Press button, wait, press button again, repeat. There must be a better way! If that kind of interaction drives you nuts, you’ll probably appreciate [Tommy]’s buttonpusher, which has only one job: automate away some of the more boring parts of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing. On one hand the job the device does is very simple: press a button on the Nintendo joy-con in a preprogrammed pattern. There’s no feedback loop, it just dumbly presses and waits. But there are still quite a few interesting bits to this build.

Rigid mounting combined with interfacing the actuator to the servo horn (instead of to the servo shaft) were the keys to reliable button pushing.

For one thing, [Tommy] discovered that the little 9g RC servo can reliably exert enough force to press the button on the joy-con with the right adapter. He had assumed the servo would be too weak to do the job without a greater mechanical advantage, but a simple hammer-style actuator that attaches to the servo horn easily does the job. Well, it does as long as the servo and joy-con are held rigidly; his first version allowed a little too much wiggle in how well the parts were held, and button presses didn’t quite register. With a 3D-printed fixture to rigidly mount both the servo and the joy-con, things were fine.

In the process of making buttonpusher, which uses CircuitPython, [Tommy] created a tool to automate away another pesky task he was running into: circuitpython_tools was created to automatically watch for code changes, convert the .py files into (smaller) MicroPython bytecode .mpy files, then automatically deploy to the board. This saved [Tommy] a lot of time and hassle during development, but it was only necessary because he quickly ran out of memory on his M0 Metro Express board, and couldn’t fit his code in any other way.

Still, it’s a good example of how one project can sometimes spawn others, and lead to all kinds of lessons learned. You can see buttonpusher automate the crafting process in Animal Crossing in the video, embedded below.

Continue reading “Buttonpusher Automates Animal Crossing Tasks”

Getting a closer look at the Moon isn’t particularly difficult; even an absolute beginner can point a cheap telescope towards our nearest celestial neighbor and get some impressive views. But if you’re looking to explore a bit farther, and especially if you want to photograph what you find out there amongst the black, things can get complicated (and expensive) pretty quick.

While building this 3D printed automated telescope designed [Greg Holloway] isn’t necessarily cheap, especially once you factor in what your time is worth, the final product certainly looks to be considerably streamlined compared to most of what’s available in the commercial space. Rather than having to lug around a separate telescope, tripod, motorized tracker, and camera, you just need this relatively compact all-in-one unit.

It’s taken [Greg] six months to develop his miniature observatory, and it shows. The CAD work is phenomenal, as is the documentation in general. Even if you’re not interested in peering into the heavens, perusing the Instructables page for this project is well worth your time. From his tips on designing for 3D printing to information about selecting the appropriate lens and getting it mated to the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera, there’s a little something for everyone.

Of course if you are looking to build your own motorized “GOTO” telescope, then this is must-read stuff. [Greg] has really done his homework, and the project is a fantastic source of information about motor controllers, wiring, hand controllers, and the open source firmware you need to tie it all together. Many of the ideas he’s outlined here could be applicable to other telescope projects, or really, anything that needs to be accurately pointed to the sky. If you’d like to get started with night sky photography and aren’t picky about what kind of things you capture, we’ve seen a number of projects that simply point a camera towards the stars and wait for something to happen.

[Thanks to Eugene for the tip.]

At least by today’s standards, some of the early chips were really, really big. They may have been revolutionary and they certainly did shrink the size of electronic devices, but integrating a 40-pin DIP into a modern design can be problematic. The solution: cut off all the extra plastic and just work with the die within.

Continue reading “Open-DIP Surgery Cuts Retro Chips Down To Size”

Apple’s “Find My” service allows users to track their missing devices by leveraging a worldwide network of location-aware iGadgets. With millions of iPhones and Macs out in the wild listening for the missing device’s Bluetooth advertisements and relaying their findings to the Cupertino Mothership, it’s a highly effective way of tracking hardware so long as it stays in relatively urban areas. Unfortunately, the system is completely proprietary and non-Apple devices aren’t invited to play.

