A beige computer with a CRT monitor. A black LCD sits atop a stack of 3 devices next to it and a set of power control switches (the orange light up kind). There appear to be 8 floppy drives available.

Flux Is Your Friend For Archiving Old Floppy Disks

Nothing screams retrocomputing quite like floppy drives. If you want to preserve some of your favorite computing memories like that paper you wrote about the joys of the Information Superhighway, [Shelby] from Tech Tangents has a detailed dive into how to preserve the bits off those old floppies.

Back in the day, the best way to get data off an old drive was to fire up an old computer. Now, with new devices specifically designed for harvesting data off of old floppies like the KryoFlux and the Greaseweazle, you can get the full flux map of the disk. With this, you can build binary image files and actually pull files and duplicate disks from vintage systems.

Some systems, like PCs, Macs, and Commodores are well-understood and are simple to preserve, while others take quite a bit of work to figure out. [Shelby] walks us through some of the more common disk formats as well as some real oddballs like Microsoft Adventure which features inconsistent formatting as a form of early DRM (boo).

Want to do your own preservation? We’ve covered a couple different methods in the past.

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Pictures of the internals of the Starlink adapter

Restoring Starlink’s Missing Ethernet Ports

Internet connectivity in remote areas can be a challenge, but recently SpaceX’s Starlink has emerged as a viable solution for many spots on the globe — including the Ukrainian frontlines. Unfortunately, in 2021 Starlink released a new version of their hardware, cost-optimized to the point of losing some nice features such as the built-in Ethernet RJ45 (8P8C) port, and their proposed workaround has some fundamental problems to it. [Oleg Kutkov], known for fixing Starlink terminals in wartime conditions, has released three posts on investigating those problems and, in the end, bringing the RJ45 ports back.

Starlink now uses an SPX connector with a proprietary pinout that carries two Ethernet connections at once: one to the Dishy uplink, and another one for LAN, with only the Dishy uplink being used by default. If you want LAN Ethernet connectivity, they’d like you to buy an adapter that plugs in the middle of the Dishy-router connection. Not only is the adapter requirement a bother, especially in a country where shipping is impeded, the SPX connector is also seriously fragile and prone to a few disastrous failure modes, from moisture sensitivity to straight up bad factory soldering.

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FLOSS Weekly Episode 772: Raspberry Pi From The Man Himself

This week, Jonathan Bennett and Elliot Williams talk with Eben Upton about the Raspberry Pi! The conversation covers the new Pi 5, the upcoming CM5, the possible Pi500, and the Initial Public Offering (IPO) that may happen before too long. There’s also the PCIe port, the RP1, and the unexpected effects of using Broadcom chips. And then we ask the Billion Dollar question: What’s the money from an IPO going to fund? New hardware, software upgrades, better documentation? Nope, and the answer surprised us, too.

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Making A Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell Is Almost DIY-able

We see plenty of solar projects here on Hackaday, but they primarily consist of projects that use an off-the-shelf solar panel to power something else. We see very few projects where people actually create their own solar panels. And yet, that’s precisely what [Shih Wei Chieh] has done!

The project consists of a large dye-sensitized solar panel. These are a type of solar panel that can easily be created by the DIY builder, though their efficiency leaves something to be desired versus the best commercial types available. However, you can build them in any way you like to suit your application, which can have some potential benefits.

It consists of two pieces of FTO glass that is etched and prepared to become the electrodes for a string of solar cells. The cells have to be treated with titanium dioxide and then laced with silver traces, before being assembled with liquid electrolyte squirted in between. It’s finicky stuff, but the video almost makes it look easy… if you’re familiar with working in a chemistry lab, that is.

While it’s DIY-able, it’s at the outer edge of what some of us would be comfortable with. It does involve some steps with semi-obscure chemicals and the use of a kiln to produce the cells. The design shown here outputs around 5.8 volts and 51 milliamps. It’s not heaps, but it’s enough to run a low-power project for some time in an area with decent sun.

