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  • Monday, March 24, 2014 - 00:01
    Hackaday Links: March 23, 2014

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    [Jack] sent us a link to a Metropolitan Museum of Art video showing off a mechanized desk that plays music and has a ton of hidden compartments. Furniture makers of yore built hidden compartments in furniture all the time. After all, there weren’t credit cards back in the day and you had to keep important documents, cash, and everything else on hand. What strikes us is that this mates woodworking of the highest caliber with precision mechanics.

    Before you get rid of that old box spring, ask yourself if you need to store dimensional goods. If you rip off the outer fabric, the network of wire inside makes a reasonable lumber rack.

    And since we’re talking trash, we enjoyed seeing this water bottle wire spool minder which [Daniel] sent our way.

    You know those portable DVD players you can hang from a headrest to entertain the kids on long trips? Well [John's] broke, and like chasing the dragon, once you’re hooked on watching videos during car trips there’s no going back. Luckily he was able to throw a Raspberry Pi at the problem. He now has a portable OpenElec XBMC device controlled via a smartphone.

    [Jaromir] posted some breakout board footprints that you can use. It’s not the footprints that impress us, but the idea of using them to fill up board space when spinning a new PCB. [Thanks Sarah]

    LEGO Gachapon. Need we say more? Okay, truth be told we had to look it up too; Wikipedia says it’s spelled Gashapon. These are coin-operated machines that dispense toys inside of plastic capsules. This one’s made of LEGO and it’s awesome.

    [Mikhail] actually built his own ballast resistors for some HeNe laser tubes. This is a bit easier than it might sound at first, as they are much lower power than the tubes used in cutters. But none-the-less an interesting, and successful, experiment.

    Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 21:34
    From the desk of Ladyada… Soldering up a previous proto’ Sunday :)

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    From the desk of Ladyada… Soldering up a previous proto’ Sunday :)

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 21:00
    This Machine Sucks Balls

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    The best career choice anyone could ever make – aside from the richest astronaut to ever win the Super Bowl – is the designer of the kinetic art installations found in science centers that roll billiard balls along tracks, around loops, and through conveyors in a perpetual display of physics and mechanics. [Niklas Roy] isn’t quite at that level yet, but he has come up with a new twist on an old idea: a machine that literally sucks balls from a ball pit into transparent tubes, sending them whizzing around the installation space.

    The installation consists of eighty meters of plastic tubing suspended in the staircase of Potocki Palace in Kraków. Electronically, the installation is extremely simple; a PIR sensor turns on a vacuum cleaner whenever someone is in the ball pit. This sucks balls up through a hose, around the space, and into a bin suspended over the pit. Pull a lever, and the balls stored in the bin are dispensed onto the person vacuuming up thousands of balls below.

    Image source, with video below.

    Filed under: misc hacks

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 19:51
    Sending off protos Sunday… From the desk of Ladyada #sendoffsunday

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    Ladyada likes to send off protos on Sunday morning, here’s the latest :)

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 19:01
    Talpadk: A fast and beautiful terminal

    xrvt-unicode/uxrvt has long been my favourite terminal, it is fast and it supports faked transparency.

    rxvt terminal with transparencyOne problem with using a darkened background was however that some terminal colour simply were bit too dark.

    After a quick googling and short man page reading it was however clear that this can actually easily be resolved.
    Additionally I can store some extra settings making my keyboard short cur for launching the terminal nice and simple.

