A computer green screen image of an IRC message of the day

IRC Server For MS-DOS

The recent flurry of projects based around Internet Relay Chat (IRC) should be a fair indication that the beloved protocol is not going anywhere. Now, thanks to [Mike Chambers], you can add to the IRC ecosystem by hosting your very own MS-DOS based IRC server.

This port of ngIRCd (Next Generation IRC Daemon) has already been spun up on 8088-based PCs running at just 4.77MHz, but you’ll still need at least 640KB of RAM. If your vintage IRC server takes off, you might want to think about dropping in an 10MHz V20 for a bit of a performance boost. Even so, it’s impressive that this server can get up on the 40-year-old IBM 5150, and should absolutely scream on an AT-class system.

The limitations of the 16-bit platform means that SSL and ZLIB are unsupported, and Mike has capped total connections at 50 in his port (however, this limitation can be adjusted by rebuilding from source, should you want to find out how far 640KB of RAM can take you). You’ll also need a few other things to get your server up and running, such as a packet driver for your network card and an mTCP configuration file.

Setting up your own IRC server is arguably a right rite of passage for most hackers and tinkerers, but getting this up and running on a decades-old beige box would make for a fun weekend project. [Mike] has all the juicy details on GitHub, and you can check out a test server running the latest build over at irc.xtulator.com.

Also, don’t forget to visit the #hackaday IRC channel over on irc.libera.chat.

[Thanks Sudos for the hot tip]

Turning Heat Into Electricity

You don’t really create energy, you convert it from one form to another. For example, many ways that we generate electricity use heat from burning or nuclear decay to generate steam which turns a generator. Thermocouples generate electricity directly from heat, but generally not very much. Still, some nuclear batteries directly convert heat to electricity, they just aren’t very efficient. Now researchers have developed a way of preparing a material that is better at doing the conversion: tin selenide.

Tin selenide is known to have good performance converting heat into electricity when in its crystal form. However, practical applications are more likely to use polycrystalline forms, which are known to have reduced conversion performance.

The material works well because it is not very thermally conductive and it has a favorable band structure that allows multiple bands to participate in charge transport. However, in polycrystal configurations, the results are not as good due to higher thermal conductivity. Yet crystalline tin selenide is difficult to manufacture and not very robust in real-world use.

The team worked out that the polycrystal material’s thermal properties were due to tin oxide films on the surface. Using a particular method of construction, you can remove the tin oxide and improve performance even better than the crystal version of tin selenide.

Creating this material might be beyond your garage lab, though. You need a fused silica oven that can reach a pretty tight vacuum. Although you might be able to swing it. Otherwise, you might stick with more conventional methods.

100% display from filter screen and the responsible mod chip

Clearing The Air About Proprietary Consumables With A Xiaomi Filter DRM Resetter

The “razor and blades model” probably set a lot of young hackers on their current trajectory. If we buy a widget, we want to pick our widget refills instead of going back to the manufacturer for their name-brand option. [Flamingo-Tech] was having none of it when they needed a new filter for their Xiaomi air purifier so they set out to fool it into thinking there was a genuine replacement fresh from the box. Unlike a razor handle, the air purifier can refuse to work if it is not happy, so the best option was to make a “mod-chip.”

The manufacturer’s filters have a Near-Field Communication (NFC) chip and antenna which talk to the base station. The controller receives the filter data via I2C, but the mod-chip replaces that transmitter and reassures the controller that everything is peachy in filter town. On top of the obvious hack here, [Flamingo-Tech] shows us how to extend filter life with inexpensive wraps, so that’s a twofer. You can create your own mod-chip from the open-source files or grab one from [Flamingo-Tech’s] Tindie store.

We usually hear about mod-chips in relation to games, but we are happy to extend that honor to 3D printers. Have you ever fooled a “razor?”

Continue reading “Clearing The Air About Proprietary Consumables With A Xiaomi Filter DRM Resetter”

Rows of nixie tubes in clear acrylic

Binary Clock Lets The Nixies Glow

We’re not here to talk about another clock. Okay, we are, but the focus isn’t about whether or not it can tell time, it’s about taking a simple idea to an elegant conclusion. In all those ways, [Marcin Saj] produced a beautiful¬†project. Most of the nixie clocks we see are base-ten, but this uses base-two for lots of warm glow from more than a dozen replaceable units.

