Hackaday Links: December 1, 2019

We can recall a book from our youth that cataloged some of the most interesting airplanes in the world. One particularly interesting beast was dubbed “The Super Guppy”, a hilariously distended cargo plane purpose-built for ferrying Saturn rocket sections around the US in the 1960s. We though the Guppies were long gone, victims like so many other fascinating machines of the demise of the Apollo program. It turns out we were only 4/5 right about that, since one of the original five Super Guppies is still in service, and was spotted hauling an Orion capsule from Florida to Ohio for vacuum testing. The almost 60-year-old plane, a highly modified C-97 Stratofreighter, still has a big enough fan-base to attract 1500 people to brave the Ohio cold and watch it land.

The news this week was filled with reports from Texas of a massive chemical plant explosion that forced the evacuation of 50,000 people from their homes the day before Thanksgiving. The explosion and ensuing fire at the TPC Group petrochemical plant were spectacular; thankfully, there were no deaths and only two injuries reported from the incident. The tie-in to the hacker community lies in what this plant made: butadiene, or synthetic rubber. The plant produced about 16% of the North American market’s supply of butadiene, which we know from previous coverage is one of the polymers in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS. It remains to be seen if this will put a crimp in ABS printer filament supplies, or any of the hundreds of products that butadiene is in, including automotive tires and hoses.

Remember when “Cyber Monday” became a thing? We sure do; in the USA, it was supposed to be the first workday back from the Thanksgiving break which would afford those lacking a fast Internet connection at home the opportunity to do online shopping on company time. The idea seems so year 2000 now, but the name stuck, and all kinds of sales and bargains are now competing for your virtual attention and cyber dollars. That includes Tindie, of course, where the Cyber Monday Sale is running through December 6. There’s tons to chose from, including products that got started as Hackaday.io projects and certified open-source hardware products. Be sure to check out the Tindie Twitter feed and blog for extra discount codes, too.

Speaking of gift-giving, we got an interesting tip about a product we never knew we needed. Called “WorkBench”, it’s a modular development system that takes care of an oft-neglected side of prototyping: the physical and mechanical layout. Too often we just start with a breadboard on the bench, and while that’ll do for lots of smaller projects, as the build keeps growing and the breadboards keep coming, things can get out of hand. WorkBench aims to tidy things up by providing a basal platen onto which breadboards, microcontrollers, perfboards, or just about anything else can be snapped. Handles make the whole thing portable, and a clear acrylic cover protects your hard work.

We love to hear stories about citizen science, especially when the amateurs scoop the professionals. Astronomy seems to be a hotbed for this brand of discovery, usually as a lone astronomer peering into the night sky to see a comet or asteroid nobody has seen before. Catching a glitching pulsar in the act is an entirely different level of discovery, though. Back in February, Steve Olney detected a 2.5 parts-per-million increase in the 89-millisecond period of emissions for the Vela pulsar using his RTL-SDR-based observatory. Steve has some fascinating information about pulsars and his observatory on his website. Color us impressed that he was able to pull off this observation without the benefit of millions of dollars in equipment and a giant parabolic dish antenna.

Robotics Controller For The Pi Boasts An Impressive Feature List

[Michael Horne] recently shared his thoughts on the RedBoard+, a motor controller board for the Raspberry Pi aimed at robotic applications. His short version for busy people is: if you’re at all into robotics, get one because it’s fantastic.

At heart the RedBoard+ is a motor controller, but it’s packed with I/O and features that set it above the usual fare. It can drive two DC motors and up to twelve servos, but what is extra useful is the wide input range of 7-24 V and its ability to power and control the underlying Raspberry Pi. A user-programmable button defaults to either doing a reboot or safe shutdown, depending on how long the button is held. Another neat feature is the ability to blink out the IP address of the Pi using the onboard RGB LED, which is always handy in a pinch.

The RedBoard+ has a GitHub repository which provides a variety of test scripts and an easy to use library, as well as a variety of hookup guides and quickstart guides. There’s even a pre-configured SD image for those who prefer to simply dive in.

A brief demo video showing the board in operation is embedded below. If you’re interested in one, Creator [Neil] of RedRobotics has made it available for sale on Tindie.

Continue reading “Robotics Controller For The Pi Boasts An Impressive Feature List”

Retrocomputing For The Masses Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday 29 May 2019 at noon Pacific for the Retrocomputing for the Masses Hack Chat!

Of the early crop of personal computers that made their way to market before IBM and Apple came to dominate it, few machines achieved the iconic status that the Sinclair ZX80 did.

Perhaps it was its unusual and appealing design style, or maybe it had more to do with its affordability. Regardless, [Sir Clive]’s little machine sold north of 100,000 units and earned a place in both computing history and the hearts of early adopters.

Spencer Owen is one who still holds a torch for the ZX80, so much so that in 2013, he hatched a seemingly wacky idea to make his own. A breadboard prototype of the Z80 machine slowly came to life over Christmas 2013, one thing led to another, and the “RC2014” was born.

The RC2014 proved popular enough to sell on Tindie, and Spencer is now following his dream as a retrocomputing mogul and working on RC2014 full time. He’ll be joining us to discuss the RC2014, how it came to be, and how selling computing nostalgia can be more than just a dream.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday May 29 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

 

This Saturday: Meetup With Hackaday, Tindie, And Kickstarter

If you’re near San Francisco this weekend, this is what you should be doing. It’s The 6th Annual Hackaday x Tindie MFBA Meetup w/ Kickstarter.

