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Hardware Hacking

The Personal Computer Revolution Behind the Iron Curtain 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-what-you-can dept.
szczys writes Obviously the personal computer revolution was world-wide, but the Eastern Bloc countries had a story of PC evolution all their own. Martin Malý tells first hand of his experiences seeing black market imports, locally built clones of popular western machines, and all kinds of home-built equipment. From the article: "The biggest problem was a lack of modern technologies. There were a lot of skilled and clever people in eastern countries, but they had a lot of problems with the elementary technical things. Manufacturing of electronics parts was divided into diverse countries of Comecon – The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. In reality, it led to an absurd situation: You could buy the eastern copy of Z80 (made in Eastern Germany as U880D), but you couldn’t buy 74LS00 at the same time. Yes, a lot of manufacturers made it, but 'it is out of stock now; try to ask next year.' So 'make a computer' meant 50 percent of electronics skills and 50 percent of unofficial social network and knowledge like 'I know a guy who knows a guy and his neighbor works in a factory, where they maybe have a material for PCBs' at those times."

Linux On a Motorola 68000 Solder-less Breadboard 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the back-to-basics dept.
New submitter lars_stefan_axelsson writes: When I was an undergrad in the eighties, "building" a computer meant that you got a bunch of chips and a soldering iron and went to work. The art is still alive today, but instead of a running BASIC interpreter as the ultimate proof of success, today the crowning achievement is getting Linux to run: "What does it take to build a little 68000-based protoboard computer, and get it running Linux? In my case, about three weeks of spare time, plenty of coffee, and a strong dose of stubbornness. After banging my head against the wall with problems ranging from the inductance of pushbutton switches to memory leaks in the C standard library, it finally works! (video)"
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Hackable Car? 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the aside-from-the-delorean dept.
An anonymous reader writes: When looking for a new (or used) car, I have readily available information regarding features, maintenance history, and potential issues for that specific model or generation. What I would really like is a car that is readily hackable on the convenience-feature level. For example, if I want to install a remote starter, or hack the power windows so holding 'up' automatically rolls it up, or install a readout on the rear of the car showing engine RPMs, what make/model/year is the best pick? Have any of you done something similar with your vehicle? Have you found certain models to be ideal or terrible for feature hacking?

Ask Slashdot: How Do I Make a High-Spec PC Waterproof? 202

Posted by Soulskill
from the lots-of-duct-tape dept.
jimwormold writes: I need to build a system for outdoor use, capable of withstanding a high pressure water jet! "Embedded PC," I hear you cry. Well, ideally yes. However, the system does a fair bit of number crunching on a GPU (GTX970) and there don't appear to be any such embedded systems available. The perfect solution will be as small as possible (ideally about 1.5x the size of a motherboard, and the height will be limited to accommodate the graphics card). I'm U.K.- based, so the ambient temperature will range from -5C to 30C, so I presume some sort of active temperature control would be useful.

I found this helpful discussion, but it's 14 years old. Thus, I thought I'd post my question here. Do any of you enlightened Slashdotters have insights to this problem, or know of any products that will help me achieve my goals?

Raspberry Pi Founder Demos Touchscreen Display For DIY Kits 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the pi-you-can-see dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Over 4 million Raspberry Pis have been sold so far, and now founder Eben Upton has shown off a touchscreen display panel that's designed to work with it. It's a 7" panel, roughly tablet sized, but slightly thicker. "With the incoming touchscreen panel The Pi Foundation is clearly hoping to keep stoking the creative fires that have helped drive sales of the Pi by slotting another piece of DIY hardware into the mix." Upton also discussed the Model A+ Raspberry Pi board — an updated version they'll be announcing soon.

