed project can do. You can check that out below.

Continue reading “RGB LED Matrices With The STM32 and DMA”

BeagleBone Black and FPGA Driven LED Wall

LED Wall

 

This is 6,144 RGB LEDs being controlled by a BeagleBone Black and a FPGA. This gives the display 12 bit color and a refresh rate of 200 Hz. [Glen]’s 6 panel LED wall uses the BeagleBone Black to generate the image, and the LogiBone FPGA board for high speed IO.

[Glen] started off with a single 32 x 32 RGB LED panel, and wrote a detailed tutorial on how that build works. The LED panels used for this project have built in drivers, but they cannot do PWM. To control color, the entire panel must be updated at high speed.

The BeagleBone’s IO isn’t fast enough for this, so a Xilinx Spartan 6 LX9 FPGA takes care of the high speed signaling. The image is loaded into the FPGA’s Block RAM by the BeagleBone, and the FPGA takes care of the rest. The LogiBone maps the FPGA’s address space into the CPU’s address space, which allows for high speed transfers.

If you want to drive this many LEDs, you’ll need to look beyond the Arduino. [Glen]’s work provides a great starting point, and all of the source is available on Github.

[Thanks to Jonathan for the tip]

Hackday Links: March 10, 2012

We’re throwing money at our monitor and nothing’s happening!

Sometimes we get hacks sent into our tip line that are outrageously awesome, but apart from a YouTube video we’ve got nothing else to write about. So begins the story of the flying Back to the Future DeLorean quadrocopter. Sadly, the story ends with the video as well. (If you’ve got any info, send it in!)

Fine, we’ll throw in another cool car

Mercedes covered a car with LEDs and made the James Bond’s invisible car from Die Another DayThe Mercedes video cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce, so of course there’s camera trickery; we’re just wondering how much credit Adobe After Effects gets for this build.

Microsoft touchscreen demo might be impossible

Yes, Microsoft does care about user experience. Just take a look at this video from their applied sciences group. They did user testing with touchscreens that updated every 1 millisecond, compared to the ~100ms our phones and tablets usually update. Of course the result was a better UX, but now we’re wondering how they built a touch screen that updates every millisecond? That’s a refresh rate of 1 kHz, and we’ve got no clue how they bodged that one together. We’re probably dealing with a Microsoft Surface projector/IR camera thing here, but that doesn’t answer any questions.

Edit: [Philip Rowney] sent in a tip that it could be this TI touch screen controller that can sample above 1 kHz. The only problem is this chip uses a resistive touch screen, instead of a multitouch-enabled capacitive screen. At least that solves one problem.

And now for something that can measure 1 kHz

[Paleotechnologist] posted an excellent guide to the care and feeding of an oscilloscope. Most of our readers probably already know the ins and outs of their awesome Techtronix and HP units, but that doesn’t mean the younglings won’t have to learn sooner or later.

Good idea, except the part about saving it for spring

In a moment of serendipity, [Valentin] figured out how to use touchscreens with wool gloves. The answer: rub thermal grease into the tip of the index finger. It works, and doesn’t look to be too much of a mess. We’ll remember this for next winter.

The last one didn’t have a picture, so here’s this

[Darrell] used a little bit of LaTeX and Ruby to make colored labels for his resistor collection. We’re struck with the idea of using test tubes to organize resistors. It’s cool and makes everything look all sciencey and stuff.