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Is That A Vintage Computer In Your Pocket?

Hackaday - 2 hours 46 minก่อน

There’s a lot of debate over which of several contenders was the first modern computer. One of those first operating computers was the University of Cambridge’s EDSAC — the brainchild of Dr. Maurice Wilkes. The EDSAC scored a lot of firsts and used a serial data path along with mercury delay line memories. Over on Hackaday.io, [David Boucher] wanted to simulate the EDSAC in a much smaller form factor than the original room full of racks.

As you can see in the video below, he succeeded in that task, using a Teensy and a small LCD display. We’re reminded EDSAC was among the first machines so some of the terms we would employ were not in use yet. An order is an instruction, for example. Initial orders are akin to a bootloader.

You think of computer sounds as a modern thing, but the EDSAC had a speaker connected to the sign bit of the accumulator and operators could hear programs in operation. With time, they could recognize certain things about a program’s execution based upon the sound.

You can see some vintage 1949 programs running deliberately slowed down because the new hardware can run much faster than the original. We are guessing there’s no mercury in the replica, neither did he original machine have a 3D printed case.

If you want to know more about EDSAC, there is a wealth of information out there and we’ve covered it before. If you don’t want to build, you can run EDSAC in your browser.

Talking With Bubbles

Hackaday - 5 hours 45 minก่อน

Despite the title, this isn’t a tale of conversing with Michael Jackson’s chimp. Rather, it is about [KyungYun]’s machine that transforms speech into whimsical bubbles. While the speech control is novel, we were more fascinated with how the mechanism uses a system of strings to blow bubbles, along with the workmanship to make the device portable.

The rate of fire isn’t that great, so the bubbles appear to simply get larger the longer you talk. Essentially, the device increases the size of the iris — the part that blows the bubble — until you pause speaking. Then it burps out a bubble.

The iris mechanism has borrowed ideas from a much larger bubble machine, though the actual build is much smaller and uses both laser-cut and 3D printed pieces. A Teensy provides the brain, and there’s a pump for transferring bubble solution into the iris.

As best we can tell, soapy liquid drips down the strings which are touching. When the strings separate, it forms a soap film between them. A burst of air, then, can produce a bubble. It is possible to make colored bubble solution and we were trying to think of a way to make different colors for different kinds of sounds, although, having three iris mechanism would make the device much less portable. Perhaps it would be more practical to have multiple tanks of the solution and mix them differently based on sound analysis. In any event, this would be a fun project to extend with some creative additions.

We’ve seen more than one approach to blowing bubbles. If you want lots of bubbles, you might 3D print this contraption.

Electrifying a Honda NC50 Express

Hackaday - 8 hours 46 minก่อน

[Quasse] bought a 1978 Honda NC50 Express moped with the intention of fixing it up and riding it, only to find that the engine was beyond repair. So, they did what any self-respecting hacker would do: tear out the motor and replace it with an electric one. It’s still a work in progress, but they have got it up and running by replacing the engine with a Turnigy SK3 6374 motor, a 192KV motor that [Quasse] calculated should be able to drive the moped at just over 30 miles per hour. Given that this was the top speed that the NC50 could manage on gas power, that’s plenty fast.

The final result runs pretty well and is certainly an interesting build. [Quasse] goes into some detail on how they converted the moped, including milling out the motor parts to fit the electric motor into the existing space, 3D printing a holder for the sensors that monitor the motor speed, and laser cutting a case for the battery. There are also a lot of zip ties holding the cables in place, but as we noted, it’s a work in progress. Street legal? Perhaps not, but it is certainly a fun project for something that was otherwise destined for the scrap heap.

We’ve seen plenty of other electric conversions here, from a 1940’s gangster car to the Teslonda, a Frankenstein build of a Tesla and Honda.

[Thanks for the tip, Rusty!]

MobiScribe 6.8 inch E Ink slate + stylus hits Indiegogo for $199 and up

Liliputing - 10 hours 37 minก่อน

It looks like there’s a new E Ink slate with support for handwritten notes and drawings. It’s called the MobiScribe and it’s a device with a 6.8 inch E Ink display and support for both finger and pen input. You can use your fingers to flip pages while reading eBooks or to navigate the user […]

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Microsot’s new Cortana strategy: Embrace, extend, and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Liliputing - 11 hours 10 minก่อน

Voice assistants were everywhere at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, where hundreds of new products featuring Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant technology made their debut. You know what you didn’t hear much about? Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant. There’s only a single smart speaker that ever shipped with Cortana baked in (and it’s currently selling for […]

The post Microsot’s new Cortana strategy: Embrace, extend, and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em appeared first on Liliputing.

