A Miniature Laptop You Can Build Yourself

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen more and more hackers building their own custom computers. We’re not just talking casemods here; enabled by advancements in desktop 3D printing and increasingly powerful boards such as the Raspberry Pi 4, these are machines designed and built from the ground up to meet the creator’s particular set of needs and desires.

A perfect example of this trend is the Rasptop 2.0, a remarkably practical design for a 3D printed miniature laptop. Despite the name, you don’t even need to use the Raspberry Pi if you don’t want to. Creator [Morgan Lowe] has designed the Rasptop to take other single board computers (SBCs) such as the Asus Tinker Board or even the Intel Atom powered Up Board. So whether you want an energy efficient ARM machine running Linux for development, or a mobile Windows box for on the go gaming, you can use the same printed parts.

At the most basic level, the Rasptop 2.0 is just a hollow box with a hinged compartment for a screen mounted on top. You’re free to equip it with whatever hardware you chose. If you’re after maximum runtime you could fill all the free space with batteries, or maybe install multiple hard drives if you’re a data horder in need of a mobile terminal. Even the various SBCs that [Morgan] has tested are really just suggestions. The choice is yours.

Perhaps also our favorite feature of the Rasptop is how he worked a keyboard into the design. Rather than just leaving a big rectangle in the STL for you to shove a mobile keyboard into, the top surface is designed to mount the PCB and membrane keypad of one of those mini wireless keyboards you see on all the import sites. Aside from the fact it’s a good deal chunkier than what we expect from modern mobile devices, it has a very finished and professional overall look.

Of course if you’d rather use all these powerful tools to build a computer that’s somewhat farther off the beaten track, your design could abandon the traditional computer form factors altogether.

The Options For Low Cost ROV Tethers

Wireless connections are cool and all, but sometimes you just need a bit of copper. This interesting article on SV Seeker discusses the various ways of making a tether for a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). They experimented with a number of different cables, including gel-filled Cat 5 designed for burial and wrapping the cable in polypropylene rope to keep it protected and buoyant. They also looked at using a single core solid coax cable with an Ethernet to coax converter on either end wrapped in stretch webbing. The upside of using coax would be the length: it can handle over a mile of cable, which should be more than enough for this project. The downside is that they found that the coax stretches under strain, messing with the signal.

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Carbide3D Router Teardown And Testing

On the face of it, you’d think a small router would be pretty simple. After all, what is it other than a spinning motor? However, that motor has to handle some pretty serious torque depending on what you are routing. [Baki1] had his Carbide3D router die in the middle of a project, so he did what any of us would do. He tore it open.

In addition to showing off its insides, he also tried to figure out what was wrong with it. It looks like a blown triac was the culprit, and we assume that part 2 will be the repair and how that actually worked out.

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One Chip Does It All In This MacGuyver Synth

When you think of simple synths, what components come to mind? All you really need to make one is an oscillator, an amplifier, and some kind of input such that you can play different notes. Our favorite go-to for churning out square waves is probably the 40106 IC, which has six inverting Schmitt triggers, and then usually a 386 to amplify the output.

But it’s possible to go even simpler than that, and school is in session with [Jule] giving the lesson. [Jule]’s little analog synth uses a single IC for both the oscillator and the amplifier — a TL072 op-amp. The rest is made of purely discrete components.

[Jule] says those momentary switches are sub-par, and will add a vibrato effect if properly wiggled while pressed. To us, the buttons looks pretty nice, and much easier to jam out with than the ones with 1/8″ diameter actuators. Plus, whenever you press multiple buttons, the additive resistance unlocks the synth’s inner R2D2 voice. We really see no downsides here.

By default, this is an eight-button synth tuned to C major. But there’s a surprise — you can plug different capacitors into a piece of header and change the octave on the fly. Check it out after the break.

Making pitch-correct frequencies requires weird resistor values, which we can usually satisfy with two resistors in series. But wait, what’s up with resistor values, anyway? And why do they have a color code?

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Supercon Keynote: Megan Wachs Breaks Down RISC-V

The 2019 Hackaday Superconference kicked off with a marvelous, and marvelously geeky, keynote talk on the subject of RISC-V by Dr. Megan Wachs. She is VP of Engineering at SiFive, a company that makes RISC-V processors in silicon, but the talk is a much more general introduction to the RISC-V open instruction-set architecture (ISA) and why you’d care. The short answer to the latter is the same reason you care about any other open standard: it promotes interoperability, reusable toolchains, and will result in us all having access to better and faster CPUs.

The video is embedded below, and it’s absolutely worth a watch. Unfortunately, The video is missing the first few minutes, you can follow along through her slides (PDF) and read through our brief recap below of what fell down the video hole.

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ESP32 Serial Interface Modernizes Old Equipment

There’s still plenty of useful hardware out there that uses an RS-232 interface, like the Behringer Ultradrive loudspeaker systems that [Lasse Lukkari] works with from time to time. Rather than ditch perfectly good gear because modern computers (to say nothing of phones or tablets) don’t have physical serial ports, he decided to come up with a WiFi adapter for these old devices that he calls SerialChiller.

Inside the SerialChiller is an ESP32, a MAX3232 line driver, a LM1117 linear regulator, and a few passives. The professionally manufactured PCB is housed inside of an enclosure that [Lasse] has repurposed from a cheap DB15 breakout adapter. The USB cable is used to power the board and for programming, though it can also be used to turn the SerialChiller into a USB-to-serial cable as well.

The hardware for this project is pretty straightforward, but what we really like is the direction he’s taken with the software. Rather than using the SerialChiller as a simple serial to WiFi bridge, [Lasse] is actually implementing a complete web-based interface directly on the microcontroller. In the video after the break he demonstrates his firmware for controlling the aforementioned Behringer Ultradrive, but that’s just one possible application for the project. Firmware could be spun up for all sorts of classic devices, breathing new life into hardware that might otherwise be in danger of heading to the landfill.

Of course, using the ESP family of chips as serial adapters is hardly anything new. In fact, that’s what they were designed for. But developing modern user interfaces for old hardware thanks to the power of the ESP32 has some fascinating potential.

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CRISPR Could Fry All Cancer Using Newly Found T-Cell

One of the human body’s greatest features is its natural antivirus protection. If your immune system is working normally, it produces legions of T-cells that go around looking for abnormalities like cancer cells just to gang up and destroy them. They do this by grabbing on to little protein fragments called antigens that live on the surface of the bad cells and tattle on their whereabouts to the immune system. Once the T-cells have a stranglehold on these antigens, they can release toxins that destroy the bad cell, while minimizing collateral damage to healthy cells.

CAR T-cell therapy process via National Cancer Institute

This rather neat human trick doesn’t always work, however. Cancer cells sometimes mask themselves as healthy cells, or they otherwise thwart T-cell attacks by growing so many antigens on their surface that the T-cells have no place to grab onto.

Medical science has come up with a fairly new method of outfoxing these crafty cancer cells called CAR T-cell therapy. Basically, they withdraw blood from the patient, extract the T-cells, and replace the blood. The T-cells are sent off to a CRISPR lab, where they get injected with a modified, inactive virus that introduces a new gene which causes the T-cells to sprout a little hook on their surface.

This hook, which they’ve dubbed the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), allows the T-cell to chemically see through the cancer cells’ various disguises and attack them. The lab multiplies these super soldiers and sends them back to the treatment facility, where they are injected into the patient’s front lines.

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