SMART Response XE Gets Wireless Bootloader

via Hackaday:

A few months back we first brought word of the progress being made in unlocking the SMART Response XE, an ATmega128RFA powered handheld computer that allowed teachers to create an interactive curriculum in the days before all the kids got Chromebooks. Featuring 2.4 Ghz wireless communication, a 384×160 LCD, and a full QWERTY keyboard, schools paid around $100 each for them 2010. Now selling for as little as $5 on eBay, these Arduino-compatible devices only need a little coaxing and an external programmer to get your own code running.

The previous post inspired [Larry Bank] to try his hand at hacking the SMART Response XE, and so far he’s made some very impressive progress. Not only has he come up with his own support library, but he’s also created a way to upload Arduino code to the devices through their integrated 802.15.4 radio. With his setup, you no longer need to open the SMART Response XE and attach a programmer, making it much easier to test and deploy software.

[Larry] has written up a very detailed account of his development process, and goes through the trouble of including his ideas that didn’t work. Getting reliable communication between two of these classroom gadgets proved a bit tricky, and it took a bit of circling around until he hit on a protocol that worked.

The trick is that you need to use one SMART Response XE attached to your computer as a “hub” to upload code to other XEs. But given how cheap they are this isn’t that big of a deal, especially considering the boost in productivity it will net you. [Larry] added a 5 x 2 female header to his “hub” XE so he could close the device back up, and also added a physical power switch. In the video after the break, you can see a demonstration of the setup sending a simple program to a nearby XE.

Between this wireless bootloader and the Arduboy compatibility covered previously, we’d suggest you get your SMART Response XE now. We wouldn’t be surprised if the prices of these things start going up like they did with the IM-ME.

The Quest For High Powered Blinky And Buzzing

Sometimes, we need devices to notify us of something. The oven timer is going off. Your phone has a push notification. The smoke detector battery is getting low. All of these problems can be solved with a buzzer or an LED. It’s a simple and cheap problem to solve.

But what if you need to know if something’s wrong with a diesel engine that throwing out 90 dB of noise? What if you’re not guaranteed to be around that engine? What if you need to tell everyone within a half mile that something is wrong. Again, LEDs and beepers, but the standard, off-the-shelf implementation isn’t going to cut it. You need massive amounts of buzzers and LEDs, and you’re going to need to drive them all with some reasonably high current. How do you solve that problem?

This is the problem [Tegwyn] had to solve for another one of his Hackaday Prize entries. The solution is what you would expect — buzzers and LEDs — but he’s putting some serious current behind these devices. There are, in fact, thermal considerations taken into account when you’re beeping this many buzzers.

The LEDs for this project are a handful of blindingly bright 1209 and 1206 SMD parts, and the buzzer is an obnoxiously loud SMD 97 dB buzzer. There are eight buzzers on this board. So, how do you drive these power-hungry devices? [Tegwyn] is using an L293E half-bridge motor driver, in a ‘Power-DIP’ package for relatively effective heat dissipation. Does it work? Oh, yes, and it’s very annoying. Take a look at the video below and judge for yourself. You can, indeed, make something louder and more annoying by adding more power.

via Hackaday

Arduino Powered Portable Function Generator

It’s probably not much of a stretch to say that many of us have taken on a project or two that were little more than thinly veiled excuses to add a new tool or piece of gear to our arsenal. There’s something to be said for a bench full of button-festooned test equipment blinking away, it’s like bling for nerds. But just like getting your name written out in diamonds, it can get expensive quick.

Luckily, the hacker has enough technology at their disposal these days that DIY test equipment can help fill your bench without emptying your wallet. [Faransky] has created a very impressive Arduino function generator that doesn’t skimp on the features. Capable of generating sine, triangle, and square waves up to 10MHz with its all-digital circuitry, it’s a piece of gear that’s well worth the $30 USD or so it should cost to build your own version.

For those worrying that [Faransky] is relying on the PWM functionality of the Arduino Nano to generate waveforms, have no fear. At the heart of the device is a AD9833 waveform generator; with the Arduino, rotary encoder, and 16×2 LCD providing an interface to control it over SPI.

Unfortunately, the AD9833 doesn’t have a way to control amplitude, something which is pretty important in a function generator. So [Faransky] uses a X9C104P 100KOhm 8-bit digital potentiometer as a voltage divider on the chip’s output.

To wrap up the build, he added a 2000mAh 3.7V Li-Ion battery and TP4056 charger, with a DC-DC boost converter to get 5V for the Arduino. Though if you wanted to create a benchtop version of this device, you could delete those components in favor of a 5V AC/DC adapter.

