Using Open Source to Train your Dog

An open-source canine training research tool was just been released by [Walter Arce] and [Jeffrey Stevens] at the University of Nebraska — Lincoln’s Canine Cognition and Human Interaction Lab (C-CHIL).

We didn’t realize that dog training research techniques were so high-tech. Operant conditioning, as opposed to Pavlovian, gives a positive reward, in this case dog treats, to reinforce a desired behavior. Traditionally operant conditioning involved dispensing the treat manually and some devices do exist using wireless remote controls, but they are still manually operated and can give inconsistent results (too many or too few treats). There weren’t any existing methods available to automate this process, so this team decided to rectify the situation.

They took a commercial treat dispenser and retro-fitted it with an interface board that taps into the dispenser’s IR sensors to detect that the hopper is moving and treats were actually dispensed. The interface board connects to a Raspberry Pi which serves as a full-featured platform to run the tests. In this demonstration it connects to an HDMI monitor, detecting touches from the dog’s nose to correlate with events onscreen. Future researchers won’t have to reinvent the wheel, just redesign the test itself, because [Walter] and [Jeffrey] have released all the firmware and hardware as open-source on the lab’s GitHub repository.

In the short video clip below, watch the dog as he gets a treat when he taps the white dot with his snout. If you look closely, at one point the dog briefly moves the mouse pointer as well. We predict by next year the C-CHIL researchers will have this fellow drawing pictures and playing checkers.

This isn’t the first animal behavior hack we’ve seen this month. Check out [Hans’] feeder that trains birds to clean up bottlecaps.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/31/using-open-source-to-train-your-dog/

School Project Turns Plastic Waste Into Bricks

Many plastics are, in theory at least, highly recyclable. Unfortunately, in reality, most plastic ends up as waste instead, harming the environment and providing no ongoing value to society. Wanting to investigate possible ways to repurpose this material, [Rehaan33] built a rig to create bricks out of waste plastic for a school project.

The aim of the project is to take waste plastic, in this case high-impact polystyrene, and reform it into a brick that could be used as a low-cost building material. The material is shredded, before being packed into a steel mould and heated to 270 degrees in an oven. As polystyrene is a thermoplastic, it can readily be heated in this way for reforming without harming the material’s properties. Once heated, the mould is placed into the press rig, which uses parts of an old drill press to force down a steel plate, helping shape the final form of the brick.

While you’re unlikely to see old soda bottles used to build a skyscraper in New York any time soon, such techniques could be a good way to help eliminate plastic waste in impoverished areas and stem the flow of plastic into the world’s oceans. The project served as a useful learning experience, allowing [Rehaan33] to pick up skills in metalworking, machine design, and working with thermoplastics. Recycling plastics is a key area of interest for many, particularly in the 3D printing space, with many exploring ways to reuse thermoplastics in more efficient ways. If you’ve got your own project turning waste plastics into useful material, be sure to let us know!

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/31/school-project-turns-plastic-waste-into-bricks/

Nerf Blaster Becomes Light Gun Controller

Traditional light guns rely on quirks of CRT technology, and thus don’t play well with modern LCD televisions and monitors. However, die hard retro gamers aren’t known for moving on from the classics, and have persevered to build new hardware to suit the games of old. In just this vein, [BrittLiv] grabbed some Nerf blasters, and built a pair of light guns that work with today’s hardware.

The build relies on Ultramarc’s light gun kits, which work in a similar way to the original Wiimote. A camera inside the blaster is used to triangulate an LED bar placed on top of the screen for clean and accurate tracking. [BrittLiv] combined the Ultramarc kit with some clever hacks to a Nerf DoubleStrike blaster, stealthily hiding the buttons inside to interface with the original trigger and cocking mechanism, as well as the locking tab in the rail.

There’s both a wired and wireless version, and the setup looks to be a great way to enjoy classics like Duck Hunt and Point Blank. The blasters work great with common platforms like MAME and RetroPi as the Ultramarc hardware emulates a standard USB mouse.

We’ve seen some wild light gun hacks before, like this build that uses cameras and maths to make things work without an LED bar at all! Video after the break.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/31/nerf-blaster-becomes-light-gun-controller/

Ubuntu (Finally) Officially Lands on the Raspberry Pi. But Will Anyone Notice?

The Raspberry Pi has been with us for over eight years now, and during that time it has seen a myriad operating system ports. It seems that almost anything can be run on the little computer, but generally the offerings have seen minority uptake in the face of the officially supported Raspbian, or as it’s now called, Raspberry Pi OS.

Maybe that could change, with the arrival of an Ubuntu release for the platform. For those of you pointing out that this is nothing new, what makes the new version 20.10 release special is that it’s the first official full Ubuntu release, rather than an unofficial port.

So Raspberry Pi 4 owners can now install the same full-fat Ubuntu they have on their PCs, and with the same official Ubuntu support. What does this really do for them that Raspberry Pi OS doesn’t? Underneath they share Debian underpinnings, and they both benefit from a huge quantity of online resources should the user find themselves in trouble. Their repositories both contain almost every reasonable piece of software that could be imagined, so the average Pi user might be forgiven for a little confusion.

