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September, 2018

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iCEstick Makes Terrible Radio Transmitter

We’ve done a lot of posts on how to use the Lattice iCEstick ranging from FPGA tutorials to how to use one as a logic analyzer. If you picked up one of these inexpensive boards here’s a fun little experiment. [T4D10N] saw a project [Hamster] put together to send SOS on the FM radio band using nothing but an FPGA. [Hamster used a Spartan], so he decided to do the same trick using an iCEstick with the open source IceStorm tools.

You might be surprised that the whole thing only takes 53 lines of Verilog — less if you cut out comments and whitespace. That’s because it uses the FPGA’s built-in PLL to generate a fast clock and then uses a phase accumulator divider to produce three frequencies on the FM radio band; one for a carrier and two for a tone, spaced 150 Hz apart. The result is really frequency shift keying but you can hear the results on an FM radio.

We know, we know. It is probably illegal to broadcast on the FM radio band in some places. however, unless you amplify the signal and use an antenna, this is basically radio frequency interference. The other thing is we couldn’t bear to send SOS no matter how faintly, so we changed the message string from:

 reg [33:0] message = 34'b1010100011101110111000101010000000;

to

reg [33:0] message = 34'b1010100011111111111000101010000000;

That makes it send “S long dash S” which, in some circles might be S0S (a long dash is sometimes used informally as a zero by straight key operators). The FPGA starts at the right and shift message over one spot each time beep_counter rolls over.

You can clearly hear the signal on 100 MHz, although the square wave is noisy sounding as you might expect. However, we bumped it down to 25 MHz and took a spectrum of it and it was better than we expected (see image above; the center line is 25 MHz and the scale is 5 MHz/division). Of course, that was admittedly a low bar to clear.

[Hamster’s] original code was in VHDL and for a Spartan 6. We’ve seen digital electronics generate RF before, of course. We’ve even seen it in color.

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Source:: Hackaday

System76’s Much-Anticipated Open Source ‘Thelio’ Linux Computer Will Be Available To Pre-Order Starting Next Month, But Shipping Date and Specs Remain Unclear

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: When you buy a System76 computer today, you aren’t buying a machine manufactured by the company. Instead, the company works with other makers to obtain laptops, which it then loads with a Linux-based operating system — Ubuntu or its own Pop!_OS. There’s nothing really wrong with this practice, but still, System76 wants to do better. The company is currently working to manufacture its own computers (“handcrafted”) right here in the USA. By doing this, System76 controls the entire customer experience — software, service, and hardware. This week, the company announces that the fruits of its labor — an “open-source computer” — will be available to pre-order in October. Now, keep in mind, this does not mean the desktop will be available next month. Hell, it may not even be sold in 2018. With that said, pre-ordering will essentially allow you to reserve your spot. To celebrate the upcoming computer, System76 is launching a clever animated video marketing campaign.

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Source:: Slashdot

Tindie Guides That Hackaday Prize Entry Into Your Hands

The Hackaday Prize invites everyone to focus on specific challenges with encouragement of prize money and motivation of deadlines. But what happens after the award ceremony? While some creators are happy just to share their ideas, many projects need to get into the real world to make their full impact. Several past prize winners have used their award as seed money to start production and go into business. Recognizing this as something worth supporting, a new addition this year is Tindie’s Project to Product program.

Tindie is a marketplace for makers to sell to other makers, hence a natural place for Hackaday.io projects to find an audience. (And many have found success doing so.) For Project to Product, two Hackaday Prize semifinalists will receive support from mentors to transition their hand crafted project into something that can be produced in quantity. In addition to engineering support, there’s also funding (above and beyond their prize winnings) towards their first production run. In exchange, Tindie asks for the first production run to be sold exclusively on Tindie marketplace.

Of course, some entries are ahead of the curve and already available on Tindie, like Reflowduino and Hexabitz. We know there are more creators with ambition to do the same, putting in effort cleaning up their design and sorting out their BOM (Bill of Materials) towards production. They’ve done a lot of work, and we hope Tindie can give them that final push. They see their invention become reality, Tindie gets cool new exclusive products for the marketplace, and the rest of us can buy some to play with. Everyone wins.

If this sounds like something you want to join in as a creator, there’s still time. The final Musical Instrument Challenge is accepting entries for one more week. Better hurry!

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Source:: Hackaday

Salesforce training program hopes to make finding diverse job candidates easy – CNET

The answer might well be a job fair that brings the candidates right to the event. …read more

Source:: CNet

New York’s Free LinkNYC Internet Kiosks Are Now Used By 5 Million Users, Who Have Participated in 1 Billion Sessions and Make 500,000 Phone Calls a Month

