A few years ago [Mechatrommer] got one of the low-cost Aneng Q1 multimeters and has converted it into a bench top meter. He first tried and failed to do an LCD modification and set it aside. It remained in a storage box until he needed another meter to repair his rubidium frequency standard. Finding that off-the-shelf bench multimeters were literally off-the-shelf — they were too deep for his bench — he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Month: May 2021
Hot Air Station Amateur Hour
A hot air station is one of the standard tools for working with surface-mount electronics, mostly in the context of rework to fix problems rather than initial assembly. In addition to manuals for individual pieces of equipment, there are guides like this one from Sparkfun. My projects haven’t really needed me to buy one, though that’s debatable whether that’s a cause or an effect: perhaps I design my projects so I don’t need one, because I don’t have one!
Either way I knew some level of dexterity and skill are required to use the tool well, and the best way to get started is to start playing with one in a non-critical environment. Shortly before the pandemic lockdown, I had the opportunity when Emily Velasco offered to bring her unit to one of our local meetups for me to play with. I had a large collection of circuit boards removed from tearing down various pieces of equipment. I decided to bring the mainboard from an Acer Aspire Switch 10, which was a small Windows 8 laptop/tablet convertible that I had received in an as-is nonfunctional state. I was able to get it up and running briefly but I think my power supply hack had provided the wrong voltage. Because a few months later, it no longer powered up.
Read more: Hot Air Station Amateur Hour
Birds of a Feather with nRF52840
Hans Jørgen Grimstad writes about nRF52840:
If you are working on anything IoT-related, the first thing you will need is connectivity.
For anything even moderately distributed that also has to run on batteries, this translates to incorporating hardware that enables you to send and receive messages using low-power radio access technologies like LTE-M or NB-IoT.
Since these are mobile network technologies, you will also need a SIM card and subscription.
Jared Wolff has designed a really nice and small IoT development board, namely the nRF9160 Feather. It measures 21x53mm in size without the antennas and should be easy to incorporate in any IoT prototype.
Learn to design your own microchips
Matthew Venn is launching another edition of the Zero to ASIC course:
OpenLANE ASIC flow & Efabless Submission
Busy people who already have digital design experience and want to learn how to make a digital ASIC and apply to either the Google sponsored free shuttle or Efabless $10k shuttle.
You can bring some digital designs already simulated or tested on an FPGA. We have 2 example designs you can use if you have nothing handy.
You will need to have a reliable internet connection, webcam, headset and the class VM installed and tested.
Basics of using OpenLANE ASIC flow to convert HDL to GDS.
Understanding of Caravel application harness
How to make a submission to Efabless to take part in the free shuttle program.
“You Should Have Worn a 555 Timer T-Shirt”
Great advice from the Jeremy Cook on the Tindie blog:
You Should Have Worn a 555 Timer T-Shirt
On your latest project you decided to use an Arduino breakout board, which seemed like a good choice at the time. A few lines of code, and your LEDs were happily blinking away. Of course your were thrilled to be featured on Hackaday, but after several choice comments, you realized that you really should have used a 555 timer.
To remind yourself and others that you should have really used a 555 timer, you really should have worn this NE555 Classic Timer shirt from HobbyElectro. It comes in black, with a diagram of this classic component emblazoned in white on the front.
One could wear it as a constant reminder to use this device instead of an Arduino, or as a sort of loyalty statement to this classic component. Alternatively, it could be given as a “gift” to others to point out their supposed mistake.
Video of the Open Source Chip Design panel
All the talks from the 2021 Open Hardware Summit are now available as a YouTube playlist including the chip design panel:
Ask Hackaday: How Is The Chip Shortage Affecting You?
Some friends of mine are designing a new board around the STM32F103 microcontroller, the commodity ARM chip that you’ll find in numerous projects and on plenty of development boards. When the time came to order the parts for the prototype, they were surprised to find that the usual stockholders don’t have any of these chips in stock, and more surprisingly, even the Chinese pin-compatible clones couldn’t be found. The astute among you may by now have guessed that the culprit behind such a commodity part’s curious lack of availability lies in the global semiconductor shortage.