We don’t expect this news to take the Pi desktop world by storm then. Ubuntu is a powerful distribution, but it’s fair to say that it is not the least bloated among distributions, and that some of its quirks such as Snap applications leave many users underwhelmed. By contrast Raspberry Pi OS is relatively lightweight, and crucially it’s optimised for the Pi. Its entire support base online is specific to the Pi hardware, so the seeker of solutions need not worry about encountering some quirk in an explanation that pertains only to PC platforms.

It’s fair to say though, that this release is almost certainly not targeted at the casual desktop user. We’d expect that instead it will be in the Ubuntu portfolio for commercial and enterprise users, and in particular for the new Raspberry Pi 4 Compute Module in which it will no doubt form the underpinnings of many products without their owners ever realising it.

[via OMG Ubuntu]

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/31/ubuntu-finally-officially-lands-on-the-raspberry-pi-but-will-anyone-notice/

Altair Front Panel Tutorials

If you aren’t old enough to remember when computers had front panels, as [Patrick Jackson] found out after he built a replica Altair 8800, their operation can be a bit inscrutable. After figuring it out he made a pair of videos showing the basics, and then progressing to a program to add two numbers.

Even when the Altair was new, the days of front panels were numbered. Cheap terminals were on their way and MITS soon released a “turnkey” system that didn’t have a front panel. But anyone who had used a minicomputer from the late 1960s or early 1970s really thought you needed a front panel.

You may never program an Altair by the front panel, but it is still an interesting glimpse into what computing looked like only a few decades ago. While you might think that the front panel was a mere curiosity, it was not unusual to have to key in a bootloader program manually so you could then load other software — often a better bootloader — from paper or magnetic tape. Some computers even had the early bootloader code printed on the front panel for reference.

A front panel can also help you debug programs and hardware problems since you are probably looking right at the bus in a real computer. Of course, with an emulator, the emulator is just driving the front panel for make-believe, but it still works the same way.

We did our own front panel tutorial for the PDP/8. The operation is similar, but not exactly the same. The front panel for the BLUE computer was especially fun because it used the limited lights and switches available to the FPGA board it lived on. You can see it in a video in this post about the real-world implementation of a fake educational computer.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/altair-front-panel-tutorials/

Easy-SDR Gets Updates

Back in 2018, we covered [Igor’s] Easy-SDR project that aimed to provide open hardware extensions for the chap RTL-SDR receivers. If you haven’t been there for a while, it’s worth a look as there have been many recent updates. According to the author’s Reddit post:

  1. Most of the devices are now prepared for installation in a metal case measuring 80 x 50 x 20 millimeters.
  2. There’s a completely redesigned LNA design. Now, Bias Tee powered amplifiers are housed in a 50 x 25 x 25mm metal case and have N-type connectors.
  3. There’s an added amplifier based on the PGA-103 microcircuit.
  4. Added is the ability to install filters in final amplifiers (a separate printed circuit board, depending on the filter used).
  5. A new device – SPDT antenna switch for receiving antennas.
  6. The upconverter has been redesigned. Added intermediate buffer stage between the crystal generator and mixer.
  7. RF lines in all devices were recalculated to correspond to the characteristic wave impedance of 50 Ohm.
  8. Reduced size of PI attenuator PCB.

There is an emphasis on ease of assembly, so the projects generally have a gerber file and can use through hole or surface mount parts. They are also available live on EasyEDA if you want to make changes. Some of the designs, like the new upconverter, are SMD only, but for some devices these days that’s your only choice.

We were impressed with the instructions included with some of the projects. It should be very possible to duplicate these projects with just a little effort. If you missed our first pass at [Igor’s] great repo, you can still catch up. Since he uses EasyEDA, you might want to read our experience with that, too.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/easy-sdr-gets-updates/

Cryptic Calendar Makes For A Useful Wall Ornament

Hackers love a good clock build, but its longer term cousin, the calendar, is more seldom seen in the wild. Regardless, they can be just as useful and elegant a project, as this cryptic design from [Wolfspaw] demonstrates.

The project consists of a series of rotating wheels, displaying a series of arcane symbols. When the markings on the wheel align correctly with the viewing window, they display the date, month, and day of the week, respectively. The wheels themselves are fitted with 3D printed gear rings, which are turned by stepper motors under the control of an Arduino Nano. Hall effect sensors and magnets are used to keep everything appropriately aligned, while a DS3231 real time clock handles timekeeping duties.

It’s a tidy build, and we think the cryptic design adds a little mystery, making this an excellent conversation piece. The build is actually a remix of a project we’ve featured before, scaled and given a unique twist to suit [Wolfspaw]’s own personal aesthetic. Video after the break.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/cryptic-calendar-makes-for-a-useful-wall-ornament/

Adding Remote Control to the Elegoo Mars Pro

Recent price drops put entry level masked stereolithography (MSLA) resin 3D printers at around $200 USD, making them a very compelling tool for makers and hackers. But as you might expect, getting the price this low often involves cutting several corners. One of the ways manufacturers have made their machines so cheap is by simplifying the electronics and paring down the feature set to the absolute minimum.

So it was hardly a surprise for [Luiz Ribeiro] to find that his new Elegoo Mars Pro didn’t offer WiFi connectivity or a remote control interface. You’re supposed to just stick a USB flash drive into the printer and select the object you want to print from its menu system. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t hack the capability in himself.

