Hackaday Links: December 3, 2017

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Remember the Psion? Back when PDAs were a thing, the Psion was the best you could get. It was, effectively, a palm-top computer with a real qwerty keyboard. It didn’t have Bluetooth, it couldn’t browse the web, and it didn’t have WiFi, but this was an AA-powered productivity machine that could fit in your pocket. Now there’s a new palmtop from Psion engineers. The Gemini PDA is basically a smartphone with a real keyboard that runs Ubuntu. It’s also has a smaller battery than other devices with this form factor, meaning the TSA thinks it’s a smartphone. This thing is going to be cool.

TechShop, Inc. has reached an agreement to sell the company to TechShop 2.0, LLC. New ownership seeks to re-open, continue running makerspaces. Details coming soon.

Arcade monitors are cool, and vector monitors are even cooler. [Arcade Jason] created a gigantic 36″ vector monitor. It’s thirty-six inches of Gravitar, in all its vector glory.

A few links posts ago, I pointed out someone was selling really awesome, really cheap LED panels on eBay. I got my ten panels, and [Ian Hanschen] bought sixty or some other absurd amount. Now, these panels are going for $300 for a 10-pack instead of $50. Sorry about that. Nevertheless, the reverse engineering adventure is still ongoing, and eventually, someone is going to play Mario on these things.

The ESP32 is finding its way into all sorts of consumer electronics. Check this thing out. It’s an ESP32, four buttons, and a circular display. If you want to make your own Nest thermostat, or anything else that needs an awesome circular display, there you go.

Speaking of circular displays, are there any non-CRT displays that come with a polar coordinate system? Every circular LCD or OLED I’ve ever seen uses a Cartesian system, which doesn’t really make sense when you can’t see 30% of the pixels.

Hold the phone, this is far too clever. [Eduardo] needed to flash an ESP-12 module before soldering it onto a PCB. The usual way of doing this is with an absurd pogo pin jig. You know what’s cheaper than pogo pins? Safety pins. Clever overwhelming.

29 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: December 3, 2017

      1. The big difference between CRT and LCD tech is that the positioning is inherently analog (while this is lessened with color CRTs, it’s still there at some level), while LCD and other display tech is inherently quantized. That’s certainly significant.

        1. Anything that uses a digital computer in between the (mechanically steered) antenna and monitor most likely does, since it would be dumb to have another mechanical component that wears out eventually and needs to be periodically calibrated…
          Electronically steered antennas of any kind need tons of matrix conversions to compensate the physics anyway, so one more is just a tiny detail ;-)

    1. Yeah. A polar display built with LCD technology needs infinitely fine conductors at the origin. I can imagine LED elements that are built vertically and addressed serially. That can get pretty tight.

  1. Most airlines make you bring your laptop with you, I travel all over the US and Europe and parts of Asia and have never been forced to but a device under because its battery was too large.

  2. Twitter links? Can we have a warning about them like PDFs? Especially since it just goes into a very fast reload loop without Javascript enabled. Guess it’s too hard for Twitter to display 144 (or 288) characters of text without requiring Javascript. I was just reading about the closure of TechShop Chandler in the San Tan News at lunch today so you fooled me into clicking on the Twitter link.

    1. Yes, this pisses me off too. Reddit is guilty as well. Like I need another reskinned webkit browser with an ad hole. As it is, I (probably much like yourself) keep Java disabled on my phone browser to combat the fridiculous amount of ads that are shoved into everything. *shakes fist at cloud*

    1. Hmm, I already have two perfectly good Fluke multimeters, do I really want to spend $265 on yet another meter?

      Wait, it has bluetooth and you can hack the firmware… shit. Now it’s getting hard to resist.

  3. The Gemini PDA makes my retro-80s/90s toes wiggle, but they’ll have a hard swim to be ahead of the very capable 8″ tablet and ridiculously cheap fold up bluetooth keyboard I’m typing this on…that cost about $150 all up (no GSM), or my phone with the same keyboard that I can use anywhere in the world.

    1. This was my thought as well. It’s really cool but it’ll be outdated quickly. Bluetooth + smartphone does the job. Chroot handles Linux if you want a full distro on Android. I’d rather use my phone with an add-on than carry a totally different second device.

        1. Not a great one though, and it is still going to be left behind specs-wise. The keyboard that makes it great can’t be transferred like an external keyboard can. Same thing has happened with so many Android game console – fun for 2 years until it’s time for an upgrade and there’s no gen 2 or the gen 2 is beat by other phones.

    2. Agreed sadly as well. I guess I could put it under a laundry basket with my old Tungsten and let them go at it Thunderdome style lol but I will probably just skip this device.

      1. Scratching will only expose iron though, and iron doesn’t like to be soldered too much either, or is that only zinced iron?
        I suppose there might be a thin layer of copper between the iron and chrome though, so it’s a matter of scratching just through the chrome.
        Nevertheless, it’s too much hassle for me to trust on.

  4. Clever, but $0.10 DirtyPCB pogo pins are about the same price, were intentionally designed for this purpose and worked great for my ESP-12 programmer. Not sure what ‘absurd’ pogo pin jig Brain is talking about. Castelated vias are just as easy to hit with pogo pins as regular vias.

    Kinda wish they made the carrier PCB on that round display smaller. It’s so large that it defeats the purpose of the round display in the first place. That is, you could just use a square display, mask the corners and it would have the same outline.

    How would a polar coordinate protocol work with an inherently Cartesian display using row and columns? Would the controller determine which pixels aligned or which to ignore? What would be the purpose?

  5. I have a PSION PDA… it’s a little older than what you’re apparently used to, though, Brian — mine is the model series that put PSION on the map. It’s an Organizer II. It came out the year I was born, has a Hitachi basically-an-SoC-before-we-called-them-that that’s essentially an enhanced Motorola 6800 (it’s called the HD6303x… with RAM and IIRC a little ROM on chip, it’s *almost* an early microcontroller). Two-line character display (I forget how many characters wide, it’s either 16 or 20), 32k RAM. Have fun. Oh — and it runs bloody dang forever and a day off a single 9V battery.

    As an aside — there is still a (very) small community around these things. We’re at http://forum.psion2.org/YaBB.pl, although the forum is kind of falling apart (the guy who used to maintain it had a heart attack that *ahem* sent him off into the Wild Blue Yonder, and we don’t really have any help here). We could use two bits of help — one, if anyone out there knows enough old Perl to create some sort of scraper/archiver so that we could move to more recent forum software, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DEAR GOD PLEASE come and post (registration is down IIRC, but guest posts are allowed, and there’s a workaround — once you’ve “registered” and are awaiting your activation email, PM our moderator, Mikesan, and he will get that email to actually arrive) — and two, if anyone has a copy of the schematics and/or the programming for the PAL chip for the Org2, please come and tell us what you have so that we can figure out the best way to get it up.

    There /was/ a schematic diagram in one of the technical manuals that sometimes came with one’s Organizer II purchase, but our resident hardware expert, Jaap, is missing his copy of the schematics, and nobody else presently on the forum has it,either… and the traces inside are routed so densely that I gave up on that plate of circuit spaghetti within five minutes of attempting to start. The number of vias attached to each trace (each of which bounces it to the opposite board layer) is STAGGERINGLY INSANE. This thing is /considerably/ denser than I am, lol!

    …if you don’t want to bother with signing up or posting on that forum, for some reason, but you have the ability to help, please PM me on the [dot]IO side of things here — I have the same exact username over there — and I’ll see what we can figure out and arrange..

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