We’ve seen our fair share of DIY function generators, ranging from minimalist builds to hardware that could pass for a commercial offering. We’ve even seen some cheap turn-key function generators, though the usual warnings about getting what you pay for apply.

via Hackaday

You Have To Have A Very High IQ To Understand This Rick And Morty Portal Gun Replica

It’s barely September, but that still means you’ve got to start working on your Halloween costume. If last year is any indication, the most popular costume this year will be, by far, Rick from Rick and Morty. There’s a lot to be said about this, but let me simplify it: if you dress up as Rick from Rick and Morty, you are not a Rick. You’re a Morty.

Nevertheless, Halloween is an awesome opportunity for some cosplay and prop-making action, and [Daren] has this year all wrapped up. He’s building the portal gun from Rick and Morty, with a projector. Yes, it will display portals where ever you point it. It’s actually building something instead of buying a blue wig and a lab coat. Rick would be proud.

The key to this portal build replica is the same tech as found in those Christmas projectors that illuminate the sides of houses with tidings of good cheer. These are just tiny little gobos in a rotating frame, illuminated with high-brightness LEDs. That’s easy enough to fit inside a 3D printed portal gun case, and when you add some 18650 LiPOs, a speaker for sound, and a PC fan for cooling, you have the makings of a real, projecting portal gun.

While it’s just a work in progress now, it is a fantastic achievement so far. Halloween is coming up, and this is a great build for all those Mortys out there.

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Scratch-Built 3D-Printer Goes Back to the Roots of the Hobby

It’s so easy and so cheap to order things like CNC routers and 3D-printers off the shelf that we can be forgiven for forgetting what was once involved in owning machines such as these. It used to be that you had no choice but to build your machine from the ground up. While that’s less true today, it’s still the case if you want to push the limits of what’s commercially available, and this huge scratch-built 3D-printer is a good example of that.

It’s not exactly a fresh build – [Thomas Workshop] posted this last year – but it escaped our notice at the time, and we think the three-part video series below that details the build deserves a look over. When we say scratch built, we mean it. This machine started off as a bundle of aluminum and steel stock. No 80/20 extrusions, no off-the-shelf linear rails – just metal and a plan. The build was helped considerably by a small CNC router, which also had that DIY look, but most of the parts were cut and finished with simple hand tools. The resulting gantry allows an enormous work volume 40 cm in each dimension, with a heated bed that uses four heat mats. We were impressed that [Thomas] got the build just far enough to print parts that were used to finish the build – that’s the hacker spirit.

It’s perhaps not the biggest 3D-printer we’ve seen – that distinction might go to this enormous 8-cubic foot machine – and it certainly can’t print a house. But it’s an impressive build that probably cost a whole lot less than a commercial machine of similar capacity, and it’s got that scratch-built cred.

Thanks to [Baldpower] for the tip.

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Branch out your SQLite Database with LiteTree

Whether you want some quick and dirty data storage, or simply don’t have that heavy requirements for your local database system, SQLite is always a good choice. With its portable single-file approach, bindings to all major languages, and availability on systems of all sizes, it is relatively easy to integrate a SQLite database in your undertakings. And if you tend to develop directly in your production environment, you may be interested to hear that the folks at [aergo] made this a lot more flexible (and interesting) by adding Git-style branching to the SQLite engine.

Similar to Git, each database operation is now stored as a commit with a unique id as reference point, and new branches will keep track how they diverge from their parent reference point. This essentially lets you modify your data set or database schema on the fly, while keeping your original data not only untouched, but fully isolated and functional. Unfortunately, merging branches is not yet supported, but it is planned for the near future.

In case you don’t see much use for git-alike functionality in a database, how about the other way around then: using Git as a database, among other tricks?

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Epoxy Embedded Electronic Art Running On Pyramid Power

We sometimes get our inspirations from art. When [kodera2t] saw some Japanese art of fish drawings embedded in clear epoxy he just had to make his own. But while skilled in electronics, he wasn’t skilled at drawing. We’d still call him an artist, though, after seeing what he came up with in his electronics embedded in crystal clear epoxy.

Controlling epoxy-empedded leds through BluetoothHis first works of electronic art were a couple of transistors and some ICs, including an 80386, encased in epoxy. But then he realized that he wanted the electronics to do something interesting. However, once encased in epoxy, how do you keep the electronics powered forever?

He tried a solar cell charging a battery which then powered an LED but he didn’t like the idea of chemical batteries encased in epoxy for a long time.

He then switched to wireless power transmission with a receiving coil in the base of epoxy pyramids. For one of them, the coil powers a BLE board with an attached LED which he can control from his phone. And his latest contains an ESP32-PICO with an OLED display. The code allows him to upload new firmware over the air but on his Hackaday.io page, he shows the difference between code which can brick the ESP32 versus code which won’t. But don’t take our word for it. Check out the video below to see his artistry for yourself.

While embedding electronics in epoxy is new to [kodera2t], we’ve seen it a few times before. once in the form of an amplifier circuit done beautifully, dead bug style, and a more experimental attempt with a solar lantern.

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