Tag Archives: hacking

Microchip Introduces Tiny Cheap Linux Modules

Linux is in everything these days, and that means designers and engineers are crying out for a simple, easy-to-use module that simplifies the design of building a product to do something with Linux. The best example of this product category would probably be the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, followed by the C.H.I.P. Pro and its GR8 module. There are dozens of boards with Allwinner and Mali chips stuffed inside that can be used to build a Linux product, and the ‘BeagleBone on a Chip’ is a fantastic product if you need Linux and want to poke pins really, really fast.

Now Microchip is rolling out with their answer to the Linux System on Module. The SAMA5D2 is a single chip in a BGA package with a small footprint that runs Linux. It’s capable, it’s cheap, and if you want to put Linux in a project, this is your newest option.

The core product in this new Microchip lineup is the SAMA5D2 SIP, a system in package that puts an ARM Cortex-A5 CPU and DDR2 memory in a single BGA package that, with a cursory examination, looks easy enough to design a PCB around and reflow. There are four chips in this lineup, with 128 Mbit, 512 Mbit, and 1 Gbit of DDR2 memory. The 128 Mbit chip is meant for bare metal and RTOS applications, with the higher memory chips capable of running Linux at least as well as a repurposed router.

This chip is at the core of Microchip’s ATSAMA5D2 SOM, a system on module that adds power management (that only requires a single 3.3V supply), an Ethernet PHY, and boot memory into a single package that’s effectively as hand-solderable as a QFN package. It’s Linux on a Chip, or at least as close as we’ve gotten to such a concept.

Adding Linux to a project is hard, and while there are modules and systems that can do it, we’re always welcoming more options given to designers. While these modules and systems aren’t exactly cheap compared to a beefy ARM microcontroller — the SIP starts at around $9, the SOM is available for $39 in 100-unit quantities — this price is quite low compared to other Linux-on-Modules available.

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You’ve Never Seen A Flipping Eyeball Like This One!

Inspired by some impressive work on textile flip-bit displays, and with creative steampunk outfits to create for Christmas, [Richard Sewell] had the idea for a flippable magnetic eye in the manner of a flip-dot display. These devices are bistable mechanical displays in which a magnet is suspended above a coil of wire, and “flipped” in orientation under the influence of a magnetic field from the coil.

In [Richard]’s case the eyeball was provided by a magnetic bead with a suitable paint job, and the coil was a hand-wound affair with some extremely neat lacing to keep it all in place. The coil requires about 200 mA to ensure the eye flips, and the job of driving it is performed by a Digispark ATTiny85 board with an LM293 dual H-bridge driver upon which the two bridges are wired in parallel. The whole is mounted in the centre of a charity shop brooch that has been heat-treated to give a suitable aesthetic.

You can see the eyeball in all its glory in the two videos below the break, and should you be curious you can also read our write-up of the original pieces from [Irene Posch] that inspired it.

And here they eye is in close-up.

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Tachometer Uses Light, Arduinos

To measure how fast something spins, most of us will reach for a tachometer without thinking much about how it works. Tachometers are often found in cars to measure engine RPM, but handheld units can be used for measuring the speed of rotation for other things as well. While some have mechanical shafts that must make physical contact with whatever you’re trying to measure, [electronoobs] has created a contactless tachometer that uses infrared light to take RPM measurements instead.

The tool uses an infrared emitter/detector pair along with an op amp to sense revolution speed. The signal from the IR detector is passed through an op amp in order to improve the quality of the signal and then that is fed into an Arduino. The device also features an OLED screen and a fine-tuning potentiometer all within its own self-contained, 3D-printed case and is powered by a 9 V battery, and can measure up to 10,000 RPM.

The only downside to this design is that a piece of white tape needs to be applied to the subject in order to get the IR detector to work properly, but this is an acceptable tradeoff for not having to make physical contact with a high-speed rotating shaft. All of the schematics and G code are available on the project site too if you want to build your own, and if you’re curious as to what other tools Arduinos have been used in be sure to check out the Arduino-based precision jig.

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Robotic Laser Keeps Cat Entertained While You Hack

Whether it’s our own cat or a neighbor’s, many of us have experienced the friendly feline keeping us company while we work, often contributing on the keyboard, sticking its head where our hands are for a closer look, or sitting on needed parts. So how to keep the crafty kitty busy elsewhere? This roboticized laser on a pan-tilt mechanism from the [circuit.io team] should do the trick.

The laser is a 650 nm laser diode mounted on a 3D printed pan-tilt system which they found on Thingiverse and modified for attaching the diode’s housing. It’s all pretty lightweight so two 9G Micro Servos do the grunt work just fine. The brain is an Arduino UNO running an open-source VarSpeedServo library for smooth movements. Also included are an HC-05 Bluetooth receiver and an Android app for controlling the laser from your phone. Set it to Autoplay or take a break and use the buttons to direct the laser yourself. See the video below for build instructions and of course their cat, [Pepper], looking like a Flamenco dancer chasing the light.

Think your cat might get bored chasing a light around by itself? Mount the laser on a mobile robot with added IR proximity sensor which can roll around and play with the cat.

