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30
Jul

The Biohacking Movement and Open Source Insulin

In March of 2014, I knew my eight year old daughter was sick. Once borderline overweight, she was now skeletally thin and fading away from us. A pre-dawn ambulance ride to the hospital gave us the devastating news – our daughter had Type 1 diabetes, and would be dependent on insulin injections for the rest of her life.

This news hit me particularly hard. I’ve always been a preparedness-minded kind of guy, and I’ve worked to free myself and my family from as many of the systems of support as possible. As I sat in the dark of the Pediatric ICU watching my daughter slowly come back to us, I contemplated how tied to the medical system I had just become. She was going to need a constant supply of expensive insulin, doled out by a medical insurance system that doesn’t understand that a 90-day supply of life-saving medicine is a joke to a guy who stocks a year supply of toilet paper. Plus I had recently read an apocalyptic novel where a father watches his 12-year old diabetic daughter slip into a coma as the last of her now-unobtainable insulin went bad in an off-grid world. I swore to myself that I’d never let this happen, and set about trying to find ways to make my own insulin, just in case.

Victor’s Hack, Eva’s Insulin

Eva and Victor Saxl [Source: The Eva Saxl Story]
Eva and Victor Saxl [Source: The Eva Saxl Story]

Think the day can never come when insulin isn’t commercially available? That might have been what Eva and Victor Saxl thought, but they learned otherwise. In the late 1930s, the Saxls were a young Jewish couple living in Czechoslovakia. They saw the writing on the wall and managed to get out of the country ahead of Hitler’s tanks. Good timing, but unfortunate execution, as they ended up in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Only 19, Eva had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and now had no legal access to insulin thanks to tightening Japanese control of the Jewish ghetto in Shanghai.

Victor, a textile engineer with no formal background in biology, took it upon himself to hack his way out of the problem. It had been less than twenty years since insulin had first been isolated from the pancreas of a cow, so Victor read up on the process, borrowed some lab space from a Chinese friend, and eventually succeeded in producing a murky brown fluid from water buffalo pancreases. Having no way to test his concoction, he injected it into his ailing wife and waited, not knowing if his semi-purified sludge would kill her. It didn’t. In fact, she perked up as her blood glucose dropped. Victor’s hacked insulin saved his young wife’s life and with ramped up production, over 400 other refugees were saved. Eva and many of the refugees lived well into their 80s.

The story of the Saxls inspired me to start collecting the materials I’d need to purify insulin from mammalian pancreases. My background is in biology, and I’ve done plenty of time in the lab. I figured I’d be able to handle the tricky business of chopping up the tissues and doing the extractions and purification. After all, how hard could it be to replicate the tools and materials of the 1920s-era labs where insulin was originally purified?

As it turns out, it’s not impossible, but it’s not easy either, and with the competing demands of a job, a family, a house, and now learning how to manage diabetes traditionally, I didn’t make much progress. Plus, I know how finicky whole-tissue extracts can be, and in the end, even if I managed to get a relatively pure insulin, it would be either cow or pig hormone, not human. This put a bit of a damper on my efforts and it became sort of a back burner project.

Better Living through Molecular Biology

Six-subunit storage form of insulin [Source: Wikipedia]
Six-subunit storage form of insulin [Source: Wikipedia]

A few weeks ago, I started thinking about DIY insulin production again. I knew that commercially prepared insulin was no longer isolated from mammalian pancreases. That practice had been all but abandoned since the gene for human insulin had first been inserted into bacteria in 1978 by Genentech. The gene was carried on plasmids, small loops of DNA that can be inserted into bacteria or yeasts. Under the right conditions, the protein encoded by the gene on the plasmid can be produced and excreted by the cell. Grow a lot of cells that do this, and you get a lot of human insulin. Purification of the insulin from the cell culture is not trivial, but at least compared to whole-tissue extracts it’s relatively straightforward. The recombinant technique also allows for modifications to the sequence of the protein, which not only alters its effects in the body, such as how fast it’s absorbed, but also allows modifications that allow it to be purified more easily than insulin from whole tissues.

