A Crust-Cutting, Carrot-Chopping Robot

[3DprintedLife] sure does hate bread crust. Not the upper portion of homemade bread, mind you — just that nasty stuff around the edges of store-bought loaves. Several dozen hours of CAD later, [3DprintedLife] had themselves a crust-cutting robot that also chops vegetables.

This De-Cruster 9000 is essentially a 2-axis robotic guillotine over a turntable. It uses a Raspberry Pi 4 and OpenCV to seek and destroy bread crusts with a dull dollar store knife. Aside from the compact design, our favorite part has to be the firmware limit switches baked into the custom control board. The stepper drivers have this fancy feature called StallGuard™ that constantly reads the back EMF to determine the load the motor is under. If you have it flag you right before the motor hits the end of the rail and stalls, bam, you have a firmware limit switch. Watch it remove crusts and chop a lot of carrots with faces after the break.

This is far from the dangerous-looking robot we’ve seen lately. Remember this hair-cutting contraption?

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/30/a-crust-cutting-carrot-chopping-robot/

Amazon Sidewalk: Should You Be Co-Opted Into A Private Neighbourhood LoRa Network?

WiFi just isn’t very good at going through buildings. It’s fine for the main living areas of an average home, but once we venture towards the periphery of our domains it starts to become less reliable.  For connected devices outside the core of a home, this presents a problem, and it’s one Amazon hope to solve with their Sidewalk product.

It’s a low-bandwidth networking system that uses capability already built into some Echo and Ring devices, plus a portion of the owner’s broadband connection to the Internet.  The idea is to provide basic connectivity over longer distances to compatible devices even when the WiFi network is not available, but of most interest and concern is that it will also expose itself to devices owned by other people. If your Internet connection goes down, then your Ring devices will still provide a basic version of their functionality via a local low-bandwidth wide-area wireless network provided by the Amazon devices owned by your neighbours.

I Can See Your Amazon Ring From Here

It looks so harmless, doesn't it. A Ring doorbell once installed.
It looks so harmless, doesn’t it. Amin, CC BY-SA 4.0

The massive online retailer and IoT cloud provider would like to open up a portion of your home broadband connection via your home security devices over a wireless network to other similar devices owned by strangers. In the Amazon literature it is touted as providing all sorts of useful benefits to Ring and Echo owners, but it has obvious implications for both the privacy of your data should it be carried by other people’s devices, and for the security of your own network when devices you don’t own pass traffic over it. For the curious there’s a whitepaper offering more insights into the system, and aside from revealing that it uses 900 MHz FSK and LoRa as its RF layer there is a lot information on how it works. As you might expect they have addressed the privacy and security issues through encryption, minimising the data transmitted, and constantly changing identifiers. To read the Amazon document at face value is to enter a world in which some confidence can be gained in the product.

The question on the lips of skeptical readers will no doubt be this: what could possibly go wrong? We would expect that the devices themselves and the radio portion of the network will be investigated thoroughly by those who make it their business to do such things, and while there is always the chance that somebody could discover a flaw in them it’s more probable that weaknesses could be found in the applications that sit atop the system. It’s something that has plagued Amazon’s IoT offerings before, such as last year when their Neighbors app was found to sit atop a far more garrulous API than expected, leading to a little more neighbourly information being shared than they bargained for. If Amazon’s blurb is to be believed then this system is to be opened up for third-party IoT device and app developers, and with each one of those the possibility of holes waiting to be discovered increases. We’ll keep you posted as they emerge.

Products such as Amazon Echo and Ring are incredible showcases of 21st century technology. They’re the living embodiment of an automated Jetsons future, and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want a little slice of that future. But as you all know, the version of that future peddled by them and their competitors is a deeply flawed one in which the consumers who buy the products are largely unaware of how much data is created from them. From a purely technical perspective the idea of home security products that automatically form a low bandwidth network for use in case of main network failure is an exceptionally cool one, but when coupled with the monster data slurp of the Amazon behemoth it assumes a slightly more worrying set of possibilities. Is it possible to be George Jetson without Mr. Spacely gazing over your shoulder?

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/30/amazon-sidewalk-should-you-be-co-opted-into-a-private-neighbourhood-lora-network/

Urban Explorers Reveal A Treasure Trove Of Soviet Computing Power

It’s probably a dream most of us share, to stumble upon a dusty hall full of fascinating abandoned tech frozen in time as though its operators walked away one day and simply never returned. It’s something documented by some Russian urban explorers who found an unremarkable office building with one of its floors frozen sometime around the transition from Soviet Union to Russian Federation. In it they found their abandoned tech, in the form of a cross-section of Soviet-era computers form the 1970s onwards.

As you might expect, in a manner it mirrors the development of civilian computing on the capitalist side of the Iron Curtain over a similar period, starting with minicomputers the size of several large refrigerators and ending with desktop microcomputers. The minis seem to all be Soviet clones of contemporary DEC machines. with some parts of them even looking vaguely familiar. The oldest is a Saratov-2, a PDP/8 clone which we’re told is rare enough for no examples to have been believed to have survived until this discovery. We then see a succession of PDP/11 clones each of which becomes ever smaller with advancements in semiconductor integration, starting with the fridge-sized units and eventually ending up with desktop versions that resemble 1980s PCs.

