Everyone Needs A 1950s Signal Generator In Their Life

At Hackaday, we comb the world of tech in search of good things to bring you. Today’s search brought up something very familiar, [Jazzy Jane] has an Advance E1 tube signal generator, the same model as the unit on the shelf above where this is being written. It’s new to her, so she’s giving it a teardown and fixing any safety issues before powering it on.

For a 70+ year old unit, the quality of these instruments was such that they remain useful and reliable to this day. Unsurprisingly a few things need looking at, such as an aged mains lead and a pair of filter caps in the power supply which haven’t aged well. These parts failed on the E1 here too, and while she’s taking the time to order appropriate replacements we have to admit to being cheapskates and robbing parts with an appropriate working voltage for ours from a nearby PC power supply.

Where this one becomes rather interesting is in an extra switch and socket. It’s a wafer switch with a load of capacitors, and the best guess is it provides some adjustability for the inbuilt audio oscillator which had a fixed frequency on stock models. This is part one of a series though, so we’re looking forward to finding out its purpose in the next installment. Take a look at the video below the break, and if that’s not enough, we seem to have had more than one piece of vintage British test equipment here of late.

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Google Drive Now Bootable

USB drives are incredibly useful, both storing files for transport between different computers and for creating bootable drives that let us use or install other operating systems on our computers. While online file storage systems like Dropbox and Google Drive have taken over a large percentage of the former task from USB drives, they have not been able to act as bootable media, ensuring that each of us have a few jump drives lying around. That might not be the case anymore, though, as this guide is the first we know of to be able to use Google Drive to boot to a Linux system.

Unlike the tried-and-true jump drive methods, however, this process is not straightforward at all. It relies on two keys, the first of which is FUSE which allows a filesystem to be created in userspace. The second is exploiting a step in boot process of Linux systems where the kernel unpacks a temporary filesystem, called initramfs, in order to load the real filesystem. Normally a user doesn’t interact much with this step, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. A tool called dracut allows using an existing Linux installation to build a custom initramfs and in this case, the custom initramfs is built to include the proper support for both networking and FUSE.

The proof of concept in this demonstration originally ran in a container, using an existing project called google-drive-ocamlfuse to interact with Google Drive itself. From there, after sorting out some issues with root access, networking, malfunctioning symlinks, and various timeouts on the (perhaps predictably) slow system, the whole contraption was moved over to a laptop so it could be tested on real hardware. Everything runs, and although the original creator of this behemoth admits it is a bit “silly” they note that there may be some real-world use cases for something like this. We still won’t expect everyone to throw out their jump drives anytime soon, though. If you’re not feeling like your Linux skills are up to the challenge of something like this, we’d recommend you start with our own [Al Williams]’s Linux Fu series.

Instant Filament Drying Satisfies An Immediate Need

Most 3D printer filament soaks up water from the air, and when it does, the water passing through the extruder nozzle can expand, bubble, and pop, causing all kinds of mayhem and unwanted effects in the print. This is why reels come vacuum sealed. Some people 3D print so much that they consume a full roll before it can soak up water and start to display these effects. Others live in dry climates and don’t have to worry about humidity. But the rest of us require a solution. To date, that solution has been filament dryers, which are heated elements in a small reel-sized box, or for the adventurous an oven put at a very specific temperature until the reel melts and coats the inside of the oven. The downside to this method is that it’s a broad stroke that takes many hours to accomplish, and it’s inefficient because one may not use the whole roll before it gets soaked again.

In much the same way that instant water heaters exist to eliminate the need for a water heater, [3DPI67] has a solution to this problem, and it involves passing the filament through a small chamber with a heating element and fan circulating air. The length of the chamber is important, as is the printing speed, since the filament needs to have enough time in the improvised sauna to sweat out all its water weight. The temperature of the chamber can’t get above the glass transition temperature of the filament, either, which is another limiting factor for the dryer. [3DPI67] wrote up a small article on his improvised instant filament heater in addition to the video.

So far, only TPU has been tested with this method, but it looks promising. Some have suggested a larger chamber with loops of filament so that more can be exposed for longer. There’s lots of room for innovation, and it seems some math might be in order to determine the limits and optimizations of this method, but we’re excited to see the results.

Putting Some Numbers On Your NEMAs

It’s official: [Engineer Bo] wins the internet with a video titled “Finding NEMA 17,” wherein he builds a dynamometer to find the best stepper motor in the popular NEMA 17 frame size.

