Monthly Archives: April 2016

Using Your Gadgets To Prop Up Your Presentations

Using Your Gadgets To Prop Up Your Presentations

One way to really make your presentations shine, especially if you’re dealing with a technologically savvy topic, is to use some of the latest gadgets and gizmos available to prop up your overall message. You’d be surprised how much easier and more efficient certain topics are to talk about if you have some extras keeping the flow of the presentation going smoothly.

Specifically, you want to get the presentation format tightened down first, then pick which gadgets you’re going to use, make sure transitions are seamless, record and review how your performance is going to go, and then use the feedback to adjust and keep repeating gas necessary.

Get the Presentation Format Right First

Without proper knowledge of how presentations work, though, no matter what gadgets you throw into the mix, the whole thing can turn into a disappointing mess. So, before you go adding technology to the equation, be sure to just have the content and structure of your presentation down pat first. This may take a few weeks of heavy reading to really get the details well-formed in your mind, but the effort will be well worth it.

Choose Your Gadgets Wisely

Now, which gadgets do you intend on using? Perhaps a phone or a tablet to control various visuals? Or maybe some type of a lighting controller based on MIDI signals, or even audio-responsive gear? Decide what types of technology are going to fit within your presentation structure that help the focus (you’re not trying to distract people, here) and then choose the ones that make the most sense for your medium, your audience, and your ultimate goal or intent.

Test the Flow

And now that you have your format set, your content ready, and your gadgets chosen, it’s time to see if you can stitch them all together into something cohesive. The wrong time to test all of these things together is while you’re in front of your final audience. That is the stuff of nightmares, where everything that can go wrong – will.

Record and Review the Result

So, during a practice session, record yourself doing your presentation, and then review the result. You may get to practice a particular speech or proposal a dozen times before you’re entirely comfortable with the way that it comes out. The more practice, the better, and the more time you have to troubleshoot your equipment as well.

Adjust and Carry On Smartly

After you have recorded and reviewed your set piece, adjust the parts that don’t fit. Tighten down the unnecessary details. Figure out how to inject energy into the important parts. Add more details in if you feel like the audience may be left with questions. And keep doing this until you’re as close to perfect as you can get.

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Gadget Hacks

A Star Tracking Telescope Mount

A Star Tracking Telescope Mount

[Chris] recently got his hands on an old telescope. While this small refractor with an altitude-azimuth mount is sufficient for taking a gander at big objects in our solar system, high-end telescopes can be so much cooler. Large reflecting telescopes can track the night sky for hours, and usually come with a computer interface and a GOTO button. Combine this with Stellarium, the open source sky map, and you can have an entire observatory in your back yard.

For [Chris]’ entry into the 2016 Hackaday Prize, he’s giving his old telescope an upgrade. With a Raspberry Pi, a few 3D printed adapters, and a new telescope mount to create a homebrew telescope computer.

The alt-az mount really isn’t the right tool for the astronomical job. The earth spins on a tilted axis, and if you want to hold things in the night sky still, it has to turn in two axes. An equatorial mount is much more compatible with the celestial sphere. Right now, [Chris] is looking into a German equatorial mount, a telescope that is able to track an individual star through the night sky using only a clock drive motor.

To give this telescope a brain, he’ll be using a Raspberry Pi, GPS, magnetometer, and ostensibly a real-time clock to make sure the build knows where the stars are. After that, it’s a simple matter of pointing the telescope via computer and using a Raspberry Pi camera to peer into the heavens with a very, very small image sensor.

While anyone with three or four hundred dollars could simply buy a telescope with similar features, that’s really not the point for [Chris], or for amateur astronomy. There is a long, long history of amateur astronomers building their own mirrors, lenses, and mounts. [Chris] is just continuing this very long tradition, and in the process building a great entry for the 2016 Hackaday Prize

The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:

Atmel

Microchip

Digi-Key

Supplyframe

Filed under: Raspberry Pi, The Hackaday Prize

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What’s a Piezo Optomechanical Circuit?

What’s a Piezo Optomechanical Circuit?

Ever hear of a piezo-optomechanical circuit? We hadn’t either. Let’s break it down. Piezo implies some transducer that converts motion to and from energy. Opto implies light. Mechanical implies…well, mechanics. The device, from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST),  converts signals among optical, acoustic and radio waves. They claim a system based on this design could move and store information in future computers.

At the heart of this circuit is an optomechanical cavity, in the form of a suspended nanoscale beam. Within the beam are a series of holes that act as mirrors for very specific photons. The photons bounce back and forth thousands of times before escaping the cavity. Simultaneously, the nanoscale beam confines phonons, that is, mechanical vibrations. The photons and phonons exchange energy. Vibrations of the beam influence the buildup of photons and the photons influence the mechanical vibrations. The strength of this mutual interaction, or coupling, is one of the largest reported for an optomechanical system.

In addition to the cavities, the device includes acoustic waveguides. By channeling phonons into the optomechanical device, the device can manipulate the motion of the nanoscale beam directly and, thus, change the properties of the light trapped in the device.  An “interdigitated transducer” (IDT), which is a type of piezoelectric transducer like the ones used in surface wave devices, allows linking radio frequency electromagnetic waves, light, and acoustic waves.

