Hackaday Links: August 9, 2020

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We regret to admit this, but we completely missed the fact that Windows 10 turned five years old back in March. Granted, things were a little weird back then — at least it seemed weird at the time; from the current perspective, things were downright normal then. Regardless, our belated congratulations to Microsoft, who, like anyone looking after a five-year-old, spends most of their time trying to keep their charge from accidentally killing itself. Microsoft has done such a good job at keeping Windows 10 alive that it has been installed on “one billion monthly active devices”. Of course, back in April of 2015 they predicted that the gigainstall mark would be reached in 2018. But what’s a couple of years between friends?

Of all the things that proved to be in short supply during the pandemic lockdowns, what surprised us most was not the toilet paper crunch. No, what really surprised us was the ongoing webcam supply pinch. Sure, it makes sense, with everyone suddenly working from home and in need of a decent camera for video conferencing. But we had no idea that the market was so dominated by one manufacturer — Logitech — that their cameras could suddenly become unobtainium. Whatever it is that’s driving the shortage, we’d take Logitech’s statement that “demand will be met in the next 4-6 weeks” with a huge grain of salt. After all, back-to-school shopping is likely to look vastly different this year than in previous years.

Speaking of education, check out the CrowPi2 STEM laptop. On the one hand, it looks like just another Raspberry Pi-based laptop, albeit one with a better level of fit and finish than most homebrew Pi-tops. With a Raspberry Pi 4b on board, it can do all the usual stuff — email, browse the web, watch videos. The secret sauce is under the removable wireless keyboard, though: a pretty comprehensive electronics learning lab. It reminds us of the Radio Shack “150-in-One” kits that so many of us cut our teeth on, but on steroids. Having a complete suite of modules and a breadboarding area built right into the laptop needed to program it is brilliant, and we look forward to seeing how the Kickstarter for this does.

Exciting news from Hackaday Superfriend Chris Gammell — he has launched a new podcast to go along with his Contextual Electronics training courses. Unsurprisingly dubbed the Contextual Electronics Podcast, he already has three episodes in the can. They’re available as both video and straight audio, and from the few minutes we’ve had to spend on them so far, Chris has done a great job in terms of production values and guests with Sophy Wong, Stephen Hawes, and Erik Larson leading off the series. We wish him luck with this new venture, and we’re looking forward to future episodes.

One of the best things about GoPro and similar sports cameras is their ability to go just about anywhere and show things we normally don’t get to see. We’re thinking of those gorgeous slo-mo selfies of surfers inside a curling wave, or those cool shots of a skier powder blasting down a mountain slope. But this is the first time we’ve seen a GoPro mounted inside a car’s tire. The video by the aptly named YouTuber [Warped Perception] shows how he removed the tire from the wheel and mounted the camera, a battery pack, and an LED light in the rim, then remounted the tire. The footage of the tire deforming as it contacts the ground is fascinating but oddly creepy. It sort of reminds us a little of the footage from cameras inside the Saturn V fuel tanks — valuable engineering information to be sure, but forbidden in some way.

15 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: August 9, 2020

  1. The CrowPi2 (weird name) is interesting but how long will the Piexoskeleton be updateable? I mean if in a year you can’t put a new RasPi in it what good is it? As for the shortage of webcams, well I like to work in the raw so my associates aren’t in the least bit bothered.

  2. These look a lot like a product made by a company called Prechin maybe 10 years ago. Their box had as many or more goodies and two interchangeable processors. One 8 bit and one ARM. But no host like the Pi or KB and monitor. ARMWorks LLC carried them for a couple years on their web site with zero sales. Maybe because the docs were mostly in Chinese. (Call them. They still have a few.)

    This thing, and priced about the same as the CrowPi2. Motors (stepper and DC), a remote control, jumper wires, TFT, and other wonders are stored underneath. https://sourceforge.net/p/hc6800em3/wiki/Home/

    But today, and with the Python interfacing lessons, maybe the World is ready. I would have loved one as a kid.

  3. If anyone is still scratching around for webcams, I will just throw in a reminder that a large number of digital cameras have a webcam mode when hooked to the computer with a USB cable. This should even function if the viewer LCD has got cracked or otherwise malfunctioned. This goes way back to even the primitive ones that would only give you an optical viewfinder and shots remaining on 7 seg display, no preview or review.

      1. Good point. There was also a java app kicking round for pre-smart feature phones, like Razr V3 etc with cameras, that would share cam over bluetooth. Getting apps on those phones can be a PITA though, since many were locked down only to load apps from cell providers store for $$$. Others need funky data cables.

  4. Regarding that CrowPi machine…$1300 for the base unit and you can’t even include a $50 Pi? Get bent. For that kind of money, STEM students can buy their own parts and make three with old laptop shells while learning even more from the ground up. The crowd sourcing supply chain is just off the rails, lately.

  5. 3 thoughts:

    Does the GoPro work okay indoors?
    A dozen years ago or so, outdoor “action” cameras had lousy low light performance.

    CrowPi? “Four and twenty blackbirds were baked in a pie”

    I guess I’ll never be a Hackaday “superfriend”, oh well…

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