A Steam Engine For Empty Beer Cans

If Hero — the ancient Greek inventor — had been able to enjoy a beer after work, he might have pulled a trick like [BevCanTech] did: use it to create a simple steam engine. Of course, we aren’t sure why it has to be a beer can, but even with a soda can there is a fundamental problem: the can is open, assuming you’ve already enjoyed the beverage.

A pressure vessel with a big gaping hole in it isn’t much of a pressure vessel. The resealing process was actually quite simple. First, you bend back the tab to close up the opening as best you can. Next, you use cyanoacrylate glue and baking soda to seal up what’s left. We wondered if you could use epoxy, hot glue, or UV-curable resin. The top might get too hot for hot glue to last, but we aren’t sure.

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A Collection Of Websites That Look Like Desktops

Web design has come a long way since those halcyon days of Web 1.0. There are plenty of rules about how to make a clean and efficient website, but sometimes it’s more fun to throw them out and just be creative instead. In that vein, [Simone] has curated a wonderful collection of websites that emulate the computer desktop experience online.

The collection’s website very much fits this theme. Upon visiting, an Award BIOS screen flashes up. From there, we get a Windows 95-like interface full of links to other sites that emulate a computer desktop layout. There’s even a 3D screensaver that pops up if you mouse away for too long.

There’s Browso.app, which semi-accurately tells you information about your computer in a theme reminiscent of MacOS 9. Meanwhile, clicking on “It Is As if You Were Doing Work” will take you to a weird game that’s compelling in its replication of office banality. Nightwave Plaza offers exquisite vaporwave vibes, while others simply intend to faithfully recreate various OSes in a browser window.

It’s a fun collection of websites that go from the weirdly afamiliar to downright impressive recreations of former realities. It’s certainly fun to click around for a while and see what’s out there. We do love some good web ephemera around these parts!

A Solar Supercap Power Supply To Keep Your Projects Running

Solar garden lights and many other similar trinkets typically rely on cheap rechargeable batteries as a power source when the sun isn’t shining. [Darryl] figured that a supercapacitor could do the job instead, and set about building a solar supercap power supply that could run various projects. 

The power supply is built to use a small 60 x 40mm solar panel that provides approximately 500 mW at max output. This charges two supercapacitors which feed their output into a TPS61200 boost converter, specifically designed for working with ultra-low input voltages down to 0.3 V. The boost convert can then be configured to output 3.3 V or 5 V depending on the desired voltage for the device to be powered. A special MOSFET array part is used to charge the dual supercaps in series, ensuring they stay balanced and don’t get overcharged by the sun.

The design has worked well in practice. [Darryl] reports that it has successfully powered a LoRa device reporting every 10 minutes for over two years without issue.

Solar power is a magical thing, capable of providing energy for free if you can get out there and capture it. If you’re working on your own solar-powered projects, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

A Homemade Tube Amplifier Featuring Homemade Tubes

With the wealth of cheap and highly integrated audio amplifier modules on the market today, it takes a special dedication to roll your own from parts. Especially when those parts include vacuum tubes, and doubly so when you make the vacuum tubes from scratch too.

Now, we get it — some readers are going to find it hard to invest an hour in watching [jdflyback] make a pair of triodes to build his amplifier. But really, you’ve got to check this out. Making vacuum tubes with all the proper equipment — glassblower’s lathe, various kinds of oxy-fuel torches, all the right hand tools — is hard enough. But when your lathe is a cordless drill, and you’re using a spot welder that looks like it’s cobbled together from junk, your tube-making game gets a lot harder. Given all that, you’d expect the tubes to look a lot rougher than they are, but even with plain tungsten wire heaters and grids made from thick copper wire, they actually work pretty well. Sure, the heaters glow as bright as light bulbs, but that’s all part of the charm.

Speaking of charm, we just love the amp these tubes went into. Built in 1920s breadboard-style, the features some beautiful vintage mica capacitors and wirewound resistors, plus a variable resistor the likes of which we’ve never seen. The one nod to modernity is the clever use of doorbell transformers, one for a choke and one for the speaker transformer. They don’t sound great, but there’s no doubt they work.

