Hackaday Links: May 21, 2017

It’s time to talk about something of supreme importance to all Hackaday readers. The first trailer for the new Star Trek series is out. Some initial thoughts: the production values are through the roof, and some of this was filmed in Jordan (thank the king for that). The writers have thrown in some obvious references to classic Trek in this trailer (taking a spacesuit into a gigantic alien thing a la TMP). There are a few new species, even though this is set about 10 years before waaaait a second, those are the Klingons?

In other news, [Seth MacFarlane] is doing a thing that looks like a Galaxy Quest series. We can only hope it’s half as good as a Galaxy Quest series could be.

The Dayton Hamvention should have been this week, but it’s never going to happen again. The Hara Arena, the traditional venue for the biggest amateur radio meet on the continent (thankfully) closed this year. Last year it was looking old and tired. This year, Hamvention moved to Xenia, Ohio, and it looks like we’re still getting the best ham swap meet on the planet. Remember: if you  drove out to Hamvention, the Air Force museum is well worth the visit. This year they have the fourth hangar open, full of space craft goodness.

Last week we saw an Open Source firmware for hoverboards, electric unicycles, and other explodey bits of self-balancing transportation. [Casainho], the brains behind this outfit, recently received an eBike controller from China. As you would expect, it’s based on the same hardware as these hoverboards and unicycles. That means there’s now Open Source firmware for eBikes.

Last year, [Cisco] built a cute little walking robot. Now it’s up on Kickstarter.

This week saw the announcement of the Monoprice Mini Delta, the much-anticipated 3D printer that will sell for less than $200. For one reason or another, I was cruising eBay this week and came upon this. They say yesterday’s trash is tomorrow’s collectors’ item, you know…

A new Tek scope will be announced in the coming weeks. What are the cool bits? It has a big touchscreen. That’s about all we know.

The ESP32 is the next great wonderchip, and has been for a while now. The ESP32 also has a CAN peripheral stuffed in there somewhere, and that means WiFi and Bluetooth-enabled cars. [Thomas] has been working on getting a driver up and running. There’s a thread on the ESP32 forum, a Hackaday.io page, and a GitHub page.

What do you do when you have a nice old Vacuum Fluorescent Display and want to show some stats from your computer? You build a thing that looks like it’s taken from a cash register. This is a project from [Micah Scott], and it has everything: electronics 3D modeling, magnets, print smoothing, creating snap-fit parts, and beautiful old displays.

Here’s something that randomly showed up in our Tip Line. [Mark] recently found some unused HP 5082-7000 segment displays in a collection of electronic components (pics below). According to some relevant literature, these were the first LED display package available, ever.  They were released in 1969, they’re BCD, and were obviously very expensive. [Mark] is wondering how many of these were actually produced, and we’re all interested in the actual value of these things. If anyone knows if these are just prototypes, or if they went into production (and what they were used for), leave a note in the comments.

Jean-Luc PYcARD is a Pocketable Python Development Platform

It’s a good thing that a ridiculous pun and a screenprint of Jean-Luc Picard on the bottom of the board is enough to qualify for the 2017 Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest, because [bobricius]’s Python-plus-Arduino card and environmental sensor potpourri is very cool.

The PCB design itself is great. It’s got a gigantic LED array, cutout for a wrist strap, and an onboard USB plug so you can program it just by sticking it in your computer; it shows up as a USB mass storage device when you plug it in. The files that show up on the “drive” are Micropython code that you can edit, save, and then run directly on the device. You can hardly beat that for convenience.

And there’s a full complement of sensors: not one but two temperature and humidity sensors, including our recent favorite BME280, which also reads barometric pressure. (We suspect that makes it a tri-corder.) There’s a real-time clock, a buzzer, and some buttons. Want to add more sensors? I2C ports are broken out for your convenience.

Besides having Star Trek flair, this board would give the various educational platforms a run for their money: Micro:bit, we’re looking at you. Very cool indeed!