Marsnet Detail
Monitoring a print with Mariner.

If this were a traditional 3D printer, he might have installed OctoPrint and been done with it. But resin printers are a very different beast. In the end, [Luiz] had to develop his own remote control software that worked around the unique limitations of the printer’s electronics. His software runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero and uses Linux’s “USB Gadget” system to make it appear as a flash drive when plugged into the USB port on the Elegoo Mars Pro.

This allows sending object files to the printer over the network, but there was a missing piece to the puzzle. [Luiz] still needed to manually go over to the printer and select which file he wanted to load from the menu. Until he realized there was an exposed serial port on control board that allowed him to pass commands to the printer. Between the serial connection and faux USB Mass Storage device, his mariner software has full control over the Mars Pro and is able to trigger and monitor print jobs remotely.

It might not offer quite the flexibility of adding OctoPrint to your FDM 3D printer, but it’s certainly a start.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/adding-remote-control-to-the-elegoo-mars-pro/

Hackaday Podcast 091: Louisville Exploder, Generating Japanese Joinery, Relay Retrocomputer Rally, and Chop the Robopup

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams dig through the greatest hacks that ought not be missed this week. There’s a wild one that flexes engineering skills instead of muscles to beat the homerun distance record with an explosively charged bat. A more elegant use of those engineering chops is shown in a CNC software tool that produces intricate wood joinery without needing an overly fancy machine to fabricate it. If your flesh and blood pets aren’t keeping up with your interests, there’s a new robot dog on the scene that far outperforms its constituent parts which are 3D-printed and of the Pi and Arduino varieties. And just when you thought you’d seen all the craziest retrocomputers, here’s an electromechanical relay based machine that took six years to build (although there’s so much going on here that it should have taken sixteen).

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~60 MB)

Places to follow Hackaday podcasts:

Episode 091 Show Notes:

New This Week:

Interesting Hacks of the Week:

Quick Hacks:

Can’t-Miss Articles:

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/hackaday-podcast-091-louisville-exploder-generating-japanese-joinery-relay-retrocomputer-rally-and-chop-the-robopup/

ESP8266 Does RC Without the Transmitter

While the cost of a hobby-grade remote control transmitter has dropped significantly over the last decade or so, even the basic models are still relatively expensive. It’s not such a big deal if you only need to get one for personal use, but for a school to outfit a classroom’s worth of students their own radios, they’d need to have a serious STEM budget.

Which is why [Miharix], himself an educator with a decade of experience, developed a project that leverages the ESP8266 to create affordable RC vehicles that can be controlled with a smartphone’s web browser. There’s a bit of irony at play since the smartphones are more expensive than the RC transmitters would have been; but with more and more school-age kids having their own mobile devices, it takes the cost burden off of the educators. Depending on the age of the students, the teacher would only need to keep a couple of burner phones on hand for student that doesn’t have a device of their own.

Wifirc Detail
A custom PCB makes connections easier for students.

In its fully realized form, the project uses an open hardware board that allows standard RC hobby servos to be connected to the GPIO pins of a ESP-12E module. But if you don’t want to go through the trouble of building the custom hardware, you could put something similar together with an ESP development board. From there it’s just a matter of installing the firmware, which starts up a server providing a touch-based controller interface that’s perfect for a smartphone’s screen.

Since the ESP8266 pops up as an Access Point that client devices can connect to, you don’t even need to have an existing network in place. Or Internet access, for that matter. [Miharix] says that in tests, the range between a common smartphone and the ESP8266 is approximately 85 meters (260 feet), which should be more than enough to get the job done.

In the videos after the break you can see this system being used with an RC car and boat, though the only limit to what you could control with this project is your own imagination.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/esp8266-does-rc-without-the-transmitter/

ESP8266 Does RC Without the Transmitter

While the cost of a hobby-grade remote control transmitter has dropped significantly over the last decade or so, even the basic models are still relatively expensive. It’s not such a big deal if you only need to get one for personal use, but for a school to outfit a classroom’s worth of students their own radios, they’d need to have a serious STEM budget.

Which is why [Miharix], himself an educator with a decade of experience, developed a project that leverages the ESP8266 to create affordable RC vehicles that can be controlled with a smartphone’s web browser. There’s a bit of irony at play since the smartphones are more expensive than the RC transmitters would have been; but with more and more school-age kids having their own mobile devices, it takes the cost burden off of the educators. Depending on the age of the students, the teacher would only need to keep a couple of burner phones on hand for student that doesn’t have a device of their own.

Wifirc Detail
A custom PCB makes connections easier for students.

In its fully realized form, the project uses an open hardware board that allows standard RC hobby servos to be connected to the GPIO pins of a ESP-12E module. But if you don’t want to go through the trouble of building the custom hardware, you could put something similar together with an ESP development board. From there it’s just a matter of installing the firmware, which starts up a server providing a touch-based controller interface that’s perfect for a smartphone’s screen.

Since the ESP8266 pops up as an Access Point that client devices can connect to, you don’t even need to have an existing network in place. Or Internet access, for that matter. [Miharix] says that in tests, the range between a common smartphone and the ESP8266 is approximately 85 meters (260 feet), which should be more than enough to get the job done.

