Inputs Of Interest: X-Bows Ergo-Mechanical Keyboard

Okay, let’s just get this out of the way up front, shall we? This ergonomic mechanical keyboard was a free sample offered to me by X-Bows. They contacted me after I expressed interest in trying one in the comments of my post about the Kinesis Advantage. I had my doubts about this keyboard as far as my own personal ergonomic needs go, which are admittedly on the extreme side. TL;DR: I won’t be abandoning my curvy girls anytime soon. But I will say that I’m definitely impressed by the X-Bows.

X-Bows was founded by a doctor who saw a lot of RSI issues in programmers and writers and decided to take matters into his own hands. The keyboard was born on Kickstarter in 2017 and now comes in three models. They sent me the mid-range model called The Knight, which retails for $249, but seems to be on permanent sale for $199. The top-of-the-line Knight Plus has a magnetic, detachable 10-key that can attach to either side. Continue reading “Inputs Of Interest: X-Bows Ergo-Mechanical Keyboard”

Merlin Pi Camera Is A Photographic Wizard

[Mister M] was quite excited to mess around with the new high-quality Raspberry Pi camera and build a project around it. Unfortunately, lockdown forced him to rummage through old tech on hand rather than hunting down a fresh eye-catching enclosure out in the wild. We spent many hours playing with one of these Merlin toys whenever six AA batteries could be spared to feed the matrix of hungry 1970s LEDs, so we would argue that [Mister M] should explore his personal stores more often.

Before we forget — it’s cool; this one was already broken. The Merlin Pi camera’s wizardry works on two levels — [Mister M] can take still pictures and record video through the GUI he built for the touchscreen, or go retro and use the little push buttons nestled in the Merlin control panel. [Mister M] worked a Dropbox uploader into the GUI, so he doesn’t have to worry about filling up the SD card with backyard bird movies in the middle of filming them.

[Mister M] says he accidentally warped the Merlin’s battery cover while trying to soak away the sticker and had to use a piece of acrylic. Although it’s unfortunate, we think it may have been for the better given the huge hole necessitated by the camera lens. Check out the build video after the break.

If you hadn’t heard about this beefy new camera module until now, our own [Jenny List] brought it into focus a couple months back and more recently had a go at hacking with it herself.

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The ISS Is Getting A New WC

Every home needs renovations after a few decades, and the International Space Station is no different. This fall, they’ll be getting a new Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), aka a new toilet.

Though the news coincides with increased traffic to the ISS, this move stems from a more serious issue with bacterial contamination during longer-term space travel. Today’s ISS toilets already recycle urine back into potable water and scrub the air reclaimed from solid waste as it gets compacted and stored. The new UWMS will act more like a food dehydrator, reducing the water content as much as possible to save on space, and petrifying the poo to inactivate the bacteria.

The current commode on the American side of the ISS was designed in the 1990s and is based on the Space Shuttle’s facilities. It has a funnel with a hose for urine and a bag-lined canister with a seat for solid waste, both of which are heavily vacuum-assisted.

Though the current toilet still does everything it’s supposed to do, there is room for improvement. For instance, women find it difficult to engage both parts of the system at the same time, and almost everyone prefers the toe bars on the Russian toilet to the more encumbering thigh bars on the American throne. Also, the current commode’s interface is more complicated than it needs to be, which takes up valuable crew time. Continue reading “The ISS Is Getting A New WC”

Commodore SX-64 Keyboard Upgraded From Trash To Treasure

Released in 1984, the Commodore SX-64 Executive Computer was one of the first portable luggable color computers. It cost twice as much as a Commodore 64, had a tiny 5″ diagonal screen, and couldn’t actually support both 5¼” drives as advertised. On the upside, people say it had a slightly better keyboard than its classic cousin.

