Wooden Monowheel Build Is Simplicity Itself

Monowheels are nothing new, first being patented in the middle of the 19th century, but never really went mainstream due to, well, quite a lot of obvious issues. We’ve got problems with forward visibility, stability, steering, especially at speed, and the hilariously-named ‘gerbiling’ where the rider can spin around inside the wheel akin to a gerbil in a wheel. Fun times! But obviously that didn’t stop [The Q] from adding to the monowheel corpus by building one out of wood.

Sometimes people take on these projects simply for a laugh, like this bright orange one we covered a while back. Sometimes they’re powered by a motor, be it electric or internal combustion. Some are hand-cranked, some are pedal-powered, its all been tried.

[The Q] is no stranger to interesting wooden builds, and this video from a year ago shows him building a very simple direct-pedal-drive monowheel. The vast majority of the structure is wood, glued and screwed the old-fashioned way, with a bit of metalwork where necessary. We particularly like the simple counterweight solution which doubles up as a parking brake. It may look a little ungainly, but we can’t think of a simpler solution that would make much sense.

The build video after the break is six and half minutes of well executed videography for your viewing pleasure.

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ESP8266 weather widget with touchscreen display

Nothing Should Cloud The Build Of This Wieldy Weather Widget

Weather is one of those things that seems to be endlessly interesting to hackers. We may decry the notion that weather can be accurately predicted two days out, much less seven, but if there’s an extended forecast available, by gosh we’re gonna take a gander at it.

So why pick up your phone or open a browser tab every time you want to check the temperature? If you’re so into it, you should build a desktop weather widget. [opengreenenergy] has written a great guide to a tidy build of this classic and oh-so-useful project that covers everything from the soldering to obtaining an API key. Inside is an ESP8266 and a 2.8″ touch screen display that shows localized conditions via Open Weather Map. The main screen shows the time, date, current weather, 7-day forecast, and the moon phase for each day, and subsequent screens go into further detail. It’s informative without being busy.

We love the streamlined look of the snap-fit enclosure. This may be a fairly simple project, but the build as designed is challenging due to the space constraints inside. Check out the video after the break, which features the venerable Stickvise.

What? You’ve never heard of the Stickvise? You must be new around here. Allow me to introduce you two.

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Automatic Nut Sorter For A Tidy Workspace

We all have that one drawer or box full of random hardware. You don’t want to get rid of anything because as soon as you do, that’s the one thing you’ll need. But, honestly, you’ll be lucky to find what you need in there, anyway. Enter  [Mr. Innovative’s] nut sorting machine. As you can see in the video below, it will make order out of the chaos, at least for nuts.

You might think the device would need optical recognition software or some other high-tech mechanism. But, in fact, it is nothing more than a motor with a speed controller. The sorting is done by a plastic piece built like stairs. When a nut is too tall to fit under the next step, it slides out into the output hopper. You could probably turn the whole thing with a crank and no electricity at all if you wanted to.

Drilling out the shaft required a bit of machine tool usage, so this might not be a great weekend project without a lathe. Like many of the commenters on the video mentioned, we probably wouldn’t have used a rod holder as a rotating bearing, either, but for as little as something like this would probably operate, it is likely to last a fair amount of time. It would be easy to replace it or even affix a shaft to the motor with a coupler, sidestepping several issues.

Apparently, the device isn’t perfect. You do get some missorts. We imagine that’s from a larger nut pushing a smaller nut on the way to the hopper. The Thingiverse files seem to be missing, but this is something you’d probably adapt to your own design, anyway.

It isn’t as automated, but we’ve seen a gadget that can help sort drill bits, too. Sometimes you want to sort little parts by color, too.

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School Surplus Laptop BIOS Hacked To Remove Hardware Restrictions

Why did [Hales] end up hacking the BIOS on a 10 year old laptop left over from an Australian education program? When your BIOS starts telling you you’re not allowed to use a particular type of hardware, you don’t have much of a choice.

Originally [Hales] planned on purchasing a used Lenovo X260 to replace his dying laptop, but his plans were wrecked. A pandemic-induced surge in demand that even the used laptop market caused prices to bloat. The need for a small and affordable laptop with a built in Ethernet port led to the purchase of a Lenovo Thinkpad x131e. Although the laptop was older than he liked, [Hales] was determined to make it work. Little did he know the right-to-repair journey he was about to embark on.

Problems first arose when the Broadcom WiFi adapter stopped working reliably. He replaced it, but the coaxial antenna cable was found to be damaged. Even after replacing the damaged cabling, the WiFi adapter was still operating very poorly. Recalling past problems with fickle Broadcom WiFi adapters, it was decided that an Intel mPCIe WiFi adapter would take its place. When power was re-applied, [Hales] was shocked to find the following message:

Unauthorized network card is plugged in – Power off and remove the miniPCI network card

And this is where things got interesting. With off the shelf SOIC8 clips and a CH340 programmer, [Hales] dumped the BIOS from the laptop’s flash chip to another computer and started hacking away. After countless hours of researching, prodding, hacking, and reverse engineering, the laptop was useful once again with the new Intel WiFi adapter. His site documents in great detail how he was able to reverse engineer the BIOS over the course of several days.

