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Tightly Packed Raspberry Pi Tricorder Impresses

Hackaday - 3 hours 28 minก่อน

We’ll say upfront that we don’t have nearly as much information about this 3D printed Star Trek: The Next Generation tricorder as we’d like. But from the image galleries [Himmelen] has posted we know it’s running on the Raspberry Pi Zero W, has a color LCD in addition to a monochrome OLED, and that it’s absolutely packed with gear.

So far, [Himmelen] has fit an NESDR RTL-SDR dongle, a GPS receiver, an accelerometer, and the battery charging circuitry in the top half of the case. Calling it a tight fit would be something of an understatement, especially when you take into account all the wires snaking around in there. But as mentioned in the Reddit thread about the device, a custom PCB backplane of sorts is in the works so all these modules will have something a little neater to plug into.

There are a lot of fantastic little details in this build that have us very excited to see it cross the finish line. The female USB port that’s been embedded into the top of the device is a nice touch, as it will make it easy to add storage or additional hardware in the field. We also love the keyboard, made up of 30 individual tact switches with 3D printed caps. It’s hard to imagine what actually typing on such an input device would be like, but even if each button just fired off its own program or function, we’d be happy.

Judging by the fact that the LCD shows the Pi sitting at a login prompt in all the images, we’re going to go out on a limb and assume [Himmelen] hasn’t gotten to writing much software for this little gadget yet. Once the hardware is done and it’s time to start pushing pixels though, something like Pygame could be used to make short work of a LCARS-style user interface that would fit the visual style of The Next Generation. In fact, off the top of our heads we can think of a few turn-key projects out there designed for creating Trek UIs, though the relatively limited computational power of the Pi Zero might be a problem.

We’ve seen several projects that tried to turn the iconic tricorder into a functional device. Some have focused on the arguably more recognizable Next Generation style such as this one, and others have targeted the more forgiving brick-shaped unit from Kirk and Spock’s era. The Wand Company is even working on a officially licensed tricorder that will supposedly be as close to we can get to the real thing with modern tech and a $250 USD price tag, though we’d wager COVID has slowed progress down on that one. In any event, whether you build it or buy it, the tricorder seems destined to become reality before too long.

3D Animation for All Thanks to Google AI

Hackaday - 6 hours 27 minก่อน

Google rarely fails to impress with technology demos. Their latest — Monster Mash — is aimed at using artificial intelligence to allow the creation of simple 3D animations without a lot of training or trouble. We’ll warn you: we aren’t artists so we didn’t get the results the demos were showing, but then again, if you are even a little artistic, you’ll probably have better luck than we did. You might want to start watching the video, below.

There’s also a research paper if you are more interested in the technology. The idea is to make simple line drawings in 2D. Then you inflate the object to 3D. The final step is to trace out animation paths.

It sounds simple, but there are a few things you need to know. The object’s main body needs to be a closed stroke. After that, you can draw open shapes to cue the system that they are body parts. Drawing with a right click puts objects behind existing objects and double-clicking a shape creates a symmetric copy (for example, a right and left leg).The inflation step has some high-power math behind it, while the final step is to create control points on the model and deform them to produce the appearance of movement.

The project had contributors from the Czech Technical University, ETH Zürich, and the University of Washington. The code is open source, too.

A passive tunable HF preselector

dangerous prototype - 8 hours 28 minก่อน

Dave Richards (AA7EE) has written an article detailing his tunable passive HF preselector:

When I built the VE7BPO DC Receiver Mainframe recently, it wasn’t intended to end up as a final finished project. The intention was more to have it as part of an experimental platform. The little box that contains the DBM, diplexer, and AF amplifier that make up the mainframe will most likely stay largely the same, now that they are built and boxed up. However, the outboard functions of local oscillator and antenna filtering can swapped around and changed at will. The mainframe includes a spot for an onboard plug-in bandpass filter.

See the full post on his blog.

Programming PALs in 2021

Hackaday - 9 hours 28 minก่อน

The [IMSAI Guy] has posted a follow-up video with all the details of how he programs GAL22V10 chips in the modern era. We noted that this was missing from his stepper motor project a few days ago, and before we could even ask him, he answered. And no, you won’t have to dig that old Intel 486 DX2-66 out of the closet and search eBay for working floppy drives. It turns out the answer is easier than you’d think.

Microchip now owns WinCUPL through its acquisition of Atmel in 2016, and offers WinCUPL as a free download from the Microchip website. This runs only in Windows, although some users report success running under Wine on Linux. This tool will compile the design, but you still need to program the chip. If you’ve done any EEPROM programming lately, chances are you have one of the TL866A MiniPros laying around — this programmer can handle CPLDs, PALs, and GALS as well as EEPROMS. [IMSAI Guy] walks you through the programming procedure, and if you’ve programmed EEPROMs before, the process will be familiar.

