The Apple They Should Have Made, But Didn’t

Whenever there is a large manufacturer of a popular product in the tech space, they always attract tales of near-mythical prototypes which would have changed everything on the spot had they just not been cancelled by the bean counters. The Sony-Nintendo PlayStation prototypes for example, or any of a number of machines inexplicably axed by Commodore.

Apple is no exception. They brought the instantly forgettable twentieth anniversary Mac and the pretty but impractical G4 Cube to market, but somehow they rejected the Jonathan, a razor-sharp modular machine from the mid-1980s.

It’s easy after so long associating Apple with the Mac to forget that in the mid-80s it was simply one of their several computer lines, and not the most successful one at that. The 16-bit machine was something of a slimmed-down evolution of the Lisa, and it thus it doesn’t necessarily follow that every other Apple machine of the day also had to be a Mac. Into this would have come the Jonathan, a high-end modular machine bridging the gap between domestic and business computing, with a standard bus allowing processor modules for different operating systems, and upgrades with standard “books”, hardware modules containing peripherals, not all of which would have come from Apple themselves. It would have been Apple’s first 32-bit machine, but sadly it proved too adventurous for their management, who feared that it might tempt Apple users into the world of DOS rather than the other way round.

What strikes us about the Johnathan is how out of place it looks on a 1980s desk, it would be the mid-1990s before we would come close to having machines with these capabilities, and indeed we’ve never seen anything quite as adventurous hardware-wise. It’s certainly not the only might-have been story we’ve seen though.

Three ZigBee radios in ESD bags, marked "Zigbee Sniffer", "Router" and "Coordinator".

Crash IoT Devices Through Protocol Fuzzing

IoT protocols are a relatively unexplored field compared to most PC-exposed protocols – it’s bothersome to need a whole radio setup before you can tinker on something, and often, for low-level experiments, just any radio won’t do. This means there’s quite a bit of security ground to cover. Now, the U-Fuzz toolkit from [asset-group] helps us make up for it.

Unlike fuzzers you might imagine, U-Fuzz doesn’t go in blindly. This toolkit has provisions to parse protocols and fuzz fields meaningfully, which helps because many of devices will discard packets they deem too malformed. With U-Fuzz, you feed it a couple packet captures, help it make some conclusions about packet and protocol structure, and get suggestions on how to crash your devices in ways not yet foreseen.

This allows for basically arbitrary protocol fuzzing, and to demonstrate, we get examples on 5G, CoAP and ZigBee probing alike, with a list of found CVEs to wrap the README up. As Wikipedia often states, this list is incomplete, and you can help by expanding it. Fuzzing is an underestimated tool – it will help you hack ubiquitous wireless protocols, proprietary standards, and smart home hubs alike.

Lamp Becomes Rotating, Illuminated Sign For Festival Table

Two things we love are economical solutions to problems, and clever ways to use things for other than their intended purpose. [CelGenStudios] hits both bases with a simple illuminated and spinning sign made from a lamp and a couple economical pieces of hardware: an LED bulb, and a solar-powered product spinner. Both are readily and cheaply available from your favorite overseas source.

The first step in making a cheap illuminated sign is to not buy one, but instead make do with a standing lamp. Plug a bright LED bulb into the socket, decorate the lampshade with whatever logos or signs one wishes to display, and one has an economical illuminated sign suitable for jazzing up a table at an event. But what really kicks it up a notch is making it rotate, and to do that is where the clever bit comes in.

Mounting the lampshade to the solar turntable body yields a simple, rotating, illuminated sign.

The first attempt used a BBQ rotisserie motor to turn the whole lamp, but it was too loud and not especially stable. The second attempt used a “disco ball effect” LED bulb with a motorized top; it worked but turned too quickly and projected light upward instead of into the lampshade.

The winning combination is LED bulb plus a little solar-powered turntable onto which the lampshade mounts. As a result, the lampshade spins slowly when the lamp is turned on. It might not be the most durable thing to ever come out of a workshop, but as [CelGenStudios] says, it only needs to last for a weekend.

The basic concept is far more simple than it might sound, so check it out in the video (embedded below) to see it in action. Curious about what’s inside those little solar spinners? Skip to 5:55 in the video to see how they work. And if you’re intrigued by the idea of using solar power for motive force but want to get more hands-on with the electrical part, we have just the resource for turning tiny motors with tiny solar cells.

Thanks to [Bike Forever] for the tip!

Continue reading “Lamp Becomes Rotating, Illuminated Sign For Festival Table”

On the left, the main board of the dual board computer, with the CPU and a bunch of connectors visible. On the right, the addon board is shown, with all the extra connectors as described in the article

A Nifty F1C100S Dual-Board Computer

The F1C100S (and the F1C200S) is a super simple CPU to use – it’s QFN, it has RAM built-in, and it can run Linux. It just makes sense that we bring it up to you once again, this time, on this dual-board computer by [minilogic]. The boards look super accessible to build for a Linux computer, and it’s alright if you assemble only one of them, too – the second board just makes this computer all that much nicer to use!

