Now ChatGPT Can Make Breakfast For Me

The world is abuzz with tales of the ChatGPT AI chatbot, and how it can do everything, except perhaps make the tea. It seems it can write code, which is pretty cool, so if it can’t make the tea as such, can it make the things I need to make some tea? I woke up this morning, and after lying in bed checking Hackaday I wandered downstairs to find some breakfast. But disaster! Some burglars had broken in and stolen all my kitchen utensils! All I have is my 3D printer and laptop, which curiously have little value to thieves compared to a set of slightly chipped crockery. What am I to do!

Never Come Between A Hackaday Writer And Her Breakfast!

OK Jenny, think rationally. They’ve taken the kettle, but I’ve got OpenSCAD and ChatGPT. Those dastardly miscreants won’t come between me and my breakfast, I’m made of sterner stuff! Into the prompt goes the following query:

"Can you write me OpenSCAD code to create a model of a kettle?" Continue reading “Now ChatGPT Can Make Breakfast For Me”

China’s New 100 MPH Train Runs On Hydrogen And Supercaps

Electric cars are very much en vogue right now, as the world tries to clean up on emissions and transition to a more sustainable future. However, these vehicles require huge batteries as it is. For heavier-duty applications like trucks and trains, batteries simply won’t cut the mustard.

Normally, the solution for electrifying railways is to simply string up some wires and call it a day. China is trying an alternative solution, though, in the form of a hydrogen-powered train full of supercapacitors.

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Detecting Machine-Generated Content: An Easier Task For Machine Or Human?

In today’s world we are surrounded by various sources of written information, information which we generally assume to have been written by other humans. Whether this is in the form of books, blogs, news articles, forum posts, feedback on a product page or the discussions on social media and in comment sections, the assumption is that the text we’re reading has been written by another person. However, over the years this assumption has become ever more likely to be false, most recently due to large language models (LLMs) such as GPT-2 and GPT-3 that can churn out plausible paragraphs on just about any topic when requested.

This raises the question of whether we are we about to reach a point where we can no longer be reasonably certain that an online comment, a news article, or even entire books and film scripts weren’t churned out by an algorithm, or perhaps even where an online chat with a new sizzling match turns out to be just you getting it on with an unfeeling collection of code that was trained and tweaked for maximum engagement with customers. (Editor’s note: no, we’re not playing that game here.)

As such machine-generated content and interactions begin to play an ever bigger role, it raises both the question of how you can detect such generated content, as well as whether it matters that the content was generated by an algorithm instead of by a human being.

Continue reading “Detecting Machine-Generated Content: An Easier Task For Machine Or Human?”

The Radioactive Source Missing In Australian Desert Has Been Found

Nuclear material is relatively safe when used, stored, and managed properly. This generally applies to a broad range of situations, from nuclear medicine to nuclear power generation. Some may argue it’s impossible to use nuclear weapons safely. In any case, stringent rules exist to manage nuclear material for good reason.

Sometimes, though, things go wrong, mistakes are made, and that nuclear material ends up going AWOL. That’s the situation that faced authorities in Australia, as they scoured over a thousand kilometers of desert highway for a tiny missing radioactive source with the potential to cause serious harm. Thankfully, authorities were able to track it down.

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Driverless Buses Take To The Road In Scotland

Scotland! It’s the land of tartans, haggis, and surprisingly-warm kilts. It’s also ground zero for the first trial of full-sized driverless buses in the United Kingdom.

It’s not just automakers developing driverless technologies. Transit companies are desperate to get in on the action because it would completely upend their entire existing business structure. Now that self-driving buses are finally approaching a basic level of competence, they’re starting to head out to haul passengers from A to B. Let’s look at how the UK’s first driverless bus project is getting on out in the real world. 

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All About USB-C: Pinecil Soldering Iron

As many people have pointed out, what matters with USB-C isn’t just the standard, it’s the implementations. After all, it’s the implementations that we actually have to deal with, and it’s where most of the problems with USB-C arise. There is some fault to the standard, like lack of cable markings from the get-go, but at this point, I’m convinced that the USB-C standard is a lot better than some people think.

I’d like to walk you through a few USB-C implementations in real, open-source, adjacent, and just interesting products. They’re all imperfect in some way – it can’t be otherwise, as they have to deal with the messy real world, where perfection is a rarity.

Today, let’s check out the Pinecil. A soldering iron by Pine64, released a few years ago, keeping the price low and quality high. It sports both a barrel jack and a USB-C port for its power input – a welcome departure from the Miniware iron strategy, where neither the barrel-jack-only TS100 nor the low-power proprietary-tip TS80 irons quite did it. And, given its design around TS100 T12-style tips, it’s no wonder Pinecil took a well-deserved spot in hobbyist world.

Can’t Just Pull The Trigger

Now, you might be thinking that Pinecil ought to be a simple device. The usual way to get high power out of a USB-C port is a Power Delivery (PD) trigger IC, and you could merely use that. However, if you’ve read the USB-C power article, you might remember the 45 W vs 60 W charger scenario, where such an arrangement would fail immediately. Overall, the configurability of trigger ICs is quite low, and when encountering a PD compatibility problem with some PSU, you can’t do anything about it except replace the IC with a slightly-different-logic IC- if a replacement even exists, and it usually does not. This is costly and limiting for a real-world use product. Continue reading “All About USB-C: Pinecil Soldering Iron”

Retro Gadgets: The CB Cell Phone

There was a time when one of the perks of having a ham radio in your car (or on your belt) was you could make phone calls using a “phone patch.” In the 1970s, calling someone from inside your parked car turned heads. Now, of course,  it is an everyday occurrence thanks to cell phones. But in 1977, cell phones were nowhere to be found. Joseph Sugarman, the well-known founder of JS&A, saw a need and wanted to fill it. So he offered the “PocketCom CB” which was billed as the “world’s smallest citizens band transceiver.” You can see the full-page ad from 1977 below.

Remember that this is from an era when ICs that could operate at 30 MHz were not the norm, so you have to temper your expectations. The little unit was 5.5 in by 1.5 in and less than an inch thick. That’s actually not bad, but you had — optimistically — 100 mW of output power. They claimed the N cell batteries would last two weeks with average use, but we imagine a lot less as soon as you start transmitting. The weight was 5 oz, but we suspect that is without the batteries.

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