While mass-market Western desktop machines followed the path of adopting newer architectures such as the Z80 or the 8086 the Soviets instead took their minicomputer technology to that level. It would be interesting to speculate how these machines might further have developed over the 1990s had history been different. Meanwhile we all have a tangible legacy of Soviet PDP/11 microcomputers in the form of Tetris, which was first written on an Elektronika 60.

We know that among our readers there is likely to be a few who encountered similar machines in their heyday, and we hope they’ll share their recollections in the comments. Meanwhile we hope that somehow this collection can be preserved one day. If your thirst for dusty mincomputers knows no bounds, read about the collectors who bought an IBM machine on eBay and got more than they bargained for.

Via Hacker News.

DVK-1 desktop computer, «Переславская неделя» / В. С. Спиридонов  CC-BY-SA 3.0.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/30/urban-explorers-reveal-a-treasure-trove-of-soviet-computing-power/

Pushing The FPGA Video Player Further

A fact universally known among the Hackaday community is that projects are never truly done. You can always spin another board release to fix a silkscreen mistake, get that extra little boost of performance, or finally spend the time to track down that weird transient bug. Or in [ultraembedded’s] case, take a custom FPGA player from 800 x 600 to 1280 x 720. The hardware used is a Digilent Arty A7 and PMOD boards for I2S2, VGA, and MicroSD. We previously covered this project back when it was first getting started.

Getting from 800 x 600 to 1280 x 720 — 31% more pixels — required implementing a higher performance JPEG decoder that can read in the MPJEG frames, pushing out a pixel every 2.1 clock cycles. The improvements also include a few convenience features such as an IR remote. The number of submodules inside the system is just incredible, with most of them being implemented or tweaked by [ultraembedded] himself.

For the FPGA Verilog, there’s the SD/MMC interface, the JPEG decoder, the audio controller, the DVI framebuffer, a peripheral core, and a custom RISC-V CPU. For the firmware loaded off the SD card, it uses a custom RTOS running an MP3 decoder, a FAT32 interface, an IR decoder, and a UI based on LVGL.

We think this project represents a wonderful culmination of all the different IP cores that [ultraembedded] has produced over the years. All the code for the FPGA media player is available on GitHub.

I think I’ve built myself an HD (720p50) video player out of an #FPGA, #RISCV, #MJPEG and 27,000 lines of Verilog! Going from 800×600 -> 1280×720 just worked with 10 more MHz! I actually plan to sit down and watch a movie on this one evening! https://t.co/4G1ZiN2ipY

– ultraembedded (@ultraembedded) November 21, 2020

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/30/pushing-the-fpga-video-player-further/

Mouse-Controlled Mouse Controller Is Silly, But Could Be Useful

Useless machines are generally built as a fun pastime, as they do nothing of value by their very definition. The most popular type generally involves a self-cancelling switch. However, there’s plenty of other useless machines to build, and we think [Jeffery’s] build is particularly creative.

The build consists of an XY gantry that moves a standard computer mouse. To control the gantry, a Raspberry Pi feeds the system G-Code relative to the motion of a second mouse plugged into the single-board computer. It’s pretty standard fare overall, with the Pi sending commands to an Arduino that runs the various stepper motors via a CNC controller shield.

Yes, it’s a mouse that moves a mouse – and on the surface, this appears to be a very useless machine. However, we could imagine it being useful for remote control of a very old system that uses a non-standard mouse that is otherwise difficult to emulate. Additionally, it wouldn’t take much extra work to turn the XY gantry into a competent pen-plotter – of which we’ve seen many. Video after the break.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/29/mouse-controlled-mouse-controller-is-silly-but-could-be-useful/

Calendar Printer Makes You A Hard Copy On The Daily

We’re blessed to have cloud-based calendars that store all the relevant data on our hyper-busy lives for easy access anywhere and everywhere. However, sometimes a hard copy is nice for when you’re tired of looking at screens. In this vein, [lokthelok] produced a compact device that prints out your schedule on the daily.

The device uses an ESP32 to connect to WiFi, and then query Google Apps for a given user’s calendar details on a daily basis. After grabbing the data, it’s fed out to a thermal printer connected over serial at 9600 baud. As a twist, [lokthelok] has produced two versions of firmware for the project. The master version simply scrapes calendar data and outputs it neatly. The Useless version goes further, jumbling up appointments and printing them out of order. If you’ve got nothing on for the day, it will instead spool out the remainder of the thermal paper on the roll.

It’s a build that would make a handsome desk toy, though we suspect tossing out each day’s calendar could become tiresome after a while. Alternatively, consider a clock that highlights your upcoming events for you. Video after the break.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/29/calendar-printer-makes-you-a-hard-copy-on-the-daily/

Hackaday Links: November 29, 2020

While concerns over COVID-19 probably kept many a guest room empty this Thanksgiving, things were a little different aboard the International Space Station. The four-seat SpaceX Crew Dragon is able to carry one more occupant to the orbiting outpost than the Russian Soyuz, which has lead to a somewhat awkward sleeping arrangement: there are currently seven people aboard a Station that only has six crew cabins. To remedy the situation, Commander Michael Hopkins has decided to sleep inside the Crew Dragon itself, technically giving himself the most spacious personal accommodations on the Station. This might seem a little hokey, but it’s actually not without precedent; when the Shuttle used to dock with the ISS, the Commander would customarily sleep in the cockpit so they would be ready to handle any potential emergency.

