A Guide To Field Stripping Your Voyager Tricorder

For the last few years, [Mangy_Dog] has been working on what is easily the most technically and aesthetically impressive Star Trek tricorder prop the world has ever seen. With each new version of the hardware we’ve gotten the occasional peek under the hood or source code walk-through, but these limited presentations have made it somewhat difficult to really appreciate the scale of this undertaking.

But now thanks to this epic hour-long tour of the hardware and software that makes up version 2.5 of his Voyager tricorder, we can finally see just how incredible the engineering that’s gone into this project really is. Every detail has been meticulously considered to deliver a final product that’s not only as visually accurate as possible, but reliable enough to actually carry around. Continue reading “A Guide To Field Stripping Your Voyager Tricorder”

Thin Client Wysens Up To Become OpenWrt Router

For some of us, unused hardware lying around just calls to be used. It seems like [Miles Goodhew] heard the call, and wanted to put a Dell Wyse 3040 thin client to use — in this case as a wireless router. It seems simple enough. OpenWrt supports x64_64 targets, and the thin client has 2G of ram and 8G of flash. It should make for a very capable router.

And before you tell us that it’s just another computer, and that installing OpenWrt on a miniature x86 machine isn’t a hack, note that there were some speedbumps along the way. First off, the motherboard has integrated storage, with the not-very-useful ThinLinux installed, and the system BIOS locked down to prevent reinstall. There is a BIOS clear button on the system’s diminutive motherboard. With the BIOS lock out of the way, a real Linux system can be installed on the small 8 GB mmcblk device.

The next issue the the CPU. It’s an Intel Atom x5 z-series. OpenWrt won’t actually boot on that oddball, not-quite- processor, so [Miles] opted to install Fedora and test via virtualization instead. If that statement makes you do a double-take, you’re not alone. The initial explanation sounded like the mobile-centric processor was missing instructions to make OpenWrt run, but virtualization doesn’t add any instructions for a guest to use. It turns out, the problem is a missing serial port that OpenWrt uses as a debugging output by default.

After a custom OpenWrt compile, the device comes up just as you’d expect, and while it would be underpowered as a desktop, OpenWrt runs happily shuffling bits from Ethernet to wireless adapter at respectable speeds. As [Miles] points out, there’s nothing ground-breaking here, but it’s nice to have the details on re-using these machines compiled in one place. And if you too love the idea of putting OpenWrt in places where nobody intended, we’ve got you covered.

A Speaker With Dancing Ferrofluid

A speaker project isn’t usually very different, but we couldn’t help but notice [Electronoob’s] latest speaker not for its audio performance but because it features dancing ferrofluid and is an unusual work of art. The housing is 3D printed and includes some translucent portions for LEDs.You can see and hear the speaker at work in the video below.

Apparently, not all ferrofluid is created equal. You can get just the fluid, but then you have to work up some sort of carrier fluid. You can also get the material already in a glass with a carrier fluid, which is a better option. Apparently, you can also get cheap material that is little more than iron filings suspended in a liquid. That’s not really ferrofluid.

Continue reading “A Speaker With Dancing Ferrofluid”

Adding Power Over Ethernet Support To A Mac Mini

Wiring up a Mac Mini's new PoE module. (Credit: Ivan Kuleshov)
Wiring up a Mac Mini’s new PoE module. (Credit: Ivan Kuleshov)

Despite all the fancy features on modern Apple Mac systems like USB-C and Thunderbolt, they have one glaring omission: the absolute lack of any form of Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). This is an issue that [Ivan Kuleshov] sought to rectify with some delicate board-level surgery. Since the original Ethernet jack on the lucky vic^Wrecipient M1 Mac Mini does not have integrated magnetics (magjack), tapping into the appropriate lines would have been rather awkward, with questionable results on the side of the PCB traces that would suddenly be used for PoE purposes they were never designed for.

Rather than choosing this level of experimentation, [Ivan] decided to patch in the Silvertel AG5412 PoE module with plentiful patch wires. This involved removing the Ethernet jack and bypassing the PCB and the magnetics module completely for the new PoE functionality, instead using the magnetics pilfered from a magjack and routing from there back to the mainboard as well as to the PoE module’s inputs. Continue reading “Adding Power Over Ethernet Support To A Mac Mini”

A Digital Camera For The 1984 Market

Digital cameras are a ubiquitous consumer and professional product here in 2023, and because of the wide availability of parts it’s relatively straightforward to construct one for yourself. Four decades ago though, film was king, but that hasn’t stopped [Georg Lukas] from building a digital camera for the 1984 market. The hardware is definitely from recent years, the extremely affordable ESP32-cam board that many of us will have worked with already. Meanwhile the 1984 part lies in the recording format, it makes EGA 16-colour low-res pictures and stores them in the archaic TGA file format.

A low-res camera is fun, but there are two other angles on this which are definitely worth some time. The first is that his description and code are worth a read for anyone with an interest in programming an ESP32 camera, while the second invites us to consider whether such a camera could have been made using parts available in 1984. We remember camera peripherals for 8-bit microcomputers which were a C-mount lens positioned over a decapped RAM chip, and thus we can’t help wondering whether an RGB split to three of those sensors could have been constructed. Whether a 6502 or a Z80 with 64k of memory could have processed the three images into one is another matter, but at least if any of you want to try there’s a handy 1984 computer still popping up on eBay.

2023 Hackaday Supercon Tickets On Sale Now!

The 2023 Hackaday Superconference isn’t taking place until November, but the time to get your tickets is right now.

Hackaday’s Supercon is far and away the coolest hardware-focused hacker con of the year, and if you’re Hackaday, you absolutely want to be there. Honestly, just the crowd that Supercon brings together is reason enough to attend, but then you throw in the talks, the badge-hacking, the food, and the miscellaneous shenanigans … it’s an event you really don’t want to miss.

We’ll be announcing the speaker and workshop lineups in the upcoming weeks, but as always, we’re opening up a number of True Believer tickets for those of you who know you’ll be coming no matter what. Head on over to Eventbrite now and secure yours before they’re all gone. These usually sell out within the first few hours of being announced, so if you’re reading this right now, don’t hesitate.

Supercon is a small and friendly event, and it will be a long weekend that you’ll be looking back on fondly for the rest of the year. Whether you’ve been every time or whether you have always wanted to see what the hype is about, we can’t wait to see you all there. Come join us!

Black Graphics On Your TV, For A Greener World?

Can you really save energy by carefully choosing the colors displayed on a TV screen? Under some conditions, yes. Or at least that’s the conclusion of a team at the BBC that looked at reducing the energy consumption impact of their output by using what they call Lower Carbon Graphics. In short, they’re trying to ensure that OLED displays or those with reactive backlights use less energy when displaying BBC graphics, simply by using more black.

It turns out that a lot of British households play radio stations on their TVs, and the BBC sends a static image to each screen in this mode. As part of a redesign across the organisation, the BBC removed the bright background colours from these images and replaced it with black, with a remarkable reduction in power consumption, at least on OLED and FALD screens. (On normally backlit screens, 89% of British TVs, this does nothing.)

If you look hard at their numbers, though, listening to radio on the TV is horrendously inefficient; can you imagine a radio that consumes 100 W?  If the BBC really wants to help reduce media-related energy consumption, maybe they should stop broadcasting radio programming on the TV entirely.

Anyway, as we move toward a larger fraction of OLED screens, on TVs and monitors alike, it’s fun to think that darker images use up to 40% less power. Who knew that Hackaday was so environmentally friendly? Black is the new green!

Header: RIA Novosti archive/ Igor Vinogradov, CC-BY-SA 3.0.