Tag Archives: hardware

Save Data from Old Scopes with a GPIB Disk Emulator

via Hackaday » hardware

If you still use old test equipment on a regular basis, you probably have been frustrated by the lack of options for pulling data off these aging devices. Many higher-end devices are equipped with GPIB ports, which are general purpose buses for communicating with a variety of obsolete peripherals. Since GPIB disk drives aren’t too common (or practical) these days, [Anders] made a GPIB adapter that emulates a disk drive and stores data to an SD card.

[Anders] designed a PCB with a PIC microcontroller that plugs into a GPIB port. The PIC emulates a disk drive using the AMIGO protocol or the SS/80 protocol, which can be selected in a configuration file on the SD card. Most test equipment supports one of these two protocols, so his adapter should work with pretty much any GPIB-equipped kit.

Data is saved to a single image file on the SD card, which is encoded in a native HP disk format. The image file can be opened on Windows and Linux with some utilities that [Anders] mentioned on his project page. If you have any old test equipment withGPIB lying around and want to build your own, the schematic and source code are up on his site or [Anders] is selling bare boards.

Now if it’s a protocol converter that you need we’ve seen those in a couple of different varieties.

Filed under: hardware, tool hacks

A Wireless Web-Connected Morse Code Keyer

via Hackaday » hardware

[Kevin] recently scored a Morse code keyer/sounder unit from the 1920s on eBay. While many hams would love to use an old keyer for CW, [Kevin] took a different route and repurposed it into a wireless web-connected morse code keyer.

[Kevin] mounted an Arduino Yun under the keyer, which listens for user input and provides web connectivity. The Yun connects to [Kevin]’s open-source web API he calls “morsel,” which allows it to send and receive messages with other morsel users. When a message is keyed in, the Yun publishes it to the API. When another keyer queries the API for incoming messages, the Yun downloads the morse sequence and replays it on the sounder.

[Kevin] also added some copper electrodes to the top of his enclosure, which act as capacitive buttons while keeping the keyer’s old-school appearance. The left button replays the most recently received message, and the right button sets the playback speed. Check out the video after the break to hear and see the keyer in action.

Thanks for the tip,  [Jarrod].

Filed under: hardware

A “cool” project based in the most southern location ever!

via Arduino Blog


At the end of last year we received an email on our support center from an unusual location. It was sent by Giovanni Bianchini an italian physicist researching at Concordia Station, located in East Antarctica (see the red dot in the map below!) where the hottest temperature is around -25C?/-13F. He was working on a project based on Arduino and yes, this is the Arduino project based in the most southern location ever! When we realized that we thought of getting in touch with him and discover the details.

Giovanni was very happy to start a conversation with us, shared  some pictures and explained  why and how he is using Arduino in Antartica.

 Tell us a bit more about Concordia Station and what you are doing there…

 Concordia Station is a scientific research base placed more or less in the middle of the plateau region, East Antarctica. This site is peculiar for the fact of being surrounded of at least 1000 km of ice plain in every direction, a condition that provides relatively stable and unperturbed weather conditions and a dry and very transparent atmosphere, that is the reason for which it has been chosen for astronomic and atmospheric observations.

The downside is isolation: the nearest emplacement is the russian Vostok base, at a mere 700 km, while the italian and french bases on the coast, that are the intermediate stops for the researcher coming to Concordia, are both at more than 1000 km. Usually coming to Concordia involves a 7-8 hours flight from Christchurch (NZ) to the italian “Mario Zucchelli” or the US “Mc Murdo” bases and a second 5 hours flight to Concordia. In alternative it’s possible to reach the french Dumont D’Urville base from Hobarth (AU) with a 7 days (more or less, much more than less…) cruise on the “L’Astrolabe” ship, and fly to Concordia. Since every stop in a base usually involves one or more days of stop, depending on the weather conditions, reaching Concordia is somewhat an adventure itself…


What is your job at the station?

Most of the instrumentation operating in Concordia is installed in some “shelters” placed some hundreds of meters upwind from the base, in order to sample unperturbed air. The shelters are put on elevated platforms to prevent snow accumulation, and are heated and connected to the base LAN, so the instrumentation can be remotely operated.