A Real Star Trek Communicator Badge

Star Trek has never let technology get in the way of a good story. Gene Roddenberry and the writers of the show thought up some amazing gadgets, from transporters to replicators to the warp core itself. Star Trek: The Next Generation brought us the iconic communicator badge. In 1987, a long-range radio device which could fit in a pin was science fiction. [Joe] is bringing these badges a bit closer to the real world with his entry in the 2017 Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest.

trek-thumbThe first problem [Joe] dealt with was finding a radio which could run from watch batteries, and provide decently long-range operations. He chose the HopeRF RFM69HCW. Bringing fiction a bit closer to reality, this module has been used for orbital communications with low-cost satellites.

The Badge’s processor is a Teensy LC. [Joe] is rolling his own Teensy, which means using bootloader chips from PJRC, as well as the main microcontroller. Kicking the main micro into operation is where [Joe] is stuck right now. Somewhere between the breadboard and the first spin of the surface mount PCB things went a bit sideways. The oscillators are running, but there are no USB communications. [Joe] is trying another board spin. He made a few improvements and already has new boards on the way. Switching to a toaster oven or skillet paste and solder setup would definitely help him get the new badges up and running.

The Smartest Computer Was On Star Trek

There have been a lot of smart computers on TV and movies. We often think among the smartest, though, are the ones on Star Trek. Not the big “library computer” and not the little silver portable computers. No, the smart computers on Star Trek ran the doors. If you ever watch, the doors seem to know the difference between someone walking towards it, versus someone flying towards it in the middle of a fist fight. It also seems to know when more people are en route to the door.

Granted, the reason they are so smart is that the doors really have a human operating them. For the real fan, though, you can buy a little gadget that looks like an intercom panel from the Enterprise. That would be cool enough, but this one has sound effects and can sense when someone walks into your doorway so they can hear the comforting woosh of a turbolift door.

Of course, for the real hacker, that’s not good enough either. [Evan] started with this $25 gadget, but wanted to control it with an Arduino for inclusion in his hackerspace’s pneumatic door system. He did a bit of reverse engineering, a bit of coding, and he wound up in complete control of the device.

Continue reading “The Smartest Computer Was On Star Trek”

Sci-Fi Contest: Both Wars and Trek Represented

Hackaday’s Sci-Fi Contest is in its third week. We’ve passed warp speed and were heading toward ludicrous speed. There is still almost a month to enter before March 6, when the deadline hits and everything goes to plaid. With 22 submissions all vying for 4 great prizes, there is still plenty of room for new challengers!

This contest is all about projects inspired by science fiction. There is a great mix of projects so far.

BB-8 Using Roll-On Deoderant

bb-8partsStar Wars is well represented with [Tech Flare’s] DIY Phone Controlled BB-8 Droid. [Tech Flare] is improving upon an existing BB-8 build. This is a low-cost build, so many of the parts are sourced from everyday items.

A new one for us is the 11 roll-on deodorant balls that are used as internal bearings. We’re not sure how well this robot will work, but it sure will be the best smelling BB-8 out there and you have to admit that is a creative use of easily source materials!

An Arduino is the brains of this Robot. As the title suggests, control comes from a smartphone. There is some creative work happening to fabricate the ball that makes up the body of the bot so be sure to jump in and check out that writeup.

LCARS In Real Life? Yes, Please!

lcarsAny Star Trek fan knows what the LCARS interface is [Elkentaro] is bringing LCARS life with LCARS NASA ISS Live Stream Viewer. [Elkentaro] is using a Raspberry Pi to display the International Space Station High Definition Eart-Viewing System (ISS HDEV) experiment.

The ISS is constantly streaming live views of the earth from one of 4 cameras. The Pi takes the stream and adds an LCARS image overlay. Everything is displayed on a 7″ TFT LCD. The same view Wesley Crusher would have seen at the helm of the NCC-1701D.

The overlay really brings the content to life and it has us thinking. If you have a refrigerator with one of those questionably-useful built-in montiors, it needs LCARS. Show us what you got!

Use the Schwartz

So what is missing from this contest? You of course! There is plenty of time left to create a great Sci-Fi inspired project. The deadline is Monday, March 6, 2017, 09:00 pm PST (+8 UTC). We dropped some Spaceballs references at the top of this article but haven’t actually seen an entry for that theme. Who’s going to build a voice-changing Dark Helmet?