Speaking of off-world visitation, the Hayabusa2 spacecraft is nearly home after six years in space. It won’t be staying long though, the deep-space probe is only in the neighborhood to drop off a sample of material collected from the asteroid Ryugu. If all goes according to plan, the small capsule carrying the samples will renter the atmosphere and land in the South Australian desert on December 6th, while Hayabusa2 heads back into the black for an extended mission that would have it chasing down new asteroids into the 2030s.

Moving on to a story that almost certainly didn’t come from space, a crew from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently discovered a strange metal monolith hidden in the desert. While authorities were careful not to disclose the exact coordinates of the object, it didn’t take Internet sleuths long to determine its location, in part thanks to radar data that allowed them to plot the flight path of a government helicopters. Up close inspections that popped up on social media revealed that the object seemed to be hollow, was held together with rivets, and was likely made of aluminum. It’s almost certainly a guerrilla art piece, though there are also theories that it could have been a movie or TV prop (several productions are known to have filmed nearby) or even some kind of military IR/radar target. We may never know for sure though, as the object disappeared soon after.

Even if you’re not a fan of Apple, it’s hard not to be interested in the company’s new M1 chip. Hackers have been clamoring for more ARM laptops and desktops for years, and with such a major player getting in the game, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing less luxurious brands taking the idea seriously. After the recent discovery that the ARM version of Ubuntu can run on the new M1 Macs with a simple virtualization layer, it looks like we won’t have to wait too long before folks start chipping away at the Walled Garden.

In the market for a three phase servo controller? A reader who’s working on a robotics project worth as much as a nice house recently wrote in to tell us about an imported driver that goes for just $35. Technically it’s designed for driving stepper motors, but it can also (somewhat inefficiently) run servos. Our informant tells us that you’d pay at least $2,000 for a similar servo driver from Allen-Bradley, so the price difference certainly seems to make up for the hit in performance.

Finally, some bittersweet news as we’ve recently learned that Universal Radio is closing. After nearly 40 years, proprietors Fred and Barbara Osterman have decided it’s time to start winding things down. The physical store in Worthington, Ohio will be shuttered on Monday, but the online site will remain up for awhile longer to sell off the remaining stock. The Ostermans have generously supported many radio clubs and organizations over the years, and they’ll certainly be missed. Still, it’s a well-deserved retirement and the community wishes them the best.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/29/hackaday-links-november-29-2020/

MQTT Dashboard Uses SHARP Memory LCD

One of the more interesting display technologies of the moment comes from Sharp, their memory display devices share the low power advantages of an e-ink display with the much faster updates we would expect from an LCD or similar. We’ve not seen much of them in our community due to cost, so it’s good to see one used in an MQTT dashboard project from [Raphael Baron].

The hardware puts the display at the top of a relatively minimalist 3D printed encloseure with the LOLIN32 ESP32 development board behind it, and with a plinth containing a small rotary encoder and three clicky key switches in front. The most interesting part of the project is surprisingly not the display though, because despite being based upon an ESP32 development board he’s written its software with the aim of being as platform- and display-independent as possible. To demonstrate this he’s produced it as a desktop application as well as the standalone hardware. A simple graphical user interface allows the selection of a range of available sources to monitor, with the graphical results on the right.

All code and other assets for the project can be found in a handy GitHub repository, and to put the thing through its paces he’s even provided a video that we’ve placed below the break. User interfaces for MQTT-connected devices can talk as well as listen, for example this MQTT remote control.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/29/mqtt-dashboard-uses-sharp-memory-lcd/

Making A “Unpickable” Lock

Every time manufacturers bring a new “unpickable” lock to market, amateur and professional locksmiths descend on the new product to prove them wrong. [Shane] from [Stuff Made Here] decided to try his hand at designing and building an unpickable lock, and found that particular rabbit hole to be a lot deeper than expected. (Video, embedded below.)

Most common pin tumbler locks can be picked thanks to slightly loose fits of the pins and tiny manufacturing defects. By lifting or bumping the pins while putting tension on the cylinder the pins can be made to bind one by one at the shear line. Once all the pins are bound in the correct position, it can be unlocked.

[Shane]’s design aimed to prevent the pins from being set in unlocked position one by one, by locking the all pins in whatever position they are set and preventing further manipulation when the cylinder is turned to test the combination. In theory this should prevent the person doing the picking from knowing if any of the pins were in the correct position, forcing them to take the difficult and time-consuming approach of simply trying different combinations.

[Shane] is no stranger to challenging projects, and this one was no different. Many of the parts had to be remade multiple times, even with his well-equipped home machine shop. The mechanism that holds the pins in the set position when the cylinder is rotated was especially difficult to get working reliably.  He explicitly states that this lock is purely an educational exercise, and not commercially viable due to its mechanical complexity and difficult machining.