An Arduino Carbon Fiber Wrapping Machine

Hackaday - 11 hours 45 minก่อน

Many of the projects we feature on Hackaday are motivated by pure greed. Not on the part of the hacker, mind you; but rather the company that’s charging such an outrageous price for a mass produced item that somebody decides they can do the same thing cheaper as a one-off project. Which is precisely how [Bryan Kevan] ended up building his own carbon fiber tube wrapping machine. Not only do the finished tubes look fantastic, but they cost him a fraction of what even the “cheap” commercial ones cost.

The principle behind producing the tubes is really pretty simple: carbon fiber ribbon (or “tow”, in the official parlance) gets wrapped around a rotating mandrel, ideally in interesting patterns, and epoxy is added to bind it all together. When it’s hardened up, you slide the new carbon fiber tube off the mandrel and away you go building a bike frame or whatever it is you needed light and strong tubes for. You could even do it by hand, if you had enough patience.

[Bryan] had done it by hand before, but was looking for a way to not only automate the process but make the final product a bit more uniform-looking. His idea was to rotate a horizontal PVC pipe as his mandrel, and move a “car” carrying the carbon fiber ribbon back and forth along its length. The PVC pipe just needs to rotate along its axis so he figured that would be easy enough; and using a GT2 belt and some pulleys, getting the carbon-laying car moving back and forth didn’t seem like much of a challenge either.

The frame of the winder is built from the hacker’s favorite: 20/20 aluminum extrusion. Add to that an Arduino Uno, two stepper motors with their appropriate drivers, and the usual assortment of 3D printed odds and ends. [Bryan] says getting the math figured out for generating interesting wrap patterns was a bit tricky and took a fair amount of trial and error, but wasn’t a showstopper. Though we’d suggest following his example and using party ribbon during testing rather than the carbon stuff, as producing a few bird nests at the onset seems almost a guarantee.

One of the trickiest parts of the project ended up being removing the carbon fiber tubes from the PVC mandrel once they were done. [Bryan] eventually settled on a process which involved spraying the PVC with WD-40, wrapping it in parchment paper, and then using a strip of 3M blue painter’s tape to keep the parchment paper from moving. If you can toss the whole mandrel in the freezer after wrapping to shrink it down a bit, even better.

So was all this work worth it in the end? [Bryan] says he was originally looking at spending up to $70 USD per foot for the carbon fiber tubes he needed for his bike frame, but by buying the raw materials and winding them himself, he ended up producing his tubes for closer to $3 per foot. Some might question the strength and consistency of these DIY tubes, but for a ~95% price reduction, we’d be willing to give it a shot.

Years ago we covered a Kickstarter campaign for a very similar carbon winder. Probably due to the relatively limited uses of such a gadget, the winder didn’t hit the funding goal. But just like the current wave of very impressive homebrew laser cutters, the best results might come from just building the thing yourself.

Arduino Tachometer Clock Fires on All Cylinders

Hackaday - 13 hours 16 minก่อน

We’re certainly no strangers to unique timepieces around these parts. For whatever reason, hackers are obsessed with finding new and interesting ways of displaying the time. Not that we’re complaining, of course. We’re just as excited to see the things as they are to build them. With the assumption that you’re just as enamored with these oddball chronometers as we are, we present to you this fantastic digital tachometer clock created by [mrbigbusiness].

The multi-function digital gauge itself is an aftermarket unit which [mrbigbusiness] says you can get online for as little as $20 from some sites. All he needed to do was figure out how to get his Arduino to talk to it, and come up with some interesting way to hold it at an appropriate viewing angle. The mass of wires coming out of the back of the gauge might look intimidating, but thanks to his well documented code it shouldn’t be too hard to follow in his footsteps if you were so inclined.

