An OpenBikeSensor

OpenBikeSensor Measures Close Calls

Cycling is fun, healthy, and good for the environment. But unfortunately it’s not always the safest of activities, as inconsiderate drivers can be a significant hazard to cyclists. Several countries, including Germany, France, and Belgium have introduced legislation mandating a minimum passing distance of at least 1.5 meters between cars and bikes. Enforcing such a rule is tricky however, and without accurate data on average passing distances it’s hard to know how many drivers are following it.

Enter OpenBikeSensor, an open-source hardware and community science project designed to gather exactly this information. Currently in its prototype phase, it aims to make a simple bike-mounted sensor that measures the lateral distance to any passing vehicles. The resulting data is collected online to generate maps highlighting danger zones, which can ultimately be used by city planners to improve cycling infrastructure.

The hardware is based around a set of ultrasonic sensors that measure the lateral distance to any large object. A GPS module keeps track of the bike’s location, while an ESP32 reads out the data and stores it onto an SD card. The user interface consists of a handlebar-mounted display that shows the system’s status. There’s also a button that the user needs to press any time they are passed by a vehicle: this will trigger a measurement and log the location. Once back home, the user can connect the OpenBikeSensor to their WiFi network and download their trip data.

The initial results look promising, and any project that gets people cycling and tinkering with electronics at the same time is worth looking into. It’s not the first time we’ve seen bike-mounted sensors either: people have designed their own sensors to measure air pollution in South America, or simply their own bike’s speed or tire pressure. Continue reading “OpenBikeSensor Measures Close Calls”

Camping For $25: Thrift Store Hacks To Keep Cozy

A hacker is somebody who’s always thinking creatively to solve problems, usually using what they have on hand. Sometimes that means using a 555 to build a CPU, and other times it means using a dead flashlight to start a fire. In the video below the break, [Kelly] shows us a series of hacks you can use while camping in the woods for a night to keep you warm, dry, and well fed!

[Kelly] started his camping trip not in the woods, but rather at a local thrift store. Instead of packing along hundreds of dollars in gear, his aim was to keep costs low. Very low. With some searching he was able to find a blanket, cooking utensils, rope, knife, tarp, and several other camp necessities for just $25.

A good campfire is a necessity of course, and [Kelly]’s full of great ways to start a fire even if all you have is a lighter with no butane or an old flashlight with dead batteries. The purpose of the video is to show how anyone can get their bush craft on even when all they have is a few dollars and a little know-how, which he generously shares. And after watching, we’re sure you’ll agree that he met his mark.

Will you raid the local second hand store before your next camping trip? After seeing this video, you just might! And while you’re there, make sure to grab the things you’ll need to make your own camping-friendly French press so you have some good coffee while you’re out camping in your… uh… Corolla?

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Twist Promises Easier Quantum Programming

We keep trying to learn more about quantum computers. But the truth is, the way we program quantum computers — or their simulators — today will probably not have much in common with how we program them in the future. Think about it. Programming your PC is nothing like programming the ENIAC. So we expect we’ll see more and more abstractions over the “bare metal” quantum computer. The latest of these is Twist, from MIT.

According to the paper (and the video, below), Twist expresses entangled data and processes in a way that traditional programmers can understand. The key concept is known as “purity” of expressions which helps the compiler determine if data is actually entangled with another piece of data or if any potential entanglement is extraneous. A pure expression only depends on qubits it owns, while a mixed expression may use qubits owned by other expressions.

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Backpack COVID-19 lab

HDD Centrifuge Puts COVID-19 Testing Lab In A Backpack

Throughout this two-year global COVID-19 nightmare, one thing that has been sorely lacking is access to testing. “Flu-like symptoms” covers a lot of ground, and knowing if a sore throat is just a sore throat or something more is important enough that we’ve collectively plowed billions into testing. Unfortunately, the testing infrastructure remains unevenly distributed, which is a problem this backpack SARS-CoV-2 testing lab aims to address.

The portable lab, developed by [E. Emily Lin] and colleagues at the Queen Mary University of London, uses a technique called LAMP, for loop-mediated isothermal amplification. LAMP probably deserves an article of its own to explain the process, but suffice it to say that like PCR, LAMP amplifies nucleic acid sequences, but does so without the need for expensive thermal cycling equipment. The kit contains a microcentrifuge that’s fashioned from an e-waste hard drive, a 3D printed rotor, and an Arduino to drive the motor and control the speed. The centrifuge is designed to run on any 12 VDC source, meaning the lab can be powered by a car battery or solar panel if necessary. Readout relies on the trusty Mark I eyeball and a pH-indicating buffer that changes color depending on how much SARS-CoV-2 virus was in the sample.