Cell Transplant Allows Paralyzed Man To Walk 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the saved-by-a-nose dept.
New submitter tiberus sends word of a breakthrough medical treatment that has restored the ability to walk to a man who was paralyzed from the chest down after his spinal cord was severed in a knife attack. A research team from the UK, led by Professor Geoff Raisman, transplanted cells from the patient's nose, along with strips of nerve tissue from his ankle, to the place where the spine was severed. This allowed the fibers in the spinal cord to gradually reconnect. The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) - specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell. ... In the first of two operations, surgeons removed one of the patient's olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture. Two weeks later they transplanted the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin strip of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with - about 500,000 cells. About 100 micro-injections of OECs were made above and below the injury. Four thin strips of nerve tissue were taken from the patient's ankle and placed across an 8mm (0.3in) gap on the left side of the cord. ... Two years after the treatment, he can now walk outside the rehabilitation center using a frame.
Input Devices

Reverse Engineering the Oculus Rift DK2's Positional Tracking Tech 26

Posted by timothy
from the blink-and-you-won't-miss-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Oculus Rift DK2 VR headset hides under its IR-transparent shell an array of IR LEDs which are picked up by the positional tracker. The data is used to understand where the user's head is in 3D space so that the game engine can update the view accordingly, a critical function for reducing sim sickness and increasing immersion. Unsurprisingly, some endeavoring folks wanted to uncover the magic behind Oculus' tech and began reverse engineering the system. Along the way, they discovered some curious info including a firmware bug which, when fixed, revealed the true view of the positional tracker.

The $1,200 DIY Gunsmithing Machine 651

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
An anonymous reader writes: You may recall Cody Wilson as the man behind the world's first 3D-printed gun. He built a company behind the ideals of DIY gun-making, and now he's come back with another device: the "Ghost Gunner," a CNC mill designed to create the lower receiver of an AR-15 rifle. "That simple chunk of metal has become the epicenter of a gun control firestorm. A lower receiver is the body of the gun that connects its stock, barrel, magazine and other parts. As such, it's also the rifle's most regulated element. Mill your own lower receiver at home, however, and you can order the rest of the parts from online gun shops, creating a semi-automatic weapon with no serial number, obtained with no background check, no waiting period or other regulatory hurdles. Some gun control advocates call it a "ghost gun." Selling that untraceable gun body is illegal, but no law prevents you from making one." Wilson's goal is still to render government gun regulation useless, even as debate rages on banning this kind of manufacturing.
Hardware Hacking

Arducorder, Next Open Source Science Tricorder-like Device, Nears Completion 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the scanning-for-life-forms dept.
upontheturtlesback writes: The Arducorder Mini, an Arduino-compatible pocket-sized handheld sensing tool and the next in line of open source science tricorder-like devices designed by Dr. Peter Jansen, is nearing completion. Where the previous models have included about a dozen sensors spanning atmospheric, electromagnetic, and spatial readings, an exciting video of the new prototype shows this model includes sensors for spectroscopy, low-resolution thermal imaging, and radiation sensing. The development is open with the project build logs and most recent source schematics, board layouts, and firmware available on github. This project is an entry in the Hack a Day Prize for a trip to space.

Joey Hudy: From High School Kid to Celebrity Maker to Intel Intern (Video) 32

Posted by Roblimo
from the did-you-do-anything-this-slick-in-high-school? dept.
Timothy Lord met Joey Hudy at an Intel Dev Forum. Joey is possibly the youngest intern Intel has ever hired, but he's made a big splash in the 'Maker world', so having him around is probably worth it for the PR value alone. Joey is obviously pretty bright -- he's been called one of the 10 smartest kids in the world -- but let's face it: he's had a lot of luck to help him along. Not many high school kids get invited to White House science fairs and demonstrate their air cannons to the president. (Alternate Video Link)

Marines Put Microsoft Kinect To Work For 3D Mapping 37

Posted by samzenpus
from the quick-map dept.
colinneagle points out this article about how the Marines are using a Microsoft Kinect to build maps. A military contractor has come up with something that has the U.S. Marine Corps interested. The Augmented Reality Sand Table is currently being developed by the Army Research Laboratory and was on display at the Modern Day Marine Expo that recently took place on Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. The set-up is simple: a table-sized sandbox is rigged with a Microsoft Kinect video game motion sensor and an off-the-shelf projector. Using existing software, the sensor detects features in the sand and projects a realistic topographical map that corresponds to the layout, which can change in real time as observers move the sand around in the box. The setup can also project maps from Google Earth or other mapping and GPS systems, enabling units to visualize the exact terrain they'll be covering for exercises or operations. Eventually, they hope to add visual cues to help troops shape the sandbox to match the topography of a specified map. Eventually, the designers of the sandbox hope to involve remote bases or even international partners in conducting joint training and operations exercises. Future possibilities include large-scale models that could project over a gymnasium floor for a battalion briefing, and a smartphone version that could use a pocket-sized projector to turn any patch of dirt into an operational 3-D map.
Classic Games (Games)

