“They don’t make them like they used to.” It might be a cliché, it might not even be entirely true, but there’s something special about owning a piece of hardware that was built to a much higher standard than most of its contemporaries, whether it’s that bulletproof Benz from 1992 or that odd fridge from 1987 that just seems to last forever. For laptop aficionados, the Thinkpad series from IBM and Lenovo is the ne plus ultra: beloved for their sturdy construction and rich feature set, they have been used anywhere from the United Nations to the International Space Station. The T60 and T61 (introduced in 2006) are especially famous, being the last generation sporting IBM logos and such classic features as 4:3 displays and infrared ports.
The thing is, even the best hardware eventually becomes obsolete when it can no longer run modern software: with a 2.0 GHz Core Duo and 3 GB of RAM you can still browse the web and do word processing today, but you can forget about 4K video or a 64-bit OS. Luckily, there’s hope for those who are just not ready to part with their trusty Thinkpads: [Xue Yao] has designed a replacement motherboard that fits the T60/T61 range, bringing them firmly into the present day. The T700 motherboard is currently in its prototype phase, with series production expected to start in early 2022, funded through a crowdfunding campaign.
Designing a motherboard for a modern CPU is no mean feat, and making it fit an existing laptop, with all the odd shapes and less-than-standard connections, is even more impressive. The T700 has an Intel Core i7 CPU with four cores running at 2.8 GHz, while two RAM slots allow for up to 64 GB of DDR4-3200 memory. There are modern USB-A and USB-C ports as well as well as a 6 Gbps SATA interface and two m.2 slots for your SSDs.
As for the display, the T700 motherboard will happily connect to the original screens built into the T60/T61, or to any of a range of aftermarket LED based replacements. A Thunderbolt connector is available, but only operates in USB-C mode due to firmware issues; according to the project page, full support for Thunderbolt 4 is expected once the open-source coreboot firmware has been ported to the T700 platform.
We love projects like this that extend the useful life of classic computers to keep them running way past their expected service life. But impressive though this is, it’s not the first time someone has made a replacement motherboard for the Thinkpad line; we covered a project from the nb51 forum back in 2018, which formed the basis for today’s project. We’ve seen lots of other useful Thinkpad hacks over the years, from replacing the display to revitalizing the batteries. Thanks to [René] for the tip.
The premise is simple. He cut 2 mm thick strips of wire from the beverage can along its circumference, creating a thin, long “wire” spool. He sanded the ends of each strip to crimp pieces of his homemade wire together. He found he could get about four meters from a standard-sized beverage can, probably roughly 12 oz, as he unraveled the can. He then used crimp connectors to connect his homemade wires to the battery terminals and also to the end of a flashlight. He used a red cap from another can as a pseudo light diffuser and lampshade, creating a pretty cool, almost lava lamp-like glow.
Maybe the meat of this project won’t be as filling as your Thanksgiving meal, but hopefully, it can serve as a bit of inspiration for your next freeform circuit design. Though you’ll probably want to smooth those sharp edges along your homemade wire.
The Magnus effect is a interesting and useful phenomena. [James Whomsley] from [Project Air] decided to put it to work on a small radio-controlled boat, successfully harnessing the effect. (Video, embedded after the break.)
The Magnus effect is an interesting thing, where fluid flowing over a rotating object generates an aerodynamic force at a right angle to the direction of the flow and the axis of rotation. (It’s why curveballs curve.) This can be used for propulsion on a boat, by spinning a tall cylinder called a Flettner rotor. This takes advantage of Magnus effect to generate thrust.
The boat uses a 3D-printed hull, sealed up with a leak sealer spray and lots of spray paint to avoid leaks. In the center of the catamaran design, there’s a spinning rotor belt-driven by a brushless motor. Outside of the rotor for thrust, a simple rudder is used for steering.
With the rotor turning, the boat was able to successfully sail along with the benefit of the thrust generated from the wind. However, there were teething issues, with heavy winds quickly capsizing the boat. [James] realized that adding some proper keels would help avoid the boat tipping over.
