No Keyboard Needed, this Laptop is all Screens

If you have an eye for obscure Microsoft products, you may be aware of the Microsoft PixelSense, a table-sized horizontal touchscreen designed as a collaborative workspace. It’s a multi-user computer with no traditional keyboard or mouse, instead multiple users work with documents and other files as though they were real documents on a table. It’s an impressive piece of technology, and it was the first thing that came to mind when we saw [Anitomicals C]’s dual screen portable computer. It has a form factor similar to a large laptop, in which the touchscreen folds upwards to reveal not a conventional keyboard and trackpad, but another identical touchscreen. The entire surface of the computer is a touch display with a desktop propagated across it, and in a similar way to the Microsoft product the user can work exclusively in the touch environment without some of the limitations of a tablet.

He freely admits that it is a prototype and proof of concept, and that is obvious from its large size and extensive use of desktop components. But he has brought it together in a very tidy Perspex case serving as an interesting class in creating a portable computer with well-chosen desktop components, even though with no battery it does not pretend to fit the same niche as a laptop. We’d be interested to see the same interface produced as a less bulky desktop-only version with solely the two monitors, because the horizontal touch screen is what sets this machine apart from other home-made ones.

Home made laptops are a regular sight on these pages, but some of them are a little more rough-and-ready.

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Hold That Cam Belt Pulley In Place With This Neat CNC Work

The modern overhead-cam internal combustion engine is a mechanical masterpiece of hundreds of parts in perfect synchronisation. In many cases it depends for that synchronisation upon a flexible toothed belt, and those of you who have replaced one of these belts will know the exacting requirements for keeping the various pulleys in perfect alignment during the process.

[Greolt] had this problem with a dual overhead-cam engine, particularly that the shafts would spring out of alignment on removal of the belt. The solution was one of those beautifully simple hacks that use high-tech methods to make something that is not high-tech in itself but which solves a problem perfectly. He produced a CNC-machined block of HDPE to sit between the two toothed pulleys that was machined exactly to their profiles and which once inserted kept them securely and exactly in alignment.

It’s likely that the same job could easily be done with a 3D printer, and indeed we’ve seen it done with a small piece of soft wood and a hammer. But there is something very elegant indeed about this particular incarnation that we like, it may not be the most complex of the hacks you’ll see here but we’re sure you’ll agree if you’ve ever changed a cambelt, it’s a pretty useful one.

Of course, once you’ve changed that belt, perhaps you’d like to do something with the old one.

Thanks [Brian Moran] for the tip.

UPnP, Vulnerability As A Feature That Just Won’t Die

UPnP — in a perfect world it would have been the answer to many connectivity headaches as we add more devices to our home networks. But in practice it the cause of a lot of headaches when it comes to keeping those networks secure.

It’s likely that many Hackaday readers provide some form of technical support to relatives or friends. We’ll help sort out Mom’s desktop and email gripes, and we’ll set up her new router and lock it down as best we can to minimise the chance of the bad guys causing her problems. Probably one of the first things we’ll have all done is something that’s old news in our community; to ensure that a notorious vulnerability exposed to the outside world is plugged, we disable UPnP on whatever cable modem or ADSL router her provider supplied.

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A Fully Automatic Electric Can Crusher

Those of us who recycle our empty drink cans know the annoying storage problem these containers present. For an object with very little metal, a can takes up a huge amount of space, and should you possess a greater than average thirst you can soon end up with a lot of space taken up with stacks of cans. The solution of course is to crush them, and while there are many simple solutions involving hinged blocks of wood or lever systems, this is 2019! We have Machines to that kind of thing for us! [All Things Electro-Mechanical] thinks so anyway, for he has created an automatic can crusher that is a joy to behold.

At its heart is a 120V AC powered linear actuator, which crushes a can held in a welded steel guide. As the can is crushed it drops into a waiting bin, and when the actuator retracts a fresh can drops down from a hopper. Control is handled by a Raspberry Pi, and there are end sensors for the actuator and an optical sensor for the can hopper. As it stands, once the last can is in place the machine stops due to the optical sensor registering no can in the hopper, but no doubt a software change could cause it to execute a single crush cycle after the last can it detects.

This machine would be an ideal candidate for a simple industrial automation system, but however it is controlled it would save its owner from an embarrassing test of strength. Take a look, we’ve posted the two videos showing it in action below the break.

Thanks [Baldpower] for the tip.

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Hot Glue Makes These Segments Glow

It’s safe to say that hot-melt glue is a staple of the projects we see here at Hackaday. There won’t be many readers who don’t have a glue gun, and a blob of the sticky stuff will secure many a project. But it’s not so often we see it used as an integral component for a property other than its stickiness, so [DusteD]’s reaction timer project is interesting for having hot glue as a translucent light guide and diffuser for its LED seven-segment display.

