So What’s All This HaLow Long-Range WiFi About Then?

We’re all used to wireless networking, but if there’s one thing the ubiquitous WiFi on 2.4 or 5 GHz lacks, it’s range. Inside buildings, it will be stopped in its tracks by anything more than a mediocre wall, and outside, it can be difficult to connect at any useful rate more than a few tens of metres away without resorting to directional antennas and hope. Technologies such as LoRa provide a much longer range at the expense of minuscule bandwidth, but beyond that, there has been little joy. As [Andreas Spiess] points out in a recent video though, this is about to change, as devices using the so-called HaLow or IEEE 802.11ah protocol are starting to edge into the realm of affordability.

Perhaps surprisingly, he finds the 5 GHz variant to be best over a 1km test with a far higher bandwidth. However, we’d say that his use of directional antennas is something of a cheat. Where it does come into its own in his tests, though, is through masonry, with far better penetration across floors of a building. We think that this will translate to better outdoor performance when the line of sight is obstructed.

There’s one more thing he brings to our attention, which seasoned users of LoRA may already be aware of. These lower frequency allocations are different between the USA and Europe, so should you order one for yourself, it would make sense to ensure you have the appropriate model for your continent. Otherwise, we look forward to more HaLow devices appearing and the price falling even further because we think this will lead to some good work in future projects.

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Hunting For Part Numbers: Analyzing The Buck Converter On Mini 560 Modules

Some of us may have recently stumbled over these mysterious ‘Mini 560’ synchronous buck converter modules at various e-shopping websites. These little modules claim to take in 7-20 VDC and output whatever voltage they’re configured for (e.g., 5 VDC). What IC is used on these modules? Since the IC on these modules has had its markings laser-etched away, answering that particular question is a tedious sleuthing job. Fortunately, [MisterHW] has done the legwork for us already, with a detailed write-up.

Details like the nominal input rating, measured currents, and resulting efficiency values provide clues. Looking at the 0603 SMD resistor values for given output voltages provides the programming resistances, combined with the footprint of the QFN-20 package. After desoldering the IC on a sample board, the footprint was reminiscent of certain Texas Instruments (Ti) packages, leading to a perusal of the Ti parametric database and a couple of candidate matches.

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Hackaday Links: May 26, 2024

Another day, another crop of newly minted minimal astronauts, as Blue Origin’s New Shepard made a successful suborbital flight this week. Everything seemed to go according to plan, at least until right at the end, when an “unexpected foliage contingency” made astronaut egress a little more complicated than usual. The New Shepard capsule had the bad taste to touch down with a bit of West Texas shrubbery directly aligned with the hatch, making it difficult to find good footing for the platform used by the astronauts for the obligatory “smile and wave” upon exiting. The Blue Origin ground crew, clad in their stylish black and blue outfits that must be murderously impractical in the West Texas desert, stamped down the brush to place the stairway, but had a lot of trouble getting it to sit straight. Even with the impromptu landscaping, the terrain made it tough to get good footing without adding random bits of stuff to prop up one leg, an important task considering that one of the new astronauts was a 90-year-old man. It seems pretty short-sighted not to have adjustable legs on the stairway, but there it is.

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ICQ Will Shut Down On June 26 This Year

In many ways, ICQ has always been a bit of a curiosity. It was one of the first major instant messenger clients of the 1990s. It saw broad uptake alongside the likes of AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger. Yet, it outlasted both of them despite not being attached to an industrial juggernaut like AOL or Microsoft. After 27 years, however, it seems that the last petal will drop, with the shutdown of ICQ announced on the ICQ website for June 26, 2024.

Originally launched by an Israeli company, Mirabilis, in June of 1996, it took the Internet by storm, leading to AOL buying Mirabilis in June of 1998. Under the wing of AOL, ICQ kept growing its user base until it was sold to Digital Sky Technologies (now VK, which operates in 2010. Around this time, the likes of Facebook and Google, with their own messaging solutions, came onto the scene, leaving ICQ to flounder. Ultimately, ICQ found a new home in the Russian market as a mobile messaging system until its imminent shutdown. Users are urged to move to the VK Messenger instead.

The demise of ICQ obviously led to a blast of nostalgia on sites like Hacker News, even though it has lost relevance in the West for many years. We’re sad to see this chapter end and will mourn the demise of our UINs (RIP, 61007952) along with our fellow compatriots in the usual IRC channels.

This is what happens when you depend on the grid. Going off the grid doesn’t have to look homemade, either.

How Do You Fill The 1N34 Void?

The germanium point contact diode, and almost every semiconductor device using germanium, is now obsolete. There was a time when almost every television or radio would have contained one or two of them, but the world has moved on from both analogue broadcasting and discrete analogue electronics in its lower-frequency RF circuitry. [TSBrownie] is taking a look at alternatives to the venerable 1N34A point-contact diode in one of the few places a point-contact diode makes sense, the crystal radio.

In the video below the break, he settles on a slightly more plentiful Eastern European D9K as a substitute after trying a silicon rectifier (awful) and a Schottky diode (great in theory, not so good in practice). We’ve trodden this path in the past and settled on a DC bias to reduce the extra forward voltage needed for a 1N4148 silicon diode to conduct because, like him, we found a Schottky disappointing.

The 1N34 is an interesting component, and we profiled its inventor a few years ago. Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that sometimes, we just have to let old parts go.

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Weird Old Stereo Accessories

Some people trick out their cars. Some, their computers. There are even people who max out their audio systems, although back in 1979, there was more of that going on, probably, than today where you discresionary income is split so many ways. Case in point: [Alan Cross] remembers how excited he was to get the Radio Shack catalog that year. He was working at a grocery store, saved his money, and — over time — picked up a haul ranging from an equalizer to a strobe light.

Who didn’t need a power meter or a “light organ?” These gadgets seem cheap until you realize it was 1979 and [Alan] was a student working at a grocery store. He points out that the $20 power meter is about the same as $80 today.

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2024 Business Card Challenge: Adding Some Refinement To Breadboard Power Supplies

For small electronics projects, prototyping a design on a breadboard is a must to iron out kinks in the design and ensure everything works properly before a final version is created. The power supply for the breadboard is often overlooked, with newcomers to electronics sometimes using a 9V battery and regulator or a cheap USB supply to get a quick 5V source. We might eventually move on to hacking together an ATX power supply, or the more affluent among us might spring for a variable, regulated bench supply, but this power supply built specifically for breadboards might thread the needle for this use case much better than other options.

The unique supply is hosted on a small PCB with two breakout rails that connect directly to the positive and negative pins on a standard-sized breadboard. The power supply has two outputs, each of which can output up to 24V DC and both are adjustable by potentiometers. To maintain high efficiency and lower component sizes, a switch-mode design is used to provide variable DC voltage. A three-digit, seven-segment display at the top of the board keeps track of whichever output the user selects, and the supply itself can be powered by a number of inputs, including USB-C or lithium batteries.

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