A disturbing trend in consumer electronics has been a steady disappearance of replaceable batteries on our devices. Finding a mobile phone with a swapable battery is a struggle, and many other devices follow the trend by sealing in a Li-Po cell. The result is an ever-shorter life for electronics, and a greater problem with devices going to recycling or worse still, landfill. Hope is at hand though, thanks to a proposed European Union law that would if passed make batteries in appliances “designed so that consumers can easily remove and replace them themselves“.
In case any readers in the rest of the world wonder what it has to do with them, the EU represents such a huge market that manufacturers can neither ignore it, nor in most cases afford to make separate EU and rest-of-world versions of their products. Thus if the EU requires something for sale in its territories, in most cases it becomes the de facto norm for anything designed to be sold worldwide. We’ve already seen this with the EU’s right to repair legislation, and while we have not doubt that manufacturers will do their best to impede this new law we don’t think they will ultimately prevail.
The thermal printer is ubiquitous in today’s world, mostly found whenever we have to get a receipt from somewhere. They’re cheap, fast, and easy to use. Not only that, though, but as [Daniel] found out, they’re also pretty straightforward to re-program and use for other things than a three-foot-long receipt from a drug store. He’s adapted them to serve as a key tool of the dungeon master in his D&D games.
While he has adapted the most common thermal printer standard, the Epson Standard Code, the real fun of this project is in the user interface. He’s made it possible to build templates and other D&D-oriented sheets quickly via HTML, so the dungeon master can print out character sheets, items from the game, maps, or anything else they might possibly need at the time. It’s all highly configurable to whatever needs arise, and the interface works on Mac, Windows, and Linux.
All of the project code is located on Daniel’s GitHub page for anyone looking to try this out. Most thermal printers use this standard too, so cheap ones can easily be found and put to use as long as a roll of thermal paper is available. If the feel of thermal paper is bringing up some childhood nostalgia, it could be because you had the Game Boy Printer as a youth and are looking for ways to recapture that thermal printer magic.
If you regularly fly your drones outdoors, you’ve probably worried about getting your pride and joy stuck in a big tree at some point. But flying indoors doesn’t guarantee you’ll be safe either, as [Scott Williamson] found out. He once got his tiny 65 mm Mobula 6HD quadcopter stuck in a roof beam at an indoor sports complex, and had to set about a daring rescue.
The first job was recon, with [Scott] sending up another drone to survey the situation. From there, he set about trying to prod the stuck quadcopter free with a improvised lance fitted to the front of a larger drone. But this ended up simply getting the larger bird stuck as well. It eventually managed to free itself, though it was damaged severely when [Scott] caught it as it fell. As told to Hackaday, [Scott] thus decided he needed to build a mock-up of the situation at home, to help him devise a rescue technique.
In the end, [Scott] settled on a grappling hook made of paperclips. A drone lofted a long length of VHS tape over the roof beam, and he then attached the grappling hook from ground level. The VHS tape was then used to reel the hook up to the rafters, and snare the drone, bringing it back down to Earth.
It took some perseverance, but [Scott] ended up rescuing his tiny drone from its lofty prison. The part we love most about this story, though, is that [Scott] planned the recovery like a heist or a cave rescue operation.
Continue reading “Drone Rescue Uses VHS Tape And Careful Planning” →
Digital music has made keeping all your tunes with you a lot more convenient, but have we lost something with dematerialization? [Jordi Parra] felt that there was something lacking with the digital music experience and designed a Spotify player with a tactile interface.
Specific playlists are selected via small RFID tags that look like a cross between a MiniDisc and a vinyl record. As this is a prototype, an Arduino reads the RFID tag, but needs a computer to actually play the Spotify playlist. Future iterations could include an integrated speaker and run libspotify to create a self-contained device.
While there is still work to do for a fully seamless experience, we love the details in the industrial design of this project. Clean simple lines and a combination of wood and more modern materials make this feel like a timeless piece of tech. Definitely check out the full photo gallery including shots of the really impressive packaging.