I also had plenty of experience with molecular biology from my lab rat days. I’ve made a decent number of plasmids, grown buckets of recombinant E. coli, and purified proteins from it. Seemed to me that this would be an easier way to go. I started thinking about what I’d need to hack together a molecular biology lab at home and start learning how to produce human insulin. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines.

Open Source Insulin

A friend recently sent me an article on home-brew insulin that got me pretty excited, at least initially. The article had the breathless yet measured headline, “Biohackers Aim To Make Homebrew Insulin, But Don’t Try It Yet”, and centered around the efforts of entrepreneur and founder of Indie.Bio Ryan Bethencourt to develop an open-source insulin using a cloud-based platform. His ultimate goal is decentralized production on insulin that can be provided free to everyone who needs it.

[Source: BioCurious.org
[Source: BioCurious.org]

So far, the organized efforts to produce insulin using a collaborative, open source model seem to be centered on getting enough funds together to cover prototyping and initial experiments. But it also seems like the basic plan has been thought through well and addresses the root problem: getting cells to express insulin is easy, but purifying it enough to not kill the diabetic is not. To that end, extra amino acids will be attached to the insulin to allow it to be purified in fewer steps.

Biohackers working on open source insulin are quick to point out that what they’re doing initially is strictly research – citizens scientists looking at an interesting biochemical process and sharing their results. But it’s clear what the ultimate goal is, and it’s worth think about what a world looks like if we ever get to the point where producing insulin at home is as easy as brewing up a batch of porter or lager. Given the reactions I’ve gotten from most of the endocrinologists with whom I’ve tried to discuss even the slightest variance from standard insulin therapy, I can’t imagine that the medical community would welcome such innovation with open arms. Still, I think the biohackers will forge ahead and cross the regulatory bridge when they get there.

The Killer App for Biohacking

Bio-luminescence experiment [Source: BioCurious.org]
Bio-luminescence experiment [Source: BioCurious.org]

To be honest, the biohacking movement seems a bit moribund right now. Sure, there are a fair number of biohacking groups listed online, but scratch the surface and you’ll find quite a few of the web sites for these groups haven’t been updated in years, and a few bear the “Lorem ipsum” mark of never having been completed. To be fair, there are plenty of maker spaces across the world with wet labs equipped for both biology and chemistry experimentation, and some biohacking groups, like BioCurious and Genspace, appear to be vibrant and productive. But as far as I can see, biohacking hasn’t achieved the breakthrough that more traditional maker fields have. I think this has a lot to do with the “killer app” effect; PC sales didn’t explode in the 80s until VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3 were available, for example. I think affordable 3D printing was the killer app that allowed the maker movement to really gain momentum and caused makers to start to coalesce into groups. Biohacking hasn’t had its killer app yet.

Maybe open source insulin is just what the field needs to stir the creative juices of citizen scientists and get things rolling. For now, though, biohacking and open source insulin appear to be just on the edge of breaking out, and that’s encouraging to me. My daughter was born in 2005, and it’s conceivable that she could live to see the dawn of the 22nd century. She’s going to need a lot of insulin to get her that far, and I’d like to think that she won’t be tied to a centralized medical system for the next 85 years. And who knows – maybe she’ll catch the biohacking bug and be on the crest of a wave of innovation that’ll help her make her own insulin someday.

Filed under: Featured, Medical hacks
Hackaday

29
Jul

Apple’s Campus 2 visitor center will feature a cafe, store and observation deck

Right now, Apple is currently constructing its next big thing, but it’s not a piece of personal technology. No, that next big thing is Campus 2.

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iPhone Hacks | #1 iPhone, iPad, iOS Blog

29
Jul

Review: Single Board 65C02 and 65C816 Computers

The 6502 is a classic piece of computing history. Versions of this CPU were found in everything from the Apple ][, to the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Commodore 64. The history of the 6502 doesn’t end with video games; for the last forty years, this CPU has found its way into industrial equipment, medical devices, and everything else that doesn’t need to be redesigned every two years. Combine the longevity of the 6502 with the fact an entire generation of developers first cut their teeth on 6502 assembly, and you have the makings of a classic microprocessor that will, I’m sure, still be relevant in another forty years.

