Review: Lidl Parkside Micrometer

A couple of years ago we published a look at precision measurement tools, in particular vernier calipers and micrometer screw gauges. It featured a look at how they work and how they’re used, and a comparison of good and bad quality instruments. When comparing micrometers we had three of them, a Mitutoyo and a Moore & Wright representing decent quality, and an £8 ($9.41) Daniu from Banggood from the cheaper end of the market. As you might expect, the Daniu was laughably bad, with noticeable play in its thread and jaws that were not parallel to the extent you could see light between them. You might consider it case closed for cheap micrometers then, were it not that while on my summer travels through the Benelux countries I spied a Parkside micrometer in a Lidl supermarket for €8.99 ($8.92). I had to buy it and investigate.

Some Measuring Devices With Your Groceries?

The Parkside micrometer in its boxLidl is a German supermarket chain that can be found all over Europe, and like their arch-competitor Aldi they feature the “Middle of Lidl” aisles full of all sorts of useful stuff that changes on a regular basis. Among this is a comprehensive range of tools under the Parkside brand, which is basically on par with the good stuff from Harbor Freight, and are in fact quite good for the price. Thus even though it’s about the same price as the Daniu I had higher expectations for the Parkside micrometer.

The micrometer is packaged in the usual plastic case in a small cardboard box, and comes with a large paper instruction sheet and a small spanner for zero adjustment. Taking it out of the case, it follows exactly as you’d expect from a micrometer with a solid drop-forged frame and an aluminium barrel on the micrometer head. It can measure up to 25 mm at a resolution of 0.01 mm, exactly like the others I tested in 2020. So my nine dollars or so has got me a micrometer, but is it any good? How do you evaluate a micrometer screw gauge? I re-borrowed the two comparison instruments from 2020, and set out to find out.

The Tiniest Sliver Of Light Gives It Away

The mirror finish on the Mitutoyo jaw face reflecting the "H" of the Hackaday website.
The mirror finish on the Mitutoyo jaw face reflecting the “H” of the Hackaday website.

It’s worth saying that the jaw faces are polished, but not to a mirror finish as those on the Mitutoyo and neither do they appear to have been hardened. In the first instance, comparing with the Daniu I closed the jaws against the force of the ratchet, and held it up against the light to spot any imperfections in the way they meet. Against the blue sky through my window I couldn’t see any, but a friend did the same thing against the more intense point source of an electric light and indeed there was the tiniest discernable sliver of light. Not the obvious wedge of light I caught with the Daniu back in 2020 and less than the visible sliver of light when it is measuring a human hair, but definitely enough to knock a few hundredths of a milimetre off my trust in its accuracy.

The next step in the evaluation involves opening the  jaws about half way, and feeling for any play in the thread. None discernable, at least one win over the Daniu which had the barrel flapping around with significant play. Then a zero test, after adjusting the zero position with the spanner a few repeated closings with the ratchet, to check that it always returns to the same zero point. In this case as with all micrometers it’s possible to overshoot the zero and damage the thread if you apply too much force, but just on the ratchet it would land in the same place.  A pass on a couple of tests then, so while it’s not the worst micrometer ever it’s obvious that the low price brings at least one compromise.

A Tiny Discrepancy In Measurement

Opening up the three micrometers from the 2020 piece again it’s immediately obvious in the silky feel of the thread and the lack of wobble in the ratchet just where the money goes in an expensive micrometer, and just how comedically bad the Daniu was by comparison. But it’s the Parkside in our sights today, so it’s time to make a few comparitive measurements between it and the Mitutoyo. First up were the old standbys of a piece of paper and a human hair in which the Parkside returned the same as the Mitutoyo, and then the machined shaft of the Moore & Wright which returned a difference of 0.01 mm.

Parkside Mitutoyo
Sheet of paper 0.12 mm 0.12 mm
Human hair 0.05 mm 0.05 mm
Moore & Wright shaft 6.79 mm 6.80 mm

The discrepancy in this table when measuring the shaft may be small, but it harks back to that sliver of light from imperfectly aligned jaws. As expected if the shaft meets the jaws at anything but the highest point of the jaw it will return a slightly smaller reading, thus it immediately has an error on everything it returns. Discussing it with friends there was raised the intriguing possibility of lapping the faces by drawing a sheet of exceptionally fine abrasive through the closed jaws, however I have my doubts as to whether this would do anything but make the gap worse.