    Requirements:

    sudo apt-get install xrvt-unicode 
    sudo apt-get install tango-icon-theme

    The last line is only for getting the terminal icon, and is optional if you comment out the iconFile resource

    Configuring rxvt-unicode

    In the file ~/.Xdefaults add the following lines:

    !===== rxvt-unicode resource definitions =====!
    !The number of scrollback lines
    URxvt*saveLine: 5000
    
    !Add fading for unfocused windows
    URxvt*fading: 33
    
    !Specify the icon for the terminal window, requieres the "tango-icon-theme" package
    URxvt*iconFile: /usr/share/icons/Tango/16x16/apps/terminal.png
    
    !Transparency setting
    URxvt*transparent: true
    URxvt*shading: 25
    URxvt*background: Black
    URxvt*foreground: White
    
    !Colour setup for the darker background
    URxvt*color0:  Black
    URxvt*color1:  #ffa2a2
    URxvt*color2:  #afffa2
    URxvt*color3:  #feffa2
    URxvt*color4:  #a2d0ff
    URxvt*color5:  #a2a2ff
    URxvt*color6:  #a2f5ff
    URxvt*color7:  #ffffff
    URxvt*color8:  #000000
    URxvt*color9:  #ffa2a2
    URxvt*color10: #afffa2
    URxvt*color11: #feffa2
    URxvt*color12: #a2d0ff
    URxvt*color13: #a2a2ff
    URxvt*color14: #a2f5ff
    URxvt*color15: White
    
    !Colour notes from the man page
    !color0       (black)            = Black
    !color1       (red)              = Red3
    !color2       (green)            = Green3
    !color3       (yellow)           = Yellow3
    !color4       (blue)             = Blue3
    !color5       (magenta)          = Magenta3
    !color6       (cyan)             = Cyan3
    !color7       (white)            = AntiqueWhite
    !color8       (bright black)     = Grey25
    !color9       (bright red)       = Red
    !color10      (bright green)     = Green
    !color11      (bright yellow)    = Yellow
    !color12      (bright blue)      = Blue
    !color13      (bright magenta)   = Magenta
    !color14      (bright cyan)      = Cyan
    !color15      (bright white)     = White

    The last comments can of course be left out but is handy if you need to find a particular colour that you want to change.

    Also adjust the shading resource to your liking.

    After saving the file you may start the terminal using urxvt or rxvt-unicode and enjoy it fast and good looks.

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 18:13
    Megacon 2014 (photos) #cosplay @MegaConvention #megacon2014

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    Megacon 2014 fantastic photo set by ChaosMiezko via Caleb. Impossible to pick a favorite one!

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 18:00
    Say Watt? A Talking Multimeter?

    talkingMultimeter

    After a request from one of his friends, [Mastro Gippo] managed to put together a talking multimeter to be used by blind persons working in electronics. He wanted a feature-rich meter that had serial output, and recalling this Hackaday article from a few years back led him to find a DT-4000ZC on eBay, which has serial output on a 3.5mm jack. (Though, he actually recommends this knockoff version which comes with excellent documentation).

    It turns out there aren’t many talking meter options available other than this expensive one and a couple of discontinued alternatives. [Mastro Gippo] needed to start from scratch with the voice synthesizer, which proved to be as easy as recording a bunch of numbers and packing them onto an SD card to be read by an Arduino running the SimpleSDAudio library.

    He found a small, battery-powered external speaker used for rocking out with music on cell phones and hooked it up to the build, stuffing all the electronics into an aluminum case. Stick around after the jump for a quick video of the finished product!

    Filed under: tool hacks

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 16:11
    Tinkering with Kids – Get in It for the Long Haul

    Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 1.13.30 PMWhy do we educators do it?  It’s fun enough tinkering around with projects on our own, so why must we bang our heads trying to involve a pack of screaming kids from the neighborhood?  I’ve thought through this before, sometimes at professional lows, when the mob of scruffy little ingrates […]

    Read more on MAKE


  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 15:00
    A Hexacopter with FPV

    hexcopterRetrospective

    [Robert's] been hard at work becoming a hexacopter expert over the past two years, and he’s offered up a retrospective of his multi rotor build experience since he first clicked the “buy” button on Hobbyking. He’s come a long way from his first build, which used inexpensive carbon rods and 3D-printed parts for a frame, supported by scrap wood and hot glue. It met its end in his car; exposed to direct sunlight, the 3D-printed components melted.

