Merlin Pi Camera Is A Photographic Wizard

[Mister M] was quite excited to mess around with the new high-quality Raspberry Pi camera and build a project around it. Unfortunately, lockdown forced him to rummage through old tech on hand rather than hunting down a fresh eye-catching enclosure out in the wild. We spent many hours playing with one of these Merlin toys whenever six AA batteries could be spared to feed the matrix of hungry 1970s LEDs, so we would argue that [Mister M] should explore his personal stores more often.

Before we forget — it’s cool; this one was already broken. The Merlin Pi camera’s wizardry works on two levels — [Mister M] can take still pictures and record video through the GUI he built for the touchscreen, or go retro and use the little push buttons nestled in the Merlin control panel. [Mister M] worked a Dropbox uploader into the GUI, so he doesn’t have to worry about filling up the SD card with backyard bird movies in the middle of filming them.

[Mister M] says he accidentally warped the Merlin’s battery cover while trying to soak away the sticker and had to use a piece of acrylic. Although it’s unfortunate, we think it may have been for the better given the huge hole necessitated by the camera lens. Check out the build video after the break.

If you hadn’t heard about this beefy new camera module until now, our own [Jenny List] brought it into focus a couple months back and more recently had a go at hacking with it herself.

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A Wireless Controller For The Mostly Printed CNC

The Mostly Printed CNC (MPCNC) is an impressive project in its own right, allowing anyone with a 3D printer and some electrical conduit to build their own fairly heavy-duty CNC platform perfect for routing. Customization is the name of the game with the MPCNC, and few machines will look the same when they’re done. But even fewer will feature a control interface nearly as slick as the wireless handset that [Steve Croot] has put together for his.

On the hardware side, the project is fairly straightforward. Inside the 3D printed enclosure is a 4.3″ Nextion touchscreen, a Mega 2560 PRO microcontroller, a nRF24L01 2.4 GHz transceiver, and a 4000 mAh 3.7 V LiPo battery with appropriate charging circuit. Besides the physical toggle switch to turn the handheld on and off, all of the device’s functions are touch controlled. For the receiver side, [Steve] is using another nRF24L01 radio and microcontroller pair to toggle relays and shuffle the appropriate G-code commands around.

But what really makes this project shine is the software. As you can see in the video after the break, [Steve] has done an absolutely phenomenal job with the user interface on this controller. The themed boot screen and concise iconography give the controller a very professional look, and the ability to jog the machine around using taps on a virtual workspace helps keep the touch interface from being a gimmick.

We’ve seen some impressive custom-built CNC controllers over the years, but between the mostly off-the-shelf hardware used and impressive UI, we think [Steve] has created something unique. It looks like he’s keeping the source code to himself for the time being, but hopefully he sees fit to release it in the future; a project of this caliber deserves to become more than a one-off creation.

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Tap ‘N Ghost: A Novel Attack Against Smartphone Touchscreens

Researchers have demonstrated a new vulnerability in NFC, a feature built-in to many smartphones sold today. The vulnerability allows the attacker to to generate ‘ghost taps’ against a device, effectively allowing an attacker to tap your phone without you looking.

The 18-page paper released by a team of three researchers based out of Waseda University in Japan consists of two techniques: an attack against NFC-enabled smartphones and an attack against capacitive touchscreens. It should be noted that nearly all phones have NFC, and nearly every phone released in the last decade has a capacitive touchscreen. Vunlnerable devices include, but are not limited to the Xperia Z4, the Galaxy S6 Edge, the Galaxy S4, Aquos Zeta SH-04F, Nexus 9, and Nexus 7.

The experimental setup consists of a signal generator, high-speed bipolar amplifier, a small transformer (taken from a toy plasma ball), a copper sheet, oscilloscope with high-voltage probe, and an NFC card emulator. No other special equipment is required. When the victim places their smartphone on a table top, the phone is fingerprinted, giving the attacker the make and model of phone. A dialog box then pops up and the phone connects to a network.

This attack can be replicated by anyone, and the tools required are simple and readily available. The mitigation is to disable NFC on your phone.

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No Keyboard Needed, This Laptop Is All Screens

If you have an eye for obscure Microsoft products, you may be aware of the Microsoft PixelSense, a table-sized horizontal touchscreen designed as a collaborative workspace. It’s a multi-user computer with no traditional keyboard or mouse, instead multiple users work with documents and other files as though they were real documents on a table. It’s an impressive piece of technology, and it was the first thing that came to mind when we saw [Anitomicals C]’s dual screen portable computer. It has a form factor similar to a large laptop, in which the touchscreen folds upwards to reveal not a conventional keyboard and trackpad, but another identical touchscreen. The entire surface of the computer is a touch display with a desktop propagated across it, and in a similar way to the Microsoft product the user can work exclusively in the touch environment without some of the limitations of a tablet.

He freely admits that it is a prototype and proof of concept, and that is obvious from its large size and extensive use of desktop components. But he has brought it together in a very tidy Perspex case serving as an interesting class in creating a portable computer with well-chosen desktop components, even though with no battery it does not pretend to fit the same niche as a laptop. We’d be interested to see the same interface produced as a less bulky desktop-only version with solely the two monitors, because the horizontal touch screen is what sets this machine apart from other home-made ones.

Home made laptops are a regular sight on these pages, but some of them are a little more rough-and-ready.

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Portable Photo Booth Named Buzz

We’re all used to posing for a picture — or a selfie — but there’s something about photo booths that make getting your photo taken an exciting and urgent affair. To make this experience a bit easier to tote about, Redditor [pedro_g_s] has laboriously built, from the ground up, a mobile photo booth named Buzz.

He needed a touchscreen, a Raspberry Pi, almost definitely a webcam, and a 3D printer to make a case — although any medium you choose will do — to build this ‘booth.’ That said, he’s built the app in a way that a touchscreen isn’t necessary, but carting around a mouse to connect to and operate your portable photo booth seems a bit beside the point. On the back end, he used Electron to code the photo booth app, React helped him build a touchscreen UI, and Yarn kept the necessary dependencies in order.

Operation is simple, and every time a photo is taken it is sent to and collated within a previously set-up email service. To set it up, [pedro_g_s] is here to guide you through the process.

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Upgrade Your Mac With A Touchscreen, For Only A Dollar

Imagine how hard it could be to add a touch screen to a Mac laptop. You’re thinking expensive and difficult, right? How could [Anish] and his friends possibly manage to upgrade their Mac with a touchscreen for only a dollar? That just doesn’t seem possible.

The trick, of course, is software. By mounting a small mirror over the machine’s webcam, using stiff card, hot glue, and a door hinge. By looking at the screen and deciding whether the image of a finger is touching its on-screen reflection, a remarkably simple touch screen can be created, and the promise of it only costing a dollar becomes a reality. We have to salute them for coming up with such an elegant solution.

They have a video which we’ve put below the break, showing a few simple applications for their interface. Certainly a lot less bother than a more traditional conversion.

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Crankshaft: Open Source Car Computer

Modern cars and head units are pretty fancy gadget-wise. But what if your car still has an 8-track? No problem. Just pick up a Raspberry Pi 3 and a seven-inch touchscreen, and use Crankshaft to turn it into an Android Auto setup.

The open source project is based on OpenAuto which, in turn, leverages aasdk. The advantage to Crankshaft is it is a plug-and-play distribution. However, if you prefer, you can build it all yourself from GitHub.

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