What I can say about the Parkside micrometer screw gauge is that it appears reasonably well-built, but I can’t present it as the equal of the more expensive instruments when its faces are anything but parallel. I would say therefore that it would be good for basic measurements when machining or in CAD work where an error of 0.01 mm or 0.02 mm wouldn’t matter too much, but perhaps I wouldn’t quite trust it when working with extremely fine tolerances. Still, it’s not the worst among cheap micrometers and it’s on sale for a very reasonable price even if it’s not in the same precision instrument league as the Mitutoyo. If you don’t have a micrometer screw gauge yet then you could do a lot worse at this end of the market.

Books You Should Read: The Hardware Hacker’s Handbook

Here on Hackaday, we routinely cover wonderful informative writeups on different areas of hardware hacking, and we even have our own university with courses that delve into topics one by one. I’ve had my own fair share of materials I’ve learned theory and practical aspects from over the years I’ve been hacking – as it stands, for over thirteen years. When such materials weren’t available on any particular topic, I’d go through hundreds of forum pages trawling for details on a specific topic, or spend hours fighting with an intricacy that everyone else considered obvious.

Today, I’d like to highlight one of the most complete introductions to hardware hacking I’ve seen so far – from overall principles to technical details, spanning all levels of complexity, uniting theory and practice. This is The Hardware Hacking Handbook, by Jasper van Woudenberg and Colin O’Flynn. Across four hundred pages, you will find as complete of an introduction to subverting hardware as there is. None of the nuances are considered to be self-evident; instead, this book works to fill any gaps you might have, finding words to explain every relevant concept on levels from high to low.

Apart from the overall hardware hacking principles and examples, this book focuses on the areas of fault injection and power analysis – underappreciated areas of hardware security that you’d stand to learn, given that these two practices give you superpowers when it comes to taking control of hardware. It makes sense, since these areas are the focus of [Colin]’s and [Jasper]’s research, and they’re able to provide you something you wouldn’t learn elsewhere. You’d do well with a ChipWhisperer in hand if you wanted to repeat some of the things this book shows, but it’s not a requirement. For a start, the book’s theory of hardware hacking is something you would benefit from either way. Continue reading “Books You Should Read: The Hardware Hacker’s Handbook”

Cheap Oscilloscope Is… Well… Cheap

We always enjoy watching [Kerry Wong] put an oscilloscope through its paces. His recent video is looking at a very inexpensive FNIRSI 1014D ‘scope that you can also find rebranded. You can usually find these for well under $200 at the usual places. Can you get a reasonable scope for that cost? [Kerry] has a list of issues with the scope ranging from short memory depth to low sensitivity. He did, however, like that it is USB powered so it can be operated from a common battery pack, which would make it truly floating.

The ‘scope looks like a lot of other inexpensive ‘scopes, but you can see some concessions to price. For example, the encoder knobs don’t have a push button function, making the scope more difficult to operate. While the specs are relatively modest, [Kerry] wasn’t sure the instrument was even living up to them.

Continue reading “Cheap Oscilloscope Is… Well… Cheap”

A Nitrogen Soldering Iron Review

If you’ve ever welded, you know that some welders blow a shield gas over the work for different reasons. For example, you often use a gas to displace oxygen from the area and avoid oxidation. You can also solder using a nitrogen shield. This allows higher temperatures and a reduction of flux required in the solder. Wave soldering often uses nitrogen, and JBC offers a soldering iron that can employ nitrogen shield gas. [SDG Electronics] puts that iron through its paces in the video below.

As you might expect, this isn’t a $50 soldering iron. The price for the iron is just under $1,000 and that doesn’t include the power supply or the nitrogen source. The nitrogen generator that converts compressed air into nitrogen is particularly expensive so [SDG] just used a cylinder of gas.

Continue reading “A Nitrogen Soldering Iron Review”

Detailed Big Screen Multimeter Review

It seems like large-screen cheap meters are really catching on. [TheHWcave] does a very detailed review of a KAIWEETS KM601, which is exactly the same as a few dozen other Chinese brands you can get from the usual sources. You can see the review in the video below.

If we learned nothing else from this video, we did learn that you can identify unmarked fuses with a scale. The fuses inside were not marked, so he wanted to know if they appeared to be the right values. We would have been tempted to just blow them under controlled conditions, but we get he didn’t want to destroy the stock fuses until after testing.