The cathedral of The 6502 is Western Design Center. For more than 35 years, WDC has been the home of 6502-related designs. Recently, WDC has been interested in the educational aspects of the 6502, with one of the VPs, [David Cramer], lending his time to an after-school club teaching opcodes.

The folks at WDC recently contacted me to see if I would give their hardware a close look, and after providing a few boards, this hardware proved to be both excellent. They’re great for educators adventurous enough to deviate from the Arduino, Processing, and Fritzing zeitgeist, and for anyone who wants to dip their toes into the world of 65xx development.

The Single Board Computers

WDC sent me the W65C02SXB and the W65c816SXB, two single board computers based on the 65C02 and the 65C816, respectively.

SBCThere are hundreds of very well-documented designs floating around the Internet for 65xx-based computers, but most of these designs have a lot in common. If you’re looking to build your own 6502-based computer, you’ll need a CPU, some RAM, and an EEPROM or Flash chip. For peripherals, you’ll be looking at the 6520 PIA, a chip that provides two eight-bit ports of I/O, the 6522 VIA a more advanced I/O chip with timers and a shift register, and maybe an 6551 ACIA communications/serial chip if you’re a purist. This is the standard compliment of chips for a 6502-based computer, and if you believe [Chuck Peddle], the 6502 wasn’t that useful without these support chips.

Both the ’02 and ‘816-based single board computers from WDC feature an ACIA, a PIA, and two VIAs – the second VIA is connected to a microUSB interface designed for WDC’s Terbium IDE (TIDE). More on TIDE in a bit. Each board also has 32kB of SRAM and a 128kB Flash chip mapped into the top 32k of memory. This is a fairly standard layout for just about every homebrew 6502 computer, but there are a few features that make this board special. Every pin you would ever need – data, address, control, and some chip selects – are available on a header running the entire length of the board. This is great if you’d like to interface an SXB with some old hardware, but the potential for creating new hardware is interesting. When I talked to [David Cramer] and [David Gray] at WDC, we speculated on what interesting hardware could be made that supports this gigantic header. The board might be too big and cumbersome for a quadcopter, but a 3D printer controller board is entirely reasonable, and would probably work very well.

The 65C816

The Western Design Center doesn’t just deal with the 6502 and its support chips. It remains the only place where you can get the 65C816, a greatly expanded CPU built on the 6502 ISA.

816The ‘816 is a very interesting chip, most famous for its use in the Apple IIgs and the Super Nintendo. With a 24-bit address bus, it supports 16 Megabytes of RAM, has 16-bit registers, and a few new instructions over the 6502. Most impressively, when you first turn a 65C816 on, it starts up in a 6502 emulation mode that is 100% compatible with the 6502 until you flip a bit in a ‘hidden’ register.

With new stack instructions and compatibility with the 65C02, you have to wonder what would have happened if the 65C816 were introduced a few years earlier. The chip was finished in 1984 in time for Apple to use it in the IIgs, and for [Bil Herd] to realize, ‘the reason to use it is because the competition is using it wasn’t going to be a successful pitch.’ A few years earlier, and this chip would have at least been considered in the initial designs of the Apple Lisa, Macintosh, the Atari ST line, and possibly even the IBM PC. It’s the greatest ‘what-ifs’ of computing history.

For the last 30 years, WDC have been the keepers of the 65C816 flame, and of course their educational offerings include a single board computer based around this chip. It is more or less identical to the W65C02SXB with PIA breakouts, VIA breakouts, and an ACIA breakout. The larger set of connectors contains all the data, address, and control lines of the XBus02 connector of the W65C02SXB, save for additional pins for the extra address lines.

Best of all, with a 65C816 development board, there’s no need to deal with the multiplexed data and address lines. Writing ‘816 code is as simple as plugging the board into your computer and mashing the keyboard; the Western Design Center has the only modern ‘816 C compiler, after all.

