Warwalking For Radiation

Can’t find a recently updated survey of radioactivity in your neighborhood? Try [Hunter Long]’s DIY scintillation counter warwalking rig. (Video also embedded below.) What looks like a paint can with a BNC cable leading to an unassuming grey box is actually a complete kit for radiation surveying.

Inside the metal paint can is a scintillation counter, which works by attaching something that produces light when struck by ionizing radiation on the end of a photomultiplier tube, to make even the faintest hits “visible”. And the BNC cable leads to a Raspberry Pi, touch screen, GPS, and the high-voltage converters needed to make the photomultiplier do its thing.

The result is a sensitive radiation detector that logs GPS coordinates and counts per second as [Hunter] takes it out for a stroll. Spoilers: he discovers that some local blacktop is a little bit radioactive, and even finds a real “hot spot”. Who knows what else is out there? With a rig like this, making a radiation map of your local environment is a literal walk in the park.

[Hunter] got his inspiration for the paint-can detector from this old build by [David Prutchi], which used a civil-defense Geiger counter as its source of high voltage. If you don’t have a CD Geiger detector lying around, [Alex Lungu]’s entry into the Hackaday Prize builds a scintillation detector from scratch.
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Learn Morse Code, Clockwork Orange Style

You might have to provide your own wrist straps and eye clamps, but if you want to learn Morse code, [Seth] has a web site for you. You can get code practice using the Farnsworth method and each letter is flashed before you as it is sent, which we assume will burn it into your brain.

Why learn Morse code now? Just about all countries now have at least some no code ham licenses and many have taken code off the tests completely. However, there are still many hams that use the code even today. Why? The personal challenge is part of it and perhaps nostalgia. However, it is also true that Morse code transmitters and receivers are dead simple to build and can get through where other simple radios can’t.

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DIY Watertight Junction Box For Serious Outdoor Sealing

Thingiverse user [The-Mechanic] shared a design for 3D printed enclosures that are made to house wire and cable junctions, which can then be rendered weatherproof by injecting them with a suitable caulking compound and allowing it to cure. It’s a cross between an enclosure and potted electronics. It’s also a one-way trip, because the result is sealed up like a pharaoh’s tomb. On the upside, it’s cheap, accessible, and easily customized.

The way it works is this: wires go through end caps which snap onto the main body, holding the junction inside. Sealant is then pumped in via the hole on the side, then the hole is plugged. Afterwards, all there is to do is wait until the sealant cures. [The-Mechanic] has a couple of companion designs, as well. For tubes of sealant that have threaded tops, one can more effectively save the contents of the tube for later with this design for screw-on caps. There are also 3D printed nozzles in a variety of designs.

One thing to keep in mind about silicone-based sealants is that thick gobs of it can take a really, really long time to cure fully. A thick gob of the stuff will tend to firm up on the outside but leave the inside gooey. If that will be a problem, maybe take a cue from Oogoo and mix in a bit of corn starch with the silicone sealant. The resulting mixture will be thicker, but it’ll cure throughout with no problems.

Digital Oscilloscope Does Its Best Analog Impression

Do you ever find yourself yearning for the days before digital storage oscilloscopes (DSOs)? Where even the basic scopes commanded four figures, and came in a bench-dominating form factor? No, of course you don’t. The DSO is a wonder of modern technology: for a couple hundred bucks you can have capabilities that previously would have been outside the reach of hobbyists, all in a package that’s small enough to fit on even the most cramped workbenches.

Which is why the good folks of the EEVblog forums are so confused about the OWON AS101, a modern digital oscilloscope that’s designed to look and operate like the analog CRT monsters of old. Despite the 3.7 inch LCD, users are treated to the classic analog scope look, and the switches and knobs on the front should trigger a wave of nostalgia for hackers of a certain age.

But this isn’t just some “retro” look-alike, OWON is committed to delivering on that analog experience by taking away all those modern digital features we’ve become so dependant on. This single-channel scope can’t save data to USB, doesn’t have any sort of protocol decoding capabilities, and forget about automatic…well, anything. It’s even limited to 20 MHz, just like the old-school CRT scopes that you pick up for a song at any swap meet. All for the low, low, price of $150 USD from the usual importers.

In the EEVblog thread, the best idea anyone can come up with is that the OWON AS101 is designed for educational markets in developing countries, where outdated equipment is so common that there may actually be a need for faux-analog oscilloscopes to match what’s already in use. These new-manufactured “analog” trainers can be used to get students ready to a professional life of using antiquated technology. It’s hard to believe, but sometimes we can forget how fortunate many of us are to have easy access to cheap tools and equipment.

Even still, when you can get a pocket-sized 10 MHz DSO for around $50, it’s difficult to imagine how this analog-digital hybrid could possibly attract any takers at 3x times the price. If any of our readers would care to shed some light on this unusual piece of gear, we’d love to hear it.

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Meet The 20 Finalists In The 2019 Hackaday Prize

The Hackaday Prize is our global engineering initiative, now in its sixth year. For 2019, the focus is on product development: with great engineering and a working prototype, can you also go the distance to embrace the user’s needs and ensure the project can be produced in quantity? Throughout the Spring and Summer we’ve been watching as hundreds step into the spotlight to share their projects with the world. Now we’re in the final stretch as these twenty entries all try to claim the grand prize of $125,000. Let’s take a look!

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Why Ada Is The Language You Want To Be Programming Your Systems With

The Ada programming language was born in the mid-1970s, when the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the UK’s Ministry Of Defence sought to replace the hundreds of specialized programming languages used for the embedded computer systems that increasingly made up essential parts of military projects.  Instead, Ada was designed to be be a single language, capable of running on all of those embedded systems, that offered the same or better level of performance and reliability.

With the 1995 revision, the language also targeted general purpose systems  and added support for object-oriented programming (OOP) while not losing sight of the core values of reliability, maintainability and efficiency. Today, software written in Ada forms the backbone of not only military hardware, but also commercial projects like avionics and air-traffic control systems. Ada code controls rockets like the Ariane 4 and 5, many satellites, and countless other systems where small glitches can have major consequences.

Ada might also be the right choice for your next embedded project. Continue reading “Why Ada Is The Language You Want To Be Programming Your Systems With”

Because Conventional Laser Harps Aren’t Dangerous Enough

In the late 1980s, the French musician [Jean-Michel Jarre] famously toured with a laser harp. The word among teenage fans was that he had to wear special gloves to stop his hands getting burned, because 1980s teens were both impressionable and didn’t know much about lasers. In fact we’re told by a member of our community who was part of his road crew that the glove was a matter of reflectivity, so laser harps remain relatively harmless and French harpists retain their fingers. To add a bit of spice to the laser harp experience, [James Cochrane] hooked up a laser rangefinder to a Tesla coil to make an instrument with a bit more crackling energy in its performance than the [Jarre] model.

It starts with a laser tape measure modified to serve as an Arduino rangefinder, coupled to custom MIDI code to make a laser harp MIDI controller. The Tesla coil in question happens also to be a MIDI instrument, so the one can control the other with ease. The addition of an earthed chain mail glove allows it to be played in close proximity to the coil, and he rewards us with a rendition of the Star Trek theme. Tesla fun and games behind us, he then gives us a demonstration with a more conventional MIDI instrument.

We’ve had innumerable Tesla coil projects here over the years, if you’re hungry for more we suggest starting with this unusual planar PCB coil design. Meanwhile you can see the laser harp coil in the video below the break.

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