Hackerfarm Brings Light to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has a long road to recovery, and part of this is the damaged infrastructure: much of the electricity distribution network was destroyed, and will take months or years to rebuild. The Japanese hacker group [Hackerfarm], founded by Hackaday friend [Akiba], is looking to help by sending some of their solar lanterns to provide off-grid light.

They’ve already shipped one batch, and are using the proceeds from sales of these paper lanterns to send more of them to Puerto Rico, where they will be given out to those who need them. The group has carried out similar projects before, distributing lanterns to Tsunami-hit areas of Japan and to Rwanda, where a women’s group builds and sells the lanterns. It seems like a great cause, and the design of the lanterns is pretty neat. We love that they provide an introduction to soldering and serve a higher purpose at the same time.

We’ve mentioned Hackerfarm before, both as part of a growing rural hackerspace scene, and because of their insane EL-wire creations and choreography. And [Akiba] gave a great talk at last year’s Supercon where he discussed the ins and outs of getting virtually anything done in Shenzhen. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Impressive Electric Quad Bike

[EV4] is a small Polish company that makes electric vehicles, like this rather cool electric quad It’s an impressive build, including two 1 kW motors and a tilting turning system that makes it more maneuverable than most quad bikes. It has big, wide tires, a raised battery and longitudinal arms that mean it can climb over obstacles. That all makes it great for off-road use, and it’s just 60 cm (just under 24 inches) wide, which is much smaller than most quad bikes. It also has a top speed of 35 km/h, which would make it somewhat illegal to use on the public roads in many places. As someone who can’t ride a two-wheel bike because of a lousy sense of balance, I’d love to build something like this. Has anyone got plans for something similar?

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Military Satellite Goes Civilian

Space may be the final frontier, but that doesn’t mean we all get to explore it. Except, perhaps by radio, as the US Air Force has just demobbed a satellite and handed it over to the public to use. FalconSAT-3 was built and used by students at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) as part of their training, then launched into orbit in 2007. It’s still going 10 years later, but the USAFA is building and launching more satellites, so they don’t need FalconSAT-3. Rather than trash it, they have turned off the military bits and and are allowing radio amateurs to use it.

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Pitmaster BBQ dashboard monitors your meat and veggies

Barbecue is all about temperature, about making sure that whatever is on the grill reaches the right temperature. At least, that is the part that makes sure you don’t poison people, because your food should get hot enough to kill any bacteria. [Chris Aquino] decided to take this a step further than simply sticking a thermometer into a hunk of meat by creating Pitmaster. This combination of hardware and software monitors the temperature of multiple chunks of food and alerts you when each is ready, all through a web interface.

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Origin of Wireless Security: the Marconi Radio Hack of 1903

The place is the historic lecture theater of the Royal Institution in London. The date is the 4th of June 1903, and the inventor, Guglielmo Marconi, is about to demonstrate his new wireless system, which he claims can securely send messages over a long distance, without interference by tuning the signal.

The inventor himself was over 300 miles away in Cornwall, preparing to send the messages to his colleague Professor Fleming in the theater. Towards the end of Professor Flemings lecture, the receiver sparks into life, and the morse code printer started printing out one word repeatedly: “Rats”. It then spelled out an insulting limerick: “There was a young man from Italy, who diddled the public quite prettily”. Marconi’s supposedly secure system had been hacked.

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Soviet Era Smoke Detector Torn Down, Revealing Plutonium

It’s widely known that a smoke detector is a good ionizing radiation source, as they contain a small amount of americium-241, a side product of nuclear reactors. But what about other sources? [Carl Willis] got hold of an old Soviet era smoke detector and decided to tear it down and see what was inside. This, as he found out, isn’t something you should do lightly, as the one he used ended up containing an interesting mix of radioactive materials, including small amounts of plutonium-239, uranium-237, neptunium-237 and a selection of others. In true hacker fashion, he detected these with a gamma ray spectroscope he has in his spare bedroom, shielded from other sources with lead bricks and copper and tin sheets. Continue reading “Soviet Era Smoke Detector Torn Down, Revealing Plutonium”

Home-made Soldering Station For $15

A proper soldering iron is one of the fundamental tools that a good hacker needs. Preferably one that has a temperature control so it can handle different types of solder and connectors.

Decent soldering stations aren’t cheap, but [Code and Solder] show you how to make one for about $15 in parts. This uses a cheap non-temperature-controlled USB soldering iron, an Arduino and a few other bits that they got from AliExpress. The plan is to add a thermocouple to the soldering iron, and let the Arduino control the temperature. A rotary dial and LCD screen control the set-point, and the Arduino switches the feed to the heating element on and off through the FET.

It’s not the cleanest build in the world, and these USB soldering irons aren’t suitable for large joints or long soldering jobs, but it’s a neat little hack for the builder on a budget. We’ve seen teardowns of these rather neat little USB soldering irons before, but this is an interesting way to expand its capabilities.


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