What Is Ultra Wideband?

If you’ve been following the world of mobile phone technology of late, you may be aware that Apple’s latest IPhones and AirTag locator tags bring something new to that platform. Ultra wideband radios are the new hotness when it comes to cellphones, so just what are they and what’s in it for those of us who experiment with these things?

An Apple AirTag being paired with an iPhone. Swisshashtag, CC BY-SA 4.0.
An Apple AirTag being paired with an iPhone. Swisshashtag, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Ultra wideband in this context refers to radio signals with a very high bandwidth of over 500 MHz, and a very low overall power density spread over that  spectrum. Transmissions are encoded not by modulation of discrete-frequency carriers as they would be in a conventional radio system, but by the emission of wideband pulses of RF energy across that bandwidth.  It can exist across the same unlicensed spectrum as narrower bandwidth channelised services, and that huge bandwidth gives it an extremely high short-range data transfer bandwidth capability. The chipsets used by consumer devices use a range of UWB channels between about 3.5 and 6.5 GHz, which in radio terms is an immense quantity of spectrum. Continue reading “What Is Ultra Wideband?”

Tractors And The Right To Repair: It’s Going Global

For more than a few years now, we’ve been covering the saga of tractors from the larger manufacturers on which all components are locked down by software to the extent that they can only be replaced by officially sanctioned dealers. We’re thus pleased to see a couple of moments when the story has broken out of the field of a few farmers and right-to-repair geeks and into the mainstream. First up:  a segment on the subject from NPR is worth a listen, as the US public radio station interviews a Montana farmer hit by a $5k fuel sensor on his John Deere as a hook form which to examine the issue. Then there is a blog post from the National Farmers Union, the body representing UK farmers, in which they too lay out the situation and also highlight the data-grabbing aspects of these machines.

Continue reading “Tractors And The Right To Repair: It’s Going Global”

An ALU As A Desktop Calculator Has Stunning Style From Days Gone By

Those of you with an interest in microcomputer history will know that there is a strong crossover between the path of electronic calculator evolution and the genesis of the integrated CPU. Intel’s 4000 was famously designed for a calculator, and for a while in the 1970s these mathematical helpers were seen as the wonder of the age. [Simon Boak]’s calculator is a curious throwback to that era, as it’s not a decimal calculator as we’d know it but a hexadecimal device that simply computes using the functions of the famous 74181 ALU chip.

An ALU, or to give it its full name an Arithmetic Logic Unit, is a component of a CPU with two inputs and one output that can perform any of a range of binary functions upon the two inputs and return the result on the output. This calculator has two of them for eight bits of raw adding power, with a hexadecimal keypad for setting the inputs and a set of 7-segment displays for showing the results. It’s housed in an achingly retro folded sheet metal console case with wooden end pieces that would have graced any engineer’s desk with pride back in about 1975. We may not need one, but we really want one!

If the 74181 is a mystery to you then fear not, because chip master [Ken Shirriff] has produced some handy explanation work on its operation.

Thanks [Ted Yapo] for the tip.

Ryobi Power Packs As Ebike Batteries

By now, the process of creating custom lithium-ion battery packs is well-known enough to be within the reach of most makers. But it’s not a path without hazard, and mistakes with battery protection and management can be costly. Happily for those who are apprehensive on the battery front there’s a solution courtesy of a group of engineering students from the University of Pittsburgh. Their project was to convert a pedal bicycle to electric assisted power, and in doing so they didn’t make their own pack but instead used off-the-shelf 40V Ryobi power tool packs.

The bike conversion is relatively conventional with the crank replaced by a crank and motor assembly, and a pair of the Ryobi packs in 3D-printed holders on the frame. The value in this is in its reminder that these packs have evolved to the point at which they make a viable alternative to a much more expensive bike-specific pack, and that their inclusion of all the balancing and protection circuitry make them also a much safer option than building your own pack. The benefits of this are immense as they bring a good-quality conversion within reach of many more bicycle owners, with all parts being only a simple online order away. Take a look at the video below the break for more details.

Those Ryobi cells certainly seem to have carved themselves a niche in our community!