Terbium IDE

WDCGIF
The Sample Project for the SXBs blink a seven-segment display in a pleasing pattern

All of the WDC boards work with the Terbium IDE, the IDE packaged with the WDCTool suite. This is the interface for the compiler, linker, the editor of your choice, and a simulator. Truth be told, it’s not exactly a modern IDE – it’s Windows only, and my battle station (Win 8.1) saw the best results running in WinXP Sp2 compatibility mode.

Although TIDE is a little rough around the edges, it’s not really fair to compare this to Visual Studio or Eclipse; these high-end IDEs will always have more features and more polish than an IDE built for a single platform. Also, it’s an IDE, and being rough around the edges is the default, not an exception.

Aside from compiling and linking, TIDE also has another neat feature that’s directly applicable to the SXB boards: a simulator and debugger.

65sim
The TIDE simulator/debugger running the sample project with a seven-segment display

The addition of a simulator and debugger in TIDE is something you’re not going to get if you build your own 6502 single board computer. With the simulator and debugger, you can step into code, set breakpoints, and generally do everything you would expect to be able to do with an embedded IDE.

The sample project for the W65C02SXB was a ‘light up a seven segment display with a VIA’ tutorial, and this demonstrates the potential of the debugger; it even simulates the seven segment display with the help of a little code.

There are a few extra features in TIDE that tie into FPGA-related stuff for WDC’s soft cores for the ’02 and ‘816, but since that’s far beyond the boards I have, those buttons were left alone.

The Microcontroller Development Boards

265
The W65C265SXB – A microcontroller board based on the 65C816

WDC has not been resting on their laurels for 40 years. Their educational tools also include microcontrollers based on the 65c02 and 65c816. These are the 65C134SXB (based on the ’02, and was originally designed for life support), and the W65C265SXB (based on the 65c816).

Each of these boards feature the W65C134S or W65C256S microcontroller with 32kB of SRAM, a socket for a 32PLLC Flash ROM, one large connector that is more or less the same as their ‘full microprocessor’ counterparts, and three 10-pin connectors that are used for basic I/O, the Serial Interface Bus, and UART signals.

Although these microcontroller development boards appear very minimal – there are only four chips, a hand full of passives, and a bunch of pin headers, after all – appearances are deceiving. The microcontrollers are actually incredible pieces of engineering that really aren’t comparable to anything else on the market.

CoolTerm
The W65C265SXB ROM Monitor running in a terminal emulator

Inside both of these microcontrollers is a ROM monitor that functions just like any monitor program you’d find in an ancient computer. With this monitor, you can read and write to memory addresses, jump to addresses, and run code. All that’s needed is a USB cable, a terminal emulator (CoolTerm, Putty, a neat little Python script, or anything else that can connect to something over a serial port, 9600, 8N1) [Rod Biresch] has a great tutorial for entering opcodes into the ‘265SXB to blink an LED. Yes, it’s the most basic thing you can do with a microcontroller, but it does work, and can serve as the first stepping stone to more complex applications of an embedded 65xx ISA microcontroller.

Like their bigger brothers, they are also supported by the WDC’s own development environment, TIDE. With this, you can throw assembly or C at these little boards and they’ll chug right along.

Conclusion

There is one fairly large drawback to the single board computers from WDC – the price. The W65C02SXB and W65C816SXB go for a little under 0 USD. The microcontroller variants – the W65C134 and W65C265 knock 0 off the price of their bigger brothers. When you can get an Arduino Nano clone for with free shipping, this looks insane at first glance. After thinking about it, I’m not convinced the price actually is insane.

While you can pull a 6502 out of any old computer, you’re not going to find new chips from anyone but WDC. Being in the 6502 game is a comparatively low-volume business, and for every classic microprocessor, there are thousands of ARM chips.

That being said, if you were to build a 6502 or 65816 single board computer, you’ll also need those VIAs and PIAs; again, not chips you can pick up for a dollar a piece. I’ve built a 6502-based computer, and in terms of cost, my build wasn’t very far off. If you consider the effort that goes into building your own SBC… well, what do you value your time at?

