Noise Cancelling Isn’t As Easy As You’d Think

On the face of it, producing a set of noise cancelling headphones should be a relatively straightforward project. But as [Pete Lewis] found out, things are not always as they seem. The result is a deep dive into microphone specifications, through which most of us could probably learn something.

Noise cancelling headphones have a set of microphones which provide anti-phase noise through an amplifier to the ‘phones, thus in theory cancelling out the external noise. Since [Pete] is a musician this pair would have to be capable of operating at high noise levels, so he checked the spec for his microphone and with an acoustic overload point at 124 dB for a 115 environment he was ready to go.

Unfortunately these ‘phones showed distortion, which brings us back to the acoustic overload point. This is the sound level at which the microphone has 10% distortion, which is a very high figure, and certainly meant there was enough distortion to be audible at the lower level. After a search for a higher spec microphone and a move to a digital codec-based solution with an ESP32 he eventually cracks it though, leading to an inexpensive set of noise cancelling headphones for high-noise environments.

If distortion interests you, it’s a subject we’ve visited in the past.

Header image: fir0002, GFDL 1.2.

BBC Basic Is Back In A Big Way

The BBC has a long history of teaching the world about computers. The broadcaster’s name was proudly displayed on the BBC Micro, and BBC Basic was the programming language developed especially for that computer. Now, BBC Basic is back and running on a whole mess of modern platforms.

BBC Basic for SDL 2.0 will run on Windows, MacOS, x86 Linux, and even Raspberry Pi OS, Android, and iOS. Desktop versions of the programming environment feature a BASIC editor that has syntax coloring for ease of use, along with luxury features like search and replace that weren’t always available at the dawn of the microcomputer era. Meanwhile, the smartphone versions feature a simplified interface designed to work better in a touchscreen environment.

It’s weird to see, but BBC Basic can actually do some interesting stuff given the power of modern hardware. It can address up to 256 MB of memory, and work with far more advanced graphical assets than would ever have been possible on the original BBC Micro. If you honed your programming skills on that old metal, you might be impressed with what they can achieve with BBC Basic in a new, more powerful context.

If you’re passionate about the BBC and its history with computers, we’ve talked plenty about the BBC Micro in the past, too.

[Thanks to Stephen Walters for the tip!]

Art of 3D printer in the middle of printing a Hackaday Jolly Wrencher logo

G-code Goes Binary With Proposed New Format

G-code is effective, easily edited, and nearly ubiquitous when it comes to anything CNC. The format has many strengths, but space efficiency isn’t one of them. In fact, when it comes to 3D printing in particular file sizes can get awfully large. Partly to address this, Prusa have proposed a new .bgcode binary G-code format. You can read the specification of the new (and optional) format here.

The newest version of PrusaSlicer has support for .bgcode, and a utility to convert ASCII G-code to binary (and back) is in the File menu. Want to code an interface of your own? The libbgcode repository provides everything needed to flip .gcode to .bgcode (with a huge file size savings in the process) and vice versa in a way that preserves all aspects of the data. Need to hand-edit a binary G-code file? Convert it to ASCII G-code, make your changes, then flip it right back.

Prusa are not the only ones to notice that the space inefficiency of the G-code file format is not ideal in all situations. Heatshrink and MeatPack are two other solutions in this space with their own strong points. Handily, the command-line tool in libgcode can optionally apply Heatshrink compression or MeatPack encoding in the conversion process.

In a way, G-code is the assembly language of 3D printers. G-code files are normally created when slicing software processes a 3D model, but there are some interesting tricks to be done when G-code is created directly.

Capacitive Rainmeter Measures The Sky Water Just Fine

If you’ve got a smart home, or you just want to know how soaked your garden is getting in the winter, you might want to measure rainfall. There are a bunch of ways to go about it, and this capacitive rainmeter solution from [Magnus Thome] might just be the perfect solution you’re looking for.

Like many who came before, [Magnus] had experimented with traditional resistive-based sensors using copper traces to measure water levels. As the soil moisture measuring set learned as well, corrosion tends to promise a pretty short life for these designs. Capacitive sensors, on the other hand, can be isolated from the water itself, and thus sense the levels without being subject to such degradation.

[Magnus] pairs the off-the-shelf capacitive sensor with an ESP32 charged with reading it and reporting back to Home Assistant. It’s also outfitted with a heater to keep it at a constant temperature to avoid it freezing over during those cold and snowy Swedish winters.

It’s a tidy way to integrate a quality commercial sensor with a DIY smart home setup. If you’ve been whipping up your own neat sensor networks for your smart home, don’t hesitate to let us know. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Capacitive Rainmeter Measures The Sky Water Just Fine”

LED Ring Brings The Bling

We’ve seen our share of light-up jewelry over the years, but for some reason — probably power — it’s almost always earrings or necklaces. So when we saw [ROBO HUB]’s LED ring, we had to check it out. It involves a bit of behind-the-scenes action in the form of a battery holder that you palm, but the end effect is quite cool.

Essentially, this is a 3D printed ring with SMD LEDs painstakingly soldered together in parallel along a pair of thin copper wires. The ring itself is in two parts: a base, and a cover to diffuse and protect the LEDs. A pair of wires run out from the ring and connect to a printed coin cell holder.

Continue reading “LED Ring Brings The Bling”

A Flasher Mac, 25 Years Later

Apple Macintosh computers of the 1990s came with a system ROM containing an Open Firmware implementation and the Mac Toolbox required to start the operating system. In many cases this was on a SIMM-like daughter board, and it would have been a true ROM that was unable to be reprogrammed. This is not the end of the story though, and [Doug Brown] set out on the trail of a Flash-based ROM module allowing the firmware on these machines to be updated.

The trail was warm thanks to an Apple developer utility found on a secondhand Mac prototype, allowing ROM flashing. A little disassembly allowed a list of valid IDs to be made, and this info coupled with a bit of reverse engineering from online photos of a real Apple Flash ROM from the ’90s allowed a new board to be created with four Am28F020  chips. He can now flash at will, with such oddities as running ROMs from different machines with the “wrong” startup chime. It’s an interesting little piece of 1990s Mac trivia, settled.

This isn’t the first time we’ve peered at Apple ROMs, indeed some of the older ones had plenty of Easter eggs hidden within.

Mobile Phones And The Question Of Declining Sperm Quality

In a world increasingly reliant on technology, a pressing question arises: can our dependence on gadgets, particularly mobile phones, be affecting our health in unexpected ways? A growing body of research is now pointing towards a startling trend – declining sperm quality in the human population – with mobile phones emerging as a potential culprit.

Recent studies have been sounding the alarm over a noticeable decline in sperm counts and quality across the globe. This decline isn’t just about quantity; it’s about the vitality, motility, and overall health of sperm cells. The implications of this trend are profound, affecting fertility rates and possibly even the long-term viability of populations. The situation is murky and complicated, but new studies suggest that cellular phones could have a role to play.

Continue reading “Mobile Phones And The Question Of Declining Sperm Quality”