Hours are represented by the analog portion of the gauge, and the minutes shown digitally were the speed would normally be displayed. This allows for a very cool blending of the classic look of an analog clock with the accuracy of digital. He’s even got it set up so the fuel indicator will fill up as the current minute progresses. The code also explains how to use things like the gear and high beam indicators, so there’s a lot of room for customization and interesting data visualizations. For instance, it would be easy to scrap the whole clock idea and use this gauge as a system monitor with some modifications to the code [mrbigbusiness] has provided.

The gauge is mounted to a small project box with some 3D printed brackets and bits of metal rod, complete with a small section of flexible loom to cover up all the wires. Overall it looks very slick and futuristic without abandoning its obvious automotive roots. Inside the base [mrbigbusiness] has an Arduino Nano, a DS1307 RTC connected via I2C, a voltage regulator, and a push button to set the time. It’s a perfectly reasonable layout, though we wonder if it couldn’t be simplified by using an ESP8266 and pulling the time down with NTP.

We’ve seen gauges turned into a timepiece before, but we have to admit that this is probably the most practical realization we’ve seen of the idea yet. Of course if you want to outfit the garage with something a bit more authentic, you can always repurpose a Porsche brake rotor.

Inventors Chasing Their Dreams; What It’s Like to Quit Your Job and Hack

Hackaday - 14 hours 46 minก่อน

The phrase “Hindsight is 20/20” is one of those things that we all say from time to time, but rarely have a chance to truly appreciate to the fullest. Taken in the most literal context, it means that once you know the end result of a particular scenario, you can look back and clearly see the progression towards that now inescapable endgame. For example, if you’re stuck on the couch with a bad case of food poisoning, you might employ the phrase “Hindsight is 20/20” to describe the decision a few days prior to eat that food truck sushi.

Then again, it’s usually not that hard to identify a questionable decision, with or without the benefit of foreknowledge. But what about the good ones? How can one tell if a seemingly unimportant choice can end up putting you on track for a lifetime of success and opportunity? If there’s one thing Michael Rigsby hopes you’ll take away from the fascinating retrospective of his life that he presented at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference, it’s that you should grab hold of every opportunity and run with it. Some of your ideas and projects will be little more than dim memory when you look back on them 50 years later, but others might just end up changing your life.

Michael Rigsby’s electric car in 1971

Of course, it also helps if you’re the sort of person who was able to build an electric car at the age of nineteen, using technology which to modern eyes seems not very far ahead of stone knives and bear skins. The life story Michael tells the audience, complete with newspaper cuttings and images from local news broadcasts, is one that we could all be so lucky to look back on in the Autumn of our years. It’s a story of a person who, through either incredible good luck or extraordinary intuition, was able to be on the forefront of some of the technology we take for granted today before most people even knew what to call it.

From controlling his TRS-80 with his voice to building a robotic vacuum cleaner years before the Roomba was a twinkle in the eye of even the most forward thinking technofetishist, Michael was there. But he doesn’t hold a grudge towards the companies who ended up building billion dollar industries around these ideas. That was never what it was about for him. He simply loves technology, and wanted to show his experiments to others. Decades before “open source” was even a term, he was sharing his designs and ideas with anyone who’d care to take a look.

It Never Hurts to Try

A recurring theme throughout Michael’s talk is the way that events occasionally unfold unpredictably, and that sticking to the “safe” route can sometimes take you out of the running for potential opportunities. Even if you aren’t sure something is going to work out in your favor, give it a shot anyway. At worst you’ll waste some time, but if you’re lucky, that shot in the dark might just end up paying off.

As an example, Michael tells a story about the robotics contest at the National Computer Conference in New York City. He had received a free ticket for himself thanks to his entry into a robotics contest which was happening at the Conference, but the cost of buying a ticket for his wife was more than they could afford. At the last minute they assembled a robot for his wife to enter which was little more than a bump-and-go car with a cute fabric mouse body.

The mouse wasn’t meant to be a serious entry, it was just a hack to get her in the door for free. So it was no surprise when it was eliminated immediately for failing to navigate a maze. Michael’s robot ended up not faring much better, as his competitors were better funded and more advanced. But when the television news cameras started rolling, their story ended up being more interesting than the robotics competition itself. The two worst performing entries in the contest ended up being the ones shown on the news, getting Michael and his wife widespread attention.

