3 Cheap Hood/Hatchback/Topper Mods to Save Your Noggin

Gas Lift Fixes by Briansmobile1

This is a mod more than a hack but any time you can alter original equipment to maintain its usability is a win-win scenario for you and the environment. Everyone has or knows somebody that has a vehicle and most vehicles nowadays have some type of hatchback or hood where the support solution is gas filled struts. Inevitably these gas filled struts fail with age and the failure is accelerated in hotter or colder climates. If you ever had to replace these items you know they can cost a minimum of $20 to as much as $60 a piece. Most vehicles require two, four or even eight of these costly little devices.

[Brian] from Briansmobile1 YouTube channel documented three simple and low cost solutions. We all probably know of the vice clamp solution but that is cumbersome and still an expensive solution which is not always very handy or fast. Another solution is to cut a piece of rubber hose in a kind of special way so it is easy to put on and take off the shaft and dangles from a string so it’s always available. The best solution was to use a hitch pin also connected to a string or wire. To make the hitch pin work you have to grind a couple of notches on either side of the lift shaft at just the right spot so the pin can be snapped on and prevent the shaft from retracting at your selected height.

We are sure these solutions will come in handy at some time in most everyone’s driving career. Just after the break we will link to all three of [Brian’s] handy videos on gas strut fix solutions. And if you do your own automotive repair we can definitely recommend [Brian’s] channel of over 600 vehicle repair and maintenance videos which normally come with a dose of philosophy and humor.

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Bench Power Supply Constant Current EZ-SET

constant_current_mod3

Here is a nice hack you may find very useful if you have a cheaper bench power supply that supports constant current limit protection (CC mode) and the only way to set or check your max current limit is to disconnect your circuit, short the power supply outputs and then check or set your limit. Yes, what a pain! [Ian Johnson] was enduring this pain with a couple of Circuit Specialist bench power supplies and decided to do something about it. After finding a download of the circuit diagram for his CSI3003X-5 supply he was able to reverse engineer a hack that lets you press a new button and dial-in the max current setting. Your first guess is that he simply added a momentary button to short the power supply outputs, but you would be wrong. [Ian’s] solution does not require you to remove the load, plus the load can continue running while you set your current limit. He does this by switching the current display readout from using 0–3 volts off an output shunt resistor to using the 0-3 volts output from a digital potentiometer which is normally used to set the power supplies’ constant current limit anyway. So simple it’s baffling why the designers didn’t include this feature.

Granted this is a simple modification anybody can implement, however [Ian] still wasn’t happy. A comment by [Gerry Sweeney] set him on the path to eliminate the tedious multi-button pressing by implementing a 555 momentary signal to switch the circuit from current load readout to current set readout. This 2nd mod means you just start pressing your up-down CC set buttons and it momentarily switches over the display to read your chosen max current and a few moments later the display switches back to reading actual load current. Brilliant! Just like the expensive big boy toys.

[Ian] doesn’t stop with a simple one-off hack job either. He designed up a proper PCB with cabling and connectors, making an easy to install kit that’s almost a plug-in conversion kit for Circuit Specialist bench power supplies (CSI3003X-5, CSI3005X5, CSI3003X3, CSI3005XIII). It is not a 100% plug-in kit because you do have to solder 3 wires to existing circuit points for signal and ground, but the video covering that task seemed trivial.

This hack could very well work with many other power supplies on the market being Circuit Specialist is just rebadging these units. For now, only the models listed after the break are known to work with this hack. If you find others please list in the comments.

After the break we will link to all three progressive mod videos incase you want to learn how to mod your own power supply or you could just order a prebuilt kit from [Ian].

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TDOA (Time Difference of Arrival) Directional Antenna

tdoa-antenna-tutorial

We have posted articles in the past on directional antennas such as Yagi antennas used for transmitter hunting otherwise known as fox hunting. Those types of antennas and reception suffer from one major drawback, which is as you get close to the transmitter the S meter will go full scale. At which time the transmitted signal appears to be coming from all directions. To correct for this problem you need to use clever signal attenuators or change to a poor receiving antenna as well as tuning off frequency effectively making your receiver hard of hearing so that only the direct path to the transmitter is loudest.

There is another popular type of antenna that you can build yourself called a TDOA which stands for Time Difference of Arrival. [Byon Garrabrant N6BG]  shared a short video tutorial on the functionality of his home built TDOA antenna. Effectively this is an active antenna that uses a 555 chip or, in [Byon’s] case, a PIC chip to quickly shift between two receiving dipole antennas at either end of a shortened yardstick. In his explanation you learn that as the antenna ends move closer or farther from the source a 640 Hz generated audio tone will go from loud to very soft as the antennas become equal distance from the source. This type of directional reception is not affected by signal strength. This means you can be very close to a powerful transmitter and it will still function as a good directional antenna.

The current circuit diagram, BOM and source code are all available on [Byon’s] TDOA page.

