The concept of vending machines in hackerspaces is nothing new, but [iooner] took it a step further – as hackers ought to. Putting HDDs into the rotating spring of a repurposed vending machine, right where you’d expect to see a Granola bar, isn’t revolutionary – but we don’t remember anybody doing it before this. And, with how heavy a typical HDD is, you are guaranteed to never encounter the “it just won’t fall down” issue that’s omnipresent with the snack-loaded machines.
Nothing could illustrate the premise of this concept better than [iooner]’s video does, and hackerspaces acquiring and having fun with consumer-facing equipment is always fun to watch. A stereotypical hackerspace vending machine sells resistor packs and Arduino boards, but you wouldn’t see it venture into the realm of data storage and distribution. Given how cheap HDDs are nowadays, this concept could benefit us in a variety of applications – selling new HDDs to members for regular data storage use, or distributing hacking magazine archives and Wikipedia dumps, even exclusive release things like recordings of hackerspace lectures.
If this looks familiar, we’ve reviewed a conceptually similar vending machine five years ago, and quite a few DIY ones. If software piracy is more of your thing, there are likely ways to get HDDs out of vending machines without paying, using either robots or an NFC-enabled phone. And, if you’re going to reuse a vending machine, a primer on reverse-engineering its internal comms bus could be of help.
Continue reading “HDD Vending Machine Works Like A Vending Machine Should”
While some people enjoy the cold weather and long, dark nights in the Northern Hemisphere these days, others may find it hard to keep a positive mindset all through the winter. [Michael Wessel] decided he needed to do something about that and came up with The Inspirer, a desktop display that shows inspirational quotes and plays soothing music.
The design is deliberately bare-bones: a strip of wood, standing upright thanks to two metal brackets, onto which a bunch of components have been screwed, glued and taped. The actual display consists of a row of 14-segment LED modules that can show basic alphanumeric characters; these displays emit white light, but [Michael] added a red color filter in front to give them a more “retro” look.
This device is fully off-grid, so no Internet connection issues will disrupt your flow. A huge database of quotes and a selection of music tracks are stored on a pair of micro SD cards; an MP3 player module handles the music while an Arduino picks a quote, drives the display, and reads the buttons. You can select quotes based on a certain theme: examples include friendship, gardening, money, and love. But if you’re open to anything, you can just set it to “random” and get something from any of the 120 categories.
[Michael]’s simple and straightforward design should hopefully prove inspirational to many hardware enthusiasts. But if you’re looking for something more advanced, we featured a neat pomodoro timer that displays quotes a few weeks ago. Of course, this being Hackaday, we’ve also seen a clock based on literary quotes.
Continue reading “The Inspirer Keeps Your Mood Up With Inspirational Quotes And Soothing Music”
Key fobs as a service? Have we really gotten to that point? It would seem so, at least for Toyota, which is now requiring a subscription to use the company’s Remote Connect function. To be fair to Toyota, the Remote Connect system seems to do a bit more than the average key fob, with things like remote start and smartphone or smartwatch integration. It doesn’t appear that using the key fob for more mundane uses, like opening the doors, will be nerfed by this change. But if you want to warm up your car on a cold winter’s morn while you’re still in your jammies, then be prepared to cough up $8 a month or $80 a year on select 2018 and above models. Whether Toyota and other manufacturers get away with this nickel-and-dime stuff is up to the buyers, of course; if enough people opt out, maybe they’ll think of some other way to pad their bottom line. But since we’ve already seen heated seats as a service (last item), we suspect this is the shape of things to come, and that it will spread well beyond the car industry.
Speaking of cars, if you thought the chip shortage was over just because car dealer lots are filling back up, think again. Steve over at Big Mess o’ Wires reports that he’s having trouble sourcing chips for his vintage computer accessories. He includes a screenshot from Digi-Key showing zero stock on ATmega1284s. He also reports that the Lattice FPGA he uses for his Yellowstone universal disc controller is now unobtainium, where it had previously been easily sourced for about $5. He also has a pointed warning about some suppliers making it look like they have stock, only to send a “whoopsie” email after charging your credit card, or worse, telling you the price has increased over 400%. We suppose this was inevitable; there’s only so much fab capacity in the world, so eventually the fabs will switch over to producing whatever they can get paid the most for. And since car manufacturers have a lot more clout with suppliers than just about anyone else, it’s only natural for the shortages to shift down-market like this.
