Hackaday Links: July 12, 2020

Based in the US as Hackaday is, it’s easy to overload the news with stories from home. That’s particularly true with dark tales of the expanding surveillance state, which seem to just get worse here on a daily basis. So we’re not exactly sure how we feel to share not one but two international stories of a dystopian bent; one the one hand, pleased that it’s not us for a change, but on the other, sad to see the trend toward less freedom and more monitoring spreading.

The first story comes from Mexico, where apparently everything our community does will soon be illegal. We couch that statement because the analysis is based on Google translations of reports from Mexico, possibly masking the linguistic nuances that undergird legislative prose. So we did some digging and it indeed appears that the Mexican Senate approved a package of reforms to existing federal copyright laws that will make it illegal to do things like installing a non-OEM operating system on a PC, or to use non-branded ink cartridges in a printer. Reverse engineering ROMs will be right out too, making any meaningful security research illegal. There appear to be exceptions to the law, but those are mostly to the benefit of the Mexican government for “national security purposes.” It’ll be a sad day indeed for Mexican hackers if this law is passed.

The other story comes from Germany, where a proposed law would grant sweeping surveillance powers to 19 state intelligence bodies. The law would require ISPs to install hardware in their data centers that would allow law enforcement to receive data and potentially modify it before sending it on to where it was supposed to go. So German Internet users can look forward to state-sponsored man-in-the-middle attacks and trojan injections if this thing passes.

OK, time for a palate cleanser: take an hour to watch a time-lapse of the last decade of activity of our star. NASA put the film together from data sent back by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite that has been keeping an eye on the Sun from geosynchronous orbit since 2010. Each frame of the film is one hour of solar activity, which may sound like it would be boring to watch, but it’s actually quite interesting and very relaxing. There are exciting moments, too, like enormous solar eruptions and the beautiful but somehow terrifying lunar transits. More terrifying still is a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) captured in June 2011. A more subtle but fascinating phenomenon is the gradual decrease in the number of sunspots over the decade as the Sun goes through its normal eleven-year cycle.

You’ll recall that as a public service to our more gear-headed readers that we recently covered the recall of automotive jack stands sold at Harbor Freight, purveyor of discount tools in the USA. Parts for the jack stands in question had been cast with a degraded mold, making the pawls liable to kick out under load and drop the vehicle, with potentially catastrophic results for anyone working beneath. To their credit, Harbor Freight responded immediately and replaced tons of stands with a new version. But now, Harbor Freight is forced to recall the replacement stands as well, due to a welding error. It’s an embarrassment, to be sure, but to make it as right as possible, Harbor Freight is now accepting any of their brand jack stands for refund or store credit.

And finally, if you thought that the experience of buying a new car couldn’t be any more miserable, wait till you have to pay to use the windshield wipers. Exaggeration? Perhaps only slightly, now that BMW “is planning to move some features of its new cars to a subscription model.” Plans like that are common enough as cars get increasingly complex infotainment systems, or with vehicles like Teslas which can be upgraded remotely. But BMW is actually planning on making options such as heated seats and adaptive cruise control available only by subscription — try it out for a month and if you like it, pay to keep them on for a year. It would aggravate us to no end knowing that the hardware supporting these features had already been installed and were just being held ransom by software. Sounds like a perfect job for a hacker — just not one in Mexico.

Planned Obsolescence Isn’t A Thing, But It Is Your Fault

The common belief is that big companies are out to get the little people by making products that break after a short period, or with substantially new features or accessories that make previous models obsolete, requiring the user to purchase a new model. This conspiracy theory isn’t true; there’s a perfectly good explanation for this phenomenon, and it was caused by the consumers, not the manufacturers.

When we buy the hottest, shiniest, smallest, and cheapest new thing we join the wave of consumer demand that is the cause of what often gets labelled as “Planned Obsolescence”. In truth, we’re all to blame for the signals our buying habits send to manufacturers. Dig in and get your flamewar fingers fired up.