The reason [Byon] used a programmable PIC instead of the 555 for his design is because he wants to add a few more modifications such as feeding back the audio output to the PIC in order to programmatically turn on a left or right LED indicating the direction of the transmitter. Furthermore, he plans on adding a third antenna in a triangular configuration to programmatically control a circle of 6 LEDs indicating the exact direction of the signal. When he finishes the final modifications he can drive around with the antenna array on his vehicle and the circle of LEDs inside indicating the exact direction to navigate.

We look forward to seeing the rest of the development which might even become a kit someday. You can watch [Byon’s] TDOA video after the break.

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Improve Your HT Ham Radio by Adding a Counterpoise Antenna Wire

counterpoise

We found an interesting tip that might just improve the performance of those small affordable handheld ham radios called a “Handy Talky” or HT for short in ham vernacular. [RadioHamGuy] posted an interesting video on adding a counterpoise antenna wire to an HT. He claims it will noticeably improve both transmit and receive by making a quarter-wave monopole into a makeshift dipole antenna system.

Per his instructions you basically add a short wire to the antenna’s outer ground connection or to an equivalent case screw that’s electrically connected to the antenna’s ground side. Apparently this can be referred to as a Tiger Tail and does make it look like your HT has a tail. You would construct a counterpoise antenna wire 11.5 inch for VHF, 6.5 for UHF and about 19.5 inches for an OK performing dual band VHF/UHF radio.

Normally with a handheld radio the counterpoise (ground) is your own body as you are holding the HT. This is because the capacitance of your body makes a good counterpoise under normal conditions. It would be interesting to hear what others find for performance when adding a counterpoise antenna wire.

You can watch [RadioHamGuy’s] full construction tutorial video for multiple radio types after the break.

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RasPi Powered ADM-3A Dumb Terminal

ADM3A

[Andrew Curtin] tipped us off to another excellent resurrected vintage one piece ADM-3A dumb terminal. [Andrew] not only resurrected this sexy machine by breathing life into her once more after 37 years but he also got it connected online to retro.hackaday.com for those coveted retro Super Nerd bonus points.

As with other ADM-3A terminals we have seen on Hackaday, the terminal screen can be interfaced over an RS-232 serial connector to a laptop, however, [Andrew] didn’t have a laptop to sacrifice so he utilized the now popular laptop stand-in RasPi. It’s a clever form factor solution which makes it appear more like a standalone computer for the first time in its life.

To make the hack work he needed a serial adapter to link the ADM-3A terminal to the Ras-PI so he constructed one for himself. It’s another clever solution but he didn’t share much information on this build. Maybe he’ll comment below or elaborate on his site with more details on the construction and utilization of the adapter board from the Ras-PI so others could easily repeat this fun hack.

Collin’s Lab is Coming Back

Collin

We would like to share a bit of good news; Collin’s Lab is back on the airwaves of the Internet. If you didn’t know, [Collin Cunningham] previously created excellent short videos, sometimes entertainingly tongue-in-cheek, for Make Magazines on the subjects of electronic components and fundamental electronics. In 2012 he was hired at Adafruit as a Creative Engineer to help with software development and video production.

Going forward Collin’s Lab videos will be a regular feature on Adafruit’s Blog and their YouTube channel. We’re sure there is going to be tons of entertaining learning from Collin with his unique video production skills and presentation delivery.

This first release of Collin’s Lab on Adafruit is a primer review covering fundamental multimeter functionality and measurements. Not much here for the medium to advanced electronics hacker but for the beginner this is an excellent and quick way to learn the basics on using your multimeter.

If you want to checkout Collin’s older video productions you can find them on his Narbotic Instruments site under – “Make Presents” and “Collin’s Lab” or watch them all with this convenient playlist. Just after the break you can also watch his latest edition of Collin’s Lab.

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LittleBits Little Lathe

LittleBits Lathe

Do you need a practical, useful and fun project for a young hacker who is under your wing? How about letting them get a bit of electronics experience snapping together a LittleBits little lathe to customize their crayons. Truthfully, this isn’t much of an electronics hack, but it does make fun use of a LittleBits motor module and all those old crayons you might have lying around. You could make this a weekend project to share with the kids, plus you never know what will spark that first interest in a young engineer.

If you’re unfamiliar with LittleBits, they are small electronic modules that magnetically snap together to build larger circuits. The modules are color-coded by functionality with non-reversible magnetic connectors to help the little ones understand how to connect and integrate the modules. These LittleBits kits are great for the young beginner in electronics or just for fun at any age. Individually, the modules are quite expensive, but the parts are well worth the price because children will find the system intuitive to use and the modules are robust in the hands of careless kids. A more cost-effective purchase would be one of the kits from Adafruit.com.

In this Instructable, [maxnoble440] demonstrates the little lathe turning a crayon using a variety of tools from the very sharp to the “safe for all ages.” The geared LittleBits motor turns slowly and appears to have enough torque to carve crayons—and possibly clay—packed around a small dowel. To build this project you will need a “little bit” of wood-crafting skill to construct the mini-lathe bed. All the instructions are available in the Instructable as well as a short video, which you can watch after the break below.

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