USB Webcams Out Of Stock? Make One With A Raspberry Pi And HQ Camera Module

More people working from home has had an impact on the cost and availability of USB webcams, so [Jeff Geerling] got around the issue with a DIY solution that rang in around $100. It consists of a Raspberry Pi and HQ camera module acting as a USB webcam, and there is no messy streaming of ffmpeg over the network masquerading as a camera device or anything. It works just as a USB camera should.

[Jeff] chose a Raspberry Pi Zero and HQ camera module for his unit, making a tidy package that might not be quite as small as commercial webcams, but is certainly perfectly respectable as a USB camera. That being said, there are a few drawbacks, namely the lack of a microphone or autofocus, latency issues at higher resolutions, and the need to shut down the Pi cleanly.

Check out the GitHub repository for everything needed to set up your own, including a complete hardware list and some options for mounting. [Jeff] also tested whether the camera would work with the new keyboard-embedded Raspberry Pi 400, and it absolutely does. Embedded below is a video walkthrough and demonstration of the whole project, so check it out.

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Recovering Metal From Waste

Refining precious metals is not as simple as polishing rocks that have been dug out of the ground. Often, complex chemical processes are needed to process the materials properly or in high quantities, but these processes leave behind considerable waste. Often, there are valuable metals left over in these wastes, and [NerdRage] has gathered his chemistry equipment to demonstrate how it’s possible to recover these metals.

The process involved looks to recover copper and nitric acid from copper nitrate, a common waste byproduct of processing metal. While a process called thermal decomposition exists to accomplish this, it’s not particularly efficient, so this alternative looks to improve the yields you could otherwise expect. The first step is to react the copper nitrate with sulfuric acid, which results in nitric acid and copper sulfate. From there, the copper sulfate is placed in an electrolysis cell using a platinum cathode and copper anodes to pass current through it. After the process is complete, all of the copper will have deposited itself on the copper electrodes.

The other interesting thing about this process, besides the amount of copper that is recoverable, is that the sulfuric acid and the nitric acid are recoverable, and able to be used again in other processes. The process is much more efficient than thermal decomposition and also doesn’t involve any toxic gasses either. Of course, if collecting valuable metals from waste is up your alley, you can also take a look at recovering some gold as well.

Thanks to [Keith] for the tip!

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Gathering Eclipse Data Via Ham Radio

A solar eclipse is coming up in just a few weeks, and although with its path of totality near the southern tip of South America means that not many people will be able to see it first-hand, there is an opportunity to get involved with it even at an extreme distance. PhD candidate [Kristina] and the organization HamSCI are trying to learn a little bit more about the effects of an eclipse on radio communications, and all that is required to help is a receiver capable of listening in the 10 MHz range during the time of the eclipse.

It’s well-known that certain radio waves can propagate further depending on the time of day due to changes in many factors such as the state of the ionosphere and the amount of solar activity. What is not known is specifically how the paths can vary over the course of the day. During the eclipse the sun’s interference is minimized, and its impact can be more directly measured in a more controlled experiment. By tuning into particular time stations and recording data during the eclipse, it’s possible to see how exactly the eclipse impacts propagation of these signals. [Kristina] hopes to take all of the data gathered during the event to observe the doppler effect that is expected to occur.

The project requires a large amount of volunteers to listen in to the time stations during the eclipse (even if it is not visible to them) and there are only a few more days before this eclipse happens. If you have the required hardware, which is essentially just a receiver capable of receiving upper-sideband signals in 10 MHz range, it may be worthwhile to give this a shot. If not, there may be some time to cobble together an SDR that can listen in (even an RTL-SDR set up for 10 MHz will work) provided you can use it to record the required samples. It’s definitely a time that ham radio could embrace the hacker community.

Building A Dishwasher From Scratch

[Billy] was no fan of doing the dishes, but also found commercial solutions lacking. The options on the market simply didn’t fit his cookware and flatware. Instead of compromising, he set out to build a dishwasher of his own design. 