In the videos after the break you can see this system being used with an RC car and boat, though the only limit to what you could control with this project is your own imagination.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/esp8266-does-rc-without-the-transmitter/

ESP8266 Does RC Without the Transmitter

While the cost of a hobby-grade remote control transmitter has dropped significantly over the last decade or so, even the basic models are still relatively expensive. It’s not such a big deal if you only need to get one for personal use, but for a school to outfit a classroom’s worth of students their own radios, they’d need to have a serious STEM budget.

Which is why [Miharix], himself an educator with a decade of experience, developed a project that leverages the ESP8266 to create affordable RC vehicles that can be controlled with a smartphone’s web browser. There’s a bit of irony at play since the smartphones are more expensive than the RC transmitters would have been; but with more and more school-age kids having their own mobile devices, it takes the cost burden off of the educators. Depending on the age of the students, the teacher would only need to keep a couple of burner phones on hand for student that doesn’t have a device of their own.

Wifirc Detail
A custom PCB makes connections easier for students.

In its fully realized form, the project uses an open hardware board that allows standard RC hobby servos to be connected to the GPIO pins of a ESP-12E module. But if you don’t want to go through the trouble of building the custom hardware, you could put something similar together with an ESP development board. From there it’s just a matter of installing the firmware, which starts up a server providing a touch-based controller interface that’s perfect for a smartphone’s screen.

Since the ESP8266 pops up as an Access Point that client devices can connect to, you don’t even need to have an existing network in place. Or Internet access, for that matter. [Miharix] says that in tests, the range between a common smartphone and the ESP8266 is approximately 85 meters (260 feet), which should be more than enough to get the job done.

In the videos after the break you can see this system being used with an RC car and boat, though the only limit to what you could control with this project is your own imagination.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/esp8266-does-rc-without-the-transmitter/

This Week in Security: Discord, Chromium, and WordPress Forced Updates

[Masato Kinugawa] found a series of bugs that, when strung together, allowed remote code execution in the Discord desktop app. Discord’s desktop application is an Electron powered app, meaning it’s a web page rendered on a bundled light-weight browser. Building your desktop apps on JavaScript certainly makes life easier for developers, but it also means that you inherit all the problems from running a browser and JS. There’s a joke in there about finally achieving full-stack JavaScript.

The big security problem with Electron is that a simple Cross Site Scripting (XSS) bug is suddenly running in the context of the desktop, instead of the browser. Yes, there is a sandboxing option, but that has to be manually enabled.

And that brings us to the first bug. Neither the sandbox nor the contextIsolation options were set, and so both defaulted to false. What does this setting allow an attacker to do? Because the front-end and back-end JavaScript runs in the same context, it’s possible for an XSS attack to override JS functions. If those functions are then called by the back-end, they have full access to Node.js functions, including exec(), at which point the escape is complete.

Now that we know how to escape Electron’s web browser, what can we use for an XSS attack? The answer is automatic iframe embeds. For an example, just take a look at the exploit demo below. On the back-end, all I have to do is paste in the YouTube link, and the WordPress editor does its magic, automatically embedding the video in an iframe. Discord does the same thing for a handful of different services, one being Sketchfab.

This brings us to vulnerability #2. Sketchfab embeds have an XSS vulnerability. A specially crafted sketchfab file can run some JS whenever a user interacts with the embedded player, which can be shoehorned into discord. We’re almost there, but there is still a problem remaining. This code is running in the context of an iframe, not the primary thread, so we still can’t override functions for a full escape. To actually get a full RCE, we need to trigger a navigation to a malicious URL in the primary pageview, and not just the iframe. There’s already code to prevent an iframe from redirecting the top page, so this RCE is a bust, right?

Enter bug #3. If the top page and the iframe are on different domains, the code preventing navigation never fires. In this case, JavaScript running in an iframe can redirect the top page to a malicious site, which can then override core JS functions, leading to a full escape to RCE.

It’s a very clever chaining of vulnerabilities, from the Discord app, to an XSS in Sketchfab, to a bug within Electron itself. While this particular example required interacting with the embedded iframe, it’s quite possible that another vulnerable service has an XSS bug that doesn’t require interaction. In any case, if you use Discord on the desktop, make sure the app is up to date. And then, enjoy the demo of the attack, embedded below.

Chromium Freetype Overflow

Chromium 86 has a fix for a particularly nasty bug. Tracked as CVE-2020-15999, this is a bug in how FreeType fonts are rendered. Now that Microsoft has switched to Edgium (Chromium powered Edge), we get two-for-one deals on Chromium vulnerabilities. This bug is interesting because it’s reportedly being actively exploited already. Google has marked the bug public, so we can take a closer look at exactly what happened.

The problem is in the FreeType library, regarding how fonts are handled when they contain embedded PNGs. To put it simply, the PNG width and height are stored in the font as 32-bit values, but those values are truncated to 16-bit before the buffer is allocated. After this, the PNG is copied to the buffer, but using the non-truncated values. A check is then performed to make sure the copy didn’t overflow, but unhelpfully, this was checked *after* the copy had taken place. The bug includes a test case, so feel free to go check your devices using that code. It’s not clear how long this bug has existed, but it’s possible it also affects Android’s System WebView, which is much slower to update.