Forge Your Own Path

Michael also has some thoughts on the adversity that creative individuals often face when they refuse to take the road most traveled. He says there were several times when people told him that his latest idea wouldn’t work and that he was wasting his time. He admits that occasionally they were right, and that you shouldn’t necessarily ignore established wisdom outright. But sometimes it pays to follow your instincts and see where it takes you.

When Michael first saw the Texas Instruments Speak & Spell toy in stores, he was so impressed with it that he took it home and tried to figure out how it worked. He wrote an article for Byte magazine with his theories on how the device functioned, which was met with criticism from readers who claimed his analysis was flawed. But soon after he received a phone call from one of the toy’s designers congratulating him on his reverse engineering. A few weeks after that, he was contacted by a publisher asking if he’d be willing to write a book on the subject. Not bad for a flawed analysis.

If you’ve ever wondered if it was worth chasing down that wild idea or putting together a project that may or may not work, Michael Rigsby wants you to know you aren’t alone. Take a chance, and see where it leads you. Who knows? Some day in the distant future you might end up telling a packed room all about it.

Hackaday Podcast Ep2 – Curious Gadgets And The FPGA Brain Trust

Hackaday - 15 hours 45 minก่อน

In this week’s podcast, editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys look back on favorite hacks and articles from the week. Highlights include a deep dive in barn-door telescope trackers, listening in on mains power, the backstory of a supercomputer inventor, and crazy test practices with new jet engine designs. We discuss some of our favorite circuit sculptures, and look at a new textile-based computer and an old server-based one.

This week, a round table of who’s-who in the Open Source FPGA movement discusses what’s next in 2019. David Shah, Clifford Wolf, Piotr Esden-Tempski, and Tim Ansel spoke with Elliot during 35c3.

Direct Download (56.2 MB MP3)

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Episode 2 Show Notes: New This Week: Interesting Hacks of the Week: Can’t-Miss Articles:

Daily Deals (1-18-2019)

Liliputing - 15 hours 46 minก่อน

In the market for a new WiFi router… or three? Newegg is running a deal on the Asus Lyra Trio AC1750 mesh WiFi system that uses three routers to blanket your home with a strong signal. At $180, it’s a bit more expensive than buying a single AC1750 router… but it’s not a bad price […]

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DIY Clapper is 1980s Style With Raspberry Pi Twist

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 23:30

Home automation isn’t all that new. It is just more evolved. Many years ago, a TV product appeared called the Clapper. If you haven’t heard of it, it was basically a sound-operated AC switch. You plug, say, a lamp into the device and the clapper into the wall and you can then turn the lamp on or off by clapping. If you somehow missed these — and you can still get them, apparently — have a look at the 1984 commercial in the video below. [Ash] decided to forego ordering one on Amazon and instead built her own using a Raspberry Pi.

[Ash’s] prototype uses an LED and could — in theory — drive anything. If you wanted to make a real Clapper replacement you’d need a relay or some other kind of AC switch suitable for the load. The actual clap detection software is from [nikhiljohn10] and simply waits for two loud noises. No fancy machine learning to differentiate between a clap and a cat knocking over a vase. Just a threshold and some timing.

Of course, the Pi can’t hear anything unless you add a microphone. However, it is easy enough to add a USB microphone since the Linux kernel will handle that easily. The pyaudio library gives you an interface between code and the microphone.

We were thinking since the whole thing is a script, it would be easy to also provide some audio feedback. For that matter, you could monitor the state with an e-mail. It might be interesting to provide some other interface — like a web page — that could also switch the load on and off. Or perhaps do different actions in response to two claps, three claps, or four claps. There’s a lot of possibilities.

If you want to know how a real Clapper works, look no further than this. If you want to see a super Clapper, head over to Hackaday.io.

Gemini portable displays hit Kickstarter, ship in May

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 22:27

As promised, the Gemini portable 15.6 inch displays with built-in batteries are now up for pre-order through a Kickstarter campaign. While these are hardly the first portable displays designed to connect to a laptop, tablet, or other mobile device to give you a dual-screen setup on the go, the Gemini Displays are interesting for a […]

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Oreo Construction: Hiding Your Components Inside The PCB

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 22:01

In recent months, the ability to hide components inside a circuit board has become an item of interest. We could trace this to the burgeoning badgelife movement, where engineers create beautiful works of electronic art. We can also attribute this interest to Bloomberg’s Big Hack, where Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley asserted Apple was the target of Chinese spying using components embedded inside a motherboard. The Big Hack story had legs, but so far no evidence of this hack’s existence has come to light, and the companies and governments involved have all issued denials that anything like this exists.