Or at least, that used to be the case. A project recently released by the [Secure Mobile Networking Lab] called OpenHaystack demonstrates how generic devices can utilize Apple’s Find My network by mimicking the appropriate Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) broadcasts. Currently they have a firmware image for the BBC micro:bit, as well as a Python script for Linux, that will allow you to spin up an impromptu Find My target. But the team has also published all the information required to implement similar functionality on other BLE-capable devices and microcontrollers, so expect the list of supported hardware to grow shortly.

Diagram showing how the Apple Find My system worksSomewhat ironically, while OpenHaystack allows you to track non-Apple devices on the Find Me tracking network, you will need a Mac computer to actually see where your device is. The team’s software requires a computer running macOS 11 (Big Sur) to run, and judging by the fact it integrates with Apple Mail to pull the tracking data through a private API, we’re going to assume this isn’t something that can easily be recreated in a platform-agnostic way. Beyond the occasional Hackintosh that might sneak in there, it looks like Tim Cook might have the last laugh after all.

It’s not immediately clear how difficult it will be for Apple to close this loophole, but the talk of utilizing a private API makes us think there might be a built-in time limit on how long this project will be viable. After all, Big Tech doesn’t generally approve of us peons poking around inside their machinations for long. Though even if Apple finds a way to block OpenHaystack, it’s expected the company will be releasing “AirTags” sometime this year which will allow users to track whatever objects they like through the system.

Don’t know about you, but over the last year or so, we have gone from spending ten or twelve hours a day at this computer to upwards of sixteen or eighteen. Fortunately there’s a window behind the monitor for taking those 20/20/20 breaks that are supposed to prevent eye strain, but it’s so hard to remember (and boring) to do it. And nobody needs yet another thing to remember in the name of self-care.

[Daniel Hingston] certainly agrees. As you’ll see in the delightful video after the break, [Daniel] has made a game out of the whole process of stopping every twenty minutes to spend twenty seconds looking at a point that’s at least twenty feet away. Once the break is over, [Daniel] uses the dual-purpose start button to acknowledge having looked away for 20 seconds. The device is meant to clip onto the corner of any monitor, and [Daniel] has provided several sizes of the bridge piece so that everyone can find their fit.

The Guardian’s guts are pretty simple — an Arduino Pro Mini runs the stop watch and a TFT display to show the graphics that live on an SD card. This is a great way to preserve your eyesight by gamifying something we all know we should be doing. It might be nice to add a break timer that counts up to 25 or thereabouts so you have time to stand up and come back. If you press the button too soon, it scolds you and you have to start your eye break over.

Need some more self-care lately? Our own [Jenny List] has your back in these interesting times.

Continue reading “Eyesight Guardian Polices Your Poor Pupils”

The advent of aerodynamic wings in motorsport was one of the most dramatic changes in the mid-20th century. Suddenly, it was possible to generate more grip at speed outside of altering suspension setups and fitting grippier tyres. However, it was just the beginning, and engineers began to look at more advanced ways of generating downforce without the drag penalty incurred by fitting wings to a racecar.

Perhaps the ultimate expression of this was the fan car. Mechanically complex and arguably dangerous, the technology offered huge downforce with minimal drag. However, the fan car’s time in the spotlight was vanishingly brief, despite the promise inherent in the idea. Let’s take a look at the basic theory behind the fan car, how they worked in practice, and why we don’t see them on racetracks today. Continue reading “The Rise And Fall Of The Fan Car”

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys travel through the greatest hacks the week had on offer. Charge up your ice skates (literally) by adding spiked electric motors to push you across the frozen pond. If that’s too cold for early March, snuggle up with a good book under the warm light of a clever lamp made from a rotary-dial telephone. We discuss CAD and CAM in your browser, and a software tool to merge images with PCB gerber files. The episode wraps up with a discussion on the balance of quality versus speed when prototyping, and digesting the environmental impact of the Bitcoin network.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 108: Eulogizing Daft Punk Helmets, Bitcoin Feeling The Heat, Squeezing Soft Robots, And Motorizing Ice Skates”