[Drygol] agreed to restore the keyboard from a friend’s Commodore SX-64 sight-unseen, and boy was this thing in bad shape. Most people would probably consider the condition a shame and write it off as a lost cause, since two of the corners were missing most of their plastic. But [Drygol] isn’t most people. [Drygol] had mad restoration skills to begin with, and this project honed them to a razor’s edge.

Plenty of the other vintage computer restorations [Drygol] has done required plastic welding, which uses heat or a lot of friction to smooth over cracks. Some of those have not stood the test of time, so he’s now in the habit of stabilizing cracks with brass mesh before filling them with fiberglass putty.

The best part is how [Drygol] managed to rebuild the corners using the same methods, soldering the brass mesh at the 90° joins, and reinforcing them with thick copper wire before beginning the painstaking putty/sand/putty process. The use of blank copper clad boards as straight edges and thickness gauges is genius.

There’s a whole lot to learn here, and the adventure beings with something that probably keeps a lot of people from trying stuff like this in the first place: how do you safely remove the badges?

You’re right, plastic welding is awesome. There even used to be a toy plastic welder. But there’s no need to troll the electronic auction bay to give it a try — just use a cheap soldering iron.

Thumbmouse Keeps Your Hands On The Keyboard

Let’s face it, those touchpads on laptops are awful, and were never meant to be the primary mouse for all-day use. Not that external mice are much better on your shoulder and neck in the long term — especially if you’re reaching past a 10-key and back to use it. So what’s the answer? What does a comfortable, portable mousing solution look like? Is such a thing even possible?

[Matias N.] has an idea: make the mouse an extension of your hand. The idea is that by wearing a battery-powered Bluetooth pointer on your thumb or index finger, you have a seamless back and forth transition with less overall stress. The trackpad includes a button that would be used to cover left clicks. To make it a full mouse, [Matias] plans to have extra buttons for right click and middle click, and a joystick for scrolling.

[Matias] started designing thumbMouse with a Blackberry 9900 trackball module in mind, but found it was way too slow for modern mousing needs. Turns out the trackpad module is much better suited: it’s a lot more responsive, and the movement is surprisingly sensitive.

Of course the standard mouse still has its place, but it can always be improved. As far as those go, this completely modular mouse might be the endgame critter.

DIY Hand Mixer Whips Coffee Into Shape

Along with the substantial rise in bread baking over the last few months, many people have been whipped into a frenzy over this tasty-looking frothy coffee beverage called Dalgona. It’s like a caffeinated meringue made from instant coffee, sugar, boiling water, and a whole lot of air that is then spooned onto milk or milk and ice.

Sure, you can use a whisk to mix it up if you don’t mind doing so continuously and vigorously for at least a full three minutes. [HimanshuS8] quickly got tired of making his wife’s coffee this way, and designed a small electric hand mixer especially for this task. [HimanshuS8] happens to be a hardware design engineer, which is why it looks so minimalist and beautiful.

The inside is just as beautiful, mixing junk bin parts like the 6 V motor from a cassette deck with printed gears and beaters. At the risk of reviving an old debate, we hope [HimanshuS8] used food-safe filament for those. If you replicate this, you could try to design it around standard metal beaters instead. Check out the demo after the break while you wait for the water to boil.

Coffee makes everything better, including 3D prints — the high cellulose content in coffee waste has been shown to drastically improve print strength.

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Grey Gear: French TV Encryption, 1980s Style

Who among us didn’t spend some portion of their youth trying in vain to watch a scrambled premium cable TV channel or two? It’s a wonder we didn’t blow out our cones and rods watching those weird colors and wavy lines dance across the screen like a fever dream.

In the early days of national premium television in America, anyone who’d forked over the cash and erected a six-foot satellite dish in the backyard could tune in channels like HBO, Showtime, and the first 24-hour news network, CNN. Fed up with freeloaders, these channels banded together to encrypt their transmissions and force people to buy expensive de-scrambling boxes. On top of that, subscribers had to pay a monthly pittance to keep the de-scrambler working. Continue reading “Grey Gear: French TV Encryption, 1980s Style”