Hackaday Links: June 26, 2016

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Solar Freaking Roadways. What is it? It’s technology that replaces all roadways with a smooth sheet of glass and solar panels. You know how asphalt is soooo easy to repair and soooooo cheap? Yes, this is the exact opposite of that. They’re coming to freaking Missouri. A parking lot for the Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, MO will be paved with the solar freaking roadways that netted $2 Million in an Indiegogo campaign two years ago.

There is a National Potato Expo. As far as I can tell, this is a trade show for potatoes and potato-related paraphernalia. As with all trade shows you need a great demo, in this case one involving potatoes. How about a phone charging station powered by potatoes? It’s a bunch of potatoes, copper pipe, galvanized nails (neat design, btw), and a USB socket. Yes, it works, but not well.

The travelling hacker box is a USPS flat rate box filled to the brim with random bits and bobs of electronics, shipped back and forth between dozens of electron enthusiasts. It’s making one last trip around the US, and now the travelling hacker box needs destinations from Idaho to Michigan. Idaho, of course, is a fictional state created in 2004 for Napoleon Dynamite, but that still leaves Montana, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the UP. If you live in one of these states, there’s a travelling hacker box with your name on it. Request to join the project and PM me on hackaday.io.

It’s election year in the US, and that means half of the population hates one candidate, half of the population hates another candidate, and half of the population will vote. Don’t think about that for too long. Here’s an Arduino doing something topical with Twitter.

Hotends for 3D printers are getting more and more robust, but thermistors are fiddly little things. E3D just came up with the solution. It’s a standard, modular temperature ‘cartridge’ that fits in E3D’s heater blocks. You can already change out the heater cartridge on a 3D printer for a higher wattage model, and now you can change out a thermistor for a thermocouple just as easily. E3D sells their stuff in GBP, so considering recent events it might be a good time to pick up a new hotend for that Monoprice 3D printer you picked up

The 8-Bit Generation recently released their documentary The Commodore Warschronicling the stupendous rise and meteoric fall of Commodore. Now they’re working on the Atari version and they’re funding it with a Kickstarter. Rumor has it Hackaday’s own [Bil Herd] has been asked to narrate.

Here’s another Hackaday Retro Edition success story @KetturiFox pulled up the Hackaday Retro Edition on a Texas Instruments TravelMate 5000 laptop. That’s a relatively modern laptop with a 75MHz Pentium, PCMCIA slots, and a nub mouse.

40 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: June 26, 2016

      1. Nah, you idealistically vote for someone you believe in who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning (say, Bernie Sanders or Gary Johnson–just examples! I’m not trying to start a political argument). Or, you can write ???????? in, because miracles do happen and I’d save the world.

        1. If only everybody did that…. I’m not sure we would actually get good leaders. One person’s ideals aren’t necessarily another person’s ideals anyway. But.. we would at least get a vote that would show just how shitty the Democrats and Republicans both are! Alas… Douglas Adams had America pegged even if he was writing about Brittain. We would not hesitate for a second to elect a lizard just to make sure the ‘wrong’ lizard doesn’t get elected.

  1. Good gracious why would anyone use a thermistor for… Well for anything in preference to a thermocouple? You can make a complete analog thermostatic control with hysteresis with an AD8495 and a few passives, or go digital with the MAX31855.

    1. I was rather disappointed with all three cartridge designs. It is rather hard to screw up a thermocouple as long as you use the right thermocouple extension wire and keep the polarity straight, but they don’t use either ANSI or ISO color codes making it easy to screw up both. PT100 sensors are my favorite because when you run constant current through one pair of wires you can read voltage on the other pair with a high impedance a/d and most of the noise goes away and you don’t get any new noise from the wires, or if you are cheap you can with a little math get by with three wires. Alass this has only two wires which picks up noise from the extruder motor. You can do the same thing with the thermistor, but again it only has two wires.

  2. National Potato Expo? With a potato-powered phone charger?
    Now I’ve heard everything. That is very crazy-cool.

    Cool beans on the Hackaday Retro Edition success story! My first computer ran Win95 at 75MHz.
    I just had a bluescreen flashback. That damn computer!
    I must’ve reinstalled Windows at least 10 times before XP came around and a new comp took it’s place. Good memories of Mechwarrior and Centipede.
    And Minesweeper, lol.

      1. I almost shit my pants! Lol.
        That’s a lot of ‘spudz’!

        I hope everyone is having a better day than I am.
        And I mean it, EVERYONE!

        Don’t let the world bring you down.
        I had a really bad day. Sorry, seriously everyone don’t let the world drag you down.
        Great article. I wish there was an update on the Raspberry Pi Project, lol.

  3. Solar roadways are incredibly stupid just from the lost opportunity cost of not properly orienting the panels. This was thoroughly debunked on EEVBLOG, and the panels themselves didn’t even stand up to use on a bike path. A parking lot? In Montana?

    This sounds suspiciously like greenwashing / a grab for some sort of tax writeoff.

    1. Nah, just cover them with Gorilla Glass and then slap down 60 or so plastic anti-scratch sheets from cell phones and it should be hearty enough to run a snowplow over it.

      Interestingly, the solar roadways website has data they are collecting from three locations with one panel flat and one at a conventional angle. In an example of really stupid experiment design, they are using different panel manufacturers for the flat vs angled panels. Anyway, they claim that the flat panels are doing much better than anyone would have expected and they attribute it to being more efficient at generating power on days with diffuse light on cloudy days. That may be, but the insolation on cloudy days is going to be a ton lower than on clear days.

