Purposely choosing obsoleted technology combines all the joy of simpler times with the comfort of knowing you’re not actually stuck with outdated (and oftentimes inferior) technology. The rotary phone is a great example here, and while rarely anyone would want to go back to the lenghty, error-prone way of dialing a number on it on an everyday basis, it can definitely add a certain charm to a project. [Caroline Buttet] thought so as well, and turned her grandma’s old rotary phone into a time-traveling, globe-trotting web radio.
The main idea is fairly simple: a Raspberry Pi connects via browser to a web radio site that plays music throughout the decades from places all over the world. [Caroline]’s implementation has a few nice twists added though. First of all, the phone of course, which doesn’t only house the Raspberry Pi, but serves both as actual listening device via handset speaker, and as input device to select the decade with the rotary dial. For a headless setup, she wrote a Chromium extension that maps key events to virtual clicks on the corresponding DOM element of the web site — like the ones that change the decade — and a Python script that turns the rotary dial pulses into those key events.
However, the phone is only half the story here, and the country selection is just as fascinating — which involves an actual world map. An audio connector is attached to each selectable country and connected to an Arduino. If the matching jack is plugged into it, the Arduino informs the Raspberry Pi via serial line about the new selection, and the same Chromium extension then triggers the country change in the underlying web site. You can check all the code in the project’s GitHub repository, and watch a demo and brief explanation in the videos after the break.
Sure, listening radio through a telephone may not be the most convenient way — unless it’s the appropriate genre — but that clearly wasn’t the goal here anyway. It’s definitely an interesting concept, and we could easily see it transferred to some travel- or spy-themed escape room setting. And speaking of spying, if [Caroline]’s name sounds familiar to you, you may remember her virtual peephole from a few months back.
Continue reading “Rotary Phone Takes You Around The World And Through Time – With Music”
Intel’s CTO says the company will eventually abandon CMOS technology that has been a staple of IC fabrication for decades. The replacement? Nanowire and nanoribbon structures. In traditional IC fabrication, FETs form by doping a portion of the silicon die and then depositing a gate structure on top of an insulating layer parallel to the surface of the die. FinFET structures started appearing about a decade ago, in which the transistor channel rises above the die surface and the gate wraps around these raised “fins.” These transistors are faster and have a higher current capacity than comparable CMOS devices.
However, the pressure of producing more and more sophisticated ICs will drive the move away from even the FinFET. By creating the channel in multiple flat sheets or multiple wires the gate can surround the channel on all sides leading to even better performance. It also allows finer tuning of the transistor characteristics.
Continue reading “Intel Says Nanowire And NanoRibbon In Volume In Five Years”
Having the tools needed to do a job is a powerful thing. Having the tools needed to make more tools for doing cool things is even better, though, and that’s where [Jiří Praus] took things with this 3D-printed jig for making his blooming tulip circuit sculpture.
If you haven’t seen [Jiří]’s tulip, check out our coverage from back when he first built it. The brass wire and tube mechanism and some clever linkages let a single servo open the Neopixel-adorned petals at a touch. But what started as a one-off romantic gesture for his wife on Valentine’s Day became something more, and what was a labor of love turned into just labor very quickly. [Jiří]’s solution, explained in the brief video below, is a 3D-printed jig that holds all the wires that form the tulip petals locked into position. The wire that defines the spine of the petal goes into a groove and gets held down with removable clips. The edge wires are held by rotating clips, and the veins of the petals just lay in place in grooves. The area around each joint is hollowed out so [Jiří] can solder easily without melting the plastic jig.
The best part comes at the end, when it’s time to release the completed petal. For that, a tool with pins that looks a little like a hedgehog is inserted from below, and pins that fit into each joint’s hole pop the finished petal off. We can see how this tool would greatly increase the production of his tulips, so if that’s his goal, he’s on track.
If you’re into circuit sculpture, you’re in the right place. Check out [Mohit Bhoite]’s Supercon talk on the subject, or some more of the tools [Jiří] has come up with to improve his art.
