Recap of Hackaday Remoticon

Ish Ot Jr. writes about their Hackaday Remoticon experience:

I Attended Two Dozen Hackaday Remoticon Sessions So You Don’t Have To! (And Why You Should Anyway!)

The Hackaday Superconference typically takes place in Pasadena, California around this time each year — but like so many events in 2020, COVID threw a decisively un-jolly wrench in that plan, forcing the event online under a new moniker: Hackaday Remoticon.

Things kicked off casually on Friday night with the Community Bring A Hack, hosted on the Remo Conference platform. The platform attempts to recreate networking spaces common to in-person conferences, with “tables” and “sofas” where participants can double-click to “sit” — which in this virtual world initiates audio and video communications with other “seated” parties. While the technology itself worked fairly well, it seemed as though many participants were either confused as to how it worked, or unwilling to interact — I successfully engaged in two conversations throughout the event, otherwise happening mostly upon attendees whose audio and video was not enabled. And much like real-life events, the popular folks were unobtainable (in this case due to a six-person table limit), so it was mostly a case of looking out for people you knew, or trying to be brave and make new friends (both of which I was lucky enough to be able to do!).

The 11:15 (Eastern) slot had three workshops to chose from, and since attending two simultaneously was already pretty extreme, I had to sit out Sebastian Oort’s Soldering, nothing to be afraid of! — which thankfully is not a phobia I find myself afflicted with.

One topic I did want to learn more about was Anool Mahidharia‘s KiCad to Blender > Photorealistic PCB renders. I’d attended Mahidharia’s KiCad course on HackadayU, and have such high respect for his skills that I’d gladly have attended a session called “Photorealistic paint drying” if he was teaching it! But I’d seen some of Mahidharia’s renders already, and was so comprehensively blown away by them that I wanted to learn how he’d made them, plus, like him, I’ve been putting off learning Blender, and thought this might motivate me to get on with it! While the video for this session is not available yet, Mahidharia has written up a handy cheat sheet, and the accompany GitHub repo is full of glorious renderings that will probably make you want to give it a try too!

Recap of Hackaday Remoticon

Glen Akins Knows a Thing or Two About Glorious Looking USB Peripherals

Tom Fleet writes on Hackster about how Glen Akins is breathing new life into high-quality, old tech with a custom USB HID controller:

Glen Akins Knows a Thing or Two About Glorious Looking USB Peripherals!

Sometimes you just need a single photo to know that the ensuing project is going to be worth keeping tabs on.

With Glen Akins on my Twitter feed, I’ve been treated to more than a few photos of some very interesting looking work in the area of creating custom, USB-HID control interfaces, and well… just look at the all the fun stuff waiting to go below!

When you know where to look, there are some glorious control interfaces to be found, full to the brim with high quality, and interesting format parts, like key switches that can be illuminated — or even featuring tiny integrated LCD displays.

There’s micro LED dot matrix displays, motorized linear potentiometers, and some panel manufacturers even share supplier chain links with The Empire — is that what looks like a prototype control panel for the Death Star main weapon pictured below…?

Glen Akins Knows a Thing or Two About Glorious Looking USB Peripherals

Greg Davill Sinks His Teeth Into ShArc

Tom Fleet writes on Hackster about Greg Davill’s latest adventure:

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Greg Davill Sinks His Teeth Into ShArc: A Geometric Technique for Multi-Bend/Shape Sensing.

The work of one such research project caught the eye of Greg Davill recently, when a paper written by Fereshteh Shahmiri and Paul H Dietz was published, after being submitted for the 2020 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2020).

This paper goes by the title of “ShArc:A Geometric Technique for Multi-Bend/Shape Sensing,’ and proposes a novel contour sensor, comprised of a flexible, capacitive PCB sensor, a suitable capacitance-to-digital converter, and some subsequent signal processing, allowing a two-layer polyamide FPC circuit to cleverly capture the contours of the shape it is stuck to.

That’s the operation in a nutshell, so why are we covering all this here on Hackster? Well, it’s all about accessibility! This research isn’t relegated to labs where we’ll never see sight of it, until commercialized into a product. Far from it. Davill has shown just how easily we here at home can play along with this project, using the same tools and services that we’d normally look at for our own hobby projects!

