Hardware Hacking

Desktop Turing-Welchman Bombe Build 45

An anonymous reader writes: I completed a months long project to build my own version of the Turing-Welchman Bombe. My machine uses a Raspberry Pi2 and an Arduino to drive stepper motors to turn the three output indicator drums and to drive an LCD display, to work like the indicator unit on the real Bombe. Everything was custom made by me at home. The unit is built to reflect the style of the real Bombe at Bletchley Park and to run in a similar way but as a portable, desktop sized unit. To demonstrate it I use the same Weather Report Menu as used at BP to demonstrate their real Bombe. The entire build was painstakingly documented over many months but the link given shows an overview and a film of the completed machine in action.

Advance In Super/Ultra Capacitor Tech: High Voltage and High Capacity 146

fyngyrz writes: Ultracaps offer significantly faster charge and discharge rates as well as considerably longer life than batteries. Where they have uniformly fallen short is in the amount of energy they can store as compared to a battery, and also the engineering backflips required to get higher voltages (which is the key to higher energy storage because the energy stored in a cap scales with the square of the cap's voltage, whereas doubling the cap's actual capacitance only doubles the energy, or in other words, the energy increase is linear.) This new development addresses these shortcomings all at once: considerably higher voltage, smaller size, higher capacitance, and to top it off, utilizes less corrosive internals. The best news of all: This new technology looks to be easy, even trivial, to manufacture, and uses inexpensive materials — and that is something neither batteries or previous types of ultracaps have been able to claim. After the debacle of EEStor's claims and failure to meet them for so long, and the somewhat related very slow advance of other ultracap technology, it's difficult not to be cynical. But if you read TFA (yes, I know, but perhaps you'll do it anyway) you may decide some optimism might actually be called for.

Ditch Linux For Windows 10 On Your Raspberry Pi With Microsoft's IoT Kit 308

An anonymous reader writes: Partnering with Adafruit, Microsoft has announced the Windows IoT Core Starter Kit. The $75 kit comes comes with an SD card preloaded with Windows 10 IoT. According to the Raspberry Pi blog: "The pack is available with a Pi 2 for people who are are new to Raspberry Pi or who'd like a dedicated device for their projects, or without one for those who'll be using a Pi they already own. The box contains an SD card with Windows 10 Core and a case, power supply, wifi module and Ethernet cable for your Pi; a breadboard, jumper wires and components including LEDs, potentiometers and switches; and sensors for light, colour, temperature and pressure. There's everything you need to start building."
Hardware Hacking

Brain-Controlled (Inflatable) Shark Attack 17

the_newsbeagle writes: This is a parlor trick, not neuroscience," writes this DIY brain hacker — but it sure is a nifty trick. The hacker put electrodes on his scalp, fed the resulting EEG data into a specialized processor that makes sense of brain signals, and modified the remote control for a helium-filled shark balloon. Soon, he and his buddies were steering the shark around the room. Why did it take his buddies, too? "EEG interpretation is not easy because, to be technical, EEG signals are a crazy mess. EEG recordings are a jumble of the signatures of many brain processes. Detecting conscious thoughts like “Shark, please swim forward” is way beyond even state-of-the-art equipment. The electrical signature of a single thought is lost in the furious chatter of 100 billion neurons." So builder Chip Audette settled on the simplest control system he could, and divvied up the actual controls (left, right, forward, etc.) among several users, so each one's brain signals could be interpreted separately.
The Military

Tank Hack Ensured Farmland Didn't Thwart the Invasion of Europe 143

szczys writes: Ingenuity reigns supreme when trying to overcome obstacles standing in your way. So was the case during the Allied invasion of Europe during WWII. Land features in the Normandy bocage region were especially difficult for tanks to navigate. The obstacles were earthen dikes topped with mature trees originally put in place to contain livestock. The solution was to reuse materials from the Axis' own anti-tank measures to build a tank attachment to cut through the obstacles. The Allies were able to take the Axis by surprise as it was assumed the armored divisions wouldn't be able to break through this area.
Hardware Hacking

1000-key Emoji Keyboard Is As Crazy As It Sounds 146

hypnosec writes: A YouTuber named Tom Scott has built a 1,000-key keyboard with each key representing an emoji! Scott made the emoji keyboard using 14 keyboards and over 1,000 individually placed stickers. While he himself admits that it is one of the craziest things he has built, the work he has put in does warrant appreciation. On the keyboard are individually placed emojis for food items, animals, plants, transport, national flags, and time among others.