Continue reading “3D-Printed Tools Make Circuit Sculpture A Little Easier”
Back before there were laptops and subsequently, netbooks, there were these adorable thermal typewriter/word processors that are lovingly referred to by their fans as baby wedges or wedgies. These fascinating little machines can put words on paper two different ways: you can either use a prohibitively expensive little ribbon cartridge and regular copy paper, or you can go the easy route and get yourself a 96′ roll of thermal fax paper and type until you feel like tearing off the page.
[David] was lucky enough to pick up a Canon S-70 in working condition for next to nothing, thinking it would make an awesome USB keyboard, and we agree. The PSoC 5 that now controls it may be overkill, but it’s pretty affordable, and it was right there on the desk just waiting for a purpose. And bonus — it has enough I/O for all of those loud and lovely keyswitches.
One thing that keeps these baby wedges within the typewriter camp is the Shift Lock function, which can only be disengaged by pressing Shift and had its own discrete logic circuitry on the board before he was forced to remove it.
That little screen is pure word processor and was used to show the typing buffer — all the characters you have a chance to correct before the print head commits them to paper. In a win for word processors everywhere, the screen was repurposed to show the current word count.
He was kind enough to post his firmware as well as real-time footage of the build. Watch him demo it in the wild after the break, and then stick around for part one of the build saga.
Portable word processors were still being made ten years ago, though they were mostly aimed at the primary school market as keyboarding trainers. Our own [Tom Nardi] recently did a teardown of a model called The Writer that relies on IR to send files.
Continue reading “Hacker Turns Thermal Clacker Into USB Keyboard”
As we head into summer, Super Soakers and their ilk become de rigeur ways to cool off in the heat. Not content with chasing targets himself, [Marcel] instead built a sentry water gun to do his bidding.
The build is one that leverages typical 3D printer components to get the job done. A Minitronics 2.0 board is used to run the show, packing a 40 MHz SAMD21 microcontroller for plenty of grunt. It’s Arduino compatible too, making it easy to program. It’s combined with NEMA17 and NEMA23 steppers and an external driver board to slew the gun towards a target. Target detection is via a RPLIDAR A1, which detects the range of nearby objects. This data is used to calculate the pan angle and tilt required to hit the target with a stream of water, fired by a relay-controlled solenoid.
It’s a fun build that does a good job of soaking those playing by the pool. [Marcel] aims to do further work to improve performance by reducing backlash and increasing slew speed. Sentry guns are a forever popular build around these parts. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Sentry Water Gun Relies On LIDAR”
Who would have thought that software packaging software would cause such a hubbub? But such is the case with snap. Developed by Canonical as a faster and easier way to get the latest versions of software installed on Ubuntu systems, the software has ended up starting a fiery debate in the larger Linux community. For the more casual user, snap is just a way to get the software they want as quickly as possible. But for users concerned with the ideology of free and open source software, it’s seen a dangerous step towards the types of proprietary “walled gardens” that may have drove them to Linux in the first place.
Perhaps the most vocal opponent of snap, and certainly the one that’s got the most media attention, is Linux Mint. In a June 1st post on the distribution’s official blog, Mint founder Clement Lefebvre made it very clear that the Ubuntu spin-off does not approve of the new package format and wouldn’t include it on base installs. Further, he announced that Mint 20 would actively block users from installing the snap framework through the package manager. It can still be installed manually, but this move is seen as a way to prevent it from being added to the system without the user’s explicit consent.
The short version of Clement’s complaint is that the snap packager installs from a proprietary Canonical-specific source. If you want to distribute snaps, you have to set up an account with Canonical and host it there. While the underlying software is still open source, the snap packager breaks with long tradition of having the distribution of the software also being open and free. This undoubtedly makes the install simple for naive users, and easier to maintain for Canonical maintainers, but it also takes away freedom of choice and diversity of package sources.
Continue reading “What’s The Deal With Snap Packages?”
[Ivan] seems to enjoy making 3D printed vehicles with tracks. His latest one uses 50 servo motors to draw patterns in the sand at the beach. You can see it work in the video below. Well, more accurately you can see it not work and then work as the first iteration didn’t go exactly as planned.
An Arduino Mega 2560 provides the brains and the whole unit weighs in at almost 31 pounds, including the batteries. We didn’t see Ivan’s design files, although it wouldn’t be hard to do your own take on the robot.
Continue reading “Tracked Robot Makes Sand Drawings”