Human Google: Ruth Freitag, Isaac Asimov, And Bibliographies

You don’t often turn on a light and think, “That power company is sure on the ball!” You generally only think of them when the lights go out without warning. I think the same is true of search. You don’t use Google or DuckDuckGo or any of the other search engines and think “Wow! How awesome it is to have this much information at your fingertips.” Well. Maybe a little, but it is hard to remember just how hard it was to get at information in the pre-search-engine age.

I were thinking about this the other day when I read that Ruth Freitag had died last year. Ruth had the unglamorous but very important title of reference librarian. But she wasn’t just an ordinary librarian. She worked for the Library of Congress and was famous in certain circles, counting among her admirers Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan.

Ruth Freitag in 1985

You might wonder why a reference librarian would have fans. Turns out, high-powered librarians do more than just find books on the shelves for you. They produced bibliographies. If you wanted to know about, say, Halley’s comet today, you’d just do a Google search. Even if you wanted to find physical books, there are plenty of places to search: Google Books, online bookstores, and so on. But in the 1970s your options were much more limited.

Turns out, Ruth had an interest and expertise in astronomy, but she also had a keen knowledge of science and technology in general. By assembling comprehensive annotated bibliographies she could point people like Asimov and Sagan to the books they needed just like we would use Google, today.

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Heatsink Makes VR Even Cooler

Our first thought was that having big fins coming out of your VR goggles might not look very cool. But then we realized if you are wearing VR goggles, that’s probably not your biggest concern. (Ba-doom, tss.) Seriously, though, high-intensity graphics can cause your phone or device to get pretty toasty up there pressed against your face, so [arfish] set out to make a heatsink.

The build isn’t very hard. Some 0.8 mm aluminum sheet is easy to shape and cut. Thermal pads from the PC world help with heat transfer.

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Good Enough For The Spruce Goose, Good Enough For Satellites

Wood products have a long history in aviation even though modern materials have eclipsed them in many areas. But lately we’ve noticed several plywood satellites, including this one the ESA plans to launch. The WISA Woodsat is a test of WISA plywood, a particular brand made in Finland to show how it can withstand the orbital environment.

Why not? Plywood is cheap and easy to form. You probably don’t want to make a pressure vessel with it, but most satellites don’t need that anyway.

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A Collection Of Linux Tools On Steroids

Sometimes we do things because “that’s the way we’ve always done them.” Screws, for example, had slotted heads in the 1500s and slotted heads are notoriously bad, but despite Robertson in 1907 and Phillips in the 1930s, it took decades for slotted screw heads to become uncommon and they still lurk in a few areas. Many Linux tools we use every day are direct descendants from Unix tools that have been around for almost half a century. We’ve looked at a few more modern alternatives before, and [ibraheemdev] has a GitHub collection of many such tools that’s worth checking out.

Of course, modern doesn’t always mean better. However, the tools in the list do have great features including things that were uncommon in the old days such as the use of color, text-based graphics, and things like git integration.

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Forget Smart Watch; Build A Smart Hat

Smart watches are pretty common today, but how many people do you know with a smart hat? [Oliver] built Wilson which he bills as “the IoT hat.” We wonder if the name was inspired by the Home Improvement character of the same name who only appeared as a hat above the fence line. You can see a video of the project, below.

The project is pretty straightforward for hardware. An LED strip, an Arduino, and a Bluetooth module. Oh. And a hat. The software, as you might expect, is a bit more complex. It allows you to display SMS messages to your hat.

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Even With AC, Hazmat Suit Isn’t Really Cool

We’ll admit that the coolness factor of an air conditioned faux spacesuit made out of a hazmat suit will largely depend on where you wear it. At your next chess club meeting, maybe a hit. On a blind date, probably not. [Saveitforparts] apparently doesn’t mind and the combination of very warm weather and the donation of an expired hazmat suit, spurred his imagination as you can see in the video below.

A battery pack, a blower, and a box full of frozen water bottles completes the ensemble. Wireless temperature sensors show the outside temperature as well as temperature inside different parts of the suit. Does it work? We guess it must, but the roar of the fan is deafening and we have doubts about the frozen water cooling system. On the other hand, if you’re shooting a low budget science fiction thriller, this might be just the thing.

Even [Saveitforparts] admits this isn’t really practical and, as we suspected, he decided to get out of it as the condensing water started to run down his legs. Turns out astronauts and tank drivers use an undergarment made with small tubes of flowing water to stay cool.

This project reminded us of the positive pressure suit we saw a bit ago. Not to mention the one that went full body.

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Arduino Nano Memory Upgrade With No Soldering

Ok, we’ll come clean. [Design Build Destroy] didn’t really add any memory to his Arduino Nano. But he did get about 1.5K more program space when compared to the stock setup. The trick? On some Nano boards and clones, the bootloader is set to use a large block of reserved memory, but Optiboot only requires a fraction of that reserved memory. By reprogramming the bootloader and changing the configuration fuses, you can reclaim that unused memory.

Of course, you can’t easily overwrite the bootloader and fuses over the serial port to prevent you from bricking your device. The video below shows how to connect another Arduino to do the programming. You could also use any dedicated AVR programmer you happen to have. Oddly, the Uno already uses Optiboot with the same processors, and is set correctly and the video shows the differences in the configuration between the two in their default state.

Of course, depending on where you get your Nano devices and their age, you may already have this set up at which point you won’t gain anything, but you should be able to easily tell if you need to go through the steps or not. The same trick will probably work with any older Arduino boards you have laying around if Optiboot supports them. What can you do with the extra memory? Maybe speech recognition?

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