Category Archives: IOT

DIY Tiny Dyno

The geared DC motor has become the bread-and-butter of the modern-day beginner project. Unfortunately, with the advent of vast online catalogs peddling a wide assortment of these mechanical marvels, validating the claim that one DC motor will outperform the others is a challenge.

Such is the dilemma that our own [Gerrit Coetzee] faced as he set out to buy these geared motors in bulk. In his initial teardown, he quickly compares the change in design, from the original which possess the two-part clutch that extends on overloading, to the clones with the feature disabled altogether.

He then goes on to research methods of measuring the motor’s output where he discovers the Prony Brake which leads to the Rope Brake Dynamometer. This is where things get interesting and [Gerrit Coetzee] goes on to hack his own version of the machine. The idea is to have a rope wound to the wheel that is powered by the motor. With one end of the cord attached to a spring scale and the other end to a suspended weight, the motor speed affects the force on the spring scale. This change in force measured by the scale can be used to calculate the power output by the motor.

[Gerrit Coetzee] goes on to replace the weight with springs and the scale with an electronic load cell while using a stepper motor to stretch the cord thereby adding the requisite tension to the string. We thought this was a very elegant solution where the entire experiment could be controlled electronically.

This is a work in progress through the writeup is an excellent example of how to tailor a traditional experiment to the modern times. We have seen similar investigations for larger salvaged motors and dynamometers with lots of sensors.

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DIY Tiny Dyno

The geared DC motor has become the bread-and-butter of the modern-day beginner project. Unfortunately, with the advent of vast online catalogs peddling a wide assortment of these mechanical marvels, validating the claim that one DC motor will outperform the others is a challenge.

Such is the dilemma that our own [Gerrit Coetzee] faced as he set out to buy these geared motors in bulk. In his initial teardown, he quickly compares the change in design, from the original which possess the two-part clutch that extends on overloading, to the clones with the feature disabled altogether.

He then goes on to research methods of measuring the motor’s output where he discovers the Prony Brake which leads to the Rope Brake Dynamometer. This is where things get interesting and [Gerrit Coetzee] goes on to hack his own version of the machine. The idea is to have a rope wound to the wheel that is powered by the motor. With one end of the cord attached to a spring scale and the other end to a suspended weight, the motor speed affects the force on the spring scale. This change in force measured by the scale can be used to calculate the power output by the motor.

[Gerrit Coetzee] goes on to replace the weight with springs and the scale with an electronic load cell while using a stepper motor to stretch the cord thereby adding the requisite tension to the string. We thought this was a very elegant solution where the entire experiment could be controlled electronically.

This is a work in progress through the writeup is an excellent example of how to tailor a traditional experiment to the modern times. We have seen similar investigations for larger salvaged motors and dynamometers with lots of sensors.

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Hackaday Links: July 22, 2018

KiCad Version 5 has been released! Footprints are going to be installed locally, and the Github plugin for library management is no longer the default. You now have the ability to import Eagle projects directly, Eeschema has a better configuration dialog, better wire dragging, and Pcbnew now has complex pad shapes. The changelog also says they’ve gone from pronouncing it as ‘Kai-CAD’ to ‘Qai-CAD’.

Kids can’t use computers because of those darn smartphones. Finally, the world is ending not because of Millennials, but because of whatever generation we’re calling 12-year-olds. (I’m partial to Generation Next, but that’s only because my mind is polluted with Pepsi commercials from the mid-90s.)

Need a NAS? The Helios4 is built around the Marvell Armada 388 SoC and has four SATA ports, making it a great way to connect a bunch of hard drives to a network. This is the second run from the team behind the Helios, and now they’re looking to take it into production.

A while ago, [Dan Macnish] built Draw This, a camera that takes an image, sends it through artificial intelligence, and outputs a cartoon on a receipt printer. It’s a camera that prints pictures of cartoons. Of course, some people would want to play with this tech without having to build a camera from scratch, so [Eric Lu] built Cartoonify, a web-based service that turns pictures into cartoons.

Grafitti is fun to spell and fun to do, and for all the proto-Banskys out there, it’s all about stencils. [Jeremy Cook] did a quick experiment with a 3D-printed spray paint stencil. It works surprisingly well, and this is due to leveraging the bridging capability of his printer. He’s putting supports for loose parts of the stencil above where they would normally be. The test sprays came out great, and this is a viable technique if you’re looking for a high-quality spray paint stencil relatively easily.