Does It Make Sense To Hand Make Printed Circuit Boards? 196

An anonymous reader writes: A Hackaday author told the hackers that it isn't worth making your own PC boards anymore. Good tools, fast shipping, and cheap manufacturing capacity means that spending a day making a board that is much worse than a 'pro' board just isn't worthwhile anymore. The reaction was worse than when Kirk told the Star Trek fans to get a life. Although there have been some who agree, many of the readers have taken it as an affront to their very way of life.

Startups Push 3D Printers As Industry Leaders Falter 101

gthuang88 writes: Given the hype around 3D printing, you'd never guess that established leaders like 3D Systems and Stratasys have seen their stock fall by 75 percent in the last year. Big companies like HP, Amazon, and Boeing are getting into the field, too, but startups are still where a lot of the action is. Now Formlabs, a Boston-area startup, has released a new 3D printer that is supposed to be more reliable and higher quality than its predecessors. The device uses stereolithography and is aimed at professional designers and engineers. The question is whether Formlabs---and other startups like MarkForged, Voxel8, and Desktop Metal---can find enough of a market to survive until 3D printing becomes a more mainstream form of manufacturing.

Video Why Hardware Development Takes Longer in the West Than in China (Video) 65

This was originally going to be a second video about the Popup Factory Demo we talked about last Wednesday. But this section of Tim's lengthy interview with people from the Popup Factory seemed like it would be of broader interest to Slashdot people -- and your coworkers, bosses, and friends who may be involved in device production or prototyping. There are some hard words here, because David Cranor is talking about problems that go way beyond the usual perceived Chinese advantages such as low labor costs and a lack of environmental regulations.

Hardware Projects (and Pranks) That Have Scared Observers 193

In the wake of the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed in Irving, Texas, for carrying to school an electronics project believed by a teacher to look like a bomb, Make Magazine has a timely reminder that Ahmed's project is one of many home-brew efforts that sparked (or could have sparked) extreme reactions. Make's list includes a few from tinkerers -- and pranksters -- that not only looked like bombs, but were fully intended to look that way. ("Back in 1967, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was arrested for building a metronome and storing it in a friend’s locker. He rigged a tin-foil contract sensor to the metronome in the locker, and set up the device to tick faster when his buddy opened the locker.") The article doesn't note the 2007 incident in Boston in which a guerilla advertising campaign for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" raised fears of a terrorism and led to two arrests. Gawker has a slightly more pointed article about other students who have specifically brought home-assembled clocks to school, without being arrested.

Google Releases Open Source Plans For Cardboard V2 Virtual Reality Viewer 26

An anonymous reader writes: After revealing an improved version of Cardboard, the super-low cost virtual reality smartphone adapter, Google has now also freely released the detailed design documents, encouraging people to use them for projects ranging from DIY fun to full blown manufacturing. The v2 version of Cardboard is easier to assemble, has larger lenses, a universal input button, and is bigger overall to support larger phones.

Video Popup Factory Demo at Solid Conference 2015 (Video 1 of 2) 9

With rapid, low-cost "maker" tools including 3-D printers, low-volume circuit board etching and populating equipment, and lots of outsourcing to independent designers and engineers rather than having everyone on staff, it is easier every year to make Internet of Things things -- and many other electronic, mechanical, and electro-mechanical devices, too. Formlabs was the company that did the demo at O'Reilly's 2015 Solid Conference for Slashdot's Timothy Lord that he made into this two-part video (second part coming soon) to give you an idea of what's happening in this fast-moving field. Please note that these videos are not an endorsement of Formlabs. There are many companies doing similar things these days. Please feel free to mention your favorite in the comments (below).

Cancer Patient Receives 3D-Printed Titanium Sternum and Ribs 38

An anonymous reader writes: A Spanish cancer patient diagnosed with chest wall sarcoma has received the world's first 3D printed titanium sternum and rib cage. Anatomics, an Australian medical device company, designed and manufactured the metal rib cage. Cnet reports: "Once printed, finished and polished, the implant was couriered to the Salamanca University Hospital, where it was implanted into the patient's chest. It has now been two weeks since the surgery, and the patient has been discharged is recovering well."

Democratizing the Maker Movement 130

aarondubrow writes: To its advocates and participants, the Maker Movement resonates with those characteristics that we believe makes America great: independence and ingenuity, creativity and resourcefulness. But as impressive as today's tools are, they're not accessible to many Americans simply because of their cost and high technological barrier to entry. An article in the Huffington Post describes efforts supported by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies to create new tools, technologies and approaches to make the Maker movement more inclusive and democratic.

