Are You Down With MPPT? (Yeah, You Know Me.)

Solar cells have gotten cheaper and cheaper, and are becoming an economically viable source of renewable energy in many parts of the world. Capturing the optimal amount of energy from a solar panel is a tricky business, however. First there are a raft of physical prerequisites to operating efficiently: the panel needs to be kept clean so the sun can reach the cells, the panel needs to point at the sun, and it’s best if they’re kept from getting too hot.

Along with these physical demands, solar panels are electrically finicky as well. In particular, the amount of power they produce is strongly dependent on the electrical load that they’re presented, and this optimal load varies depending on how much illumination the panel receives. Maximum power-point trackers (MPPT) ideally keep the panel electrically in the zone even as little fluffy clouds roam the skies or the sun sinks in the west. Using MPPT can pull 20-30% more power out of a given cell, and the techniques are eminently hacker-friendly. If you’ve never played around with solar panels before, you should. Read on to see how!

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Neural Network Composes Music; Says “I’ll Be Bach”

[carykh] took a dive into neural networks, training a computer to replicate Baroque music. The results are as interesting as the process he used. Instead of feeding Shakespeare (for example) to a neural network and marveling at how Shakespeare-y the text output looks, the process converts Bach’s music into a text format and feeds that to the neural network. There is one character for each key on the piano, making for an 88 character alphabet used during the training. The neural net then runs wild and the results are turned back to audio to see (or hear as it were) how much the output sounds like Bach.

The video embedded below starts with a bit of a skit but hang in there because once you hit the 90 second mark things get interesting. Those lacking patience can just skip to the demo; hear original Bach followed by early results (4:14) and compare to the results of a full day of training (11:36) on Bach with some Mozart mixed in for variety. For a system completely ignorant of any bigger-picture concepts such as melody, the results are not only recognizable as music but can even be pleasant to listen to.

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Can You Bull’s-Eye A Womprat With A Bean Bag?

As it turns out, a simple game of cornhole — aka, bean bag toss — can have some pretty high stakes. If you lose a round playing on this Death Star trench run cornhole table, the Rebel Alliance may pay the price.

Designed and built by [Hyperdynelabs], the table is set up to play a number of audio clips from the movie with accompanying light effects. Details on how it was made are scant, but there are at least three strips of RGBW LEDs — two that run the length of the board and one inside the exhaust port — an Arduino(presumably), and some sort of wireless connectivity to receive commands.

But it’s not just the electronic effects that make this one great. The physical build itself really nails the Death Star trench run look. This is thanks to artful use of greebles — it’s the same technique which can turn a Nissan into a Z-Wing.

When you make a shot worthy of Luke Skywalker, you’re treated to an impressive lightshow and the sound of the Death Star exploding. For a particularly bad turn, you can have the table charge up and make a show of firing back, or taunt the player if their shot goes wide.

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