Like a lot of subjective questions, the only correct answer to which stepper is best is, “It depends,” and [Bo] certainly has that in mind while gathering the data needed to construct torque-speed curves for five samples of NEMA 17 motors using his homebrew dyno. The dyno itself is pretty cool, with a bicycle disc brake to provide drag, a load cell to measure braking force, and an optical encoder to measure the rotation of the motor under test. The selected motors represent a cross-section of what’s commonly available today, some of which appear in big-name 3D printers and other common applications.

[Bo] tested each motor with two different drivers: the TMC2209 silent driver to start with, and because he released the Magic Smoke from those, the higher current TB6600 module. The difference between the two drivers was striking, with lower torque and top speeds for the same settings on each motor using the TB6600, as well as more variability in the data. Motors did better across the board with the TBC6600 at 24 volts, showing improved torque at higher speeds, and slightly higher top speeds. He also tested the effect of microstepping on torque using the TBC6600 and found that using full steps resulted in higher torque across a greater speed range.

At the end of the day, it seems as if these tests say more about the driver than they do about any of the motors tested. Perhaps the lesson here is to match the motor to the driver in light of what the application will be. Regardless, it’s a nice piece of work, and we really appreciate the dyno design to boot — reminds us of a scaled-down version of the one [Jeremey Fielding] demonstrated a few years back.

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Make A Cheap Robot Mower Much Smarter

The Parkside range of tools as sold in European Lidl stores may be reasonably priced, but it contains some products of far better quality than their modest cost would suggest. This means that Parkside hacking has become as much of a cottage industry as IKEA hacking, and they’re a firm favorite for modifications. [Lambertus] has taken a Parkside robot mower, and converted it from a relatively mundane device to a fully-connected smart robot, with the aid of an ESP8266.

The hardware is surprisingly simple, as all that’s really needed is a stop/go command. This can be readily found by hooking up to the input from the mower’s rain sensor, allowing the ESP to control its operation. Then there’s an accelerometer to allow it to count motion, and a hookup tot he battery to measure voltage. The firmware uses ESPHome, resulting in a mower now connected to home automation.

This isn’t the first time we’ve shown you someone upgrading the smarts on  robot mover, and of course we’ve also taken a tour through the history of lawn mowers in general.

Access To Fresh And Potable Water: An Ancient And Very Current Challenge

Throughout history, clean and potable water has been one of the most prized possessions, without which no human civilization could have ever sustained itself. Not only is water crucial for drinking and food preparation, but also for agriculture, cleaning and the production of countless materials, chemicals and much more. And this isn’t a modern problem: good water supplies and the most successful ancient cultures go hand in hand.

For instance, the retention and management of fresh water in reservoirs played a major role in the Khmer Empire, with many of its reservoirs (baray) surviving to today. Similarly, the Anuradhapure Kingdom in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) featured massive reservoirs like Kala Wewa that was constructed in 460 CE with a capacity of 123 million m3. In the New World, the Maya civilization similarly created reservoirs with intricate canals to capture rainwater before the dry season started, as due to the karst landscape wells were not possible.

Keeping this water fresh and free from contaminants and pollution was a major problem for especially the Maya, with a recent perspective by Lisa J. Lucera in PNAS Anthropology suggesting that they used an approach similar to modern day constructed wetlands to keep disease and illness at bay, while earlier discoveries also suggest the use of filtration including the use of zeolite.

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A devboard with the CH32V003, with a few resistors and bodges, with a USB-C cable plugged into it, and a programmer plus an extra probe attached.

USB PD On CH32V003 Teaches You Everything

How do you talk USB Power Delivery (PD)? Grab a PHY? Use a MCU with one built-in? Well, if you’re hardcore enough, you can do it with just a few resistors and GPIOs. [eeucalyptus] shows you their implementation of USB-PD on a CH32V003, which has no PD peripheral. This includes building a PD trigger, completely open source, and walking you through the entire low-level PD basics, too!

It helps that CH32V003 is a 32-bit MCU with a good few resources and peripherals, for instance, an internal comparator. Other than that, you don’t need much in terms of hardware resources, but you do need a steady hand — parts of the firmware had to be written in assembly to keep up with PD timing. Want to tinker with the fruit of this research, perhaps, further build upon the code? There’s an example board on GitHub, too!

Want to try your own luck with this method? There’s a schematic, and logic analyzer captures, and a board to refer to. Again, more than enough information on every single low-level detail! Otherwise, grab an MCU pre-programmed to talk PD, maybe a trigger board chip, or maybe even a PD PHY and implement PD communications with it directly – it’s pretty easy!

We thank [Julianna] for sharing this with us!