Restoring The Coolest Laptop Ever

Well-seasoned readers will no doubt remember GRiD laptops, the once and always tacti-cool computers that dominated the military market for decades. GRiDs were the first laptops to go to space, and they were coveted for their sleek (for the time) good looks and reputation as indestructible machines.

The GRiDs went through many iterations, and even though their military roots make them nearly unobtanium, [Simon] scored a GRiD laptop and set about restoring it. His theme was the 1986 movie Aliens, which featured a few GRiD Compass computers as props. [Simon]’s 1550SX came a little later than the Compass 2, but documents with the machine reveal it was a Royal Air Force machine that had been deemed unserviceable for reasons unknown.

[Simon] carefully tore it down – pay close attention to the video below and you’ll hear the telltale plink of the magnesium case parts rather than the dull thud of plastic; they don’t make them like that anymore – and cleaned it up. He replaced the original display with a PiMoroni 10″ retro game display to keep the original 4:3 aspect ratio. A Raspberry Pi 4 went inside, along with a Teensy to take care of adapting the GRiD keyboard to USB and lighting up some front-panel LEDs. A second Teeny allows the original IsoPoint mouse to be used, which is a real gem. With the addition of appropriate graphics, the machine looks like it would be at home on a Colonial Marines dropship.

We love the retro feel of [Simon]’s build, and the movie nostalgia. We’re just glad he didn’t include a LiPo battery, which might not get along with the magnesium case. Game over, man!

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How To Slice Lightweight Aircraft Parts For 3D Printing

Historically, remote control aircraft were produced much like their early full-sized counterparts. Wooden structures were covered with adhesives and taut fabric membranes. Other techniques later came to the fore, with builders looking to foam and other materials. Of course, these days 3D printers are all the rage, so perhaps one can simply print out a whole plane? As [sahevaantaneja] discovered, it’s not that easy!

One of the foremost problems is the process of slicing. This is where 3D geometry is transformed into the G-code which defines the path taken by the 3D printer during production of a component. Slicer software is generally optimised for working with mostly-solid objects, and some tweaks can be required when working with thin-walled designs.

These challenges come to bear with an aircraft design, which, by necessity must be lightweight. [sahevaantaneja] does a great job of explaining the journey of discovery in which their design was optimised to work with conventional slicers. This allowed the various components to be printed without errors, while retaining their strength to survive in flight.

The design was successful in test flights –  a great reward after much experimentation. We’ve seen other 3D printed designs take flight, too. Video after the break.

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Arkanoid Clock Is Exactly What It Sounds Like

A clock can be a simple device that keeps you aware of the current time, but it can also be so much more. It can express an aesthetic ideal from yesteryear, or be a throwback to a popular cultural touchstone. It can even be both, in the case of the brilliant Arkaclock from [Victor Serrano].

The build started when [Victor] wished to create an old-school arcade-style game. Aiming to work with limited hardware, just like the pioneers, he settled on using the PIC18F86K22, with less than 4KB of RAM and just 64KB of program space to play with. Hooked up to a 256 x 64 OLED screen with a pleasant green glow, he set about recreating Arkanoid in assembly language.

With this done, [Victor] noted that the retro-looking display was rather pleasant. At this point, the device was repurposed into a clock, with the program generating an Arkanoid level in the shape of the current time. The AI would then play the game, destroying the bricks each minute before the level changed.

It’s an excellent timepiece, and one that would be perfect for the wall of any indie game studio. Other retro games make for great clocks, too. Video after the break.

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Steel Pegboard Makes For A Tidy Charging Station

Do you have a bunch of electronic devices that all have different styles of chargers and batteries? Of course you do, so does everyone else. While there’s been some headway made towards standardizing on USB (and more recently, USB-C) for charging, there are still plenty of gadgets out there that march to the beat of their own DC adapter. For all those devices, [Tom Barnes] has a tip for making a cheap and easy centralized charging station.

