Hackaday Links: April 21, 2019

A Russian company has developed a drone with a very interesting control scheme. It’s a VTOL fixed wing, that takes off like a bicopter, transitions to use wings for lift, flies around for half an hour or so, and then lands on its tail. This is a big ‘un; the reported weight is 50 pounds. Although the available footage really doesn’t give any sense of scale, we would estimate the wingspan as somewhere between four and five feet. Fixed-wing VTOLs are close to the holy grail of current drone science — wings actually generate lift, and VTOL means Uber can deliver McDonalds to your driveway.

What happens when you give an idiot a USB killer? $60,000 in damages. A former student at the College of St. Rose killed 59 computers with a USB killer, basically a charge pump that dumps a hundred or so volts back into a USB port, destroying the computer. Yes, you can just buy USB killers on the Internet, and yes you can film yourself zapping computers and posting the videos on social media. Both are dumb ideas.

This week was huge for the preservation of our digital culture. The source for the original Infocom games, such as Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy have been archived and released. This is a rather interesting development, as these games were written in Zork Implementation Lanugage (ZIL), a language that is used by no one and there’s almost zero documentation. Yes, we have the source, but not a compiler. It’s Lisp-ish, and there are people working to make new games in this language. Also this week is the release of the source for Leisure Suit Larry. Hackaday readers will be familiar with Leisure Suit Larry as the protagonist is a 38-year-old loser who lives in his mother’s basement. This game goes off the rails when the protagonist decides to leave the basement, but it was written a long time ago, and I guess Al Lowe didn’t foresee the Internet or something. Tip of the very fancy hat to @textfiles here.

You in Jersey? The Vintage Computer Festival East is May 3-5th, and it’s bound to be a grand time. Keynotes are by Steve Bellovin, co-inventor of USENET, Ken Thompson (!), co-inventor of UNIX, and Joe Decuir, co-inventor of the Atari VCS, Atari 800, and the Commodore Amiga. There’s also a Software Store (new this year), which we can only hope is like walking into Babbage’s. Protip: while you’re there, go up to Asbury Park and visit the Silverball Museum. It’s a whole lot of pinball.

For easier production and assembly of circuit boards, you should only place your components on one side. Doing so means you don’t have to flip the board and run it through the pick and place again, and you don’t have to worry about glue. This is a single-sided circuit board. There’s only one side. It’s a Mobius PCB, the flex-circuit version of a handmade circuit board made with a conductive pen.

Hackaday Links: March 31, 2019

You can now make flexible circuit boards of unlimited length. Trackwise was contracted out for making a wiring harness for the wing of a UAV and managed to ship a 26 meter long flexible printed circuit board. This is an interesting application of the technology — UAVs are very weight sensitive and wiring harnesses are heavy. Wings are straight, but they flex, and you need wires going from tip to tip. Flex circuits do all of this well, but first you need a technology that allows you to manufacture circuits that are as long as a wing. This is apparently something called ‘reel-to-reel’ technology, or some variant of continuous production. Either way, it’s cool, and we’re wondering what else this kind of circuit enables.

You may have noticed a few odd-shaped buildings going up in the last few years. These are buildings designed for indoor skydiving. Two went up around DC in the last year or so. What if you didn’t need a building? What if you could make an outdoor, vertical wind tunnel? Here you go, it’s the Aerodium Peryton.

KiCon, the first and largest gathering of hardware developers using KiCad, is happening April 26th in Chicago.

If KiCad isn’t your thing, PyCon is in Cleveland May 1-9. It couldn’t come at a better time: after losing LeBron, the Cleveland economy has plummeted 90%. Cleveland needs an industry now, and tech conferences are where it’s at. Go Browns.

For one reason or another, a few tech blogs wrote about a product on Tindie last week. It’s the SnapOnAir Raspberry Pi Zero PCB. This turns a Raspberry Pi Zero into a tiny, battery-powered handheld computer with a keyboard and display. This is just a PCB, and you’ll need to bring your own switches, display, and other various modules, but it is a compact device and if you need a small, handheld Linux thing, this is a pretty good solution.

Oh noes April Fools is tomorrow, which means the Internet will be terrible. Tip ‘o the hat to Redbox, though: they were the only one that sent out a press release to their waste of electrons by last Friday.

 

Repairing Flex Circuits By Accident

A while ago, [drygol] was asked to repair a few old Amiga keyboards. The key switches worked fine, but in the past decade or two, the flexible PCB ribbon connector has been mistreated, and was in an unworkable, nonfunctional state. The fragile traces underneath the green epoxy coating were giving way, but [drygol] found a few cool ways to repair these flex cables.

The end of this keyboard cable was beyond repair, but the Commodore engineers were gracious enough to leave a bit of slack in this keyboard connector. After cutting off the most damaged section, [drygol] had a strip of plastic, a few copper traces, and a green coating that had to be removed. The first attempt to remove this green covering used methanol, but that didn’t work. The next chemical attempt was with an epoxy solvent that contained nasty chemicals. This was applied to the end of the flex cable, with the remainder of the cable masked off by Kapton. It worked remarkably well.

In removing the Kapton masking tape, [drygol] discovered this green film sticks better to Kapton than it does to copper and plastic. A mechanical solution was found, allowing these keyboard cables to be easily repaired.

Of course, this was only half of the problems with these flexible circuits. Over the years, a few cracks appeared in the traces. To repair these broken traces, [drygol] turned to silver glue and a few laminations of Kapton to make this keyboard cable whole again. It worked, and the ancient keyboard was returned to service. Great work, and a fantastic observation for anyone with one of these keyboards sitting around: just grab a roll of Kapton to repair these circuits. It can’t get any easier than that.