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2014, in a bid to replace the more than 11,000 aging payphones scattered across New York City’s pedestrian walkways with more functional fixtures, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a competition — the Reinvent Payphones initiative — calling on private enterprises, residents, and nonprofits to submit designs for replacements. In the end, LinkNYC — a plan proposed by consortium CityBridge — secured a contract from the city, beating out competing proposals with electricity-generating piezoelectric pressure plates and EV charging stations. The plan was to spend $200 million installing as many as 10,000 kiosks, or Links, that would supply free, encrypted gigabit Wi-Fi to passers-by within 150 feet. They would have buttons that link directly to 911 and New York’s 311 service and free USB charging stations for smartphones, plus wired handsets that would allow free calls to all 50 states and Washington, D.C. And perhaps best of all, they wouldn’t cost the city a dime; advertising would subsidize expansion and ongoing maintenance. The Links wouldn’t just get urbanites online and let them juice their phones, though. The idea was to engage users, too, principally with twin 55-inch high-definition displays and tethered Android tablets with map functions. Mike Gamaroff, head of innovation at Kinetic, characterized the Links in 2016 as “first and foremost a utility for the people of the city, that also doubles up as an advertising network.” Two years after the deployment of prototypical kiosks in Manhattan, Intersection — a part of the aforementioned CityBridge, which with Qualcomm and CIVIQ Smartscapes manages the kiosks — is ready to declare them a success. The roughly 1,600 Links recently hit three milestones: 1 billion sessions, 5 million users, and 500,000 phone calls a month. Recommended reading: Free Municipal Wi-Fi May Be the Next Front In the War Against Privacy.

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Source:: Slashdot

iPhone XS vs. iPhone X: Just how much better is the new camera? – CNET

Looks like the same dual 12-megapixel cameras as last year. Trust us, they’re not. …read more

Source:: CNet

Maker Faire NY: Getting Physical with Minecraft

If you’ve been hanging around Hackaday for a while, you’ve likely seen a few attempts to bridge the real world with the voxel paradise that is Minecraft. In the past, projects have connected physical switches to virtual devices in the game, or took chunks of the game’s blocky landscape and turned it into a 3D printable file. These were interesting enough endeavors, but fairly limited in their scope. They assumed you had an existing world or creation in Minecraft that you wanted to fiddle with in a more natural way, but didn’t do much for actually playing the game.

But “Physical Minecraft” presented at the 2018 World Maker Faire in New York, offered a unique way to bring players a bit closer to their cubic counterparts. Created by [Manav Gagvani], the physical interface has players use a motion detecting wand in combination with an array of miniature Minecraft blocks to build in the virtual world.

The wand even detects various gestures to activate an array of “Spells”, which are effectively automated build commands. For example, pushing the wand forward while making a twisting motion will automatically create a tunnel out of the selected block type. This not only makes building faster in the game, but encourages the player to experiment with different gestures and motions.

A Raspberry Pi 3 runs the game and uses its onboard Bluetooth to communicate with the 3D printed wand, which itself contains a MetaWear wearable sensor board. By capturing his own moves and graphing the resulting data with a spreadsheet, [Manav] was able to boil down complex gestures into an array of integer values which he plugged into his Python code. When the script sees a sequence of values it recognizes, the relevant commands get passed onto the running instance of Minecraft.

You might assume the wand itself is detecting which material block is attached to it, but that bit of magic is actually happening in the base the blocks sit on. Rather than trying to uniquely identify each block with RFID or something along those lines, [Manav] embedded an array of reed switches into the base which are triggered by the presence of the magnet hidden in each block.

These switches are connected directly to the GPIO pins of the Raspberry Pi, and make for a very easy way to determine which block has been removed and installed on the tip of the wand. Things can get tricky if the blocks are put into the wrong positions or more than one block are removed at a time, but for the most part it’s an effective way to tackle the problem without making everything overly complex.

We’ve often talked about how kid’s love for Minecraft has been used as a way of getting them involved in STEM projects, and “Physical Minecraft” was a perfect example. There was a line of young players waiting for their turn on the wand, even though what they were effectively “playing” was the digital equivalent of tossing rocks. [Manav] would …read more

Source:: Hackaday

Apple iPhone XS Max OtterBox case roundup: Three options for adding rugged drop protection

The iPhone XS Max is Apple’s most expensive smartphone yet and while it offers a high level of dust and water resistance, it is still susceptible to drops. OtterBox is known for protecting your phones and has 48 options in eight different series. …read more

Source:: ZDNet

New Spray-On Coating Can Make Buildings, Cars, and Even Spaceships Cooler

Long-time Slashdot reader davidwr and Iwastheone both submitted this story about “a paint-like coating that facilitates what is known as ‘passive daytime radiative cooling,’ or PDRC for short…when a surface can efficiently radiate heat and reflect sunlight to a degree that it cools itself even if it’s sitting in direct sunlight.” BGR reports on research from the Columbia School of Engineering:
Their newly-invented coating has “nano-to-microscale air voids that acts as a spontaneous air cooler,” which is a very technical and fancy way of saying that the coating is great at keeping itself cool all on its own. “The air voids in the porous polymer scatter and reflect sunlight, due to the difference in the refractive index between the air voids and the surrounding polymer,” Columbia writes in a post. “The polymer turns white and thus avoids solar heating, while its intrinsic emittance causes it to efficiently lose heat to the sky.”
It sounds great, but the best news is that it can be applied to just about anything, from cars to spaceships and even entire buildings. The team believes their invention would be an invaluable resource for developing countries in sweltering climates where air conditioning is impractical or unavailable.

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Source:: Slashdot

Britain’s Fleet Air Arm Museum is an awesome show of sea air power – CNET

Celebrating over 100 years of naval air power, the stunning museum has loads of biplanes, iconic jets, and legendary supersonic aircraft. Here’s the full tour …read more

Source:: CNet

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