Keep Your YouTube Habits To Yourself With FreeTube

If your usual YouTube viewing selection covers a wild and random variety of music, tech subjects, cooking, history, and anything in-between, you will sooner or later be baffled by some of the “Recommended for you” videos showing up. When it features a ten-hour mix of Soviet propaganda choir music, you might start wondering what a world taken over by an artificial intelligence might actually look like, and realize that your browser’s incognito / private mode really isn’t just for shopping birthday presents in secret. Things get a bit tricky if you actually enjoy or even rely on the whole subscribing-to-channels concept though, which is naturally difficult to bring in line with privacy in today’s world of user-data-driven business models.

Entering the conversation: the FreeTube project, a cross-platform application whose mission is to regain privacy and put the control of one’s data back into the user’s hands. Bypassing YouTube and its player, the watch history and subscriptions — which are still possible — are kept only locally on your own computer, and you can import either of them from YouTube and export them to use within FreeTube on another device (or back to YouTube). Even better, it won’t load a video’s comments without explicitly telling it to, and of course it keeps out the ads as well.

Originally, the Invidious API was used to get the content, and is still supported as fallback option, but FreeTube comes with its own extractor API nowadays. All source code is available from the project’s GitHub repository, along with pre-built packages for Linux (including ARM), Windows, and Mac. The application itself is created using Electron, which might raise a few eyebrows as it packs an entire browser rendering engine and essentially just disguises a website as standalone application. But as the FAQ addresses, this allows easy cross-platform support and helps the project, which would have otherwise been Linux-only, to reach as many people as possible. That’s a valid point in our book.

Keep in mind though, FreeTube is only a player, and more of a wrapper around YouTube itself, so YouTube will still see your IP and interaction with the service. If you want to be fully anonymous, this isn’t a silver bullet and will require additional steps like using a VPN. Unlike other services that you could replace with a local alternative to avoid tracking and profiling, content services are just a bit trickier if you want to actually have a useful selection. So this is a great compromise that also just works out of the box for everyone regardless of their technical background. Let’s just hope it won’t break too much next time some API changes.

Electric Volkspod Takes You On An Eco-friendly Beetle Cruise

The Volkswagen Beetle is a true automobile icon, and while it may not be the fastest or most breathtaking looking car ever built, its unmistakable shape with those elegant curvy fenders and bulgy lights holds a special place in many people’s hearts. And then it inspires them to build minibikes from those same parts.

[Brent Walter] is well know as an originator of the hobby, starting a little while ago with his Volkspod. Inspired by [Brent’s] work, [Jonah Mikesell] decided to give it his own try, but unlike the original design that uses an actual minibike under the hood, he built an electric version of it, and painstakingly documented every step along the way.

The idea of the Volkspod is to take the Beetle’s two front fenders, weld them together to one symmetric body, and turn it into a small motorcycle. [Jonah]’s version does all that, but instead of taking a whole minibike as core of the project, he only uses a minibike frame and substitutes the engine with a 2000 Watt e-bike motor along with an e-bike battery pack. Fitting the frame within the dimensions of the fender construct required some extra welding work, but in the end, it all came nicely together, and with its red paint job, it kinda looks like something from a vintage post-apocalyptic sci-fi cross-genre movie. Watch him taking it for a spin in the video after the break.

Unfortunately, neither the original Volkspod nor this one has the roaring engine sound of an actual Beetle — which is akin to what the wings of a real-life beetle of similar size would probably sound like. But well, it’s always an option to fake that. And if [Jonah] ever feels the urge of a bigger engine, maybe a washing machine can help.

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A Battery To Add A Tingling Sensation To Your Tweets

Internet-connected sex toys are a great way to surprise your partner from work (even the home office) or for spicing up long-distance relationships. For some extra excitement, they also add that thrill of potentially having all your very sensitive private data exposed to the public — but hey, it’s not our place to kink-shame. However, their vulnerability issues are indeed common enough to make them regular guests in security conferences, so what better way to fight fire with fire than simply inviting the whole of Twitter in on your ride? Well, [Space Buck] built just the right device for that: the Double-Oh Battery, an open source LiPo-cell-powered ESP32 board in AA battery form factor as drop-in replacement to control a device’s supply voltage via WiFi.