The microcontroller variants of WDC’s boards are by far their most interesting offerings. There’s a common trope in modern 6502 builds that offload nearly everything to a microcontroller, but keep the 6502 in it’s classic 40-pin DIP format. You’ve seen it done with the Propeller, with an ATMega, and with the Propeller again. The 65C134 and ~265 do this job exceptionally well, and they have a built-in monitor to get you typing in machine code fast. That’s the goal of every homebrew computer, really.

For an educational offering, WDC’s single board computers do exactly what they’re designed to do: get people learning assembly and opcodes and machine codes. There’s still a value in this, especially if you’re going to continue hacking on Arduinos and ARMs. The microcontroller boards are a great introduction to some seriously interesting hardware, and I can’t wait to see the retro/homebrew scene dig into some serious tinkering with these machines.

Filed under: hardware, reviews
Hackaday

28
Jul

96 MacBook Pros: Most Expensive Server Rack We’ve Ever Seen

Ever see a standard server rack stuffed full with 8-dozen MacBook Pros? Well now you have.

Now before the torrential downpour of anti-Mac comments come, this actually has a purpose. No seriously. Besides, what company in their right mind would spend that much money on a rack full of paperweights? Kidding.

[Steve] works for a company that designs electronics, and for a particular launch they needed to perform a lot of testing — using MacBook Pros. There are ways he could have emulated OS X on a much cheaper hardware setup, but the whole point was to test the product with Apple hardware. So he took a stroll down to the local Apple store and picked up two pallets worth.

The server rack has 32 low-profile shelves which have just enough room for three MacBooks to sit in. They 3D printed small spacers to keep the screens of each unit open slightly and on during testing. Thermocouples have also been added to monitor the temperature of each MacBook externally, right in the keyboard area which gets the most toasty! To help with cooling, the entire door of the server rack has a good kilowatt plus of exhaust fans blowing constantly.

96 Apple MacBooks in a rack,

96 Apple MacBooks in a rack,

Take one down, Pass it around,

95 Apple MacBooks in a rack…

Sound familiar? This isn’t the first time [Steve] jammed a bunch of Apple hardware in a rack. Nope. He did it with 160 Mac Minis a few years ago.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, macs hacks
Hackaday

27
Jul

The Best of Boston Hackers at Artisan’s Asylum

We were in Boston last week and Artistan’s Asylum welcomed us in to host a Hackaday Meetup. We usually pack the place when the Hackaday community turns out, but this was exceptional. This hackerspace has a sizeable open area that I’m told fits triple-digits and we were using all of it. In addition to food and beverage (courtesy of our parent company Supplyframe who also make trips like this one a possibility), we had lighting talks for people to show off their projects. One of the hits was a functional hoverboard shown above, but there were dozens of others.

Here is the quick gallery of images (from our Hackaday.io event page) to give you an overview. After the break you’ll find dozens more highlighting the builds which were being shown off.

hackers-asylum-thumb
Working Hoverboard
We brought the Hackaday Omnibus with us
Gentleman in white makces clothes with hundred+ yo machines
Spaceships made of duct tape
[Jimmy Rogers] and [Sophi Kravitz] having a good time
Lightning talks

The Show and Tell of the Night

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DSC_0245

[Peter Walsh] brought along a magnetic PCB clamp. This is similar to the StickVise but uses a metal plate with magnets in the clamping bars. It is a bit hard to do fine adjustments — I suggested a spring-loaded side like [Alex Rich] built in his original.

DSC_0247
PMOD boards are extensible
2013 Open Hardware Summit Badge

The [engunneer] was showing off his MakerMod system. The idea is to use the PMOD interface standard along with adapter boards for every type of dev board you can imagine (id: Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.). He has also extended the standard for passing analog signals as well. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of his BADGEr from Open Source Hardware Summit 2013. [Anool Mahidharia], who joined the Hackaday Crew this year, has been writing a ton of great content and running these types of meetups in India, worked on the design of this badge.

DSC_0263
Legacy Driver for a paper tape punch
Tape punch serial plate

[Matthew] has a company called D’asaro Designs that makes drivers for legacy hardware. He brought along a machine that punches paper tape. His custom PIC-based driver module allows you to interface a modern computer with the ancient (but awesome) hardware. It’s satisfying to punch letters in tape in real time.