[Phaser shown in the main image is the Original Series Phaser which Think Geek used to carry]

Hackaday Links: February 5, 2017

A lot of people around here got their start in electronics with guitar pedals. This means soldering crappy old transistors to crappy old diodes and fawning over your tonez, d00d.  Prototyping guitar pedals isn’t easy, though, and now there’s a CrowdSupply project to make it easier The FX Development Board is just that — a few 1/4″ jacks, knobs, pots, power supply, and a gigantic footswitch to make prototyping guitar pedals and other musical paraphernalia easy. Think of it as a much more feature-packed Beavis Board that’s still significantly cheaper.

How do Communicators in Star Trek work? Nobody knows. Why don’t the crew always have to tap their badge before using it? Nobody knows. How can the com badge hear, ‘Geordi to Worf’, and have Worf instantly respond? Oh, we’ve argued about this on IRC for years now. Over on Hackaday.io, [Joe] is building a Star Trek com badge. The electronics are certainly possible with modern microcontrollers, but for the enclosure, we’ll have to review a few scenes from Time’s Arrow and The Enemy.

[Alois] was working with an Intel Edison on a breadboard. He was generating a signal, and sending it through a little tiny breadboard wire to an oscilloscope. The expected waveform should have been a nice square wave at 440MHz. What he got out of this wire was a mess. You shouldn’t use long wires when probing circuits. That little breadboard wire was a perfect radiator for 440MHz, and the entire setup turned into an antenna.

[Douglas] is running a Kenwood TM-D710A as his amateur radio rig. This radio does APRS stuff, but it requires an external GPS and power source to do it right. GPS receivers are now very small and very cheap, so [Douglas] just stuffed a GPS module inside his radio. The module itself is a GP-20U7, a tiny GPS module the size of a postage stamp, and wired it up to a few pads on the radio PCB.

Here’s an upcoming Kickstarter that’s going straight to the front page of Boing Boing. It’s Pong, in coffee table format which we first saw last Spring. Instead of racing the beam, this version of Pong is mechanical. The ball is a cube, the paddles are slightly longer cubes, and the entire game is a highly refined CNC machine. Here’s something from seven years ago that’s also Pong in coffee table format. Pongmechanik is electromechanical Pong, built entirely out of switches, relays, and a few motors.

Hackaday’s Sci-Fi Contest Hits Warp Speed

Hackers’ perspiration may go into soldering, coding, and building. For many of us, the inspiration for these projects comes from science fiction. The books, movies, TV shows, short stories, and comics we all grew up on, and continue to devour to this day. We’re paying homage to all these great Sci-Fi stories with our latest contest.

The Sci-Fi Contest isn’t about the most efficient way of building a 555 circuit or the tightest code. This one is about celebrating science fiction in the best way we know how — building awesome projects. This is Hackaday, so you’re going to have to use some form of working electronics in your entry. Beyond that, it’s up to you. Bring us your Overwatch cosplays, your Trek Tricorders, your Star Wars pod racers.

This isn’t our first Sci-Fi contest. In fact, Sci-Fi was one of Hackaday.io’s first contests way back in 2014.
3 years and over 100,000 new hackers later, it’s time to take a fresh look at what you all have been up to. Projects that were entered in the first Sci-Fi contest are eligible, but you need to create a new project page and do some new work.

Check the rules for the full details. Once you’ve published a project use the drop-down menu on the left sidebar to enter it in the Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest.

Prizes

Great work reaps great rewards. Here’s what we’ve got for this contest:

  • Grand Prize is a Rigol DS1054Z 4 Channel 50 MHz scope.
  • First Prize is a Monoprice Maker Select Mini 3D printer
  • Second Prize is a complete Blu-Ray box of Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Third Prize is Lego’s latest rendition of the Millennium Falcon.

The deadline is Monday, March 6, 2017, 09:00 pm PST (+8 UTC), so don’t waste time! Warm up your soldering irons, spin up your warp drives, and create something awesome!