Let’s be clear – it’s not enough to have USB-C to USB-C cables. There’s a lot of cables that we might want to acquire for our day-to-day use, perhaps, for a transition period while we still own some amount of devices not adorned with a USB-C connector. However, the USB-C specification only accounts for a limited amount of kinds of cables, explicitly or implicitly excluding a range of cables that you might want to buy or make.
It’s my firm belief that, as a hacker, you should be able to buy any USB-C contraption that you could ever need. Hackers don’t need restrictions driven by marketing – they need understanding of how a piece of tech can or cannot be used, based on how it operates internally. I would like you to provide with such understanding, so that you can make informed decisions.
On the other hand, USB-C is designed to be used by less-than-skilled people, even if it often fails at that. (Cable labelling, anyone?) Clear definitions of what complies to a standard can help enforce it. Here’s the notorious story of a USB-C cable that killed a Chromebook, and launched a career of explaining USB-C specifics online for [Benson Leung]. There’s many such failure stories, in fact. Today, we’ll go through USB-C contraptions which might or might not fail you, depending on how you use them. Continue reading “All About USB-C: Illegal Adapters” →
For those unfamiliar with the sport of mountain biking, it’s a wild hobby that is rife with hacking. It started in the early 70s when the first dedicated mountain bikers were hacking road bikes together to ride on trails to varying levels of success, but only in the last decade or so have there been a lot of electronics appearing in various bike parts that we can all tinker with as well. This video discusses some of the downsides with a very expensive electronic seat post on a mountain bike, and attempts to solve its shortcomings by cutting it in half.
This build involves a dropper seat post, which is an adjustable seat for mountain biking that functions like an office chair. By pushing a button on the handlebars, the seat post can be rapidly adjusted up or down on-the-fly. Normally these seat posts use a cable to actuate, but this expensive version is wireless. The only problem is the battery will occasionally fly off when hitting big jumps, so [Berm Peak Express] decided to cut the existing proprietary battery system out and create a new housing for it. The new housing has a wired extension for the battery in its new location under the seat instead of behind it, and this gives it the clearance it arguably should have had from the manufacturer.
While not the most involved project of all time, it does take a certain mentality to take a hacksaw to a bike part that costs more than a large percentage of bicycles. It’s a niche product to be sure, but it also shows that some of the biggest annoyances with proprietary parts are not too difficult to overcome. And, it is interesting to see the ways that some people are hacking bikes outside of admittedly clever ebike conversions.
Continue reading “$800 Mountain Bike Seat Post Chopped In Two” →
Even from the very earliest days of the automobile age, cars and trucks have been hybrids of mechanical and electrical design. For every piston sliding up and down in a cylinder, there’s a spark plug that needs to be fired at just the right time to make the engine work, and stepping on the brake pedal had better cause the brake lights to come on at the same time hydraulic pressure pinches the wheel rotors between the brake pads.
Without electrical connections, a useful motor vehicle is a practical impossibility. Even long before electricity started becoming the fuel of choice for vehicles, the wires that connect the computers, sensors, actuators, and indicators needed to run a vehicle’s systems were getting more and more complicated by the year. After the engine and the frame, a car’s wiring and electronics are its third most expensive component, and it’s estimated that by 2030, fully half of the average vehicle’s cost will be locked in its electrical system, up from 30% in 2010.
Making sure all those signals get where they’re going, and doing so in a safe and reliable way is the job of a vehicle’s wire harnesses, the bundles of wires that seemingly occupy every possible area of a modern car. The design and manufacturing of wire harnesses is a complex process that relies on specialized software, a degree of automation, and a surprising amount of people-power.
Continue reading “The Surprisingly Manual Process Of Building Automotive Wire Harnesses” →
When building electronic assemblies there is quite often the need to construct custom cables to hook things up. It’s all very well if you’re prototyping by hand, or just building one or two of a thing, but if you’re cranking them out using outside help, then you’re going to want to ensure that cable is described very accurately. [Christian Nimako-Boateng Jr.] presents for us the first version of wirely, a wiring harness tool. This is a web-based tool that allows one to describe the cable ends and connectivity between them, producing a handy graphic and exports to excel in a format that should be easy to follow.