DSC_0270
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This light-saber build will soon be open-sourced, something rare in the ecosphere of prop replica. He also built the spacecraft models from duct tape seen at the top of this post.

Artisan's Asylum known for Awesome bikes
Crank to flap 3Doodle printed wings
[Dan] needs help printing these
Solenoid typerwriter plays [Leroy Anderson]

I knew I was getting close to finding Artisan’s Asylum when I was passed by someone on a tall bike. Turns out they make a lot of really cool bikes in the space.

The Butterfly sculpture seen above has delicate wings made with the 3Doodler. There is a metal mechanism supporting it that flaps the wings when you turn the crank.

I met [Dan] at Harvard earlier in the day and he brought along these spring-and-3D-printed-sphere cubes. They represent a simple cube crystal structure. He wants to make a huge network of them, but each row added really ups the number of spheres he has to print. If you’re interested in helping, check out the model and get in touch with him.

The last image in this group is the solenoid-outfitted typewriter that plays [Leroy Anderson’s] The Typewriter Symphony. Yes, it is super-awesome in person and a hit of the night, to be sure.

Array of 4 microphones
Processing board serves as "handle" for now

During the lighting talks I spotted [Shen] because I immediately recognized the most beautiful custom-rolled display in the world which was peeking out of the bag he was holding. In addition to showing off that handiwork he was trying out this new directional-microphone he made. The array has four MEMS microphones on it, with signal processing done on the board. It was cool to “tune out” the people to either side of you in exchange for whomever you pointed the thing at.

DSC_0298
DSC_0319

I’m still looking for video footage of this hoverboard. It’s made with super-dangerous magnets that run about 0 bucks each. I believe the story told was that this was built for the [Jimmy Kimmel] show but I can’t find the segment online. It’s tethered to the base plate make sure it doesn’t violently flip over and slam into it. It’ll support a tall and lanky geeky guy (read: me) no problem.

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The hoverboard isn’t the only way to get around this hackerspace. You can walk around in this human-sized-hamster-wheel but you’ll need a spotter so you don’t crush the bystanders.

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DSC_0308
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DSC_0311
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DSC_0314
Discrete logic from SMD parts

We previously featured [Alan] in a Fail of the Week where he had a few electrical issues with a powered kick scooter conversion. But his engineering is strong as proven by this amazing art piece. He and a few buddies got a hold of hundreds of stepper motors for a song. They built this array of colored plastic tubing that is pleasing to the eye and includes many interesting animation patterns. He’s also working on building some logic from discrete SMD parts. He needs 40 of them to make a clock and it currently takes about 40 minutes to solder each… ugh.

Pulley system to pull himself up
Cleat is part of custom built lower pulley

Next door to Artisan’s Asylum is a climbing gym. This hacker is working on his lead-climber certification. He believes he’ll be the third paraplegic lead climber in the world. To assist, he’s come up with some custom equipment. He has a reaching pole for setting anchors above him. He pulls himself up with the help of a pulley system, and ties off the advances with a special cleat he’s built into the bottom pulley.

Finished case will be painted
Can run from 1 or 2 batteries
The guts
"OMG I made my Kickstarter" look

[Sam Feller] was showing off the production version of his Analog Voltmeter Clock. He’s in the process of fulfilling a successful Kickstarter. There are two meters which show hour and minute. He has a rotary encoder and potentiometer for settings, and the entire thing can run off of one AA (although there are two slots if you want to change batteries less often.

inMoov
Back of inMoov
Working robot built using 3Doodler
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There was an inMoov robot on display. I was also interested to see the human skeleton robot which was “printed” using the 3Doodler. It’s incredible what you can do freehand, on the couch, while the TV is playing.

What a wonderful night. Thanks again to everyone who came out, and our hosts at the hackerspace. Boston has a great hacking scene!

