Giant LED Matrix Fills Blank Space In The Kitchen

We’ve all got one: a blank space somewhere in our home that we don’t know what to do with. [James Miller] had one above his kitchen cabinets, so he filled it with a giant LED matrix. The result is a large but surprisingly attractive LED screen that can send messages, provide illumination, or while away the idle hours of the night playing Conway’s Game of Life.

[James] built the matrix using the usual suspect for these builds: several strings of WS2812 lights . He initially ran this from a Raspberry Pi, but realized that there was no need for such a dizzying amount of computing power, so he switched to an ESP32 instead. The frame is built from wood and foam board.

The first version he built used a fabric diffuser, but after a close encounter with a flaming steak, he switched over to commercial ceiling light diffusers cut down to size. We might have been tempted to keep going and try an “egg crate” style ceiling light panel for a the smaller pixel size, but [James] thinks he has reached the “good enough” point of this project. It’s certainly a fun build, and it looks very cool with minimal materials.

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Decoding The 8088

There is a lot to like about open software, and in some areas, a well-thought-out piece of software can really make a huge impact. A great example of this is the Sigrok project. Creating simple devices that act like a logic analyzer is relatively easy. What’s hard is writing nice software for such a setup including protocol decoders. Sigrok has done it and since it is open, you can add your device and decode your protocol. [GloriousCow] had done the hardware part of interfacing to the 8088 in an IBM PC using an off-the-shelf logic analyzer that uses a customized version of Sigrok. But the output was a CSV file you had to process in a spreadsheet program. The next step: write a decoder for Sigrok to understand 8088 bus cycles.

The post covers the details of writing such a plug-in for Pulseview, the Sigrok GUI. It will also work for the command line interface if you prefer that. The code is in Python.

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E-Bikes Turned Solar Car

There is something to be said for a vehicle that gains range just by standing outside in the sun. In the video after the break, [Drew Builds Stuff] demonstrates how he turned a pair of bicycles into a solar-powered vehicle.

The inspiration for this build started with a pair of 20″ steel framed fat tire bikes [Drew] picked up in a liquidation sale. He welded up a simple steel chassis, and attached the partial bicycle frame and forks to the chassis, using them as steerable front wheels. A short arm was welded to each of the fork, linking them together with threaded rods and rod ends that connect to centrally mounted handlebars. The rear driving wheels are from a 20″ e-bike conversion kit, with the disk brake assembly from the cannibalized bikes.

The solar part of this build comes in the form of three 175W flexible solar panels mounted on cedar frames, coming in at 10 lbs per mounted panel. [Drew] considered using conventional rigid solar panels, but they would have been 4-6 times heavier. The two panels mounted to the rear of the vehicle are on a hinged frame to allow easy access to the electronics below. Battery storage is made up of two 24V 100Ah batteries wired in series, connected to a 60A solar charge controller and the e-bike motor controllers.

The vehicle has a top speed of about 45km/h and 100km range on batteries alone. It might not be fast or engineered for maximum efficiency, but it looks like a ton of fun and relatively simple to build. As [Drew] says, it’s not a how-to for building a perfect solar-powered vehicle, it’s how he built one.

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Learning About Ferroresonant Transformers While Fixing A 1970s Power Supply

Ferroresonant (constant voltage) transformer diagram. Secondary side is kept in full saturation with the tank, keeping voltage constant. (Credit: Usagi Electric)
Ferroresonant (constant voltage) transformer diagram. Secondary side is kept in full saturation with the tank, keeping voltage constant. (Credit: Usagi Electric)

While troubleshooting the power supply of a 1970s Centurion system, [Usagi Electrics] came across a fascinating feature of these units: the ferroresonant, or constant voltage transformer (CVT). The main difference between a regular transformer and a CVT is that the former has a quite direct correlation between the input and output voltage, as the magnetic flux induced on the primary side is directly translated to the secondary (output) side.

A CVT adds a second element on the secondary side in the form of a tank circuit (LC circuit) – essentially a large capacitor – along with a magnetic shunt that ‘short circuits’ part of the magnetic flux between the primary and secondary side. The result of this is that even as the primary side is kept well below the saturation point where efficiency plummets, the secondary side is kept within this saturation region, enabling a very constant output voltage across a wide range of input voltages. For the Centurion’s power supply this input range goes from 90 to 130 VAC.

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An observatory atop a hill

The Ultimate US Astronomy Roadtrip

Have 73 hours to kill and fancy a 4,609-mile road trip? Then you can check out some of the best observatories in the US (although we would probably recommend taking a couple of weeks rather than cramming the trip into three days, so you can spend at least one night stargazing at each).

Matador Network compiled a list of what they call the top ten US observatories, and published the daunting map you see above. Even if your trip is plagued by cloudy skies, rest assured the destinations will still be worth a visit. From Arizona’s Lowell Observatory, where the evidence Edwin Hubble used to formulate the Big Bang Theory was collected, to the Green Bank National Radio Observatory in West Virginia, home of Earth’s largest fully-steerable radio telescope, each site has incredibly rich history.

All of the observatories are open to the public in some way or another, but some are only accessible a few days per month, so make sure you plan your trip carefully! You may even want to travel with your own homemade telescope, Game Boy astrphotography rig, or, if you’re really dedicated, portable radio telescope.

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

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Arboreal Keyboards

Well, unfortunately we don’t know much yet about this nice wooden keyboard from [Kelvin Chow], but maybe this inclusion will encourage [Kelvin] to post more about it.

Sure is nice-looking, don’t you think? That’s because there some great details at play here, like the legend-less two-tone keycaps and the neat-o locking box it sits in.

This keyboard is inspired by the Hacoa Ki-board, which uses a singles plank of wood to craft the keycaps. [Kelvin] wanted to try this technique for themselves. Evidently this won’t be the last wooden keyboard, so stay tuned for more over on

This isn’t the first dead-tree keyboard we’ve seen around here, either. A while back we saw one with Scrabble tile keycaps, and earlier this year, a nice wooden macro pad.

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Ordering Pizza While Racing

As [Matt Stele] prepared to bike a local 300-mile (~480km) race in addition to training, he had to prepare for food. A full day of riding was ahead on gravel trails, and one of the best options for him was Casey’s General Store pizza. However, as it was a race, other riders were much faster than him. So, all the hot slices were gone when he arrived. With the help of a serverless GPS tracker, some cloud lambdas, and some good old-fashioned web scraping, [Matt] had a system that could order him a fresh pizza at the precise moment he needed. Continue reading “Ordering Pizza While Racing”