RadioGlobe Takes The World Of Internet Radio For A Spin

There’s no denying that the reach and variety of internet radio is super cool. The problem is that none of the available interfaces really give the enormity of the thing the justice it deserves. We long for a more physical and satisfying interface for tuning in stations from around the globe, and [Jude] has made just the thing.

RadioGlobe lets the user tune in over 2000 stations from around the world by spinning a real globe. It works by using two absolute rotary encoders that each have a whopping 1024 positions available. One encoder is stuck into the South Pole, and it reads the lines of longitude as the user spins the globe.

The other encoder is on the left side of the globe, and reads whatever latitude is focused in the reticle. Both encoder are connected to a Raspberry Pi 4, though if you want to replicate this open-source project using the incredibly detailed instructions, he says a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ will work, too.

In the base there’s an LCD that shows the coordinates, the city, and the station ID. Other stations in the area are tune-able with the jog wheel on the base. There’s also an RGB LED that blinks red while the station is being tuned in, and turns green when it’s done. We totally dig the clean and minimalist look of this build — especially the surprise transparent bottom panel that lets you see all the guts.

There are three videos after the  break – a short demo that gives you the gist of how it works, a longer demonstration, and a nice explanation of absolute rotary encoders. Those are just the tip of the iceberg, because [Jude] kept a daily vlog of the build.

Maybe you just long for a web radio that dials in vintage appeal. This antique internet radio has a lot of features, but you wouldn’t know it from the outside.

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Polymorphic String Encryption Gives Code Hackers Bad Conniptions

When it comes to cyber security, there’s nothing worse than storing important secret data in plaintext. With even the greenest malicious actors more than capable of loading up a hex editor or decompiler, code can quickly be compromised when proper precautions aren’t taken in the earliest stages of development. To help avoid this, encryption can be used to hide sensitive data from prying eyes. While a simple xor used to be a quick and dirty way to do this, for something really sophisticated, polymorphic encryption is a much better way to go.

A helpful tool to achieve this is StringEncrypt by [PELock]. An extension for Visual Studio Code, it’s capable of encrypting strings and data files in over 10 languages. Using polymorphic encryption techniques, the algorithm used is unique every time, along with the encryption keys themselves. This makes it far more difficult for those reverse engineering a program to decrypt important strings or data.

While the free demo is limited in scope, the price for the full version is quite reasonable, and we expect many out there could find it a useful addition to their development toolkit. We’ve discussed similar techniques before, often used to make harder-to-detect malware.

[Thanks to Dawid for the tip!]

3D Printing Latex Is Now Possible

For those getting started with 3D printers, thermoplastics such as ABS and PLA are the norm. For those looking to produce parts with some give, materials like Ninjaflex are most commonly chosen, using thermoplastic polyeurethane. Until recently, it hasn’t been possible to 3D print latex rubber. However, a team at Virginia Tech have managed the feat through the combination of advanced printer hardware and some serious chemistry.

Sample cubes printed with the new process. Note the clarity of the sample at the top right.

The work was primarily a collaboration between [Phil Scott] and [Viswanath Meenakshisundaram]. After initial experiments to formulate a custom liquid latex failed, [Scott] looked to modify a commercially available product to suit the project. Liquid latexes are difficult to work with, with even slight alterations to the formula leading the solution to become unstable. Through the use of a molecular scaffold, it became possible to modify the liquid latex to become photocurable, and thus 3D printable using UV exposure techniques.

The printer side of things took plenty of work, too. After creating a high-resolution UV printer, [Meenakshisundaram] had to contend with the liquid latex resin scattering light, causing parts to be misshapen. To solve this, a camera was added to the system, which visualises the exposure process and self-corrects the exposure patterns to account for the scattering.

It’s an incredibly advanced project that has produced latex rubber parts with advanced geometries and impressive mechanical properties. We suspect this technology could be developed quickly in the coming years to produce custom rubber parts with significant strength. In the meantime, replicating flexible parts is still possible with available filaments on the market.


Smoking Meat With A Commodore 64

When [Deadline] couldn’t find a replacement control module for his Masterbuilt electric smoker, he could have just tossed the thing in the trash. Instead, he decided to come up with his own system to take over for the smoker’s original brain. Basing it around the nearly 40 year old Commodore 64 probably wouldn’t have been our first choice, but it’s hard to argue with the end result.

Connectors to control the smoker’s hardware.

At the most basic level, controlling an electric smoker like this only requires a temperature sensor, a relay to control the heating element, and something to get those two devices talking to each other. But for the best results you’ll also want some kind of a timer, and an easy way to change the target temperature on the fly. Connecting the relay and temperature sensor up to the back of the C64 was easy enough, all he had to do was write the BASIC code to glue it all together.