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Stretched PC Case Turned GPU Cryptominer

We don’t do financial planning here at Hackaday, so we won’t weigh in on the viability of making money mining cryptocurrency in such a volatile market. But we will say that if you’re going to build a machine to hammer away at generating Magical Internet Monies, you might as well make it cool. Even if you don’t turn a profit, at least you’ll have something interesting to look at while you weep over your electricity bill.

Sick of seeing the desktop machine he built a decade ago gathering dust, [plaggle24w5] decided to use it as the base for a cryptocurrency mining rig. Of course, none of the original internals would do him any good, but the case itself ended up being a useful base to expand on. With the addition of some 3D printed components, he stretched out the case and installed an array of video cards.

To start with, all the original plastic was ripped off, leaving just the bare steel case. He then jammed a second power supply into the original optical drive bays to provide the extra power those thirsty GPUs would soon be sucking down. He then designed some 3D printed arms which would push out the side panel of the case far enough that he could mount the video cards vertically alongside the case. Three case fans were then added to the bottom to blow air through the cards.

While [plaggle24w5] mentions this arrangement does work with the case standing up, there’s obviously not a lot of air getting to the fans on the bottom when they’re only an inch or so off the ground. Turning the case on its side, with the motherboard parallel to the floor, allows for much better airflow and results in a measurable dip in operating temperature. Just hope you never drop anything down onto the exposed motherboard…

Mining Bitcoin on desktop computers might be a distant memory, but the latest crop of cryptocurrencies are (for now) giving new players a chance to relive those heady early days.

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Tiny Quad Core Module Available Soon

We get a lot of new product announcements here at Hackaday, and we run across even more. As excited as a manufacturer might be about their latest Raspberry Pi killer or cheaper Arduino clone, we usually don’t have much to say about new products unless there is something really interesting about them. Our attention was piqued though when we saw the Neutis N5. Shipping in April, the device packs a quad-core ARM processor running at 1.3 GHz with 8 GB of flash memory and 512 MB of RAM, has an extended temperature range, WiFi (802.11N), and Bluetooth (including BLE). There’s also a crypto chip, and all this is packed into a tiny package. Really tiny. Less than 41×30 mm square and less than 4.5 mm thick. There’s a Debian-based distribution and a development board. Oh and the really interesting thing is the price, which is $49 in single quantities.

Some of the I/O ports are multiplexed, but there are plenty of options including audio, Ethernet, HDMI, USB, and more. They clearly mean for these to be put into products. The module claims UL and CE certification, each unit has a unique serial number, and there is a gang programming capability.

For comparison purposes, an SD card is 32 mm x 24 mm and not quite as thick (2.1 mm). So the N5 is a little larger, but not by much. A Raspberry Pi is huge by comparison at just under 86 mm x 57 mm. Even a Pi Zero is 65 mm x 30 mm.

Admittedly we haven’t seen one of these yet, and everything always looks good on paper. Still, if it lives up to its promise it could give a run for the money to the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone markets. Especially if you are trying to build it into something.

We have seen lots of cheaper or smaller Pi killers, like the Orange Pi. If you want to go the opposite direction on the price and performance scale, there is always try the HiKey 290.

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3D Printing Brings a Child’s Imagination to Life

Telling somebody that you’re going to make their dreams come true is a bold, and potentially kind of creepy, claim. But it’s one of those things that isn’t supposed to be taken literally; it don’t mean that you’re actually going to peer into their memories, extract an idea, and then manifest it into reality. That’s just crazy talk, it’s a figure of speech.

Original sketch of the CURV II

As it turns out, there’s at least one person out there who didn’t get the memo. Remembering how his father always told him about the elaborate drawings of submarines and rockets he did as a young boy, [Ronald] decided to 3D print a model of one of them as a gift. Securing his father’s old sketchpad, he paged through until he found a particularly well-developed idea of a personal sub called the CURV II.

The final result looks so incredible that we hear rumors manly tears may have been shed at the unveiling. As a general rule you should avoid making your parents cry, but if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it in style.

Considering that his father was coming up with detailed schematics for submarines in his pre-teen days, it’s probably no surprise [Ronald] has turned out to be a rather accomplished maker himself. He took the original designs and started working on a slightly more refined version of the CURV II in SolidWorks. Not only did he create a faithful re-imagining of his father’s design, he even went as far as adding an interior as well as functional details such as the rear hatch.

Once the pieces for the submarine were printed out, it was time to begin the finishing process. The bulk of the documentation for this project covers how [Ronald] took the raw printed parts and finished them, which is sure to be of interest to anyone who’s ever wished their printed projects didn’t actually look like they were printed. The secret is a mixture of filler primer, sand paper, and an incredible amount of patience.

As if he wasn’t already making us all look like terrible children by comparison, [Ronald] finished up the CURV II model with LED headlights (controlled by a little switch on the sub’s control panel) and a wooden base. The end result is a high quality model that’s sure to be sitting in a place of honor for years to come.

The 3D printed models we see here at Hackaday tend to be of the engineering variety, so it’s nice to see something that isn’t quite as serious. We love that for all the refinement that went into the model, the overall look still retains the cartoony lines and proportions that remind you this is the product of a child’s mind.

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