Nicolas Bras and his homemade musical instruments

Hacked Set Of Instruments Saves Musician’s Gigs

Most of the horror stories you hear about air travel seem to center around luggage. Airlines do an admirable job of getting people safely to their destinations, but checked baggage is a bit of a crapshoot — it could be there when you land, it could end up taking the scenic route, or it could just plain disappear. That’s bad enough when it contains your clothes, but when it contains your livelihood? Talk about stress!

This was the position musician [Nicolas Bras] found himself in after a recent trip. [Nicolas] was heading for a gig, but thanks to Brussels Airlines, his collection of musical instruments went somewhere else. There was nothing he could do to salvage that evening’s gig, but he needed to think about later engagements. Thankfully, [Nicolas] specializes in DIY musical instruments, made mostly with PVC tubes and salvaged parts from commercial instruments, so the solution to his problem was completely in his hands.

Fair warning to musical instrument aficionados — harvest the neck from a broken ukelele is pretty gruesome stuff. Attached to a piece of pallet wood and equipped with piezo pickups, the neck became part of a bizarre yet fascinating hybrid string instrument. A selection of improvised wind instruments came next, made from PVC pipes and sounding equally amazing; we especially liked the bass chromojara, sort of a flute with a didgeridoo sound to it. The bicycle pump beatbox was genius too, and really showed that music is less about the fanciness of your gear and more about the desire — and talent — to make it with whatever comes to hand.

Here’s hoping that [Nicolas] is eventually reunited with his gear, but hats off to him in the meantime for hacking up replacements. And if he looks familiar, that’s because we’ve seen some of his work before, like his sympathetic nail violin and “Popcorn” played on PVC pipes.

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How This Power Racing Series Car Got On A Plane To WMF

pwrc-on-a-plane

You really should check out the monthly meetings at your local hackerspace. It’s an excellent opportunity to hear the most interesting stories. Like the tale of how the guys from Sector67 got this electric vehicle on the plane with them. Not only did it go up in the air, but they did zero planning ahead of time on how they would actually pull it off.

[Bob Baddeley] posted an album of the PRC experience at World Maker Faire. There are captions that somewhat tell the tale, but we’ll fill you in as best we can on the rest of the story behind this second car from the hackerspace — lovingly known as the Lamebourghini.

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Airport X-ray Machine Teardown

Who has an airport carry-on X-ray machine sitting in their garage? Apparently [Mike] does, and he’s sharing the fun by posting a video teardown series that really digs into the machine’s hardware and operating system.

At this point the series includes six lengthy segments. The first episode, which you’ll find embedded after the break, starts with an external overview of the hardware. [Mike] mentions that it’s not functional at that point. He guesses that this has to do either with security settings to enable the machine (it does produce x-ray after all) or corrupt memory in an EPROM chip. The password lockout is later confirmed when he looks at a code disassembly and finds strings requesting username and password to gain access to some of the menus. The second installment involves more disassembly to figure out the passwords and gain full access to the machine. By the fourth video he’s X-raying random items from around the shop and then some.

It’s a lot to watch, but it’s exciting to see how far he gets with the rare equipment.

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How To Weigh A Bee Hive

Did you know weighing bee hives was even necessary? Of course it is. Monitoring hive weight can tell a beekeeper a lot about the size of the swarm, their harvesting habits, and the yield they are producing.

We had to cover this hack because it’s a fine piece of engineering. [Trearick] designed a bee hive scale that lifts one side of the hive to calculate weight. Using easy to find metal brackets, a hinge, a pulley, and some plywood he built a prying device. The three teeth slip in between the hive and its base and can be separated by squeezing together the plywood handles on the opposite side. This lifts one end of the hive, measuring the force needed to do so using a luggage scale. The readout should be roughly 1/2 the total hive weight. This measurement takes seconds to complete, uses a bulb level on the scale to help ensure consistency, and creates little or no disturbance to our flying friends.

It’s nice to see a Hymenoptera hack that helps in giving bees a healthy place to live, instead of killing wasps.

Notacon 2008: The TSA Bagcam


[algormor] gave one of the more controversial talks at Notacon. After receiving a few too many inspection slips and destroyed baggage he decided to find out what was going on behind the scenes. First, he purchased a cheap bag from Walmart with a zipable liner. To record the video, he purchased a SwannGUARD MicroDVR. It’s a palm-sized device that records 128×128 15fps video. It comes with a plastic cover that he mounted to the inside of the bag. A hole was cut for the video camera right above the badge holder. Since the camera is motion triggered, he could slide the badge up, covering the hole, to deactivate the camera. He’s taken the bag on at least four trips. So… what did the footage show?

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