Want more digital music with a tactile interface? Check out this MP3 Player Shelf or a Simple Internet Radio Transplant.
Virtually any platform you might find yourself programming on has some simple method of running a delay. [Joey Shepard] got rather creative on a recent project, though, relying on a rather silly nesting method that we’re calling 6502s All The Way Down.
The project in question was a simple PCB that was shaped like a robot, with blinking LED eyes. Typically, you’d simply reach for the usual sleep() or delay() function to control the blink rate, but [Joey] went off-piste for this one. Instead, the PIC32 on the board runs a 6502 emulator written in MIPS assembly. This emulated 6502 is then charged with running a further 6502 emulator coded in 6502 assembly, and so on, until there’s 6502 emulators running six-deep on the humble microcontroller. The innermost emulator runs a simple program that blinks the LED eyes in a simple loop. With the overhead of running six emulators, though, the eyes only blink at a rate of roughly once every two seconds.
It’s an amusing and complicated way to write a blink program, and we applaud [Joey] for going to all that trouble. We imagine it was a great way to learn about programming the PIC32 as well as emulation in general. Meanwhile, if you’re working on your own emulator feats, be sure to let us know!
Twas the night before Christmas, and because I decided to make everyone’s presents myself this year, I’m still working like mad to get everything done before the big deadline. Why do I do this to myself? Well, partly because I enjoy the process.
My wife had this idea that we can make the older folks some fun decorative blinky things, and picked some motives. My son then drew them out on paper, and I scanned those drawings in and traced them over in CAD. We then cut the shapes out of wood on the CNC router, which turned out to be incredibly successful. (Now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of those “quirky” decorative objects that the Swedish flat-packers sell aren’t initially sketched out by third graders.)
Then my son painted them, and it’s my job to insert the twinkling. I bought some of those three-wire “fairy lights” for the purpose, and they’re really fun to hack on. They’re like WS2812s, only instead of using four pins and shifting the data downstream, they’re on a bus, each with a hard-coded address – they know where they are in the string and each LED only listens for the Nth set of 24 bits. This means sending 200 color codes just to light up the 4 LEDs in Aunt Micki’s decorative tree, but so be it.
Last stop, and still to do as of the 23rd, route out some kind of wooden battery case, wedge in the LiPo and the charging circuits, and solder on an on/off switch. It’s down to the last minute, but isn’t that always the way?
Definitely would have been easier just to order something online. But is that the spirit of giving? No! The DIY way brings the family together, gets me some quality time with the CNC machine, and tones up my FreeCAD skills. My son even looked over my shoulder as we were coding some of the LED animations. And nothing says Christmas like hand-coded blinkies.
Happy Holidays, y’all!
Despite the huge strides in computing power and functionality that have been achieved in the past few decades, there are still some things that older computers can do which are basically impossible on modern machines. This doesn’t just include the ability to use older hardware that’s now obsolete, either, although that is certainly a perk. In this two-part restoration of an Amiga 500, [Jeremy] shows us some of these features like the ability to directly modify the audio capabilities of this retro machine.
The restoration starts by fixing some damage and cleaning up the rest of the machine so it could be powered up for the first time in 30 years. Since it was in fairly good shape he then started on the fun part, which was working with this computer’s audio capabilities. It includes a number of amplifiers and filters in hardware that can be switched on or off, so he rebuilt these with new op-amps and added some new controls so that while he is using his MIDI software he can easily change how it sounds. He also restored the floppy disk drives and cleaned up the yellowing on the plastic parts to improve the overall appearance, as well as some other general improvements.
These old Amigas have a lot going for them, but since [Jeremy] is a musician he mostly focused on bringing back some of the musical functionality of his childhood computer, although he did build up a lot of extra features in this machine as well. These types of audio circuits are not something found in modern computers, though, so to get a similar sound without using original hardware you’ll need to build something like this NES audio processing unit programmed in Verilog.
Continue reading “How To Restore A Musical Amiga” →