Step-by-step of Chrome Exploit

[Man Yue Mo] recently published a detailed report on a Use-After-Free Chrome bug he discovered back in March, tracked as CVE-2020-6449. What makes this one worth looking at is the detailed account he gives us of the process of developing a working exploit from the bug. The whole account is a masterclass in abusing JavaScript to manipulate the state of the underlying engine. As a bonus, he gives us a link to the PoC exploit code to look at, too.

FBI Warning

The FBI, along with CISA and HHS, has issued a warning (PDF) about an ongoing redoubling of ransomware attacks against US hospitals and other healthcare providers. This attack is using the Trickbot malware and the Ryuk ransomware. They also note the use of DNS tunneling for data exfiltration, and specifically mention Point of Sale systems as a target.

The mitigation steps are particularly interesting in trying to read between the lines here. Before we look too deeply, I have to call out an outdated piece of advice: “Regularly change passwords”. This has been the bane of many users and administrators, and leads to weaker security, not stronger. With that out of the way, let’s look at the other recommendations.

A few recommendations are boiler-plate, like two-factor authentication, install security updates, have backups, etc. I was surprised to see the recommendation to allow local administration, in order to get things working again. What might be the most interesting is the recommendation to take a hard look at any RDP services that are running. Does this mean that some healthcare PoS system is running an out-of-date Windows, with a vulnerable RDP service open to the network by default, and it’s suddenly being targeted? Maybe. I’ve learned not to put too much stock in these advisories, unless actual details are given, and this particular example is quite light on details.

Loginizer’s SQL Injection

The popular Loginizer WordPress plugin is intended to protect your site’s login page from attack. It can add two-factor authentication, CAPTCHAs for repeated login attempts, and even detect brute-force attempts and blacklist the offending IP. That last one is where the problem lies. Incoming login attempts are logged to a SQL database, and that logging wasn’t properly sanitized, nor were prepared statements used. Because of this, the login page was subject to a very simple SQL injection attack. The Lesson? Sanitize your inputs, and use prepared statements! The latest update fixes this, as well as a separate but similar security issue.

What makes this bug novel is that WordPress found it a big enough problem to break the glass and push the big red button labeled “Force Update”. I didn’t know the folks at WordPress had a button that did that, but for particularly bad bugs like this one, it’s a useful capability. A few users complained that this update was installed even though they had auto-updates disabled. It’s a fine line to walk here, but it seems like WordPress should make it clear in the settings that this feature exists, and include a way to opt-out of forced updates like this one.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/this-week-in-security-discord-chromium-and-wordpress-forced-updates/

Color E-Ink Display Photo Frame Pranks [Mom]

As a general rule, it’s not nice to prank your mother. Moms have a way of exacting subtle revenge, generally in the form of guilt. That’s not to say it might not be worth the effort, especially when the prank is actually wrapped in a nice gesture, like this ever-changing e-paper family photo frame.

The idea the [CNLohr] had was made possible by a new generation of multicolor e-paper displays by Waveshare. The display [Charles] chose was a generous 5.65″ unit with a total of seven colors. A little hacking revealed an eighth color was possible, adding a little more depth to the images. The pictures need a little pre-processing first, of course — dithering to accommodate the limited palette — but look surprisingly good on the display. They have a sort of stylized look, as if they were printed on a textured paper with muted inks.

The prank idea was simple — present [Mrs. Lohr] with a cherished family photo to display, only to find out that it had changed to another photo overnight. The gaslighting attempt required a bit more hacking, including some neat tricks to keep the power consumption very low. It was also a bit of a squeeze to get it into a frame that was slim enough not to arouse suspicion. The video below details some of the challenges involved in this build.

In the end, [Mom] wasn’t tricked, but she still seemed pleased with the final product. These displays seem like they could be a lot of fun — perhaps a version of the very-slow-motion player but for color movies would be doable.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/color-e-ink-display-photo-frame-pranks-mom/

Crowd Funded Jumping Cubes

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently contributed their Int-Ball  technology to a Kickstarter campaign operated by the Japanese electronics manufacturer / distributor Bit Trade One (Japanese site). This technology is based on the Cubli project out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), which we covered back in 2013. The Cubli-based technology has been appearing in various projects since then, including the Nonlinear Mechatronic Cube in 2016.  Alas, the current JAXA-based “3-Axis Attitude Control Module” project doesn’t have a catchy name — yet.

One interesting application of these jumping cubes, presumably how JAXA got involved with these devices, is a floating video camera that was put to use on board the International Space Station (ISS) in 2017.  The version being offered by the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t include the cameras, and you will need to provide your own a gravity-free environment to duplicate that application.  Instead, they seem to be marketing this for educational uses.  You’d better dig deep in your wallet if you want one — a fully assembled unit requires a pledge of over $5000 ( there is a “some assembly required” kit that can save you about $1000 ).  Most of us won’t be backing this project for that reason alone, but it is nice to see the march of progress of such a cool technology:  from inception to space applications to becoming available to the general public.  Thanks to [Lincoln Uehara] for sending in this tip.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/30/crowd-funded-jumping-cubes/

N64 Power Adapter Works Around The World

Modern electronics such as phone and laptop chargers are pretty versatile no matter where you find yourself in the world. Capable of running off anything from 100-250V, all you need is a socket adaptor and you’re good to go. Video game consoles of the 1990s weren’t so flexible however. [MattKC] was tired of messing around with step down transformers to run his US market N64, and decided to rectify this, building a universal adapter to run the console instead.

