Saving A Scope From The Dumpster

If you read Hackaday, you probably get the title of [SunEstra’s] post: A Casual Date with the Dumpster. Many great hacking projects start with finding one man’s trash. This June, [SunEstra] rescued an old Tektronix 2465B oscilloscope, which appeared to be in good shape. Why we never find four-channel 400 MHz scopes in the dumpster is hard to explain, but we are still happy for him, if not a little jealous.

As you might expect, powering up the scope was a disappointment. Relays clicked. Lights flashed. But no display. Adjusting the grid bias on the CRT brought up the display, but it also brought up something else: an error message.

The scope was complaining of “test failure 05-40.” A look through the manual reveals that is “positive level too positive.” Huh. Too much of a good thing, we guess. The test checks the A5 board, so a visual inspection there was the first step.

Unsurprisingly, there were electrolytic capacitors leaking electrolyte. This is, apparently, a well-known problem with this scope. Replacing the electrolytics with some similar tantalum capacitors. In a few cases, the corrosion had eaten pads off the PCB, and some were damaged during the removal. It took a little ingenuity to connect the new parts on the board.

The result? A working scope. Maybe the scope will help repair the next thing that comes out of the dumpster. Sometimes, the best dumpster dives involve intercepting the gear before it hits the dumpster. We keep hoping to run into one of these on the curb (the linked post seems dead, but the video is still there).

Celebrating The 6502 With Song

In a wonderful ode to tech nostalgia, The Taylor and Amy Show, comprised of YouTubers [Taylor] and [Amy], have released a new video “THE 6502 SONG”. This song had me singing along in roughly six clock cycles, possibly a little dancing around may have occurred as well. This isn’t just any chip they’re singing about; it’s the venerable 6502 microprocessor, the silicon heart behind iconic machines like the Apple II, Commodore 64/128, and the Atari 2600.

Their lyrics reminds me of when I lived for assembly language mnemonics and counting clock cycles, the “feeling” of a processor coming out of tristate to pronounce what it had learned in the last 500ns, and the undulations of the DRAMs like speed bumps. To top it off, portions of the song were actually recorded live at the Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 2023, where fans and computing history aficionados alike were treated to an impressive display of vintage tech.

What sets “THE 6502 SONG” apart isn’t just its catchy, melodic tune; it’s the expert blend of historical detail and genuine enthusiasm that resonates with everyone from grizzled assembly-language programmers to youngsters newly fascinated by the allure of 8-bit computing. With guest appearances from other female tech YouTubers like [Veronica Explains] and [Evie’s Revue], [AJ], [Jeri and Amy- Tilt5] and [FuzzyBad].

I believe [Chuck Peddle] father of the 6502, would be proud to see his creation live on and be appreciated so.

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Hackaday Links: September 24, 2023

Modern video games are almost always written on the backs of a game engine platform, and the two most popular are definitely Unreal Engine and Unity. Some bean counter at Unity decided they essentially wanted a bigger piece of the pie and rolled out new terms of use that would have game development houses paying per Unity install. This was a horrible blow to small indie game development houses, where the fees would end up eating up something like 15% of revenue in an industry that’s already squeezed between the Apple Store and Steam. It caused an absolutely gigantic uproar in the game dev community, and now Unity is walking it back.

We noticed the change first because tons of “migrate from Unity to Godot” tutorials popped up in our YouTube stream. Godot is a free and open-source game engine, and while we’re no game devs, it looks to be at about the level of Blender five years ago – not quite as easy to use or polished as its closed-source equivalents, but just about poised to make the transition to full usability. While we’re sure Unreal Engine is happy enough to see Unity kick some more business their way, we’re crossing our fingers for the open-source underdog.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing allows independent authors to self-publish. And it’s apparently been awash in prose written by large language models. While it was fun for a while to look through self-published books for the shibboleth phrase “As an AI language model,” Amazon caught on pretty quickly. Of course, that only gets the lowest-hanging fruit. Books like the AI-written guidebook to mushrooms that recommends eating the Death Cap still manage to sneak through, as we mentioned two weeks ago.

Amazon’s solution? Limiting self-published books to three per day. I wrote a book once, and it took me the better part of a year, and Amazon is letting through three per day. If this limit is going to help limit the size of the problem, then we vastly underestimate the problem.

And it’s good news, bad news from space. The good news is that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to return a sample from the asteroid Bennu successfully landed just a few hours ago. As we write this, they’ve sent a team driving around the Utah desert to pick up the capsule. The effort reminds us of retrieving high-altitude balloon capsules after a flight: you know roughly where it is, but you still have to get out there to fetch it.  Only NASA has a helicopter to go out looking for the capsule and a lot more science to do before they can throw it in the back of their car.

On the bad news side, India’s Vikram and Pragyan lunar lander/rover pair wasn’t really expected to make it through the long lunar night and had successfully executed all of its planned mission goals before going into deep sleep mode two weeks ago. But you’ve got to try to wake it up anyway, right? Well, the sun came up on Vikram on Friday, and the Indian space agency tweeted a stoic, “Efforts have been made to establish communication with the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to ascertain their wake-up condition. As of now, no signals have been received from them. Efforts to establish contact will continue.” We’ve still got our fingers crossed, but at this point it would just be extra icing on the cake.