Do we finally have a “go” on James Webb? Maybe. The launch of the space telescope was originally scheduled for December 18 — well, OK, originally it was supposed to be in space in 2007, but let’s not go there — but a problem with a clamp caused unexpected vibrations in the $10 billion space observatory, resulting in inspections that pushed the launch back to the 22nd. That lasted for about a week, until the fueled and packaged spacecraft stopped sending data to launch controllers. The problem ended up being entirely relatable — a bad data cable — but resulted in the loss of two more days. JWST is now set to launch on Christmas Eve at 7:20 AM Eastern Standard Time, pending a readiness review on Tuesday morning. Fingers crossed that the long-awaited observatory has a safe 30-day trip to Lagrange point L2.
And finally, breathless tech journalists couldn’t wait to report this week that the world’s first warp bubble had been created. The paper was published by Dr. Harold “Sonny” White et al from the Limitless Space Institute, and claims to have discovered a “micro/nano-scale structure” that “predicts negative energy density distribution that closely matches requirements for the Alcubierre metric.” That last bit, the one about the Alcubierre metric, refers to the Alcubierre drive, which proposed a way to warp space-time and drive a ship at arbitrarily high speeds. But did this team actually create a warp bubble? It doesn’t seem so, at least according to one article we read. There’s also the problem of Dr. White’s previous claims of breaking the laws of physics with a reactionless EM drive. Scientific quibbling aside, there’s a sure-fire way of telling that no warp bubble was created — if there had been one, this would have happened.
How do you get better pictures from a 20+ year old Game Boy Camera? How about marrying a DSLR lens to it? That’s what [ConorSev] did and, honestly, the results are better than you might expect as [John Aldred] mentioned in his post about the topic. You can check the camera out in the video below.
A 3D printed adapter lets you mount a Canon EF lens to the Game Boy Camera, a trick that we’ve seen in the past. [ConorSev] looked at the existing adapters floating around, and came up with the revised version you see here. There was still the problem of actually getting the images off the Camera cartridge, but luckily, this isn’t exactly unexplored territory either.
While there might not be anything new with this project, using a high-quality lens on the toy makes for some interesting photographs, and you wonder how far you can push this whole idea. Of course, no matter how much of a lens you put on the front, you still have to contend with the original image sensor which has hardly well. Still, we were impressed at how much better things looked with a high-quality zoom lens.
We bet the original designer of the Game Boy Camera never imagined it would have the kind of zoom capability you can see in the video. We love seeing these little handhelds pushed beyond their limits. Cryptomining? No problem. Morse code? Piece of cake.
Continue reading “Game Boy Camera Gets Ridiculously Good Lens”
What’s better than a 100MHz scope? How about an optical one? Researchers at the University of Central Florida think that’s just the ticket, and they’ve built an oscilloscope that can measure the electric field of light. You can find the full paper online.
Reading the electrical field of light is difficult with traditional tools because of the very high frequency involved. According to [Michael Chini], who worked on the new instrument, the oscilloscope can be as much as 10,000 times faster as a conventional one.
The measurement of a few cycles of light requires some special techniques as you might expect. According to the paper:
[A]n intense fundamental pulse with a central wavelength of 3.4 µm creates charge packets in the pixels of a silicon-based image sensor via multiphoton excitation, leading to detectable photocurrents. The probability of excitation is perturbed by the field of a weak perturbation pulse, leading to a modulation in the excitation probability and therefore in the magnitude of the detected photocurrent. We have previously shown that, for collinear fundamental and perturbation pulses, the dependence of the modulation in the excitation probability on the time delay between the two pulses encodes the time-varying electric-field waveform of the laser pulse. Here, by using a crossed-beam geometry with cylindrical focusing, we map the time delay onto a transverse spatial coordinate of the image sensor chip to achieve single-shot detection.