It’s a proper hacked build, assembled out of a jumble of old parts. An broken N64 power adapter was harvested for its case and unique DC plug, which carries 12V and 3.3V to the console. Few compact power supplies exist delivering this pair of voltages, so [MattKC] got creative. An old router was sourced for its 12V 2A supply, and was combined with a 3.3V buck converter to supply both rails. With some creative bodging and plenty of mounting tape, the supplies were crammed inside the original case and wired up to the original jack and a figure 8 cable, allowing easy socket changes in different countries without the use of ugly adapters.

While few of us routinely travel with 25 year old Nintendo consoles, for those that do, the convenience of a single universal supply can’t be overstated. Fitting a step-down transformer into carry-on luggage simply isn’t practical, after all. We’ve featured similar hacks as far back as 2006, or more recently, a project seeking to rebuild a new PSU for the venerable Amiga 500. Video after the break.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/29/n64-power-adapter-works-around-the-world/

A Look Behind the “Big Boards” at Mission Control in the Golden Age of NASA

Certified space-nerd and all-around retro-tech guru [Fran Blanche] has just outdone herself with a comprehensive look at how NASA ran the Mission Control “Big Boards” that provided flight data for controllers for Apollo and for the next 20 years of manned spaceflight.

We’ve got to admit, [Fran] surprised us with this one. We had always assumed that the graphs and plots displayed in front of the rows of mint-green consoles and their skinny-tie wearing engineers were video projections using eidophor projectors. And to be sure, an eidophor, the tech of which [Jenny] profiled a while back, was used on one of the screens to feed video into Mission Control, either live from the Moon or from coverage of the launch and recovery operations. But even a cursory glance at the other screens in front of “The Pit” shows projections of a crispness and clarity that was far beyond what 1960s video could achieve.

Instead, plots and diagrams were projected into the rear of the massive screens using a completely electromechanical system. Glass and metal stencils were used to project the icons, maps, and grids, building up images layer by layer. Colors for each layer were obtained by the use of dichroic filters, and icons were physically moved to achieve animations. Graphs and plots were created Etch-a-Sketch style, with a servo-controlled stylus cutting through slides made opaque with a thin layer of metal. The whole thing is wonderfully complex, completely hacky, and a great example of engineering around the limits of technology.

Hats off to [Fran] for digging into this forgotten bit of Space Race tech. Seeing something like this makes the Mission Control centers of today look downright boring by comparison.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/29/a-look-behind-the-big-boards-at-mission-control-in-the-golden-age-of-nasa/

Nightmare Robot Only Moves When You Look Away

What could be more terrifying than ghosts, goblins, or clowns? How about a shapeless pile of fright on your bedroom floor that only moves when you’re not looking at it? That’s the idea behind [Sciencish]’s nightmare robot, which is lurking after the break. The Minecraft spider outfit is just a Halloween costume.

In this case, “looking at it” equates to you shining a flashlight on it, trying to figure out what’s under the pile of clothes. But here’s the thing — it never moves when light is shining on it. It quickly figures out the direction of the light source and lies in wait. After you give up and turn out the flashlight, it spins around to where the light was and starts moving in that direction.

The brains of this operation is an Arduino Uno, four light-dependent resistors, and a little bit of trigonometry to find the direction of the light source. The robot itself uses two steppers and printed herringbone gears for locomotion. Its chassis has holes in it that accept filament or wire to make a cage that serves two purposes — it makes the robot into more of an amorphous blob under the clothes, and it helps keep clothes from getting twisted up in the wheels. Check out the demo and build video after the break, because this thing is freaky fast and completely creepy.

While we usually see a candy-dispensing machine or two every Halloween, this year has been more about remote delivery systems. Don’t just leave sandwich bags full of fun size candy bars all over your porch, build a candy cannon or a spooky slide instead.

Via r/duino

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/29/nightmare-robot-only-moves-when-you-look-away/

A Clock From An Electricity Meter

Electric utilities across the world have been transitioning their meters from the induction analog style with a distinctive spinning disc to digital “smart” meters which aren’t as aesthetically pleasing but do have a lot of benefits for utilities and customers alike. For one, meter readers don’t need to visit each meter every month because they are all networked together and can download usage data remotely. For another, it means a lot of analog meters are now available for projects such as this clock from [Monta].

The analog meters worked by passing any electricity used through a small induction motor which spun at a rate proportional to the amount of energy passing through it. This small motor spun a set of dials via gearing in order to keep track of the energy usage in the home or business. To run the clock, [Monta] connected a stepper motor with a custom transmission to those dials for the clock face because it wasn’t possible to spin the induction motor fast enough to drive the dials. An Arduino controls that stepper motor, but can’t simply drive the system in a linear fashion because it needs to skip a large portion of the “minutes” dials every hour. A similar problem arises for the “hours” dials, but a little bit of extra code solves this problem as well.