He’s not only managed to recreate the capacitance to digital converter needed for this application, but perhaps more of note, he’s even turned his hand to having a go at the flexible sensor electrodes themselves, all fabricated by the one stop shop, whose services seem to keep on growing— our favorite board fab house, OSH Park!

Greg Davill Sinks His Teeth Into ShArc

QRP-Labs Filter Adapter for NanoVNA

Cabe Atwell writes on Hackster about a RF filter adapter was made using some spare parts and lowpass and bandpass filter kits:

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QRP-Labs Filter Adapter for NanoVNA

Check out Lex Bolkesteijn’s new project constructing a QRP-Labs filter adapter for NanoVNA with some spare parts and lowpass and bandpass filter kits. The NanoVNA is a tiny handheld Vector Network Analyzer (VNA), which accomplishes both high-performance and portability. Besides working as a vector network analyzer and antenna analyzer, this build utilizes it as a filter tuner.

A current work in progress, last updated in mid-June, it was developed using a double-sided PCB, two SMA chassis, and a header cut in two to form a filter holder that enabled the use of the NanoVNA to test and tune the filters as required. The filter kits themselves include the double-sided PCD along with silkscreen, solder mask, and through-hole plating, as well as the capacitors. Both are the same size, and so require no adjustments to the filter holder.

Although the filter has four pins, five holes are drilled in the PCB base of the filter holder using a perforated PCB for spacing. The fifth hole allows for a via to connect the top and bottom layers. With some soldering, the via, SMA chassis parts, and headers are connected to the base. In a few steps that, everything is set up to connect the filter to the NanoVNA.

The NanoVNA should be calibrated before use, and in the documented project, this was done with an experimental calibration tool. When calibrating as close as possible to the adaptor, it’s not possible to use the calibration standards. The calibration tool was made with another PCD, with holes drilled for vias and two 100 Ohm SMD 1206 resistors.

A design, complete with CAD files for the casing, is also included for those who are unable to mill PCBs by hand. This uses a 3D-printed casing and custom-ordered PCBs to serve as the adapter. Simplifying the manual work required in the design, even more, the most recent custom PCB ordered includes built-in calibration options. The 3D-printed base looks spiffier than the hand-milled PCBs and requires no additional PCB for calibration.

For anyone interested, the bill of materials, CAD files, and a step-by-step with images are freely available on Bolkesteijn’s blog.

QRP-Labs Filter Adapter for NanoVNA

Obsidian Boa: Greg Davill squeezes the ESP32 into a ItsyBitsy

Tom Fleet writes on Hackster about the latest open source board from the prolific Greg Davill:

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Meet Obsidian Boa: This ItsyBitsy — with WiFi — Is What It’s All About!

No, we’re not branching out into nursery rhymes, but it’s too hard to pass up on the chance offered by the latest development from Hackster favorite Greg Davill!

With the dust in his workshop only just settling (if that’s possible there…) from his successful OrangeCrab crowdfunding campaign, he’s gotten straight back to work, turning his sights from the Lattice ECP5, and setting them squarely on the Espressif Systems ESP32, with his latest creation — the ObsidianBoa!

While the above image is a render, the quality of Davill’s work shines through in both the the physical and the virtual world — some of his recent rendering work is hard to tell from reality.

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While there are a number of ESP32 development boards, there are few in such a diminutive form factor. The only one I know of, until now, has been the TinyPICO, from @unexpectedmaker. This is a fantastic board in it’s own right, and has been rightfully successful within the maker community.

Obsidian Boa has a few notable differences however, which might make it more suitable for certain applications.

The first point of note is where we get the title of this article from. Not just a descriptive phrasing, ItsyBitsy is a lesser-heard-of form factor — and just as we all know boards in the Arduino R3 layout, or the hugely popular Feather form factor from Adafruit, ItsyBitsy started out life as yet another Adafruit board format, and was shortly thereafter realized as a baby brother alternative to the well known iCEBreaker FPGA boards.

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Obsidian Boa: Greg Davill squeezes the ESP32 into a ItsyBitsy