What’s In A Slip Ring?

We know that when [Big Clive] puts up another video, the chances are we’re in for another fascinating look into a piece of tech on his bench. The latest is a slip ring assembly, and he gives it a teardown to reveal its secrets.

For most of us, the only place we encounter a slip ring is in some electric motors or alternators when it provides a connection via a conductive ring and a graphite brush from a fixed component to a rotating one. But they also appear as components in their own right wherever a rotating assembly needs an electrical contact, and it’s one of these that [Clive] has on his bench. It’s a compact unit with an impressive six conductors, and its manufacturer boldly claims that it’s good for mains voltages. We’re going with the verdict in the video below the break. That’s wishful thinking, given the size of the unit.

Inside is a rotor with six brass rings and a couple of decent little bearings, while the other half of the unit is a set of gold-plated spring contacts. There is extensive use of potting, and the verdict is that this is a surprisingly good quality component for the eBay price. We look forward to our community finding inventive uses for them. Having a ready-made unit sure beats making your own.

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Using Trash To Keep Plastic Trash Out Of Oceans By Kabooming Them

For a few years now, [Richard] of Tropical Ocean Cleanup fame has been working hard to clean the Philippines of the plastic trash that litters everything, and washes down the canals and rivers into the ocean. Using nothing but what is essentially trash – old car tires, rope and empty soda bottles – he creates ‘kabooms’ that prevent this trash  floating in the canals from polluting the beaches, kill wildlife and gather in the oceans. In a recent video he covers how he creates these systems, and the basics of how they are installed.

We previously covered [Richard]’s efforts, and although these kabooms have received a few tweaks along the way, the basic principle has remained the same. The empty bottles provides the buoyancy, while the tires are excellent structural elements that can take a beating from the weather and debris. Some of the kabooms are lashed together with rope, while for other types holes are drilled into the tires using a hole saw, all of which help to create a self-supporting trash capture system that can be installed easily with a group of volunteers.

Fetching the thus captured trash is still a bit of a struggle, requiring a fair bit of manual labor, nets and boats from local fishermen when they have some spare time, but the effect is very much noticeable on the nearby beaches. In addition to these trash capturing kabooms, [Richard] also promotes trash collecting at schools, organizes trash pick-up events and trash collecting points, to raise local awareness of the need to keep plastic trash out of the environment and burn pits.

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Bringing Back The Minitel

If you didn’t live in France in the 80s or 90s, it’s likely you missed out on one of the most successful computer networks in existence prior to the modern Internet. Known as Minitel, it was an online service available over existing phone lines that offered a connected computer terminal for users to do most things we associate with the modern world, such as booking travel, viewing news, looking up phone numbers, and plenty of other useful activities. While a lot of the original system was never archived, there are still some efforts to restore some of its original functionality like this MiniMit.

The build requires either an original or a recreation of a Minitel terminal in all its 80s glory, but pairs an ESP32 to support modern network connectivity. The ESP32 interfaces with the Minitel’s DIN socket and provides it with a translation layer between WiFi and the networking type that it would have originally expected to see from the telephone lines. Two of the original developers of Minitel are working on restoring some of the services that would have been available originally as well, which means that the entire system is being redeveloped and not just the original hardware.

We’ve mentioned that this system was first implemented in the 80s, but the surprising thing is that even well after broadband Internet would have been available to most people in France, the Minitel system still had widespread use, not being fully deactivated until 2012. They remain popular as inspiration for other projects as well, like this one which was brought a little more up-to-date with the help of a modern display and Raspberry Pi.

Smart Sphere Or Magnetic Magic

Sometimes a coworker sees something on your desk, and they have to ask, “Where can I get one of those?” and that has to be one of the greatest compliments to a maker. [Greg Zumwalt] nailed it with his “Marblevator Line Follower.” Roboticists will immediately recognize a black line on a white surface, but this uses hidden mechanics instead of light/dark sensors. Check out the video after the break to see the secrets, or keep bearing with us.