Battery and PCB visualization
Double-Oh Battery with all the components involved

In their simplest and cheapest form, vibrating toys are nothing more than a battery-powered motor with an on-off switch, and even the more sophisticated ones with different intensity levels and patterns are usually limited to the same ten or so varieties that may eventually leave something to be desired. To improve on that without actually taking the devices apart, [Space Buck] initially built the Slot-in Manipulator of Output Levels, a tiny board that squeezed directly onto the battery to have a pre-programmed pattern enabling and disabling the supply voltage — or have it turned into an alarm clock. But understandably, re-programming patterns can get annoying in the long run, so adding WiFi and a web server seemed the logical next step. Of course, more functionality requires more space, so to keep the AA battery form factor, the Double-Oh Battery’s PCB piggybacks now on a smaller 10440 LiPo cell.

But then, where’s the point of having a WiFi-enabled vibrator with a web server — that also happens to serve a guestbook — if you don’t open it up to the internet? So in some daring experiments, [Space Buck] showcased the project’s potential by hooking it up to his Twitter account and have the announcement tweet’s likes and retweets take over the control, adding a welcoming element of surprise, no doubt. Taking this further towards Instagram for example might be a nice vanity reward-system improvement as well, or otherwise make a great gift to send a message to all those attention-seeking people in your circle.

All fun aside, it’s an interesting project to remote control a device’s power supply, even though its application area might be rather limited due to the whole battery nature, but the usual Sonoff switches may seem a bit unfitting here. If this sparked your interest in lithium-based batteries, check out [Lewin Day]’s beginner guide and [Bob Baddeley]’s deeper dive into their chemistry.

3D-Printed Adapter Keeps Your Guitar In Tune And In Style

If you like building or upgrading guitars, you may have already learned the valuable lesson that the devil absolutely is in the detail when it comes to to replacement parts. Maybe you became aware that there are two types of Telecaster bridges right after you drilled the holes through the body and noticed things just didn’t quite fit. Or maybe you liked the looks of those vintage locking tuners and the vibe you associate with them, only to realize later that the “vintage” part also refers to the headstock, and the holes in your modern one are too big.

The latter case recently happened to [Michael K√∂nings], so he did what everyone with a 3D printer would: make an adapter. Sure, you can also buy them, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, the solution is as simple as it sounds. [Michael] modelled an adaptor to bridge the gap between the headstock holes and the tuner shaft, but unlike the commercial counterpart that are mounted only on one side, his fills up the entire hole and fits the entire construct tightly together. For even more overall stability, he added an interlocking mechanism on the back side that keeps all the adaptors in line, and also allows for some possible distance differences.

[Michael] initially considered using wood filament for cosmetic reasons, but due to lack of the material went with simple white PLA instead. In the end, it doesn’t matter too much, as most of it hides under the new tuners’ metal covers anyway — and the small parts that are visible will serve as a great reminder of this lesson in guitar variety. Speaking of 3D printing and guitar variety, now that we reached the headstock, and have seen bodies for a while already (including bass), only 3D-printed guitar necks are missing. Well, we’ve had them on violins though, even with 6 strings, but they also don’t have to deal with frets and have a bit less tension going on.

Axe Hacks: New Sounds For Your Electric Guitar Beginning From What Makes Them Tick

Creating music is a perfect hobby for anyone into hacking, and the amount of musical hacks and self-made instruments we come across here makes that supremely evident. It’s just a great match: you can either go full-on into engineering mode as music is in the end “just” applied physics, or simply ignore all of the theory and take an artistic approach by simply doing whatever feels right. The sweet spot is of course somewhere in between — a solid grasp of some music theory fundamentals won’t hurt, but too much overthinking eventually will.

The obvious choice to combine a favorite pastime like electronics or programming with creating music would be in the realm of electronic music, and as compelling as building synthesizers sounds, I’ll be going for the next best thing instead: the electric guitar. Despite its general popularity, the enormous potential that lies within the electric guitar is rarely fully utilized. Everyone seems to just focus on amp settings and effect pedals when looking for that special or unique sound, while the guitar itself is seen as this immutable object bestowed on us by the universe with all its predestined, magical characteristics. Toggle a pickup switch, and if we’re feeling extra perky, give that tone pot a little spin, that’s all there is to it.