Specifically I work on atmospheric physics, and in the past two year I am responsible of a scientific project (Concordia Multi-Process Atmospheric Studies) that involve several instruments performing vertical remote sensing of atmospheric properties. The setup include two LIDARs, one SODAR, and an infrared spectroradiometer (Radiation Explorer in the Far-Infrared – REFIR).

All this instrumentation is installed in the Physics shelter, and operates continuously, even during the winter period, in which the base is completely isolated for almost 9 months and is crewed by only 12 persons. This implies that the instruments operating during winter should require the least attendance possible from the reduced crew, and possibly should be remotely accessed from Italy for checking and maintenance.


How are you using Arduino at the base?

While the shelters are quite a comfortable workplace for researchers and technicians, they present a critical (and maybe unexpected) problem for the instrumentation: overheating. The small volume, good thermal insulation, high density of powered devices, united with the low heat transfer capacity of the very dry air inside, makes heat dissipation a difficult task.

 For this reason, the first application I found for an Arduino board in Antarctica has been a cooling system for the REFIR spectroradiometer.

This optical instrument features tens of optical components with critical alignment requirements, so in the past years every time the instrument was subject to a strong thermal cycle, it needed to be realigned.

The original design provided just a simple heater with an analog proportional control loop (go figure you had to heat things at the south pole). Luckily, providing cooling power was as simple as getting air from outside and sending it to the instrument box through a tube. A valve and a fan regulate the cool air flow according to the instrument temperature.

The old heaters, the flow valve (servo controlled) and the cooling fan all are controlled by an Arduino Uno board, with a simple proportional loop that allows a thermal stability of a few tenths of degree.

Using an Ethernet Shield, all the system parameters (temperature, setpoint, cooling and heating gain, valve position) can be monitored through a simple web interface that gives this kind of output:

thermal control
(commands: T, R, H, F, G, V, M, Z)
setpoint = 20.00
averages = 128
threshold = 0.10
fan_gain = 300
htr_gain = 200
valve_full = 0
valve_mid = 0
valve_zero = 38
temperature = 20.49
fan_drv = 118
htr_drv = 0
val_pos = 0

Parameters can also be set sending commands to the web server on the arduino board, for example, the command:

changes the setpoint temperature to 21.0 C

How does it work?


(see picture above) The yellow pipe  goes through the floor to get cool air from the outside, with a manual emergency valve and the servocontrolled flow control valve (the black block below the white box).

The white box connects the pipe to a standard 8cm computer fan that blows the air inside the instrument enclosure. the control system is also inside the instrument box, the green led indicates cooling in progress.


The custom shield (see pic above) is used to interface the Arduino with the various system components. The big transistor (2N3904) drives the cooling fan, the two smaller ones (2N2222) control the green/red led that signals cooling or heating. The voltage regulator provides the ~8v needed by the arduino board (could work without, but at 12v it overheats a lot…)

The heater is made by three transistors in series mounted on heat sinks with a small fan each, and is driven directly by a digital output pin on the arduino, the servo on the flow valve is also driven directly by a pwm output.

Download the Arduino Sketch here.


The Original Seven (Eight?) Segment Display

via Hackaday » hardware

The seven-segment LED display is ubiquitous. But how old do you think the fundamental idea behind it is? You nixie tube fans will be thinking of the vacuum-tube era, but a reader sent us this patent filed in 1908 where [Frank W. Wood] builds a numeric display with plain-vanilla light bulbs, slots cut in wood, and lots of wires.

The OCR on the patent is poorly done — you’re going to want to download the PDF and read it locally. But as it states in the patent, “Referring again to Fig. 1, the novel arrangement of the lamp compartments will be readily understood.”

Technically it’s not a seven-segment display at all. [F.W. Wood] designed these really nice-looking “4”s with the diagonal heads, and so he needed eight segments per digit. But the basic idea shines through, if you pardon the pun.

The other figures demonstrate the machine that’s used to send the signals to light up the lights. It’s a rotating drum with the right contacts on the bottom side to make connections and turn on the right lights at the other end. Low tech, but it’s what was available at the time.

