a microwave-oven with animated wave diagram

Dive Into The Microwaves, The Water’s Dipolar

When the microwave oven started to gain popularity in the 60s and 70s, supporters and critics alike predicted that it would usher in the end of cooking as we knew it. Obviously that never quite happened, but not because the technology didn’t work as intended. Even today, this versatile kitchen appliance seems to employ some magic to caffeinate or feed a growing hacker in no time flat. So, how exactly does this modern marvel work?

interior of a microwave-oven with a wave length overlay

That’s exactly what [Electronoob] set out to explain in his latest video. After previously taking apart a microwave and showing off the magnetron within he’s back with a clear explanation of how these devices work.

Maybe you have no idea, or have heard something vague about the water in the food wiggling in response to the microwaves. Do you know why microwaves and not some other part of the electromagnetic spectrum? Why the food spins on a platter? How the size of the oven relative to the wavelength affects the efficiency of its cooking? We didn’t, and think the video is a great primer on all of this and more.

Here at Hackaday, we sure love using and abusing microwave ovens. From upgrading them with voice control back in 2013, to turning them into UV curing chambers and mini foundries, to the limitless possibilities for the transformers and magnetrons that await us inside, we just can’t get enough. (this is our 82nd article tagged with microwave!)

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A Comprehensive Look At FDM Supports

When we first started 3D printing, we used ABS and early slicers. Using supports was undesirable because the support structures were not good, and ABS sticks to itself like crazy. Thankfully today’s slicers are much better, and often we can use supports that easily detach. [Teaching Tech] shows how modern slicers create supports and how to make it even better than using the default settings.

The video covers many popular slicers and their derivatives. If you’ve done a lot with supports, you might not find too much of this information surprising, but if you haven’t printed with supports lately or tried things like tree supports, you might find a few things that will up your 3D printing game.

One thing we really like is that the video does show different slicers, so regardless of what slicer you like to use, you’ll probably find exactly what different settings are called. Of course, because slicers let you examine what they produce layer-by-layer, you can do like the video and examine the results without printing. [Michael] does do some prints with various parameters, though, and you can see how hard or easy the support removal is depending on some settings. The other option is to add support to your designs, as needed manually, or — even better — don’t design things that need support.

This video reminded us of a recent technique we covered that added a custom support tack to help the slicer’s automatic support work better. If you want a longer read on supports that also covers dissolvable support, we’ve seen that, too.

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Europe’s Proposed Right-To-Repair Law: A Game Changer, Or Business As Usual?

Recently, the European Commission (EC) adopted a new proposal intended to enable and promote the repair of a range of consumer goods, including household devices like vacuum cleaners and washing machines, as well as electronic devices such as smartphones and televisions. Depending on how the European Parliament and Council vote in the next steps, this proposal may shape many details of how devices we regularly interact with work, and how they can be repaired when they no longer do.

As we have seen recently with the Digital Fair Repair Act in New York, which was signed into law last year, the devil is as always in the details. In the case of the New York bill, the original intent of enabling low-level repairs on defective devices got hamstrung by added exceptions and loopholes that essentially meant that entire industries and types of repairs were excluded. Another example of ‘right to repair’ being essentially gamed involves Apple’s much-maligned ‘self repair’ program, that is both limited and expensive.

So what are the chances that the EU will succeed where the US has not?

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A ChatGPT client running on an IBM Portable PC

MS-DOS Client Brings ChatGPT To The IBM PC

AI-powered chatbots are clearly the future of computing, and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll see them appear on every internet-connected gadget. If you thought you were safe from this by sticking to an ancient MS-DOS PC though, think again: [Yeo Kheng Meng] has recently written a ChatGPT client that runs on DOS.

[Yeo Kheng Meng] didn’t cheat by simply running MS-DOS on a modern PC, either: he tested the client on a real 1984 vintage IBM 5155 Portable PC. This semi-portable PC/XT model sports a 4.77 MHz 8088 CPU, 640 kB of RAM and a CGA video card with a built-in monochrome monitor. An NE2000 ISA network card, running in 8-bit mode, enables the Portable to connect to the internet.

Running the client couldn’t be simpler: just run doschgpt.exe and type in your question. [Yeo Kheng Meng] developed this program using the Open Watcom C/C++ compiler, which was the compiler of choice for most DOS game developers back in the day. Networking support was provided by an era-appropriate packet driver together with MTCP, a TCP/IP stack developed by [Michael Brutman] for DOS-based internet applications.

Connecting to the ChatGPT API and parsing the results was pretty straightforward, but implementing the required TLS encryption was not. Even if there was a library available for MS-DOS, the 5155 wouldn’t have enough CPU power to run it in real time, so [Yeo Kheng Meng] decided to run that bit of the networking stack on a modern PC and send an unencrypted HTTP stream to the DOS client.

