Hackaday Links: October 31, 2021

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Global supply chain issues are beginning to hit closer to home for the hacker community, as Raspberry Pi has announced their first-ever price increase on their flagship Pi 4. The move essentially undoes the price drop on the 2GB version of the Pi 4 that was announced in February, and sets the price back up from $35 to $45. Also rolled back is the discontinuation of the 1GB version, which will now be available at the $35 price point. The announcements come from Eben Upton himself, who insists the price increase is only temporary. We applaud his optimism, but take it with a grain of salt since he also said that 2021 production across the board will stay at the seven million-unit level, which is what they produced in 2020. That seems to speak to deeper issues within the supply chain, but more immediately, it’s likely that the supply of Pi products will be pinched enough that you’ll end up paying above sticker price just to get the boards you need. Hope everyone is stocked up.

On the topic of supply chain issues and their threat to Christmas gift-giving, here’s one product we hope is stranded in a container off Long Beach or better still, bobbing along in the Strait of Juan De Fuca: a toddler’s toy telephone that actually makes and receives calls. Anyone born in the last 60 years probably had one of the Fisher-Price Chatter telephone, a toy that in its original form looked like a desk telephone on wheels that was dragged behind the child, popping along and providing endless hours of clicky amusement as kids twisted the dial and lifted the receiver. Come to think of it, the Chatter telephone may be as close to a dial phone as anyone born since 1990 may have come. Anyway, some genius stuck a Bluetooth module into the classic phone to let it hook up to an app on an actual phone, allowing kids (or more likely their nostalgia-soaked parents) to make and receive calls. It’s actually priced at a reasonable $60, so there might be some hacking potential here.

Also tangential to supply chains, we stumbled across a video guide to buying steel that might interest readers. Anyone who has seen the displays of steel and other metals at the usual big-box retailers might wonder what the fuss is, but buying steel that way or ordering online is a great way to bust a project’s budget. Fabricator and artist Doug Boyd insists that finding a local steel supplier is the best bang for your buck, and has a bunch of helpful tips for not sounding like a casual when you’re ordering. It’s all good advice, and would have helped us from looking foolish a time or two at the metal yard; just knowing that pipe is measured by inside diameter while tubing is measured by outside dimensions is worth the price of admission alone.

With all the money you save on steel and by not buying Raspberry Pis, perhaps you’ll have a couple of hundred thousand Euros lying around to bid on this authentic 1957 Sputnik I satellite. The full-scale model of Earth’s first artificial satellite — manhole covers excluded — was a non-flown test article, but externally faithful to the flown hardware that kicked off the first Space Race. The prospectus says that it has a transmitter and a “modern power supply”; it’s not clear if the transmitter was originally part of the test article or added later. The opening bid is €85,000 and is expected to climb considerably.

And finally, there’s something fascinating about “spy radios,” especially those from the Cold War era and before, when being caught with one in your possession was probably going to turn out to be a very bad day. One such radio is the Radio Orange “Acorn” receiver, which is in the collection of the Crypto Museum. The radio was used by the Dutch government to transmit news and information into the occupied Netherlands from their exile in London. Built to pass for a jewelry box, the case for the radio was made from an old cigar box and is a marvel of 1940s miniaturization. The radio used three acorn-style vacuum tubes and was powered by mains current; another version of the Radio Orange receiver was powered by a bike dynamo or even a water-powered turbine, which could be run from a tap or garden hose. The video below shows the water-powered version in action, but the racket it made must have been problematic for its users, especially given the stakes.

17 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: October 31, 2021

  1. Don’t forget, bed frames can be used as a source of angle iron. Some can be found curbside, and some bedding/mattress stores will let you have an old one from their pile of trade-ins.

    1. There was one sold on eBay in the 1990’s for very cheap. After the Soviet Union collapse families were selling things like space suits. Real space suits. Since they were custom made the astronauts could keep them. I nearly bought one in its travel case. Visions of “Have Space Suit Will Travel” had me going for a while. I think it went for a few thousand. I should have done it. There were also lots of the flight suits and helmets that might as well have been spacesuits. The soviet version of the suits Americans wore in the U2 and X-15.

    2. … or maybe not. I registered for the auction and enquired about the provenance of the Sputnik on sale.

      No documentary provenance will be included with the lot.

      I received this rather confusing reply regarding provenance from Uwe Breker:

      “Curriculum vitae Childhood and study He was born in Brenham, Texas. His parents, who came from the Beskydy region, left for the USA before the First World War. They returned in 1920 and rented a restaurant with a hotel in Frenštát pod Radhoštěm. Malina attended primary school here and one year of grammar school in Valašské Meziříčí. However, the business did not benefit the Raspberries, so they decided to return to Texas after five years. Here, Malina graduated from high school and in 1930 joined the Texas Higher School of Agriculture and Engineering. He then began studying at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he enrolled in aeronautical engineering. Raspberry built the engine on the model of the Interplanetary Society. Engine tests failed, and an attempt to start it ignited the pungent smoke enveloping the entire laboratory. The other students sarcastically called them a suicide club. With dangerous attempts, they had to move out of the building. They therefore found refuge in the ravines below the Sierra Madre.”

      If you’d like to watch this farce unfold live, here’s the link, it’s lot 256 so maybe an hour from now?:


  2. The Fisher-Price phone needs more than bluetooth.

    It had a dial, but it merely resembled a phone, with wheels and eyes.

    So it needs a microphone and headphone, and the handset drilled to accept them.And some sort of power supply. Might as well offer a candlestick type telephone.

    If there’s no wheels, and no eyes that move with the wheels, then it really isn’t the toy it used to be.

  3. “Spy radio” implies or suggests a radio used by spies. To send information home, or get instructions about parachute drops or sabotage, or get pictures of that installatiin.

    This seems more like radios for listening to broadcasts they weren’t supposed to. So maybe some secret messages, but mostly to keep up morale

  4. That guide to buying metal is full of gold. I have gone for *so* long not knowing what cold-rolled actually meant, or that it is more precise. And no such thing as “stock”: pipe, round tube, square tube, angle, flat, sheet. Got it! Thanks!

  5. “Anyway, some genius stuck a Bluetooth module into the classic phone to let it hook up to an app on an actual phone, allowing kids (or more likely their nostalgia-soaked parents) to make and receive calls.”
    They could also have used nRF24L01 or similar cheap stuff for a direct connection. Using a smartphone app smells like espionage and other nasty things.

    1. Nothing that insidious. The toy designers I knew were kinda clueless about technology and only used whatever they knew about. So; I’m pretty sure they don’t how to hack stuff, they just hack their toy somewhat

  6. Pipe- as used for plumbing in the US- is standardized on the OD, and the various schedules change the wall thickness. The actual OD bears only a passing resemblance to the nominal OD, e.g., 3/4 in pipe measures 1.050 in OD and 1 in pipe is 1.315 in OD. I have looked for documentation for how this occurred and haven’t really found much, other than in the early days pipe was rolled from sheet and welded to approximate ID, and then the schedules and standardization came later.

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