Review And Teardown Of Economical Programmable DC Power Supply

[Kerry Wong] isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and is always more than willing to open things up and see what makes them tick. This time, he reviews and tears down the Topshak LW-3010EC programmable DC power supply, first putting the unit through its paces, then opens it up to see how it looks on the inside.

The Topshak LW-3010EC is in a family of reasonably economical power supplies made by a wide variety of manufacturers, which all share many of the same internals and basic construction. This one is both programmable as well as nice and compact, and [Kerry] compares and contrasts it with other power supplies in the same range as he tests the functions and  checks over the internals.

Overall, [Kerry] seems pleased with the unit. You can watch him put the device through its paces in the video embedded below, which ends with him opening it up and explaining what’s inside. If you’ve ever been curious about what’s inside one of these power supplies and how they can be expected to perform, be sure to fire up the video below the page break.

Speaking of power supplies, most of us have ready access to ATX power supplies. They are awfully capable pieces of hardware, and hackable in their own way. Our own Jenny List will tell you everything you need to know about the ATX power supply, and how to put it to new uses.

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Review: Inkplate 6PLUS

While the price of electronic paper has dropped considerably over the last few years, it’s still relatively expensive when compared to more traditional display technology. Accordingly, we’ve seen a lot of interest in recovering the e-paper displays used in electronic shelf labels and consumer e-readers from the likes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Unfortunately, while these devices can usually be purchased cheaply on the second hand market, liberating their displays is often too complex a task for the average tinkerer.

Enter the Inkplate. With their open hardware ESP32 development board that plugs into the e-paper displays salvaged from old e-readers, the team at e-radionica is able to turn what was essentially electronic waste into a WiFi-enabled multipurpose display that can be easily programmed using either the Arduino IDE or MicroPython. The $99 Inkplate 6 clearly struck a chord with the maker community, rocketing to 926% of its funding goal on Crowd Supply back in 2020. A year later e-radionica released the larger and more refined Inkplate 10, which managed to break 1,000% of its goal.

For 2021, the team is back with the Inkplate 6PLUS. This updated version of the original Inkplate incorporates the design additions from the Inkplate 10, such as the Real-Time-Clock, expanded GPIO, and USB-C port, and uses a display recycled from newer readers such as the Kindle Paperwhite. These e-paper panels are not only sharper and faster than their predecessors, but also feature touch support and LED front lighting; capabilities which e-radionica has taken full advantage of in the latest version of their software library.

With its Crowd Supply campaign recently crossing over the 100% mark, we got a chance to go hands-on with a prototype of the Inkplate 6PLUS to see how e-radionica’s latest hacker friendly e-paper development platform holds up.

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Review: Battery Spot Welders, Why You Should Buy A Proper Spot Welder

Making battery packs is a common pursuit in our community, involving spot-welding nickel strips to the terminals on individual cells. Many a pack has been made in this way, using reclaimed 18650 cells taken from discarded laptops. Commercial battery spot welders do a good job but have a huge inrush current and aren’t cheap, so it’s not uncommon to see improvised solutions such as rewound transformers taken out of microwave ovens. There’s another possibility though, in the form of cheap modules that promise the same results using a battery pack as a power supply.

With a love of putting the cheaper end of the global electronic marketplace through its paces for the entertainment of Hackaday readers I couldn’t resist, so I parted with £15 (about $20), for a “Mini Spot Welder”, and sat down to wait for the mailman to bring me the usual anonymous grey package.

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Starlink: A Review And Some Hacks

I could probably be described as a SpaceX enthusiast. I catch their launches when I can, and I’ve watched the development of Starship with great interest. But the side-effect of SpaceX’s reusable launch system is that getting to space has become a lot cheaper. Having excess launch capacity means that space projects that were previously infeasible become suddenly at least plausible. One of those is Starlink.

Starlink is SpaceX’s satellite Internet service. Wireless and cellular internet have helped in some places, but if you really live out in the sticks, satellite internet is your only option. And while satellite Internet isn’t exactly new, Starlink is a bit different. Hughesnet, another provider, has a handful of satellites in geostationary orbit, which is about 22,000 miles above the earth. To quote Grace Hopper, holding a nearly foot-long length of wire representing a nanosecond, “Between here and the satellite, there are a very large number nanoseconds.”

SpaceX opted to do something a bit different. In what seemed like an insane pipe dream at the time, they planned to launch a satellite constellation of 12,000 birds, some of them flying as low as 214 mile altitude. The downside of flying so low is that they won’t stay in orbit as long, but SpaceX is launching them significantly faster than they’re coming down. So far, nearly 1,600 Starlink satellites are in orbit, in a criss-crossing pattern at 342 miles (550 km) up.

This hundred-fold difference in altitude matters. A Hughesnet connection has a minimum theoretical latency of 480 ms, and in reality runs closer to 600 ms. Starlink predicts a theoretical minimum of under 10 ms, though real-world performance isn’t quite that low yet. In the few weeks I’ve had the service, ping times have fallen from mid-60s down to 20s and 30s. The way Starlink works right now, data goes up to the closest satellite and directly back to the connected ground station. The long-term plan is to allow the satellites to talk directly to each other over laser links, skipping over the ground stations. Since the speed of light is higher in a vacuum than in a fiber-optic cable, the fully deployed system could potentially have lower latency than even fiber Internet, depending on the location of the endpoint and how many hops need to be made.