That said, embedding components inside a PCB is an interesting topic of discussion, and thanks to the dropping prices of PCB fabrication (this entire project cost $15 for the circuit boards), it’s now possible for hobbyists to experiment with the technique.

But first, it’s important to define what ‘stuffing components inside a piece of fiberglass’ is actually called. My research keeps coming back to the term ’embedded components’ which is utterly ungooglable, and a truly terrible name because ’embedded’ means something else entirely. You cannot call a PCB fabrication technique ’embedded components’ and expect people to find it on the Internet. For lack of a better term, I’m calling this ‘Oreo construction’, because of my predilection towards ‘stuf’, and because it needs to be called something. We’re all calling it ‘Oreo construction’ now, because the stuf is in the middle. This is how you do it with standard PCB design tools and cheap Chinese board houses.

Previous work Lumen Electronic Jewelry. Note the capacitor and USB port mounted in a cutout in the PCB.

The immediate inspiration for this build comes from designer2k2 and a flat-pack Christmas ornament. This project used castellated pins and a series of holes to mount SMD parts to the side of a PCB instead of the top or bottom. While soldering electronic components to the side of a PCB is somewhat novel, mounting electronic components to the side of a PCB is nothing new. Lumen Electronic Jewelry is producing a PCB ‘heart’ pin (right) with a capacitor and USB port mounted inside a cutout in the milling layer of a PCB. Likewise, other PCB projects — mostly PCB business cards — have experimented with mounting other components in a cutout in the milling layer. I have seen coin cell battery holders that use PCB cutouts with two ‘tabs’ that capture a battery between fiberglass.

The idea of embedding components within a stack of fiberglass and copper is something we really haven’t seen before in the small-scale hobbyist world, but it can be done. Embedded components — there’s that ungooglable term again — can be done in very expensive products. The reasons for doing this range from saving physical space, better EMI shielding, and making something more difficult to reverse engineer. This is a technique for military and aerospace components, where price is no object.

Boards for military and aerospace work are one thing, but the past year saw a significant amount of discussion over embedded components, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Bloomberg’s Big Hack was a story about Supermicro motherboards shipped to Apple and Amazon that had additional components giving Chinese hackers a back door. This story was widely criticized, Apple and Amazon have fervently denied having found compromised motherboards, and any day now I’m expecting Supermicro to file suit in a libel case. This story did however generate a lot of discussion over how such a hack could happen. The top minds of the Twitterverse believe this could be done by embedding a small microcontroller inside the motherboard’s PCB, between the baseboard management controller and its Flash memory. This small microcontroller stuck between a few layers of PCB could in theory change a few bits of the BMC’s Flash to give attackers a back door, and Trammel Hudson gave an interesting talk at CCC discussing the theory of this fictional hack’s operation. It’s within the realm of possibility, but the smart money says this didn’t happen with Supermicro motherboards shipped to Amazon or Google. In any event, x-ray inspection or even a flying probe test would reveal any ’embedded component’ was in the PCB.

Layering Printed Circuit Board

For this build, I have extended these techniques slightly by mechanically bonding the layers of PCBs together with solder. This was previously done by Voja Antonic and his work in building enclosures out of FR4. His approach was to create a strip of bare copper around the perimeter of each side of the enclosure. By mounting these sides of the enclosure at the correct angle, soldering the two flat planes of PCBs into a three dimensional shape is as simple as running a soldering iron over the exposed copper on the perimeter.

Each PCB in the stackup has exposed copper along the perimeter. By applying solder paste and clamping the boards together they’re read for reflow.

I used Kapton tape as the clamping method since it will have no problem holding up to the heat of the oven. After baking it, sandpaper is all you need to clean up the edges.

This circuit

The circuit for this build is a guitar pedal. More specifically, it’s a slight modification of a Dallas Rangemaster, with the actual schematic borrowed from Fuzz Central (the RangeBlaster). There are several reasons for demonstrating this PCB technique in the form of a guitar pedal, and for using a Rangemaster circuit in particular.

