For reasons that most rational consumers can’t fathom, a not inconsiderable segment of the population believes the key to their continued survival during a pandemic unprecedented in modern times is to stockpile toilet paper. This leaves those of us not compelled to act based on the whims of our bowels looking at bare racks in the paper product aisle more often than not.
Which makes it the perfect time for [Ariel Yahni] to develop his remote controlled toilet paper roll. With this gadget deployed, you just might have a chance at drawing the Karens away from all the rolled gold long enough to grab yourself a pack. Even if it doesn’t distract the other competitors shoppers, you can at least enjoy the looks on their faces as it scurries by.
The project starts with, of all things, popsicle sticks. These are used to make a reinforced platform to which the two motors, radio receiver, speed controller, and battery are mounted. With some clever packing, [Ariel] is able to (tightly) fit it inside of a cardboard tube with just the bottoms of the two wheels protruding through cutouts. A careful wrapping with toilet paper is then used to give it the look of a partially used roll, including a trailing “tail” that flutters in its wake.
In the video after the break, you can see [Ariel] take his roll of motorized TP through a local mall for a test drive. We’re sorry to say that nobody appears to make a wild dive for it during the test. But that could be because the video was recorded back in December before people had resorted to fighting over toiletries. It also explains why he was able to get into a mall in the first place.
The ESP-01 launched the ESP8266 revolution back in 2014, and while today you’re far more likely to see somebody use a later version of the chip in a Wemos or NodeMCU development board, there are still tasks the original chip is well suited for. Unfortunately, they can be tricky to use while prototyping because they aren’t very breadboard friendly, but this adapter developed by [Miguel Reis] can help.
Of course, the main issue is the somewhat unusual pinout of the ESP-01. Since it was designed as a daughter board to plug into another device, the header is too tight to fit into a breadboard. The adapter that [Miguel] has come up with widens that up to the point you can put it down the centerline of your breadboard and have plenty of real estate around it.
The second issue is that the ESP-01 is a 3.3 V device, which can be annoying if everything else in the circuit is running on 5 V. To get around this, the adapter includes an SPX3819 regulator and enough capacitors that the somewhat temperamental chip gets the steady low-voltage supply it needs to be happy.
Do you sometimes feel that your custom mechanical keyboard is not quite loud enough to proclaim your superior hacking powers? Or do you need a more forceful way shout in all caps at someone who is wrong on the internet? For all this and more, [Jesse Li] has got you covered, with a set of bash scripts that allows you to type by slamming your laptop closed repeatedly, using Morse code.
The scripts are quite simple, and work receiving the lid open/close events from ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface), recording the open and close timestamp and converting the timing to dots and dashes. After slamming to the required rhythm, you keep the lid open to see the character appear.
Why would want this? Well, you can now type the letter E by closing your laptop, instead of locking it. Maybe use it to send an emergency message while you’re being held by terrorists in a B-grade action movie. Otherwise, we think this is just an entertaining little hack that’s probably the product of quarantine induced boredom.
Morse code, otherwise known as CW, is still in surprisingly widespread use by ham radio operators, because it’s good at getting messages across intercontinental distances when signal conditions are bad and CW-only ham radio gear is cheap and easy to build yourself. We’ve also covered the Koch Method of learning CW, so don’t be afraid to dabble a bit during the quarantine.
You are stuck at home quarantined and you want to do some Arduino projects. The problem is you don’t have all the cool devices you want to use. Sure, you can order them, but the stores are slow shipping things that aren’t essential these days. If you want to get a headstart while you are waiting for the postman, check out Wokwi’s Playground. For example, you can write code to drive a virtual NeoPixel 16×16 matrix. There’s even example code to get you started.
There are quite a few other choices in the playground including Charlieplexed LEDs, a keypad, and an LCD. There are also challenges. For example, in the traffic light challenge, you are given code that uses a task scheduler library to implement a traffic light. You have to add a turn signal to the code.
In addition to LEDs in various configurations, the site has some serial bus components, an LCD, a keypad, and a NeoPixel strip. There are also a few tools including an EasyEDA to KiCad converter and a way to share sourcecode similar to Pastebin.
Of course, simulations only get you so far, but the site is a fun way to play with some different I/O devices. It would be very nice if you could compose for the different components together, but you could work your code in sections, if necessary. You can do similar things with TinkerCad circuits. If you want to install software, there’s a simulator for you, too.
The design will be familiar to those who have done high-school experiments on basic batteries. An aluminium pipe forms the inner surface of the ring, which is then wrapped in a layer of newspaper. A copper outer ring is then placed outside. When soaked in a salt water solution, this forms a basic battery. The voltage output is only around 0.5 volts, so a joule thief circuit is built into the ring to step this up high enough to drive an LED. [OguzC3] reports that the ring lasts several hours at a time, and only needs a quick rinse in fresh salty water to recharge.
We ran an article on Solid this week, a project that aims to do nothing less than change the privacy and security aspects of the Internet as we use it today. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who invented the World Wide Web as a side project at work, is behind it, and it’s got a lot to recommend it. I certainly hope they succeed.
The basic idea is that instead of handing your photos, your content, and your thoughts over to social media and other sharing platforms, you’d store your own personal data in a Personal Online Data (POD) container, and grant revocable access to these companies to access your data on your behalf. It’s like it’s your own website contents, but with an API for sharing parts of it elsewhere.
This is a clever legal hack, because today you give over rights to your data so that Facebook and Co. can display them in your name. This gives them all the bargaining power, and locks you into their service. If instead, you simply gave Facebook a revocable access token, the power dynamic shifts. Today you can migrate your data and delete your Facebook account, but that’s a major hassle that few undertake.
Mike and I were discussing this on this week’s podcast, and we were thinking about the privacy aspects of PODs. In particular, whatever firm you use to socially share your stuff will still be able to snoop you out, map your behavior, and target you with ads and other content, because they see it while it’s in transit. But I failed to put two and two together.
The real power of a common API for sharing your content/data is that it will make it that much easier to switch from one sharing platform to another. This means that you could easily migrate to a system that respects your privacy. If we’re lucky, we’ll see competition in this space. At the same time, storing and hosting the data would be portable as well, hopefully promoting the best practices in the providers. Real competition in where your data lives and how it’s served may well save the Internet. (Or at least we can dream.)
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In times like these, we all need to look beyond ourselves. This project might help: OnStep is an open-source telescope controller, a device that controls a telescope to point at something interesting in the sky. Want to take a look at M31? Use an app on a PC or smartphone, select the object and the OnStep will pan and tilt your telescope until the Andromeda Galaxy pops into view.