Continue reading “Planned Obsolescence Isn’t A Thing, But It Is Your Fault”

Failed Tool Turned Exploded Wall Art

Few things hit a hacker or maker harder than when a beloved tool goes to that Big Toolbox In The Sky. It can be hard to trash something that’s been with you through countless repairs and teardowns, made all the worse by the fact most employers don’t recognize “Tool Bereavement” as a valid reason to request time off. Maybe next time one of your trusty pieces of gear gives up the ghost, you can follow the example set by [usuallyplesent] and turn it into a piece of art to hang up on the shop wall.

The shop had gotten years of daily service out of this air powered angle die grinder (not bad for a $14 Harbor Freight tool), and he thought they should immortalize it in their waiting room by turning it into an interesting piece of art. After all, it’s not everyday that some folks see the insides of the sort of tools the more mechanically inclined of us may take for granted.

After taking the grinder apart and cleaning everything up, [usuallyplesent] decided to simplify things a bit by tossing out the assorted tiny components like seals and washers. By just focusing on the larger core components, the exploded view is cleaner and reminds us of a light saber cutaway.

Using a piece of scrap cardboard, [usuallyplesent] made templates for all of the major pieces of the grinder and used that to sketch out the placement and spacing on the white background. He then cut out each shape so the parts would be partially recessed into the board. This gives the effect that each piece was cut down the middle lengthwise but without all the hassle of actually cutting everything down the middle lengthwise.

We’ve previously seen similar displays made out of dissected consumer electronics, but there’s something rather personal about doing the same thing for a well-used tool. If any of our beloved readers feel inspired to enshrine a dead multimeter into a shadow box over the bench, be sure to let us know.

[via /r/justrolledintotheshop]

Automatic Dust Collection For The Whole Shop

If you’ve got a woodworking area, or even if you’ve just got something that really churns out dust like a belt sander or table saw, there’s an excellent chance you hate sawdust with a passion. It gets all over your clothes, jams up everything mechanical, and as a fun little bonus can be explosive if not handled properly. Thankfully newer tools tend to come with their own dust collection bags (back in the old days, you weren’t really a man unless you were coughing up wood fibers), but if you’ve got a half a dozen tools with half a dozen different dust bags you’ve got to empty, that can get pretty annoying.

Especially if you take woodworking as seriously as [Brad Wright] does. Over on his YouTube channel [DIY Builds], he quickly runs through the construction of a whole-shop dust collection system with some very neat features. Not everyone needs a system this intricate, but the tips and tricks he shows off during the build are great and can certainly be adapted to less grandiose setups.

Dust collection connector with closeable gate
One of the scratch-built gates.

[Brad] goes into a bit more detail in this gallery, revealing that the heart of the build is a Harbor Freight dust collection system that he modified into a cyclone separator. Big chunks fall down into the 55 gallon bucket, and what’s left gets blown out of the shop via a louvered vent through an exterior wall. An intricate system of 4 inch PVC pipe is then used to connect up each individual machine’s dust collection port. Even individual hand sanders get into the act via a three way manifold. His table saw lacked a dust port, so he enclosed the motor with a piece of plywood and made his own.

One of the most interesting aspects of the build is the scratch-built blast gates. These are essentially valves which open and close the different sections of the PVC where they mate to the individual stations. This prevents the dust collection system from wasting suction by trying to pull from all the stations at once when only one is in use at any given time. [Brad] even wired up the blast gates with switches that will turn the dust collection system on when the gate is open, and off when it’s closed.

This isn’t the first time we’ve covered the lengths people will go to rid their shop of dust. Cyclone dust separators are an especially popular build, using everything from sheet metal to 3D printed parts.

Continue reading “Automatic Dust Collection For The Whole Shop”

Drill Press To Mill Conversion

Every time we look at the little short Z axis of our CNC mill, we think about converting a drill press to a mill. In theory, it seems like it ought to be easy, but we never quite get around to it. [AvE] did get around to it and made his usual entertaining video about it that you can see below. If you haven’t seen any of [AvE’s] videos before, be warned: there is a little colorful language in a spot or two.

