Mailblocks Makes Your Phone Work More Like The Post, Kinda?

Phones can be distracting, with notifications popping up all the time to snare our attention and maybe even ruin our lives. [Guy Dupont] wishes to be no slave to the machine, and thus built a solution. Enter Mailblocks.

The concept is simple. It’s a physical mailbox which [Guy] can put his phone in. All notifications on the phone are blocked unless he puts his phone into the box. When the phone is inside and the box is closed, the little red flag goes up, indicating “DOPAMINE” is available, and [Guy] can check his notifications.

To achieve this, [Guy] is running a custom DNS server. It redirects all the lookups for push notifications on Android so they go nowhere. Placing the phone in the mailbox turns the re-directions off, so the phone can contact the usual servers and get its notifications as normal.

It’s a novel way of fighting against the constant attention suck of modern smartphones. Rather than being bombarded by notifications in real time, [Guy] instead has to take a significant intentional physical action to check the notifications. It cuts the willpower required and the interruptions to his work in a fell swoop.

We’ve featured [Guy’s] innovative and outside-the-box projects before, too. His smart pants were an absolute tour de force, I might add.

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Dial Up Over Discord

Some hacks are useful and some are just… well… for the fun of it, and we can appreciate that. Take, for example, [Cool Blog’s] recent experiments with dialup networking. If you think about it, the BBS systems of yesterday have been replaced with more modern tools like Discord. So why not run modems using audio chat over Discord and get the best of both worlds?

This was both easier and harder than we would have expected. The first hurdle was the lack of any actual modems. Luckily, there are software modem emulators like minimodem that makes a PC soundcard work like a modem. It supports some basic protocols, and that’s probably a good thing since the digital audio channel is probably unable to support anything too sophisticated.

Using some crude audio routing 300 baud data did flow. Increasing the baud rate all the way to 2,100 worked reliably. Combining some more sophisticated audio flows and managing sockets with systemd made the process easier. The goal was to, eventually, telnet over the link but that never worked. We would guess that it could work if you spent enough time.

But the proof is in the pudding, and the basic idea works. Why do it? We can’t think of a good reason. But if you want to give it a shot, you can find what you need on GitHub.

Hams still use modems. While we tend to have a soft spot for retrocomputing gear, we don’t miss acoustic couplers at all.

DIY Pneumatic Actuator Does Great In Action

Pneumatic actuators can be powerful and fast, making them very useful for all kinds of mechanical jobs. [Michael Rechtin] decided that while he could buy them off-the-shelf, he preferred to see if he could make his own via 3D printing. Despite the challenges, he succeeded!

Part of his success is because he knew when to take advantage of the strengths of 3D printed parts, and where they wouldn’t perform so well. To that end, the main body of the cylinder is actually a piece of PVC pipe. That’s because manufactured PVC pipe is far smoother and more regular than what you could reasonably achieve with a most 3D printers. The end caps, however, were printed and tapped to take standard air fittings. The piston was printed too, fitted with a steel cylinder rod and O-rings for sealing.

The double-acting cylinder performed remarkably well in testing, easily skewering an orange. The initial version did leak a touch, but later revisions performed better. Springs were also fitted for damping hits at either end which improved longevity, with a test rig racking up over 10,000 cycles without failure.

We love a design that is both easy to build at home and capable of great performance. We’ve featured some neat open-source pneumatic builds before, too.

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Mega-CNC Router Carves Styrofoam Into A Full-Size Flying Delorean

When you own an enormous CNC router, you’ve got to find projects that justify it. So why not shoot for the sky — literally — and build the 1980s-est possible thing: a full-scale flying Delorean.

Attentive readers will no doubt remember [Brian Brocken] from his recent attempt to bring a welding robot out of retirement. That worked quite well, and equipped with a high-speed spindle, the giant ABB robot is now one of the biggest CNC routers we’ve ever seen. As for the flying Delorean, short of the well-known Mr. Fusion mod, [Brian] had to settle for less fictional approaches. The project is still in its early phase, but it appears that the flying car will basically be a huge quadcopter, with motors and propellers hidden under the chassis. That of course means eschewing the stainless steel of the OEM design for something lighter: expanded polystyrene foam (EPS).

