Tektronix’s Ceramic CRT Production And The Building 13 Catacombs

As a manufacturer of test equipment and more, Tektronix has long had a need for custom form factors with its CRT displays. They initially went with fully glass CRTs as this was what the booming television industry was also using, but as demand for the glass component of CRTs increased, so did the delays in getting these custom glass components made. This is where Tektronix decided to use its existing expertise with ceramic strips during the pre-PCB era to create ceramic funnels for ceramic CRTs, as described in this 1967 video.

The Tektronix ceramic CRT molds underneath Building 13.
The Tektronix ceramic CRT molds underneath Building 13.

Recently, underneath Building 13 at the Tektronix campus, a ‘catacomb’ full of the molds for these funnels was discovered, covering a wide range of CRT types, including some round ones that were presumably made for military purposes, such as radar installations. These molds consist out of an inner part  (the mandrel) made from 7075-T6 aluminium, and an outer cast polyurethane boot. The ceramic (forsterite) powder is then formed under high pressure into the ceramic funnel, which is then fired in a kiln before a full inspection and assembly into a full CRT, including the phosphor-coated glass front section and rear section with the electron guns.

The advantages of ceramic funnels over glass ones are many, including the former being much harder and resilient to impact forces, while offering a lot of strength for thinner, lighter structures, all of which is desirable in (portable) lab equipment. Although LCDs would inevitably take over from CRTs here as well, these ceramic CRTs formed an integral part of Tektronix’s products, with every part of production handled in-house.

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A Tube Guitar Amp For A Modest Budget

There’s a mystique among both audiophiles and musicians about vacuum technology, thus having a tube amp still carries a bit of a cachet. New ones can be bought for eye-watering prices and old ones can be had for the same price with the added frisson of unreliability. Happily it’s surprisingly straightforward to build your own, as [_electroidiot] shows us with a fairly inexpensive build.

The design is inspired by the guitar amps of the 1950s and 1960s so it’s not for audiophiles. The circuit is a pretty conventional single-ended one with a two stage double triode preamp and a single power output tube. The transformers are usually the difficult part of a build like this one, and here instead of resorting to using a mains transformer for audio they come from a defunct 1960s Phillips radio. We especially like the old-school construction technique with a folded aluminium chassis and liberal use of tag strips on which to build the circuits.

The result is something that would have been in no way out of place in the 1960s, and proves that tube circuitry isn’t beyond the constructor in 2023. If it’s whetted your appetite for more, we can help you there.

Swatch Internet-Time Clock Doesn’t Miss A Beat

The thing about human invention is that occasionally, two or more people think of an idea around the same time, and it’s difficult to determine who was first. Such is the case with Swatch’s Internet time, which is told in something called “.beats”. Rather than using hours and minutes, the solar day in the .beat system is divided into 1,000 parts equal to one minute in the French Revolutionary decimal time system, or 1 minute and 26.4 seconds of standard time.

Swatch came up with .beats to sell their special line of .beats watches. But they weren’t the only ones to divide the solar day this way. A few months before Swatch’s announcement of .beats time, a Argentinian drummer named [Charly Alberti] came up with the same idea and created a website for it to display the current Internet time of day.

The point of all this is that [Roni Bandini] has created an homage to both .beats and [Charly] in the form of a small clock. The main brain is a Seeed Studio Xiao nRF52840, with a Xiao TFT round display to show the time as well as a tribute to [Charly]. The 3D-printed stand incorporates a cylindrical power source. We think the black and white images, which [Roni] created with Dall-e, look fantastic.

Interestingly enough, the Xiao has no Internet connectivity; the time is set manually via hard-coded variable, and then the display’s RTC keeps track of the seconds and convert them to Internet time. Check out the brief build video after the break.

Interested in regular old metric time? Here’s a modern metric clock.

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Single-piece Tank Chassis Goes Robotic

[EXTREME3DPRINT] has a new version of their print-in-place tank chassis: the PiPBOT now accepts drop-in motors (in the form of 360° rotation servos), RC receiver, and battery pack to make a functional RC tank platform in no time flat. The design is entirely 3D printed with no supports needed.