    The latest iteration—seen above on the right—is a complete redesign, with a laser-cut frame that dramatically reduced the overall weight and new “Donkey” motors off Hobbyking. It’s strong enough to lift a 1.6kg (3.5lbs) stuffed animal suspended from a rope! Most recently [Robert] has worked out streaming first-person video after fitting a camera to the hexacopter via a 3D-printed attachment and pairing the experience with Zeiss Cinemizer 3D glasses. He still has some bugs to work out, namely screws loosening from vibrations and adding a HUD to the display so he’ll know when the battery levels are low. You can see the poor teddy bear getting hanged along with some other videos, including the first-person video flight, after the break.

    Filed under: toy hacks

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 13:00
    Routing a Four Foot Tall Tiki Sculpture

    FinishingTikiEstimating the incorrect max depth of cut on a 3D machining job will get you into trouble. Greg Flanagan walks you through his Tiki sculpture build and gives tips on how to avoid this rookie mistake.

    Read more on MAKE


  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 12:00
    DIY CNC Dust Collection Really Sucks!

    CNCdust-main2

    CNC Routers are great. If you’ve ever used one you know this but you also know that they will cover the machine and everything around it with a layer of dust. It is certainly possible to use a shop vac to suck up the dust coming from the router, however, the only problem with that is the shop vac’s filter will clog with dust and lose suction, defeating the intent of your vac system.

    CNCdust-assembled2[Mike Douglas] was ready to step up his CNC game and decided to make his own dust separator. This design is extremely simple and only uses a couple 5 gallon buckets, a few PVC fittings and pieces of wood. To keep the cost down and the style up, the accompanying ‘shop-vac’ is also made from 5 gallon bucket with a vacuum lid. The project is well documented so head over to his site and check out the build process.

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    CNCdust-howitworks

    A dust separator does exactly what its name implies, it separates the dust and debris from the air before entering the vacuum. The following diagram shows how it works: First, a vacuum creates low-pressure inside the dust separator. That low-pressure draws the dust-filled air into the dust separator. The inlet tube directs the incoming air tangent to the circular chamber. Large debris falls quickly down past the baffle and into the collection chamber. The dust enters and is thrown against the walls of the separator as it spins around. While the dust is traveling around the circumference of the separator, gravity pulls it down into the collection chamber. The now much-cleaner air then travels up through the outlet to the vacuum.

    Now that we have a dust separator doing its job, would you want to stand beside your CNC machine holding the vacuum hose collecting the newly created dust? Probably not. Neither did [Gerg], and that is why he made a dust shoe for his ShopBot. It is made from scrap polycarbonate that was kicking around the shop. There are two main components of the design, the top part that attaches to the router and the bottom part that has the skirt. The bottom piece attaches to the top with magnets which allows the skirt to be removed quickly so that the tool bit can be changed easily. And in case you want to make your own dust shoe, [Gerg] has made the dxf files available.

    CNCdust-shoe2

    Filed under: cnc hacks, tool hacks

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 09:00
    Learning Assembly with a Web Based Assembler

    AssemblyOnlineVery few people know assembly. [Luto] seeks to make learning assembly just a little bit easier with his “fully functional web-based assembler development environment, including a real assembler, emulator and debugger.”

    These days, you can be a microcontroller expert without knowing a thing about assembly. While you don’t NEED to know assembly, it actually can help you understand quite a bit about embedded programming and how your C code actually works. Writing a small part of your code in assembly can reduce code size and speed things up quite a bit. It also can result in some very cool projects, such as using Java to program microcontrollers.

    With high quality example code, it is very easy to get started learning assembly. The emulator consists of a microcontroller with 32 registers, hooked up to three LEDs, two buttons, and a potentiometer. This is way better than painfully learning assembly on real hardware. Be sure to check out the online demo! Being able to step through each line of code and clearly see the result help make assembly easier to use and understand. It would be great to see this kind of tool widely adopted in engineering programs.