The build consists of a whole heap of hardware all lumped in a sizeable plastic tub. A washing machine solenoid lets water into the system, and it’s heated by an element in the base of the tub. It’s then pumped through a garden sprinkler head to give the dishes a good all-over spraying. At the end of a wash cycle, the drain pump then dumps the water to let everything dry off. An ESP8266 and a bank of relays are in place to run the show, with the user selecting wash programs via buttons and a small screen.

It may have taken a couple of years to come together, but [Billy’s] dishwasher seems to get the job done. Files are on Github for those interested, however we’d caution against attempting such a build unless you’re familiar working with plumbing and mains electricity. The other benefit of building your own dishwasher is that you’re less likely to have to patch it against widespread exploits – the security is instead up to you. Video after the break.

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A Crust-Cutting, Carrot-Chopping Robot

[3DprintedLife] sure does hate bread crust. Not the upper portion of homemade bread, mind you — just that nasty stuff around the edges of store-bought loaves. Several dozen hours of CAD later, [3DprintedLife] had themselves a crust-cutting robot that also chops vegetables.

This De-Cruster 9000 is essentially a 2-axis robotic guillotine over a turntable. It uses a Raspberry Pi 4 and OpenCV to seek and destroy bread crusts with a dull dollar store knife. Aside from the compact design, our favorite part has to be the firmware limit switches baked into the custom control board. The stepper drivers have this fancy feature called StallGuard™ that constantly reads the back EMF to determine the load the motor is under. If you have it flag you right before the motor hits the end of the rail and stalls, bam, you have a firmware limit switch. Watch it remove crusts and chop a lot of carrots with faces after the break.

This is far from the dangerous-looking robot we’ve seen lately. Remember this hair-cutting contraption?

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Amazon Sidewalk: Should You Be Co-Opted Into A Private Neighbourhood LoRa Network?

WiFi just isn’t very good at going through buildings. It’s fine for the main living areas of an average home, but once we venture towards the periphery of our domains it starts to become less reliable.  For connected devices outside the core of a home, this presents a problem, and it’s one Amazon hope to solve with their Sidewalk product.

It’s a low-bandwidth networking system that uses capability already built into some Echo and Ring devices, plus a portion of the owner’s broadband connection to the Internet.  The idea is to provide basic connectivity over longer distances to compatible devices even when the WiFi network is not available, but of most interest and concern is that it will also expose itself to devices owned by other people. If your Internet connection goes down, then your Ring devices will still provide a basic version of their functionality via a local low-bandwidth wide-area wireless network provided by the Amazon devices owned by your neighbours. Continue reading “Amazon Sidewalk: Should You Be Co-Opted Into A Private Neighbourhood LoRa Network?”

Precision Optics Hack Chat With Jeroen Vleggaar Of Huygens Optics

Join us on Wednesday, December 2nd at noon Pacific for the Precision Optics Hack Chat with Jeroen Vleggaar!

We sometimes take for granted one of the foundational elements of our technological world: optics. There are high-quality lenses, mirrors, filters, and other precision optical components in just about everything these days, from the smartphones in our pockets to the cameras that loom over us from every streetlight and doorway. And even in those few devices that don’t incorporate any optical components directly, you can bet that the ability to refract, reflect, collimate, or otherwise manipulate light was key to creating the electronics inside it.

The ability to control light with precision is by no means a new development in our technological history, though. People have been creating high-quality optics for centuries, and the methods used to make optics these days would look very familiar to them. Precision optical surfaces can be constructed by almost anyone with simple hand tools and a good amount of time and patience, and those components can then be used to construct instruments that can explore the universe wither on the micro or macro scale.

Jeroen Vleggaar, know better as Huygens Optics on YouTube, will drop by the Hack Chat to talk about the world of precision optics. If you haven’t seen his videos, you’re missing out!

When not conducting optical experiments such as variable surface mirrors and precision spirit levels, or explaining the Double Slit Experiment, Jeroen consults on optical processes and designs. In this Hack Chat, we’ll talk about how precision optical surfaces are manufactured, what you can do to get started grinding your own lenses and mirrors, and learn a little about how these components are measured and used.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, December 2 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones baffle you as much as us, 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.

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