Clearly 3D Printing

[Joel] picked up a wireless mouse kit. The idea is you get some 3D printing files and hardware. You can print the shell or make modifications to it. You can even design your own shell from scratch. But [Joel] took a different approach. He created a case with transparent resin. You can see the impressive result in the video below.

While the idea of buying the mouse as a kit simplifies things, we would be more inclined to just gut a mouse and design a new case for it if we were so inclined. We were more impressed with the results with the transparent resin.

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In Future, Printer Documents You

[Jason Dookeran] reminded us of something we don’t like to think about. Your printer probably adds barely noticeable dots to everything you print. It does it on purpose, so that if you print something naughty, the good guys can figure out what printer it came from. This is the machine identification code and it has been around since the days that the US government feared that color copiers would allow wholesale counterfiting.

The technology dates back to Xerox and Canon devices from the mid-80s, but it was only publicly acknowledged in 2004. With color printers, the MIC — machine identification code — is a series of tiny yellow dots. Typically, each dot is about 10 microns across and spaced about a millimeter from each other. The pattern prints all over the page so that even a fragment of, say, a ransom note can be identified.

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An Arduino Nano Clone In A DIP-Sized Footprint

Nobody doubts the utility of the Arduino Nano and its many clones, and chances are good you’ve got at least one or two of the tiny dev boards within arm’s reach right now. But as small as it is, the board still takes up a fair amount of real estate, especially on solderless breadboards during the prototyping phase of a project. Wouldn’t it be nice to shrink down the Nano just a bit and regain a couple of rows for plugging in components and jumpers?

It looks like [Albert van Dalen] thought so, and he managed to get a Nano’s functionality — and then some — onto a DIP-26 footprint. The aptly named “Nano DIP,” which at 33 mm x 10 mm — about the same size as the ATmega328 on the Arduino Uno — will tickle the miniaturization fans out there. The board is built around an ATtiny3217 and has almost all of the Nano’s features, like a USB port, reset button, built-in LEDs, 5 V regulator, and preloaded bootloader. Its big extra feature is the 350-kilosamples-per-second 8-bit DAC, while sacrificing external crystal pins and a 3.3 V regulator.

To make the board cheap enough to manufacture, [Albert] elected a minimum component size of 0402, which made squeezing all the parts onto the board challenging. The MCU barely fits between the header pin pads, and the Micro USB jack had to be a vertical-mount type. It does the business, though, so if you’re looking to free up a little breadboard space, check it out.

Uncovering ChatGPT Usage In Academic Papers Through Excess Vocabulary

Frequencies of PubMed abstracts containing certain words. Black lines show counterfactual extrapolations from 2021–22 to 2023–24. The first six words are affected by ChatGPT; the last three relate to major events that influenced scientific writing and are shown for comparison. (Credit: Kobak et al., 2024)
Frequencies of PubMed abstracts containing certain words. Black lines show counterfactual extrapolations from 2021–22 to 2023–24. The first six words are affected by ChatGPT; the last three relate to major events that influenced scientific writing and are shown for comparison. (Credit: Kobak et al., 2024)

That students these days love to use ChatGPT for assistance with reports and other writing tasks is hardly a secret, but in academics it’s becoming ever more prevalent as well. This raises the question of whether ChatGPT-assisted academic writings can be distinguished somehow. According to [Dmitry Kobak] and colleagues this is the case, with a strong sign of ChatGPT use being the presence of a lot of flowery excess vocabulary in the text. As detailed in their prepublication paper, the frequency of certain style words is a remarkable change in the used vocabulary of the published works examined.

For their study they looked at over 14 million biomedical abstracts from 2010 to 2024 obtained via PubMed. These abstracts were then analyzed for word usage and frequency, which shows both natural increases in word frequency (e.g. from the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and Ebola outbreak), as well as massive spikes in excess vocabulary that coincide with the public availability of ChatGPT and similar LLM-based tools.