I got a Starlink setup, and have been trying out the beta service. Here’s my experience, and a bonus hack to boot.

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TypeMatrix EZ-Reach 2030 Is Better Than Your Laptop Keyboard

Maybe you’re not ready to take the leap into a full-on ergonomic split keyboard. That’s okay, that’s cool, that’s understandable. They’re weird! Especially ones like my Kinesis Advantage with the key bowls and such. But maybe your poor pinkies are starting to get tired and you’re ready to start using your thumbs for more than just the space bar. Or you want to be able to type ‘c’ properly, with your middle finger.

In that case, the TypeMatrix could be the keyboard for you. Or maybe for travel you, because it’s designed as a quasi-ergonomic, orthonormal layout travel keyboard to pair with your laptop, and as such it sits directly over a laptop keyboard without blocking the track pad. (How do people use those things, anyway?)

Of course, you could use this as a desktop keyboard as well, although it’s unfortunate that Control and Shift are stuck on the pinkies. More about that later.

First Impressions

When I saw this keyboard on eBay, I was attracted by two things: the layout, and the dedicated Dvorak light. (And, let’s be honest — the price was right.) I’ve always found myself generally turned off by chocolate bar-style ortholinear keebs because they’re so incredibly cramped, but this one seemed a more acceptable because of the slight split.

The first thing I noticed was the fantastic number pad integration. The different colored keycaps are a nice touch, because the gray makes the number pad stand out, and the red Delete is easy to find since Num Lock is squatting in the upper right corner. Why does Delete always feel like an afterthought on compact keebs? I also like the location of the arrows, and it makes me think of the AlphaSmart NEO layout. Unfortunately, it comes at the cost of burying the right hand Enter down in no-man’s land where you can’t exactly hit it blindly with great accuracy right away. If only you could swap Shift and Enter without messing up the number pad!

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Review: Sequre SQ-D60 Temperature Controlled Soldering Iron

Over the past few years a new class of soldering iron has arisen: a temperature controlled iron no longer tied to a bulky mains-powered base station, but using low-voltage DC power and with all electronics concealed in a svelte handle. First came the Miniware TS100, and then  many more, with slightly different feature sets and at varying price points. We’ve reviewed a few of them over the years, and today we have the most recent contender in the Sequre SQ-D60. It follows the formula closely, but costs only £20 (about $26). This price puts it in an attractive budget category, and its USB-C power option makes it forward-looking over models with barrel jacks. Description over, it’s time to plug it in and put it through its paces.

What’s In The Box?

That's a lot of extra bits for a budget iron!
That’s a lot of extra bits for a budget iron!

In the box, aside from the handle containing the electronics, were a surprisingly comprehensive array of parts and accessories. The handle itself is similarly-sized to its competitors, being only slightly longer than that of Pine64’s Pinecil. The tip supplied was unexpectedly a slanted chisel, so I may have managed to order incorrectly, though since it shares the same tip design as both the TS100 and the Pinecil I have plenty of alternative tips should I need one. Otherwise there was a little bag of hex screws along with a key and a driver for them, a little stand with a sponge, a set of Sequre stickers, a USB-C to barrel jack cable, and a barrel jack-to-XT60 connector for use with LiPo battery packs. These last two cables are a particularly useful addition.

At first sight the tip doesn’t seem to have any means of being fixed into its socket, but a closer inspection reveals that there is a hex screw hiding underneath a silicone finger sleeve that holds it securely when tightened. The handle has a simple enough interface, with just two buttons and a 3-digit, 7-segment display. Powering it up from a 45 W USB-PD power supply, and it heats up to 300 °C in around ten seconds after pressing one of the buttons. My usual soldering temperature is 360 °C, and it has an interface involving long presses of one of the buttons before they become up and down buttons to select the temperature. In prolonged use the handle doesn’t become noticeably warm, and aside from a slight new-electronics-getting-hot smell there was no immediate concern that it might release magic smoke. Continue reading “Review: Sequre SQ-D60 Temperature Controlled Soldering Iron”

Hands-On With PineCube: An Open IP Camera Begging For Better Kernel Support

When the PineCube was announced by the Pine64 project in 2020, it created a fair bit of interest. Most of this was due to the appeal of a single-board computer (SBC) in a network-based (IP) camera form factor with integrated camera module, for a mere $29.99. Add an enclosure to it, and you would have a neat little package combining a 5 MP camera module with 100 Mbit Ethernet and WiFi. As a bonus, the system could be powered either via an optional battery pack as well as passive PoE, in addition to MicroUSB.

A few weeks ago I bought two of these boards, as part of a client project, and set out to use it for a custom IP camera implementation. With existing Linux-on-SBC and MIPI (CSI) camera experience on my end ranging from the Raspberry Pi to the Odroid, Orange Pi and Banana Pi boards, I felt fairly confident that I could make it work with minimal fuss.

Unfortunately, my experiences were anything but positive. After spending many hours with the PineCube, I’m not able to recommend it for those seeking an IP camera. There are many reasons for this, which I’ll try to explain in this article.

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