We may have seen other homemade vacuum tubes before — we even recently featured a DIY X-ray tube — but there’s something about [jdflyback]’s tubes that really gets us going.

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Plasma Channel Shows Off A Remarkably Stylish Fusor

We’ve seen our fair share of Farnsworth–Hirsch fusors over the years — these high-voltage devices can get ions cooking to the point of achieving nuclear fusion even on a hobbyist’s budget, and even though they won’t solve the world’s energy problems, they certainly make for an impressive light show. While “simple” to build in the relative sense, the examples we’ve seen in the past have still been bulky contraptions supported by a cart full of complex gear befitting a nuclear reactor.

Which is why the fusor [Jay Bowles] recently completed is so impressive. As you can see in the latest Plasma Channel video which we’ve placed below the break, this desktop “star in a jar” not only features an incredibly low part count, but looks more like a movie prop than anything you’d expect to find in a physics lab. If you ever considered building a fusor of your own but were put off by the size and complexity of existing designs, you’ll definitely want to check this out.
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M.2 For Hackers – Expand Your Laptop

You’ve seen M.2 cards in modern laptops already. If you’re buying an SSD today, it’s most likely an M.2 one. Many of our laptops contain M.2 WiFi cards, the consumer-oriented WWAN cards now come in M.2, and every now and then we see M.2 cards that defy our expectations. Nowadays, using M.2 is one of the most viable ways for adding new features to your laptop. I have found that the M.2 standard is quite accessible and also very hackable, and I would like to demonstrate that to you.

If you ever searched the Web trying to understand what makes M.2 tick, you might’ve found one of the many confusing articles which just transcribe stuff out of the M.2 specification PDF, and make things look more complicated than they actually are. Let’s instead look at M.2 real-world use. Today, I’ll show you the M.2 devices you will encounter in the wild, and teach you what you need to know to make use of them. In part 2, I will show you how to build your own M.2 cards and card-accepting devices, too!

Well Thought-Out, Mostly

You can genuinely appreciate the M.2 standard once you start looking into it, especially if you have worked with mPCIe devices for some amount of time. mPCIe is what we’ve been using for all these years, and it gradually became a mish-mash of hardly-compatible pinouts. As manufacturers thought up all kinds of devices they could embed, you’d find hacks like mSATA and WWAN coexistence extensions, and the lack of standardization is noticeable in things like mPCIe WWAN modems as soon as you need something like UART or PCM. The M.2 specification, thankfully, accounted for all of these lessons.

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Digital Kitchen Spoon Makes Weighing Your Ingredients A Snap

There seem to be two camps when it comes to recipes: those based on volume-based measurements, and those based on the weight of ingredients. Gravimetric measurements have the advantage of better accuracy, but at the price of not being able to quickly scoop out a bit of this and a dash of that. It would be nice to get the convenience of volumetric measurements with the accuracy of weighing your ingredients, wouldn’t it?

It would, and that’s just what [Penguin DIY] did with this digital kitchen spoon scale. The build started with, perhaps not surprisingly, a large mixing spoon and a very small kitchen scale. The bowl of the spoon got lopped off the handle and attached to the strain gauge, which was removed from the scale along with its LCD display and circuit board. To hold everything, a somewhat stocky handle was fabricated from epoxy resin sandwiched between aluminum bolsters. Compartments for the original electronics parts, as well as a LiPo battery and USB charger module, were carved out of the resin block, and the electronics were mounted so that the display and controls are easily accessible. The video below shows the build as well as the spoon-scale in action in the kitchen.

We think this is not only a great idea but a fantastic execution. The black epoxy and aluminum look amazing together on the handle, almost like a commercial product. And sure, it would have been easy enough to build a scale from scratch — heck, you might even be able to do away with the strain gauge — but tearing apart an existing scale seems like the right move here.

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