Bench Testing a Switch Mode Drop In Replacement For the LM7805

Throwing a 5V regulator like the LM7805 at our projects can become habit forming, after all they’re dirt cheap and the circuit is about as basic as they come with only two external components, an input and output cap. As this is a good enough solution to most of our 5V circuits we can come into some issues if we aren’t paying attention. Linear regulators can only dissipate so much power in the form of heat before they need a heat sink and/or active cooling. Even if they can produce a cleaner output, in an embedded system, large power losses to heat are less than ideal to say the least.

[Daniel] needed an efficient solution to use in the place of an LM7805, after looking at the drop-in replacement switching solutions available on Adafruit’s website, he headed to DigiKey for a similar and less expensive part. [Daniel] collected some data and found the regulator to be 92% efficient with a 12V input, which is not quite the claimed 97% but a good solution nonetheless.

Switching voltage regulators are nothing new, so don’t even act like we just jumped on this switch-mode bandwagon! But it pays to give a little thought to your power supply. And while you’re in the mood, have an extremely thorough look inside the LM7805.

Good Old-Fashioned Circuit Bending With Patient Alpha

For a lot of us some sort of audio circuit was our first endeavor into electronics. Speak and Spell, atari punk console, LM386 in a mint tin, sound familiar? If not, you should do yourself a favor and knock out a couple of those simple projects. For those of us who have done a bit of what the kids are calling circuit bending, [Nickolas Peter] brings us a familiar hack with his Patient Alpha project. You can see a time-lapse video of the build process and a short demo in the video after the break.

[Nickolas] did a few mods to his 2013 Executor key fob; the obligatory potentiometer for resistor swap is always a crowd pleaser. Adding an audio out via 3.5 mm jack is something that some of us wouldn’t have thought to include, but it lets the Executor scream into your serious audio gear for maximum eargasms. It’s worth mentioning that [Nickolas] does a good job with this hack’s finished look, albeit he started with a product in an enclosure he still goes to the trouble of custom fitting all his bits in an aesthetically pleasing way. And then he made a second.

We have covered circuit bent projects aplenty: from an old school take on circuit bending to one with a ratking of wires built on a proper bit of audio kit. Dig out your soldering iron and dig in.

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Nerf Turret controlled by Slack

What happens when you give a former Navy weapons engineer some development boards and ask him to build “something cool”? What happens when you give a kid finger paints? [Seb] obviously built an IoT Nerf Turret Gun controlled via a team communication app.

The weapon was a Nerf Stampede which was hacked so it could be fired electronically. The safety switch was bypassed and a relay provided the firing signal. The electronics stack consists of an Intel Galileo, a motor shield and a relay shield. The turret assembly was built using off the shelf structural parts from Actobotics. Stepper motors provide motion to the turret. The fun begins with how the software is implemented. An iBeacon network detects where people sit at in the office. So when you type in the name of your target in a messaging app, it knows where they’re sitting, aims at them, and pops a nerf dart at them.

The lessons learned are what makes such projects worth their while. For example, USB is a standard. And the standard says that USB cables be not more than 1.8 m long. [Seb] was reminded of this when his electronics worked on his workbench, but refused to work when placed in-situ and connected via a 3m long cable – the serial link just wouldn’t work.

Mounting the gun such that it was nicely balanced was another challenge. Eventually, he had to use a couple of AA cells taped to the front of the gun to get it right. This could be useful though, since he plans to replace the dead weights with a sighting camera. One last hack was to zip tie heat sinks to the motor drivers, and he had a good reason to do that. Read more about it in his blog. And check out the video as someone takes aim and shoots a target via SLACK, the team messaging application.

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The Internet of Cats

With the miniaturization of technology, we’re now able to do some pretty crazy things with computers the size of credit cards. [Dennis] has been working on a rather unique project — he calls it the Cat Exploit — we call it the Internet of Cats.

By making pet-wearable tech (is that a new term?), it’s possible to create a mini war-driving server that stray cats (or other small animals) could wear. As they roam the streets, their feline-augmentation searches and taps into open or badly secured WiFi networks, repeating and spreading the signal to other Server Entities (other network-enabled cats), opening up the networks for all to use. Continue reading “The Internet of Cats”

Do You Know Rufus Turner?

It is hard to be remembered in the electronics business. Edison gets a lot of credit, as does Westinghouse and Tesla. In the radio era, many people know Marconi and de Forest (although fewer remember them every year), but less know about Armstrong or Maxwell. In the solid-state age, we tend to remember people like Shockley (even though there were others) and maybe Esaki.

If you knew most or all of those names without looking them up, you are up on your electronics history. But do you know the name Rufus Turner?
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Hacking Candle Extinguishing

Anyone can put out a candle by blowing on it. According to [Physics Girl], that method is old hat. She made an educational video that shows five different ways to put out a candle using–what else–physics.

You might not need alternate ways to put out a candle, but if you are looking to engage students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), this video along with others from [Physics Girl] might spark interest.

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Hacker Island: Preserving Cuba’s Classic Cars

The spirit of hacking takes many forms. We cobble things together to make our lives easier, to prove that a drawing-board theory will work, or just to have fun and explore. For the people of Cuba, hacking is a necessity. This is especially true when it comes to getting around. Transportation has been a big problem for decades, especially in the major cities. But the resourcefulness of Cuba’s citizens has fueled a revolution of creativity that has sparked imaginations and kept people moving.

It is believed that Cuba has the world’s largest collection of classic American cars. There are approximately 60,000 of them on the road nationwide in various states of repair. Some are kept in pristine condition by card-carrying automobile club members who baby them and keep them as close to stock as possible. But most of these cars see daily use as cheap public taxis. They are not for-hire cabs that can be easily hailed from the sidewalk, though. They are designed to maximize utility and carry as many passengers as possible along fixed routes. Taking one of these taxis is expensive, but the alternative is waiting hours in the hot sun for an overcrowded bus.

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