Drops of Jupyter Notebooks: How to Keep Notes in the Information Age

Our digital world is so much more interactive than the paper one it has been replacing. That becomes very obvious in the features of Jupyter Notebooks. The point is to make your data beautiful, organized, interactive, and shareable. And you can do all of this with just a bit of simple coding.

We already leveraged computer power by moving from paper spreadsheets to digital spreadsheets, but they are limited. One thing I’ve seen over and over again — and occasionally been guilty of myself — is spreadsheet abuse. That is, using a spreadsheet program to do something I probably ought to write a program to do. For those times that you want something quick but want something more than a spreadsheet, you should check out Jupyter Notebooks. The system is most commonly associated with Python, but it isn’t Python-specific. There are over 100 languages supported — many community-developed. You can even install a C++ interpreter backend for it. Because of the client/server architecture, it is very simple to share notebooks with other users.

You can — in theory — use Jupyter for anything you could use Python for. In practice, it seems to get a lot of workout with people analyzing large data sets, doing machine learning, and similar tasks.

The Good: Simple, Powerful, Extensible

The idea is simple. Think of a Markdown-enabled web page that can connect to a backend (a kernel, in Jupyter-speak). The backend can run on your machine or remotely and will support some kind of language — often Python. The document has cells that line up vertically (like a single wide spreadsheet column). For example, here’s a simple notebook I created to explain how a bunch of sine waves add up to a square wave:

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Chris Gammell Talks Circuit Toolboxes

Chris Gammell wants to know: What’s in your circuit toolbox?

Personally, mine is somewhat understocked. I do know that in one of my journals, probably from back in the 1980s, I scribbled down a schematic of a voltage multiplier I had just built, with the classic diode and capacitor ladder topology. I probably fed it from a small bell transformer, and I might have gotten a hundred volts or so out of it. I was so proud at the time that I wrote it down for posterity with the note, “I made this today!”

I think the whole point of Chris’ 2018 Hackaday Superconference talk is precisely what I was trying to get at when I made my “discovery” — we all have circuits that just work for us, and the more you have, the better. Most readers will recognize Chris from such venues as The Amp Hour, a weekly podcast he hosts with Dave Jones, and his KiCad tutorial videos. Chris has been in electrical engineering for nearly twenty years now, and he’s picked up a collection of go-to circuits that keep showing up in his designs and making life easier, which he graciously shared with the crowd.

As Chris points out, it’s the little circuits that can make the difference. Slide after slide of his talk had schematics with no more than a handful of components in them, covering applications from dead-simple LED power indicators and switch debouncing to IO expansion using a 74HC595. And as any sensible engineer might, Chris’ toolbox includes a good selection of power protection circuits, everything from polarity reversal protection with a MOSFET and a zener to a neat little high-side driver shutoff using a differential amp and an optoisolator.

My favorite part of the talk was the “Codeless” section — things you can do with discrete components that make microcontroller circuits better. We see the “You could have used a 555!” comments from readers all the time, and Chris agrees, at least to a point. He aptly notes that microcontrollers can wake up with their IO pins in unknown states, and offered several circuits to keep the potential for mischief at bay, such as Schmitt trigger power-on reset or the simple addition of a pull-down resistor to default a MOSFET to a safe state. There’s a lot that code can accomplish, but adding just a few parts can make a circuit much safer and useful.

Chris acknowledges that in any audience, everyone is always at different places with regard to their hardware learning curve, so what’s old hat to someone might be a fresh revelation to another. Still, everything is new to someone at some point, and that’s often the best time to write it down. That’s what I did all those years ago with that voltage multiplier, and it never left me as a result. It’s good advice, and if you haven’t started building your own circuit toolbox, now’s the time.

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Easily Deboss Notebooks with a 3D Printed Stamp

While it’s arguably a bit closer to the “Arts & Crafts” region of the making spectrum upon which we don’t usually tread on account our l33t sense of superiority, we’ve got to admit that the quick and easy notebook customization demonstrated by [Sean Hodgins] is very compelling. We don’t put ink to dead trees with nearly the frequency we used to, but when we do it might as well be Hemingway-style with a little black Hackaday emblazoned notebook.

As demonstrated in the video after the break, the process starts by designing the stamp in your CAD package of choice. For optimal results [Sean] suggests fairly large capital letters, but with practice you should be able to get into some more creative fonts. Potentially you could even use the logo of your favorite hacking blog, but who are we to dictate what you do?