Inside the cylinder is a battery, charging circuit, inductive receiving coil, and a motor turning a magnet-laden arm beneath the cap. The overall effect is an illusion to convince people that the marble has a mind of its own. You can pick up the cylinder, and it keeps moving as expected from an autonomous bot. The black line is actually a groove, so the bearing follows a curvy course without any extra movements from the magnets within. The two-tone look is super-clean, but the whimsy of a “smart bearing” makes this an all-around winner.

“Marblevator Line Follower” is not the first Marblevator we featured, and we love our bouncing-bearing baubles and music-making machines.

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Behind The X86 Pipeline Curtain

We’ve often heard that modern x86 CPUs don’t really execute x86 instructions. Instead, they decode them into RISC instructions that are easier to schedule, pipeline, and execute. But we never really looked into that statement to see if it is true. [Fanael] did, though, and the results are very interesting.

The post starts with a very simple loop containing four instructions. In a typical RISC CPU — RISC-V — the same loop requires six instructions. However, a modern CPU is likely to do much more than just blindly convert one instruction set to another.

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Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Mouse-cropad

Okay, so you built a macropad or even a keyboard. What now? Well, most people use some kind of mouse to go along with it, but no one uses a mouse like this creation by [Joe_Scotto].

This is the mouse no one asked for, and yet I think it’s pretty awesome for something that’s supposed to be a joke. Maybe it’s in the great execution, I don’t know. I will ignore the suggestion that MX Browns are part of the joke, however. *cries in OG tactility*

Essentially, this is a macropad that uses QMK mouse keys to emulate a mouse. The build itself couldn’t be more straightforward — it’s six MX browns wired up to six pins on a Pico, and they all share a common ground. Keep the joke going by commissioning one from [Joe] or building it yourself.

Via [r/cyberdeck]

News: Microsoft Discontinues Natural Keyboard

Image via Wikipedia

It’s often people’s first ergonomic keyboard — some variation of Microsoft’s Natural keyboard, that 90s split that took up so much real estate on the desk with it’s built-in wrist rest.

I’ll admit that despite using one for years at the office, I went back to whatever clicky rectangles I could get from the IT department. Then came the pain, and I got a Logitech Wave. Then came the surgery, and the Kinesis Advantage.

Well, now it seems that after 30 years and several ergonomic models, Microsoft are exiting the keyboard game. While I don’t personally understand why when there are so many fans, [Jeff Atwood] believes it’s because keyboards are exploding in popularity and tons of people are building their own. While that may be true, there are legions of normies trying to stave off carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome and have absolutely no interest in building anything, much less a keyboard. So, get these things while they’re hot, I guess.

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DIY Picosatellites Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, June 21 at noon Pacific for the DIY Picosatellites Hack Chat with Nathaniel Evry!

Building a satellite and putting it in orbit was until very recently something only a nation had the resources to accomplish, and even then only a select few. Oh sure, there were a few amateur satellites that somehow managed to get built on a shoestring budget and hitch a ride into space, and while their stories are deservedly the stuff of legends, satellite construction took a very long time to be democratized.

Fast forward a half-dozen or so decades, and things have changed dramatically. Satellite launches are still complex affairs — it’s still rocket science, after all — but the advent of the CubeSat format and the increased tempo of launches, both national and commercial, has pushed the barriers to private, low-budget launches way, way down. So much so, in fact, that the phrase “space startup” is no longer something to snicker about.

join-hack-chatOne such group of space entrepreneurs is Quub, Inc., a small company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania which is looking to build and fly a constellation of microsatellites to monitor Earth’s environment in real-time. They’re building sats and signing launch deals using consumer-grade technology and modularized construction, and we’re lucky enough to have Nathaniel Evry, their Chief Research Officer, stop by the Hack Chat. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to build hardware that can stand the rigors of launch and then perform a task in space, you’ll want to tune in for this one.

Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, June 21 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter. Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.