While computers have become ever faster and more capable over the years, it’s hard to say they’ve become any more exciting. In fact, they’ve become downright boring. Desktop, laptop, or mobile, they’re all more or less featureless slabs of various dimensions. There’s not even much in the way of color variation — the classic beige box is now available with white, black, or metallic finishes.
While we tend to think of Amazon’s e-paper Kindles as more or less single-purpose devices (which to be fair, is how they’re advertised), there’s actually a full-featured Linux computer running behind that simple interface, just waiting to be put to work. Given how cheap you can get old Kindles on the second hand market, this has always struck us as something of a wasted opportunity.
This is why we love to see projects like Kindlefusion from [Diggedypomme]. It turns the Kindle into a picture frame to show off the latest in machine learning art thanks to Stable Diffusion. Just connect your browser to the web-based control interface running on the Kindle, give it a prompt, and away it goes. There are also functions to recall previously generated images, and if you’re connecting from a mobile device, support for creating images from voice prompts.
All you need is a Kindle that can be jailbroken, though technically the software has only been tested against older third and fourth-generation hardware. From there you install a few required packages as listed in the project documentation, including Python 3. Then you just move the Kindlefusion package over either via USB or SSH, and do a little final housekeeping before starting it up and letting it take over the Kindle’s normal UI.
Given the somewhat niche nature of Kindle hacking, we’re particularly glad to see that [Diggedypomme] went through the trouble of explaining the nuances of getting the e-reader ready to run your own code. While it’s not difficult to do, there are plenty of pitfalls if you’ve never done it before, so a concise guide is a nice thing to have. Unfortunately, it seems like Amazon has recently gone on the offensive, with firmware updates blocking the exploits the community was using for jailbreaking on all but the older models that are no longer officially supported.
While it’s a shame you can’t just pick up a new Kindle and start hacking (at least, for now), there are still millions of older devices floating around that could be put to good use. Hopefully, projects like this can help inspire others to pick one up and start experimenting with what’s possible.
We’re sorry, the politically correct term these days is “unidentified anomalous phenomena” (UAP), as it’s less likely to excite those with a predilection for tinfoil hats. But whether you call them flying objects or anomalous phenomena, it’s that unidentified part that has us interested.
Before you get too excited, the meeting is about how NASA can “evaluate and study UAP by using data, technology, and the tools of science”, and the press release explains that they won’t be reviewing or assessing any unidentifiable observations. So if you’re hoping for the US government’s tacit acknowledgment that we’re not alone in the universe, you’ll probably be disappointed. That said, they wouldn’t have to assemble a team to study these reports if they were all so easily dismissed. As always, interstellar visitors are dead last on the list of possible explanations, but some cases have too much hard evidence to be dismissed out of hand. They might not be little green men, but they are something.
If you were reading this post a month ago, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was an April Fools post. But we assure you, this is no joke. A company called HeatBit has recently opened preorders for their second generation of Bitcoin miner that doubles as a space heater.
The logic goes something like this: if you’re going to be using an electric space heater anyway, which essentially generates heat by wasting a bunch of energy with a resistive element, why not replace that element with a Bitcoin miner instead? Or at least, some of the element. The specs listed for the HeatBit Mini note that the miner itself only consumes 300 watts, which is only responsible for a fraction of the device’s total heat output. Most of the thermal work is actually done by a traditional 1000 watt heater built inside the 46 cm (18 inch) tall cylindrical device.
For many of us, the most difficult aspect of a project comes when it’s time to document the thing. Did you take enough pictures? Did you remember all the little details that it took to put it together? Should you explain those handful of oddball quirks, even though you’re probably the only person in the world that knows how to trigger them?
Well, we can’t speak to how difficult it was for [Mangy_Dog] to put together this training video for his incredible Star Trek: Voyager tricorder replica, but we certainly approve of the final product. Presented with a faux-VHS intro that makes it feel like something that would have been shown to cast members during the legendary run the franchise had in the 1990s, the video covers the use and operation of this phenomenal prop in exquisite detail.
Now to be fair, [Mangy_Dog] has sold a few of his replicas to other Trek aficionados, and we’re willing to bet they went for a pretty penny. As such, maybe it’s not a huge surprise he’d need to put together a comprehensive guide on how to operate the device’s varied functions. Had this been a personal project there wouldn’t have been the need to record such a detailed walk-through of how it all works — so in that regard, we’re fortunate.
One of the most interesting things demonstrated in this video is how well [Mangy_Dog] managed to implement mundane features such as brightness and volume control without compromising the look of the prop itself. Rather than adding some incongruous switches or sliders, holding down various touch-sensitive buttons on the device brings up hidden menus that let you adjust system parameters. The project was impressive enough from the existing images and videos, but seeing just how deep the attention to detail goes is really a treat.
Previously we took a look at some of the work that [Mangy_Dog] has put into these gorgeous props, which (unsurprisingly) have taken years to develop. While they might not be able to contact an orbiting starship or diagnose somebody’s illness from across the room, it’s probably fair to say these are the most realistic tricorders ever produced — officially or otherwise.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and doubly so when you’re hacking hardware. If you can believe it, we’ve already closed out the first challenge of the 2023 Hackaday Prize, and you know what that means — it’s time to announce the 10 finalists.
As a reminder, each of these projects not only takes home $500 USD, but moves on to the next round of judging. During the recently announced 2023 Supercon, we’ll announce the six projects that were selected by our panel of judges to collect their share of $100,000 in prize money– plus a residency at Supplyframe’s DesignLab and eternal hacker glory for the Grand Prize winner.
Like many of us, [Alan] says he got his start with electronics at a young age simply by taking things apart and trying to put them back together again. From there he got a job in a TV repair shop during high school, where he was able to hone his natural curiosity into a marketable skill. His career took him through several of tech companies, but he ultimately ended up in an engineering role at Tektronix, a position he’s held for nearly 20 years.
Despite continuing to stay on the cutting edge, it’s no surprise that he still has a certain attraction to the technology from his youth. But it’s more than simple nostalgia — he points out that vintage hardware is generally easier to service than modern gear. As many of his own videos show, there was something of a technological “sweet spot” around the mid-20th century to the 1980s or so; where you could expect to not only have schematics available, but the design and construction of hardware was such that you could still reason your way through it using basic troubleshooting principles.
As for being a ham, [Alan] thinks it’s a great way for get an even deeper understanding of technology. He says that if you’re interested in learning how electronics work, repairing and upgrading old radio hardware is a great way to flex your mental muscles. But at the same time, being a ham isn’t limited to dusting off war-surplus radios that were built before you were born. There’s plenty of ways to mix in modern technology, from digital modes to receiving signals from satellites using a software-defined radio.