This isn’t a CNC mill, by the way, although we suspect you could convert it. Essentially, he adds a spindle and an XY table to a Ryobi drill press. It sounds simple, but getting everything to work did take a few tricks, including a blow torch.

Actually, turns out the blow torch didn’t really do it, but we won’t spoil the final resolution to the problem. Once it was resolved, though, he did manage to do some actual milling, accompanied by some music we wouldn’t associate with [AvE].

Although billed as a “poor man’s” build, the XY table alone was about $200. So add in the cost of the drill press, the spindle, and the mill and this is still a fair chunk of cash. We’d love to see it compared to a Harbor Freight milling vise. We suspect the Harbor Freight vise might not be as good, but is the difference worth the $130 difference in price?

We’ve seen this kind of conversion done before without the colorful language. If you do this conversion and want some practice, why not build a magnetic carabiner?

Metalworking Hacks Add Functionality To Snap-On Tool Chest

Problem: you’re a student mechanic and you’ve already poured a ton of money into a Snap-On roller cabinet loaded with the tools of the trade, but you still need sensible storage for your cordless tools. Solution: a DIY version of Snap-On’s PowerCab cordless tool station at a fraction of the cost.

rnqvgsoMechanics seem to have a love-hate relationship with Snap-On tools. Some love the brand, others hate it, but the majority seem to hate that they love the tools. It sounds like [GenTQ] reached her limit on brand loyalty when even her 50% student discount wasn’t enough to entice her to add Snap-On’s admittedly very cool KRL1099 cabinet for cordless drivers and chargers. So it was off to Harbor Freight for their seven-drawer side cabinet for less than $200. The cabinet was gutted of drawers, a frame for the new slide-out was welded up, and sheet steel was fabricated into organizer shelves and a new drawer front. A power strip and drag-chain were added to feed the chargers, and the new drawer went off to the powder coater for a matching paint job.

It may not have the Snap-On badge, and purists may cringe at the mixed-marriage with Horror Fright, but we like the results just fine. And she saved something like $1200 in the process. We think Harbor Freight gets a bad rap, deservedly so for some tools, but there are hidden gems amid the dross just ripe for the hacking, as [GenTQ] ably shows.

[via r/DIY]

Cheap Chainsaw Teardown Reveals Buried Treasures

People seem to have a love-hate relationship with Harbor Freight, and it mostly seems that they love to hate the purveyor of discount tools. This is not without cause — any number of HF tools have fallen apart in our hands. But there are some gems to be found amid the dregs and dross of your local branch of the 700-store US chain, as long as you match the tool to your needs and manage your expectations.

Now, we’d normally shy away from any electric chainsaw, especially a cordless saw, and doubly so a Harbor Freight special. But as [Professor Charles] demonstrates with his detailed and humorous teardown, the Lynxx 40-volt cordless 14″ chainsaw might be worth picking up just for harvesting parts. First there’s the battery pack, which is chock full of 18650 lithium cells. [Professor Charles] leads us on a detailed tour of the design compromises of the battery and charger and is none too impressed with either, but he clearly understands what it means to build to a price point. While [Charles] found the stock motor controller somewhat anemic, the real buried treasure in the tool is a huge brushless motor, powerful enough to “throw an 8-inch Vise Grip at you” during a (not so) locked rotor test.

The whole teardown is enlightening as to the engineering decisions that go into mass-market tools, so even if you can’t think of something to do with this motor, the article is worth a read. At $169 for the Lynxx (before the 20% coupon in your Sunday paper every week) it’s a little pricey to buy just to harvest parts, but it wouldn’t be the first HF tool to suffer that fate. We’ll bet these things will start showing up broken on the secondary market for a song, and if the [Professor]’s assessments are right, it likely won’t be the motors that fail.