USB Infrared Toy (Dangerous Prototypes) free PCB build

I finally completed the free USB IR Toy v3 PCB I got over a year ago (May 2015) from Dangerous Prototypes.

It took so long because I had to order some of the parts from Digi-Key – and I wanted to wait until I’ve a longer list of parts to order.
I’ve used a PicKit 3 to program the PIC microcontroller. The trickiest part was finding the setting to power the USB IR Toy with the programmer. (I could have powered both devices via USB, but only had one appropriate cable at my hand at that time.)

usb-ir-toy-programming-verification

So far I’ve only verified that the USB IR Toy is detected as serial device and shows its version number in a terminal window. It looks like the build was successful… 🙂

usb-ir-toy-terminal-v222

Kids + Railway Toilets = Toilet-Blinkenlights…

Today my kids impressed me by repurposing/hacking/misusing the toilet-occupied-light to send (morse-like) signals across a railway car. Their fingers were thin enough to press the micro-switches in the doors which normally would signal a locked door (i.e. occupied toilet). Not sure if someone noticed the strangely flashing lights… 😀

railway-toilet-door

Fake (?) Sunon DP200A/Sunon DP201A fans

Last weekend I had to replace a 230 V fan (120 mm), a Sunon DP200A, that ‘smelled’ strange and also made strange noises. Better safe than sorry…

Well: I ordered a slightly less powerful Sunon DP201A (at Reichelt Elektronik) to replace the possibly dangerous fan. Although they look similar their connectors are completely different. So I’m now wondering if the first one (the DP200A) wasn’t an original fan at all…?sunon-dp200a-dp201a-front

I made it: I switched from Eagle to KiCad to make my PCB designs…

Half a year ago I’ve started to use KiCad for new PCB designs I’m working on. I already wanted to try out KiCad for quite some time. Its release 4.0 and the latest changes in EagleCAD (annoying ads and recently being bought by Autodesk) were enough pressure to switch. And what should I say: after dealing with the rather unhandy library management and some cryptic error messages I really now enjoy KiCads workflow.

This post is about my experience with the transition to KiCad as my new PCB designer. It is based on the newest version 4.0 of KiCad and its daily builds via the respective Ubuntu PPAs. Continue reading

Backup your files and keep them in separate physical locations

I know I’m sounding like a moralizer and the suggestion should be a no-brainer. But the flood in Simbach a few days ago once again showed me how important backups are – and how even more important it is to keep them in separate physical locations. I’ve helped friends to remove mud from CD/DVD backups. I’ve extracted hard drives from computers and USB cases, removed mud and water as best as I could. The drives are currently drying at 40°C in an oven. Hopefully they will be readable again…

Oh, I nearly forgot: I’m also currently failing at making backups on a regular basis and even more: my backups are all in one place. 🙁

Jupiter Moon photo taken with a regular DSLR and Zoom lens

Yesterday evening I spontaneously made a photo of Jupiter with my Canon DSLR, a (300 mm) zoom lens, and a tripod. 🙂 I was really surprised that I was able to identify the four Galilean moons Europa, Io, Ganymed, and Callisto.DSLR Photo Jupiter Europa Io Ganymed Callisto

I did not expect much as I made the shot from my balcony with room and street lights on. Here in Munich we have a lot of light pollution. At first I thought the small spots were lens flares. Also chromatic aberration is pretty visible due to the manual focus, but I’m still proud of the photo because I did not expect anything special: I first had to compare it with the software-rendered constellation of the moons around the time the photo was taken (see below) to be sure.

Jupiter Moon Constellation 2016-05-28 2100

What if certain PINs were not issued (e.g. a bank card PIN would not be completely random)?

Based on a recent Twitter conversation I had a thought about bank and credit card PIN numbers (sorry for the redundancy): are really all possible PINs issued or are some kept back because bank customers could feel uncomfortable with certain combinations of digits? And would it really matter if some of them were kept back?

It should be obvious that in case of a truly random PIN 4 identical digits are just as likely to occur as any other combination. But certain combinations just do not feel random (I don’t know how to explain it better, I’m not a psychologist).
So I’ve made a small Gedankenexperiment:

  1. Let’s assume that a bank issues by default a 4-digit PIN. (I know that my bank issues 4-digit PINs by default but they can be changed to any 4- to 6-digit number afterwards.)
  2. Customers would not accept a PIN with four identical digits (0000, 1111, …, 9999) out of fear that they might be insecure.
  3. An ATM allows 3 attempts to enter a PIN before locking/withholding a bank/credit card. (This limit is actually the main reason why 4-digit PINs are mostly safe, btw.)

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Dumpster Dive / Teardown: Moser Galvanosan Feinstromgerät / Galvanic Stimulator

From time to time I have (and take) the chance to dumpster dive for electronic parts. Recently, on one of these occasions, an old piece of hardware felt into my hands: a “Moser Galvanosan” galvanic stimulator.

To be honest, I’ve had no idea what it was and at first I only thought it would be a nice case for another project I was working on. After some research (out of curiosity) I thought the device is interesting enough to take some photos of its interior and write about it.

Disclaimer: I’m totally not into alternative medicine or stimulation current therapy. I’m just taking an interesting looking piece of hardware apart, that’s all!

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Just for Fun Video: Cutting Card Stock Boxes on my Electronic Cutting Machine

Well, today is the first Sunday of Advent… time to play around with my cutting machine. 😉

I got inspired by a post on Hackaday.com (on Laser-cut Gift Boxes). The post presents a really nice source for DXF files for various shapes for card stock boxes. Out of curiosity I simply ‘threw’ some of their design files at my electronic cutting machine. They might save me some time (gift wrap, you know). The result is a short video of the process, nothing special:

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