We’re stoked that we’re not responsible for wiring this thing up, and we’re a bit awed by how old the spirit behind one of our most ubiquitous technologies is.

Thanks to [mario59] for the nostalgic tip!

Filed under: hardware

Reverse-Engineering a Superior Chinese Product

via Hackaday » hardware

It makes an Arduino look like a 555.  A 364 Mhz, 32 bit processor. 8 MB RAM. GSM. Bluetooth. LCD controller. PWM. USB and dozens more. Smaller than a Zippo and thinner than corrugated cardboard. And here is the kicker: $3. So why isn’t everyone using it? They can’t.

Adoption would mandate tier after tier of hacks just to figure out what exact hardware is there. Try to buy one and find that suppliers close their doors to foreigners. Try to use one, and only hints of incomplete documentation will be found. Is the problem patents? No, not really.

[Bunnie] has dubbed the phenomenon “Gongkai”, a type of institutionalized, collaborative, infringementesque knowledge-exchange that occupies an IP equivalent of bartering. Not quite open source, not quite proprietary. Legally, this sharing is only grey-market on paper, but widespread and quasi-accepted in practice – even among the rights holders. [Bunnie] figures it is just the way business is done in the East and it is a way that is encouraging innovation by knocking down barriers to entry. Chinese startups can churn out gimmicky trash almost on whim, using hardware most of us could only dream about for a serious project.

He contrasts this with the West where only the big players like Apple and Google can step up to the plate. Everyone else is forced to use the embarrassingly obsolete hardware we are all familiar with. But [Bunnie] wants to get his foot in the door. “Can we find a way to still get ahead, yet still play nice?” he asks.

HAD - Gongkai XrayPart of his solution is reverse engineering so that hardware can simply be used – something the EFF has helped legally ensure under fair use. The other half is to make it Open Source. His philosophy is rooted in making a stand on things that matter. It is far from a solid legal foundation, but [Bunnie] and his lawyers are gambling that if it heads to a court, the courts will favor his side.

The particular board targeted is the one described above – the MT6260. Even spurred by the shreds of documentation he could gather, his company is a 2-man team and cannot hope to reverse engineer the whole board. Their goal is to approach the low-hanging fruit so that after a year, the MT6260 at least enters the conversation with ATMega. Give up trying to use it as a phone; just try to use like the Spark Core for now.

HAD - Gongkai BeachheadHe is already much of the way there. After telling you what is on board and why we would all want to use it, [Bunnie] shows how far he has gone to reverse engineering and describes his plans for the rest. From establishing an electronic “beachhead” base of operations to further probe the device, to X-rays, photos, diagrams and the beginnings of an OS. If this type of thing interests you at all, the meticulous approach and easy-reading of this tech teardown will surely impress and inspire you. Every step of progress requires a new hack, a new solution, a new ingenious way to pry information out.

We’ve featured some awe-inspiring reverse engineering attempts in the past, but this is something that is still new and relevant. Rather than only exploit his discoveries for himself, [Bunnie] has documented and published everything he has learned. Everyone wins.

Thanks [David] for the tip.

Filed under: Cellphone Hacks, hardware, slider, teardown

RISC, Tagged Memory, and Minion Cores

via Hackaday » hardware

Buy a computing device nowadays, and you’re probably getting something that knows x86 or an ARM. There’s more than one architecture out there for general purpose computing with dual-core MIPS boards available and some very strange silicon that’s making its way into dev boards. lowRISC is the latest endeavour from a few notable silicon designers, able to run Linux ‘well’ and adding a few novel security features that haven’t yet been put together this way before.

There are two interesting features that make the lowRISC notable. The first is tagged memory. This has been used before in older, weirder computers as a sort of metadata for memory. Basically, a few bits of each memory address tag each memory address as executable/non-executable, serve as memory watchpoints, garbage collection, and a lock on every word. New instructions are added to the ISA, allowing these tags to be manipulated, watched, and monitored to prevent the most common single security problem: buffer overflows. It’s an extremely interesting application of tagged memory, and something that isn’t really found in a modern architecture.