Continue reading “Ryobi Power Packs As Ebike Batteries”

Sailing Faster Than The Wind Itself

If you search the outer reaches of the internet you will find all sorts of web sites and videos purporting to answer to free energy in the form of perpetual motion machines and other fantastical structures that bend the laws of physics to breaking point. We’d love them to be true but we have [Émilie du Châtelet] and her law of conservation of energy to thank for dashing those hopes. So when along comes a machine that appears to violate a fundamental Law of Physics, it’s reasonably met with skepticism. But the wind-powered vehicle built by [Rick Cavallaro] looks as though it might just achieve that which was previously thought impossible. It’s a machine that can move with the wind at a speed faster than the wind itself.

A fundamental law of sailing boats is that when they are sailing with the wind, i.e. in the same direction as the wind, they can’t sail faster than the wind itself. Sailing boats can go faster than the wind powering them by sailing across it at an angle to create lift from their sails, but this effect doesn’t work as the angle tends towards that of the wind.

The vehicle in the video below the break is a sleek and lightweight machine with a large propeller above it, which we are told is not the windmill power source we might imagine it to be. Instead it mimics the effect of a pair of sailing boats sailing across the wind in a spiral around a long cylinder, and thus becomes in effect a fan when turned by the motoin in the craft’s wheels. The drive comes from the wind working on the craft itself, and thus as can be seen from the motion of a streamer on its front, it can overtake the wind. It seems too good to be true at first sight but the explanation holds water. Now we want a ride too!

For fairly obvious reasons, the fantastical world of pseudo-physics isn’t our bag here at Hackaday. But if something might hold promise we’ll at least give it a look. Not all such things we cover turn out to change those Laws of Physics, though.

Continue reading “Sailing Faster Than The Wind Itself”

Do Wristwatches Get Any Better Than A Cuckoo Clock?

There are few better ways of asserting your independent spirit as a hardware hacker than by creating your own special timepiece. Even more so if the timepiece is a watch, particularly in this era of smartwatches. Few home-made timepieces though have come as near to wristwatch Nirvana as the cuckoo clock wristwatch from [Kiyotaka Akasaka], which we would venture to name as having won wristwatches. Nobody will top this one in the field of home-made clocks!

Superlatives aside, this is an electronic cuckoo clock on the wrist, with an LED ring dial and a motorised cuckoo, all clothed in an authentically rustic tiny wooden cuckoo clock case. It communicates via BLE with a smartphone, and even has a sound channel for a cuckoo sound. Frustratingly there’s little in the way of detail about the electronics themselves, but we’re guessing that almost Bluetooth-capable microcontroller could be pressed into service. Take a look at the video below the break.

So we’ve established that it’s a cuckoo clock wristwatch, and that we like it, a lot. It is however not the only novelty cuckoo clock we’ve brought you.

Continue reading “Do Wristwatches Get Any Better Than A Cuckoo Clock?”

A Commodore 64 As You Have Never Seen One Before: Game Boy Form Factor!

It’s now nearly four decades since the iconic Commodore 64 8-bit computer saw the light of day, and the vintage format shows no sign of dying. Enthusiasts have produced all kinds of new takes on the platform, but it’s fair to say that most of them have concentrated on the original style keyboard console form factors. A completely different take on a Commodore 64 comes from [UNI64] in the form of the Handheld 64, a complete Commodore 64 in a Game Boy style form factor that uses the original 64 chipset.

It achieves this improbable feat by sandwiching together several PCBs, with a tactile switch keyboard and LCD display at the top. It appears to bring the 64 ports out to headers, and the ROM cartridge port to an edge connector socket at the top of the device. A departure from the 1980s comes in using a Raspberry Pi Zero to emulate a 1541 floppy drive though.

Sadly unlike a Game Boy there’s no onboard battery, but don’t let that take away from the quality of this feat. A forum post from [3D-vice] has a set of decent-quality pictures, and even if you don’t have a handy 64 chipset lying about we’re sure you’ll still appreciate them. If home made 64s are your thing, take a look at how you can build one without Commodore parts.

Thanks [pbuyle] for the tip!