The timer is simple enough, being driven by an Arduino board, while the display is pre-formed into the 3D-printed case. The hot glue fills the enclosures behind each segment, and after several experiments it was found that the best filling method was from behind against a piece of Kapton tape. The LEDs were wired into a common cathode array, and along with the arcade-style button and the Arduino the whole fitted neatly in the box. You can see the result in action in the video below the break.

Of course, this display is unusual for its use of hot glue, but not unique. We’ve seen a different take on a hot glue light pipe display before.

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Ask Hackaday: Help Me Pick A CAD Package

Of all the skills that I have picked up over the years as an engineer, there is one that has stayed with me and been a constant over the last three decades. It has helped me work on electronic projects, on furniture, on car parts, robots, and even garments, and it is likely that I will continue using it periodically for the rest of my career. You see, I am a trained PAD expert.

Don't build this, it's fundamentally flawed! Sometimes the front of an envelope is as effective as its back.
Don’t build this, it’s fundamentally flawed! Sometimes the front of an envelope is as effective as its back.

PAD, you ask? OK, it’s an acronym of my own coinage, it stands for Pencil Aided Design, and it refers to the first-year undergraduate course I sat many years ago in which I learned technical drawing to the old British standard BS308. If I’m making something then by far the quickest way for me to visualise its design is to draw it, first a freehand sketch to get a feel of how everything will sit, then a series of isometric component drawings on graph paper with careful attention to dimensions and angles. Well, maybe I lied a little there, the graph paper only comes in when I’m doing something very fancy; the back of an envelope is fine as long as the dimensions on the diagram are correct.

An Envelope Will Only Take You So Far

Working on paper is fine for the situations in which I tend to use it, running bits of wood or sheet metal through a bandsaw or pillar drill, leaning on the sheet metal folder, and filing intricate parts to shape by hand. It’s quick and simple, and the skills are intuitive and long-held. But it is of course completely useless when applied to any computer-driven manufacturing such as a 3D printer, and for that I will need a CAD package.

I’m not averse to CAD and my holding out with paper is only due to familiarity, but I have to admit that I have never found a package to which I have successfully made the jump. My need for it has been too infrequent to either take the time to scale the learning curve or for my new-found knowledge to stick. Reaching for the trusty pencil has always been the easiest option.

Hacky Racers in action
Hacky Racers in action (Mark Mellors)

All this has however recently changed, for as regular readers may have noticed I have a bit of a thing for the British Hacky Racer series. If I am to perfect my design for a slightly ridiculous contraption that will clean up on the track, it makes sense that I crowd my hackerspace with little 3D-printed scale models before breaking out the welding equipment and hacking a frame together with 25mm OD square tube. I thus need to pick a CAD package, learn it, and set to work.

So what are my needs? I’m a Linux user, so while Windows-only software is worth talking about in the comments for other people it’s less useful for me unless it’s easy to run under WINE. It’s also worth making the point that while I’m not averse to paying for good software as I did for my PCB CAD package I’m not anxious to shell out business-grade sums for something I’ll use only occasionally. This is an arena in which many of the offerings are aimed at enterprises, and I simply can’t justify spending hundreds or thousands as they can.

Round up the Usual Suspects

Given those prerequisites, there are still quite a few options. In the open source arena there are SolveSpace and BRL-CAD which I have never tried, OpenSCAD which is probably not my cup of tea (change my mind if you like), and FreeCAD which has been my tool of choice for previous attempts to dabble. I must have missed some others, what are your thoughts? If I don’t mind free-as-in-beer software there’s always TinkerCAD in my browser, is that up to a Hacky Racer chassis design in 25mm square tube? And if I’m feeling brave enough to play with WINE then perhaps I can make something of RS DesignSpark Mechanical.

My trusty pencil has given me stalwart service over many decades, but while I’ll not be hanging it up entirely it’s time to move into the 21st century for my design work. Can you help me decide upon which CAD package will suit me best? Have I even found all the choices within my criteria? As always, the comments are open.

Adventures in Automating a Candle Factory

Have you ever considered the manufacture of candles? Not necessarily manufacturing them yourself, but how they are manufactured in a small-scale industrial setting? It’s something that has been of great concern to Michael Schuldt as he grappled with the task of automating a simple manual candle production process.

It’s not just an interesting subject, but the topic of manufacturing automation is something we can all learn from. This was the subject of his Adventures in Manufacturing Automation talk at the recent Hackaday Superconference which you’ll find below the break. Let’s dive in and see what this is all about!

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