Pulling the Google logo off of a smartphone

Pining For A De-Googled Smartphone

Last summer in the first swings of the global pandemic, sitting at home finally able to tackle some of my electronics projects now that I wasn’t wasting three hours a day commuting to a cubicle farm, I found myself ordering a new smartphone. Not the latest Samsung or Apple offering with their boring, predictable UIs, though. This was the Linux-only PinePhone, which lacks the standard Android interface plastered over an otherwise deeply hidden Linux kernel.

As a bit of a digital privacy nut, the lack of Google software on this phone seemed intriguing as well, and although there were plenty of warnings that this was a phone still in its development stages it seemed like I might be able to overcome any obstacles and actually use the device for daily use. What followed, though, was a challenging year of poking, prodding, and tinkering before it got to the point where it can finally replace an average Android smartphone and its Google-based spyware with something that suits my privacy-centered requirements, even if I do admittedly have to sacrifice some functionality.

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Google Maps, Now On The NES

Many years ago, Google created one of its famous April Fools jokes suggesting it would make an 8-bit version of Google Maps for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. [ciciplusplus] decided it needed to become a reality, however, and set to work. (Video, embedded below.)

It’s a suitably blocky, low-resolution implementation, but it nevertheless is a mapping app running on an NES. Zooming in and out is via the A and B buttons, while the D-pad is used to scroll. Country and city labels are rendered on the map in the relevant areas in a charming old-school font.

The project uses a Raspberry Pi 3A+ and a Cypress Semiconductor FX2LP microcontroller, which fits inside a NES cartridge. It works the same way as the earlier NES Doom project which uses the Raspberry Pi to feed data to the NES’s Picture Processing Unit. It’s achieved with a simple bit of code burned on a ROM inside the cartridge, which boots up the NES and primes it to receive data from the Raspberry Pi via the FX2LP.

In current form, it’s not capable of doing much more than allowing the user to scroll around and zoom in on parts of the map. We’d love to see a fully-fledged version that could deliver driving directions or similar, however. If you end up achieving such a feat, be sure to let us know. Continue reading “Google Maps, Now On The NES”

Neat Little Airboat Built From Old Drone Parts

Multirotor drones tend to need quality and well-matched parts in order to stay balanced and in the air. However, crash enough drones and you might find you’ve got plenty of mistmatched bits and pieces lying around. In just this vein, [Jason Suter] decided to raid his junk box and built himself a little FPV airboat using spare parts.

The airboat consists of a 3D printed hull, paired with a separate power module. The power module houses the flight controller, and mounts twin motors on the rear. Fitted with three-blade props, they propel the boat and allow it to be steered with differential thrust instead of a rudder. It’s then fitted with a camera to allow it to be piloted with an FPV headset.

Handling still isn’t perfect, and water on the FPV antenna causes some issues with video transmission. However, it’s a fun project that makes good use of old parts. Of course, if you’re having vibration problems with your own FPV projects, consider building a vibration-absorbing mount. Video after the break.
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