Hackaday Links: September 30, 2018

If you’re looking for an Open Source computer, good luck. The RISC-V stuff isn’t there yet, and with anything else you’re going to be dealing with NDA’d Intel, AMD, or some other proprietary cruft. System76, however, makes the most big-O Open computer, and they will be announcing a new Open computer called the Thelio next month. It was on display at the Open Hardware Summit, although smartly there were no pictures taken of this box. Liliputing has reported on it, but there are a few things wrong with that speculation. No, it’s not RISC-V. We’re looking at x86 here. It’s a desktop. It has wood (walnut or maple). It doesn’t have enough cold cathode lighting to blind you, but I guess that’s a matter of taste. Everything will be announced in October.

I have a plan in the works to sell snake oil to people. Actually, it’s not snake *oil*, but it is derived from snakes. There are rattlesnake farmers out there, who breed snakes for meat (tastes like chicken!) and their skins for boots. The fascia of the skins is disposed of when this leather is being prepared, and this can be used as the base component of a glue, or something resembling gelatin. It’s basically no different than fish or animal glue, except it’s from snakes. This can be used as one of the ingredients in gummy candy. This is my plan: I’m going to sell snake oil, except it’s really snake-based gummies. They promote digestion and get rid of ions in your body, or something. Better living through snake gummies.

The paragraph you just read is a better business plan than this bit of snake oil. It’s a battery that recharges itself. It’s unclear if it recharges itself over time; if if it just recharges itself automatically, wouldn’t the battery just have more energy in it? It’s hitting all the checkmarks of snake oil too: there are references to Tesla being a ‘forgotten genius’, zero-point energy fields, and a countdown timer to their crowdfunding campaign. This rabbit hole goes deep.

Did you know Hackaday has a Retro Edition, specifically designed for old computers that somehow have web browsers? It’s true! Sometimes, we even add pics of people pulling the Retro Edition up on their ancient devices. [Steven McDonald] wondered if his Blackberry counted. Sure thing! If you can pull up the Retro Edition on your ancient computer, we’ll mention it in the Links post, too. We’re also taking suggestions on how to improve the Retro Edition; I’ll get around to improving it eventually.

There’s A Computer In This Hard Drive

Throughout the history of personal computers, there are some unique form factors. The 3com Audrey was sold as a computing appliance, meant to sit on a kitchen counter, to display recipes or something. For some reason, Macs were cubes once, and it actually wasn’t a bad machine. At one point, you were supposed to put a monitor on top of your computer.

A few years ago, [glitch] read about an interesting system from the early 80s. The SIIG S286 was designed by the same people that made SCSI cards and external hard drives, and it shows: this is a complete 286-based system stuffed into what was probably an external enclosure for a 5 1/4 drive at some point. After finding one of these bad boys on an auction site a few months ago, he finally got it working. It’s weird, but it can get on a network, and you can read Hackaday with it.

The entire computer is stuffed into a case that’s about 5″ wide, 4″ tall, and 10″ long. There’s a motherboard with built-in VGA, ‘game port’, and a printer port. There’s a riser card for real 16-bit ISA cards, two serial ports, and a connector for a hard disk and floppy drive. Basically, it’s an entire 286 system wrapped up in a tiny box.

After acquiring this machine, [glitch] took it apart and found the usual damage. The CMOS battery leaked, but not too bad. This was replaced with a hermetically sealed lithium thionyl chloride battery. These are non-rechargable, but a quick swipe of the soldering iron disable the motherboard’s charging circuitry. The hard drive was replaced with a 128 MB Flash module, and an Ethernet card was installed.

With that, [glitch] has a complete system that can connect to the Internet. Of course, getting on the Internet with a 286 is a challenge, but we have a Hackaday Retro Edition for just the occasion. The browser is Arache, with the mTCP package. That’s about as low as you can go in Intel-land, and excellent proof that the computer will work for another 35 years or so.

Hackaday Links: The 2017 One

You screwed everything up last night. The end of 2016 had a leap second, so instead of the seconds going up from 57, 58, 59… 00, there was a 61st second in the last minute of the year. Yeah, 2016 just wouldn’t quit. [Michel] built a device to keep track of 2016’s leap second using GPS, and everything worked beautifully.

Remember MechWarrior? There’s a reason those mid-90s games used mechs instead of more organic characters. Computers couldn’t draw that many polygons, making MechWarrior a stylistic choice driven by the limitations of technology. Here’s a real MechWarrior that could rip your head off without trying.

The Hackaday Retro Edition is a Web 1.0 version of our main blog, and a challenge to retrocomputing enthusiasts. [PK] recently got his Psion Series 3a surfing the interwebs with a little help from PPP and a Raspberry Pi. He also got a Psion Series 7 online using the same method, but that was a little more anti-climatic.

The NES Classic Edition costs too much, the cords are too short, and you can’t play anything but the pre-installed games. There’s a solution to this: [Andrew] has been working on the Beagle Entertainment System for a while now, and it’s ready for a proper release. The BES uses the SNES9X, VBA-M, and Nestopia emulators, with the original ROMs, and has a ‘shield’ for SNES gamepads. You can’t do better than this, and it’s cheaper than the NES Classic Edition.