A local locksmith was unsuccessful in picking the lock with the standard techniques, but the real test is still to come. The name [LockPickingLawyer] has probably already come to mind for many readers. [Shane] has been in contact with him and will send him a lock to test after a few more refinements, and we look forward to seeing the results!

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/29/making-a-unpickable-lock/

DIY Induction Heater Draws 1.4 kW And Gets Metal Hot

Induction heaters can make conductive objects incredibly hot by generating eddy currents within the metal. They’re used in a wide variety of industrial processes, from furnaces to welders and even heat treatments. [Schematix] whipped up his own design, and put it through its paces on the bench.

The build in question is a fairly compact design, roughly shoebox-sized when fitted with its six-turn coil. Running off anything from 12 V to 48 V, the heater put out at a massive 1.4 kW in testing. At this power level, the high current draw led the power traces to heat up enough to melt solder, and eventually burn out. [Schematix] plans to rebuild the heater with added copper wiring along these traces to support the higher power levels without failure.

The heater is able to quickly heat ferrous metals, though was not able to meaningfully dump power into aluminium under testing. This is unsurprising, as non-ferrous metals primarily undergo only Joule heating from induction, forgoing the hysteresis portion of heat transfer due to being non-magnetic. However, modification to the design could improve performance for those eager to work with non-ferrous materials.

We’ve seen a few induction heaters before, for purposes as varied as soldering and casting. Video after the break.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/29/diy-induction-heater-draws-1-4-kw-and-gets-metal-hot/

Advanced Printer Control Aims To Stop Idle Waste

3D printers are capable of creating complex geometries with a minimum of fuss, but one of the tradeoffs is the long period of time it takes to print a part. Often, printers are left to run for many hours with a minimum of supervision to complete their tasks. This can leave printers idling for long periods of time after their work is finished. Noting this, [TheGrim] put together the Advanced Printer Control.

The aim of the APC is to monitor 3D printers, and shut them off when their work is complete. The aim is to avoid leaving printers running for hours after their prints are finished, which causes needless wear on fans and screens which can have a limited life. This is achieved by putting an ESP8266 in charge of the printer’s AC power supply, via a triac. It measures the current drawn by the printer when idling and in use to set a baseline. Then, whenever the printer drops back to idle levels, a timer begins. When the timer runs out, the printer is switched off. There’s also an option to automatically trigger shutdown with an I/O pin, too.

It’s a project that aims to extend printer life and save power, too. Of course, if you’re really worried about power draw, you could use a solar powered printer instead. If you’ve got your own printer controller hacks, be sure to drop us a line.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/29/advanced-printer-control-aims-to-stop-idle-waste/

A Clap-Activated Machine For All Your Applause Needs

Applause is greatly revered as a symbol of warmth and adoration from a crowd. TV shows that film in front of a live audience often cue their audiences to clap in order to generate the desired auditory atmosphere. Of course, you don’t have to rely on squishy humans to do all the work. [Dillon] built a machine of dubious utility – one which generates mechanical applause when activated by the sound of clapping. (Video, embedded below.)

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the project was built for a Useless Machine contest, but that doesn’t diminish its value as a learning exercise. An Arduino runs the show, using a microphone module to listen out for loud noises such as claps. If two claps are detected in the nominated timeframe, the machine begins to flash its “APPLAUSE” lights and clap its hands. The Arduino achieves this with the help of a relay, which switches on a motor spinning a belt-driven cam which seperates the hands. The hands are then pulled back together to clap via a length of stretchy bungee cord.

With an incredibly noisy drivetrain and somewhat amateur clapping ability, the sound coming from the machine isn’t exactly recognisable as “applause”. However, it’s a start, and it remains the best clapping machine we’ve seen this decade. If you’ve got your own under construction, consider dropping us a line. And if all this has you waxing nostalgic for the vintage Clapper circuit, you can always build one of those, too.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/29/a-clap-activated-machine-for-all-your-applause-needs/

Open Hardware GPS Tracker Works On Your Terms

These days, there’s plenty of options if you want to get a GPS tracker for your vehicle. Unfortunately, they come with the sort of baggage that’s becoming increasingly common with consumer tech: subscription fees, third-party snooping, and a sneaking suspicion that you’re more commodity than customer. So [Viktor Takacs] decided to take things into his own hands and create an open GPS tracker designed for privacy minded hackers.

As [Viktor] didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, his design leverages several off-the-shelf modules. The core of the tracker is the ESP32, which gives him plenty of computational power while still keeping energy consumption within reasonable levels. There’s also a NEO-6M GPS receiver which works at the same 3.3 V level as the ESP32, allowing the microcontroller to read the NMEA sentences without a level shifter. He decided to go with the low-cost SIM800L GSM modem, but as it only works on 2G networks, provisions have been made in the board design to swap it out for a more modern module should you desire.

Opentrack DetailFor the code to glue it all together, [Viktor] pulled in nearly a dozen open source libraries to create a feature-complete firmware that uses MQTT to create a database of location data on his personal server. From there the data is plugged into Home Assistant and visualized with Grafana. This is enough to deliver core functionality, but he says that more custom software components as well as a deep-dive into the security implications of the system is coming in the near future.

We’ve seen custom built GPS trackers before, as generally speaking, it doesn’t take a whole lot to spin up your own solution. But we think the polish that [Viktor] has put on this project takes it to the next level, and ranks it up there among some of the most impressive bespoke tracking solutions we’ve seen over the years.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/open-hardware-gps-tracker-works-on-your-terms/

Open Hardware GPS Tracker Works On Your Terms

These days, there’s plenty of options if you want to get a GPS tracker for your vehicle. Unfortunately, they come with the sort of baggage that’s becoming increasingly common with consumer tech: subscription fees, third-party snooping, and a sneaking suspicion that you’re more commodity than customer. So [Viktor Takacs] decided to take things into his own hands and create an open GPS tracker designed for privacy minded hackers.

As [Viktor] didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, his design leverages several off-the-shelf modules. The core of the tracker is the ESP32, which gives him plenty of computational power while still keeping energy consumption within reasonable levels. There’s also a NEO-6M GPS receiver which works at the same 3.3 V level as the ESP32, allowing the microcontroller to read the NMEA sentences without a level shifter. He decided to go with the low-cost SIM800L GSM modem, but as it only works on 2G networks, provisions have been made in the board design to swap it out for a more modern module should you desire.

Opentrack DetailFor the code to glue it all together, [Viktor] pulled in nearly a dozen open source libraries to create a feature-complete firmware that uses MQTT to create a database of location data on his personal server. From there the data is plugged into Home Assistant and visualized with Grafana. This is enough to deliver core functionality, but he says that more custom software components as well as a deep-dive into the security implications of the system is coming in the near future.

We’ve seen custom built GPS trackers before, as generally speaking, it doesn’t take a whole lot to spin up your own solution. But we think the polish that [Viktor] has put on this project takes it to the next level, and ranks it up there among some of the most impressive bespoke tracking solutions we’ve seen over the years.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/open-hardware-gps-tracker-works-on-your-terms/

Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever

As many a radio amateur will tell you, ham radio is a hobby with as many facets as there are radio amateurs. It should be an exciting and dynamic place to be, but as those who venture forth into it sometimes sadly find out, it can be anything but. Tightly-knit communities whose interests lie in using $1,000 stations to chase DX (long-distance contacts), an advancing age profile, and a curious fascination of many amateurs with disaster communications. It’s something [Robert V. Bolton, KJ7NZL] has sounded off about in an open letter to the amateur radio community entitled “Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever“.

In it he laments that the influx in particular of those for whom disaster preparedness is the reason for getting a licence is to blame for amateur radio losing its spark, and he proposes that the hobby should respond by broadening its appeal in the direction of the hacker community. The emphasis should move from emergency communications, he says, and instead topics such as software defined radio and digital modes should be brought to the fore. Finally he talks about setting up hacker specific amateur radio discussion channels, to provide a space in which the talk is tailored to our community.

Given our experience of the amateur radio community we’d be bound to agree with him. The hobby offers unrivalled opportunity for analogue, mixed-signal, digital, and software tinkering in the finest tradition of the path set by the early radio amateurs around a hundred years ago, yet it sometimes seems to have lost its way for people like us. It’s something put into words a few years ago by our colleague Dan Maloney, and if you’re following [KJ7NZL]’s path you could do worse than read Dan’s long-running $50 ham series from the start.

Via Hacker News.

Header image: Unknown author, Public domain.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/ham-radio-needs-to-embrace-the-hacker-community-now-more-than-ever/

Taking Over the Amazing Control Panel of a Vintage Video Switcher

Where does he get such wonderful toys? [Glenn] snagged parts of a Grass Valley Kalypso 4-M/E video mixer control surface from eBay and since been reverse engineering the button and display modules to bend them to his will. The hardware dates back to the turn of the century and the two modules would have been laid out with up to a few dozen others to complete a video mixing console.

[Glenn’s] previous adventures delved into a strip of ten backlit buttons and gives us a close look at each of the keyswitches and the technique he used to pull together his own pinout and schematic of that strip. But things get a lot hairier this time around. The long strip seen above is a “machine control plane” module and includes a dozen addressible character displays, driven by a combination of microcontrollers and FPGAs. The square panel is a “Crosspoint Switch Matrix” module include eight individual 32 x 32 LCDs drive by three dedicated ICs that can display in red, green, or amber.

Converting Vintage Video Switcher Displays Biker Glen Reverse Engineering[Glen] used an STM8 Nucleo 64 to interface with the panels and wrote a bit of code to help map out what each pin on each machine control plane connector might do. He was able to stream out some packets from the plane that changed as he pressed buttons, and ended up feeding back a brute-force of that packet format to figure out the LED display protocols.