Based around the wireviz Python library running on a flask-based backend, image data are sent to the web assembly front-end and rendered with OpenGL. Configuration files can be imported and exported as JSON, making it easily linkable to other tools if required. Helpfully, the tool also seems to support some kind of revision control, although we didn’t try that yet. The process is straightforward enough, one simply defines a few groups (these relate to individual PCBs or other floating items in the assembly) which each contain one or more connectors. First, the connectors are described with part numbers, and wire gauge data, before defining the list of connections (wires) showing which signal and physical pins are connected together. Nothing more complex than that yet. We think there is still some more functionality that the tool could manage, such as shielding and guarding details, twisted pair definitions and a few others, but for a first pass, wirely looks pretty handy.
If you want a more heavyweight option using IEC 60617 symbols for describing wiring harnesses, then look no farther than QElectroTech, and yes, we have covered wireviz before, just for those that want to cut out the middleman and describe their cables in Python directly.
[Stephen] writes to us about an LCD repair tool he has created. We’ve all seen old devices with monochrome LCDs connected by thin film, where connections between the PCB and the LCD have deteriorated and the LCD would no longer show parts of the picture. This is a connection heating gadget, that [Stephen] affectionately dubs as World’s Smallest Hair Straightener, made specifically to bring cool old tech back to life.
A resin-printed mold houses a coil of Kanthal wire, easy to source and simple to make. He reuses a hair clip as a housing for the heating element, which also provides pressure needed to squish the film-printed conductive traces into the LCD as the adhesive melts. High-temperature epoxy brings the two together, and with a variable power supply, this tool successfully brought an old Tiger 99x handheld back to life.
This hack was made possible, in part, because of [JohnDevin Duncan] in Hackaday comment section sharing his experience on repairing LCD ribbons back in 2015, giving valuable insights on the problem that we initially thought would be solve-able with a soldering iron. The knowledge shared was distilled by [Stephen] into a tool that we all can now use when we encounter a device we really, really want to revive.
Last time we covered this topic, quite a few hackers popped up with their stories and suggestions. Old game console fix stories are a staple here on Hackaday, a few pop to mind – this high-effort trace repair of a water-damaged GameBoy cartridge, a badly designed NES cartridge socket reinvention, and this GameBoy LCD sunburn damage restoration guide.
Hopefully by now most of us know better than to rent a modem from an internet service provider. Buying your own and using it is almost always an easy way to save some money, but even then these pieces of equipment won’t last forever. If you’re sitting on an older cable modem and thinking about tossing it in the garbage, there might be a way to repurpose it before it goes to the great workbench in the sky. [kc9umr] has a way of turning these devices into capable spectrum analyzers.
The spectrum analyzer feature is a crucial component of cable modems to help take advantage of the wide piece of spectrum that is available to them on the cable lines. With some of them it’s possible to access this feature directly by pointing a browser at it, but apparently some of them have a patch from the cable companies to limit access. By finding one that hasn’t had this patch applied it’s possible to access the spectrum analyzer, and once [kc9umr] attached some adapters and an antenna to his cable modem he was able to demonstrate it to great effect.
While it’s somewhat down to luck as to whether or not any given modem will grant access to this feature, for the ones that do it seems like a powerful and cheap tool. It’s agnostic to platform, so any computer on the network can access it easily, and compared to an RTL-SDR it has a wider range. There are some limitations, but for the price it can’t be beat which will cost under $50 in parts unless you happen to need two inputs like this analyzer .
Thanks to [Ezra] for the tip!
As computers became more popular in the late 80s and into the 90s, they vastly changed their environments. Of course the technological changes were obvious, but plenty of other things changed to accommodate this new technology as well. For example, furniture started to include design elements to accommodate the desktop computer, with pass-through ports in the back of the desks to facilitate cable management. While these are less common features now there are plenty of desks still have them, this 3D printed design modernizes them in a simple yet revolutionary way.
While these ports may have originally hosted thick VGA cables, parallel printer cables (if they would fit), and other now-obsolete wiring, modern technology uses simpler, smaller solutions. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t any less in need of management, though. This print was designed to hold these smaller wires such as laptop chargers, phone chargers, and other USB cables inside the port. A cap on the top of the print keeps everything hidden until it is lifted by hand, where a cable can be selected and pulled up to the top of the desk.
While it might seem like a simple project at first, the elegance of this solution demonstrates excellent use of design principles and a knack for integrating slightly older design decisions with modern technology. If you have a 3D printer and a cable management port on your desk, the print is available on Thingiverse. Not every project needs a complicated solution to solve a problem, like this automatic solar tracker we recently saw which uses no complicated electronics or algorithms to reliably point itself at the sun.