The end result is a delightful retro-futuristic setup that seems to have come straight out of a 1980s science fiction movie. We can already picture it together with a Commodore 64 reporting the news and an IRC server running on an IBM PC. Continue reading “MS-DOS Client Brings ChatGPT To The IBM PC”

Bus Stop Bloom Filter

Imagine you’re sitting on a nice bench, the sun shines warmly, and a bus pulls up. You’re headed to Stendal from Osnabrück, how can you tell if you should get on that bus? [Julian Vanecek] is trying to turn that from an O(n) problem to an O(1) one with a bloom filter right at the bus stop.

In [Julian’s] sample code, each stop is a 3-bit number that can be encoded into a 192-bit array. Your ticket is just that 3-bit number encoded, so you can look at the graphic on the side of the incoming bus, match it against your ticket, and hop on. Gone are the days of waiting for the little LED screen to cycle through all the stops, waiting for yours to come up. Your ticket should have just a few boxes filled in so it is relatively quick to search against the bus’s graphic.

Of course, there is a potential for a false positive rate. [Julian] points out that this can be tuned to prevent errors and has achieved a < 0.5% false positive rate using the Deutsche Bahn bus system. The code is written in Python and available on GitHub. Perhaps buses could have a large flip-dop display on the side, to adjust to show which stops they’re headed to next. Additionally, it doesn’t encode which stops are next, just which stops the bus will eventually go to.

In the video after the break, [Julian] explains how the system works. Whether it would be ultimately adopted is somewhat beside the point. We love the seeing people re-imagining ideas and trying to apply new techniques to improve the things around them.

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Caterpillar-Like Soft Robot With Distributed Programmable Thermal Actuation

Researchers at North Carolina State University have created a soft robot that moves in a distinctly caterpillar-like manner. As detailed in the research paper in Science Advances by [Shuang Wu] and colleagues, the robot they developed consists of a layer of liquid crystalline elastomers (LCE) and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) with embedded silver nanowire that acts as a heater.

The LCE is hereby designed as a thermal bimorph actuator, using a distinct thermal expansion coefficient between the LCE and PDMS sides to create a highly controllable deformation and thus motion. Since the nanowire is divided into sections that can be individually heated, the exact deformation can be quite tightly controlled, enabling the crawling motion.

(A) Schematics of the forward locomotion of a caterpillar. (B) Schematics of the reverse locomotion of a caterpillar. (C) Snapshots of the crawling robot in one cycle of actuation for reverse locomotion. (D) Snapshots of the crawling robot in one cycle of actuation for forward locomotion. (E) infrared image of the crawling robot with 0.05-A current injected in channel 1 and the tilted view of the crawling robot. (F) Infrared image of the crawling robot with 30-mA current injected in channel 2 and the corresponding tilted view of the crawling robot. (Credit: Shuang Wu, et al. (2023))
(A) Schematics of the forward locomotion of a caterpillar. (B) Schematics of the reverse locomotion of a caterpillar. (C) Snapshots of the crawling robot in one cycle of actuation for reverse locomotion. (D) Snapshots of the crawling robot in one cycle of actuation for forward locomotion. (E) infrared image of the crawling robot with 0.05-A current injected in channel 1 and the tilted view of the crawling robot. (F) Infrared image of the crawling robot with 30-mA current injected in channel 2 and the corresponding tilted view of the crawling robot. (Credit: Shuang Wu, et al. (2023))

As can be seen in the video below, the motion is fairly rapid and quite efficient, as well as decidedly caterpillar-like. Although the current prototype uses external control wires that supply the current, it might be possible to integrate a power supply and control circuitry in a stand-alone robot. Since the heater works on low voltage (5 V) and relatively little power is required, this would seem to make stand-alone operation eminently possible.

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The 4004 Upgrade You’ve Been Waiting For

You know how it is. You have an older computer, and you can’t run the latest software on it. Time to upgrade, right? Well, if you have been in this situation a very long time, [ryomuk] may have an answer for you. The emu8080on4004 project (Google Translate) offers a way to run 8080 code on a 4004 CPU. Finally!

The 4004 development board is a homebrew affair, and the emulator works well enough that an 8080 Tiny BASIC interpreter ran with very few changes to the source code. You can see it working in the video below. It would be cool to run CP/M, but we imagine that would be a little harder, especially resource-wise.

A few things are missing. For example, the DAA instruction doesn’t exist, and there are no provisions for interrupts. There’s only one I/O port, and using the IN instruction will block until you receive a serial port character. There is an option to implement the parity flag in the 8080 flags register, but its operation is untested.

Still, pretty impressive for a 4-bit CPU running at 740 kHz with very little memory. If you want to see more about the development board itself, check out the second video below. Want to know more about the chip that launched a family of processors that is still around? Read its biography. You can also read about the designer who put his signature on the die.

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