The work appeared in Nature Photonics and was also the subject of a presentation at the March 2016 meeting of the American Physical Society. We’ve covered piezo transducers before, and while we’ve seen some unusual uses, we’ve never covered anything this exotic.

Filed under: news

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Quieting a Cheap LCD Projector

Quieting a Cheap LCD Projector

There’s an old saying along the lines of “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. That’s true of technology, too, but a good hacker can sometimes teach an old monkey new tricks. [Heye] bought an LCD projector for $60 off AliExpress, and it turned out to be rather noisy: the air fan that sucked in air to cool the LED light source made a whooshing noise.

No surprise there, but rather than give up, he decided to see what he could do about the noise. So, he took the projector apart. After some excavation, he realized that the main source of noise was the input fan, which  was small and partly covered. That’s a recipe for noise, so he cut out the plastic grille over it and mounted a larger, quieter fan on the outside. He also designed and 3D printed an external hood for this larger fan. The result, he says, is much quieter than the original, and still keeps the LED light source fairly cool. It’s a neat hack that shows how a few hours and a bit of ingenuity can sometimes make a cheap device better.

Projector hacks are a staple here. And our favorite? Swapping out the light source for a candle.

Filed under: video hacks

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Using Your Mobile Device To Help Eliminate Your Addictions

Using Your Mobile Device To Help Eliminate Your Addictions

At some point in many people’s lives, there will be some aspect of addiction to deal with. It could be on a personal level, it might be with a family member, or it could even be work related. But, one positive aspect of the mobile, technological, and gadget-driven revolutions that are present is the fact that common devices can now be used for purposes of addiction recovery, simply due to information flow and application availability.

Consider the following five ways that you can use mobile devices to help eliminate addiction issues, including finding resources that list signs and symptoms, getting apps that help you with bad habits, keeping people connected with support groups, accessible inspiration, and even something like shock treatment for another route of support.

Find Resource That List Signs and Symptoms

With nothing more than a mobile phone and an internet connection, right now you can search for a few words relating to addiction, and you’ll immediately be sent to a site with signs and symptoms organized neatly and succinctly for you. There doesn’t have to be a confusion of information anymore about addiction issues, as it’s constantly being updated as well.

Get Some Habit Apps

There a many habit apps for you to try as well that can help you combat addictions. And these addictions might be everything from just cleanliness habits to hard core drug use. The right apps allow you to customize sets of reminders about what you want to be doing or not, and the automated aspect of them means that you can concentrate on other things in the meantime.

Keep Your Support Group On Speed Dial

In some cases, you need nearly instant access to a sponsor or counselor. With your mobile phone, you can be one touch away from these contacts. In the past, addiction recovery was much more difficult simply because communication with people was far less convenient. Now there is no excuse for not being able to get ahold of the right people at the right time.

Use It For Inspiration

Sometimes all you need to help you through addiction is the right external inspiration on hand as well. There are thousands and thousands of websites and resources dedicated to providing you inspiration stories, information, quotes, pictures, and video all to suit that purpose exactly.

Try the Shock Treatment

And there are physical means to help you with addiction as well, that are connected to your mobile device. There are a few interesting choices regarding bracelets that give you a short shock when you register that you’ve done something that you don’t want to do. It takes a little self-reporting, but has high success ratings from people who use them accordingly.

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Gadget Hacks

CarontePass: Open Access Control For Your Hackerspace

CarontePass: Open Access Control For Your Hackerspace

A problem faced by all collaborative working spaces as they grow is that of access control. How can you give your membership secure access to the space without the cost and inconvenience of having a keyholder on site at all times.

[Torehc] is working on solving this problem with his CarontePass RFID access system, at the Kreitek Makerspace (Spanish, Google Translate link) in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Each door has a client with RFID readers, either a Raspberry Pi or an ESP8266, which  connects via WiFi to a Raspberry Pi 2 server running a Django-based REST API. This server has access to a database of paid-up members and their RFID keys, so can issue the command to the client to unlock the door. The system also supports the Telegram messaging service, and so can be queried as to whether the space is open and how many members are in at a particular time.

All the project’s resources are available on its GitHub repository, and there is a project blog (Spanish, Google Translate link) with more details.

This is a project that is still in active development, and [Torehc] admits that its security needs more work so is busy implementing HTTPS and better access security. As far as we can see through the fog of machine translation at the moment it relies on the security of its own encrypted WiFi network, so we’d be inclined to agree with him.

This isn’t the first hackerspace access system we’ve featured here. The MakerBarn in Texas has one using the Particle Photon, while the Lansing Makers Network in Michigan have an ingenious mechanism for their door, and the Nesit hackerspace in Connecticut has a very fancy system with video feedback. How does your space solve this problem?

The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:

Atmel

Microchip

Digi-Key

Supplyframe

Filed under: Hackerspaces, security hacks, The Hackaday Prize, wireless hacks

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Bacon Beacon

Bacon Beacon

The device featured here is quite simple, but it’s well executed and involves bacon, so what’s not to like!