This hack was made considerably easier thanks to the fact that the Masterbuilt’s original controller interfaced with the smoker by way of a couple relatively well documented connectors. So instead of having to mess with any of the mains voltage electronics, he simply had to bring a wire in the connector high to fire up the smoker’s heating element. This bodes well for anyone looking to replace the controller in a similar smoker, with a C64 or otherwise.

In the past we’ve seen some very impressive custom smoker controllers that look as though they could easily be adapted for use with these commercial units. Though the true smoke aficionados might prefer building the entire thing to their exacting specifications.

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A Low-Cost Current Probe For IoT Applications

When it comes to the Internet of Things, many devices run off batteries, solar power, or other limited sources of electricity. This means that low power consumption is key to success. However, often these circuits draw relatively small currents that are difficult to measure, with plenty of transient current draw from their RF circuits. To effectively measure these low current draws, [Refik Hadzialic] built a cheap but accurate current probe.

The probe consists of a low value resistor of just 0.1 Ω, acting as a current shunt in series with the desired load. By measuring the voltage drop across this known resistor, it’s possible to calculate the current draw of the circuit.

However, the voltage drop is incredibly small for low current draws, so some amplification is needed. [Refik] does a great job of explaining his selection process, going deep into the maths involved to get the gain and part choice just right. The INA128P instrumentation amplifier from Texas Instruments was chosen, thanks to its good Common Mode Rejection Ratio (CMRR) and gain bandwidth.

The final circuit performs well, competing admirably with the popular uCurrent Gold measurement tool. While less feature-packed, [Refik]’s circuit appears to perform better in the noise stakes, likely due to the great CMRR rating of the TI part. It’s a great example of how the DIY approach can net solid results over and above simply buying something off the shelf.

Current sensing is a key skill to have in your toolbox, and can even help solve laundry disputes. Video after the break.

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Falcon 9 Beats Shuttle’s Reflight Record, But Still Has A Long Way To Go

Put simply, the goal of any reusable booster is to reduce the cost of getting a payload into space. The comparison is often made to commercial aviation: if you had to throw away the airliner after every flight, nobody could afford the tickets. The fact that the plane can be refueled and flown again and again allows operators to amortize its high upfront cost.

In theory, the same should hold true for orbital rockets. With enough flight experience, you can figure out which parts of the vehicle will need replacement or repair, and how often. Assuming the fuel is cheap enough and the cost of refurbishment doesn’t exceed that of building a new one, eventually the booster will pay for itself. You just need a steady stream of paying customers, which is hardly a challenge given how much we rely on our space infrastructure.

But there’s a catch. For the airliner analogy to really work, whatever inspections and repairs the rocket requires between missions must be done as quickly as possible. The cost savings from reuse aren’t nearly as attractive if you can only fly a few times a year. The key to truly making space accessible isn’t just building a reusable rocket, but attaining rapid reusability.

Which is precisely where SpaceX currently finds themselves. Over the years they’ve mastered landing the Falcon 9’s first stage, and they’ve even proven that the recovered boosters can be safely reused for additional flights. But the refurbishment process is still fairly lengthy. While their latest launch officially broke the record for fastest reflight of a space vehicle that had previously been set by Space Shuttle Atlantis, there’s still a lot of work to be done if SpaceX is ever going to fly their rockets like airplanes.

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Ideas To Prototypes Hack Chat With Nick Bild

Join us on Wednesday, July 29 at noon Pacific for the Ideas to Prototypes Hack Chat with Nick Bild!

For most of us, ideas are easy to come by. Taking a shower can generate half of dozen of them, the bulk of which will be gone before your hair is dry. But a few ideas will stick, and eventually make it onto paper or its electronic equivalent, to be played with and tweaked until it coalesces into a plan. And a plan, if we’re lucky, is what’s needed to put that original idea into action, to bring it to fruition and see just what it can do.

No matter what you’re building, the ability to turn ideas into prototypes is what moves projects forward, and it’s what most of us live for. Seeing something on the bench or the shop floor that was once just a couple of back-of-the-napkin sketches, and before that only an abstract concept in your head, is immensely satisfying.

The path from idea to prototype, however, is not always a smooth one, as Nick Bild can attest. We’ve been covering Nick’s work for a while now, starting with his “nearly practical” breadboard 6502 computer, the Vectron, up to his recent forays into machine learning with ShAIdes, his home-automation controlling AI sunglasses. On the way we’ve seen his machine-learning pitch predictor, dazzle-proof glasses, and even a wardrobe-malfunction preventer.

All of Nick’s stuff is cool, to be sure, but there’s a method to his productivity, and we’ll talk about that and more in this Hack Chat. Join us as we dive into Nick’s projects and find out what he does to turn his ideas into prototypes.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, July 29 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have 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 You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about. Continue reading “Ideas To Prototypes Hack Chat With Nick Bild”