    Have you used assembly in any of your projects? Let us know how it went and why you choose to use assembly

    Filed under: Microcontrollers

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 08:00
    Watson to be used in choosing cancer treatments

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    IBM has announced that Watson will be used to analyze cancer data and recommend treatments. via ars technica.

    Earlier today, IBM announced that it would be using Watson, the system that famously wiped the floor with human Jeopardy champions, to tackle a somewhat more significant problem: choosing treatments for cancer. In the process, the company hopes to help usher in the promised era of personalized medicine.

    The announcement was made at the headquarters of IBM’s partner in this effort, the New York Genome Center; its CEO, Robert Darnell called the program “not purely clinical and not purely research.” Rather than seeking to gather new data about the mutations that drive cancer, the effort will attempt to determine if Watson can parse genome data and use it to recommend treatments.

    Darnell said that the project would start with 20 to 25 patients who are suffering from glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer with a poor prognosis. Currently, the median survival time after diagnosis is only 14 months; “Time, frankly, is not your friend when you have glioblastoma,” as Darnell put it. Samples from those patients (including both healthy and cancerous tissue) would be subjected to extensive DNA sequencing, including both the genome and the RNA transcribed from it. “What comes out is an absolute gusher of information,” he said.

    It should theoretically be possible to analyze that data and use it to customize a treatment that targets the specific mutations present in tumor cells. But right now, doing so requires a squad of highly trained geneticists, genomics experts, and clinicians. It’s a situation that Darnell said simply can’t scale to handle the patients with glioblastoma, much less other cancers.

    Read more.

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 07:00
    How did Bill Nye become “the Science Guy?”

    Bill Nye tells us how he became the Science Guy. via NOVA’s Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers.

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 06:05
    Hackaday At MakeDC

    makedc

    Last Wednesday, our Hackaday travels took us to the Washington, DC area for a visit to NOVA Labs near Dulles and a yet-to-be opened Metro stop. Also on our itinerary was a visit to MakeDC, an informal get together for people around the nation’s capitol to show off their latest projects and builds.

    The highlight of the evening was a pair of talks from [Julian] and [Taylor] on a project they did for work: a social cooler, or a locked box holding cool drinks that will only open when enough people send a text to a certain number. We’ve got [Julian]‘s talk on video, but despite our fancy new camera gear for this sorta thing, [Taylor]‘s demo of what an Electric Imp can do was lost to the digital wastes.

    Aside from [Julian]‘s talk on APIs and [Taylor]‘s talk on the Electric Imp, there were a few impromptu presentations from the attendees. One of the most thorough was the duo from Shiny & Jackal Cosplay, crafters of EVA foam and LEDs. Truth be told, Hackaday doesn’t see many of these ‘softer’, cosplay and prop making builds in the tip line, and that’s a shame; the amount of skill that goes into these costumes is at least as equal as a woodsmith that can build fine furniture using only hand tools.

    Perhaps a little premature, but TechShop is opening a new location in Arlington, VA at the end of the month. The GM [Addam Hall] was there scoping out the hacks and letting the attendees know there’s going to be a huge, awesome shop that’s down town in Crystal City. Close enough to public transportation, anyway, because anyone who drives in DC is certifiable.

    The last item of note isn’t a build yet, but it’s shaping up to be pretty cool. It’s BRWRY – pronounced, ‘brewery’ – and will be a semi-automated beer making machine. Robots and beer, what can’t you love?

    We’d like to thank [Zach], [Julian], [Taylor], and all the other guys from iStrategyLabs for putting together a nice evening of hanging out, drinking beer, eating pizza, and talking about what you’ve built. We had a great time, and we’re looking forward to the next one, as well as any other similar get together in other cities.