Did you get that? In other words, instead of measuring the light pulse directly, they measure the change it makes on another known signal. We think…
Unless you’re moving high-speed data across fiber optic, we aren’t sure you really need this. However, the concept is intriguing and not previously unheard of. For example, we’ve seen capacitance meters that measure the change in frequency caused by adding an unknown capacitor into an existing oscillator.
If you want something more conventional, maybe look at some popular scopemeters. Of course, something this high speed might be able to apply time-domain reflectometry to fiber optics. Maybe.
It constantly amazes us what we hackers can build these days, (electronics shortages aside) we have access to an incredible array of parts, with specifications that only a few years ago would be bank-breaking and longer ago just fantasy. It’s nice to see people building one-offs just for fun, in spite of the current difficulties getting parts to actually be delivered. For example, check out this miniaturized Nintendo Switch created by [scottbez1] that plays animated GIFs from an SD card on tiny 1.14″ LCD display.
Obviously such a diminutive hack requires a custom PCB, which was a job for KiCAD. Armed with a 3D model of the LCD, the casing and PCB outline were drawn using Fusion 360. The PCB hosts a LilyGo ESP32 module for all the heavy lifting, with the WiFi adding some fun future capabilities not yet explored. The design is about as tight as it can get without pushing the limits of the PCB process too far, including a neat trick of sneaking passives inside the body of the SD card! That’s another space-saving idea we’ll be banking.
All-in-all a neat little hack, showing some good modelling and construction techniques and a good looking end result. Code for your reference may be found on the project GitHub, but as of writing the hardware design is not available.
Whilst this project shrinks the Switch, here’s one that goes the other way and super-sizes it, and if you have a switch lite but crave a little modern charging magic, then look no further than this Qi wireless charging hack.
Continue reading “Tiny Switch Ornament Plays GIFs With An ESP32”
By now, [CuriousMarc] and his team of volunteers are well versed in 1960s hardware restoration. So when a vintage IBM I/O Tester came into their possession, a full machine makeover was all but inevitable.
The I/O Tester dates from around 1965, which roughly coincides with the introduction of IBM’s lauded System/360 computer mainframe. In addition to the computer itself, business customers could order a variety of peripherals with their computing system. These included storage devices, printers, additional operator consoles, and so on. Since these peripherals shared the same I/O design, a portable hardware testing rig was a sensible design choice. One portable low-voltage tester could be paired with any number of IBM peripherals, doing away with the need to have unique debugging panels on every piece of computing hardware.
Fast forward to the present day, and the IBM I/O Tester looks positively antique with its blinkenlight lamp panel and switches. To use the tester, simply connect up one (or both) of its chunky 104-pin connectors to your IBM peripheral of choice, insert the accompanying paper overlay, and voilà. Operators could then observe the status of the many lamps to evaluate the inner digital workings of the connected peripheral. Depending on the connected hardware, the tester could reveal the contents of data registers, printing status, disk and tape transfer status, and probably much more. The purpose of the tester’s ninety indicator lights is completely dependent on the attached peripheral, and the paired paper overlays are essential to comprehend their meaning.
After [Ken Shirriff] deciphered the documentation, it wasn’t long before the tester could be powered up using 24 VAC (normally supplied by the equipment being tested). Several burned out lamps were noted for replacement. The lamp assemblies required minor surgery due to a dubious design choice, and at least one of the toggle switches needed a new guide and a heavy dose of contact cleaner before it came back to life.
For the moment, [CuriousMarc] is using the blinkenlights panel as a surprisingly striking retro clock. With a literal truckload of vintage IBM hardware sitting in his storage, it’ll be exciting to see whether this restored tester will be pulled back into operational service someday. Readers should also check out our coverage of his previous major project, restoring an Apollo Guidance Computer.
Continue reading “Restoring A Vintage IBM I/O Tester”