Surgery On An LED To Preserve Vintage Aesthetics

[Chris Jones] recently found himself in a pickle. An indicator LED off an old piece of stereo equipment had failed. It was a strange rectangular type for which he could source no modern substitute. Using a different LED would ruin the aesthetic. Thus, what else was [Chris] to do, but attempt surgery on an LED!

The first attempt was the simplest. [Chris] tried soldering a small SMD LED between the legs of the existing part, which was open circuit. It worked, but the light didn’t really propagate to the top of the LED’s plastic. It was too dim to do the job.

Unperturbed, [Chris] instead elected to cut the LED apart. he soldered the SMD LED to the original LED’s leads, inside its body this time. The top part of the plastic lens was then notched to fit snugly over the new SMD part. A bit of superglue then joined everything back together. The finished product looks a touch messy on the PCB. However, installed back inside the stereo, it’s a perfectly stealth fix that looks great.

Some will consider this fix frivolous and a waste of time. Others will appreciate the way it preserved the attractive retro look of a piece of vintage audio gear. In any case, we can all agree that modern LEDs are often a great replacement for older parts in many cases. If you’ve pulled off your own weird, oddball repair hacks, don’t hesitate to share us with them on the tipsline!

A wooden box sits on a darker wooden table. The box has a red, glowing number 8 on it.

Ambient Display Tells You If Borealis Is Coming To Town

For those times when you’d rather not get sucked down another internet rabbit hole when you really just wanted the weather, an ambient display can be great. [AlexanderK106] built a simple ambient display to know the probability the Northern Lights would visit his town.

Starting with a NodeMCU featuring the ESP8266, [AlexanderK106] walks us through a beginner-friendly tutorial on how to do everything from configure the Arduino IDE, the basics of using a breadboard. finding a data source and parsing it, and finally sticking everything into an enclosure.

The 7-segment display is taped and set into the back of the 1/4″ pine with enough brightness to shine through the additional layer of veneer on top. The display is set to show one digit and then the next before a three second repeat. A second display would probably make this easier to use day-to-day, but we appreciate him keeping it simple for this tutorial.

Looking for more ambient displays? Checkout the Tempescope or this clock that lets you feel the temperature outside!

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Hackaday Links: January 29, 2023

We’ve been told for ages that “the robots are coming for our jobs!” It’s true that we’ve seen robots capable of everything from burger flipping to bricklaying being demonstrated, and that’s certainly alarming for anyone employed in such trades. But now it looks like AI has set its sights set on the white-collar world, with the announcement that ChatGPT has managed a passing grade on a Wharton MBA exam.

For those not in the know, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business is in the major league of business schools; earning a Master’s in Business Administration from that august institution is no mean feat, and is likely to put the budding executive on a ballistic career trajectory. So the fact that ChatGPT could pass the exam is significant. But before you worry about a world in which our best and brightest business leaders are replaced with soulless automatons, relax. The exam presented to ChatGPT was just a final exam for one course, Operations Management, so it’s not like it aced everything an MBA is expected to know, and it took a lot of hints from a human helper to get it that far. It’s also reported that it made a lot of simple math mistakes, too, so maybe a Wharton MBA isn’t that much of a big deal after all.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: January 29, 2023”

Two "On Air" signs

Automatic On Air Light Prevents Distractions During Online Meetings

Remote working has become so normal that even important meetings are now routinely held online. But for those working from home there’s always the risk of pets or flatmates entering the room right when you’re in a heated argument with your boss or presenting your results to an important client. To overcome this problem, [Hans Scharler] designed a system that lights up a big “ON AIR” sign whenever he’s in an online meeting. Although his cat might still disregard it, any human housemates will now know not to disturb him.

The inside of an "On Air" sign with an ESP32 and an LED strip inside[Hans] built a similar device out of spare parts back in 2020, but completely redesigned it to make a more robust version. The basic idea is simple: the sign is illuminated whenever [Hans]’s webcam is enabled, as he is then presumably in a meeting. A few lines of Python code detect the webcam’s state and send the result to ThingSpeak, an IoT service that can be hooked up to various types of gadgets. In this case, the online service sends a signal to an ESP32 hidden inside the sign to turn on an LED string. Those LEDs consume very little power, so they can be driven directly from one of the ESP32’s GPIO ports.