    Filed under: Featured

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 06:00
    Bionic Plants Offer Superpowered Photosynthesis

    Bionic-plants

    While it’s widely understood that plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis, many people might not realize how inefficient this process itself actually is. Plants are not only limited in the spectrum of light they can absorb (green light is only reflected and not absorbed, giving them the color we perceive them to have), but only about 10% of the light they do absorb is actually capable of being used. Recently, a team of chemical engineers and biochemists addressed this by giving a few plants a boost. By embedding carbon nanotubes capable of absorbing sunlight and converting it into electron flow, they were able to dramatically enhance the photosynthesis rates by up to three times that of untreated plants. The researchers see possible applications ranging from solar energy harnessing to detection of airborne pollutants and more. From Scientific American:

    “Plants have, for a long time, provided us with valuable products like food, biofuels, construction materials and the oxygen we breathe,” notes plant biologist turned chemical engineer Juan Pablo Giraldo, a postdoctoral fellow in the research lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who did the work. “We envisioned them as new hybrid biomaterials for solar energy harnessing, self-repairing materials [and] chemical detectors of pollutants, pesticides, [and] fungal and bacterial infections.”

    First, the researchers removed the chloroplasts from some spinach leaves and put it in a sugary solution. The researchers then introduced the carbon nanotubes, which embedded in the cell’s fatty walls when treated with DNA to take on a negative charge or chitosan (a derivative of the material comprising insect exoskeletons) for a positive charge. This penetration happens within seconds and doesn’t require heat, a catalyst or anything else, according to the researchers. The move also appears to be irreversible and complete. No nanotubes remained floating outside the chloroplasts in these experiments.

    Even better, the trick also works on chloroplasts in living plants. Introduced carbon nanotubes found the chloroplasts in the leaves of an Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant often used in such studies. Perhaps more important, it did not kill the leaves or the plant over a period of several weeks.

    Read more.

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 05:00
    Cyborg Neil Harbisson Can Hear Colors, Share Senses with Friends.

    Neil Harbisson was born with achromatopsia which left him only able to see in shades of black and white. However, after inventing the “eyeborg,” Harbisson has been able to hear colors and experience the world in a new way. Initially, the device worked externally using headphones, a camera, and a small computer that he carried in a backpack. A chip translated a limited spectrum of colors into notes on a musical scale. The device has undergone many revisions since then to reduce its size and also to vastly expand the number of colors Harbisson is capable of perceiving (which now include infrared and ultraviolet!) as well as saturation. Recently, Harbisson unveiled the latest revisions to his device which allow him to hear colors directly through bone conductivity thanks to a recent surgical implantation. Harbisson also demonstrated and experienced a new addition for the first time in front of the audience that allows him to experience sensations from colors that his friends are seeing from across the globe! From Motherboard:

    Unsurprisingly, it took a lot of effort to find a doctor willing to go ahead with the procedure, but he finally had the operation in Barcelona last December. He showed photographs of the surgeons drilling into his head as he sat with his chin to his chest. The antenna is embedded in the occipital bone at the back of his head, with a separate hole for audio input—essentially, a jack drilled into his skull that transmits sound into his head through bone conduction.

    At the end of the antenna, a modified camera detects both hue and saturation (more vibrant colours make a louder noise), and the whole setup is controlled by a chip. In a phone call, Harbisson talked me through the surgery. They had to remove a patch of his hair permanently to reduce infection, and reduce the thickness of the skin. “Then they opened the skin and they drilled—it was just drilling different holes for the antenna and the audio entry,” he said. It took around eight weeks to heal.

    For Harbisson, the new antenna understandably feels even more a part of his body than before. There’s no pressure against the back of his head, the sound quality is better, and it feels like a body part. “If you touch the camera or the antenna it’s like touching a tooth or a nail—I feel it, basically, which is weird, because I didn’t feel that before,” he said.

    unnamed

    The technology in the latest version of the device also included a very juicy little addition: thanks to a Bluetooth connection and a custom developed app, Harbisson can now hear colours that other people are seeing.

