[Thomas Sanladerer]’s YouTube Channel Goes In The Toilet

We like [Thomas Sanladerer], so when we say his channel has gone in the toilet, we mean that quite literally. He had a broken toilet and wanted to compare options for effecting a 3D printed repair. The mechanism is a wall-mounted flush mechanism with a small broken plastic part. Luckily, he had another identical unit that provided a part that wasn’t broken.

The first attempt was to 3D scan the good part. The first scanner’s software turned out to be finicky, and [Thomas] finally gave up on it. He finally used a handheld scanner which took about a half hour. It wasn’t, of course, perfect, so he also had to do some more post-processing.

The next step was to make measurements and draw the part in CAD. It took the same amount as the scan, and it is worth noting that the part had curves and angles — it wasn’t just a faceplate. The printed results were good, although a measurement error made the CAD model bind a bit instead of pivoting the way it should. The scan, of course, got it right.

A quick revision of the design solved that problem but, of course, it added some time to the process. At the end, he noticed that the scanned “good” part was also broken but in a different way. He added the additional part, which didn’t seem to bother the function. The scanned object required a little trimming but nothing tremendous.

In the end, the scanning was a bit quicker, partly because it didn’t suffer from the measurement error. However, [Thomas] noted that it was more fun to work in CAD. We thought the results looked better, anyway. [Thomas] thinks the scanners, at least the budget ones, are probably better for just getting reference objects into CAD to guide you when you create the actual objects to print.

It isn’t hard to make a cheap scanner. Some of the open designs are quite sophisticated.

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Triso Fuel And The Rolls Royce Of Nuclear Reactors

Bangor University scientists think that the way to go big with nuclear power is to, in fact, go small. Their tiny nuclear fuel pellets called triso fuel are said to be the size of poppy seeds and are meant to power a reactor by Rolls Royce the size of a “small car.” We aren’t sure if that’s a small Rolls Royce or a small normal car.

The Welsh university thinks the reactor has applications for lunar bases, here on Earth, and even on rockets because the reactor is so small. We can’t tell if the fuel from Bangor is unique or if it is just the application and the matching reactor that is making the news. Triso fuel — short for tri-structural isotropic particle fuel — was developed in the 1960s, and there are multiple projects worldwide gearing up to use this sort of fuel.

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How Small Can The ESP32 Get?

At its core, the ESP32 chip is not much more than an integrated circuit, a huge mass of transistors sealed inside an epoxy resin package with some leads. Of course, most of us won’t buy discrete ESP32 chips with no support circuitry since it’s typically easier and often not that much more expensive to get them paired with development boards of some type for easy access to things like USB and GPIO. But these tiny chips need little in the way of support to get up and running as [Paul] demonstrates with this tiny ESP32 board.

The project started as a challenge for [Paul] to build the smallest ESP32 that would still function. That means carving away nearly everything normally found accompanying one of these chips. There is no charging circuitry, only one of the GPIO pins is accessible, and it even foregoes the WiFi antennas which eliminates the major reason most people would reach for this chip in the first place. But at this form factor even without wireless capabilities it still blows other chips of this stature, like the ATtiny series, out of the water.

Even though [Paul] built it as a challenge, it goes a long way to demonstrate what’s really needed to get one of these chips up and running properly. And plenty of projects don’t need a ton of I/O or Wi-Fi either, so presuming these individual chips can be found cheaply and boards produced for various projects its an excellent way to minimize size and perhaps even power requirements. You can make these boards even smaller than a USB-A connector if you want to take this process even further, too.

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Programming A Poker Game With GPT Help

Although ChatGPT generated a huge amount of hype around replacing white collar workers completely when it was first released to the public, the general consensus now is that it won’t outright replace anyone yet, but rather people who know how to use it as a tool will replace those who don’t. Getting started with it is not too hard, either, but you’ll of course need a project to work on to familiarize yourself with the tool. [Volos Projects] gave himself the challenge of writing a poker game using ChatGPT not as the opposing player, but as a co-designer in order to learn more about it as an assistant.

The poker game is being built on an ESP32 board with a built-in AMOLED screen. Five buttons are wired to the microcontroller to allow the player to select which cards to discard and which to keep. The bet for each hand can be raised or lowered much like the tabletop poker games often seen in bars and restaurants. To program it, though, ChatGPT was used to help design the code at each step of the way, first describing the overall goal and then building each function one-by-one like shuffling the deck, dealing the hand, and then replacing and dealing new cards.

