How Do You Make A Repairable E-Reader

Mobile devices have become notorious for their unrepairability, with glued-together parts and impossible-to-reach connectors. So it’s refreshing to see something new in that field from the e-book reader brand Kobo in the form of a partnership with iFixit to ensure that their new reader line can be fixed.

Naturally, we welcome any such move, not least because it disproves the notion that portable devices are impossible to make with repairability in mind. However, the linked article is especially interesting because it includes a picture of a reader, and its cover has been removed. We’re unsure whether or not this is one of the new ones, but it’s still worth looking at it with reparability eyes. Just what have they done to make it easier to repair?

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M17 Digital Communications Go From Strength To Strength

The world of amateur radio is like many other fields in that there has been a move underway from analogue to digital modes. In fact, amateur radio has often led the way in digital innovation.  There’s a snag, though: many of the digital speech modes are proprietary. To address this along comes the M17 project, an effort to create an open digital communication protocol for radio amateurs. We’ve looked at them more than once in the past few years, and as they’ve come up with several pieces of new hardware it’s time for another peek.

First up is the Remote Radio Unit, described as “a comprehensive, UHF FM/M17 “repeater in a box,” optimally designed for close antenna placement, enhancing signal strength and reliability.” The repeater forms the “other half” of the UHF handheld radio chain and will be crucial to the uptake of the protocol.

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Who’s Afraid Of A CRT?

Older consumer electronic devices follow a desirability curve in which after they fall from favour they can’t be given away. But as they become rarer, they reach a point at which everyone wants them. Then, they can’t be had for love nor money. CRT TVs are now in the first stage, they’re bulky and lower-definition than modern sets, and thus thrift stores and dumpsters still have them in reasonable numbers. To retrogamers and other enthusiasts, this can be a bonanza, and when he saw a high-end late-model JVC on the sidewalk [Chris Person] wasted no time in snapping it up. It worked, but there were a few picture issues, so he set about fixing it.

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A Bend Sensor Developed With 3D Printer Filament

PhD students spend their time pursuing whatever general paths their supervisor has given them, and if they are lucky, it yields enough solid data to finally write a thesis without tearing their hair out. Sometimes along the way they result in discoveries with immediate application outside academia, and so it was for [Paul Bupe Jr.], whose work resulted in a rather elegant and simple bend sensor.

The original research came when shining light along flexible media, including a piece of transparent 3D printer filament. He noticed that when the filament was bent at a point that it was covered by a piece of electrical tape there was a reduction in transmission, and from this he was able to repeat the effect with a piece of pipe over a narrow air gap in the medium.

Putting these at regular intervals and measuring the transmission for light sent along it, he could then detect a bend. Take three filaments with  the air-gap-pipe sensors spaced to form a Gray code, and he could digitally read the location.

He appears to be developing this discovery into a product. We’re not sure which is likely to be more stress, writing up his thesis, or surviving a small start-up, so we wish him luck.

Rabbit Sighted In The Wild

Here at Hackaday we’re suckers for old abandoned technologies, the more obscure the better. The history of the telephone has plenty to capture our attention, and it’s from that arena that something recently floated past our timeline. [IanVisits] reports a sighting of a Rabbit in a London Underground station. The bunny in question definitely isn’t hopping though, it’s been dead for more than three decades. It’s a base station for a failed digital mobile phone system.

We’ve had a look in the past at CT2, the system this Rabbit base station once formed part of. It was an attempt to make an inexpensive phone system by having the handsets work with fixed base stations rather than move from cell to cell. It was one of the first public digital mobile phone systems, but the convenience of a phone that could both receive calls and make them anywhere without having to find a base station meant that GSM phones took their market.

The one in Seven Sisters tube station is a bit grubby looking, but it’s not the only survivor out there in the field. We have to admit to being curious as to whether it’s still powered on even though its backhaul will be disconnected, as in our experience it’s not uncommon for old infrastructure to be left plugged into the wall for decades, unheeded. Does anyone fancy sniffing for it with a Flipper Zero?

Do You Trust Your Cheap Fuses?

When a fuse is fitted in a power rail, it gives the peace of mind that the circuit is protected. But in the case of some cheap unbranded fuses of the type that come in kits from the usual online suppliers that trust can be illusory, as they fail to meet the required specification.

[Andreas Spiess] has used just these fuses for protection for years as no doubt have many of you, so it was something of a shock for him to discover that sometimes they don’t make the grade. He’s taken a look at the issue for himself, and come up with an accessible way to test your fuses if you have any of those cheap ones.

It’s an interesting journey into the way fuses work, as we’re reminded that the value written on the fuse isn’t the current at which it blows but the maximum it’s intended to take. The specification for fuses should have a graph showing how quickly one should blow at what currents above that level, and the worry was that this time would be simply too long for the cheap ones.

In the video below the break, he looks at the various set-ups required to test a fuse, and instead of a bank of large power supplies, he came up with a circuit involving an 18650 cell and three one ohm resistors in parallel. The resulting 1/3 ohm resistor should pass in the region of 10 A when connected across the 18650, so with a 5 A fuse in that circuit and a storage ‘scope he’s able to quickly test a few candidates. He found that the cheap fuses he had were slower to blow than a Bosch part but weren’t as worrisome as he’d at first thought. If you have any of these parts, maybe you should take a look at them too?

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Bye Bye Green Screen, Hello Monochromatic Screen

It’s not uncommon in 2024 to have some form of green background cloth for easy background effects when in a Zoom call or similar. This is a technology TV and film studios have used for decades, and it’s responsible for many of the visual effects we see every day on our screens. But it’s not perfect — its use precludes wearing anything green, and it’s very bad at anything transparent.

The 1960s Disney film makers seemingly had no problem with this as anyone who has seen Mary Poppins will tell you, so how did they manage to overlay actors with diaphanous accessories over animation? The answer lies in an innovative process which has largely faded from view, and [Corridor Crew] have rebuilt it.

Green screens, or chroma key, to give the effect its real name, relies on the background using a colour not present in the main subject of the shot. This can then be detected electronically or in software, and a switch made between shot and inserted background. It’s good at picking out clean edges between green background and subject, but poor at transparency such as a veil or a bottle of water. The Disney effect instead used a background illuminated with monochromatic sodium light behind the subject illuminated with white light, allowing both a background and foreground image to be filmed using two cameras and a dichroic beam splitter. The background image with its black silhouette of the subject could then be used as a photographic stencil when overlaying a background image.

Sadly even Disney found it very difficult to make more than a few of the dichroic prisms, so the much cheaper green screen won the day. But in the video below the break they manage to replicate it with a standard beam splitter and a pair of filters, successfully filming a colourful clown wearing a veil, and one of them waving their hair around while drinking a bottle of water. It may not find its way back into blockbuster films just yet, but it’s definitely impressive to see in action.

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