Vacuum pens, or vacuum pickup tools, or whatever you want to call them, are really useful when working with SMD parts. You can build your own out of an aquarium pump, duct tape, a lighter, paperclip, and a mechanical pencil, but that lacks the elegance of a footswitch-operated, solenoid valve pickup tool. [Dave] built a great version of a vacuum pickup tool from scratch for less than $200. There’s NTP fittings on here, so you know it has to be great.

fundungeonTerrible news! I’m in Vegas next week for CES. While I’ll be spending most of my time figuring out ‘which internet of things is best internet of things’, I might have some time for a Hackaday CES meetup.

The best idea I have for a Hackaday CES meetup is the Fun Dungeon in the Trashy Castle. It has Skee Ball and Crazy Taxi. If you have a better idea of where Hackaday fans and aficionados can meet up for an hour or two, leave a note in the comments below.

Hackaday Links: December 18, 2016

You can fly a brick if it has offset mass and you can fly a microwave because it breaks the law of the conservation of momentum. A paper on the EM Drive was recently published by the Eagleworks team, and the results basically say, ‘if this works, it’s a terrible thruster that shouldn’t work’. Experts have weighed in, but now we might not have to wait for another test in the Eagleworks lab: China will fly an EM Drive on their space station. Will it work? Who knows.

The ESP32 is just now landing on workbenches around the globe, and already a few people are diving into promiscuous mode and WiFi packet injection.

The Large Hadron Collider is the most advanced piece of scientific apparatus ever built. It produces tons of data, and classifying this data is a challenge. The best pattern recognition unit is between your ears, so CERN is crowdsourcing the categorization of LHC data.

Holy crap this is cyberpunk. [SexyCyborg] created a makeup palette pen testing device thing out of a Rasberry Pi and a few bits and bobs sitting around in a parts drawer. The project is cool, but the photolog of the finished project is awesome. It’s exactly what you would use to break into the Weyland-Yutani database while evading government operatives on the rooftops of Kowloon Walled City before escaping via grappling hook shot into the belly of a spaceplane taking off.

The Mini NES is Nintendo’s most successful hardware offering since the N64. This tiny device, importantly packaged in a minified retro NES enclosure, is out of stock everywhere. That doesn’t matter because now there’s a mini Genesis. The cool kids had a Genesis. You want to be a cool kid, right? Mortal Kombat was better on the Genesis.

The Arduino (what once was two is again one) launched a new vowel-hating model: MKRZero. The narrow board is powered by USB or LiPo, centers around an Atmel SAMD21 Cortex-M0+ chip, and sports both an I2C breakout header and a microSD card slot. Just watch those levels as these pins are not 5v tolerant.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is holding a Scientific Maker Exhibit during its annual meeting. This type of exhibit isn’t a poster or presentation — it’s just some table space and a chance to show off a 3D printed apparatus, a new type of sensor, equipment, or some other physical thing. Details in this PDF. This is actually cooler than it sounds, and a significant departure from the traditional poster or presentation found at every other scientific conference.

Did you know Hackaday has a retro edition made specifically for old computers connected to the Internet? That’s my baby, and it’s time for a refresh. If you have any feature requests you’d like to see, leave a note in the comments.

Hackaday Links: September 11, 2016

You know about the Hackaday Superconference, right? It’s the greatest hardware con ever, and it’s happening on November 5+6. Details incoming shortly.

The Hackaday Retro Edition exists. It’s the Hackaday blog, HTML-1-izized for weird and old computers? Why did I do this? Because Google is the quickest page to load on a Powerbook 180. There’s a new Retro Success, this time coming from @LeSpocky and his Nokia 3109c phone from 2008.

This is your official notice. The Open Hardware Summit is less than a month away. It’s going down in Portland, OR. Why Portland? The Vaporwavescene, of course. Hackaday, Tindie, and the rest of the crew will be out in Portland next month getting the latest news on the state of Open Hardware. We won’t be sitting in church pews this year, but then again there is no lady made out of soap.

Speaking of OHS, [Dave] just solved all their problems. The ‘problem’ with Open Hardware, if you can call it that, is that people use it as a bullet point on a sales deck. That neat gear logo can be marketing wank, without any of the sources, schematics, or anything else that makes a project Open Hardware. Last year, OSHWA announced they would be creating a certification process, with a trademarked logo, so they can sue people who don’t post schematics and mechanical designs (slightly inaccurate, but that’s the jist of the program). [Dave] is suggesting keeping the cool gear logo, but adding letters the teeth of the gear to designate what makes something Open Hardware. Add an S for schematic, add a B for a BOM, sort of like the creative commons logo/license. Is it a good idea? If OSHWA keeps using the gear logo for the ‘official’ Open Hardware logo/designation, there’s no recourse for when people misuse it. I’m of several minds.

[Colin Furze] is famous for his zany builds. His latest Youtube is anything but. It’s a shed. Of course, it’s the entry for his underground bunker, but this is a quality shed with a concrete pad, a few bits to keep it off the ground, and insulation. The roof is slate (because why not?), but if your design decisions are based on the phrase, ‘you only live once,’ copper may be a better choice.