The second neat feature of the lowRISC are the minions. These are programmable devices tied to the processor’s I/O that work a lot like a Zynq SOC or the PRU inside the BeagleBone. Basically, they’re used for programmable I/O, implementing SPI/I2C/I2S/SDIO in software, offloading work from the main core, and devices that require very precise timing.

The current goal of the lowRISC team is to develop the hardware on an FPGA, releasing some beta silicon in a year’s time. The first complete chip will be an embedded SOC, hopefully release sometime around late 2016 or early 2017. The ultimate goal is an SOC with a GPU that would be used in mobile phones, set-top boxes, and Raspi and BeagleBone-like dev boards. There are enough people on the team, including [Robert Mullins] and [Alex Bradbury] of the University of Cambridge and the Raspberry Pi, researchers at UC Berkeley, and [Bunnie Huang].

It’s a project still in its infancy, but the features these people are going after are very interesting, and something that just isn’t being done with other platforms.

[Alex Bardbury] gave a talk on lowRISC at ORConf last October. You can check out the presentation here.

Filed under: hardware, news

ESP Gets FCC and CE

via Hackaday » hardware

The ESP8266 Internet of Things module is the latest and greatest thing to come out of China. It’s ideal for turning plastic Minecraft blocks into Minecraft servers, making your toilet tweet, or for some bizarre home automation scheme. This WiFi module is not, however, certified by the FCC. The chipset, on the other hand, is.

Having a single module that’s able to run code, act as a UART to WiFi transceiver, peek and poke a few GPIOs, all priced at about $4 is a game changer, and all your favorite silicon companies are freaking out wondering how they’re going to beat the ESP8266. Now the chipset is FCC certified, the first step to turning these modules into products.

This announcement does come with a few caveats: the chipset is certified, not the module. Each version of the module must be certified by itself, and there are versions that will never be certified by the FCC. Right now, we’re looking at the ESP8266-06, -07, -08, and -12 modules – the ones with a metal shield – as being the only ones that could potentially pass an FCC cert. Yes, those modules already have an FCC logo on them, but you’re looking at something sold for under $5 in China, here.

Anyone wanting to build a product with the ESP will, of course, also need to certify it with the FCC. This announcement hasn’t broken down any walls, but it has cracked a window.

Filed under: hardware

Clap On! A Breadboard

via Hackaday » hardware

The Clapper™ is a miracle of the 1980s, turning lights and TVs on and off with the simple clap of the hands, and engraving itself into the collective human unconsciousness with a little jingle that implores – nay, commands – you to Clap On! and Clap Off! [Rutuvij] and [Ayush] bought a clap switch kit, but like so many kits, this one was impossible to understand; building the circuit was out of the question, let alone understanding the circuit. They made their own version of the circuit, and figured out a way to explain how the circuit works.

While not the most important component, the most obvious component inside a Clapper is a microphone. [Rutuvij] and [Ayush] are using a small electret microphone connected to an amplifier block, in this case a single transistor.

The signal from the microphone is then sent to the part of the circuit that will turn a load on and off. For this, [Rutuvij] and [Ayush] are using a bistable multivibrator, or as it’s called in the world of digital logic and Minecraft circuits, an S-R flip-flop. This flip-flop needs two inputs; one to store the value and another to erase the stored value. For that, the guys are using two more transistors. The first time the circuit senses a clap, it stores the value in the flip-flop. The next time a clap is sensed, the circuit is reset.

Output is as simple as a LED and a buzzer, but one you have that, connecting a relay is a piece of cake. That’s the complete circuit of a clapper using five transistors, something that just can’t be done with other builds centered around a 555 timer chip.

Filed under: hardware

Chaos Theory in Practice: Chua’s Circuit

via Hackaday » hardware

Chua’s circuit is the simplest electronic circuit that produces chaos—the output of this circuit never repeats the same sequence, and is a truly random signal. If you need a good source of randomness, Chua’s circuit is easy to make and is built around standard components that you might have lying around. [Valentine] wrote a comprehensive guide which walks you through the process of building your own source of chaos.