For anyone who hasn’t yet explored using ChatGPT to help design their programming projects, this effort goes a long way to showing just how useful a tool it can be. For more complex tasks, though, it does take a little bit of knowledge on the part of the user because ChatGPT can often turn out nonsense or factually inaccurate information, but at least in a programming environment you’ll generally find out quickly when that happens. It’s not just a useful tool for writing programs, either. It can accomplish a lot of ancillary tasks related to programming as well, even if it’s not writing the code directly.

Thanks to [Peter] for the tip!

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2023 Cyberdeck Challenge: The Best Decks On The Net

It was an easy decision to run a Cyberdeck Challenge in 2023 — after all, it was far and away one of our most popular contests from last year. But what was much harder was sorting out the incredible array of bespoke computers that readers have been sending in for the last few months.

Our judges have painstakingly whittled down the list of entries to get our top three winners, each of which will be awarded $150 in credit from the good folks over at DigiKey. But there were simply too many fantastic custom computers in the running to let everyone else go home empty-handed, so we’ve decided to also break out some $50 Tindie gift cards for the decks that best exemplified this year’s special categories.

Without further ado, let’s take a tour through the judge’s top picks for this year’s Cyberdeck Challenge!

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Transistor Radio Repair, More Complex Than It Seems

The humble transistor radio is one of those consumer devices that stubbornly refuses to go away, but it’s fair to say that it’s not the mover and shaker in the world of electronics it might once have been. Thus it’s also not a staple of the repair bench anymore, where fixing a pocket radio might have been all in a day’s work decades ago now they’re a rare sight. [David Tipton] has a Philips radio from we’re guessing the later half of the 1960s which didn’t work, and we’re along for the ride as he takes us through its repair.

It’s an extremely conventional design of the era, with a self-oscillating mixer, 455 kHz IF amplifier, and class AB audio amplifier. The devices are a little archaic by today’s standards, with comically low-gain germanium transistors and passives from the Ark. Injecting a signal reveals that the various stages all work, but that mixer isn’t oscillating. A lot of fault-finding ensues, and perhaps with a little bit of embarrassment, he eventually discovers a blob of solder shorting a collector resistor to ground. All isn’t over though, for the volume pot is also kaput. Who knew that the track from a modern component could be transplanted into one from the 1960s?

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Where Did Electronic Music Start?

A culture in which it’s fair to say the community which Hackaday serves is steeped in, is electronic music. Within these pages you’ll find plenty of synthesisers, chiptune players, and other projects devoted to synthetic sound. Not everyone here is a musician of obsessive listener, but if Hackaday had a soundtrack album we’re guessing it would be electronic. Along the way, many of us have picked up an appreciation for the history of electronic music, whether it’s EDM from the 1990s, 8-bit SID chiptunes, or further back to figures such as Wendy Carlos, Gershon Kingsley, or Delia Derbyshire. But for all that, the origin of electronic music is frustratingly difficult to pin down. Is it characterised by the instruments alone, or does it have something more specific in the music itself? Here follows the result of a few months’ idle self-enlightenment as we try to get tot he bottom of it all.

Will The Real Electronic Music Please Stand Up?

Page from the Telharmonium patent, showing the tone wheels
If you own a synthesiser, the Telharmonium is its daddy.

Anyone reading around the subject soon discovers that there are several different facets to synthesised music which are collectively brought together under the same banner and which at times are all claimed individually to be the purest form of the art. Further to that it rapidly becomes obvious when studying the origins of the technology, that purely electronic and electromechanical music are also two sides of the same coin. Is music electronic when it uses an electronic instrument, when electronics are used to modify the sound of an acoustic instrument, when it is sequenced electronically often in a manner unplayable by a human, or when it uses sampled sounds? Is an electric guitar making electronic music when played through an effects pedal?

The history of electronic music as far as it seems from here, starts around the turn of the twentieth century, and though the work of many different engineers and musicians could be cited at its source there are three inventions which stand out. Thaddeus Cahill’s tone-wheel-based Telharmonium US patent was granted in 1897, the same year as that for Edwin S. Votey’s Pianola player piano, while the Russian Lev Termen’s Theremin was invented in 1919. In those three inventions we find the progenital ancestors of all synthesisers, sequencers, and purely electronic instruments. If it appears we’ve made a glaring omission by not mentioning inventions such as the phonograph, it’s because they were invented not to make music but to record it. Continue reading “Where Did Electronic Music Start?”