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HOPE XII: Chelsea Manning

Saturday’s talk schedule at the HOPE conference was centered around one thing: the on-stage interview with Chelsea Manning. Not only was a two-hour session blocked out (almost every other talk has been one hour) but all three stages were reserved with live telecast between the three rooms.

I was lucky enough to get a seat very close to the stage in the main hall. The room was packed front to back. Even the standing room — mapped out on the carpet in tape and closely policed by conference “fire marshals” — was packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder. The audience was alive with energy, and I think everyone lucky enough to be here today shares my feeling that moments like these tie our community together and help us all focus on what is important in life, as individuals and as a society.

Chelsea was very recently released from prison. So recently, that the last time this conference was held back in 2016, she and her close circle of friends were under the impression that she was very far from the end of her sentence. One such friend, Yan Zhu, joined Chelsea on stage in a comfortable armchair-setting to guide the interview.

Chelsea Manning was sentenced to serve 35 years in Leavenworth maximum-security prison, having been convicted in 2013 of violating the Espionage Act. This talk (and the article I’m writing now) was not about the events leading up to that conviction, but rather about Chelsea’s life since being released, with a bit of background on the experience of being incarcerated. Her early release came as the result of a commutation of sentence by President Barack Obama that returned her freedom just over one year ago.

Checking Back Into Society

Serving eight years in jail meant missing eight years of technological evolution. I think it’s safe to say everyone reading this article possesses far above average skills when it comes to computers, the internet, and electronics. How much of a mountain is it to climb to get back up to speed with all that you’d missed?

One of the most interesting anecdotes on this readjustment period is Chelsea’s story about getting a computer into her hands for the first time again. Her lawyers had offered to buy her one. That sounds easy enough, but for anyone serious about infosec, and especially those who are likely to be targets of surveillance, you can’t just order a laptop from an online retailer. She leaned on her support structure to help her acquire a secure machine. (I’d actually like to dig deeper into that topic so keep your eye on Hackaday for future articles on secure sourcing.)

Hardware in hand, she started whittling away at the topics necessary to get back into the now. Among these, getting up to speed on virtual machine platforms, advances in network security, new warning systems, and the requisite mailing lists to stay on top of the latest research were on her short list. She mentioned that she thinks a lot of what once were tedious tasks have been tamped down through automation.

All of this, however, is the small part of her readjustment. When Chelsea entered prison she was only 22 years old. She had never lived by herself, and just learning how to find and rent an apartment was a big adjustment. Prison social dynamics do not jive with life on the outside and her discussion took the audience through what it has been like making the mental pivot to rejoin society.

Prisoner Advocacy

Yan Zhu asked if Chelsea had considered becoming a community organizer. Chelsea has already been working in that area as a prisoner advocate. She spends time writing to prisoners and convincing others to do the same. There are at least 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States. Chelsea mentioned that we have seen much activism around police violence. She believes that most people assume that those in prison are violent and scary people, but that her experience was that “the most violent and scary people I met in prison were the prison guards.”

She goes on to say that the people in jails and prisons are part of our communities and we should treat them as such; that we need to stop writing people off. This a powerful message, and she concedes that it’s really hard to do this. Even the most supportive of people struggle to keep a torch lit year in and year for prisoners whom they very infrequently see because of the separation between inside and outside worlds.

Senate Candidacy

This year, Chelsea Manning ran in the US Senate primary in Maryland against an incumbent Senator. The primary was in June and she did not win, but was interesting to hear of her experiences during the campaign. It makes me wonder about the number of times people from the infosec community have run for national office?

The discussion dipped into the topic of social media and its role in politics. Chelsea posits that a bulk of the problem goes back to algorithms, that machine learning has picked up on the fact that we’re now being hyper-stimulated. She described a feedback loop that automatically promotes content that is making people angry or upset. The algorithms encourage this because it results in more content — more activity from users. She attributed this to a “little meme generating weakness in our brain”.

Her solution is not to ban social media. She believes we still need these tools to communicate, but that maybe we should stop algorithmically picking what people should see in their feed. She also advocates that we read books. Reading about other things that are going on with which we’re not familiar, exposing ourselves to new ideas and new ways of thinking, and learning about new cultures and new social norms is a time-tested way to build society.

A Fascinating Perspective

I found myself wondering why so many people in this enormous audience felt so connected to this person on stage. I myself felt it quite strongly. Thinking back to the very beginning of the talk helped me understand this a little more.

Part of the early discussion centered upon any advice Chelsea had for engineers. Because of the information systems that are pervasive throughout our world, the actions of one person can have great ramifications. Chelsea Manning’s actions effected the lives of many people, herself included. No matter what you think about those actions, I believe we can all empathize with the reality that many people are working in roles where their actions and decisions can have great consequences.