Getting Geared Up For Home Powder Coating

[Blondihacks] wanted to do powder coating for a model train without a lot of special equipment. She started with an Eastwood kit that runs about $230. Depending on the options, you can get the gun by itself for between $110 – $170. However, you will need more than just this kit. You can see how [Blondihacks] used the kit in the video below.

The idea behind powder coating is simple: an electrostatic charge attracts a powder — usually some polymer — and makes it stick to an item. Then heat or UV light turns the powder into a hard finish much tougher than paint. Powder coating can be thicker than paint and doesn’t run, either.

The gun requires a small air compressor, and you need an electric oven, which could be a toaster oven. It probably shouldn’t be an oven you plan to use for food. It should also be in a well-ventilated area, plus you’ll want a respirator or dust mask. [Blondhacks] used a portable paint booth so as not to spew powder everywhere, which looked nice, although you could just use a big cardboard box. A custom jig to hang the parts while spraying, and she was ready to go.

If you are on a budget, by the way, you can get a kit from Harbor Freight for a bit less. It probably has fewer accessories, and we don’t know how it compares, but it is an option for much less money. Either way, you need a small air pressure regulator, and you also need a dryer and a filter for the air because you need dry and clean air so as not to contaminate the powder.

The part is grounded, and the gun charges the powder as it sprays. Once coated, you stick the part in the oven for about 20 minutes. The results look good and, compared to a painted part, the coating was super tough. For intricate parts, you can heat the part and then dip it in fluid-like powder. If you prefer to stick to regular powder coating, we have some tips.

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Humans And Balloon Hands Help Bots Make Breakfast

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but who wants to get up first thing in the morning and make it? Well, there may come a day when a robot can do the dirty work for you. This is Toyota Research Institute’s vision with their innovatively-trained breakfast bots.

Going way beyond pick and place tasks, TRI has, so far, taught robots how to do more than 60 different things using a new method to teach dexterous skills like whisking eggs, peeling vegetables, and applying hazelnut spread to a substrate. Their method is built on generative AI technique called Diffusion Policy, which they use to create what they’re calling Large Behavior Models.

Instead of hours of coding and debugging, the robots learn differently. Essentially, the robot gets a large flexible balloon hand with which to feel objects, their weight, and their effect on other objects (like flipping a pancake). Then, a human shows them how to perform a task before the bot is let loose on an AI model. After a number of hours, say overnight, the bot has a new working behavior.

Now, since TRI claims that their aim is to build robots that amplify people and not replace them, you may still have to plate your own scrambled eggs and apply the syrup to that short stack yourself. But they plan to have over 1,000 skills in the bag of tricks by the end of 2024. If you want more information about the project and to learn about Diffusion Policy without reading the paper, check out this blog post.

Perhaps the robotic burger joint was ahead of its time, but we’re getting there. How about a robot barista?

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Hackaday Prize 2023: Computer Vision Guides This Farm Mower

It’s a problem common to small-scale mixed agriculture worldwide, that of small areas of grass and weeds that need mowing. If you have a couple of sheep and enough electric fence there’s one way to do it, otherwise, if you rely on machinery, there’s a lot of hefting and pushing a mower in your future. Help is at hand, though, thanks to [Yuta Suito], whose pylon-guided mower is a lightweight device that mows an area defined by a set of orange traffic cones. Simply set the cones around the edge of the plot, place the mower within them, and it does the rest.

At its heart is a computer vision system that detects the cones and estimates distance from them by their perceived size. It mows in a spiral pattern by decreasing the cone height at which it turns, thus covering the whole area set out. Inside is a Raspberry Pi doing the heavy lifting, and because it’s designed for farmland rather than lawns, it has an adaptive track system to deal with obstacles. In its native Japan there is an ageing rural population, so it is particularly suitable for being operated by an older person. See it in action in the video below the break.

A robotic mower aimed at farms is certainly unusual here, but we’ve seen a lot of more conventional lawnmowers.

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Powder Your Prints For Baby-Smoothness

Layer lines are a dead giveaway to non-normies that a thing was 3D printed. There are things you can do to smooth them — sanding, chemical smoothing, and fillers come to mind. Although this technique technically uses all three, it starts with something very simple.

In the video after the break, [DaveRig] gets right to the point: baby powder and resin mixed together make a fine smoothing agent when cured. Having read about it online, he decided to give it a try.

Starting with a half sphere that had admittedly pretty big layer lines, [DaveRig] mixed up enough resin and baby powder to make the consistency of milk or cream. Then he put five coats on, curing and sanding with 120 in between each one.

Then it’s on to standard post-processing stuff. You know, wipe it down with alcohol, sand it a little more, wet sand, and then it’s on to the airbrush and clear-coat. The end result looks to be as smooth as your average bowling ball, as you can see in the main photo.

What’s your favorite post-processing method? Have you tried annealing them in salt?

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