Spring is headed back toward the northern hemisphere, and we’ll soon see brilliant tulips waking up from their dirt naps to dot the thawing landscape with vibrant hues. These harbingers of spring are closely associated with the Netherlands, but they are actually native to Turkey and central Asia, and weren’t brought to Europe until the 1500s. Tulips became so immensely popular that the market reached what is considered the first speculative financial fever pitch, and crashed hard in 1637.
This electromechanical parlor game arranges the tulips with another artifact of the Dutch Golden Age — hand-painted Delft tiles designed to line fireplaces. [BuiltByBlatt] made all 114 of his on a CNC with a paint pen. To play the game, you roll a small ball toward a row of holes with different point values. Each hole has a break beam detector so the Raspberry Pi knows what you scored.
There’s also a rotating bonus hole that changes based on how many balls are left. As your score goes up, Titus the Tulip works his way to the right. It seems like it’d be fairly easy to hit the 5-point hole in the middle, but the tiles give it a horizontal Pachinko feel that makes it move less predictably. Slip into your clogs and check it out after the break.
Online mapping services pack in a lot of functionality that their paper-based forebearers could simply never imagine. Adding in metadata for local landmarks, businesses and respective reviews, and even live traffic data, they have the capability to deliver more information than ever before – and also correspondingly, shape human behaviour. [Simon Weckert] decided to explore this concept with a cheeky little hack.
The hack targets the manner in which Google collects live traffic data for display on Google Maps. When users load the app, Google takes location data from individual phones, tracking them as they travel along roadways. Large numbers of users travelling slowly down a road indicate there’s heavy traffic, and thus Google will display corresponding warnings on their maps and redirect users to take alternative paths.
We’d love to know whether [Simon] ran 99 individual SIM cards with data access, or if the hack was perpetrated with the use of a WiFi hotspot for cheaper internet access. Reddit comments note that Google will likely swiftly work on methods to prevent such tomfoolery in future. It’s simple to see that 99 individual users reporting the exact same location and speed at the same time would be trivial to filter out from traffic monitoring in future.
It’s both a commentary on the power we give these apps in our lives, as well as a great demonstration of how easily such systems can be trifled with. We first reported on Google’s traffic monitoring back in 2009, when it was a technology in its infancy. Video after the break.
Upgrading the BIOS in older computers is a great way to get a few more years of life out of old hardware or improve its performance. ThinkPads are a popular choice around these parts, but often flashing new firmware involves directly programming the chips themselves. Luckily, there’s a new flashing tool for some older Thinkpads that is much simpler.
The ThinkPads involved are the xx30 models with IvyBridge processors built around 2012, and a tool called 1vyrain now allows unlocking the bios without disassembling your computer. This means that there’s support for custom BIOS images such as coreboot, and in certain computers this also allows for overclocking, replacing WLAN hardware, and a number of other customizations. It will also allow you to disable the Intel management engine, which is not something we tire of talking about.
Usually corroded buttons on a piece of electronic equipment wouldn’t be that big a deal to repair, but as [Haris Andrianakis] recently found out, things can get a little tricky when they are sealed inside a device meant to operate in a marine environment. Figuring out how to get into the case to clean the buttons up is only half the battle, when you’re done you still need to close it back well enough that the elements can’t get in.
The device in question is a tachometer intended for a Yamaha outboard motor, and the buttons are sealed between the guage’s face and the compartment in the rear that holds the electronics. Pulling the guts out of the back was no problem, but that didn’t get [Haris] any closer to the defective buttons. In light of the cylindrical design of the gauge, he decided to liberate the front panel from the rest of the unit with his lathe.
Removing the face was a delicate operation, to put it mildly. The first challenge was getting the device mounted securely in the chuck, but then the cutting had to be done very carefully so as not to damage the housing. Once he cut through the side far enough to get the face off, the actual repair of the buttons was fairly straightforward. But how to get it back together?
After a few missteps, [Haris] finally found a solution that have him the results he was looking for. He 3D printed a ring that fit the front of the gauge tightly, hot glued it into place, and used it as a mould to pour in black epoxy resin. Once the epoxy had cured, the mould was cut off and the gauge went back on the lathe so he could trim away the excess. He had to do some hand sanding and filing to smooth out the bezel, but overall the end result looks very close to factory.
If you’ve ever tried to make a really low-power circuit — especially one that runs on harvested power — you have probably fallen into at least a few of the many traps that await the unwary in this particular realm of electronic design. Well, Dave Young has been there, seen the traps, and lived to tell about it. In these territories, even “simple” systems can exhibit very complex, and sometimes downright confusing behavior when all possible operating conditions are considered. In his 2019 Hackaday Superconference talk: Scrounging, Sipping, and Seeing Power — Techniques For Planning, Implementing, And Verifying Off-Grid Power Systems, Dave discusses a number of these issues, how they interplay with low-power designs, and tricks he’s collected over the years to design and, more importantly, test these deceptively simple systems.
Dave is an electrical engineer and his company, Young Circuit Designs, has worked in the test and measurement, energy, and low-power consumer industries. We were lucky to have him share some of his 15 years of experience on the Supercon stage this past November, specifically discussing devices powered from harvested energy, be it wave energy (think oceans not RF), thermal energy, or solar. The first lesson is that in these systems, architecture is key. Digging deeper, Dave considers three aspects of the architecture, as mentioned in the talk title: scrounging, sipping, and seeing power.
Computers are known to be precise and — usually — repeatable. That’s why it is so hard to get something that seems random out of them. Yet random things are great for games, encryption, and multimedia. Who wants the same order of a playlist or slide show every time?
It is very hard to get truly random numbers, but for a lot of cases, it isn’t that important. Even better, if you programming or using a scripting language, there are lots of things that you can use to get some degree of randomness that is sufficient for many purposes. Continue reading “Linux Fu: The Linux Shuffle”→
It may not seem like it, but amateur radio is fighting a two-front war for its continued existence. On the spectrum side, hams face the constant threat that the precious scraps of spectrum that are still allocated to their use will be reclaimed and sold off to the highest bidder as new communication technologies are developed. On the demographic side, amateur radio is aging, with fewer and fewer young people interested in doing the work needed to get licensed, with fewer still having the means to get on the air.
Amateur radio has a long, rich history, but gone are the days when hams can claim their hobby is sacrosanct because it provides communications in an emergency. Resting on that particular laurel will not win the hobby new adherents or help it hold onto its spectrum allocations, so Josh Nass (KI6NAZ) is helping change the conversation. Josh is an engineer and radio amateur from Southern California who runs Ham Radio Crash Course, a YouTube channel dedicated to getting people up to speed on ham radio. Josh’s weekly livestreams and his video reviews of ham radio products and projects show a different side of the World’s Greatest Hobby, one that’s more active (through events like “Summits on the Air”) and focused on digital modes that are perhaps more interesting and accessible to new hams.
Join us on the Hack Chat as we discuss how to make ham radio matter in today’s world of pervasive technology. We’ll talk about the challenges facing amateur radio, the fun that’s still to be had on the air even when the bands are dead like they are now (spoiler alert: they’re not really), and what we can all do to keep ham radio relevant.