The chaos of Chua’s circuit is derived from several elements, most importantly a nonlinear negative resistor. Unfortunately for us, this type of resistor doesn’t exist in a discrete form, so we have to model it with several other components. This resistor, also known as Chua’s diode, can be created with an op-amp configured as a negative impedance converter and a couple pairs of diodes and resistors. Other variations such, as the schematic above,22`01 model Chua’s diode using only op-amps and resistors.

The rest of the circuit is quite simple: only two capacitors, an inductor, and a resistor are needed. [Valentine] does note that the circuit is quite sensitive, so you might encounter issues when building it on a breadboard. The circuit is very sensitive to vibration (especially on a breadboard), and good solder connections are essential to a reliable circuit. Be sure to check out the Wikipedia article on Chua’s circuit for a brief overview of the circuit’s functionality and a rabbit trail of information on chaos theory.

Filed under: hardware

Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) Explained by [Bil Herd]

via Hackaday » hardware

One of the mnemonics you may hear thrown around is DDS which stands for Direct Digital Synthesis. DDS can be as simple as taking a digital value — a collection of ones and zeroes — and processing it through a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) circuit. For example, if the digital source is the output of a counter that counts up to a maximum value and resets then the output of the DAC would be a ramp (analog signal) that increases in voltage until it resets back to its starting voltage.

This concept can be very useful for creating signals for use in a project or as a poor-man’s version of a signal or function generator. With this in mind I set out here to demonstrate some basic waveforms using programmable logic for flexibility, and a small collection of resistors to act as a cheap DAC. In the end I will also demonstrate an off-the-shelf and inexpensive DDS chip that can be used with any of the popular micro-controller boards available that support SPI serial communication.

All of the topics covered in the video are also discussed further after the break.

DDS Demo Hardware
DDS Demo Hardware

I chose to use Programmable Logic (PL) to build the various circuits as it was quick to configure and didn’t require very much construction while being extremely flexible. It also didn’t require any software programming, IDE, target processor board, etc. This might be an interesting project for you if you are interested in learning or exercising some basic Programmable Logic skills, here I use Altera’s free Quartus II Web version and an inexpensive programmer clone. For the first couple of examples I am using a Complex Programmable Logic Device. (CPLD)

Basic Signal Generation


Creating waveforms can also be done with dedicated logic, for example a CD4060 oscillator/counter can be used instead of the PL counter or also a microcontroller with I/O ports could be used. Note that the microcontroller version does better the more assistance it gets from dedicated peripherals such as a timer or a timer/counter that reloads without waiting for the processor to respond and reset it.

Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) R/2R Ladder

Here are two waveforms created with a simple counter and resistors organized as an R/2R ladder. As the output of the counter increments in binary, the resulting voltage divider created by the interconnected resistors and outputs creates consistent steps between each of the counts; 256 in this case due to 8 outputs being used. Taking the most significant bit also demonstrates a symmetrical square wave.

Building Different Signals is Easy

If the counter were to count downwards upon reaching its maximum count instead of resetting to zero, then a triangle waveform would be generated. So far that’s three waveforms using just a counter and some resistors.

Triangle Waveform DDS R/2R Ladder with Comparator

On a slightly different topic, using just some I/O lines, an R/2R ladder, and an analog comparator (ala LM339) a basic type of Analog to Digital Converter (ADC) can be made. Don’t misread this, we were talking about going from digital to analog before but now we’re talking about going from analog to digital.

To describe it simply, a processor or digital counter is connected to the R/2R ladder which is connected to the input of an analog comparator. The voltage to be measured is then connected to the other input of the comparator and then the counter proceeds to count up until the R/2R ladder voltage equals or exceeds the voltage being measured. At that time the comparator trips and the equivalent digital value of the analog voltage being measured is represented by the counter value feeding the R/2R ladder.

Assuming that the voltage to be measured is somewhat stable, the process can be repeated to track the voltage as it (slowly) changes or the count can be reversed until the comparator clears and then reverses. This might be useful for measurements such as monitoring a battery voltage level, etc.

While continuing the use of an adjunctive comparator, a simple voltage to frequency converter can be made by having the counter change directions when the comparator trips. This is not a perfect converter (nothing I do is perfect, life and engineering is a compromise) as very notably the amplitude of the triangle waveform changes in amplitude, but a full voltage square wave would be easy to generate.