The whole system is powered by a 5V USB power supply and can be placed on a shelf or mounted on a wall, giving your room a bit of a vintage radio studio vibe. Modern IoT services make this kind of project much easier than before: back in 2011, [Matt] probably had to write a lot more code to make a similar Arduino-powered light work.

Self-Watering Planters Reuse Household Jars

Self-watering planters are low-maintenance, and common DIY projects. What we like most about [Tommy]’s design is that it reuses empty jars to create self-watering planters. After all, jars are fantastic at reliably holding water, so why not put them to work? Incorporating jars as part of the design means fewer worries about leakage, but it also means less 3D printing is needed overall.

A wick (in this case, a piece of string) takes care of moving water from jar to the soil.

[Tommy]’s planter screws onto the threads of a jar’s neck. Getting water to the plant is helped by a small piece of string, which acts as a wick between the soil at the top and the water in the jar at the bottom. This design works best with small plants, but on the plus side there are no moving parts or other complexities. Got a 3D printer? Models for the planter are available here.

The biggest challenge for this design is that not all jar threads are alike, so planters made in this way are not completely interchangeable across all different types of jars. Fortunately, [Tommy] provides the OpenSCAD code he used to generate his design, which he created with the help of an industry guide on how to measure the finish (or threads) of jars and lids.

If you find yourself needing to further customize your own version to fit a particular container’s threads, there’s no need to start from scratch. Unsurprisingly, threads and lids are highly standardized so chances are there exists a calculator, tool, or existing model for exactly what you need.

A MiniDisc Walkman, a MiniDisc and a pair of BlueTooth earphones

Wireless MiniDisc Walkman Has Bluetooth Inside

For most people, MiniDisc is just one of countless media formats that became obsolete when music went online. Not so for MiniDisc enthusiasts, many of whom still use a MiniDisc deck at home and a MiniDisc Walkman on the go. Unfortunately, high-end headphones these days often come with Bluetooth connectivity only, necessitating the use of clunky signal converters that ruin the tidy compactness of those portable players. [Daniel Rojas] cleverly solved this problem by directly adding Bluetooth functionality to a Sony MZ-R500 MiniDisc Walkman.

MiniDisc Walkmen are famously compact devices, so adding a full circuit board to one wasn’t easy. [Daniel] managed to squeeze the PCB from a Schosche wireless audio transmitter inside the front of the Walkman, next to the control buttons. He connected the audio signal to the transmitter’s input and rewired the little-used “End Search” button to become the “Pair” button. Sadly, the recording head and some associated hardware had to be removed in order to make space for the new component, turning the Walkman into a playback-only device.

A MiniDisc Walkman, opened up and showing a BlueTooth module inside
Lots of flying wires and Kapton tape, but it all fits.

The project’s GitHub page contains a detailed walk-through of the modification process that should enable anyone to reproduce the end result. [Daniel] didn’t arrive at the optimal solution in one go however, and he describes the three major revisions of his project in separate sections. In the first iteration for example, the Bluetooth module caused interference on the audio signal, which [Daniel] solved by adding isolation transformers in version two. He also includes a page full of technical information he collected during his project, which will come in handy if you ever want to perform other modifications on your MiniDisc Walkman.

We’ve seen several impressive projects where Bluetooth interfaces were added to pre-Bluetooth gadgets, ranging from tube radios to 8-track players. Some, like the iPod Nano, are even more space-constrained than a MiniDisc Walkman. Continue reading “Wireless MiniDisc Walkman Has Bluetooth Inside”

Opening A Safe With A Stepper Motor And DIY Auto-Dialer

What do you do when you happen to come into possession of a safe of which the combination is lost to the sands of time? If you’re someone like [eNBeWe], you grab a stepper motor with driver module you had lying around gathering dust, an ESP8266 for the brains and a few other pieces to build your very own auto-dialer to crack that safe combination. The software has been made available on GitHub for those interested.

While other auto-dialers used with the fun hobby of safe cracking can generally find the combination in a matter of hours if not less, it took [eNBeWe]’s contraption two days to crack the combination. Much of this was due to the hacked together nature of the structure, with the glue joints among other weak points that’d probably not take too kindly to a lot of abuse. Since there was no particular rush to get into the safe, this worked out fine.

As an impromptu auto-dialer thrown together with parts that were lying around it seemed to perform just fine for the task, and we presume that this is the beginning of a beautiful new lock- and safe-picking hobby.

Continue reading “Opening A Safe With A Stepper Motor And DIY Auto-Dialer”