This new version is a paid 3D model (and it includes STEP files, thankfully) but the original proof-of-concept print-in-place tank chassis is free and remains a highly clever piece of design that really shows off what is possible when one plays to a 3D printer’s strengths.

A better look at the design’s details can be found on the designer’s website, and a short video demonstrating assembly and operation is embedded below. We particularly like the attachment points on the top of the PiPBOT, which allows for securely mounting all kinds of customized payloads.

Interested in this style of printable RC platform, but want something a little more accessible? If race cars are more your thing, we’d like to also mention the Gamma 2.0 by [Under Engineered]. It’s a print-in-place RC car that needs minimal parts to get rolling and would make an excellent afternoon project.

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Easily Bypass Laptop Fingerprint Sensors And Windows Hello

The fun part of security audits is that everybody knows that they’re a good thing, and also that they’re rarely performed prior to another range of products being shoved into the market. This would definitely seem to be the case with fingerprint sensors as found on a range of laptops that are advertised as being compatible with Windows Hello. It all began when Microsoft’s Offensive Research and Security Engineering (MORSE) asked the friendly people over at Blackwing Intelligence to take a poke at a few of these laptops, only for them to subsequently blow gaping holes in the security of the three laptops they examined.

In the article by [Jesse D’Aguanno] and [Timo Teräs] the basic system and steps they took to defeat it are described. The primary components are the fingerprint sensor and Microsoft’s Secure Device Connection Protocol (SDCP), with the latter tasked with securing the (USB) connection between the sensor and the host. Theoretically the sensitive fingerprint-related data stays on the sensor with all matching performed there (Match on Chip, MoC) as required by the Windows Hello standard, and SDCP keeping prying eyes at bay.

Interestingly, the three laptops examined (Dell Inspiron 15, Lenovo ThinkPad T14 and Microsoft Surface Pro X) all featured different sensor brands (Goodix, Synaptics and ELAN), with different security implementations. The first used an MoC with SDCP, but security was much weaker under Linux, which allowed for a fake user to be enrolled. The Synaptics implementation used a secure TLS connection that used part of the information on the laptop’s model sticker as the key, and the ELAN version didn’t even bother with security but responded merrily to basic USB queries.

To say that this is a humiliating result for these companies is an understatement, and demonstrates that nobody in his right mind should use fingerprint- or similar scanners like this for access to personal or business information.

CAR T Cell Immunotherapy And The Quiet Hope For A Universal Cancer Treatment

All of us have to deal with the looming threat of developing cancer during our lifetime, no matter how good our genetics are, or how healthy our lifestyle is. Despite major improvements to the way that we treat and even cure cases of cancer, the reality today is that not all types of cancer are treatable, in many cases there’s the likelihood that one day it will return even after full remission, and chemotherapy in particular comes with potential life-long health issues. Of the most promising new and upcoming treatments, immunotherapy, is decidedly among the most interesting.

With this approach, it is the body’s own immune system that is taught to attack those cancer cells, requiring little more than a few tweaks to T-cells harvested from the patient’s body, after which they’re sent on their merry cancer-killing way.  Yet as simple as this sounds, finding the right characteristics which identify the cancerous cells, and getting a solid and long-lasting immune response is a tough challenge. Despite highly promising results with immunotherapy treatment for non-solid cancers like leukemia – that have resulted in almost miraculous cures – translating this success to other cancer types has so far remained elusive.

New research now shows that changing some characteristics of these modified (chimeric antigen receptors, or CAR) T-cells may be key to making them significantly more long-lived and effective within a patient’s body. Is this the key to making immunotherapy possible for many more cancers?

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Could North Korea’s New Satellite Have Spied On Guam So Easily?

Earlier this week, another nation joined the still relatively exclusive club of those which possess a satellite launch capability. North Korea launched their Malligyong-1 spy satellite, and though it has naturally inflamed the complex web of political and military tensions surrounding the Korean peninsula, it still represents something of a technical achievement for the isolated Communist state. The official North Korean news coverage gleefully reported with much Cold War style rhetoric, that Kim Jong-Un had visited the launch control centre the next day and viewed intelligence photographs of an American base in Guam. Could the satellite have delivered in such a short time? [SatTrackCam Leiden] has an interesting analysis. Continue reading “Could North Korea’s New Satellite Have Spied On Guam So Easily?”