WSJ: We Need the Right To Repair Our Gadgets 345

An anonymous reader writes: An editorial in the Wall Street Journal rings a bell we've been ringing for years: "Who owns the knowledge required to take apart and repair TVs, phones and other electronics? Manufacturers stop us by controlling repair plans and limiting access to parts. Some even employ digital software locks to keep us from making changes or repairs. This may not always be planned obsolescence, but it's certainly intentional obfuscation." The article shows that awareness of this consumer-hostile behavior (and frustration with it) is going mainstream. The author links to several DIY repair sites like iFixit, and concludes, "Repairing stuff isn't as complicated as they want you to think. Skilled gadget owners and independent repair pros deserve access to the information they need to do the best job they can."

What Is Open Source Pharma (and Why Should You Care)? 165

Andy Updegrove writes: Humanity today is almost completely dependent on huge pharmaceutical companies to create the drugs we need. But these companies focus exclusively on drugs that can be sold at high prices to large populations — in other words, to patients in developed nations. This means that those who live in the emerging world that suffer from the remaining 'neglected diseases,' like Malaria and drug resistant TB, have no one to depend on for relief except huge charities, like the Gates Foundation. They also have no way to afford many of the patented drugs that do exist. But there is another way, modeled on open source software development, which relies on crowd sourced knowledge, highly distributed, volunteer efforts, and advanced open source tools. That methodology is called Open Source Pharma, and it has the potential to dramatically drive down drug development while saving millions of lives every year.

MIT Simplifies Design Process For 3D Printing 45

An anonymous reader writes: New software out of MIT and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel takes CAD files and automatically builds visual models that users can alter with simple, visual sliders. It works by computing myriad design variations before a user asks for them. When the CAD file is loaded, the software runs through a host of size variations on various properties of the object, evaluating whether the changes would work in a 3D printer, and doing the necessary math to plan tool routes. When a user moves one of the sliders, it switches the design along these pre-computer values. "The system automatically weeds out all the parameter values that lead to unprintable or unstable designs, so the sliders are restricted to valid designs. Moving one of the sliders — changing the height of the shoe's heel, say, or the width of the mug's base — sweeps through visual depictions of the associated geometries."

There are two big drawbacks: first, it requires a lot of up-front processing power to compute the variations on an object. Second, resolution for changes is fixed if you want quick results — changing the design for a pair of 3D-printed shoes from size 8 to size 9 might be instantaneous, but asking for a shoe that's a quarter of a millimeter longer than a size 8 would take several minutes to process. But for scrolling through the pre-computed design changes, the software can present "in real time what would take hours to calculate with a CAD program," and without the requisite experience with CAD.
Hardware Hacking

How To Build With Delrin and a Laser Cutter 28

szczys writes: Laser cutters are awesome, but you have to bring your mechanical engineering A-game if you want to build resilient stuff using laser-cut parts. Joshua Vasquez has been building up his bag of tricks using Delrin and a laser cutter to build with techniques like press-fitting, threading, snap-fits, etc. that aren't possible or are non-ideal with the laser-cutting steadfasts of plywood and acrylic. Delrin (PDF) won't shatter like acrylic, and it has more give to it, so even the less precise entry-level lasers can cut joints that will have a snug fit.

New FCC Rules Could Ban WiFi Router Firmware Modification 242

An anonymous reader writes: Hackaday reports that the FCC is introducing new rules which ban firmware modifications for the radio systems in WiFi routers and other wireless devices operating in the 5 GHz range. The vast majority of routers are manufactured as System on Chip devices, with the radio module and CPU integrated in a single package. The new rules have the potential to effectively ban the installation of proven Open Source firmware on any WiFi router.

ThinkPenguin, the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Law Center, Software Freedom Conservancy, OpenWRT, LibreCMC, Qualcomm, and others have created the SaveWiFi campaign, providing instructions on how to submit a formal complaint to the FCC regarding this proposed rule. The comment period is closing on September 8, 2015. Leave a comment for the FCC.

Kenya's iHub Creates Accelerator Program For Tech-Hardware Entrepreneurs 16

An anonymous reader writes: The iHub in Nairobi has long been at the epicentre of tech developments in Africa, and has been lauded by both Barack Obama and Satya Nadella in recent weeks. It currently has about 3000 software devs registered as members, but since last year has been building a makerspace for hardware entrepreneurs, too. Gearbox, as its called, it's just launched its first incubation program with the backing of Village Capital, offering $100,000 in investment opportunities for 12 entrepreneurs through a three month program. According to the organisers, it's the first of its kind on the continent. (It's certainly not the first hackerspace in Africa, though -- even in 2012, there were quite a few.)