From the Maker of Arduboy: Tetris On a Bracelet 15

Posted by Soulskill
from the next-up-pong-on-your-wedding-ring dept.
timothy writes: Kevin Bates showed off his tiny ("credit card sized") homebrewed game-playing rig at OSCON this summer. Not content with merely wallet sized, he's now squeezed enough display — three of them, lacking a curved display to wrap around the wrist — input sensors, and processing power (Atmega 328p) to play Tetris on a tiny, multi-segmented bracelet (video). Sure, there's been Tetris on watches before, but from large-budget companies, not — at least not that I've ever seen — from hackers. Bates' post gives some more technical details, too.
United States

NSF Awards $10 Million To Protect America's Processors 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-processors? dept.
aarondubrow writes "The National Science Foundation and the Semiconductor Research Corporation announced nine research awards to 10 universities totaling nearly $4 million under a joint program focused on secure, trustworthy, assured and resilient semiconductors and systems. The awards support the development of new strategies, methods and tools at the circuit, architecture and system levels, to decrease the likelihood of unintended behavior or access; increase resistance and resilience to tampering; and improve the ability to provide authentication throughout the supply chain and in the field. "The processes and tools used to design and manufacture semiconductors ensure that the resulting product does what it is supposed to do. However, a key question that must also be addressed is whether the product does anything else, such as behaving in ways that are unintended or malicious," said Keith Marzullo, division director of NSF's Computer and Network Systems Division.

CPU's Heat Output to Amplify DNA Could Make Drastically Cheaper Tests 27

Posted by timothy
from the only-waste-heat-is-wasted dept.
MTorrice (2611475) writes "Researchers have harnessed that heat from a computer CPU to run the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify DNA in a blood sample. The team developed software that cycles the temperature of the CPU to drive PCR's three distinct steps.The method allowed them to detect miniscule amounts of DNA from a pathogenic parasite that causes Chagas disease. They hope their technique will lead to low-cost diagnostic tests in developing countries." (Always good to put waste heat to a practical purpose.)
Hardware Hacking

Update: Raspberry Pi-Compatible Development Board Cancelled 165

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-fast dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Anyone who might have been interested in the miniature Raspberry Pi compatible board mentioned here a month ago should know the board has been cancelled due to problems sourcing the Broadcom SoC. Given the less than welcoming response from the rpi community to the board's release, there is speculation as to why Hardkernel is having trouble buying the chip.

Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Repeated Internet Overbilling? 355

Posted by timothy
from the hey-these-guys-did-it-to-me-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AT&T has been overbilling my account based on overcounting DSL internet usage (they charge in 50 gigabyte units after the first 150). I have been using a Buffalo NFinity Airstation as a managed switch to count all traffic. As you may know, this device runs firmware based on dd-wrt and has hidden telnet functionality, so I am able to load a script to count traffic directly onto the device. I have an auto-scraper that collects the data and saves it on my computer's hard disk every two minutes while the computer is running. While it is not running, the 2 minute counters accumulate in RAM on the device. Power problems are not normally an issue here; and even when they are I can tell it has happened. The upshot of all this is I can measure the exact amount of download bandwidth and a guaranteed overestimate of upload bandwidth in bytes reliably. I have tested this by transferring known amounts of data and can account for every byte counted, including ethernet frame headers. AT&T's billing reporting reports usage by day only, lags two days, and uses some time basis other than midnight. It is also reading in my testing a fairly consistent 14% higher whenever the basis doesn't disturb the test by using too much bandwidth too close to midnight.