A capacitor is just barely thin enough to fit inside a PCB

The Rangemaster circuit in particular was chosen because it is a very simple circuit. It’s only a single germanium transistor and a handful of resistors and caps. My choice of putting a Rangemaster circuit inside a PCB is driven simply by component count; it is the simplest circuit that does something. As for demonstrating this technique in a guitar pedal, I have far more sinister reasons. The market for guitar pedals makes even less sense than the audiophile market. If you come up with a circuit and coat it in epoxy, you’ve just made a thousand dollar pedal. No, that is not a joke. I am simply capitalizing on the gullibility of consumers with an interesting fabrication process.

The basis of the circuit is exactly what you would expect for a guitar pedal: there is a 3PDT footswitch, a pair of 1/4″ jacks, a 2.1mm DC jack (center negative, because Boss), and a standard PCB mount pot 10k, audio taper. The active part of the circuit is a vintage OC44 transistor in a TO-5 package. These are the only components visible on the finished PCB.

The completed PCB, traces not shown, but with the layer 200 used for creating cutouts

This circuit board was first constructed by laying out the through hole components in logical places, then dropping the surface mount components in places that made sense. Again, this is an exceedingly simple circuit with less than a dozen parts, in the schematic. Once that was done, it was only a matter of copying the PCB to a new file and adding cutouts around the parts. This board was done in Eagle, giving me the ability to add many layers to the board which could then be added to the CAM manager to create the Gerbers.

The real ‘trick’ with this technique is encapsulating components within a PCB stackup. While this can be done with a standard PCB thickness of 1.6mm per layer (three layers are required for complete encapsulation, resulting in a final thickness of 4.8mm), I used 0.6mm thick PCBs for the top and bottom layers. This resulted in a final thickness of 2.8mm. This is thin enough that the assembled piece does not register in your mind as a stack of PCBs. It’s thin enough that one could easily believe this is just a normal PCB.

It’s easy to create a PCB, and if you know what your board house can do, it’s easy to create internal cutouts on a board. There is absolutely nothing new about the previous thousand words. The trick to Oreo construction is mechanically bonding the layers together. This could be done with glues and resins, but taking a page from Voja’s work, I decided to use solder to attach one layer of PCB to another. This was done by a copper trace around the perimeter, disconnected from any ground planes or pours.

The assembly process is as simple as populating and soldering the bottom layer board with surface mount components, preferably with lead free solder paste. Then, leaded solder paste is applied to the perimeter traces, the boards are clamped together, and the entire assembly is thrown into the reflow oven. After that, it’s simply a matter of populating the through hole components.

To demonstrate this technique further, this PCB includes an SOIC-8 package and a QFN-60 package. These components are thinner than the 1.6mm ‘spacer’ PCB.

There are other ideas I considered to connect these different PCBs together. I could ‘stitch’ them together with vias and through holes, using small bits of wire to both align and mechanically attach each layer together with solder.

Limitations of this technique and areas of further study

While you can embed capacitors, resistors, and microcontrollers inside a stack of PCB, there are limitations. First and foremost, the Rangemaster clone circuit calls for 47 μF capacitors. This value is much too large for small SMD caps, and the (physically) smallest caps I can find with this value are on the order of 10mm thick. Unless you want a circuit board that’s half an inch thick, these caps are far too large. The workaround for this problem is to add many caps in parallel.

This leads to another problem. The original circuit used electrolytic capacitors, not small ceramic capacitors. Because I’m using arrays of ceramic caps, the actual capacitance is less than the sum of all the capacitance in the array. MLCC capacitors should be derated when biased (as they are when using them as a bypass cap), and the capacitor I ‘constructed’ does not have the correct value in the circuit.  Yes, the capacitance of ceramic capacitors is dependent on their voltage, but you can aaay yolo around this by simply adding even more capacitors.

To get the required capacitance in the circuit, you need to add caps in parallel.

Additionally, no project that uses this technique will be able to use large parts. If you have a project with a small boost power supply, you probably have a relatively large inductor. Inductors of a sufficient rating for a beefy power supply will be too tall to embed into a single layer of FR4. The same is true for components handling high power, as they’re usually physically large and must dissipate heat, the latter being a problem for a component that is effectively trapped inside a fiberglass box.

Despite the problems, this is an interesting technique of PCB fabrication. Combined with the dropping prices of custom-made PCBs — the boards for this entire project cost less than $15 USD total — I would expect to see many PCB artisans picking up this technique.

This project was just a demonstration of what is possible with Oreo construction, but given the huge advancements in artistic PCBs, this is in no way the limit of what is possible. Given we’re now in the golden age of reverse-mount LEDs, it’s possible to encapsulate the driver and the LEDs of a gigantic matrix inside fiberglass. With Oreo construction, an entire PCB could be just a brick of fiberglass when it’s off, and a glowing rectangle when it’s on.

If you’re wondering what this Oreo construction guitar pedal sounds like, well, it’s a Rangemaster treble booster. Brian May’s guitar work for Queen would be the most popular example, but Brian May is a little too unique to really get a sense of what this sounds like. A better example would be Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, something from the first two Zeppelin albums, or Clapton on the Blues Breakers album. That’s a lot of sonic territory, but this is a better demo of a Rangemaster than anything I could produce. In any event, but the entire idea behind this was to build the simplest circuit possible inside a PCB, not to do anything fancy. A Rangemaster is one transistor, so that’s what I built.

Windows 10 Mobile has less than a year to live (Support ends Dec 21, 2019)

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 20:00

Windows 10 Mobile has been mostly dead for a while. Microsoft pulled the plug on the Windows Insider Preview program for phones a year ago and there haven’t been any major updates to the operating system since then (or any major new smartphones shipping with it either). And app developers have been jumping ship — […]

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Ben Heck Can Program The Smallest Microcontroller

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 19:00

Microcontrollers are small, no one is arguing that. On a silicon wafer the size of a grain of rice, you can connect a GPS tracker to the Internet. Put that in a package, and you can put the Internet of Things into something the size of a postage stamp. There’s one microcontroller that’s smaller than all the others. It’s the ATtiny10, and its brethren the ATtiny4, 5, and 9. It comes in an SOT-23-6 package, a size that’s more often seen in packages for single transistors. It’s not very capable, but it is very small. It’s also very weird, with a programming scheme that’s not found in other chips from the Atmel/Microchip motherbrain. Now, finally, we have a great tutorial on using the ATtiny10, and it comes from none other than [Ben Heck].

The key difference between the ATtiny10 and other AVRs is that the tiny10 doesn’t use the standard AVR ISP protocol for programming. Instead of six pins for power, ground, MISO, MOSI, SCK, and RST, this is a high-voltage programming scheme that needs 12 Volts. The normal AVR programmer can do it, but you need to build an adapter. That’s exactly what [Ben] did, using a single-sided perf board, a lot of solder, and some headers. It looks like a lot, but there’s really not much to this programmer board. There’s a transistor and an optocoupler. The only thing that could make this programmer better is an SOT-23 ZIF socket. This would allow bare tiny10s to be programmed without first soldering them to a breakout board, but ZIF sockets are expensive to begin with, and the prices on SOT-23 sockets are absurd.

Programming the device was a matter of loading Atmel Studio and going through the usual AVR rigamarole, but Ben was eventually able to connect a light sensor to the tiny10 and have it output a value over serial. This was all done on a device with only 32 Bytes of RAM. That’s impressive, and one of the cool things about the smallest microcontroller you can buy.

Hacking Hackaday.io from CircuitPython

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 16:00

If you’ve ever engaged in social media, you’re familiar with the little thrill you receive when your post, tweet, or project gets a like. But, if logging in feels like too much overhead to obtain your dopamine reward, [pt’s] CircuitPython Hackaday portal may be just what you’re looking for. This project creates a stand-alone counter to display the number of “skulls” (aka likes) received by a project on hackaday.io, and of course, it’s currently counting its own.

The code is running on a SAMD51 (Cortex M4) microcontroller and serving up the skulls on 240×320 TFT display. For WiFi connectivity, the project uses an ESP-32 controlled through the usual AT command set. All the gory details of this interaction are abstracted away by a CircuitPython library, which is great because that code really isn’t something you want to write for every project. The program accesses the hackaday.io API to retrieve the number of skulls for the project, but could be easily modified to interface with any service that returned a JSON result.

