DIY Scalar Network Analyzer

[Steven Merrifield] built his own Scalar Network Analyzer and it’s a beauty! [Steve]’s SNA has a digital pinout matching a Raspberry Pi, but any GPIO could be used to operate the device and retrieve the data from the ADC. The design is based around a few tried and true chips from Analog Devices. He’s taken some care to design it to be nice and accurate which is why he’s limited it to 1kHz to 30Mhz. We think it’s quite a fetching board once the shielding is in place.

We’ve covered network analyzers and their usefulness before. If you want to know how, for example, a mystery capacitor from your junk bin will respond to certain frequencies, a network analyzer could tell you. We’ve even taken a stab at hacking together our own.

There is more documentation on his website as well as some additional example curves. The board is easily ordered from OSHpark and the source code is available for review.

Listen To Your Feet, They Have A Lot To Tell You

[Umar Qattan] is in tune with his sole and is trying hard to listen to what it has to say.

At a low level, [Umar] is building an insole with an array of force sensors in it. These sensors are affixed to a flexible PCB which is placed in a user’s shoe. A circuit containing a ESP32, IMU, and haptic feedback unit measure the sensors and send data back to a phone or a laptop.

What’s most interesting are the possibilities opened by the data he hopes to collect. The first application he proposes is AR/VR input. The feedback from the user’s feet plus the haptics could provide all sorts of interesting interaction. Another application is dynamically measuring a user’s gait throughout the day and exercise. People could save themselves a lot of knee pain with something like this.

[Umar] also proposes that an insert like this could record a user’s weight throughout the day. Using the data on the weight fluctuation, it should be possible to calculate someone’s metabolism and hydration from this data.

Building A Limitless VR Desktop

[Gabor Horvath] thinks even two monitors is too little space to really lay out his windows properly. That’s why he’s building a VR Desktop straight out of our deepest cyberpunk fantasies.

The software runs on Windows and Android at the moment. The user can put up multiple windows in a sphere around them. As their head moves, the window directly in front grows in focus.  Imagine how many stack overflow windows you could have open at the same time!

Another exciting possibility is that the digital work-spaces can be shared among multiple users. Pair programming isn’t so bad, and now the possibility of doing it effectively while remote seems a little more possible. Even pair CAD might be possible depending on how its done. Imagine sharing your personal CAD session on another user’s screen and seeing theirs beside yours, allowing for simultaneous design.

Overall it’s a very cool tech demo that could turn into something more. It makes us wonder how long it is before tech workers on their way to lunch are marked by a telltale red circle on their face.

Replace Your Smartphone With These Arcane Amulets

It’s hard not to feel the constant pull on our limited attention from the very interesting rectangles in our pockets and packs. [Antoine Pintout] is fighting against it with three interesting pendants.

The three objects each have functions. Sablier, tells time, but rather than giving the numerals it vibrates on a set interval to give a relative sense of the passage. Boussole is a compass like device which doesn’t tell the cardinal directions. Instead it tells you which way to go in order to get to a pre-set location. The last, Sifflet, is a pager, but rather than sending a text it plays a melody reflecting the sender’s mood.

We love the look of the objects. The circuits are beautifully laid out and showcased in well machined brass cases. Small details abound; in Sifflet for example, the coil antenna is symmetrically presented with its own cutout in the board. Laying out a board is hard enough, but taking this much care in component placement easily doubles the time.

All the files and models are available,  though we’re not sure we possess the craftsmanship to reproduce these to the same standard.

A Nixie Radio Clock Fit For A Victorian Mad Scientist

[Ioszelos] built a nixie clock with a dizzying array of features.

Do you ever wish that you could log in to your clock from your phone and turn off your TV? We assume that [Ioszelos] did. The clock can also play MP3s and stream radio stations. It can record the indoor temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. Did we mention it’s an FM radio too? We’re not sure, but we wouldn’t be surprised if there was a faucet hiding somewhere on the contraption.

A team effort shared between an ESP32 and Mega 2560 run the Rube Goldberg-like show. Custom boards were spun up to provide the control and voltages needed for the nixie tubes. The clock is constructed from machined plates and 3D printed files.

It all comes together in a steampunk reminiscent assembly. The glow from the RGB leds and nixie tubes combine to make an interesting visual effect. We’ve certainly never seen a clock quite like it before.

A LED Cube Designed For Easy Assembly

LED cubes are mesmerizing and fun, but they’re usually a pain to build. Not so with [burkethos]’s cleanly designed cube. 

Many cubes are put together in an elaborate sculptural style. Traditionally the leads of the LEDs are artistically bent and then hours are spent laboring over the future rainbow Borg cube. This build is more reminiscent of a motherboard or back plane design. The LEDs are surface mount units re-flowed onto a rake shaped PCB. At the base of each “rake” there’s a right angle male header. This is then soldered to base board which creates a reliable mechanical bond.

There are some downsides to this approach. For example, the PCBs occlude the LEDs at some viewing angles. However, this can be mitigated with careful placement in the room, or in one variation, mounting the cube at a different orientation so the rakes are horizontal rather than vertical.

Regardless, we appreciate this new take on an old project and can definitely see it having a more universal appeal than the kits that require a couple weeks of afternoons to finish.

Say What You Will, A Fursuit Is A Lot Of Work.

One thing [Dr. Cockroach]’s build log shows is that a fursuit isn’t an easy thing to make.

Furries came out of early American comics and grew into the subculture the internet just can’t leave alone today. Many people take on an avatar of their furry self when participating in this subculture, and one of the prize achievements is to design, commission, or build a fur suit. What [Dr. Cockroach]’s build shows is why some of these suits can easily fetch 10,000USD. It really is a labor of love. It’s also brings up one of his goals in this project, to discover cheaper ways to construct these suits, so other people who share his hobby have a more financially accessible process to join in.

We were fascinated at the construction process. A base was built out of soft foam around a mock head. On this base more foam was layered and carved before the shape of his avatar, Marcus, started to take form. His wife found the testing process particularly humorous, but when he was happy with the arrangement and the movable jaw he began working on the pattern.

The pattern making process is very clever. He layers the foam base with masking tape and then peels it off. It’s easy to then cut the tape strategically until it lays flat. We can definitely see ourselves using this trick to do anything from sheet metal to duplicating plastic forms.

Then comes quite a lot of difficult stitching. We’d never thought about it before, but if you’re trying to simulate fur a lot of attention has to be paid tot he direction the fur lays; further increasing the difficulty.

Wherever your opinion lies, no hacker can turn down a detailed build log, and there are tricks to be learned anywhere if enough attention is paid.