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackerspaces
Hackaday

27
Jul

Pay What You Want for this Bundle of Courses that will turn you into a Game Developer [Deals Hub]

 
Games have become an ubiquitous part of our daily routines, whether it’s firing up a console in the living room after a long day of work or pulling up an app on your phone to make a commute go by faster. With the help of the Game Developer Bundle, you can build your own games that others will love. Name your price for it now in the iPhone Hacks Deals Hub.

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iPhone Hacks | #1 iPhone, iPad, iOS Blog

26
Jul

Simple One-Chip Regenerative Receiver

Crystal radios may be the simplest kind to make, but regenerative receivers are more practical and only a little more complicated. A recent design by [Selenium] is super simple because it uses a single LM386 audio amplifier IC.

You might be surprised that you can convert an audio amplifier to a receiver using just a handful of components (a variable capacitor, a coil, a handful of capacitors, and a speaker). However, [Selenium] realized he could subvert the gain and bypass pins to cause regeneration and wound up with a very simple receiver.

If you haven’t looked at regenerative receivers before, the principle is simple (and dates back to 1912). An oscillator is an amplifier that gets (theoretically) an infinite amount of gain at one particular frequency. A regenerative receiver is just an amplifier that is almost (but not quite) at the point of oscillation. This give it very high frequency-specific gain and a measure of selectivity. You can also nudge the receiver just into oscillation to receive CW or SSB signals.

[Selenium] built his prototype on an old receiver chassis because it had the IC and the variable capacitor already in place. However, others have built successful copies on breadboards ([Austin Heller] created several good looking breadboard versions) and on PCB material. [Selenium] also released some other unique LM386-based designs that use more parts (and, probably, have better performance). Looks like a simple way to build a practical receiver.

Filed under: radio hacks
Hackaday

26
Jul

Hackaday Prize Entry: Smart Low Voltage Lighting

A common theme around Internet of Things things is connecting a relay to the web. It’s useful for everything from turning on a lamp from across the country to making sure your refrigerator is still running without the twice-hourly calls from the International Refrigeration Commission. For his Hackaday Prize project, [Matt] is turning lights on and off with an ESP8266 WiFi module, but not just any lights: he’s focusing on low-voltage lighting with the ESPLux.

Most downlights and landscape lights run off a 12 or 24 V transformer, and because [Matt] wanted to add dimming to his lighting box, he’s rectifying the low voltage AC to DC; PWMing an output to light an LED is a much better idea than chopping AC with a triac.

With a rectifier, MOSFET, and an ESP8266, the ESPLux is a simple build, but the project doesn’t end with electronics. for automation and control of these lights, [Matt] is turning to OpenHAB, automation software that works with everything you would ever use to make your home smart.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Filed under: home hacks, The Hackaday Prize
Hackaday

25
Jul

Make your own Ninja Chess Board

You’re going to want to take a look at this fun project [Alistair MacDonald] just finished up. He calls it Ninja Chess.

He’s had the idea to 3D print a complete set of ninjas vs pirates for a chess board, but, let’s be real;  printing thirty-two chess pieces would take a long time. He opted to use a laser cutter instead, and so far, only has the Ninja characters drawn. But it still makes for a pretty awesome chess board.

Ninja Character

He drew the characters in Inkscape and they’re pretty darn cute. He has all the files available over on his Instructable including the .DXF for the laser cut outlines, and the image files for you to print off the decals. But unless you’re good with scissors, we recommend using your hackerspace’s automated paper cutter to help speed things up.

Is it a hack? Not really, but it’d be an excellent addition to anyone’s workshop. And while we sail the Jolly Wrencher, we too can appreciate the novelty of a Ninja chess board.

For a more detailed build, did you see the 3D laser cut chess pieces we shared a few weeks ago? No that’s not a typo — you can use a laser cutter to do more than just two-dimensional cutting…

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, laser hacks
Hackaday

25
Jul

Daily App Deals: Save on games and productivity tools such as Real Fishing 3D, Weather Line and more (July 24)

We have some great apps for you today that are discounted for a short duration in the App Store, including Weather Line, Real Fishing 3D and others. Some deals may expire quickly — even on the same day of this post. If there is a discounted app that you like, grab it while it is still on sale.
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