For those who prefer the Linux or Mac environment, there are some alternatives. We’ve seen GALasm used on several projects such as [Ken Yap]’s 8085 Minimax. The GitHub repository for GALasm states that commercial use is strictly prohibited, so take note if this applies to your project. As for controlling the TL866A, there is a Linux port called minipro available on GitLab. The remaining hurdle if you want to experiment with these programmable logic chips it to actually get them — many are now obsolete. But it looks like you can still buy Lattice and Microchip (Atmel) ones from various sources. Happy Programming.

Lillbits: Acer’s rugged laptop and tablet, B&O’s bookshelf speaker, and Dell divests VMWare

Liliputing - 10 hours 9 minก่อน

Acer launched its first rugged laptops and tablets under the Acer Enduro brand last summer, and now the company is updating the line with a new 4.1 pound, 14 inch laptop with an IP53 certification for water and dust resistance and a MIL-STD-810H tested design and a 10 inch rugged tablet with the same certifications. […]

The post Lillbits: Acer’s rugged laptop and tablet, B&O’s bookshelf speaker, and Dell divests VMWare appeared first on Liliputing.

Virtual Reality Gloves Aim To Improve Interactivity

Hackaday - 12 hours 27 minก่อน

Virtual reality is a slow-moving field in some respects. While a lot of focus is put on optical technologies and headsets, there’s a lot more involved when it comes to believably placing a human being in a virtual environment. So far, we’ve gotten a good start at the visuals and head tracking, but interaction technology is still lagging behind a lot. [Lucas] is working in just that area, iterating heavily on his homebrew VR gloves.

The gloves consists of potentiometers, fitted with spools and attached to the tip of each digit on a wearer’s hand by a string. As the user curls their fingers, the potentiometers turn and the position of the fingers can be measured. The potentiometers are all read via an Arduino, which communicates back to a PC via USB. A custom driver is then used to interact with Valve’s SteamVR software, allowing the glove to be used with a wide variety of existing software.

Thus far, the system is merely tracking finger position, but the spool and string based design is intended to support motors down the line for each finger to create resistance, so the user can gain the feeling of touching and interacting with virtual objects.  The project has the potential to be a cheaper, more accessible alternative than current off-the-shelf solutions. We’ve seen other hand-tracking gloves before, too – though none that track the spread of a wearer’s hand as well as the finger extension. If you’re working on precisely that, please do drop us a line. Video after the break.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Lite leaked ahead of April 28 launch (again)

Liliputing - 12 hours 33 minก่อน

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Lite is an Android tablet with a 12.6 inch display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor, 4GB of RAM, support for S-Pen input and optional support for 5G mobile data. Samsung isn’t expected to officially unveil the tablet until its Galaxy Unpacked event on April 28, and it’s not expected to […]

The post Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Lite leaked ahead of April 28 launch (again) appeared first on Liliputing.

Daily Deals (4-15-2021)

Liliputing - 13 hours 50 minก่อน

The Epic Games Store is giving away three PC games for free this week. B&H is selling the OnePlus 8 smartphone for half price. Amazon is running a sale on Anker charging accessories & USB hubs. And you can pick up thin and light laptops with Intel Core i5-1135G7 Tiger Lake or Ryzen 7 4700U […]

The post Daily Deals (4-15-2021) appeared first on Liliputing.

Heavy Metal Cyberdeck Has an Eye Towards Expansion

Hackaday - 13 hours 58 minก่อน

Whether we’re talking about Gibson’s Sprawl or our increasingly dystopian reality, one of the defining characteristics of a cyberdeck is that it can be easily customized and upgraded over time. While a few of the builds we’ve covered over the last couple of years have focused more on style than substance, we really appreciate the designs that embrace the concept of modularity to make sure the system can evolve to meet the changing demands of hacking on the go.

To that end, the M3TAL from [BlastoSupreme] is a perfect example of what a cyberdeck should be. Naturally it’s got the cyberpunk aesthetics we’ve come to expect, but more importantly, it’s designed so modifications and repairs are as quick and painless as possible. The trick is the use of a 2020 aluminum extrusion frame, which allows external panels and components to be attached anywhere along the length of the deck using T-Nuts. Similarly, by mounting internal components to “sleds” that ride between the pieces of extrusion, the electronics can easily be removed or swapped out as complete modules.

The M3TAL is currently outfitted with a Raspberry Pi 4 and a pair of 26650 batteries.

Furthering the idea of expandability, [BlastoSupreme] included an authentic 3.5 floppy drive on the M3TAL that allows him to pack an incredible 1.44 MB onto each rugged and portable disk. OK, so maybe the floppy drive isn’t terribly impressive compared to 2021 tech, but it does seem oddly appropriate for a cyberdeck. On the opposite side of the deck there’s a RetroCART slot, which cloaks modern USB devices in clunky faux cartridges. This provides a unified physical format for everything from removable storage to microcontrollers and software defined radio receivers.

[BlastoSupreme] also put quite a bit of time and effort into the input devices on the M3TAL. There’s a mechanical keyboard onboard, as is something of a tradition for cyberdecks, but this one is notable for the meticulous hand-wiring and Teensy 2.0 microcontroller hiding underneath. Next to that is a small joystick intended for the Nintendo Switch which has been converted to USB by way of an Arduino Pro Micro.

Looking at the M3TAL, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that this isn’t the first custom cyberdeck [BlastoSupreme] has built. Last year we covered his gargantuan NX-Yamato, and it’s interesting to see the evolution of his technique. Clearly this isn’t a maker who’s content to rest on his laurels, so we’re eager to see what he’s got in store for his next project.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra coming in May with a 144 Hz display and three 64MP cameras

Liliputing - 14 hours 52 minก่อน

The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra goes on sale in China next week for about $720 and up. But ZTE also plans to launch this high-end phone with a few distinctive features globally in May. So if you’ve been holding out for a phone with a 144 Hz AMOLED display and a camera system that includes […]

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The $50 Ham: A Simple WSPR Beacon

Hackaday - 15 hours 28 minก่อน

I was having a chat recently with someone, and it surprised me that she had an amateur radio license. I suppose it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise; after all, getting a ham radio license is a pretty common rite of passage in the life of a hardware hacker. I guess it surprised me because she’d never mentioned it in our past conversations, and as we talked about it, I learned why. “I got my license because I thought ham radio was about building radios, ” she said. “But it’s not.”

In a lot of ways, she is right about the state of ham radio. There was a time that building one’s own gear was as central to the hobby as getting on the air, and perhaps more so. Now, though, with radios as cheap as $30 and the whiz-bang gear that can make reaching out across the planet trivially easy, building your own radios has slipped down a few notches. But homebrewing is far from a dead art, and as we’ll see in this installment of “The $50 Ham”, a WSPR beacon for the HF bands is actually a fun and simple — and cheap — way for the homebrew-curious to get a taste of what it’s like to build your own transmitter.

A Minimalist Approach

In the last $50 Ham installment, I talked about how the Weak Signal Propagation Mode, or WSPR, is used to explore propagation conditions across the world. The concept is simple: a transceiver connected to a WSPR client program, such as the one built into WSJT-X, listens for the FSK-modulated signals that are being transmitted by other stations. The low-bit-rate signals encode a minimal message — the transmitting station’s callsign, Maidenhead grid location, and the transmit power — into a digital signal that takes nearly two full minutes to send. The receiving station then reports the decoded message to a central WSPR database, which keeps track of the contacts and can display a map of paths between stations.

On the receiving end, most of the magic of WSPR lies in the software, particularly in the digital signal processing that pulls data from the oftentimes weak and degraded signal. But the transmitting side is another story; there, the software needed to encode the minimal message is pretty simple, so simple that not much more than a microcontroller is needed to do the job. Really, all that’s needed is an oscillator capable of generating a signal at a fixed frequency, and varying that frequency under software control to encode the message.

There are a lot of ways to go about this, including using the GPIO pins on a Raspberry Pi to generate the RF signal directly. In this case, though, I decided to follow the lead of a lot of other hams and use an Si5351 clock generator breakout board and an Arduino Nano. The clock generator board sports a three-channel PLL-controlled oscillator that talks I2C and has a well-supported library, making it easy to implement a simple oscillator for just about any band.

I decided to make my WSPR beacon for the 20-meter band, for no real reason other than I’ve always had good luck making WSPR contacts on that band during the daylight hours, which is when I spend the most time in my shack. I also decided that for at least my first pass at this project, I’d strip out all the bells and whistles that are so easy to add to an Arduino project. WSPR transmissions need to be carefully synchronized to start at the top of every even-numbered minute, so many of these projects include elaborations such as a GPS receiver or an NTP client to take care of timing. I figured it would be a lot quicker and easier for me to simply watch the clock and press a button to start the WSPR transmission cycle at the proper time.

To that end, I searched for “minimal WSPR transmitters” and found a number of designs that would work for me, including this one by Peter B. Marks. He adapted the code from Jason Milldrum’s (NT7S) examples in his excellent Etherkit library for the Si5351 — we all borrow from each other. My only addition to the code is support for a button to kick off the transmitter. The code simply takes my callsign, grid square, and transmit power, encodes it into a WSPR message, and tells the Si5351 to send the sequence of four different FSK tones that make up the 162-symbol-long message.

/* * Minimal WSPR beacon using Si5351Arduino library * * Based on code: * Copyright (C) 2015 - 2016 Jason Milldrum * * * This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify * it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by * the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or * (at your option) any later version. * * This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, * but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of * MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the * GNU General Public License for more details. * * You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License * along with this program. If not, see * https://gist.github.com/NT7S/2b5555aa28622c1b3fcbc4d7c74ad926. */ #include "Arduino.h" #include "si5351.h" #include "Wire.h" #define TONE_SPACING 146 // ~1.46 Hz #define WSPR_CTC 10672 // CTC value for WSPR #define SYMBOL_COUNT WSPR_SYMBOL_COUNT #define CORRECTION 94674 // Determined experimentally -- parts per billion? #define INPUT_PIN 7 // pushbutton #define TX_LED_PIN 13 Si5351 si5351; JTEncode jtencode; unsigned long freq = 14097100UL; // Transmit frequency char call[7] = "N7DPM"; // Callsign char loc[5] = "DN17"; // Grid square uint8_t dbm = 10; // Transmit power uint8_t tx_buffer[SYMBOL_COUNT]; int val = 0; // Global variables used in ISRs volatile bool proceed = false; // Timer interrupt vector. This toggles the variable we use to gate // each column of output to ensure accurate timing. Called whenever // Timer1 hits the count set below in setup(). ISR(TIMER1_COMPA_vect) { proceed = true; // Serial.println("timer fired"); } // Loop through the string, transmitting one character at a time. void encode() { uint8_t i; Serial.println("encode()"); jtencode.wspr_encode(call, loc, dbm, tx_buffer); // Reset the tone to 0 and turn on the output si5351.set_clock_pwr(SI5351_CLK0, 1); digitalWrite(TX_LED_PIN, HIGH); // Now do the rest of the message for (i = 0; i < SYMBOL_COUNT; i++) { uint64_t frequency = (freq * 100) + (tx_buffer[i] * TONE_SPACING); si5351.set_freq(frequency, SI5351_CLK0); Serial.print("freq = "); Serial.println(tx_buffer[i]); proceed = false; while (!proceed); } Serial.println("message done"); // Turn off the output si5351.set_clock_pwr(SI5351_CLK0, 0); digitalWrite(TX_LED_PIN, LOW); } void setup() { Serial.begin(115200); Serial.println("setup"); // Use the Arduino's on-board LED as a keying indicator. pinMode(TX_LED_PIN, OUTPUT); digitalWrite(TX_LED_PIN, LOW); // Initialize the Si5351 // Change the 2nd parameter in init if using a ref osc other // than 25 MHz si5351.init(SI5351_CRYSTAL_LOAD_8PF, 0, CORRECTION); // Set CLK0 output si5351.set_freq(freq * 100, SI5351_CLK0); si5351.drive_strength(SI5351_CLK0, SI5351_DRIVE_8MA); // Set for max power si5351.set_clock_pwr(SI5351_CLK0, 0); // Disable the clock initially // Set up Timer1 for interrupts every symbol period. noInterrupts(); // Turn off interrupts. TCCR1A = 0; // Set entire TCCR1A register to 0; disconnects // interrupt output pins, sets normal waveform // mode. We're just using Timer1 as a counter. TCNT1 = 0; // Initialize counter value to 0. TCCR1B = (1 << CS12) | // Set CS12 and CS10 bit to set prescale (1 << CS10) | // to /1024 (1 << WGM12); // turn on CTC // which gives, 64 us ticks TIMSK1 = (1 << OCIE1A); // Enable timer compare interrupt. OCR1A = WSPR_CTC; // Set up interrupt trigger count; interrupts(); // Re-enable interrupts. pinMode(INPUT_PIN, INPUT); } // wait for button press at the top of any even-numbered minute void loop() { val = digitalRead(INPUT_PIN); if (val == LOW) { encode(); // transmit once and stop } } Cleaning Up the Signal

Like any good ham, I tested my tiny transmitter before putting it on the air. The simple dummy load I built back near the beginning of this series came in hand for that, since I was able to hook it up directly to the SMA connector on the breakout board. I connected my oscilloscope to the output and fired up the code. The Si5351 is supposed to generate a square wave; it ended up looking more like a sawtooth wave, but either way, the signal was loaded with harmonics and would need to be cleaned up before going on the air.

Cleaning up harmonics from the Si5351. Yellow trace is the raw ouput from the dev board; green trace is output from the low-pass filter.

Luckily, low-pass filters that take care of this important bit of spectral hygiene are pretty simple. You can buy them, but this is all about homebrewing, so I spun up a Charlie Morris (ZL2CTM) video on filter design, ran through his math, and came up with values for the capacitors and inductors needed for a filter that cuts off everything above about 14.2 MHz. I used this toroid calculator to figure out how to wind the coils, soldered everything up on a scrap of PCB that had pads cut into it using a cheap plug-cutter bit from Harbor Freight, and tested it using my NanoSA spectrum analyzer.

Having never built a filter like this before, I was surprised how well it did cleaning up the harmonics. The waveform on the scope was a nice, smooth sine wave, and the spectrum analyzer showed a marked decrease in harmonics. The second harmonic, which at 42 MHz is well up into the VHF band, was attenuated by 35 dBm. That’s exactly the kind of spurious a responsible ham wouldn’t want to be spewing around, so I’m glad I built the filter.

On the Air – Sort Of Doesn’t look like much of a transmitter, but I’m on the air.

Once I was confident that my little transmitter was putting out a clean signal, I checked to make sure it was putting out signal that was both on-frequency and properly encoded. The Si5351 dev board isn’t exactly a lab-quality signal source — while it holds the set frequency pretty well, it may or may not output the programmed frequency. So the board needs to be calibrated, which is normally a simple matter of tweaking a correction factor in code while monitoring the output on a frequency counter. Sadly, there’s no “NanoFrequencyCounter” in my tiny test suite — yet — so I had to get creative.

My approach was to tune my HF rig to the desired frequency of the WSPR transmitter — 14.097100 MHz — and slowly adjust the transmitter’s frequency while transmitting into a dummy load. This produces an audible beat frequency which pretty much disappears when the two frequencies match. I wasn’t able to completely eliminate the beat frequency, but I did get it down to a couple of Hertz, which I considered close enough.

I next checked for a decodable signal by firing up WSJT-X and “broadcasting” to my HF rig. Even with the dummy load connected, I was getting a very strong signal on the waterfall display, and could clearly see the FSK-modulated signal. And I was very pleased to see that WSJT-X cleanly decoded my message.

Decoding my own signal, to make sure everything is working. The range was only a few meters and the power was only 13 mW, but it worked! Better Luck Next Time

Encouraged by these successes, and knowing that plenty of people have made transcontinental WSPR contacts with less power than the 13 mW my little beacon was putting out, I tried getting on the air for real. I hooked the beacon up to my end-fed half-wave antenna and pushed the send button at the appointed time. Sadly, though, I was never able to get any other station to decode my signal. I’ve tried dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times in the last week or so, but I don’t appear to be getting through.

I know my signal is properly encoded, and I know I’m on frequency, so I’m pretty sure the problem is either my antenna or my low-power signal. Given the nature of this series, I’m more inclined to address the latter with a simple power amplifier build. I’ve got a couple of designs in mind for that and I’ve ordered some parts, so we’ll look at that in the next installment and see if I can unlock this particular achievement.

Raspberry Pi CM4-powered reTerminal is a versatile, modular device with a 5 inch 720p touchscreen display

Liliputing - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 22:52

Seeed Studio’s new reTerminal is an embedded Linux device with a 5 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel IPS LCD touchscreen display, the beating heart of a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4. Expected to go up for pre-order at the end of April, the reTerminal has a list price of $195, but you can register to be […]

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Portrait of a Digital Weapon

Hackaday - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 22:30

Over the years, artists have been creating art depicting weapons of mass destruction, war and human conflict. But the weapons of war, and the theatres of operation are changing in the 21st century. The outcome of many future conflicts will surely depend on digital warriors, huddled over their computer screens, punching on their keyboards and maneuvering joysticks, or using devious methods to infect computers to disable or destroy infrastructure. How does an artist give physical form to an unseen, virtual digital weapon? That is the question which inspired [Mac Pierce] to create his latest Portrait of a Digital Weapon.

[Mac]’s art piece is a physical depiction of a virtual digital weapon, a nation-state cyber attack. When activated, this piece displays the full code of the Stuxnet virus, a worm that partially disabled Iran’s nuclear fuel production facility at Natanz around 2008.

It took a while for [Mac] to finalize the plan for his design. He obtained a high resolution satellite image of the Iranian Natanz facility via the Sentinel Hub satellite imagery service. This was printed on a transparent vinyl and glued to a translucent poly-carbonate sheet. Behind the poly-carbonate layer, he built a large, single digit 16-segment display using WS2812 addressable LED strips, which would be used to display the Stuxnet code. A bulkhead USB socket was added over the centrifuge facility, with a ring of WS2812 LEDs surrounding the main complex. When a USB stick is plugged in, the Stuxnet code is displayed on the 16-segment display, one character at a time. At random intervals, the LED ring around the centrifuge building lights up spinning in a red color to indicate centrifuge failure.