Once the actual clock is finished, [Monta] put some finishing touches on it such as backlighting in the glass cover and a second motor to spin the induction motor wheel to make the meter look like it’s running. It’s a well-polished build that makes excellent use of some antique hardware, much like one of his other builds we’ve seen which draws its power from a Stirling engine.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/29/a-clock-from-an-electricity-meter/

Massive Battle Bot Needs Equally Chunky Custom-Molded Wheels

We’ve all run into situations where the right part for the job isn’t something that you can just buy off the shelf. In a lot of cases, 3D-printing is the cure for that problem, but sometimes you need to go big with tough parts for a tough job. These custom molded urethane battlebot wheels are a great example of that. (Video, embedded below.)

The robotic warrior in question is “Copperhead”, a heavyweight death-dealer that has competed on the “BattleBots” show on TV. It’s an incredibly stout machine with a ridiculous 50 pound (23 kg) drum of spinning tool-steel on the front to disassemble competitors. Add to that the sheer mass of the bot’s armor plating and running gear, throw in the need to withstand the punishment meted out by equally diabolical weapons, and standard wheels are not going to fly.

As [Robert Cowan] details in the video below, nothing but the sturdiest wheels will do, so the bot builders mold custom wheels with integrated hubs. The four-piece mold was machined out of aluminum to hold the plastic hubs, which were also machined but could easily have been 3D-printed. Polyurethane resin is poured in and adheres to the plastic hub better than we’d have thought it would: enough so to avoid coming apart despite some pretty severe blows. The whole casting process is a good watch, as is the overview of Copperhead’s design. And watching it tear apart “War Hawk” was a treat too.

You may not be building battle bots, but a scaled-down version of this process could be a handy trick to have stored away for someday.

Thanks for the tip, [Zane Atkins].

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/29/massive-battle-bot-needs-equally-chunky-custom-molded-wheels/

DIY Regular Expressions

In the Star Wars universe, not everyone uses a lightsabe, and those who do wield them had to build them themselves. There’s something to be said about that strategy. Building a car or a radio is a great way to learn how those things work. That’s what [Low Level JavaScript] points out about regular expressions. Sure, a lot of people think they are scary. So why not write your own regular expression parser and engine? Get that under your belt and you’ll probably never fear another regular expression.

Of course, most of us probably won’t do it ourselves, but you can still watch the process in the video below. The code is surprisingly short, but don’t expect all the bells and whistles you might find in Python or even Perl.

In the hands of the skilled, regular expressions are very powerful and offer a quick way to split apart text data. Like a lot of powerful ideas, the basic concept — that of a finite state machine — is really simple. It is the application to real problems that becomes difficult.

If you want a primer on regular expressions that doesn’t require you to write your own tools, we have had a few posts that can help. If you just want some practice, try a crossword puzzle.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/29/diy-regular-expressions/

This Z80 Computer Bootstraps Itself

[Plasmode] has created several Z80-compatible board designs, at least four of them using the oddball Z280. The Z280 was a special variant of a Z80 that could bootstrap itself with no external PROM, making it ideal for anyone trying to build a system on a breadboard. According to his post, the cost to build the board is about $35.

Although the 8080 CPU got a lot of glory, it was much harder to use than the Zilog Z80. The Z80 only required a single clock and power supply, so it was much easier to build a system, even on a breadboard. On top of that, the bus wasn’t multiplexed and it could refresh DRAM memory by itself. Maybe that’s why you can still get Z80-derived chips readily. There was one thing, though, you needed an EPROM or some other way to run some initial code to bootstrap your system. Zilog knew this a problem. In those days, you had to use a special tool to burn a PROM and unless it was erasable (and you had the special UV light to erase it), any mistakes cost you a chip.

With the Z280, it was possible to load files via the bootloader to make the device program its own EPROM, as this board does. The bootloader is simple. It loads 256 bytes of memory from the serial port and runs it. The chip has two modes with a 16-bit data bus and 24 address bits. However, it can also operate in a Z80-compatible mode. The chip had many innovative features like a memory management unit and cache, but failed to become a success.

As a CP/M board, though, this should be an easy build. The CPU runs with a 12 MHz bus and has a cool megabyte of memory split between RAM and EPROM. There’s a 44-pin IDE interface and two RC2014 expansion connectors.

While $35 doesn’t seem like much, you can get by with a lot less using a classic Z80. If you don’t mind using an Arduino for support, you can spend as little as $4.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/28/this-z80-computer-bootstraps-itself/

Projecting Halloween Peril

Every holiday has a few, dedicated individuals committed to “going all out.” Whether they’re trying to show up the neighbors, love the look, or just want to put a smile on the faces of those passing by; the results are often spectacular. A recent trend in decorations has been away from analog lights and ornaments and towards digital light shows via a projector. [Georgia Clegg] and [Luma Bakery] have written up a fantastic guide detailing the involved process of house projection for those feeling the holiday spirit.

There is more to the effect than simply pointing a projector at a home and running a video clip. The good displays make use of the geometry of the home and the various depths of the walls don’t distort the picture. The house itself is mapped into the image being displayed.