Come hang out with the hardware hackers and bring along a project of your own to get the conversation going. We’re excited to move to a new, larger venue this year. All the good of the past five years will come along with us, plus many benefits of exclusively booking out an entire venue. You can catch up with people who have been on their feet all day running booths — and usually see the stuff they can’t show you at the Faire. The crew from Hackaday, Tindie, and Kickstarter will be on hand. And you’ll get a glimpse of a lot of the cool people and projects you’ve admired on the pages of Hackaday over the years. It’s fun, you should go!

First beer is on us if you RSVP using the link at the top of this article. But we’re mainly publishing this today to show off the poster art. Deposit your adoration for this exquisite illustration in the comments below.

Amazing Art by Joe Kim

We love all of the original art that Joe Kim creates for Hackaday articles. It’s impossible to look at his poster for this event and be anything but overjoyed. Here’s a link to the full size image, but be warned that the file is 14.4 MB

6th Annual Hackaday X Tindie MFBA Meetup With A New, Larger Venue

We want to hang out with you at Maker Faire Bay Area! Put our after-hours meetup on your schedule with a Sharpie, because the 6th Annual Hackaday x Tindie MFBA Meetup w/ Kickstarter will be bigger and better than ever with a new venue that has plenty of room for everyone!

The hacker crowd descends upon San Mateo weekend after next to show off a year of creations at Maker Faire. On Saturday, May 18th, the Faire will close for the evening as our meetup heats up. Bring along some hardware to show off and get the conversation started. Whether you’re attending the Faire or staffing a booth all day, this is the perfect way to unwind.

New Place with More Space!

Every year we’ve been packed to the gills and it’s time to make room for more people. This year Hackaday and Tindie have teamed up with Kickstarter to rent out the entire B Street Station in San Mateo. It’s close by and has plenty of room to hang out with friends new and old. We’ll provide light food and the first drink is on us! Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect, and like we said, grab a project to bring along! This event is open to all who are 21 years of age or older.

Begin Your Weekend with HDDG on Thursday

Start the weekend off right with the HDDG meetup on Thursday night. In keeping with tradition, this special Maker Faire edition of the Hardware Developer’s Didactic Galactic is happen at the San Francisco Supplyframe office on May 16th. You’ll find a ton of people from out of town on hand to enjoy talks ranging from non-rectangular phone design and mitigating ESD in wearables, to getting your projects funded with PR stunts. Speakers include Christina Cyr, Mary West, and Mic Black.

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Clock Mod Brings Super Game Boy To Competitive Arena

For one time small window between 1994 and 1998, you could play Game Boy games in color with a Super Game Boy. This was a cartridge that plugged into a Super Nintendo, and using proprietary Lock-On™ technology, you could play Game Boy games on the big screen. Inside the Super Game Boy was the guts of a real Game Boy. This was, and still is, the best way to experience everything from Kirby’s Dream Land or the Pokemon of Kanto.

Unfortunately, the Super Game Boy doesn’t exactly replicate the Game Boy experience. The crystal in the Super Game Boy means that games and sound run between 2 and 4% faster. The Super Game Boy is out for competitive speed running, and if you’re using Little Sound DJ, you’ll be out of tune with the rest of the band. The Super Game Boy doesn’t have link cable support, either.

Now, [qwertymodo] over on Tindie has the solution to the faster Super Game Boy. It’s a clock mod, but it’s not just swapping a crystal. This is a board that solders to existing pads, and still allows you to access the speed up and slow down functions available from the Commander controller from Hori. It’s a slightly impressive bit of PCB art, and certainly something that deserves notice.

This mod fixes the 2-4% speedup of the Super Game Boy, but then there’s still one feature missing: the link cable. Well, hold on to your butts, because there’s a mod for this one too. The Super Game Boy Link Port is a small little breakout board that requires fly wires to the main chip in the Super Game Boy. The installation isn’t quite as clean as the crystal hack, but if you’re fixing the clock, you might as well add the link cable port while you’re in there.

[qwertymodo] has a comparison test of the Super Game Boy running Pokemon Red, and this thing is dead on. It runs at exactly the same speed as an original Game Boy, only in color, on a TV. You can check that out below.

Continue reading “Clock Mod Brings Super Game Boy To Competitive Arena”

Nixie Power Supply Shows Ins And Out Of Offshore Manufacturing

[Tony] built a high-efficiency power supply for Nixie tube projects. But that’s not what this post is about, really.

As you read through [Tony]’s extremely detailed post on Hackaday.io, you’ll be reading through an object lesson in electronic design that covers the entire process, from the initial concept – a really nice, reliable 170 V power supply for Nixie tubes – right through to getting the board manufactured and setting up a Tindie store to sell them.

[Tony] saw the need for a solid, well-made high-voltage supply, so it delved into data sheets and found a design that would work – as he points out, no need to reinvent the wheel. He built and tested a prototype, made a few tweaks, then took PCBWay up on their offer to stuff 10 boards for a mere $88. There were some gotchas to work around, but he got enough units to test before deciding to ramp up to production.

Things got interesting there; ordering full reels of parts like flyback transformers turned out to be really important and not that easy, and the ongoing trade war between China and the US resulted in unexpected cost increases. But FedEx snafus notwithstanding, the process of getting a 200-unit production run built and shipped seemed remarkably easy. [Tony] even details his pricing and marketing strategy for the boards, which are available on Tindie and eBay.

We learned a ton from this project, not least being how hard it is for the little guy to make a buck in this space. And still, [Tony]’s excellent documentation makes the process seem approachable enough to be attractive, if only we had a decent idea for a widget.