The ESP32 has been released. The ESP32 is the follow-on to the very popular ESP8266. The ’32 features WiFi and Bluetooth, dual core processors, and a few undisclosed things that will make it very interesting. You can buy ESP32 modules right now, but no one has them on their workbench quite yet. To get you started when they finally arrive, [Adam] created an ESP32 KiCad Library for the ESP32 chip, and the ESP32-WROOM and ESP3212 modules.

Hackaday Links: July 31, 2016

Going to DEF CON this week? Getting into Vegas early? We’re having a meetup on Wednesday, in the middle of the day, in the desert. It’s all going down at the grave of James T. Kirk. Rumor has it, the Metrons will abduct a few of us and make us fight to the death on a planet with impossible geology.

The Hara Arena is closing down. The Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio is the home of Hamvention, the largest gathering of amateur radio enthusiasts in the US. I was there last May, and I can assure you, the Hara Arena has fallen into a state of disrepair. The ARRL reports hamvention will be at a new venue next year. The last scheduled event, after which there will be an auction for venue equipment and furniture, will be on August 27th. It’ll be a comic book and toy show.

Hackaday.io has a log of projects. Some might say it has too many projects. The search is great, but sometimes you just want to look at a random project. That’s the problem [Greg] solved with his Hackaday.io randomizer. It returns a random Hackaday.io project, allowing you to gawk at all the boards and resistors found within.

Primitive Technology is a YouTube channel you should watch. It’s a guy (who doesn’t talk), building everything starting with pre-stone age technology. He built a house with a heated floor, somewhat decent pottery, and this week he entered the iron age. The latest video shows him building a squirrel cage fan out of clay and bark to smelt iron. The ore was actually iron-bearing bacteria, mixed with charcoal and wood ash, and placed into a crude but accurate smelting furnace. The end result is a few bb-sized grains of iron and a lot of melted flux. That’s not much, and is certainly not an accurate portrayal of what was being done 5,000 years ago, but it does mean the Internet’s favorite guy in the woods has entered the iron age while completely skipping over bronze.

Freeside Atlanta says they’re the largest hackerspace on the east coast, and to show off all the cool goings on, they made a walk through video.

Hackaday has a retro edition. It’s a wide selection of Hackaday posts presented in a format without JavaScript, CSS, ads, or any other Web 2.0 cruft. There’s an open challenge for anyone to load the retro site with a 4004 CPU. I know it can be done, but no one has presented evidence of doing it. [Lukas] just sent in his retro submission with a Z80 single board computer displaying some of the page on seven-segment displays. It’s basically a terminal emulator connected to a laptop that does most of the work, but this is the most minimal retro submission we’ve ever received.

Hackaday Links: June 26, 2016

Solar Freaking Roadways. What is it? It’s technology that replaces all roadways with a smooth sheet of glass and solar panels. You know how asphalt is soooo easy to repair and soooooo cheap? Yes, this is the exact opposite of that. They’re coming to freaking Missouri. A parking lot for the Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, MO will be paved with the solar freaking roadways that netted $2 Million in an Indiegogo campaign two years ago.

There is a National Potato Expo. As far as I can tell, this is a trade show for potatoes and potato-related paraphernalia. As with all trade shows you need a great demo, in this case one involving potatoes. How about a phone charging station powered by potatoes? It’s a bunch of potatoes, copper pipe, galvanized nails (neat design, btw), and a USB socket. Yes, it works, but not well.

The travelling hacker box is a USPS flat rate box filled to the brim with random bits and bobs of electronics, shipped back and forth between dozens of electron enthusiasts. It’s making one last trip around the US, and now the travelling hacker box needs destinations from Idaho to Michigan. Idaho, of course, is a fictional state created in 2004 for Napoleon Dynamite, but that still leaves Montana, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the UP. If you live in one of these states, there’s a travelling hacker box with your name on it. Request to join the project and PM me on hackaday.io.

It’s election year in the US, and that means half of the population hates one candidate, half of the population hates another candidate, and half of the population will vote. Don’t think about that for too long. Here’s an Arduino doing something topical with Twitter.

Hotends for 3D printers are getting more and more robust, but thermistors are fiddly little things. E3D just came up with the solution. It’s a standard, modular temperature ‘cartridge’ that fits in E3D’s heater blocks. You can already change out the heater cartridge on a 3D printer for a higher wattage model, and now you can change out a thermistor for a thermocouple just as easily. E3D sells their stuff in GBP, so considering recent events it might be a good time to pick up a new hotend for that Monoprice 3D printer you picked up

The 8-Bit Generation recently released their documentary The Commodore Warschronicling the stupendous rise and meteoric fall of Commodore. Now they’re working on the Atari version and they’re funding it with a Kickstarter. Rumor has it Hackaday’s own [Bil Herd] has been asked to narrate.

Here’s another Hackaday Retro Edition success story @KetturiFox pulled up the Hackaday Retro Edition on a Texas Instruments TravelMate 5000 laptop. That’s a relatively modern laptop with a 75MHz Pentium, PCMCIA slots, and a nub mouse.