Whatever you chose, it needs to be mirrored and placed on a relatively thick backing. He recommends a 2 mm thick “plate” with the letters raised on top. You’ll want to print it at a high infill percentage, but even still it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes or so to run off. Remember there tends to be diminishing returns on infill past 50%, so taking it all the way to 100% is not going to do much but expend more time and plastic.

Once printed, [Sean] hot glues the stamp to a block of wood since putting pressure on the printed piece directly would likely crack it. Then it’s just a matter of getting your notebook, printed stamp, and blocks of wood lined up in to a suitably beefy bench vise. Getting everything aligned is one of those things that easier said than done, so expect to mess up the first couple until you get the hang of it.

When the alignment looks good, crank it down and let it sit for a few minutes. If you’re embossing the design into actual leather, wetting it a bit before putting the pressure on should help. The final effect is understated but undeniably very slick; and with the Holidays rapidly approaching this might be an excellent way to knock out some legitimately thoughtful gifts.

Ultimately the idea here is something of a lightweight version of the 3D printed press break dies used to bend aluminum or the punch and die set used for steel plates. At this point it seems there’s enough evidence to say that 3D printed objects are certainly strong enough (in compression, at least) to put some legitimate work in.

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Hacklet 125 – DIY Laptops

In the old days of the 1970’s, the only way to get your own computer was to build one from scratch. Thanks to an army of hackers like [Woz], PC’s are no commodity objects that can be bought for a couple of hundred dollars. The magic of building your own still is there though – especially when we’re talking about portable machines. Laptops, notebooks, netbooks take quite a bit of skill to assemble. Stuffing a keyboard, screen, and battery into a small clamshell case takes a bit of planning. Our last look at DIY laptops was exactly 100 Hacklets ago, so it’s time for a refresh. This week we’re checking out some of the best DIY laptops and portable computers on Hackaday.io!

piberryWe start with [Sahas Dinesh Chitlange] and Pi-Berry Laptop. [Sahas] found just the right mix of simple and elegant with this build. A Raspberry Pi 2 is the brains of the operation. The Pi sits in a case built from a mix of MDF and regular wood. The display is a 10.1″ HDMI LCD. The keyboard was pulled from a tablet case. Power was easy — a USB power bank provides enough for 4-5 hours of runtime. [Sahas] covered his laptop in Italian leather for a polished look. He planned out his parts layout well enough that the power-hungry Pi stays cool without a fan.

pivenaNext up is [Tim] with PIvena. [Tim] took his inspriation from [Bunnie Huang’s] Novena open laptop. Rather than roll his own ARM board, [Tim] went with a Raspberry Pi. His original design was for the Raspberry Pi model B. Last time we looked at PIvena, the model B+ was still pretty new. As we hoped, [Tim] modified his design to accept the new Pi layouts. This means it will physically work with the B+, Pi 2, and Pi 3 boards. [Tim] didn’t stop there though. He also upgraded from an 800 x 480 LCD to an 1200 x 800 LCD. He managed to do that while keeping the same bolt pattern on the travel cover. Nice work [Tim]!

elloNext we have [KnivD] with ELLO 2M. The most striking thing about ELLO 2M is the construction. The entire laptop is made from 6 PCBs which sandwich all the other parts. The keyboard is PCB material with keys routed out. The processor is a Microchip PIC32MX470-120. Software is loaded from one of 3 microSD cards. The 7 inch touchscreen LCD and 4500 mAh LiPo battery are nestled in between PCB layers. A true hacker, [KnivD] included a generous pin grid for debugging add-on circuits. The whole setup looks great with white silkscreen. As [Mark Sherman] mentioned in the comments, this machine reminds us of a modern-day TRS-80 Model 100.

pipdaFinally we have [pdrift86] with Mini rpi2 laptop. Palmtop might be a better name for this. [pdrift86] took his inspiration (and his keyboard) from the old HP Jornada Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). The housing is Masonite, cut from a clipboard. A Raspberry Pi 2 hides inside, along with a 4 cell 18650 Li-Ion battery. The screen is a 5″ LCD with a composite input. The display isn’t a touchscreen, so a Playstation Portable analog stick is on-board, and will eventually be connected for mouse control. [pdrift86] even managed to sneak the Pi camera on the back of his machine, so it can take pictures cellphone style.

