Pi Microcontroller Still Runs A Webserver

At first glance, the Raspberry Pi Pico might seem like a bit of a black sheep when compared to the other offerings from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. While most of the rest of their lineup can run Linux environments with full desktops, the Pico is largely limited to microcontroller duties in exchange for much smaller price tags and footprints. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be coerced into doing some of the things we might want a mainline Pi to do, like run a web server.

The project can run a static web page simply by providing the Pico with the project code available on the GitHub page and the HTML that you’d like the Pico to serve. It can be more than a static web page though, as it is also capable of running Python commands through the web interface as well. The server can pass commands from the web server and back as well, allowing for control of various projects though a browser interface. In theory this could be much simpler than building a physical user interface for a project instead by offloading all of this control onto the web server instead.

The project not only supports the RP2040-based Raspberry Pi Pico but can also be implemented on other WiFi-enabled microcontroller boards like the ESP8266 and ESP32. Having something like this on hand could greatly streamline smaller projects without having to reach for a more powerful (and more expensive) single-board computer like a Pi 3 or 4. We’ve seen some other builds on these boards capable of not only running HTML and CSS renderers, but supporting some image formats as well.

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The Sounds Emitted By Plants Are Real But They Are Still Not Talking

A recent paper published by researchers at the university of Tel Aviv in Cell on the sounds they captured from ‘stressed’ plants had parts of the internet abuzz with what this meant, with some suggesting that this was an early April Fools prank. The fun part here is the news item is not that plants make noise, but rather that this was the first time (apparently) that the noise made by plants was captured by microphones placed at some distance from a variety of plants.

This research is based on previous studies dating back decades, such as Tyree and Sperry who reported (PDF) in 1989 on the vulnerability of the plant xylem (water transporting tissue) to cavitation and embolism. Since the xylem’s function is to carry water and dissolved nutrients to the upper parts of the plant, having air bubbles form would be a negative thing for the plant’s survival. When and how cavitation occurs in the xylem is relevant as it directly impacts how well plants grow. Continue reading “The Sounds Emitted By Plants Are Real But They Are Still Not Talking”

Riding The Rails By Ebike

As most developed countries around the world continue to modernize their transportation infrastructure with passenger rail, countries in North America have been abandoning railroads for over a century now, assuming that just one more lane will finally solve their traffic problems. Essentially the only upside to the abandonment of railroads has been that it’s possible to build some unique vehicles to explore these tracks and the beautiful yet desolate areas they reach, and [Cam Engineering] is using an ebike to do that along the coast of central California.

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Photoplotting PCBs With A 3D Printer

Do you ever wonder why your PCB maker uses Gerber files? It doesn’t have to do with baby food. Gerber was the company that introduced photoplotting. Early machines used a xenon bulb to project shapes from an aperture to plot on a piece of film. You can then use that film for photolithography which has a lot of uses, including making printed circuit boards. [Wil Straver] decided to make his own photoplotter using a 3D printer in two dimensions and a UV LED. You can see the results in the video below.

A small 3D printed assembly holds a circuit board, the LED, and a magnet to hold it all to the 3D printer. Of course, an LED is a big large for a PCB trace, so he creates a 0.3 mm aperture by printing a mold and using it to cast epoxy to make the part that contacts the PCB film.

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Spice Up The Humble 16×2 LCD With Big Digits

The 16×2 LCD display is a classic in the microcontroller world, and for good reason. Add a couple of wires, download a library, mash out a few lines of code, and your project has a user interface. A utilitarian and somewhat boring UI, though, and one that can be hard to read at a distance. So why not spice it up with these large-type custom fonts?

As [upir] explains, the trick to getting large fonts on a display that’s normally limited to two rows of 16 characters each lies in the eight custom characters the display allows to be added to its preprogrammed character set. These can store carefully crafted patterns that can then be assembled to make reasonable facsimiles of the ten numerals. Each custom pattern forms one-quarter of the finished numeral, which spans what would normally be a two-by-two character matrix on the display. Yes, there’s a one-pixel wide blank space running horizontally and vertically through each big character, but it’s not that distracting.

Composing the custom patterns, and making sure they’re usable across multiple characters, is the real hack here, and [upir] put a lot of work into that. He started out in Illustrator, but quickly switched to a spreadsheet because it allowed him to easily generate the correct binary numbers to pass to the display for each pattern. It seems to have really let his creative juices flow, too — he came up with 24 different fonts! Our favorite is the one he calls “Tron,” which looks a bit like the magnetic character recognition font on the bottom of bank checks. Everyone remembers checks, right?

Hats off to [upir] for a creative and fun way to spice up the humble 16×2 display. We’d love to see someone pick this up and try a complete alphanumeric character set, although that might be a tall order with only eight custom characters to work with. Then again, if Bad Apple on a 16×2 is possible…

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Share Your Projects: Take Pictures

Information is diesel for a hacker’s engine, and it’s fascinating how much can happen when you share what you’re working on. It could be a pretty simple journey – say, you record a video showing you fixing your broken headphones, highlighting a particular trick that works well for you. Someone will see it as an entire collection of information – “if my headphones are broken, the process of fixing them looks like this, and these are the tools I might need”. For a newcomer, you might be leading them to an eye-opening discovery – “if my headphones are broken, it is possible to fix them”.

There’s a few hundred different ways that different hackers use for project information sharing – and my bet is that talking through them will help everyone involved share better and easier. Let’s start talking about pictures – perhaps, the most powerful tool in a hacker’s arsenal. I’ll tell you about all the picture-taking hacks and guidelines I’ve found, go into subjects like picture habits and simple tricks, and even tell you what makes Hackaday writers swoon!

To start with, here’s a picture of someone hotwiring a car. This one picture conveys an entire story, and a strong one.

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Hackaday Podcast 213: Not Your Grandfather’s Grandfather Clock, The Engineering Behind Art, Hydrogen Powered Flight

Join Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Tom Nardi as they review some of their favorite hacks and projects of the past week. The episode starts with a discussion about the recently announced Artemis II crew, and how their mission compares to the Apollo program of the 1960s and 70s.

From there, the pair theorize as to why Amazon’s family of Echo devices have managed to evade eager hardware hackers, take a look at a very impressive SMD soldering jig created with some fascinating OpenSCAD code, marvel at the intersection of art and electronic design, and wonder aloud where all the cheap motorized satellite dishes are hiding. Stick around for some questionable PCB design ideas, a Raspberry Pi expansion that can read your mind, and the first flight of a (semi) hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Check out the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Download your own personal copy!

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