AT&T has already refused to attempt to fix the billing meter, and asserts they have tested it and found it correct. Yet they refuse to provide a realtime readout of the counter that would make independent testing trivial. I've been through the agencies (CPUC, FCC, and Weights & Measures) and can't find one that is interested, AT&T will not provide any means for reasonable independent testing of the meter. It is my understanding that if there is a meter and its calibration cannot be checked, there is a violation of the law, yet I can't find an agency that can even accept such a claim (I'm not getting "your claim is meritless", but "we don't handle that"). If indeed they are not overbilling, my claim of no way to verify the meter still stands. My options are running thin here. So that my account can be identified by someone who recognizes the case: 7a6c74964fafd56c61e06abf6c820845cbcd4fc0 (bit commitment).

How the Ancient Egyptians (Should Have) Built the Pyramids 202

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-it-better dept.
KentuckyFC writes The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is constructed from 2.4 million limestone blocks, most about 2.5 tonnes but some weighing in at up to 80 tonnes, mostly sourced from local limestone quarries. That raises a famous question. How did the ancient Egyptians move these huge blocks into place? There is no shortage of theories but now a team of physicists has come up with another that is remarkably simple--convert the square cross section of the blocks into dodecadrons making them easy to roll. The team has tested the idea on a 30 kg scaled block the shape of a square prism. They modified the square cross-section by strapping three wooden rods to each long face, creating a dodecahedral profile. Finally, they attached a rope to the top of the block and measured the force necessary to set it rolling. The team say a full-sized block could be modified with poles the size of ships masts and that a work crew of around 50 men could move a block with a mass of 2.5 tonnes at the speed of 0.5 metres per second. The result suggests that this kind of block modification is a serious contender for the method the Egyptians actually used to construct the pyramids, say the researchers.
Hardware Hacking

Microsoft Research Brings Kinect-Style Depth Perception to Ordinary Cameras 31

Posted by timothy
from the how-far-away-you-are dept.
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes "Microsoft has been working on ways to make any regular 2D camera capture depth, meaning it could do some of the same things a Kinect does. As you can see in the video below the team managed to pull this off and we might see this tech all around in the near future. What's really impressive is that this works with many types of cameras. The research team used a smartphone as well as a regular webcam and both managed to achieve some impressive results, the cameras have to be slightly modified but that's only to permit more IR light to hit the sensor." The video is impressive, but note that so are several of the other projects that Microsoft has created for this year's SIGGRAPH, in particular one that makes first-person sports-cam footage more watchable.

Interviews: Ask Tim O'Reilly About a Life Steeped In Technology 39

Posted by timothy
from the spawning-ideas dept.
Today's interview guest is literally a household name: If you look at the shelves in nearly any programmer's house, developer shop or hackerspace, you'll probably see a stretch of books from O'Reilly Media (or O'Reilly & Associates, depending on how old the books are). Tim O'Reilly started out publishing a few technical manuals in the late '70s, branching from there into well-received technical reference and instructional books, notably ones covering open source languages and operating systems (how many people learned to install and run a new OS from Matt Walsh's Running Linux?), but neither Tim O'Reilly nor the company has gotten stuck in one place for long. As a publisher, he was early to make electronic editions available, in step with the increasing capabilities of electronic readers. Make Magazine (later spun off as part of Maker Media, which also produces Maker Faires around the world) started as an O'Reilly project; the company's conferences like OSCON, Fluent, and this year's Solid are just as much a manifestation of O'Reilly's proclivity for spreading knowledge as the books are, and those are only part of the picture, being joined with seminars, video presentations, and more. Tim O'Reilly is often hailed as a futurist and an activist (he was an early proponent of 3-D printing and hardware hacking, and a loud voice for patent reform) and he's got his eye on trends from global (how the Internet functions) to more personal -- like ways that physical goods can be produced, customized, and networked. So please go ahead and ask O'Reilly about what it's been like to be a publisher of paper books in an ever-more electronic world, as well as a visionary in the world of DIY and fabrication, or anything else on your mind. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per post.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton