Recover Data From Damaged Chips

Not every computer is a performance gaming rig. Some of us need cheap laptops and tablets for simple Internet browsing or word processing, and we don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars just for that. With a cheaper price tag comes cheaper hardware, though, such as the eMMC standard which allows flash memory to be used in a more cost-advantageous way than SSDs. For a look at some the finer points of eMMC chips, we’ll turn to [Jason]’s latest project.

[Jason] had a few damaged eMMC storage chips and wanted to try to repair them. The most common failure mode for his chips is “cratering” which is a type of damage to the solder that holds them to their PCBs. With so many pins in such a small area, and with small pins themselves, often traditional soldering methods won’t work. The method that [Jason] found which works the best is using 0.15 mm thick glass strips to aid in the reflow process and get the solder to stick back to the chip again.

Doing work like this can get frustrating due to the small sizes involved and the amount of heat needed to get the solder to behave properly. For example, upgrading the memory chip in an iPhone took an expert solderer numerous tries with practice hardware to finally get enough courage to attempt this soldering on his own phone. With enough practice, the right tools, and a steady hand, though, these types of projects are definitely within reach.

The Tiniest RetroPie

The RetroPie project is a software suite for the Raspberry Pi that allows the user to easily play classic video games through emulators. It’s been around for a while now, so it’s relatively trivial to get this set up with a basic controller and video output. That means that the race is on for novel ways of implementing a RetroPie, which [Christian] has taken as a sort of challenge, building the tiniest RetroPie he possibly could.

The constraints he set for himself were to get the project in at under 100 mm. For that he used a Pi Zero loaded with the RetroPie software and paired it with a 1.44″ screen. There’s a tiny LiPo battery hidden in there, as well as a small audio amplifier. Almost everything else is 3D printed including the case, the D-pad, and the buttons. The entire build is available on Thingiverse as well if you’d like to roll out your own.

While this might be the smallest RetroPie we’ve seen, there are still some honorable mentions. There’s one other handheld we’ve seen with more modest dimensions, and another one was crammed into an Altoids tin with a clamshell screen. It’s an exciting time to be alive!

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Shred The Gnar Without Paddling For Waves

[Ben Gravy] isn’t your average pro surfer. For one thing, he lives in New Jersey instead of someplace like Hawaii or Australia, and for another he became famous not for riding the largest waves but rather for riding the weirdest ones. He’s a novelty wave hunter, but some days even the obscure surf spots aren’t breaking. For that, he decided to build a surfboard that doesn’t need waves. (Video, embedded below the break.)

The surfboard that [Ben] used for this project isn’t typical either. It’s made out of foam without any fiberglass, which makes the board less expensive than a traditional surfboard. The propulsion was handled by an electric trolling motor and was hooked up to a deep cycle battery mounted in the center of the board in a waterproof box. The first prototype ended up sinking though, as most surfboards can’t support the weight of a single person on their own without waves even without all the equipment that he bolted to it.

After some reworking, [Ben] was able to realize his dream of riding a surfboard without any waves. It’s not fast, but the amount of excitement that he had proves that it works and could fool most of us. This hack has everything, too: a first prototype that didn’t work exactly right and was fixed with duct tape, electricity used in a semi-dangerous way, and solving a problem we didn’t know we had. We hope he builds a second, faster one as well.

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This Beer Keg Is A Side Car

Bikes are a great way to get around. They’re cheap compared to cars and can be faster through city traffic, and you can get some exercise at the same time. The one downside to them is that the storage capacity is often extremely limited. Your choices are various bags strapped to the bike (or yourself), a trailer, or perhaps this bicycle side car made from a beer keg.

Sidecars are traditionally the realm of motorcycles, not bicycles, but this particular bike isn’t without a few tricks. It has an electric motor to help assist the rider when pedaling. With this platform [Laura Kampf] has a lot of potential. She got to work cutting the beer keg to act as the actual side car, making a hinged door to cover the opening. From there, she fabricated a custom mount for the side car that has a custom hinge, allowing the side car to stay on the road when the bike leans for corners.

For those unfamiliar, [Laura] is a master welder with a shop located in Germany. We’ve seen some of her work here before, and she also just released a video showing off all of her projects for the last year. If you’re an aspiring welder, or just like watching a master show off her craft, be sure to check those out or go straight to the video below.

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Always Have A Square to Spare

Some aspects of humanity affect all of us at some point in our lives. Whether it’s getting caught in the rain without an umbrella, getting a flat tire on the way to work, or upgrading a Linux package which somehow breaks the entire installation, some experiences are truly universal. Among these is pulling a few squares of toilet paper off the roll, only to have the entire roll unravel with an overly aggressive pull. It’s possible to employ a little technology so that none of us have to go through this hassle again, though.

[William Holden] and [Eric Strebel] have decided to tackle this problem with an innovative bearing of sorts that replaces a typical toilet paper holder. Embedded in the mechanism is a set of magnetic discs which provide a higher resistance than a normal roll holder would. Slowly pulling out squares of paper is possible, but like a non-Newtonian fluid becomes solid when a higher force is applied, the magnets will provide enough resistance when a higher speed tug is performed on the toilet paper. This causes the paper to tear rather than unspool the whole roll, and also allows the user to operate the toilet paper one-handed.

This is a great solution to a problem we’ve all faced but probably forgot about a minute after we experienced it. And, it also holds your cell phone to keep it from falling in the toilet! If you’d like to check out their Kickstarter, they are trying to raise money to bring the product to market. And, if you want to upgrade your toilet paper dispenser even further, there’s also an IoT device for it as well, of course.

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A Compiler in Plain Text Also Plays Music

As a layperson reading about some branches of mathematics, it often seems like mathematicians are just people who really like to create and solve puzzles. And, knowing that computer science shares a lot of its fundamentals with mathematics, we can assume that most computer scientists are also puzzle-solvers as well. This latest project from [tom7] shows off his puzzle creating and solving skills with a readable file which is also a paper, which is also a compiler for C programs, which can also play music.

[tom7] started off with the instruction set for the Intel 8086 processor. Of the instructions available, he wanted to use only instructions which are also readable in a text file. This limits him dramatically in what this file will be able to execute, but also sets up the puzzle. He walks through each of the hurdles he found by only using instructions that also code to text, including limited memory space, no obvious way of exiting the program once it was complete, not being able to jump backward in the program (i.e. looping), and a flurry of other issues that come up once the instruction set is limited in this way.

The result is a sort of C compiler which might not be the most efficient way of executing programs, but it sure is the most effective way of showing off [tom7]’s PhD in computer science. As a bonus, the file can also play an antiquated type of sound file due to one of the available instructions being a call for the processor to interact with I/O. If you want to learn a little bit more about compilers, you can check out a primer we have for investigating some of their features.

Thanks to [Greg] for the tip!

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The Embroidered Computer

By now we’ve all seen ways to manufacture your own PCBs. There are board shops who will do small orders for one-off projects, or you can try something like the toner transfer method if you want to get really adventurous. One thing we haven’t seen is a circuit board that’s stitched together, but that’s exactly what a group of people at a Vienna arts exhibition have done.

The circuit is stitched together on a sheet of fabric using traditional gold embroidery methods for the threads, which function as the circuit’s wires. The relays are made out of magnetic beads, and the entire circuit functions as a fully programmable, although relatively rudimentary, computer. Logic operations are possible, and a functional schematic of the circuit is also provided. Visitors to the expo can program the circuit and see it in operation in real-time.

While this circuit gives new meaning to the term “wearables”, it wasn’t intended to be worn although we can’t see why something like this couldn’t be made into a functional piece of clothing. The main goal was to explore some historic techniques of this type of embroidery, and explore the relationship we have with the technology that’s all around us. To that end, there have been plenty of other pieces of functional technology used as art recently as well, but of course this isn’t the first textile computing element to grace these pages.

Thanks to [Thinkerer] for the tip!