We’ve seen some other great solar projects over the years, too! Video after the break.

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The Strange Metal Phase And Its Implications For Superconductivity

The behavior of electrons and the exact fundamentals underlying the phenomenon we call ‘electricity’ are still the subject of many competing theories and heated debates. This is most apparent in the area of superconducting research, where the Fermi liquid theory — which has has formed the foundation of much of what we thought we knew about interacting fermions and by extension electrons in a metal — was found to break down in cuprates as well as in other metals which feature a state that is a non-Fermi liquid, also called a ‘strange metal phase’.

This phase was the subject of a 2023 research article by [Liyang Chen] and colleagues in Science titled Shot Noise in a Strange Metal. As summarized in a Quanta Magazine article, the term ‘shot noise’ refers hereby to the quasiparticles that are postulated by the Fermi liquid theory to form part of the electrical current as electrons interact and ‘clump’ together, creating discrete ‘particles’ that can be measured like rain drops falling on a roof. [Liyang Chen] and colleagues created a 200 nm thin nanowire (pictured, top) out of ytterbium, rhodium and silicon, followed by cooling it down to a few Kelvin and measuring the current.

What the team found was no sign of these discrete quasiparticles, but rather non-Fermi liquid continuous current. Yet what is exactly the nature of this measured current? Quite a few attempts at explaining this phenomenon have been undertaken, e.g. Jianfan Wang et al. (2022) in rare-earth intermetallic compounds. More recently [Riccardo Arpaia] and colleagues explore charge density fluctuations (CDF) as a signature of the quantum critical point (QCP), which is a point in the phase diagram where a continuous phase transition takes place at absolute zero.

They studied the CDF using X-ray scattering in cuprate superconductors with a wide doping range, using the measured CDF as an indication of the QCP, indicating that the former may be a result of the latter. With these results mostly inspiring more discussion and research, it’ll probably be a while still before we risk replacing the Fermi liquid theory, or apply strange metal findings to produce high-temperature superconductors.

Ethernet For Hackers: Equipment Exploration

Last time, we talked about the surface-level details of Ethernet. They are fundamental to know for Ethernet hacking, but they’re also easy to pick up from bits and pieces online, or just from wiring up a few computers in your home network. Now, there’s also a bunch of equipment and standards that you will want to use with Ethernet – easy to find whether used or new, and typically as easy to work with. Let’s give you a few beacons!

Routers And Switches

Whenever you see a box with a few Ethernet ports, it’s either referred to as a router, or a switch, sometimes people will even use the word “hub”! Fortunately, it’s simpler than it may seem. A router is a smart device, typically with an OS, that ties two or more networks together – routing packers from one network to another, and typically taking care of things like handing out local IP addresses via DHCP. A switch merely helps Ethernet devices exchange packets between each other on the same level – it’s typically nowhere near as smart as a router gets. Oftentimes, a home router will contain a switch inside, so that you can plug in multiple of your home devices at once. That’s the main difference – a switch merely transmits packets between Ethernet-connected devices, while a router is a small computer taking care of packet forwarding between networks and possibly including an Ethernet switch on the side.
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The Photodiode You Never Knew You Had

Optoelectronics hold a range of possibilities for the hardware experimenter — indeed who among us hasn’t added LEDs aplenty to our work? What many of us may be unaware of though is that an LED is also a photodiode, and can even be persuaded to generate usable quantities of power. [Voltative] takes a look at this phenomenon with a series of experiments.

Lighting up an LED from a set of other LEDs is pretty cool, as is powering a calculator, or even the calculator powering itself from its on-board LED. But what caught our eye was using two LEDs as a data link, with both of them acting as transmitter and receiver (something on searching we find we’ve seen before). The possibilities there become interesting indeed.

Given that we are now surrounded by LEDs, from OLED screens to LED lighting, we can’t help wondering what the photodiode performance of some other types of part might be. Would the large area of a lighting LED give a better result for example, or would the phosphorescent coating of a white LED make it useless. We feel there’s more scope for experimentation here.

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