Obsolete E-Reader Gets New Life

For those who read often, e-readers are a great niche device that can help prevent eye fatigue with their e-ink displays especially when compared to a backlit display like a tablet or smartphone, all while taking up minimal space unlike a stack of real books. But for all their perks, there are still plenty of reasons to maintain a library of bound paper volumes. For those who have turned back to books or whose e-readers aren’t getting the attention they once did, there are plenty of things to do with them like this e-book picture frame.

The device started life as a PocketBook Basic Touch, or PocketBook 624, a fairly basic e-reader from 2014, but at its core is a decent ARM chip that can do many more things than display text. It also shipped running a version of Linux, which made it fairly easy to get a shell and start probing around. Unlike modern smart phones this e-reader seems to be fairly open and able to run some custom software, and as a result there are already some C++ programs available for these devices. Armed with some example programs, [Peter] was able to write a piece of custom software that displays images from an on-board directory and mounted the new picture display using an old book.

There were a number of options for this specific device that [Peter] explored that didn’t pan out well, like downloading images from the internet to display instead of images on the device, but in the end he went with a simpler setup to avoid feature creep and get his project up and running for “#inktober”, a fediverse-oriented drawing challenge that happened last month. While not strictly in line with a daily piece of hand-drawn artwork, the project still follows the spirit of the event. And, for those with more locked-down e-readers there’s some hope of unlocking the full functionality of older models with this FOSS operating system.

Books You Should Read: Prototype Nation

Over the years, I’ve been curious to dig deeper into the world of the manufacturing in China. But what I’ve found is that Western anecdotes often felt surface-level, distanced, literally and figuratively from the people living there. Like many hackers in the west, the allure of low-volume custom PCBs and mechanical prototypes has me enchanted. But the appeal of these places for their low costs and quick turnarounds makes me wonder: how is this possible? So I’m left wondering: who are the people and the forces at play that, combined, make the gears turn?

Enter Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation, by Silvia Lindtner. Published in 2020, this book is the hallmark of ten years of research, five of which the author spent in Shenzhen recording field notes, conducting interviews, and participating in the startup and prototyping scene that the city offers.

This book digs deep into the forces at play, unraveling threads between politics, culture, and ripe circumstances to position China as a rising figure in global manufacturing. This book is a must-read for the manufacturing history we just lived through in the last decade and the intermingling relationship of the maker movement between the west and east.

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Hackaday Links: September 25, 2022

Looks like there’s trouble out at L2, where the James Webb Space Telescope suffered a mechanical anomaly back in August. The issue, which was just announced this week, involves only one of the six imaging instruments at the heart of the space observatory, known as MIRI, the Mid-Infrared Instrument. MIRI is the instrument on Webb that needs the coldest temperatures to work correctly, down to six Kelvins — we’ve talked about the cryocooler needed to do this in some detail. The problem has to do with unexpectedly high friction during the rotation of a wheel holding different diffraction gratings. These gratings are rotated into the optical path for different measurements, but apparently the motor started drawing excessive current during its move, and was shut down. NASA says that this only affects one of the four observation modes of MIRI, and the rest of the instruments are just fine at this time. So they’ve got some troubleshooting to do before Webb returns to a full program of scientific observations.

There’s an old saying that, “To err is human, but to really screw things up takes a computer.” But in Russia, to really screw things up it takes a computer and a human with a really poor grasp on just how delicately balanced most infrastructure systems are. The story comes from Moscow, where someone allegedly spoofed a massive number of fake orders for taxi rides (story in Russian, Google Translate works pretty well) through the aggregator Yandex.Taxi on the morning of September 1. The taxi drivers all dutifully converged on the designated spot, but instead of finding their fares, they just found a bunch of other taxis milling about and mucking up traffic. Yandex reports it has already added protection against such attacks to its algorithm, so there’s that at least. It’s all fun and games until someone causes a traffic jam.

