Heavyweight Cyberdeck Is In A Class Of Its Own

Inspired by other builds he’d seen online, [BlastoSupreme] decided to build his very own cyberdeck. There was only one problem: he’d never designed and assembled anything like this before. Wanting to avoid any problems down the line, he reasoned that the safest approach would be to make it so big that he wouldn’t struggle to fit everything inside. Some may say the resulting NX-Yamato, named for the most massive battleship ever constructed, ended up being too large. But that’s only because they are afraid.

A finish like the Yamato’s doesn’t come easy.

In his write-up on The Cyberdeck Cafe, a site dedicated to the community sprouting up around these futuristic personal computers, [BlastoSupreme] describes building this cyberdeck as something of a transformative experience. Looking at the incredible effort that went into this project, we can believe it. From the intricate CAD work to the absolutely phenomenal finish on the Yamato’s 3D printed frame, there’s not a cut corner in sight.

That’s right, nearly every component of this cyberdeck was conjured into existence by squirting out hot plastic. About two kilograms of it, to be precise. It was printed in vertical chunks which were then assembled with adhesive and screws. This modular construction technique allowed [BlastoSupreme] to build what he believes to be the largest cyberdeck ever made. Sounds a lot like a challenge to us.

Admittedly, the massive internal volume of the Yamato is largely unused; all that’s inside it right now is a Raspberry Pi 4 and a X705 power management board that allows the deck to run off of 18650 cells. Of course, all that space could easily be put to use with additional gear or even a larger and more powerful Single Board Computer (SBC) such as the Atomic Pi. There’s even a dedicated compartment in the side for snacks, so no worries there. As [BlastoSupreme] puts it, all that empty space inside is a feature, not a bug.

Plenty of room inside for whatever hardware you want to take with you into the Sprawl.

In the nearly two years that have passed since we first came across one of these Neuromancer inspired builds, we’ve been absolutely blown away by the increasing scale and complexity of these extremely personal computers. Since it seems there’s only a fairly loose idea of what a “proper” cyberdeck should look like in the canonical sense, these builds have been free to fill in the blanks with some pretty outlandish designs. Some of which have earned William Gibson’s personal seal of approval.

Treating Vertigo But Not The Catchy Pop Song

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), or simply vertigo, is a condition that creates a sensation of dizziness and spinning, leading to nausea and loss of balance. These symptoms occur due to the dislodging of calcium carbonate crystals in the ear (imagine always feeling dizzy and having salt in your ears, not great). This disease is especially prominent in persons over 65, which is even more problematic considering such populations are especially susceptible to falling and dying from complications from the fall.

To treat vertigo, specialized physicians called vestibular specialists to guide patients through a series of head motions collectively referred to as the Epley maneuver. However, many patients must travel for hours to see a specialist since non-BPPV specialists often feel uncomfortable performing the maneuver.

As a result, Purdue Medical Innovation, Networking, and Design (MIND) developed, Verti-Fix, a solution that will guide non-BPPV specialists through the Epley maneuver using accelerometers and gyroscopes and could also be used by patients at-home as well. By doing so, Verti-Fix is able to provide feedback on how fast or how slowly patients are progressing through the maneuver. Purdue MIND coupled their device with indicator lights to alert physicians if they have performed a specific motion incorrectly and provide detailed feedback on steps performed and steps remaining on an LCD screen. The device is even powered by one of our personal favorite microcontrollers, the ATmega328P. Purdue MIND have detailed their design with schematics and code on Hackster.io giving the community an opportunity to remix, reuse, and reshare.

Purdue MIND are already upgrading their prototype to include eye-tracking and wireless capabilities. Additionally, they recently competed in the Rice 360o Design Competition and placed among the Top 20 teams! We’ll be watching to see how they advance their prototype further.

In the meantime, check out out some other at-home monitoring projects on Hackaday.

Tubes Have Character With A Tek 570

When tubes were king, you could go to a drugstore with a box full of them from your TV. There would be a tester that would tell you what tubes were bad and, of course, you could buy the replacements for them. That kind of tube tester was pretty simple. If you wanted to really know how to design with a tube or test its parameters, you were much better off with a curve tracer like the Tektronix 570 that [tomtektest] shows off in two recent videos that you can see below.

That piece of kit fell into [Tom’s] lap thanks to an observant delivery driver. The 1955 instrument is very similar to a semiconductor curve tracer but, of course, has the ability to provide much higher voltage for the tubes. The basic idea is that the X axis sweeps from a few volts up to 100s of volts. The vertical scale will show the plate, screen, or grid current. From those curves you can learn a lot about the characteristics of the tube.

Continue reading “Tubes Have Character With A Tek 570”

Dissecting A Mechanical Voltage Regulator

When the fuel gauge of his 1975 Triumph Spitfire started going off the scale, the collected knowledge of the Internet indicated that [smellsofbikes] needed to replace a faulty voltage regulator behind the dash. For most people, that would be the end of the story. But he, like everyone who’s reading this right now, really wanted to see what the inside of a 45 year old voltage regulator looked like.

After prying open the metal case, he discovered that not only is the regulator mechanical in nature, but there’s even a tiny screw that allows you to adjust the output voltage. Luckily for us, not only is [smellsofbikes] curious enough to open it up, but he’s also got the tools and knowledge to explain how it works in the video after the break.