But the LCDs on the crosspoint switch were a more difficult nut to crack. He ended up going back to the original source of the equipment (eBay) to get a working control unit that he could sniff. He laid out a man-in-the-middle board that has a connector on either side with a pin header in the middle for his logic analyzer. As with most LCDs, the secret sauce was the initialization sequence — an almost impossible thing to brute force, yet exceedingly simple to sniff when you have a working system. So far he has them running under USB control, and if you are lucky enough to have some of this gear in your parts box, [Glen] has painstakingly recorded all of the details you need to get them up and running.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/taking-over-the-amazing-control-panel-of-a-vintage-video-switcher/

Scratch Building a Supersized CNC Router

Many of us have spent the better part of a year on COVID-19 lockdown, and what do we have to show for it? Bit of progress on the Netflix queue? Maybe a (slightly) cleaned up garage or workshop? Not if you’re [Bob] of Making Stuff fame: he’s spent the last nine months working on a completely custom CNC router big enough to take a whole sheet of plywood.

The build is documented over a series of nearly a dozen YouTube videos, the first of which was put out all the way back in January of 2020. Seeing [Bob] heading to the steel mill to get his frame components with nary a mask in sight is a reminder of just how long he’s been working on this project. He’s also put together a comprehensive Bill of Materials on his website should anyone want to follow in his footsteps. Coming in at only slightly less than $4,000 USD, it’s certainly not a budget build. But then when we’re talking about a machine of this scale, nothing comes cheap.

Bigcnc Detail
Every component on this build is heavy-duty.

Even if you don’t build you own version of this router, it’s impossible to watch the build log and not get inspired about the possibilities of such a machine. In the last video we’re even treated to a bit of self-replicating action, as the jumbo CNC cuts out the pieces for its own electronics enclosure.

You can tell from the videos that [Bob] is (rightfully) proud of his creation, and isn’t shy about showing the viewer each and every triumph along the way. Even when things don’t go according to plan, there are lessons to be learned as he explains the problems and how they were ultimately resolved.

Of course, we know a home-built CNC router doesn’t need to cost thousands of dollars or take up as much space as a pool table. The average Hackaday reader probably has no need of a monster like this, and wouldn’t have anywhere to keep it even if they did. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look on with envy as we wait to see what kind of projects [Bob] churns out with such an incredible tool in his arsenal.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/scratch-building-a-supersized-cnc-router/

This Debug Connector Brings Your Issues to the Edge

Given an unknown PCBA with an ARM processor, odds are good that it will have either the standard 10 pin 0.05″ or 20 pin 0.1″ debug connector. This uncommon commonality is a boon for an exploring hacker, but when designing a board such headers require board space in the design and more components to be installed to plug in. The literally-named Debug Edge standard is a new libre attempt to remedy this inconvenience.

Screen Shot 2020 11 25 At 12 09 25 PmThe name “Debug Edge” says it all. It’s a debug, edge connector. A connector for the edge of a PCBA to break out debug signals. Card edge connectors are nothing new but they typically either slot one PCBA perpendicularly into another (as in a PCI card) or hold them in parallel (as in a mini PCIe card or an m.2 SSD). The DebugEdge connector is more like a PCBA butt splice.

It makes use of a specific family of AVX open ended card edge connectors designed to splice together long rectangular PCBAs used for lighting end to end. These are available in single quantities starting as low as $0.85 (part number for the design shown here is 009159010061916). The vision of the DebugEdge standard is that this connector is exposed along the edge of the target device, then “spliced” into the debug connector for target power and debug.

Right now the DebugEdge exists primarily as a standard, a set of KiCAD footprints, and prototype adapter boards on OSHPark (debugger side, target side). A device making use of it would integrate the target side and the developer would use the debugger side to connect. The standard specifies 4, 6, 8, and 10 pin varieties (mapping to sizes of available connector, the ‘010’ in the number above specifies pincount) offering increasing levels of connectivity up to a complete 1:1 mapping of the standard 10 pin ARM connector. Keep in mind the connectors are double sided, so the 4 pin version is a miniscule 4mm x 4.5mm! We’re excited to see that worm its way into a tiny project or two.

We’ve seen plenty of part-free debug and programming connectors before. Have a favorite? Let us know in the comments!

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/this-debug-connector-brings-your-issues-to-the-edge/

This Debug Connector Brings Your Issues to the Edge

Given an unknown PCBA with an ARM processor, odds are good that it will have either the standard 10 pin 0.05″ or 20 pin 0.1″ debug connector. This uncommon commonality is a boon for an exploring hacker, but when designing a board such headers require board space in the design and more components to be installed to plug in. The literally-named Debug Edge standard is a new libre attempt to remedy this inconvenience.

Screen Shot 2020 11 25 At 12 09 25 PmThe name “Debug Edge” says it all. It’s a debug, edge connector. A connector for the edge of a PCBA to break out debug signals. Card edge connectors are nothing new but they typically either slot one PCBA perpendicularly into another (as in a PCI card) or hold them in parallel (as in a mini PCIe card or an m.2 SSD). The DebugEdge connector is more like a PCBA butt splice.

It makes use of a specific family of AVX open ended card edge connectors designed to splice together long rectangular PCBAs used for lighting end to end. These are available in single quantities starting as low as $0.85 (part number for the design shown here is 009159010061916). The vision of the DebugEdge standard is that this connector is exposed along the edge of the target device, then “spliced” into the debug connector for target power and debug.