The thing is, the guitar’s electrical setup — or wiring — in its stock form simply is as boring and generic as it can get. Sure, it’s a safe choice that does the job well enough, but there’s this entirely different world of tonal variety and individual controllability locked inside of it, and all it really takes is a screwdriver and soldering iron to release it. Plus, this might serve as an interesting application area to dive into simple analog electronics, so even if guitars aren’t your thing yet, maybe this will tickle your creativity bone. And if bass is more your thing, well, let me be ignorant and declare that a bass is just a longer guitar with thicker, lower-tuned strings, meaning everything that follows pretty much applies to bass as well, even if I talk about guitars.

However, in order to modify something, it helps to understand how it functions. So today, we’ll only focus on the basics of an electric guitar, i.e. what’s inside them and what defines and affects their tone. But don’t worry, once we have the fundamentals covered, we’ll be all settled to get to the juicy bits next time.

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What’s Inside An FPGA? Ken Shirriff Has (Again) The Answer

FPGAs are somewhat the IPv6 of integrated circuits — they’ve been around longer than you might think, they let you do awesome things that people are intrigued by initially, but they’ve never really broke out of their niches until rather recently. There’s still a bit of a myth and mystery surrounding them, and as with any technology that has grown vastly in complexity over the years, it’s sometimes best to go back to its very beginning in order to understand it. Well, who’d be better at taking an extra close look at a chip than [Ken Shirriff], so in his latest endeavor, he reverse engineered the very first FPGA known to the world: the Xilinx XC2064.

If you ever wished for a breadboard-friendly FPGA, the XC2064 can scratch that itch, although with its modest 64 configurable logic blocks, there isn’t all that much else it can do — certainly not compared to even the smallest and cheapest of its modern successors. And that’s the beauty of this chip as a reverse engineering target, there’s nothing else than the core essence of an FPGA. After introducing the general concepts of FPGAs, [Ken] (who isn’t known to be too shy to decap a chip in order to look inside) continued in known manner with die pictures in order to map the internal components’ schematics to the actual silicon and to make sense of it all. His ultimate goal: to fully understand and dissect the XC2064’s bitstream.

Of course, reverse engineering FPGA bitstreams isn’t new, and with little doubt, building a toolchain based on its results helped to put Lattice on the map in the maker community (which they didn’t seem to value at first, but still soon enough). We probably won’t see the same happening for Xilinx, but who knows what [Ken]’s up to next, and what others will make of this.

It’s A Boat? It’s A Duck? It’s A DIY Plastic Wrap Kayak!

Only few cinematic moments were as traumatically heartbreaking as [Mufasa]’s death in The Lion King and [Wilson]’s demise in Cast Away. To think, if only [Tom Hanks]’ character had found a role roll of stretch wrap in the washed up cargo content, he could have built a vessel with enough room to safely store his faithful companion. Sounds unlikely? Well, [sg19point3] begs to differ, and has a kayak to prove it.

It’s as brilliant as its construction materials are simple: tree branches, packing tape, and of course the stretch wrap. [sg19point3] used two different types of branches, one that bends just enough to shape the kayak in its length, and a more flexible variety to form the rings that hold it all together. After removing the bark, he shaped the branches as needed using some pegs in the ground, and let it dry for a few days. Once ready, he put them together and stabilized the construct with packing tape until it was ready for the grand finale of wrapping the entire thing in several layers of plastic wrap. To prove he trusts his own construct, he took it for a ride to the nearest water and lived to tell the tale — and to make a video about it, which is embedded after the break.

Admittedly, putting it together all by yourself on a remote island may be a bit laborious after all, so good thing [sg19point3] had some friends to help with the wrapping. Whether you’d want to take it beyond your local, shallow pond is maybe another story — you’d definitely want to steer clear of sharp rocks. For something more sturdy, check out the 3D-printed kayak from a few years ago. But in case you prefer wood, here’s a beautiful canoe.

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