    2. i genuinely don’t understand the ‘greatness’ of solar panels for anything. my company has quoted a couple different places to install solar panels– in those cases, the ROI was around 10-11 years.
      the panels that were quoted had a life expectancy of 10 years before they degrade so far that they need to be replaced–and that was assuming absolutely nothing went wrong with 200 solar panels in one location over that 10 years.

      the only advantage they actually pose in their current state is load removal from the electrical grid(pay now/pay later type of scheme), and a green appearance for the company(not actually saving anything, but they appear to be better for the environment). some places value that, but outside of that, i just simply don’t see enough efficiency from the solution to call it any more then a stop-gap.

      1. They are super useful in places where grid power is less reliable. Lots of people don’t like having their power shut off at random times, so a few thousand bucks for peace of mind and uninterrupted TV starts to seem like a good deal.

      2. In my city, the road department has been using solar panels on anything possible, but not the stupid solar roadway crap, rather they’ve been using them to power LED-based streetlamps, pedestrian crossing signals, emergency road-side phone systems, a couple displays that give estimates of travel time on certain routes, and a few other things that aren’t safety critical, but still quite useful.

        The city is also installing them at bus-stops so that a couple batteries charge during the day and power a couple of LEDs at night to provide a bit of lighting and power a signal so passengers can signal the bus to stop with a bright flashing LED. There are some being installed into parks to power the fountains, light the gazebos, and provide extra lighting in some areas.

        They’re are also several cell phone companies using them to power roof-top antennas, which seem to get quite a lot of sun during the day. I suppose its to avoid having to tie into the building’s electrical services.

        I agree that solar doesn’t quite work for office buildings, but they work pretty damn well for infrastructure and low-energy applications, or in cases where connecting to the grid would be at least as expensive as the panels.

      3. A very high percentage of install cost is now the actual mountings for the panels. If after 10 years you need to replace all the panels, cabling, inverter, etc, no worries. The mountings installed should still be good and in 10 years you’ll be getting more affordable/efficient panels and electronics.

  4. My state is looking at these solar panels too.

    People are excited and keep talking about the benefits. When I ask hard questions, no one within the agency or the company selling this crap want to answer them.

    For example, my state allows up to 12k lbs per tire under certain conditions. With the right configuration, you can see trucks grossing 2 million lbs. These are sometimes known as road busters because if the tires roll too far to the edge or up onto the curb, they’ll crack the asphalt or concrete. To prevent that, the movers lay down 2″ thick steel plate to help spread the weight. No one wants to answer what happens to these glass plates or their substrate under those conditions. I suspect the substrate would have to absolutely defect free to avoid stress fractures.

    I don’t see weight/per panel either. If these panels plus the supporting substrate weigh more than asphalt and substrate, bridge weight ratings will drop. A shit ton of bridges across the country have already been weight down graded because Americans won’t do required maintenance. A few years ago, a bridge collapsed, in part, because a new thicker road surface was laid down which lowered the weight rating, but no one bothered to re-calculate what it would be. Pppthhh, into the water it went. IIRC, the fix was relatively simple, adding new plates to bolster the existing bolts on the steel girders.

    I see talk about snow melting but the example they use shows just a couple of inches. What happens if the weather dumps 5 or 6 feet of snow over night? In my youth, one week saw so much snow my two story home was completely buried. I assume electricity will be diverted from those that receive light to those that don’t to run the heaters, but that’s an awful lot of snow and no one wants to wait. Plows and snowblowers will come in to do the job properly and quickly. Though once the gutters freeze up at night, we’ll see some interesting ice conditions.

    On that same note, that little farm tractor demo is complete bullshit. Snow removal equipment is huge and will happily grind that glass down. That’s why the reflectors are counter sunk. Chains and tire studs? Tempered glass is great but it’s not invincible.

    I also have to wonder how these will perform in sandy areas. A good sandstorm will cover the panels and no amount of heat will get rid of it. Also imagine trying to clean those damn gutters for maintenance… ugh.

    I think these do well for sidewalks, parking lots and places with very mild weather. Not so much for places with sandstorms from hell, twenty foot snow drifts or below freezing temperatures for weeks at a time.

    But I digress. Who the hell wants to walk down a sidewalk getting blasted by the sun? Wouldn’t it be nice to park in shade? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Shade is nice and cool cars are nice. Solar panels don’t like shade.

    No answer about protecting the cable runs in the gutter from copper thieves.

    My state did install solar panels over a parking lot to create shade for the cars and it proved very popular. But they’re not overly eager to install similar panels in other state parking lots for some reason. Instead, the powers that be want the solar road panels. I’m willing to bet there’s a lobbyist behind the scene.

    I’m not against the road surface made of solar panels idea. Just the idea that every road surface should have embedded solar panels. It’s just never going to be that practical.

    1. weren’t the original kickstarters based in california or something? i remember that snow/ice was referenced in such a way that it was almost obvious they were unaware that it could get severely cold, or had anywhere more then an inch or 2 of snowfall..

      the freezing/thawing alone is going to absolutely destroy this idea… i suspect a full year of maintenance is going to rival the installation costs of the system.

    2. They just won’t learn.

      Last sentence I agree with 1000%!

      Solar is great. For roads… No no no no no no no no getithroughyourthickscull
      it doesn’t work! Oh, why won’t they read a book or something! Too many complications.
      Maybe 20 years from now. Even then, it probably won’t work!

    3. I’m willing to bet there’s a lobbyist behind the scene.

      A lobbyist for a bunch of yokels in Idaho that have been soley funded from begging and DOE small business grants? Probably not…

  5. Maybe solar roadways could work.. for something. Instead of all that delicate solar panel and LED crap what if they just ran a bunch of pipes through the roadway and covered it in traditional blacktop. Could the collected heat be harnessed for something useful?

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