The video below shows the fabrication of most of the body, which starts as large blocks of EPS and ends up as shaped panels and an unthinkable amount of dust. Individual pieces are glued together with what looks like plain old PVA adhesive. The standard Delorean “frunk” has been replaced by a louvered assembly that will act as an air intake; we presume the rear engine cover will get the same treatment. Interestingly, the weight of the finished model is almost exactly what Fusion 360 predicted based on the 3D model — a mere 13.9 kg.

[Brian] is currently thrust-testing motors and propellers and has some interesting details on that process in his write-up. There’s obviously a lot of work left on this project, and a lot more dust to be made, and we’ll be eagerly following along. Continue reading “Mega-CNC Router Carves Styrofoam Into A Full-Size Flying Delorean”

Infrared Following Robot Built As Proof-of-Concept For Autonomous Luggage

Once upon a time, the poor humans of the past had to lug around suitcases and trunks with their own arms. Then, some genius figured out that you could just put wheels on and make everyone’s life a million times easier. Now, what if you didn’t even have push, because your luggage could just follow you instead? Well, students [Yuqiang Ge] and [Yiyang Zhao] have figured out a proof of concept for how that could work.

Their build is a small robotic platform that they assembled for their ECE5730 final project. The tiny wheeled robot is programmed to rotate on the spot until its infrared sensors pick up a signal. In turn, the user is intended to carry an infared beacon for it to lock onto. A pair of sensors are used on the robot platform, separated by a board to serve as a blind. The robot determines the relative signal strength from each sensor, and uses that to vary PWM signals to the two DC drive motors to steer the robot platform to seek and follow the infrared beacon.

It’s a neat idea, and looks to work pretty well in a university corridor. It even has an ultrasonic range sensor to (ideally) stop when it gets too close to the user. Whether it would survive the tumult of a crowded airport is another thing entirely, but that’s what the engineering process is about. Indeed, the very concept has been commercialized already!

Following-robots are a common student project, and one well worth exploring if you’re new to the robotic field.

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Hardware: It’s Made Of Software!

We had the opportunity to add a new feature to our lineup: the FLOSS Weekly podcast. It’s a very long running series that covers the goings on in the free, libre, and open-source software world. It’s been co-hosted by our own [Jonathan Bennett] for quite a while now, and when This Week in Tech announced that they wanted to cancel it, [Jonathan] asked if he could keep it running over here at Hackaday.

Hackaday is hardware, though. Why would we be hosting a podcast on open software? It’s no secret that a bunch of us are open-source software fans in general here at Hackaday, but take a quick inventory of the various open projects that you use to make and hack your hardware. We use open-source compilers, libraries, and flashing tools to handle the firmware we write on open-source text editors. Heck, half of the time we even program microcontrollers in the open-source MicroPython. We design PCBs in the open-source KiCAD, do CAD/CAM in FreeCAD, and don’t even get me started in the open-source software and firmware underlying the entire 3D printing ecology. Reverse engineering? Free software, from Wireshark straight through to Ghidra.

All of this is to say, that even while we’re making or breaking hardware, we’re using open-source software to do it. So, if you’re interested in peeking behind the curtain, give the FLOSS Weekly a listen.

Digital Bike Horn Will Play Custom Sounds, Please Be Tasteful

When you’re out riding your bike, a horn can be a useful warning device to other road users and pedestrians alike. It can also be a source of fun and amusement, or annoyance, depending on the sounds it makes and how you use it. For the ultimate flexibility, you might like this digital bicycle horn that offers customizable sounds, as developed by [gokux].

The build has attractive two-tone components, consisting of a button pad for playing four sounds, and a sound module with a 3 watt speaker and battery pack. A Seeed Studio XIAO SAMD21 is the heart of the operation, with the microcontroller paired with a DFPlayer Mini which handles sound duties. When one of the four buttons is pressed, the microcontroller loads the relevant sound off an SD card, and plays it out over the speaker. For power, the build uses a lithium rechargeable battery with a healthy 1200 mAh capacity, which can be readily recharged thanks to a TP4056 charger module with a USB-C port.

It’s a nifty little build, and we love the Metal Gear Solid sounds. Though, we do wonder just how audible that 3 watt speaker is. If it proves inadequate, you could always step up to a much larger driver paired with a hefty audio amp if you so desire.

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