The Huge Apple Toolkit For Fixing Your IPhone

It’s been a frequent criticism of Apple, that their products are difficult to repair. They’ve hit back with a self-repair program for iPhones, and should you wish to take advantage of it they will hire you a tool kit. Not the iFixit box you might expect, instead they give you two hefty suitcases that contain 36 Kg of tools and equipment. Yes, you can repair an iPhone, but they ensure that it’s not for the faint-hearted.

In the kit is an impressive array of everything you might need for your iDevice, including the proper heat plate and press for the job. None of that messing about with a hot air gun for your $49 rental cost and $1200 if you don’t return the tools, but it remains an impossibly difficult and expensive process for all but the most dedicated of Apple fanboy technicians.

The sense from the Verge article is that Apple have had their arm twisted to the extent that they must provide a repair option, but they’ve gone to extravagant lengths to make it something nobody in their right mind would pursue. There’s an attraction in the idea of playing with a fully-equipped Apple repair kit for a few days, but maybe it’s not worth the cost.

Even without the Apple toolkit, it’s still possible to upgrade your iPhone.

Thanks [Nikolai Ivanov] for the tip.

The 512 Gigabyte Floppy Disk

There are times when a technology goes almost overnight as if in a puff of smoke, and others when they fade away gradually over time to the point at which their passing is barely noticed. So it is with removable media, while we still have the occasional USB flash disk or SD card , they do not come anywhere near the floppies, Zip disks, and CD-ROMs of the past in their numbers or ubiquity. If the floppy disk is just a save icon to you there’s still the chance to experience their retro charm though, courtesy of [Franklinstein]. He’s made a 3.5″ floppy disk that eschews 720 k, 1.44 M, or even 2.88 Mb, and goes all the way with a claimed 512 Gb capacity. We’re sure we can’t remember these from back in the day!

Of course as we can see in the video below he’s achieved neither an astounding feat of data compression nor a bleeding-edge method of storing bits in individual iron oxide molecules. Instead the floppy hinges open, and there’s a holder for micro SD cards where the disk itself would be. It’s a bit of fun, and we have to agree with him that it makes a very handy holder for micro SDs that can carry that much data. This sets us wondering though, whether it would be possible to somehow multiplex 14 micro SDs to a microcontroller on a PCB that could fit in a floppy shell. Perhaps an ESP32 could be a slow file server through a web interface?

He makes the point that 512 Gb of floppies would comfortably exceed the height of the tallest buildings were they stacked together, so at the very least this represents a space saving. If you’re looking for something slightly more functional and don’t mind modifying the drive, there’s always this classic approach to marrying a floppy with an SD card.

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Untangling The Maze Of Digital TV Upgrades

When we all shifted our television broadcasts to digital, for a moment it looked as though we might have had to upgrade our sets only once and a set-top box would be a thing of the past. In Europe that meant the DVB-T standard, whose two-decade reign is slowly passing to DVB-T2 for higher definition and more channels. All of this might seem simple but for the DVB-T2 standard being a transport layer alone without a specified codec. Thus the first generation of DVB-T2 equipment uses MPEG4 or H.264, while for some countries the most recent broadcasts use HEVC, or H.265. [CyB3rn0id] is there to guide us through the resulting mess, and along the way produce a nifty upgrade that integrates a set-top box on the back of an older DVB-T set.

Simply bolting a set-top box to a TV is not the greatest of hacks, however this one takes matters a little further with a 3D printed bracket and an extension which brings the box’s IR receiver out to the front of the TV on a piece of prototyping board. Along with a laptop power supply plumbed directly into the TV, it gives new life into a set which might otherwise have been headed for landfill.

As long-time readers will know, we quite like a TV retrofit here at Hackaday.

European Roads See First Zero-Occupancy Autonomous Journey

We write a lot about self-driving vehicles here at Hackaday, but it’s fair to say that most of the limelight has fallen upon large and well-known technology companies on the west coast of the USA. It’s worth drawing attention to other parts of the world where just as much research has gone into autonomous transport, and on that note there’s an interesting milestone from Europe. The British company Oxbotica has successfully made the first zero-occupancy on-road journey in Europe, on a public road in Oxford, UK.