A perfect storm of political unintended consequences, climate-related crises throttling Taiwanese chip foundries and shutting down those in the USA, and faulty pandemic recovery planning, has left the chipmakers unable to keep up with the demand from industries on the rebound from their COVID-induced slump. Particularly mentioned in this context is the automotive industry, which has seen plants closing for lack of chips and even models ditching digital dashboards for their analogue predecessors.
Read more: Ask Hackaday: How Is The Chip Shortage Affecting You?
Adding Remote Controls To A Blackmagic Studio Camera Without Breaking The Bank
What to do when one ends up in the possession of a 4K studio camera, but without the requisite hardware and software to remotely control it? When [Glen Akins] ended up in this situation, he took the reasonable option here and developed his own knob-based remote control to adjust exposure and focus on the Blackmagic Designs Micro Studio Camera 4K. Without a remote control option, the only adjustment options are via fiddly small buttons on the camera itself, which wouldn’t have been a fun experience during the webcam usage that this camera would be used for.
This camera is normally controlled via the control channel on the SDI input which also handles the video output from the camera. For larger installations the proprietary ATEM software is commonly used, and there’s a $99 Arduino expansion board as well that’s apparently rarely stocked. With SDI not an option, the second option was LANC, which runs into pretty much the same issue with proprietary protocols and very expensive hardware.
Car hacking in Hackspace
I wrote a column about car hacking in a recent issue of Hackspace magazine:
Hacking a car in the movies looks easy: you poke around a bit with a screwdriver, you twist together some bare wires, and you’re good to go. Happily, the security systems on modern cars are a bit more sophisticated than that, but with the right skills and tools, hackers can exploit all sorts of weaknesses to gain unauthorized access to a car: on-board computers, key fobs, Bluetooth connections, and even the pressure sensors on your tires.
These weaknesses can be extremely dangerous, and car manufacturers can get very sloppy with their security. In just one example, a car hacker known as L&M realized that two GPS car tracking apps had given all customers the same default password (123456) on sign up, allowing anyone to gain access to thousands of accounts. As well as the flaws providing access to personal and financial details, L&M exposed an incredibly dangerous vulnerability: the ability to remotely stop the engine of some of the vehicles using these apps.
Finding and reporting vulnerabilities like this is central to the car hacking community. There has been a lively, Car Hacking Village at DEF CON since 2015, where car hackers educate security researchers about modern-day vehicle systems, experiment with technology, and play with all sorts of motorized vehicles, from upgrading mobility scooters to making a car escape room where you have to hack your way out of a locked SUV.
The best way to get started with car hacking is to get yourself a copy of The Car Hacker’s Handbook by Craig Smith of @OpenGarages and a car hacking board such as the CANtact, the M2 by Macchina, or the Carloop. These devices plug into the OBD-II diagnostics port, standard in all vehicles made in the last 25 years, and communicate over the CAN bus with the ECU (Engine Control Unit) and other sensors and actuators throughout the vehicle. Open-source programs exist to both interpret the messages on the CAN bus, like tachometer data, and send messages to control dashboard readouts and much more.
There are also lots of car hackers on Twitter that I follow to keep up with the latest news, including Robert Leale (@carfucar) and Kirsten Sireci Renner (@Krenner), who co-founded the DEF CON Car Hacking Village, and Ian Tabor (@mintynet), who runs the UK Car Hacking Village
New Part Day: ESP32-WROOM-DA
We’re always interested in the latest from the world’s semiconductor industry here at Hackaday, but you might be forgiven for noticing something a little familiar about today’s offering from Espressif. The ESP32-WROOM-DA has more than a passing resemblance to the ESP32-WROOM dual-core-microcontroller-with-WiFi module that we’ve seen on so many projects over the last few years…Read more New Part Day: ESP32-WROOM-DA — Hackaday