The Low-Down On Long-Wave: Unlicensed Experimental Radio

In the 125 years since Marconi made his first radio transmissions, the spectrum has been divvied up into ranges and bands, most of which are reserved for governments and large telecom companies. Amidst all of the corporate greed, the “little guys” managed to carve out their own small corner of the spectrum, with the help of organizations like the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). Since 1914, the ARRL has represented the interests of us amateur radio enthusiasts and helped to protect the bands set aside for amateur use. To actually take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to transmit on these bands, you need a license, issued by the FCC. The licenses really aren’t hard to get, and you should get one, but what if you don’t feel like taking a test? Or if you’re just too impatient?

Well, fear not because there’s some space on the radio spectrum for you, too.

Welcome to the wonderful world of (legal!) unlicensed radio experimentation, where anything goes. Okay, not anything  but the possibilities are wide open. There are a few experimental radio bands, known as LowFER, MedFER, and HiFER where anyone is welcome to play around. And of the three, LowFER seems the most promising. Continue reading “The Low-Down On Long-Wave: Unlicensed Experimental Radio”

The PinePhone Pro Is Here. But It’s Still Probably Not The Year Of Open-Source Linux On The Smartphone

A trope in open source commentary over the last decades has been the phrase “Is this the year of Linux on the desktop?”, as though the open source OS will finally break through and challenge Windows. In fact the process has been one of stealth rather than explosive growth, as the likes of ChromeOS with its Linux underpinnings become the go-to choice for an inexpensive consumer laptop. In the phone arena the same has happened with Android, as most users have no idea that a Linux foundation lies beneath their Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel.

Fully open-source via Android on the phone has been very slow to arrive, but could that be changed by the arrival of Pine64’s PinePhone Pro? The new device will be available alongside their existing PinePhone, and will continue the dream of a fully open-source mobile phone with its increased-specification hardware.

As much as the specs of one black slab versus another matter, at its heart is a 1.5 GHz Rockchip RK3399S hexa-core SoC alongside 4 GB of dual-channel LPDDR4 RAM. This compares well to the original PinePhone’s quad-Core Allwinner A64 at 1.152 GHz and 3 GB LPDDR3 RAM, so it’s clear that there is plenty of capability in this phone.

Any phone whether open-source or not will however live or die on the quality of its software and support, so for this model to be a real success outside the realm of extreme open-source devotees we think that Pine64 will need to be prepared to up their game when it comes to what happens after hardware delivery. It’s fair to say that some of their previous products have been a little lacklustre in this department, with hardware bugs remaining unfixed. Their approach of relying on the community of users to deliver software support has not so far returned a stable experience for users of the original PinePhone. We understand that their intention is to provide a developer’s phone, but developers need to place phonecalls and take pictures too.

We’ve seen some PinePhone owners commenting to this effect, and though we’re fans of Pine64 and like what they are trying to do, we have to admit that those users have a point. If they were prepared to put some effort into software development to the extent of providing an official OS image with let’s say Plasma Mobile, a working phone app, a working web browser, and responsive phone features such as instant on and off, even at the expense of charging more for the phone itself, we think that they’ll be on to a winner. Otherwise they’ll remain as the really cool open-source phone that only your kernel-wizard friends own, and even then they use a Google Pixel as their everyday phone. Please Pine64, prove us wrong!

Last month our colleague Brian Cockfield took us on a tour of his PinePhone.

Drone And High Voltage Spin Up This DIY Corona Motor

The average Hackaday user could probably piece together a rough model of a simple DC motor with what they’ve got kicking around the parts bin. We imagine some of you could even get a brushless one up and running without too much trouble. But what about an electrostatic corona motor? If your knowledge of turning high voltage into rotational energy is a bit rusty, let [Jay Bowles] show you the ropes in his latest Plasma Channel video.

Like many of his projects, this corona motor relies on a few sheets of acrylic, a handful of fasteners, and a healthy dose of physics. The actual construction and wiring of the motor is, if you’ll excuse the pun, shockingly simple. Of course part of that is due to the fact that the motor is only half the equation, you still need a high voltage source to get it running.

An earlier version of the motor ended up being too heavy.

In this case, [Jay] is revisiting his earlier experiments with atmospheric electricity to provide the necessary jolt. One side of the motor is connected to a metallic mesh electrode that’s carried 100 m into the air by a DJI Mini2 drone, while the other side is hooked up to several large nails driven into the ground.

The potential between the two gets the motor spinning, and makes for an impressive demonstration, but it’s not exactly the most practical way to experiment with your new corona motor. If you’d rather get it running on the workbench, he also shows that a more traditional high voltage source like a Van de Graaff generator will do the job nicely. As an added bonus, it can even power the device wirelessly from a few feet away.

So what can you do with a corona motor? While [Jay] is quick to explain that these sort of devices aren’t exactly known for their torque, he does show that his motor is able to lift a 45 gram weight suspended from a string. That’s frankly more power than we expected, and makes us wonder if there is some quasi-practical application for this contraption. If there is we suspect it’ll be featured in a future Plasma Channel video, so stay tuned.

Continue reading “Drone And High Voltage Spin Up This DIY Corona Motor”