We’ve been seeing a lot of CircuitPython code lately. Just in case you’re not familiar with it, CircuitPython is Adafruit’s version of Micropython, a python language targeted at embedded processors. While it sounds like something concocted purely to make old-school embedded-C programmers grumble, it’s actually powerful and convenient for embedded prototyping and development. Fueled by the speed of the latest inexpensive microcontrollers and a rapidly growing set of libraries that take the sting out of using integrated peripherals and common hacker-friendly parts, it offers a solid alternative to older embedded frameworks. There are lots of examples around if you want to get started, and we’re maintaining our own list of CircuitPython projects over on hackaday.io that you can check out.

You can see a video of the display after the break. It’s not a live stream, so you won’t see your like appear on the display, but rest assured, [pt] will!

We’ve seen [pt]’s work before. Including – you know – writing our first post ever.

Long-Range RFID With Feedback

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 13:00

Not long ago, we published an article about researchers adding sensor data to passive RFID tags, and a comment from a reader turned our heads to a consumer/maker version which anyone can start using right away. If you’re catching up, passive RFID technology is behind the key fobs and stickers which don’t need power, just proximity to the reader’s antenna. This is a much “hackier” version that works with discrete signals instead of analog ones. It will not however require writing a new library and programming new tags from the ground up just for the user to get started, so there is that trade-off. Sparkfun offers a UHF reader which can simultaneously monitor 25 of the UHF tags shown in this paper.

To construct one of these enhanced tags, the antenna trace is broken and then routed through a switching device such as a glass-break sensor, temperature limit switch, doorbell, or light sensor. Whenever continuity is restored the tag will happily send back its pre-programmed data, and the reader will acknowledge that somewhere one of the tags is seeing some activity. Nothing says this could not be applied to inexpensive RFID readers should you just want a temperature warning for your gecko terrarium or light sensor to your greenhouse‘s sealed controller.

Thank you, [Mike Massen], for your tip on RFID Doing More Than ID.

Designing A Toilet Roll Holder

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 10:00

Everything needs to be designed, at one point or another. There are jobs for those who design kitchens, and stadiums, and interplanetary spacecraft. However, there are also jobs for those who design cutlery, hose fittings, and even toilet roll holders. [Eric Strebel] is here to share just such a story.

[Eric] covers the whole process from start to finish. In the beginning, a wide variety of concepts are drawn up and explored on paper. Various ideas are evaluated against each other and whittled down to a small handful. Then, cardboard models are created and the concepts further refined. This continues through several further phases until it gets down to the fun part of choosing colours and materials for the final product.

Watching the effects of cost and manufacturing process shape the finished item is instructive as to how the design process works in the real world. The toilet paper holder itself is an interesting unit, too – using adjustable magnetic detents to enable one-handed use, as well as including a cell phone holder.

We’ve seen [Eric]’s work before – such as his primer on the value of cardboard in design. Video after the break.



This Computer Mouse Houses A Mouse Computer

Hackaday - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 07:00

Everyone has heard of a computer mouse before, but what about a mouse computer?

Granted, [Electronic Grenade]’s all-in-one computer in an oversized mouse-shaped case is almost without practical value. But that’s hardly the point, which was just to do something cool. Inspiration came from keyboards stuffed with a Raspberry Pi to make a mostly-all-in-one machine; this Rodent of Unusual Size is the next logical step. With a Pi Zero W and a LiPo battery alongside a mouse mechanism inside the 3D-printed case – alas, no real mouse currently on the market would house everything – the computer sports not only a tiny and nearly-usable LCD display, but also a slide-out Bluetooth keyboard. The ergonomics of a keyboard at right angles to the display gives us pause, but again, usability is not the point. And don’t expect much in the performance department – the rig barfs after a few seconds of playing Minecraft.

Still, for all its limitations, this mouse computer has a certain charm. We always enjoy “just because I can” projects, whether they be a Gameboy ukelele or a fire-breathing animatronic duck. Such projects are often valuable not for what they produce, but for pushing into areas where no one has gone before.

Thanks to [GregsStack] for the tip, [via golem.de].

Sony PCM-D10 portable audio recorder coming this spring for $500

Liliputing - ศุกร์, 01/18/2019 - 05:21

Sony is updating its line of professional-quality portable audio recorders with two new models, the $230 PCM-A10, which is basically a souped-up voice recorder that you could use for recording music or podcasts on the go, and the $500 Sony PCM-D10 which is Sony’s most affordable professional handheld audio recorder in years… as well as […]

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