The glossy promo video below the break shows the feat as the vehicle with number plates signifying its on-road legality drives round the relatively quiet roads through one of the city’s technology parks, and promises a bright future of local deliveries and urban transport. The vehicle itself is interesting, it’s a platform supplied by the Aussie outfit AppliedEV, an electric spaceframe vehicle that’s designed to provide a versatile platform for autonomous transport. As such, unlike so many of the aforementioned high-profile vehicles, it has no passenger cabin and no on-board driver to take the wheel in a calamity; instead it’s driven by Oxbotica’s technology and has their sensor pylon attached to its centre.

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Do Flat Tyres Make Your Speedo Lie?

There are some engineering questions that may not have huge importance in the world, but which become the subject of intense idle speculation. A good example is the question of whether a lower tyre pressure on a motor vehicle would make a difference to the indicated speed. There are several contrasting intuitive theories as to what should happen, so [mechatronicsguy] has taken the time for a bit of experimentation in order to find out what really happens.

At stake were the change in effective radius from a flattened portion of the tyre, the so-called tank tracks effect in which the entire circumference of the tyre is still traversed, and the prospect of a change in circumference due to the different pressure. The test wheels were made from foam, and were found to give a different reading when compressed. This might solve toe problem, but of course real car wheels have radial wires to give them stiffness. When these were simulated on the foam wheels with packing tape, the difference evaporated. Later this was confirmed by GPS-measuring a real car with deflated wheels.

All this makes for a fascinating read, because after all, there’s sometimes no substitute for a real-world test.

Header image: Gerlach, Public domain.

Voyager 1 Talks Some Nonsense, But Is Still Working

The Voyager 1 interplanetary probe was launched in 1977 and has now reached interstellar space where it is the furthest-traveled man-made object. It’s hugely exceeded its original mission and continues to return valuable scientific data, but there’s an apparent fault which is leaving its controllers perplexed. Onboard is an attitude control system which keeps the craft’s antennas pointing at Earth, and while it evidently still works (as we’re still in touch with the probe) and other systems are fine, it’s started returning incomprehensible data. Apparently it’s developed a habit of reporting random data, or states the antenna can’t possibly be in.

That a 45 year old computer is still working at all is testament to the skills of its designers, and at 14.5 billion miles away a repair is impossible however much we’d be fascinated to know about the failure modes of old electronics in space.  It’s postulated that they might simply live with the fault if the system is still working, issue a software fix, or find some way to use one of the craft’s redundant systems to avoid the problem. Meanwhile we can rest easily in our beds, because we’re still a couple of centuries away from its return as a giant alien sentient machine.

We’ve featured the Voyager program a few times before here at Hackaday, not least when we took a close look at one of its instruments.

Thanks [Jon Woodcock] for the tip.

A Receive Antenna Switcher With An Espressif Brain

It’s not uncommon for a radio enthusiast to have multiple antennas for the same radio, so as you might expect it’s also entirely usual to have a bunch of coaxial cables dangling down for fumbling around the back of the rig to swap over.  If that describes your radio experience than you might be interested in the antenna switcher built by [g3gg0], which uses solid-state RF switches controlled by an ESP32 module.

At its heart is the MXD8625C RF switch, a tiny device designed for cellular phone applications that delivers only a fraction of a dB insertion loss and somehow negates the need for any blocking capacitors. It’s controlled by a GPIO line, and he’s hooked up a brace of them to allow the distribution of three antennas to a couple of radios with the handy option of switching in a preamplifier if required. Of even more interest we note that the device is suitable for transmitter switching too, with a maximum 36.5 dBm throughput that we calculate to be about 4.5 W. This board is fairly obviously for receive use, but perhaps the chip is of interest to anyone considering a transceiver project. Meanwhile the software is a relatively simple web-based control linking on-screen controls to GPIOs.

If you are interested in solid state RF switches, it’s always worth remembering that at lower frequencies they can be very simple indeed.