The 16-segment display was built on an aluminum base plate, with 3D printed baffles to hold the LED strips. To hold the rest of the electronics, he built a separate 3D printed frame which could be added to the main art frame. Since this was too large to be printed in one piece on the 3D printer, it was split in parts, which were then joined together using embedded metal stud reinforcement to hold the parts together. Quite a nice trick to make large, rigid parts.

An Adafruit Feather M0 micro-controller board, with micro SD-card slot was the brains of the project. To derive the 5 V logic data signal from the 3.3 V GPIO output of the Feather, [Mac] used two extra WS2812 LEDs as level shifters before sending the data to the LED strips. Driving all the LEDs required almost 20 W, so he powered it using USB-C, adding a power delivery negotiation board to derive the required juice.

The Arduino code is straightforward. It reads the characters stored on the SD-card, and sends them sequentially to the 16-segment display. The circular ring around the USB bulkhead also lights up white, but at random intervals it turns red to simulate the speeding up of the centrifuges. Detecting when the USB stick gets plugged in is another nice hack that [Mac] figured out. When a USB stick is plugged in, the continuity between the shell (shield) and the GND terminal was used to trigger a GPIO input.

Cyber warfare is here to stay. We are already seeing increasing attacks on key infrastructure installations by state as well as non-state actors around the world. Stuxnet was one of the first in this growing category of malicious, weaponized code. Acknowledging its presence using such a physical representation can offer a reminder on how a few lines of software can wreak havoc just as much as any other physical weapon. Check out the brief project video after the break.

Acer Chromebook Spin 513 with Snapdragon 7c coming soon for around $420 and up

Liliputing - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 22:21

The first Chromebooks with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors are coming soon. Last fall Acer introduced the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 with a 13.3 inch full HD display, a convertible tablet-style design and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c processor and promised it’d be available for purchase in the first quarter of 2021. That didn’t happen. But it looks […]

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Quartz64 Model B is a Raspberry Pi-sized single-board PC with a Rockchip RK3566 processor

Liliputing - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 21:41

A few months after unveiling the upcoming Quartz64 Model A single-board computer powered by Rockchip’s new RK3566 1.8 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A55 processor, Pine64 is introducing a Quartz64 Model B. This variation is smaller, measuring 85mm x 56mm. That makes it about the same size as a Raspberry Pi Model B, or roughly the size […]

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Crew Dragon’s Short Hop Begins the Era of Valet Parking at the ISS

Hackaday - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 21:01

They weren’t scheduled to return to Earth until April 28th at the earliest, so why did NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, suit up and climb aboard the Crew Dragon Resilience on April 5th? Because a previously untested maneuver meant that after they closed the hatch between their spacecraft and the International Space Station, there was a chance they weren’t going to be coming back.

On paper, moving a capsule between docking ports seems simple enough. All Resilience had to do was undock from the International Docking Adapter 2 (IDA-2) located on the front of the Harmony module, itself attached to the Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 (PMA-2) that was once the orbital parking spot for the Space Shuttle, and move over to the PMA-3/IDA-3 on top of Harmony. It was a short trip through open space, and when the crew exited their craft and reentered the Station at the end of it, they’d only be a few meters from where they started out approximately 45 minutes prior.

The maneuver was designed to be performed autonomously, so technically the crew didn’t need to be on Resilience when it switched docking ports. But allowing the astronauts to stay aboard the station while their only ride home undocked and flew away without them was a risk NASA wasn’t willing to take.

What if the vehicle had some issue that prevented it from returning to the ISS? A relocation of this type had never been attempted by an American spacecraft before, much less a commercial one like the Crew Dragon. So while the chances of such a mishap were slim, the crew still treated this short flight as if it could be their last day in space. Should the need arise, all of the necessary checks and preparations had been made so that the vehicle could safely bring its occupants back to Earth.

Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary. The autonomous relocation of Crew Dragon Resilience went off without a hitch, and SpaceX got to add yet another “first” to their ever growing list of accomplishments in space. But this first relocation of an American spacecraft at the ISS certainly won’t be the last, as the comings and goings of commercial spacecraft will only get more complex in the future.

Unprecedented Activity

During the Space Shuttle years NASA didn’t have to worry about relocating their spacecraft, as there was never more than one of the winged orbiters in space at the same time. But since the Shuttle was capable of simultaneously carrying seven crew members and an incredible amount of cargo, this wasn’t a problem. All of NASA’s operational needs on the ISS were more than met by a single vehicle.