    He demonstrated this new capability—which he hadn’t tried before—by hooking up to friends in Barcelona and New York (a third connection in Melbourne appeared to have overslept). They called Harbisson through the Eyeborg app, then used their smartphone cameras to look at different coloured objects. Harbisson could then hear the hues directly in his head.

    He also experimented with getting one of the students present to point their viewfinder at different objects on a table and stream what they were seeing to his antenna. Going on the sound, he could correctly identify objects like his blue travel card, multicoloured tie, and burgundy passport.

    I asked Harbisson about this experience and he said it was “very special.” “When someone was pointing at the passport I was actually visualising the passport,” he said. “It was not only a sense of colour, it was actually the object for me. So this is something new to me, to visualise things that are not in front of me and share someone else’s vision.”

    Read more.

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 03:00
    Home Made Resin Based 3D Printer is Incredible

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    Resin based 3D printers (SLA) are the next big thing, and while they may seem daunting at first, in some ways they are actually simpler than FDM machines with less moving parts! Loosely following an Instructable, [Dan Beaven] has just finished putting together his own home-made 3D DLP Printer, and it’s bloody brilliant.

    He owes a lot of thanks to [Tristram Budel] and his incredibly detailed Instructables guide on building  a 3D DLP printer, but [Dan] has also added quite a bit of his own flair to the build. Most notably is his method of separating layers from the vat of resin — most designs tilt the bed slightly to counter the suction forces, but his slides the vat back and forth along the Y-axis, which seems to work extremely well.

    The printer is built out of 1″ T-slot aluminum and has a NEMA 17 motor that provides the Y-axis movement along two linear rods for the vat. The Z-axis stage uses a NEMA 23 motor and has a whopping 14″ of travel. Combined with a 104mm x 204mm build plate, this thing can print some decently sized parts!

    To cure the resin, he’s using a 1080p DLP projector with no modifications. To conserve space, it is mounted at a 90 degree angle, and uses a small mirror to reflect the image onto the build plate inside of the vat. To pump the resin in and out of the vat, he’s using an industrial peristaltic pump he bought off eBay — a word to the wise, it needs to be flushed with isopropyl alcohol after each use! He learned the hard way…

    For more info on printing in resin, don’t forget to check out our column on 3D Printering: You Want UV Resin?

    Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

  • Sunday, March 23, 2014 - 00:00
    Bitbanging USB On Low Power ARMs

    M0

    With the Adafruit Trinket, the Digispark, and some very clever work with the smallest microcontroller Atmel offers, it looks like the ‘in’ thing to do for embedded software developers is to bitbang the USB protocol on hardware that shouldn’t support it. There are a lot of very small ARM chips out there without USB support, so it was only a matter of time before someone was able to bitbang USB on the ARM Cortex M0+.

    The board above is based on an Energy Micro EFM32ZG, a very small 24-pin QFN device with up to 32 kB of Flash and 17 GPIOs. As with all the bitbanged USB hacks, the differential data lines are attached directly to the microcontroller. A 24 MHz crystal is needed, but the team behind the project is working on using the internal RC oscillator instead.

    The code is portable with minimal changes between other manufacturer’s Cortex M0+ chips, and with a little work, this could become a very, very cheap USB-programmable ARM dev board, something the community could certainly use.

    Filed under: ARM, Microcontrollers

  • Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 21:00
    The Makerspace Workbench at the NoVa Mini Maker Faire

    Adam-Kemp's-Mini-Maker-Faire-NoVa-ExhibitLast weekend, I traveled down to Northern Virginia for the NoVa Mini Maker Faire. I joined Adam Kemp, author of our book The Makerspace Workbench. His exhibit was, appropriately, called Inside the Makerspace Workbench.

    Read more on MAKE


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