Put simply, the heart of the regulator is a bimetallic strip with a coil of wire wrapped around it. When power from the battery is passed through the coil it acts as a heater, which makes the strip move up and break the connection to the adjustable contact. With the connection broken and the heating coil off the strip rapidly cools, and in doing so returns to its original position and reconnects the heater; thus starting the process over again.

These rapid voltage pulses average out to around 10 VDC, though [smellsofbikes] notes that you can’t actually measure the output voltage of the regulator with a meter because it moves around too much to get any sort of accurate reading. He also mentions a unique quirk of this technology: due to the force of gravity acting on the bimetallic strip, the output of the regulator will actually change depending on its mounting orientation.

On the oscilloscope, [smellsofbikes] is able to show us what the output actually looks like. As you might expect, it looks like a mess to 21st century eyes. But these were simpler times, and it should go without saying there aren’t any sensitive electronics in a sports car from 1975. Interestingly, he says he’s now replaced the mechanical assembly with a modern regulator chip. Here’s hoping we’re around long enough to see if he gets another 50 years out of it.

Continue reading “Dissecting A Mechanical Voltage Regulator”

A Basketball Hoop That Never Lets You Brick

With none of the major leagues in any team sport currently meeting, sports fans have a huge void that has to be filled with something. For [Shane Wighton], the machine shop is the place to go when sports let you down, and the result is this basketball backboard that lets you sink every shot every time.

When we first saw this, we thought for sure it would be some overly complicated motorized affair that would move the hoop to catch the basketball, sort of like the dart-catching dartboard we featured some time ago. And while that would be awesome and somebody should totally build that so we can write it up, [Shane]’s hoop dream is a lot simpler mechanically, even if the math needed to determine the proper shape for the backboard was complex. He wrote software to simulate throws from hundreds of positions to determine the shape for the board, which ends up looking like a shallow elliptic paraboloid. The software created a mesh that was translated into CNC tool paths in Fusion 360, and the backboard was carved from blocks of softwood.

The first tests were disappointing; instead of landing every shot, the board seemed to be actively denying them. [Shane] had to puzzle over that for a while before realizing that he didn’t account for the radius of the ball, which means the centroid never actually contacts the backboard. Rather than recalculate and create a new backboard, he just shifted the hoop out from the backboard by a ball radius. With that expedient in place, the setup performed exactly as calculated.

[Shane] may have taken the long road to hoops glory, but we appreciate the effort and the math lesson. And the fact that this ends up being the same shape as some antennas is a plus.

Continue reading “A Basketball Hoop That Never Lets You Brick”

COBOL Isn’t The Issue: A Misinterpreted Crisis

Is history doomed to repeat itself? Or rather, is there really any doubt that it isn’t, considering recent events that made the news? I am of course talking about New Jersey’s call for COBOL programmers to fix their ancient unemployment system, collapsing under the application spikes caused by the COVID-19 lockdown. Soon after, other states joined in, and it becomes painfully apparent that we have learned absolutely nothing from Y2K: we still rely on the same old antiques running our infrastructure, and we still think people want to voluntarily write COBOL.

Or maybe they do? Following the calls for aid, things went strangely intense. IBM announced to offer free COBOL trainings and launched a forum where programmers can plug their skills and availability. The Open Mainframe Project’s COBOL programming course suddenly tops the list of trending GitHub projects, and Google Trends shows a massive peak for COBOL as well. COBOL is seemingly on its way to be one of the hottest languages of 2020, and it feels like it’s only a matter of time until we see some MicroCOBOL running on a Teensy.

However, the unemployment systems in question are unfortunately only a tiny selection of systems relying on decades old software, written in a language that went out of fashion a long time ago, which makes it difficult to find programmers in today’s times. Why is that?

Continue reading “COBOL Isn’t The Issue: A Misinterpreted Crisis”

Hacking Apollo Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, April 22 at noon Pacific for the Hacking Apollo Hack Chat with “CuriousMarc” VerdiellKen ShirriffMike Stewart, and Carl Claunch!

When President Kennedy laid down the gauntlet to a generation of scientists and engineers to land a man on the Moon before the close of the 1960s, he likely had little idea what he was putting in motion. The mission was dauntingly complex, the science was untested, and the engineering was largely untried. Almost everything had to be built from scratch, and entire industries were born just from the technologies that had to be invented to make the dream come true.

Chief among these new fields was computer science, which was barely in its infancy when the 1960s started. By the end of the decade and the close of the Space Race, computers had gone from room-filling, power-guzzling machines to something compact and capable enough to fly men to the Moon and back. The computers that followed all built on the innovations that came about as a result of Apollo, and investigating the computers of the era and finding out what made them tick is an important part of our technological culture.

That’s where this retrocomputing dream team came into play. Together, they’ve poked and prodded at every bit of hardware from the Space Race era they could find, including a genuine Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) that was rescued from the trash. What’s more, they actually managed to restore it to working condition with a series of epic hacks and sheer force of will.

Marc, Ken, Mike, and Carl will stop by the Hack Chat to talk about everything that went into getting the AGC working again, along with anything else that pops up. Come ready to have your Apollo-era hardware itches scratched by the people who’ve been inside a lot of it, and who have seen first-hand what it took to make it to the Moon and back.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, April 22 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Continue reading “Hacking Apollo Hack Chat”