The idea is to get a power strip, ideally one that has a switch on it, and use zip ties to attach it to a piece of pegboard. [Tom] used a nice black steel board which is obviously very strong and shouldn’t be bothered by any potentially high temperatures, but you could get away with the hardware store MDF variety if you had to.

All your chargers, mounted around the periphery of the board with Velcro hook and loop fasteners, have their individual power cords run through to the back of the board where they are nearly routed and zip tied. This is where using the steel pegboard really helped, as it has a lip around the edge that makes a void for all the wires to be run through when hung on the wall. If your particular flavor of pegboard doesn’t have that space behind it, you’d either have to settle for running the wires across the front or build out your own space in the back using a wooden frame.

Even in our high-tech world, no shop is truly complete without pegboard. Whether you’re using it to vertically mount your development boards, or pushing it around on wheels to keep your tools close at hand, there’s no shortage of ways to use this versatile material.

Software Defined Everything With Mike Ossmann And Kate Temkin

Software defined radio has become a staple of the RF tinkerer, but it’s likely that very few of us have ever taken their software defined toolchain outside the bounds of radio. It’s an area explored by Mike Ossmann and Kate Temkin in their newly published Supercon talk as they use GNU Radio to do some things that you might find unexpected.

For most people, a software defined radio is a device. An RTL-SDR dongle perhaps, or the HackRF that a popular multi-tool for working in the radio frequency realm. But as they explain, the SDR hardware can be considered merely as the analogue front end, being just the minimal analogue circuitry coupled with a digitiser. The real software-defined part comes — as you might expect — in the software

Kate and Mike introduce GNU Radio Companion — the graphical UI for GNU Radio — as their tool of choice and praise it’s use as a general purpose digital signal processing system whether or not that includes radio. Taking their own Great Scott Gadgets GreatFET One USB hackers toolkit peripheral as an input device they demonstrate this by analysing the output from a light sensor. Instantly they can analyse the mains frequency in a frequency-domain plot, and the pulse frequency of the LEDs. But their bag of tricks goes much deeper, exploring multiple “atypical use cases” that unlock a whole new world through creative digital signal processing (DSP).

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Learning Morse Code The Ludwig Koch Way

Most countries have dropped the requirement for learning Morse code to become a ham radio operator. Because of that, you might think Morse code is dead. But it isn’t. Some people like the nostalgia. Some like that you can build simple equipment to send and receive Morse code. Others like that Morse code is much more reliable than voice and some older digital modes. Regardless of the reason, many people want to learn Morse code and it is still a part of the ham radio scene. The code has a reputation of being hard to learn, but it turns out that is mostly because people haven’t been taught code in smart ways.

I don’t know if they still do, but some youth organizations used to promote some particularly bad ways to learn the code. The second worse way is to learn “dots and dashes” and many people did learn that way. The very worst way was using an image like the adjacent one to try to map the dots and dashes into letter shapes. This chart dates back to at least 1918 when a Girl Guides handbook printed it.

Even if you are a visual learner, this is a bad idea. The problem is, it is nearly impossible to hear sounds at 20 or 30 words per minute and map them to this visual representation. Another visual method is to use a binary tree where left branches are dots and right branches are dashes.

If you only need to master 5 words per minute to get a merit badge, you might get away with this. But for real use, 5 words a minute is very slow. For example, this sentence would take about 3 minutes to send at that speed. Just that one sentence.

So what are the better ways? Let’s take a look.

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Hackaday Podcast 055: The Most Cyberpunk Synthesizer, Data In Your Cells, Bubbly In Your Printer, And The Dystopian Peepshow

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams discuss the many great hacks of the past week. Just in case you missed the fact that we’re living in the cyberpunk future, you can now pop off your prosthetic hand and jack directly into a synthesizer. The robot headed for Mars has a flying drone in its belly. Now they’re putting foaming agent in filament to make it light and flexible. And did you ever wonder why those pinouts were so jumbled?

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~60 MB)

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