Basic Principles for Sine Wave Generation

DDS Sinewave
DDS Sinewave

Finally we can create a sinewave through the addition of a look-up-table that contains the appropriate data to approximate a mathematical sine function. A look-up-table (LUT) is simply a piece of memory such as Read Only Memory (ROM) in series with the data, in our case the incrementing counter represents an incrementing address, and the data output is the result of a pre-calculated Sine table.

For this I have switched to a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) which has better internal memory and the ability to initialize the memory with the contents of the Sine table I created for the LUT. In the schematic for the interior of my FPGA the LUT can be seen off to the right just in front of the output pins.


Programming Complex Waveforms

One advantage of a Sine wave created by DDS is that it can be generated at a wide range of frequencies and keep its same shape (low distortion).

Just for fun and to demonstrate something that can done easily with DDS I created a non-symmetrical waveform. Looking carefully you can see two cycles of square wave, two of ramp and then two of sine wave. Any waveform that can be “drawn” in memory can be created this way.


Other DDS Hardware Options

And finally, if you need a DDS without the muss and fuss of making it out of components yourself, there is a selection of DDS components available that are low cost and accurate. Shown here is an Analog Devices 9387 in an evaluation board from the manufacturer. It is SPI serial interface driven and so can be connected to most available single board controllers.

DDS Eval AD9837
DDS Eval AD9837

Varying the frequency and phase of a signal by microprocessor control is integral to a DDS system. The software that comes with the evaluation the board shows that two frequencies and two phase offsets can be stored allowing Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) and Phase Shift Keying (PSK) as well as sweeping between two frequencies. This is a useful capability, for example the frequency response of a circuit such as a filter can be observed by sweeping a frequency on the input and then measuring the output on an oscilloscope.

Eval 9837
Eval 9837

Go Deeper

If you want to know more about DDS there is a lot of information available on manufacturer’s websites and the Internet. Advanced topics to search for include embedded sub-modulation and use with phase lock loops to reduce phase noise, up-conversion using multipliers, and other synthesis circuits used in RF telecommunications.

Filed under: Featured, hardware, how-to, slider

Harmonic Analyzer Mechanical Fourier Computer

via Hackaday » hardware

If you’re into mechanical devices or Fourier series (or both!), you’ve got some serious YouTubing to do.

[The Engineer Guy] has posted up a series of four videos (Introduction, Synthesis, Analysis, and Operation) that demonstrate the operation and theory behind a 100-year-old machine that does Fourier analysis and synthesis with gears, cams, rocker-arms, and springs.

In Synthesis, [The Engineer Guy] explains how the machine creates an arbitrary waveform from its twenty Fourier components. In retrospect, if you’re up on your Fourier synthesis, it’s pretty obvious. Gears turn at precise ratios to each other to create the relative frequencies, and circles turning trace out sine or cosine waves easily enough. But the mechanical spring-weighted summation mechanism blew our mind, and watching the machine do its thing is mesmerizing.

In Analysis everything runs in reverse. [The Engineer Guy] sets some sample points — a square wave — into the machine and it spits out the Fourier coefficients. If you don’t have a good intuitive feel for the duality implied by Fourier analysis and synthesis, go through the video from 1:50 to 2:20 again. For good measure, [The Engineer Guy] then puts the resulting coefficient estimates back into the machine, and you get to watch a bunch of gears and springs churn out a pretty good square wave. Truly amazing.

The fact that the machine was designed by [Albert Michelson], of Michelson-Morley experiment fame, adds some star power. [The Engineer Guy] is selling a book documenting the machine, and his video about the book is probably worth your time as well. And if you still haven’t gotten enough sine-wavey goodness, watch the bonus track where he runs the machine in slow-mo: pure mechano-mathematical hotness!

Filed under: hardware, news

Running a Web Server on the ESP8266

via Hackaday » hardware

We’ve written lot about the ESP8266 lately, but people keep finding more awesome uses for this inexpensive module. [Martin] decided that using the ESP8266 with an external microcontroller was overkill, and decided to implement his project entirely on the module with a built-in web server.