Right now the DebugEdge exists primarily as a standard, a set of KiCAD footprints, and prototype adapter boards on OSHPark (debugger side, target side). A device making use of it would integrate the target side and the developer would use the debugger side to connect. The standard specifies 4, 6, 8, and 10 pin varieties (mapping to sizes of available connector, the ‘010’ in the number above specifies pincount) offering increasing levels of connectivity up to a complete 1:1 mapping of the standard 10 pin ARM connector. Keep in mind the connectors are double sided, so the 4 pin version is a miniscule 4mm x 4.5mm! We’re excited to see that worm its way into a tiny project or two.

We’ve seen plenty of part-free debug and programming connectors before. Have a favorite? Let us know in the comments!

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/this-debug-connector-brings-your-issues-to-the-edge/

Sims-Style Plumb Bob Broadcasts Your Mood

While there are a lot of objects from the Sims that we wish were real, we probably wish more than anything that everyone had a mood indicator hovering above their heads at all times. It would make working from home go a lot more smoothly, for instance. [8BitsAndAByte] made this Bluetooth-controlled plumb bob as part of their Sims Halloween costume, but we think it has real day-to-day value as this pandemic wears on, either as a mood ring or a portable free/busy indicator.

The hardware is about as simple as it gets — an Adafruit Feather nRF52 Bluefruit controls a pair of NeoPixel rings, one for each half of the translucent 3D-printed plumb bob. Power comes from a 500mAh battery, and all the electronics are situated inside of an attractive hat. Check out the build video after the break.

There’s more than one way to use color to convey information. This seven-segment temperature display does it with thermochromic film.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/sims-style-plumb-bob-broadcasts-your-mood/

TMD-2: A Bigger, Better, More Collaborative Turing Machine

One of the things we love best about the articles we publish on Hackaday is the dynamic that can develop between the hacker and the readers. At its best, the comment section of an article can be a model of collaborative effort, with readers’ ideas and suggestions making their way into version 2.0 of a build.

This collegial dynamic is very much on display with TMD-2, [Michael Gardi]’s latest iteration of his Turing machine demonstrator. We covered the original TMD-1 back in late summer, the idea of which was to serve as a physical embodiment of the Turing machine concept. Briefly, the TMD-1 represented the key “tape and head” concepts of the Turing machine with a console of servo-controlled flip tiles, the state of which was controlled by a three-state, three-symbol finite state machine.

Turing Demo Full
TMD-1

TMD-1 was capable of simple programs that really demonstrated the principles of Turing machines, and it really seemed to catch on with readers. Based on the comments of one reader, [Newspaperman5], [Mike] started thinking bigger and better for TMD-2. He expanded the finite state machine to six states and six symbols, which meant coming up with something more scalable than the Hall-effect sensors and magnetic tiles of TMD-1.

Tmd 2 Tile State Machine 1
TMD-2 has a camera for computer vision of the state machine tiles

[Mike] opted for optical character recognition using a Raspberry Pi cam along with Open CV and the Tesseract OCR engine. The original servo-driven tape didn’t scale well either, so that was replaced by a virtual tape displayed on a 7″ LCD display. The best part of the original, the tile-based FSM, was expanded but kept that tactile programming experience.

Hats off to [Mike] for tackling a project with so many technologies that were previously new to him, and for pulling off another great build. And kudos to [Newspaperman5] for the great suggestions that spurred him on.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/tmd-2-a-bigger-better-more-collaborative-turing-machine/

HackRF PortaPack Firmware Spoofs All the Things

The HackRF is an exceptionally capable software defined radio (SDR) transceiver, but naturally you need to connect it to a computer to actually do anything with it. So the PortaPack was developed to turn it into a stand-alone device with the addition of a touchscreen LCD, a few buttons, and a headphone jack. With all the hardware in place, it’s just a matter of installing a firmware capable enough to do some proper RF hacking on the go.

Enter MAYHEM, an evolved fork of the original PortaPack firmware that the developers claim is the most up-to-date and feature packed version available. Without ever plugging into a computer, this firmware allows you to receive, decode, and re-transmit a dizzying number of wireless protocols. From firing off the seating pagers at a local restaurant to creating a fleet of phantom aircraft with spoofed ADS-B transponders, MAYHEM certainly seems like it lives up to the name.

Mayhem Detail[A. Petazzoni] recently put together a detailed blog post about installing and using MAYHEM on the HackRF/PortaPack, complete with a number of real-world examples that show off just a handful of possible applications for the project. Jamming cell phones, sending fake pager messages, and cloning RF remotes is just scratching the surface of what’s possible.

It’s not hard to see why some have already expressed concern about the project, but in reality, none of these capabilities are actually new. This firmware simply brings them all together in one easy-to-use package, and while there might be an argument to be made about proliferation, we all know that the responsibility to behave ethically rests on the user and not the tools.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/28/hackrf-portapack-firmware-spoofs-all-the-things/

An iMac All-In-One’s New Life

There’s a sleek form factor for desktop computers known as an “all-in-one” that enrobes a computer in a monitor. While the convenience of having all your computing in a neat package has some nice benefits, it comes with an unfortunate downside. Someday the computer inside is going to be old and outdated in comparison to newer machines. While a new OS goes a long way towards breathing life into an old machine, [Thomas] has decided to take the path less travelled and converted an old iMac all-in-one into a discrete monitor.