There are generally two approaches to mapping: point of view mapping and neutral/orthographic mapping. The first is just setting the projector in a fixed position and designing the graphics in such a way that they will look correct. The downside is that if there are multiple projectors, each projector will need to be separately designed for and they cannot be moved or adjusted. The second maps the house in an actual 3d sense and figures out how to display the content according to the viewpoint that the projector is currently at. This means you can create one source content and simply export it for the various projectors.

As you can imagine, the second is much more involved and this is where [Georgia Clegg] has stepped in. There’s a whole series that covers creating your house in MeshRoom, cleaning it up in Blender, creating the videos in After Effects, and setting up your projector to keep it running through the season.

We’ve seen other amazing projector mapping displays with lasers here at Hackaday. Now you can make one yourself. Just don’t get bogged down refurbishing your vector projector along the way.
Check out the results they’ve achieved in this highlight reel:

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/28/projecting-halloween-peril/

PyGame Celebrates 20 Years by Releasing PyGame 2.0

Python is an absolutely fantastic language for tossing bits of data around and gluing different software components together. But eventually you may find yourself looking to make a program with an output a bit more advanced than the print() statement. Once you’ve crossed into the land of graphical Python programming, you’ll quickly find that the PyGame library is often recommended as a great way to start pushing pixels even if you’re not strictly making a game.

Today, the project is celebrating an incredible milestone: 20 years of helping Python developers turn their ideas into reality. Started by [Pete Shinners] in 2000 as a way to interface with Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL), the project was quickly picked up by the community and morphed into a portable 2D/3D graphics library that lets developers deploy their code on everything from Android phones to desktop computers.

Things haven’t always gone smoothly for the open source library, and for awhile development had stalled out. But the current team has been making great progress, and decided today’s anniversary was the perfect time to officially roll out PyGame 2.0. With more than 3,300 changes committed since the team started working on their 2.0 branch in July of 2018, it’s a bit tough to summarize what’s new. Suffice to say, the library is more capable than ever and is ready to tackle everything from simple 2D art up to 4K GPU-accelerated applications.

Pygame2 Detail
Rip and tear in PyGame 2.0

If you haven’t given PyGame a try in awhile, don’t worry. The team has put special effort into making the library as backwards compatible as possible, so if you’ve got an old project kicking around that you haven’t touched in a decade, it should still run against the latest and greatest version. If you’ve never used it before, the team says they’ll soon be releasing new tutorials that show you how to get the most out of this new release.

Whether you’re putting together your own implementation of Conway’s “Game of Life” or creating the graphical front-end for your own Linux distribution, PyGame is a powerful tool to have in your collection. Our sincere congratulations to all PyGame developers, past and present, for making it to this auspicious occasion. We can’t wait to see what the next decade will bring.

[Thanks to deshipu for the tip.]

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/28/pygame-celebrates-20-years-by-releasing-pygame-2-0/

Making a 3D Printed DSLR Camera Mount Even Better

We’d love to say that all of our projects worked perfectly on the first try, but the average Hackaday reader is a bit too experienced to buy a fib like that. The reality is, DIY projects rarely get everything right out of the gate. It takes some time to identify issues and work out all the kinks. But of course, that’s half the fun.

For a perfect example of this process, check out the latest update on the 3D printed DSLR camera mount that [isaac879] has been working on. When we last checked in with this project over the summer the mount was already impressive, but with the latest improvements and the addition of a whole new axis of movement, this homebrew camera motion system is an extremely compelling project for anyone who wants to take their project videos to the next level.

3dpmount Detail
The new Hall effect sensor mounts are a very nice touch.

Back in June, the mount [isaac879] showed off was only capable of pan and tilt. But as you can see in the video after the break, he’s since mounted that to a track made of 20×40 aluminum extrusion and added another stepper motor. This allows the pan/tilt mount to move itself back and forth on the track to get those slick panning shots that all the cool kids use in their videos nowadays.

But even if you’re not interested in the slider aspect, the core pan/tilt mount has also received a number of refinements over the last few months. Perhaps the most obvious is the switch over to thinner and lighter stepper motors. Reducing mass is always an improvement with a moving system like this, and in the case of the pan motor, the shorter can prevents a potential collision with the camera itself. Obviously the smaller motors are weaker, but [isaac879] considers that a feature; the mini motors will just start skipping steps if things get bound up instead of potentially damaging your expensive camera.

He’s switched to flange bearings to help hold the frame together, improved wire routing, added a mounting point for the electronics, reprinted the pinion gears in a flexible filament to help absorb some vibrations, and switched over to TMC2208 stepper drivers. The new drivers may actually be one of the biggest usability upgrades, as they allow the entire mount to move faster and more accurately. Critically, [isaac879] also reports the new drivers have solved a troublesome vibration issue he was seeing when the camera was moving slowly.

Obviously you can throw together a simple pan and tilt mount with a couple of servos and some zip ties if you only need to use it once or twice, but a project of this caliber would rightfully become a permanent fixture in your workspace. Perfect if you’re looking to up your project photography game.

[Thanks to Steven for the tip.]

source https://hackaday.com/2020/10/28/making-a-3d-printed-dslr-camera-mount-even-better/