Granted, the method used here still requires more skill to perform than a simple “spit on a stick” rapid antigen test, and it’s somewhat more subjective than the “gold standard” quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay. But the method is easily learned, and the kit’s portability, simple design, and low-cost construction could make it an important tool in attacking this pandemic, or the next one.

Thanks to [Christian Himmler] for the tip.

Gaming Twitter’s Trending Algorithm To Make A Point

If you have ever taken to Twitter to gauge the zeitgeist, you’ll have noticed that among the trending hashtags related to major events of the day there are sometimes outliers of minority interest associated with single-issue causes. When a cause with a distasteful pedigree was cited one as proof of widespread public support in a debate in the UK’s House of Lords there were concerns raised that a flaw in the ranking algorithm might be responsible, and it was left to [Mallory Moore] to prove the hypothesis by getting a #ThisIsAnExploit hashtag trending without a groundswell of popular support.

Some previous detective work had established that equal ranking might be awarded equally not simply for Tweeting a hashtag but also for retweeting it. The exploit takes advantage of this by means of a relatively small cadre of people all Tweeting the tag a number of times, then retweeting all other instances of it. The resulting rank gain is then in the order of the square of the number of accounts interacting with the tag, and thus hugely inflated over the number of real participants. To test this she created the #ThisIsAnExploit tag and asked her followers to do just that: Tweet it and retweet all others containing it. In a short time the exploit succeeded, beating a very high-profile tag associated with the travails of the British Prime Minister in the process, and with most of the effort due to only 50 accounts.

Our world is now significantly influenced by social media because for many it appears more trustworthy than the old-style mass media with a print origin. Work like this is important because a reminder that transferring the message from newspaper proprietors to tech barons does not confer credibility is sorely needed. Meanwhile now the weakness is in the wild we wonder how Hackaday readers might have fun with it. Does anyone want to see a #RaiseTheJollyWrencher hashtag top the pile?

The Weirdest Hack

I was on the FLOSS podcast (for the Episode of the Beast no less!) and we were talking all about Hackaday. One of the hosts, secretly Hackaday’s own Jonathan Bennett in disguise, asked me what the weirdest hack I’d ever seen on Hackaday was. Weird?!?!

I was caught like a deer in headlights. None of our hacks are weird! Or maybe all of them are? I dunno, it certainly depends on your perspective. Is it weird to build a box that makes periodic meowing noises to hid in a friend’s closet? Is it weird to design new and interesting wheels for acrobats to roll themselves around in? Is it weird to want a rainbow-colored USB DIP switch? Is it weird that these are all posts from the last week?

OK, maybe we are a little bit weird. But that’s the way we like it. Keep it weird and wonderful, Hackaday. You’ve got enough normal stuff to do eight hours a day!

1960s Stereo Console Gets An Upgrade

Faced with an old console stereo from the 1960s that was barely functional, [Sherman Banks] aka W4ATL decided to upgrade its guts while keeping its appearance as close to the original as possible. This stereo set is a piece of mahogany furniture containing an AM/FM stereo receiver and an automatic turntable from JCPenny’s Penncrest line. As best [Sherman] can determine, it is most likely a 1965 model. The old electronics were getting more and more difficult to repair and the tuner was drifting off-station every 15 minutes. He didn’t want to throw it away, so he decided to replace all the innards.

The first thing was to tear out the old electronics while retaining the chassis proper. The new heart of the entertainment center is a modern Denon AV stereo receiver. This unit can be controlled over Ethernet, has a radio tuner, inputs for SiriusXM and a turntable, and supports Bluetooth streaming. [Sherman] next replaced the 1965 turntable, and then turned his attention to connecting up the controls and indicators.

The potentiometers were replaced with equivalent ones of lower resistance, the neon stereo indicator was replaced with an LED, but the linear tuning dial proved to be a nearly two month challenge and resulted in a cool hack. In brief, he connected an optical rotary encoder to the tuning knob and used a stepper motor with a linear actuator to control the dial indicator. All this is controlled from an Arduino Mega 2560 with three shields for I/O and LAN. But there was still one remaining issue — without vacuum tubes to warm up, the radio would play immediately after power-on. [Sherman] fixed that by programming the Arduino to slowly ramp up the volume at the same rate as the original tube receiver. And finally, he installs a small HDMI monitor in the corner to display auxiliary information and metadata from the Denon receiver.

Check out the videos below the break. We wrote about a couple of similar conversions in the past: this one from 2018 was also a Penncrest, and from last year this COVID isolation project that emphasized the addition of a new liquor cabinet.

Continue reading “1960s Stereo Console Gets An Upgrade”