The iMac in question is the 20″ iMac G5 iSight (A1145) with an LG-Philips LM201W01-STB2 LCD panel. Looking back, [Thomas] would recommend just ordering an LCD driver controller kit from your favourite auction house. But for this particular modification, he decided to do things a little bit more manually and we’re quite glad he did.

Imac Hack ThumbLuckily for [Thomas], the panel supports TMDS (which both DVI and HDMI are compatible with). So the next step was to figure out the signalling wires and proper voltages. After some trouble caused by a mislabeled power line on the iMac PCB silk-screen (12v instead of 3.3v), he had all the wires identified and a plan starting to form. The first step was a circuit to trick the inverter into turning on with the help of a relay. The female HDMI plug with a breakout board was added and sticks out through the old firewire port. The minuscule wires in the display ribbon cable to the monitor were separated and soldered onto with the help of [Thomas’] daughter’s microscope. Resistances were checked as HDMI relies on impedance matched pairs. To finish it off, an old tactile toggle switch offers a way to turn the monitor on and off with a solid thunk.

We love seeing old hardware being repurposed for new things. This project nicely complements the iMac G4 Reborn With Intel NUC Transplant we saw earlier this year, as they both try to preserve the form factor while allowing a new computer to drive the display.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/27/an-imac-all-in-ones-new-life/

An iMac All-In-One’s New Life

There’s a sleek form factor for desktop computers known as an “all-in-one” that enrobes a computer in a monitor. While the convenience of having all your computing in a neat package has some nice benefits, it comes with an unfortunate downside. Someday the computer inside is going to be old and outdated in comparison to newer machines. While a new OS goes a long way towards breathing life into an old machine, [Thomas] has decided to take the path less travelled and converted an old iMac all-in-one into a discrete monitor.

The iMac in question is the 20″ iMac G5 iSight (A1145) with an LG-Philips LM201W01-STB2 LCD panel. Looking back, [Thomas] would recommend just ordering an LCD driver controller kit from your favourite auction house. But for this particular modification, he decided to do things a little bit more manually and we’re quite glad he did.

Imac Hack ThumbLuckily for [Thomas], the panel supports TMDS (which both DVI and HDMI are compatible with). So the next step was to figure out the signalling wires and proper voltages. After some trouble caused by a mislabeled power line on the iMac PCB silk-screen (12v instead of 3.3v), he had all the wires identified and a plan starting to form. The first step was a circuit to trick the inverter into turning on with the help of a relay. The female HDMI plug with a breakout board was added and sticks out through the old firewire port. The minuscule wires in the display ribbon cable to the monitor were separated and soldered onto with the help of [Thomas’] daughter’s microscope. Resistances were checked as HDMI relies on impedance matched pairs. To finish it off, an old tactile toggle switch offers a way to turn the monitor on and off with a solid thunk.

We love seeing old hardware being repurposed for new things. This project nicely complements the iMac G4 Reborn With Intel NUC Transplant we saw earlier this year, as they both try to preserve the form factor while allowing a new computer to drive the display.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/27/an-imac-all-in-ones-new-life/

An iMac All-In-One’s New Life

There’s a sleek form factor for desktop computers known as an “all-in-one” that enrobes a computer in a monitor. While the convenience of having all your computing in a neat package has some nice benefits, it comes with an unfortunate downside. Someday the computer inside is going to be old and outdated in comparison to newer machines. While a new OS goes a long way towards breathing life into an old machine, [Thomas] has decided to take the path less travelled and converted an old iMac all-in-one into a discrete monitor.

The iMac in question is the 20″ iMac G5 iSight (A1145) with an LG-Philips LM201W01-STB2 LCD panel. Looking back, [Thomas] would recommend just ordering an LCD driver controller kit from your favourite auction house. But for this particular modification, he decided to do things a little bit more manually and we’re quite glad he did.

Imac Hack ThumbLuckily for [Thomas], the panel supports TMDS (which both DVI and HDMI are compatible with). So the next step was to figure out the signalling wires and proper voltages. After some trouble caused by a mislabeled power line on the iMac PCB silk-screen (12v instead of 3.3v), he had all the wires identified and a plan starting to form. The first step was a circuit to trick the inverter into turning on with the help of a relay. The female HDMI plug with a breakout board was added and sticks out through the old firewire port. The minuscule wires in the display ribbon cable to the monitor were separated and soldered onto with the help of [Thomas’] daughter’s microscope. Resistances were checked as HDMI relies on impedance matched pairs. To finish it off, an old tactile toggle switch offers a way to turn the monitor on and off with a solid thunk.

We love seeing old hardware being repurposed for new things. This project nicely complements the iMac G4 Reborn With Intel NUC Transplant we saw earlier this year, as they both try to preserve the form factor while allowing a new computer to drive the display.

source https://hackaday.com/2020/11/27/an-imac-all-in-ones-new-life/