Hackaday Links: November 18, 2018

The greatest bit of consumer electronics is shipping and the reviews are out: Amazon’s Alexa-enabled microwave is a capable microwave, but befuddling to the voice-controlled-everything neophyte. Voice controlled everything is the last hope we have for technological innovation; it’s the last gasp of the consumer electronics industry. This is Amazon’s first thing with a built-in voice assistant, and while this is a marginally capable microwave at only 700 Watts — fine for a college dorm, but it’s generally worth shelling out a bit more cash for a 1000 Watt unit — the controls are befuddling. The first iteration is always hard, and we’re looking forward to the Amazon Alexa-enabled toaster, toothbrush, vacuum cleaner, and Bezos shrine.

Need a laser cutter, like crowdfunding campaigns, and know literally nothing about laser cutters? Have we got something for you. The Etcher Laser crowdfunding campaign has been pinging my email non-stop, and they’ve got something remarkable: a diode laser cutter engraver for $500. It comes in a neat-looking enclosure, so it’s sure to raise a lot of money.

A while back [Paulusjacobus] released an Arduino-based CNC controller for K40 laser cutters. There were a few suggestions to upgrade this to the STM32, so now this CNC controller is running on a Blue Pill. Yes, it’s great and there’s more floating points and such and such, so now this project is a Kickstarter project. Need a CNC controller based on the STM32? Boom, you’re done. It’s also named the ‘Super Gerbil’, which is an awesome name for something that is effectively a GRBL controller. Naming things is the hardest problem in computer science, after all.

The Gigatron computer is a ‘home computer’ without a microprocessor or microcontroller. How does it do this? A metric butt-load of ROM and look-up tables. This is cool and all, but now the Gigatron logo is huge. we’re talking 18 μm by 24 μm. This was done by etching a silicon test wafer with electron beam lithography.

18 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: November 18, 2018

  1. “This is Amazon’s first thing with a built-in voice assistant, and while this is a marginally capable microwave at only 700 Watts — fine for a college dorm, but it’s generally worth shelling out a bit more cash for a 1000 Watt unit — the controls are befuddling. ”

    If you’re cooking with it, you might.* Otherwise a waste.

    *Get one with an inverter.

  2. I’ve gotten tons of spam about the laser etcher, which suggests to me that the crowdfunding management sites, by not killing campaigns linked to spam, are now Part Of The Problem ™.

  3. For these blu-ray diode laser engravers, the Glowforge Basic is 5x more expensive but probably 500x more useful. Unless, of course, you lose access to the internet and your local piece of 2.5 axis CNC hardware suddenly stops working. OK, the other option mentioned with the custom driver board for the K40 is the real solution here.

    1. I mean it is overpriced, but it’s more than a bluray diode. They’re selling 1.6 or 3.5W versions, way more powerful than a bluray laser.

      Whether or not it’s worth $500 I think will come down to the software. Glowforge is way better as a machine, but is pretty crippled by their cloud-only software… I don’t mind that they went cloud-based, but AFAIK you can’t use anything else.

        1. 1.6W is enough to cut things, but yes it’s really more of an engraver. I think their claims on the page look reasonable, they mention that it can cut but most of the things they show is engraving.

        1. Yeah I did some searching to check if you really still can’t use any other software. There seemed to be a few posts asking if you could use something else, followed by tons of fanboy-type replies saying basically “no, and you’re wrong for wanting it.”

  4. After reading the gigatron description, I’m confused. It seems they just implemented a risc microprocessor with ttl logic. That’s not so much without a processor so much as without a full microcontroller/microprocessor chip. And they don’t seem to accomplish running with Rom and lookups so much as they accomplish graphics and sound with that, so saying that’s how they accomplish *being a home computer* is technically correct.

    1. I’ve almost got the age but wasn’t active in computers as a hobby before 1977, so I missed the Weeny Blitter with a year or two. But it’s a bit strange that I haven’t heard about it before – I’ve been looking into ultra-retro computers with relays, transistors and TTL-only quite a lot. So now I’ve got a new design to study. Thanks!

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