Continue reading “Detailed Big Screen Multimeter Review”

The Heinz Nixdorf Museumsforum building in Paderborn

Visit The World’s Largest Computer Museum: The Heinz Nixdorf

Most stories in the history of computing took place in one of a small number of places. The wartime code-breaking effort in Bletchley Park led to Colossus, the first programmable electronic computer. Various university campuses in Britain and the US were home to first-generation computers like ENIAC, EDVAC and the Manchester Baby in the late 1940s. Silicon Valley then stole the limelight with the home computer revolution in the 1970s. Naturally, all of these places have their museums celebrating their local achievements, but the world’s largest computer museum is not found in Silicon Valley or on the campus of a famous university. Instead, you have to travel to a small German town called Paderborn, which houses the Heinz Nixdorf Museumsforum, or HNF.

Heinz Nixdorf might not be a household name in America like Jack Tramiel or Steve Jobs, but he was one of Europe’s great computer pioneers. Starting with vacuum tube based machines in 1952, Nixdorf gradually expanded his company into one of the largest computer manufacturers of the 1970s. His products were especially popular among large businesses in the financial sector, such as banks and insurance companies. By the late 1980s however, sales went downhill and the company was eventually acquired by Siemens. Today, the Nixdorf name lives on as part of Diebold-Nixdorf, a major producer of ATMs and checkout machines, reflecting the original company’s focus on the financial industry.

The museum’s roots lie in Heinz Nixdorf’s personal collection of typewriters and other office equipment. Although he already envisioned starting a museum dedicated to computing, his sudden death in 1986 put a stop to that. A few of his employees kept the plan alive however, and in 1996 the HNF was opened in Paderborn. Today the museum is run by a non-profit foundation that aims to provide education in information and communication technology to a wide audience.

The collection is housed in the former worldwide headquarters of Nixdorf Computer AG, a rather imposing 1970s office building covered in gold-tinted windows. Inside,]] you’re reminded of its former life as an office building through its compact layout and low ceilings. It does give the museum a bit of a cosy feel, unlike, say, the cavernous halls of London’s Science Museum, but don’t let this fool you: at 6,000 m2, the main exhibition area is about twice as large as that of Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum. Continue reading “Visit The World’s Largest Computer Museum: The Heinz Nixdorf”

Converting Your Bike To Electric: Why You Should, And When You Shouldn’t

A decade ago I was lucky enough to work for an employer that offered a bicycle loan scheme to its employees, and I took the opportunity to spend on a Brompton folding bike. This London-made machine is probably one of the more efficiently folding cycles on the market, and has the useful feature of being practical for longer journeys rather than just a quick run from the train. A 3-speed hub gearbox is fine for unhurried touring, but sadly my little folder has always been a bit of a pain on the hills. Thus around the start of the pandemic I splashed out again and bought a Swytch electric upgrade kit for it, and after a few logistical and life upheavals I’ve finally fitted it to the bike. I’ve ridden a few electric bikes but never had my own, so it’s time to sit down and analyse the experience. Is an electric bike something you should have, or not?

A Box Of Bits Becomes An Electric Bike

All the parts of a Swytch kit
All the parts of a Swytch kit. From the Swytch assembly manual.

Swytch sell their kits via crowdfunding rounds, so I’d been on a waiting list for a while and got an early-bird price on my kit. It took quite a while to arrive, much longer than the expected time in mid-2020 because of the pandemic, finally being delivered some time in February last year. It came in a modestly-sized cardboard carton which would be an easy carry on the Brompton’s luggage rack, containing neatly packed a new front wheel with motor, as well as the battery and all sundry parts.

Fitting the kit shouldn’t stretch the capabilities of a Hackaday reader, with probably the trickiest part being the positioning of a Hall-effect sensor near the crank. The kit works by providing a motor assist when you pedal, so part of it is a set of magnets on a plastic disk with various attachments for different cranks and pedal sets. The Brompton front wheel is removed and its tyre and tube transferred to the Swytch one, which is then put on the bike. Once the magnet disk and Hall sensor are attached, the cables follow the existing ones and emerge at the handlebars where a sturdy bracket for the battery box is fitted. Continue reading “Converting Your Bike To Electric: Why You Should, And When You Shouldn’t”