3D printers and Octoprint have a long history together, and pre-built images for the Raspberry Pi make getting up and running pretty easy. But there’s also another easy way to get in on the Octoprint action, and that’s to run it on an Android phone with the octo4a project.
A modern smartphone has a lot of useful features that make it attractive as an Octoprint host. There is a built-in touchscreen, easy power management, a built-in camera, and the fact that people regularly upgrade to new phones means that older Android phones — still powerful pieces of hardware in their own right — are readily available at low cost. The project is still relatively new, so don’t forget to check the Octoprint community thread for this project if you give it a try.
If you are wondering what Octoprint is and what it brings to the table, our own Tom Nardi explained what it does and why it matters when he shared his own upgrade experience from 2018. A few details are no longer current — for example one is no longer likely to encounter a Printrbot — but it’s still a perfectly valid primer on adding great management functionality to a 3D printer.
Old radios didn’t have much in the way of smarts. But as digital synthesis became more common, radios often had as much digital electronics in them as RF circuits. The problem is that digital electronics get better and better every year, so what looked like high-tech one year is quaint the next. [IMSAI Guy] had an Icom IC-245 and decided to replace the digital electronics inside with — among other things — an Arduino.
He spends a good bit of the first part of the video that you can see below explaining what the design needs to do. An Arduino Nano fits and he uses a few additional parts to get shift registers, a 0-1V digital to analog converter, and an interface to an OLED display.
Unless you have this exact radio, you probably won’t be able to directly apply this project. Still, it is great to look over someone’s shoulder while they design something like this, especially when they explain their reasoning as they go.
The PCB, of course, has to be exactly the same size as the board it replaces, including mounting holes and interface connectors. It looks like he got it right the first time which isn’t always easy. Does it work? We don’t know by the end of the first video. You’ll have to watch the next one (also below) where he actually populates the PCB and tests everything out.
The usual solar cell is made of silicon. The better cells use the crystalline form of the element, but there are other methods to obtain electric energy from the sun using silicon. Forming silicon crystals, though, can be expensive so there is always interest in different solar technologies. Perovskite is one of the leading candidates for supplanting silicon. Since they use lead salts, they are cheap and simple to construct. The efficiency is good, too, even when the material is not particularly well ordered. The problem is every model science has on what should make a good solar cell predicted that orderly compounds would perform better, even though this is not true for perovskite. Now scientists at Cambridge think they know why these cells perform even in the face of structural defects.
Perovskites take their name from a natural mineral that has the same atomic structure. In 2009, methylammonium lead halide perovskites were found to act as solar cells. Conversion rates can be as high as 25.5% according to sources and — apparently — the cells could be as much as 31% efficient, in theory. Solar cells top out — again, in theory — at 32.3% although in the real world you are lucky to get into the high twenties.
Quadcopter type drones can be flown indoors, but unless you have a lot of space, it usually just ends in a crash. The prospect of being hit in the face by the propellor blades, spinning at 10k RPM doesn’t bear thinking about, and then there’s the noise. So, as a solution for indoor photography, or operating in public spaces, they are not viable. Japanese mobile operator DOCOMO has a new take on an old idea; the blimp. But, surely even a helium filled vehicle needs blades to steer around the room, we hear you cry? Not so, if you use a pair of specialised ultrasonic transducer arrays to move the air instead! (Video, embedded below)
Details are scarce, but DOCOMO have fitted a helium balloon with modules on either side that can produce a steerable thrust, allowing the vehicle to effect all the expected aerial manoeuvres with ease and grace. The module at the bottom contains the control electronics, an upwards facing RGB LED for some extra bling, and of course a video camera to capture those all-important video shots.
We’d love to find a source for those ultrasonic transducer devices, and can only guess at the physical arrangement that allows for air to pass in one direction only, to effect a net thrust. We can find a few research papers hinting at the ability to use ultrasound to propel through air, like this one (bah! IEEExplore Paywall!) but to our knowledge, this technology is not quite in the hands of hackers just yet.