[Martin] started out with the ESP8266 web server firmware developed by [sprite_tm]. This firmware provides a basic web server that supports multiple connections and simple CGI scripts right on the module. The web server firmware opens up a ton of possibilities with CGI scripting. When booting up in AP mode, you can even connect the ESP8266 to another access point right from the your browser.

[Martin] decided to connect a DHT22 temperature/humidity sensor to the module as a proof of concept. He used a DHT22 library written for the ESP8266 to read data from the sensor, and wrote a CGI script to display the data on a web page. [Martin] also added buttons to control a GPIO pin as a proof of concept. He posted his source code and a binary (see the end of his post) so you can try out his application and mod it for your own project.

Filed under: hardware

Photographing a Display Controller Die

via Hackaday » hardware

Who doesn’t like integrated circuit porn? After pulling a PCD8544 display controller from an old Nokia phone, [whitequark] disrobed it and took the first public die shot.

As we’ve seen in the past, removing a die from its packaging can be a challenge. It typically involves nasty things like boiling acid. Like many display controllers, the PCD8544 isn’t fully encapsulated in a package. Instead, it is epoxied to a glass substrate.

Removing the glass proved to be difficult. [whitequark] tried a hot plate, a hot air gun, sulphuric acid, and sodium hydroxide with no success. Then the heat was turned up using MAPP gas, which burned the epoxy away.

After some cleaning with isopropanol, the die was ready for its photoshoot. This was done using a standard 30 mm macro lens. Photo processing was done in darktable, an open source photography tool and RAW processor.

[whitequark] plans to take closer photos in the future using more powerful magnification. These high resolution die photos can be useful for a number of things, including finding fake chips and reverse engineering retro hardware.

Filed under: hardware, teardown

Hacking a $20 WiFi Smart Plug

via Hackaday » hardware

The Kankun smart plug is an inexpensive device that lets you switch an outlet on and off over wifi. The smart plug only works with an Android or IOS app that ships with the device, which limits its usefulness to turning things on and off from your phone.

In an attempt to make this device more useful, [LinuxGeek] probed the device with nmap and discovered that it runs OpenWRT. After trying various common default passwords he discovered the login was root/admin. While [LinuxGeek] hasn’t sniffed the protocol yet, others have hacked it a bit further. The plug apparently uses UDP packets to communicate with the Android app, but the packets are unfortunately encrypted.

Rather than hack at the protocol, they wrote code that toggles the GPIO pin from a CGI script and developed a small Windows application that hits the CGI script for simple control from a computer. There’s also a Google+ group where more information and a couple other hacks for these plugs are posted. For $20 (from AliExpress) and with a bit of hacking, this smart plug could be a great way to add wireless control to a home automation system.

Filed under: hardware

2.5kW of Beverage-Cooling Awesomeness

via Hackaday » hardware

We’ve covered many thermoelectric beverage coolers in the past, but none come close to the insane power of the AbsolutZero. [Ilan Moyer] set out to design a beverage cooler that chills a drink from room temperature to 5 degrees Celsius as quickly as possible, and it looks like he succeeded. The AbsolutZero consumes around 2.5kW of power and runs 8 water-cooled thermoelectric modules to quickly chill a drink.

[Ilan] put his machinist skills to work and fabricated many custom parts for this build. He machined water blocks for each thermoelectric cooler out of solid copper which draw heat away from each thermoelectric cooler. He also fabricated his own bus bars to handle the 200A+ of current the system draws. To transfer heat from the beverage to the thermoelectric modules, he turned and milled a heat spreader that perfectly fits a can of any beverage.

[Ilan]‘s design uses a closed-loop water cooling system and 4 radiators to dissipate all of the heat the system produces, which is quite a lot: thermoelectric modules are typically only 10-15% efficient. The whole design is buttoned up in a custom polycarbonate enclosure with a carrying handle so you can conveniently lug the massive setup wherever quickly chilled beverages are needed. Be sure to check out [Ilan]‘s build photos to see his excellent machining work.

Thanks for the tip, [Stefan].

Filed under: hardware