But that’s not all! [Hales] was also able to modify the hardware so that his slightly more modern mPCIe WiFi adapter would come back on after the computer had been put in Hibernation. It’s an elegant hack, and be sure to check [Hales’] site to get the full details. And at the end, there’s a nice Easter egg for anybody who’s ever wanted to make their laptop boot up with their own logo.

We applaud [Hales] for his fine efforts to keep working equipment out of the landfill. We’ve covered many hacks that had similar goals in the past. Do you have a hack you’d like to share? Submit it via the Tips Line.

Redefine Robots Is The Newest Hackaday Prize Challenge

Roboticists and automation enthusiasts, start your engines. This 2021 Hackaday Prize challenge is made just for you! It’s the Redefine Robots challenge and it calls for a softer, more utopian side of what tomorrow’s automated future can be.

The promise of robots has always been one of making our lives better. But so far we still don’t have a robot assistant sitting next to us ready to lend a hand. That’s where you come in! Whether it’s a physical, nuts-and-bots robot or a 1’s and 0’s software bot, create something that people can see and interact with in their day-to-day lives in ways that make sense and make us feel good about where technology is going.

We make fun of the robot that’s been brought into the world to pass the butter, but honestly if that’s something someone needs help with, isn’t a robot a pretty good solution? That’s what [Michael Roybal] thought way back during the 2016 Hackaday Prize when he designed Zizzy the robot to zip around a tabletop, assisting people with limited mobility.

In the same year, [Mike Rigsby] was working on a little bot whose purpose was to wander around interacting with people. A robot companion (dare we say pet?) is one way to keep up interactivity for people spending long periods of time alone. Along the same lines is the EMOJO chatbot already entered in this year’s contest that seeks to deliver a digital companion onscreen.

Assistive robots aren’t the only ones to shine here. Consider some labor savers, like pick-and-place robots that help you build electronics. Does that reinvent robots? Maybe, maybe not, but getting a 3D printer to do your solder for you sure does. Think of how revolutionary robot vacuums were for people who own both hardwood floors and cats. Those bots are around humans all the time and seem normal now. What’s next automation to get this introduction into everyday life?

Ten finalists from this round will win $500 and be shuttled onto the final round judging in October for a chance at the $25,000 Hackaday Prize and four other top prizes. Start your project page on Hackaday.io and use the drop-down in the left sidebar to enter it into the 2021 Hackaday Prize.

Drone Hits Plane — And This Time It’s A Real (Police) One!

Over the years we’ve brought you many stories that follow the world of aviation as it struggles with the arrival of multirotors. We’ve seen phantom drone encounters cause panics and even shut airports, but it’s been vanishingly rare for such a story to have a basis in evidence. But here we are at last with a drone-aircraft collision story that involves a real drone. This time there’s a twist though, instead of one piloted by a multirotor enthusiast that would prompt a full-on media panic, it’s a police drone that collided with a Cesna landing at Toronto’s Buttonville airport. The York Regional Police craft was part of an operation unrelated to the airport, and its collision with the aircraft on August 10th was enough to make a significant dent in its engine cowling. The police are reported to be awaiting the result of an official investigation in the incident.

This is newsworthy in itself because despite several years and significant resources being devoted to the problem of drones hitting planes, demonstrable cases remain vanishingly rare. The machine in this case being a police one will we expect result in many fewer column inches for the event than had it been flown at the hands of a private multirotor pilot, serving only to heighten the contrast with coverage of previous events such as the Gatwick closure lacking any drone evidence.

It’s picking an easy target to lay into the Your Regional Police over this incident, but it is worth making the point that their reaction would have been disproportionately larger had the drone not been theirs. The CTV news report mentions that air traffic regulators were unaware of the drone’s presence:

NAV Canada, the country’s air navigation service provider, had not been notified about the YRP drone, Transport Canada said.

Given the evident danger to aviation caused by their actions it’s not unreasonable to demand that the officers concerned face the same penalties as would any other multirotor pilot who caused such an incident. We aren’t holding our breath though.

Header image: Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine, CC0.

Sad clown holding melted ice cream cone

Freezing Out Ice Cream Machine Competition

We always knew that McDonald’s soft serve (you can’t really call it ice cream) machines are known to be finicky. There’s even a website that tracks where the machines are broken and, apparently, it is usually about 10% or more of them at any given time. But when we saw a news article about a judge issuing a restraining order, we knew there must be more to the story. Turns out, these $18,000 soft serve machines are in the heart of something we are very interested in: when do you own your own technology?

Cold Tech

There are apparently 13,000 or so of these machines and they are supposedly high-tech marvels, able to produce soft serve and milkshakes at the same time. However, they are also high maintenance. Cleaning the machine every two weeks (try not to think about that) involves a complete teardown. Worse, if anything breaks, you need a factory-authorized service person.

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