She stresses that we’re not just making tools — these things have direct impact on huge parts of the population. Large data sets and machine learning are giving rise to predictive analysis. If applied incorrectly, this has the ability to destroy lives. Could your actions deny millions of people access to their livelihood, or to their rights? Developing software that has unintended consequences is often because the ramifications weren’t thought out ahead of time. These are difficult questions that Chelsea put forth, but it is imperative that technological advancement doesn’t outpace the rate at which we find answers to them.

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Adafruit Weekly Editorial Round-Up: July 16 – July 22


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ADAFRUIT WEEKLY EDITORIAL ROUND-UP


We’ve got so much happening here at Adafruit that it’s not always easy to keep up! Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered. Each week we’ll be posting a handy round-up of what we’ve been up to, ranging from learn guides to blog articles, videos, and more.


BLOG

Thailand’s ESP-32-based Educational Board: KidBright

Via our friends over on CNXSoft, we hear about Kid Bright which is a Thai educational program revolving around the KidBright32 board manufactured by Gravitech. The National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) part of Thailand’s Ministry of Science and Technology designed KidBright32 board and courses to teach STEM to Thai students.

The board is based on Espressif Systems ESP32-WROOM-32 WiFI and Bluetooth module, and comes with large holes for power (5V/GND) and 6 digital inputs/outputs, smaller through holes for I2C and more I/Os, as well as an I2C header.

Check out the full post here!

More BLOG:

Keeping with tradition, we covered quite a bit this past week. Here’s a short list of highlights:


LEARN

Using Crickit and Adafruit IO together

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This guide will explore using Crickit with Adafruit IO together. Crickit provides various ways to take measurements and control other hardware. It’s a natural fit with Adafruit IO which lets you store data and manage events.

More LEARN

Browse all that’s new in the Adafruit Learning System here!


via Adafruit

Classroom Gadget Turned Arduino Compatible

Cheap second-hand hardware is usually a fertile ground for hacking, and it looks like these digital classroom aids are no exception. [is0-mick] writes in to tell us how he managed to hack one of these devices, a Smart Reponse XE, into an Arduboy compatible game system. As it turns out, this particular gadget is powered by an ATmega128RFA, which is essentially an Arduino-compatible AVR microcontroller with a 2.4GHz RF transceiver tacked on. This makes it an extremely interesting platform for hacking, especially since they are going for as little as $3 USD on eBay.

There’s no USB-Serial converter built into the Smart Response XE, so you’ll need to provide your own external programmer to flash the device. But luckily there’s a labeled ISP connector right on the board which makes it pretty straightforward to get everything wired up.

Of course, getting the hardware working was slightly more complicated than just flashing an Arduino Sketch onto the thing. [is0-mick] has provided his bootloader and modified libraries to get the device’s QWERTY keyboard and ST7586S controlled 384×160 LCD working.

Playing games is fun, but when his friend [en4rab] sent him the Smart Response XE to fiddle with, the goal was actually to turn them into cheap 2.4 GHz analyzers similar to what was done with the IM-ME. It seems they’re well on their way, and [is0-mick] invites anyone who might be interested in filling in some of the blanks on the RF side to get involved.

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A 3D-Printed Bowl Feeder for Tiny SMD Parts

[Andrzej Laczewski] has something big in mind for small parts, specifically SMD resistors and capacitors. He’s not talking much about that project, but from the prototype 3D-printed bowl feeder he built as part of it, we can guess that it’s going to be a pretty cool automation project.

Bowl feeders are common devices in industrial automation, used to take a big pile of parts like nuts and bolts and present them to a process one at a time, often with some sort of orientation step so that all the parts are the right way around. They accomplish this with a vibratory action through two axes, which [Andrzej] accomplishes with the 3D-printed ABS link arms supporting the bowl. The spring moment of the arms acts to twist the bowl slightly when it’s pulled down by a custom-wound electromagnet, such that the parts land in a slightly different place every time the bowl shifts. For the parts on the shallow ramp spiraling up the inside of the bowl, that means a single-file ride to the top. It’s interesting to see how changing the frequency of the signal sent to the coil impacts the feed; [Andrzej] used a function generator to find the sweet spot before settling on a dedicated circuit. Watch it in action below.

We’re really impressed with the engineering that went into this, even if we wonder what the vibration will do to the SMD components. Still, we can’t wait to see this in a finished project – perhaps it’ll be integrated like this Arduino-fied bowl feeder.

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