If you want to see more DIY laptop projects, check out our new DIY Laptops notebooks, and portables list. Notice a project I might have missed? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

A steampunk combination sketchbook


[Admiral Aaron Ravensdale], fine craftsman of steampunk wares, just finished up a new project. It’s a sketchbook protected by two layers of security, covered in gilded leather and drenched in the expositions of a [Jules Verne] novel.

The first layer of security for this sketchbook is a combination lock. On the cover are four switches, each with four positions. These are connected to a PICAXE microcontroller which goes to the next stage of the lock once the correct combination is entered.

The book’s security also includes a knock sensor. With a small piezo element hidden under the cover, [Ravensdale] deeds to tap the book with a specific pattern before it opens. The mechanical part is a small hobby servo also mounted to the cover that releases a pair of brass clasps once both locks are opened.

Like all of the [Admiral]’s builds, it’s a fine piece of craftsmanship, equally well suited to take on a holiday with the baron or to the opium dens of Ceylon.

You can check out [Admiral Ravensdale]’s demo of his sketchbook after the break.

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Hackaday Links: July 25, 2012

Ever wonder what CPU dev boards look like?

In the realm of highly confidential hardware, it doesn’t get much more secret than upcoming CPUs coming out of Intel. Somehow, a few CPU dev boards wound up on eBay, and [Leon] was cool enough to save all the pictures (Polish, Google translation, or translate in the sidebar). There are a few ongoing auctions right now, but we’d settle for this LGA 1156 breakout board. So cool.

No, we’re not linking directly to the free stuff

TI is giving away a brushless motor controller powered by a Stellaris ARM processor. [Chris] says he’s ordering one to figure out how to make a Stellaris dev board out of the giveaway. This controller is designed for e-bikes, so at the very least we see a few ginormous UAVs in someone’s future.

More rocket stuff!

One of [Bill]’s older hacks was taking a CVS disposable digital camera (remember that?) and stuffing it into the nose code of an Estes D-powered rocket. There’s a ton of videos of the flights [Bill] put up on YouTube.

On another note, [CyberPunk] built a half-scale model of a swing-wing rocket launched glider (pics: 1, 2, 3, 4). He’s currently building the full-size version capable of carrying RC and video gear and wants some feedback.

So, CAD on a tablet?

[spuder] caught wind of a tablet-based engineering notebook a few people are working on. They’re looking for some feedback on their demo video. We think it’s cool – especially the ability to share stuff between devices – but CAD on a tablet makes us extremely skeptical. Tell them what you think; we’d love to see this make it to our phone.

Now if they only made one for editing WordPress posts….

Test-driven development just got cooler. Here’s a Tamagotchi for Eclipse that you ‘feed’ by going from red to green and refactoring your code. Be careful, because having the same code test as red twice will kill your little code ninja.

And now I’ll rant about you.

A few days ago, I posted [Becky Stern]’s light-up handlebars project, and one comment surprised me. Who says guys can’t sew? It’s time to confront the gender roles that show up whenever sewing is used in a project. I’m doing a tutorial on how to sew a parachute, but I need your help. It’ll be a two-parter: one on how to actually use a sewing machine, and another for how to make a ‘chute. Is there anything else you’d like to see?

Arduino notebook cover makes it easy to tinker anywhere


[Erv] was putting his holiday shopping list together and decided that instead of buying his friends something from the store, he would give them something a bit more useful. A former Electrical Engineer by trade, [Erv] typically prefers PIC microcontrollers, but he says that Arduinos are just so convenient to use for prototyping that he likes to always have one on hand.

He figured that his friends might enjoy having easy access to an Arduino as well, so he made them some slick ZapBook covers which enable them to have a prototyping platform on hand at all times. The cover is made from a PCB and includes a socket for an Arduino Pro Mini, along with a handful of built-in LEDs. He has extended a few other I/O pins from the Arduino as well, but he says that the small solder bridges connecting the LEDs can be removed in a pinch, freeing up 8 additional pins with ease. We are pretty keen on the idea of an easily portable prototyping setup, though it doesn’t hurt that [Erv] incorporated a Hack a Day skull with light up eyes into his design either!

We’re not sure if he’s planning on releasing the schematics for the board, but the notebooks would be pretty useful for any hackerspaces hosting beginner Arduino programming classes.