They take their bacon sandwiches seriously in Dundee. And let us tell you, in Scotland they make good bacon! At the co-working space where [Grant Richmond] works, people were missing out on the chance to order when someone went to the bacon sandwich emporium for a refill.

His solution was the Bacon Beacon, a nicely lasercut box with a series of buttons on top connected to a Particle Photon microcontroller. Press a button, and a node.js web app is called on a server, which in turn sends notifications to the “Fleeple”, the inhabitants of the Fleet Collective co-working space. They can then reply with the details of their order, such as their desired sauce.

The work of sending the notifications is done through Pushbullet, but the code for [Grant]’s side of things can all be found on his GitHub repository. The whole thing was put together in Dundee MakerSpace.

We have something of an affinity for bacon and cured meat products here at Hackaday, we’ve featured more than one bacon-related exploit. The Rabbit Hole hackerspace’s “Push button, receive bacon” cooking system using a laser printer fusing roller for example, an alarm clock that cooks your tasty treat, or a full cooked breakfast using workshop tools.

Please keep them coming, and resolve to make space for a bacon-related hack this year. We promise, it won’t be one of your rasher decisions.

Filed under: cooking hacks

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A Partwork As A Hackspace Course

A Partwork As A Hackspace Course

If you watch a lot of TV just after Christmas, you will be familiar with partworks. Or at least, you will if you live in the part of the world this is being written from, and if you aren’t you should count yourself lucky. The premise is simple: buy this magazine once a month, and in each issue you will receive a fresh component which you can assemble over time into a beautiful model of a galleon, a Lancaster bomber, or a patchwork quilt.

The value for money offered by such publications is highly suspect, the quality of the finished item is questionable, and though the slick TV adverts make them sound alluring you’re much better off buying the Airfix model kit or just cutting your own patches.

There’s a partwork that caught our eye which may be worth a second look. It’s probably unfair on reflection to call it a partwork though as it doesn’t deserve to be associated with the scammier end of the publishing business. Swansea Hackspace are currently running a six-week all-inclusive course designed to introduce the participant to robotics through a step-by-step assembly of an Arduino based robot. Tickets were £60 ($85) to hackspace members, and all parts were included in that price.

At first sight it might seem a little odd to feature a course. It’s not a hack, you’ll say. And though the little Arduino robot is a neat piece of kit, you’d be right. It’s hardly ground-breaking. But the value here doesn’t lie in the robot itself, but in the course as an exercise in community engagement. If you are involved in the running of a hackspace perhaps you’ll understand, it can sometimes be very difficult to persuade timid visitors to come along more than once, or to join the space. Hackspaces can be intimidating places, after all.

The Swansea course holds the promise of addressing that issue, to say to an interested but non-expert newcomer that they needn’t worry; if they have an interest in robotics then here’s a way to learn. This community engagement and spreading of knowledge reveals an aspect of the hackspace movement that sometimes remains hidden, and it’s something we’d like to see more of in other spaces.

Filed under: Hackerspaces

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A Developer’s Kit for Medical Ultrasound

A Developer’s Kit for Medical Ultrasound

From watching a heart valve in operation to meeting your baby before she’s born, ultrasound is one of the most valuable and least invasive imaging tools of modern medicine. You pay for the value, of course, with ultrasound machines that cost upwards of $100k, and this can put them out of reach in many developing countries. Sounds like a problem for hackers to solve, and to help that happen, this 2016 Hackaday prize entry aims to create a development kit to enable low-cost medical ultrasounds.

PhysicalSpaceDeveloped as an off-shoot from the open-source echOpen project, [kelu124]’s Murgen project aims to enable hackers to create an ultrasound stethoscope in the $500 price range. A look at the test bench reveals that not much specialized equipment is needed. Other than the Murgen development board itself, everything on the test bench is standard issue stuff. Even the test target, an ultrasound image of which leads off this article, is pretty common stuff – a condom filled with tapioca and agar. The Murgen board itself is a cape for a BeagleBone Black, and full schematics and code are available.

We’ll be paying close attention to what comes out of the ultrasound dev kit. Perhaps something as cool as this augmented reality ultrasound scope?

The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:

Atmel

Microchip

Digi-Key

Supplyframe

Filed under: Medical hacks, The Hackaday Prize

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Professional CNC Vacuum Table Holds Workpieces with Ease

Professional CNC Vacuum Table Holds Workpieces with Ease

If you do a lot of one-off parts on your CNC machine you’ll know setup is the worst part of the process. Usually you’re using scrap material, you have to figure out how you’re going to clamp it, make sure the the piece is big enough to use, etc etc. Wouldn’t it be nice to just throw the material on the bed and start machining? Well, with a vacuum table as nice as this, you pretty much can!

[Jack Black] has an awesome CNC machine. As he’s been expanding his prototyping abilities, he decided he needed a better way of securing work pieces for machining, so he machined a two-piece aluminum vacuum table.

It features four separate vacuum pockets which can be used individually or all at once. The top surface is a grid pattern with square channels. Using little rubber plugs or screws you can block the channels you aren’t using to maximize the vacuum force on your part.  Continue reading