Of course, all that changed when the Shuttle was retired in 2011. NASA began making deals with its international partners, and eventually even commercial companies, to bring crew and cargo to the Station on a wide array of smaller and more operationally nimble spacecraft. Today these vehicles, in addition to Russia’s Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, occupy most of the available docking and berthing ports on the ISS at any given time. In the coming years even more commercial spacecraft are expected to be brought online, meaning traffic is only going to get worse at the orbiting outpost.

All of the spacecraft docked to the ISS as of April 9th, 2021.

With the US segment of the ISS now busier than ever, NASA is faced with a logistical challenge that their Russian counterparts are already well accustomed to. This may have been the first time an American spacecraft had to be relocated to another docking port during a mission, but to date, 19 Soyuz capsules have had to make similar treks; the most recent of which having just occurred a few weeks prior on March 19th.

A Complicated Dance

Given that Resilience ended up moving to a docking port that’s only a few meters away from where it was originally, it’s easy to think the whole thing was some kind of experimental proof of concept. Perhaps as a test for future, more complex maneuvers. But in fact, the two International Docking Adapters are currently the only spots on the ISS where commercial vehicles such as the Crew Dragon, Boeing’s Starliner capsule, and eventually Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spaceplane, can attach. In short, while the destination will alternate, port relocations for US spacecraft will always be a short hop.

But why? What difference could a trip of such a short distance make? The answer lies in the unique design of the Dragon’s Cargo variant, which is able to carry large bulky objects in the hollow “trunk” behind the pressurized capsule. Generally speaking cargo brought up in the rear of the Cargo Dragon is intended to be mounted to the outside of the Station, and is retrieved from the spacecraft using the orbiting laboratory’s robotic arm. As it so happens, this is how both IDA-2 and IDA-3 were delivered to the Station in 2016 and 2019.

The trick is, Station’s arm can’t reach into the trunk of the Dragon if it’s docked to Harmony’s forward port. That’s not a problem currently, as Resilience isn’t carrying any external cargo. But it will be in June, when a Cargo Dragon delivers a new set of deployable solar arrays for the Station as part of the CRS-22 mission . To further complicate matters, another four astronauts are slated to dock with the Station at the end of April aboard Crew Dragon Endeavour.

A rendering by Raffaele Di Palma illustrates the limited reach of the Station’s robotic arm.

That meant Resilience needed to move to PMA-3/IDA-3 so Endeavour can dock to PMA-2/IDA-2 at the end of the month. Then once Resilience leaves, the upper docking port will be free to accept CRS-22 in June so the solar arrays can be removed from its trunk with the robotic arm. After CRS-22 departs, Endeavour will need to make its own “up and over” hop to PMA-3/IDA-3, as a Boeing Starliner needs to dock at PMA-2/IDA-2 as part of its first test flight to the Station in July.

Sound complicated? That’s because it is. But unfortunately for NASA, unless plans for a commercial expansion to the International Space Station go through, this is the orbital game of “musical chairs” they’ll be forced to deal with. With only two viable docking ports available for current and future spacecraft, the United States should quickly catch up with their Russian counterparts when it comes to the fine art of spacecraft juggling. Except now those relocations will be autonomous.

3D Printing A Long Range Nerf Blaster

Hackaday - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 18:00

The modified Nerf scene used to be about getting the absolute maximum performance out of Hasbro’s off-the-shelf foam dart blasters. The community quickly found the limits of plastic parts made down to a price, and an underground market for heavier springs and CNC-machined upgrades sprung up. Eventually, however, the advent of 3D printing and cheaper home machine tools led to a rise in popularity of bespoke blasters. [Zach] has long advocated for their supremacy, and has made a long-range blaster aimed at newcomers to the hobby. (Video, embedded below.)

The blaster is built around the popular Caliburn spring-powered design, originally created by [Captain Slug]. Modifications by [Zach] involve a longer barrel, relocated side-feeding magazine port, and other modifications designed to suit the long-range sniping role. There’s even a special “rifled” stabiliser on the end designed to reduce the effects of muzzle blast from disturbing the dart as it leaves the barrel.

It’s a design that very much builds on the efforts of the wider Nerf community, and is all the better for it. [Zach] has shared files and links to parts bundles to help get enterprising builders up and running with a minimum of fuss. We’d love to take the long blaster out for a round or three ourselves – it may just be time to fire up the 3D printer!