There are three rows for hours, minutes, and seconds. The top and bottom rows are labeled with an “H” and “S” respectively displayed on IN-15B tubes, while the middle row shows an “M” from an IN-15A tube. The pluses and minuses light up on IN-12 models so you’ll need eighteen of them for the full light show, but you could skimp and use sixteen in twelve-hour mode since you don’t need to count to twenty-four. We won’t explain how to read time in binary, since you know, you’re here and all. The laser-cut acrylic is gorgeous with clear plastic next to those shiny nixies, but you have to recreate the files or buy the cut parts as we couldn’t find vector files amongst the code and schematics.

Silly rabbit, nixies aren’t just for clocks. You can roll your own, but they’re not child’s play.

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Never Lose A Piece With 3D Printed Sliding Puzzles

Have you ever been about to finish a puzzle, when suddenly you realize there are more holes left than you have pieces? With [Nikolaos’s] 3D printed sliding puzzles, this will be a problem of the past!

An image showing the sliding dovetails of the puzzle
The dovetails, integrated into each piece, keep the puzzle together but still allows pieces to move.

The secret of the puzzle is in the tongue and groove system that captures the pieces while allowing them to slide past each other and along the puzzle’s bezel. The tongues are along the top and right sides of the pieces shown here, with the grooves along the left and bottom. There is only one empty spot on the board, so the player must be methodical in how they move pieces to their final destinations. See this in action in the video after the break.

[Nikolaos] designed the puzzle in Fusion 360, and used this as an opportunity to practice with parameters. He designed the model in such a way that any size puzzle could be generated by changing just 2 variables. Once the puzzle is the proper size, the image is added by importing and extruding an SVG.

Another cool aspect of these puzzles is that they are print-in-place, meaning that when the part is removed from the 3D printer, it is ready to use and fully assembled. No need to remove support material or bolt and glue together multiple components. Print-in-place is useful for more than just puzzles, you could also use this technique to 3D print wire connectors!

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Who Owns The Machine Anyway?

The story of the McDonalds’ frozen treat machine involves technology, trade secrets, inside business dealings, franchiser/franchisee friction, and an alleged NDA violation. In short: lots of money and lawyers. But it also involves something that matters to all of us hackers — what it means to own a machine.

Sad clown holding melted ice cream coneThe brief background is that McDonald’s requires its franchisees to buy a particular Taylor Soft Serve machine. The machine would enter pasteurizing mode and has opaque error codes that are triggered apparently without the owners or operators understanding, at which point Taylor service techs come in to fix them — and get paid for their service, naturally. A small hardware startup, Kytch, stepped into the mess with a device that man-in-the-middles the Taylor machine’s status codes, allowing the machine’s owners to diagnose and monitor it themselves. Heroes, right?

Taylor, naturally, wants to look at a Kytch device, but they’re locked up under NDAs that Kytch require users to sign in order to protect their trade secrets. So when Taylor gets their hands on one, Kytch takes them to court for, ironically, reverse engineering their device that they built to reverse Taylor’s protocols.

There are no good guys in this fight: it’s corporate secrecy fighting corporate secrets. None of which, by the way, is Hackaday particularly fond of. Why? Because these secrets rob the ostensible owners of the devices of their ability to inspect, fix, and operate their machines. This is akin to the “right to repair” idea, but it’s somehow even more fundamental — the right to know what your own devices are doing.

What this story needs is a Robin Hood. And as the devices we get sold become increasingly wrapped up in EULAs and NDAs, and full of secret sauce that’s out of our control, we’re going to need a lot more Robin Hoods. It’s McDonald’s frozen treat machines, but it’s also your smart thermostat and your inkjet printer and your — you name it. Have at it, Hackaday!

Robot Utopia

We see so many dystopian visions of automation, it’s time for us to do it right! The Redefine Robots round of the 2021 Hackaday Prize just started, and it’s your chance to build robots that respect the users. It doesn’t have to be the largest project in the world, but it does have to be automatic and helpful. Start your engines!

Grappling Hook Robot Swings Like Spiderman

We’ll admit it is a bit of a gimmick, but [Adam Beedle’s] Spider-Bot did make us smile. The little robot can launch a “web” and use it to swing. It is hard to picture, but the video below will make it all clear. It can also use the cable to climb a wall, sort of.

The bot’s ability to fling a 3D printed hook on a tether is remarkable. Details are scarce, but it looks like the mechanism is spring-loaded with a servo motor to release it. Even trailing a bit of string behind it, the range of the hook is impressive and can support the weight of the robot when it winches itself up. There’s even a release mechanism that reminds us more of Batman than Spiderman.

If we were going full autonomous, we’d consider a vision system. On the other hand, you could probably tell a lot by the tension on the cable and some way to measure the angle of it coming out of the robot. If you come up with a practical use for any of this, we’d love to see it.

We’ve seen robots that fly, jump, and can climb walls before. We don’t remember one that swings like Tarzan.

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