Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: March 20, 2022

Well, that de-escalated quickly! It was less than a week ago that the city of Shenzhen, China was put on lockdown due to a resurgence of COVID-19 in the world’s electronics manufacturing epicenter. This obviously caused no small amount of alarm up and down the electronics supply chain, promising to once again upset manufacturers seeking everything from PCBs to components to complete electronic assemblies. But just a few days later, the Chinese government announced that the Shenzhen lockdown was over. At least partially, that is — factories and public transportation have been reopened in five of the city’s districts, with iPhone maker Foxconn, one of the bigger players in Shenzhen, given the green light to partially reopen. What does this mean for hobbyists’ ability to get cheap PCBs made quickly? That’s hard to say, at least at this point. Please feel free to share your experiences with any supply chain disruptions in the comments below.

Better news from a million miles away, as NASA announced that the James Webb Space Telescope finished the first part of its complex mirror alignment procedure. The process, which uses the complex actuators built into each of the 18 hexagonal mirror segments, slightly moves each mirror to align them all into one virtual optical surface. The result is not only the stunning “selfie” images we’ve been seeing, but also a beautiful picture of the star Webb has been focusing on as a target. The video below explains the process in some detail, along with sharing that the next step is to move the mirrors in and out, or “piston” them, so that the 18 separate wavefronts all align to send light to the instruments in perfect phase. Talk about precision!

Is a bog-standard Raspberry Pi just not tough enough for your application? Do you need to run DOOM on a  platform that can take a few g of vibration and still keep working? Sick of your Pi-based weather station breaking own when it gets a little wet or too hot? Then you’ll want to take a look at the DuraCOR Pi, a ruggedized chassis containing a Pi CM4 that’s built for extreme environments. The machine is in a tiny IP67-rated case and built to MIL-STD specs with regard to vibration, temperature, humidity, and EMI conditions. This doesn’t really seem like something aimed at the hobbyist market — it’s marketed by Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, a defense contractor that traces its roots all the way back to a couple of bicycle mechanics from Ohio that learned how to fly. So this Pi is probably more like something you’d spec if you were building a UAV or something like that. Still, it’s cool to know such things are out there.

BrainLubeOnline has a fun collection of X-rays. With the exception of a mouse — the other kind — everything is either electronic or mechanical, which makes for really interesting pictures. Seeing the teeth on a gear or the threads on a screw, and seeing right through the object, shows the mechanical world in a whole new light — literally.

And finally, would you buy a car that prevents you from opening the hood? Most of us probably wouldn’t, but then again, most of us probably wouldn’t buy a Mercedes EQS 580 electric sedan. Sarah from Sarah -n- Tuned on YouTube somehow got a hold of one of these babies, which she aptly describes as a “German spaceship,” and took it for a test drive, including a “full beans” acceleration test. Just after that neck-snapping ride, at about the 7:20 mark in the video below, she asks the car’s built-in assistant to open the hood, a request the car refused by saying, “The hood may only be opened by a specialist workshop.”  Sarah managed to get it open anyway, and it’s not a frunk — it’s home to one of the two motors that power the car, along with all kinds of other goodies.

New Cars Will Nickel-and-Dime You – It’s Automotive As A Service

Every few years, someone pushing a startup to investors comes up with an acronym or buzzword which rapidly becomes the new hotness in those circles. One of the most pernicious is “as a Service,” which takes regular things and finds a way to charge you a regular fee to use them.

Automotive companies just absolutely loved the sound of this, and the industry is rapidly moving to implement subscription services across the board. Even if there’s hardware in your car for a given feature, you might find you now need to pay a monthly fee to use it. Let’s explore how this came about, and talk about which cars are affected. You might be surprised to find yours already on the list.
Continue reading “New Cars Will Nickel-and-Dime You – It’s Automotive As A Service”

The Case Of The Mysterious Driveline Noise

Spend enough time on the automotive classifieds and you’ll end up finding a deal that’s too good to pass up. The latest of these in one’s own case was a Mercedes-Benz sedan, just past its twentieth birthday and in surprisingly tidy condition. At less than $3,000, the 1998 E240 was too good to pass up and simply had to be seen.

The car in question. Clean bodywork is too tempting to resist, even if there are mechanical issues.

The car was clean, too clean for asking price. Of course, a test drive revealed the car had one major flaw – an annoying hum from the drivetrain that seemed to vary with speed. Overall though, mechanical problems are often cheaper and easier to fix than bodywork, so a gamble was taken on the German sedan. The first order of business was to diagnose and rectify the issue.

Characterise, Research, Investigate

The first step to hunting down any noise is to characterise it as much as possible. In this case, the noise was most noticeable when the car was traveling at speeds from 40 km/h – 60 km/h, present as a vibrational humming noise. The location of the noise source was unclear. Importantly, the noise varied with the speed of the car, raising in pitch at higher speeds and dropping as speeds decreased. Engine speed had no effect on noise whatsoever, and the noise was present regardless of gear selected in the transmission, including neutral. Continue reading “The Case Of The Mysterious Driveline Noise”

Mercedes Split Turbo Was A Game Changer In Formula 1

In 2014, Formula 1 switched away from V8 engines, electing instead to mandate all teams race with turbocharged V6 engines of 1.6 litres displacement, fitted with advanced energy recovery systems. The aim was to return Formula 1 to having some vague notion of relevance to modern road car technologies, with a strong focus on efficiency. This was achieved by mandating maximum fuel consumption for races, as well as placing a heavy emphasis on hybrid technology.

The Mercedes W05 Hybrid was the first of 7 championship-winning F1 cars from the British-based, German-funded team. It quickly showed the value of the team’s split-turbo technology.

Since then, Mercedes have dominated the field in what is now known as the turbo-hybrid era. The German team has taken home every drivers and constructors championship since, often taking home the crown well before the season is over. Much has been made of the team’s engine as a key part of this dominance, widely considered to be more powerful and efficient than the competition at all but a few select races in the last seven years, and much of the credit goes to the company’s innovative split-turbo system. Today, we’ll explore why the innovation was such a game changer in Formula 1.

Continue reading “Mercedes Split Turbo Was A Game Changer In Formula 1”

Upgraded Infotainment Options On A 14 Year Old Mercedes

It used to be that upgrading a car stereo was fairly simple. There were only a few mechanical sizes and you could find kits to connect power, antennas, and speakers. Now, though, the car stereo has interfaces to steering wheel controls, speed sensors, rear-view cameras, and more. [RND_ASH] was tired of his 14-year-old system so he took an Android head unit, a tablet, and an Arduino, and made everything work as it was supposed to.

The key is to interface with the vehicle’s CAN bus which is a sort of local area network for the vehicle. Instead of having lots of wires running everywhere, today’s cars are more likely to have less wiring all shared with many devices.

Continue reading “Upgraded Infotainment Options On A 14 Year Old Mercedes”

Hacking A Pint-Sized Mercedes

[Jonas] bought an electric Mercedes “ride on” toy for his one-year-old son. At least that’s his story. However, the vehicle has become a target for dad’s obsession with hacking and he’s already done quite a few upgrades. Even better, he did quite a bit of analysis on what’s already there. He isn’t done, but he’s promised quite a bit in the next installment which isn’t out yet.

The original car can take a driver or it can use remote control. [Jonas] has an ambitious list of ideas, some of which are still not complete:

  • Speed along with softer acceleration and braking
  • Improve the radio controller
  • Proper rubber tires
  • Proper stereo system
  • Individual brake disks on the front wheels
  • Improved horn
  • Proper seat belt or maybe even a new seat

Continue reading “Hacking A Pint-Sized Mercedes”