One the main board, you get the CPU itself, a couple USB ports, headphone and mic jacks, a microphone, a microSD socket, power management, SPI flash chip, plus some buttons, headers and USB-UART for debug. Add the second board, however, and you get a HDMI video output socket, a RGBTTL LCD header, LiIon battery support, RTC, and even FM radio with TV input.

One problem with this computer – it’s not open-source in the way that we expect and respect, as there’s no board files to be seen. However, at least the schematics are public, so it shouldn’t be hard, and the author provides quite a bit of example code for the F1C100S, which softens the blow. Until the design files are properly published, we can at least learn from the idea and the schematics. If you like what the F1C100S CPU offers, there are other projects you can take things from too, like this low-cost handheld we’re patiently waiting for, or this Linux-powered business card.

Wear Testing Different 3D Printer Filaments

Over the couple of decades or so since it started to be available at an affordable level, 3D printing has revolutionized the process of making custom objects. But as anyone with a 3D printer will know, sometimes the materials don’t quite live up to the application. There is a huge variety of available filaments to help make better prints, but which one really is the most hard-wearing? [My Tech Fun] set out to measure the resistance to wear of a variety of different 3D printed materials.

The test takes a standard print made across a variety of different materials, and several of each using different manufacturers’ offerings. These are then put on a test rig that moves backward and forward twice a second, with the test piece rubbing against a steel shaft under pressure from a 2.5 kg weight.

As might be expected, the common and cheap PLA performed the worst while PETG, PA, and TPU performed the best. But for us the interesting part comes in the variance between brands; the best PLA sample outperforms the worst ABS and nearly equals the worst of the PETG. Proof that maybe you do get what you pay for.

The whole test is well worth a watch, and if you 3D print anything that might be subjected to mechanical stress you should find it to be of interest. If comparing filaments is something you’d like to see more of, we’ve featured some tests before.

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Giant Sails Actually Help Cargo Ships Save Fuel, And The Planet In Turn

Shipping is not a clean business. The global economy is fueled by trade, and much of that trade involves hauling product from point A to point B. A great deal of that product goes by water. Shipping it around uses a great deal of fuel, and creates a great deal of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s bad for the environment, and it’s costly for shipping companies.

Any gain in efficiency can be an edge in this regard, and beneficial for the planet to boot. Now, it appears that good old fashioned sails  might just be the tool that companies need to clean up their fleets. And it’s not some theory—real world numbers back it up!

Where The Wind Takes You

Sea transport has been branded as a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about 3% of the total. Shipping companies in turn are under increasing pressure to innovate and adapt, both for the good of the planet and their own coffers. It’s perhaps a small blessing that saving fuel and slashing emissions go hand in hand, and companies are desperate for any technology that can deliver on those goals.

Enter the WindWings, a revolutionary “wind assisted propulsion” concept developed by BAR Technologies. In partnership with ocean freight firm Cargill, these radical sails were installed aboard the Pyxis Ocean, a Kamsarmax bulk carrier chartered from Mitsubishi. These aren’t the canvas and rope constructs of yore . Instead, they’re a set of towering metal sails that stand 123 feet tall, designed to harness the wind’s power and propel the massive bulk carrier across the oceans. Continue reading “Giant Sails Actually Help Cargo Ships Save Fuel, And The Planet In Turn”

Multiply Your Multimeter With Relays And USB

Multimeters are a bit like potato chips: you can’t have just one. But they’re a lot more expensive than potato chips, especially the good ones, and while it’s tempting to just go get another one when you need to make multiple measurements, sometimes it’s not practical. That’s why something like this 2×4 relay-based multiplexer might be a handy addition to your bench

In this age of electronics plenty, you’d think that a simple USB relay board would be easy enough to lay hands on. But [Petteri Aimonen] had enough trouble finding a decent one that it became easier to just roll one up from scratch. His goal was to switch both the positive and negative test leads from up to four instruments to a common set of outputs, and to have two independent switching banks, for those times when four-lead measurements are needed. The choice of relay was important; [Petteri] settled on a Panasonic DPDT signal relay with low wetting current contacts and a low-current coil. The coils are driven by a TBD62783A 8-channel driver chip, while an STM32 takes care of USB duties.

The mechanical design of this multiplexer is just as slick as the electrical. [Petteri] designed the PCB to act as the cover for a standard Hammond project box, so all the traces and SMD components are mounted on the back. That just leaves the forest of banana-plug binding posts on the front, along with a couple of pushbuttons for manual input switching and nicely silkscreened labels. The multiplexer is controlled over USB using the SCPI protocol, which happily includes an instrument class for signal switchers.

We think the fit and finish on this one is fantastic, as is usual with one of [Petteri]’s builds. You’ll probably recall his calibrated current reference or his snazzy differential probe.