WiFive55: More Than a Smart 555 Replacement

Hackaday - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 15:00

“You could’ve done that with a 555 timer.” But what if all you have on hand is an ESP8266? [TechColab] needed to control a solenoid valve with a short pulse via a solid-state relay (SSR) but found that the trusty 555 timer was tricky to set properly. Additionally, they wanted to add features, such as fixed pulse length, that were difficult to implement—even with multiple timers. Still wanting to keep things cheap and accessible, [TechColab] has created the WiFive55, a 555 replacement based on the ESP-01 ESP8266 board.

[TechColab] began by investigating existing ESP-01 solid-state relay boards but found that many of them momentarily enable the output on startup—a risk [TechColab] deemed unacceptable. This was resolved in the WiFive55 by adding an RC filter to the SSR output, eliminating the output glitches at the cost of slowing switching time to around 20 ms—an acceptable trade for many SSR applications.

Since they were going to design a new PCB to support this improved ESP-01 SSR controller, [TechColab] decided to go all-out. To support loads of widely varying sizes, the PCB supports an optoisolator that switches up to 1 A, a MOSFET that switches up to 2 A, and an on-board relay or SSR that can switch up to 3 A. For heavy loads, it includes connections for an off-board SSR, which allow it to switch whatever current the SSR can handle (easily over 50 A). Because the ESP-01 is slightly more capable than the 555, the WiFive55 supports control via WiFi, GPIO, serial, and push-button. Keeping with the WiFive55’s original role as a 555 replacement, it even includes a header exposing a 555-like trigger and output interface!

We always like seeing inexpensive boards like the ESP-01 being used to their full potential, and we can’t wait to see what software [TechColab] cooks up for this! If you’re interested in getting started with the ESP-01, you might consider starting with this guide to blinking an LED over WiFi.

A Faux BBS Gets Software On To Your Vintage Machines

Hackaday - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 12:00

Back in the golden age of modems and phone lines, bulletin board systems, or BBSes, were a great way to find new software from the comfort of your own home. Most have shut down over the past few decades, as the Internet took over as a more flexible method of cat picture software distribution. [equant] was a fan of browsing for warez through a text interface however, so recreated the experience in a way that’s useful today. The result is RetroBridgeBBS.

The software runs on a modern PC, ideally a Linux one that runs Python 3 and has a serial port. Then, you can hook up your old retro computers via serial using a null modem cable. Fire up appropriate terminal software on the retro computer and you’re rewarded with a BBS-like interface. From here, you can search selected online repositories for software, and download what you like. The host PC parses requests from the retro PC over the serial link, and shuffles back the requested files downloaded from the Internet. Currently it’s set up primarily for Macintosh users, with some useful features to avoid downloading StuffIt archives of the wrong version – a perennial frustration in the 90s. Future plans involve expanding the system to suit more platforms.

It’s technically anachronistic, but it feels like a period-correct way to get software onto a vintage computer. It’s also a great way to do so when you’re lacking appropriate floppy hardware, hard disk emulators, or network cards – all of which can be expensive and in short supply. There’s other ways to go about it, too, of course – you can do some nifty things with an ESP8266, don’t you know! Video after the break.

Morrowind Rebooted The Original Xbox Without You Ever Noticing

Hackaday - พฤ, 04/15/2021 - 09:00

The original Xbox was well-known for being based on basic PC hardware, and among developers, well known for having just 64 megabytes of RAM which even at the time wasn’t a lot to be working with. In a recent podcast, [Todd Howard] of Bethesda related an anecdote from the era, claiming that Morrowind occasionally invisibly rebooted the Xbox without user’s knowledge in order to free up RAM. [Modern Vintage Gamer] wanted to determine if this was true or not, and began an investigation.

The investigation begins with the aid of an Xbox Development Kit. Noting that the original anecdote mentioned the reboots occurring during the loading process, the devkit Xbox was soft rebooted after executing a load. Rather than going back to the title screen of the game, it kicked straight back into the loading screen and brought up the last save game instead. This suggested that the game was indeed capable of rebooting in the midst of the loading routine.

[Modern Vintage Gamer] had a hunch that this was being achieved with the use of a routine called XLaunchNew Image, a piece of the Xbox API that could be used to soft-reboot the console and start an executable. Upon decompiling Morrowind, a call was found that fit the bill. Further analysis showed that the game was indeed calling XLaunchNewImage upon loading and launching a new game, and was confirmed by finding an *.ini file that contained flags to enable this behaviour.

Presumably, the reason for this behaviour was that it was simpler to boot the game fresh when loading a save, rather than trying to unload all the game assets in memory from the current game. It’s a neat trick that likely made the development team’s lives much easier once they implemented it.

We don’t often talk about The Elder Scrolls series around here, though we’ve seen someone modify an exercise bike to work with Skyrim. Video after the break.

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