A couple of weeks ago when it emerged that a new Tesla might have a four-wheel steering capability, our colleague Dan Maloney mused aloud as to how useful a four-wheel steering system might be, and indeed whether or not one might be necessary at all. This is hardly the first time four-wheel steering has appeared as the Next Big Thing on the roads. It’s time to take a look at the subject and ask whether it’s an idea with a future, or set to go the way of runflat tyres as one of those evergreen innovations that never quite catches on.
What’s your dream vehicle? If you’re like me, you have more than one. There in my lottery-winner’s garage, alongside the trail bikes and the mobile hackerspace, the dictator-size Mercedes and the Golf Mk1, will be a vehicle that by coincidence has four-wheel steering. The JCB Fastrac is a tractor that can travel across almost any terrain at full speed, and though I have no practical use for one and will never own one, I have lusted after one of these machines for over three decades. Their four-wheel steering system is definitely unusual, but that makes it the perfect vehicle with which to demonstrate four-wheel steering. Continue reading “Four Wheel Steering, Always The Option, Never The Defining Feature”
An unexpected side effect of the global semiconductor shortage came to light this week — Japanese printer manufacturer Canon announced they are temporarily going to provide consumable ink and toner cartridges without microchips. Furthermore, they provided instructions for consumers on how to bypass the printer’s logic, allowing it to function even when it incorrectly thinks the ink or toner is low. Included in the announcement (German), the company stated what most people already knew:
There is no negative impact on print quality when using consumables without electronic components.
It’s well known that many printer companies make their profit on the consumable cartridges rather than the printers themselves. And most printers require consumers to only use factory original cartridges, a policy enforced by embedded security ICs. Use a third-party ink cartridge and your printer will likely refuse to print. There are legitimate concerns about poor quality inks damaging the print heads. But with reports like this 2003 one from the BBC noting that 17% to 38% additional good quality pages can be printed after the consumable is declared “empty”, and that the price per milliliter of inks is seven times the cost of vintage champagne, one can reasonably conclude that these DRM-protected consumables are more about on ensuring profits than protecting the hardware.
For now, this announcement applies to German customers, and covers the Canon imageRunner family of multi-function printers (the complete list is in the company announcement above).
Over the years the humble 555 timer has been used in so many unexpected places, but there’s a project from [Frank Latos] which we think may be a first. On a piece of stripboard sit a pair of 555s, and instead of the usual passives there are a set of LC circuits. This is no timer, instead it’s a CW (Morse) transmitter for the 80 metre amateur radio band.
One 555 is configured as a feedback oscillator through a toroidal transformer with a tuned circuit to set the frequency of oscillation. The other takes an inverted input from the oscillator to produce complimentary push-pull outputs from both 555s, which are fed to another transformer that in turn feeds a low-pass filter and thus the antenna.
Free-running squarewave oscillators of this type are not unusual for the lower HF bands, but we think this is the first 555 design we’ve seen. As shown it doesn’t produce much in the way of RF power, but remembering half-decent motor drivers using a 556 dual timer we think that selection of one of the more powerful 555 variants might deliver some more punch. We commend his creativity though, and hope he can get that all-important entry in the log to prove it works.
If you’re curious about low-power radio operation, it’s something we’ve explored before.