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Hackaday Links: July 10, 2022

We always like to call out a commercial success stemming from projects that got their start on Hackaday.io, and so we’re proud to announce the release of MAKE: Calculus by Joan Horvath and Rich Cameron, a book that takes a decidedly different approach to teaching calculus than traditional courses. Geared to makers and hackers, who generally tend to have a visual style of learning, the book makes heavy use of 3D-printed models to illustrate the relationships between functions. The project started five years ago as a 2017 Hackaday Prize entry, and resulted in a talk at the 2019 Supercon. Their book is now available for preorder, and might be a great way to reacquaint themselves with calc, or perhaps even to learn it for the first time. Continue reading “Hackaday Links: July 10, 2022”

Book Teaches Gaming Math

If we knew how much math goes into writing a video game, we might have paid more attention in math class. If you need a refresher, [Fletcher Dunn] and [Ian Parbery] have their book “3D Math Primer for Graphics and Game Development” available free online. The book was originally a paper book from 2011 with a 2002 first edition but those are out of print now. However, math is math, so regardless of the age of the book, it is worth a look. For now, the online version is a bunch of web pages, but we hear a PDF or E-reader version is forthcoming.

There’s quite a bit of discussion about vectors, matrices, linear transformations, and 3D graphics. The last part of the book covers calculus, kinematics, and parametric curves. Some of these topics will be of interest even if you don’t care about graphics but do want to learn some math with practical examples.

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Learn All About Writing A Published Technical Book, From Idea To Print

Ever wondered what, exactly, goes into creating a technical book? If you’d like to know the steps that bring a book from idea to publication, [Sara Robinson] tells all about it as she explains what went into co-authoring O’Reilly’s Machine Learning Design Patterns.

Her post was written in 2020, but don’t let that worry you, because her writeup isn’t about the book itself so much as it is about the whole book-writing process, and her experiences in going through it. (By the way, every O’Reilly book has a distinctive animal on the cover, and we learned from [Sara] that choosing the cover animal is a slightly mysterious process, and is not done by the authors.)

It turns out that there are quite a few steps that need to happen — like proposals and approvals — before the real writing even starts. The book writing itself is a process, and like most processes to which one is new, things start out slow and inefficient before they improve.

[Sara] also talks a bit about burnout, and her advice on dealing with it is as insightful as it is practical: begin by communicating honestly how you are feeling to the people involved.

Over the years I’ve learned that people will very rarely guess how you’re feeling and it’s almost always better to tell them […] I decided to tell my co-authors and my manager that I was burnt out. This went better than expected.

There is a lot of code in the book, and it has its own associated GitHub repository should you wish to check some of it out.

By the way, [Sara] celebrated publication by making a custom cake, which you can see near the bottom of her blog post. This comes as no surprise seeing as she has previously managed to combine machine learning with her love of making cakes!

The Pinouts Book Is Here, And It’s Just What You Need

Updates from the enigmatic [NODE] are unfortunately few and far between these days. In fact his latest post is only the second time we’ve heard from the hacker in 2021. But as we’ve come to expect from his white-on-sorta-black releases, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Just in time to ring in whatever holiday you may celebrate, [NODE] has unveiled The Pinouts Book. A project he’s been working on for some time now with colleague [Baptiste], the free PDF download contains over 300 pages of high-contrast hardware diagrams and their respective pinouts. It’s about as straightforward as you can get, beyond the dedication page in the beginning, there’s not a word of fluff in the entire document. This is a work of hacker minimalism at its best, and we’re all about it.

From audio/video connectors all the way to development boards and single-board computers, The Pinouts Book sticks to the same format of a diagram and accompanying chart, making it exceptionally easy to find what you’re looking for. If you need more information than this streamlined layout can provide, each entry includes a link to a dedicated page on the book’s companion website. This will redirect you to supplemental data such as the manufacturer’s website, the part’s full datasheet, etc.

According to [NODE], the original plan for the Creative Commons BY-SA licensed work was to release it as a physical book, but the project ballooned up to such a scale that they realized it would be much easier to navigate and use as a digital document. While we don’t disagree, a physical release would certainly look lovely on our bookshelf. In the meantime, those who want to support the effort financially can purchase shirts emblazoned with diagrams pulled straight from the book’s pages.

We’ve long believed that a large-format electronic paper device would be an ideal gadget for the hacker’s workbench, as it allows for browsing through schematics and datasheets with a minimum of eye strain. Now we can also add a copy of The Pinouts Book to the list of things we’d install on our hacker-friendly e-ink compendium.

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