In total 774 unique excess words were annotated. Here ‘excess’ means ‘outside of the norm’, following the pattern of ‘excess mortality’ where mortality during one period noticeably deviates from patterns established during previous periods. In this regard the bump in words like respiratory are logical, but the surge in style words like intricate and notably would seem to be due to LLMs having a penchant for such flowery, overly dramatized language.

The researchers have made the analysis code available for those interested in giving it a try on another corpus. The main author also addressed the question of whether ChatGPT might be influencing people to write more like an LLM. At this point it’s still an open question of whether people would be more inclined to use ChatGPT-like vocabulary or actively seek to avoid sounding like an LLM.

A solar-powered decibel meter the size of a business card.

2024 Business Card Challenge: NoiseCard Judges The Sound Around You

Let’s face it: even with the rise of the electric car, the world is a noisy place. And it seems like it has only gotten worse in recent years. But how can we easily quantify the noise around us and know whether it is considered an unhealthy decibel level?

That is where the NoiseCard comes in. This solar-powered solution can go anywhere from the regrettable open office plan to the busy street, thanks to a couple of 330 µF capacitors. It’s based on the low-power STM32G031J6 and uses a MEMS microphone to pick up sound from the back of the card, which the code is optimized for. Meanwhile, the LEDs on the front indicate the ambient noise level, ranging from a quiet 40 dB and under to an ear-splitting 105 dB or greater.

When it comes to building something the size of a business card, every component is under scrutiny for size and usefulness. So even the LEDs are optimized for brightness and low power consumption. Be sure to check it out in action after the break in various environments.

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Thanks For The Great Comments!

Every once in a while, there’s a Hackaday article where the comments are hands-down the best part of a post. This happened this week with Al Williams’ Ask Hackaday: How Do You Make Front Panels?. I guess it’s not so surprising that the comments were full of awesome answers – it was an “Ask Hackaday” after all. But you all delivered!

A technique that I had never considered came up a few times: instead of engraving the front of an opaque panel, like one made of aluminum or something, instead if you’re able to make the panel out of acrylic, you can paint the back side, laser or engrave into it, and then paint over with a contrast color. Very clever!

Simply printing the panel out onto paper and laminating it got a number of votes, and for those who are 3D printing the enclosure anyway, simply embossing the letters into the surface had a number of fans. The trick here is in getting some contrast into the letters, and most suggested changing filament. All I know is that I’ve tried to do it by painting the insides of the letters white, and it’s too fiddly for me.

But my absolute favorite enclosure design technique got mentioned a number of times: cardboard-aided design. Certainly for simple or disposable projects, there’s nothing faster than just cutting up some cardboard and taping it into the box of your desires. I’ll often do this to get the sizes and locations of components right – it’s only really a temporary solution. Although some folks have had success with treating the cardboard with a glue wash, paint, or simply wrapping it in packing tape to make it significantly more robust. Myself, if it ends up being a long-term project, I’ll usually transfer the cardboard design to 3DP or cut out thin plywood.

I got sidetracked here, though. What I really wanted to say was “thanks!” to everyone who submitted their awesome comments to Al’s article. We’ve had some truly hateful folks filling the comment section with trash lately, and I’d almost given up hope. But then along comes an article like this and restores my faith. Thanks, Hackaday!

Thumb Nuts For Not A Lot

Sometimes it’s the most straightforward of hacks which are also the most satisfying, and so it is that we’d like to draw your attention to [mikeandmertle]’s PVC thumb nuts. They provide a cheap an easy to make way to create thumb-tightenable nuts for your projects.

Starting with a PVC sheet, a series of discs can be cut from it with a hole saw. The hole in the centre of the disc is chosen such that it’s a bit smaller than the required nut, so that it can be pressed into the space with a bolt and a washer. Then a second PVC disc is glued over one side of the first before being sanded to a regular shape, resulting in a captive nut at the centre of a finger-sized and easily turnable handle.

We like this project, and we think that quite a few of you will too. We wonder how much torque it will take, but we’re guessing that a threaded insert could easily be substituted for the nut in more demanding applications. And of course, for more demanding applications you could always try knurling.