Hackaday Links: May 19, 2019

Cheap nostalgia, that’s the name of the game. If you can somehow build and ship ‘cheap nostalgia’, you’re going to be raking in the bucks. For the ‘musicians’ in the crowd, the king of cheap nostalgia has something great. Behringer is cloning the Yamaha CS-80. and it was announced at this month’s Superbooth.

The Yamaha CS-80 is the synth in Blade Runner, and since Toto’s Africa is making a comeback on top-40 radio, it’s the instrument of our time. A Wonderful Christmas Time, it seems. Aaaannnyway, yes, there might be a huge and inexpensive version of one of the greatest synthesizers ever made real soon. The cheap 808s and 909s are making their way to stores soon, and the 101 needs a firmware update but you can buy it now. Cheap nostalgia. That’s how you do it.

The PiDP-11/70 is a project we’ve been neglecting for some time, which is an absolute shame. This is a miniature simulation of what is objectively the best-looking minicomputer of all time, the PDP-11/70. This version is smaller, though, and it runs on a Pi with the help of SimH. There are injection molded switches, everything is perfect, and now there are a whole bunch of instructional videos on how to get a PiDP-11/70 up and running. Check it out, you want this kit.

Considering you can put a phone screen in anything, and anyone can make a keyboard, it’s a wonder no one is making real, well-designed palmtop computers anymore. The Vaio P series of PCs would be great with WiFi, Bluetooth, and a slight upgrade in memory and storage. This was [NFM[‘s recent project. This palmtop gets an SSD. The object of modification is a decade-old Sony Vaio CPCP11 palmtop modified with a 256 GB SSD. The Vaio only supports PATA, and the SSD is mSATA, so this is really a project of many weird adapters that also have to be built on flex connectors.

Here’s something for the brain trust in the Hackaday comments. First, take a look at this picture. It’s the inside of a rotary encoder. On the top, you have a Gray code (or what have you) that tracks the absolute position of a shaft. On the bottom, you have some sort of optical detection device with 13 photodiodes (or something) that keeps track of each track in the Gray code. This is then translated to some output, hopefully an I2C bus. What is this device, circled in red? I know what it is — it’s an optical decoder, but that phrase is utterly ungooglable, unmouserable, and undigikeyable. If you were me, what would you use to build your own custom absolute rotary encoder and you only needed the sensor? I technically only need 10 tracks/sensors/resolution of 1024, but really I only need a name.

Lol, someone should apply to Y Combinator and pitch yourself as a B Corp.

This is the Raspberry Pi Mini Laptop that We Want

In the seven years since the Raspberry Pi was first launched to an expectant audience we have seen many laptops featuring the fruit-themed single board computers. Some of them have been pretty jaw-dropping in their quality, so for a new one to make us stop and gape it needs to be something really special. On cue, here comes [Igor Brkić] with one of the neatest efforts we’ve seen, a high quality Pi laptop that’s smaller in frontal area than many smartphones.

At its heart is a Pimoroni Hyperpixel touchscreen HAT, and a Pi sitting behind it that has been stripped of all bulky connectors to reduce its height. The keyboard is a mini Bluetooth affair, and power comes courtesy of a deconstructed USB power bank with a lithium-ion pouch cell. The whole is contained within a neatly designed 3D-printed clamshell enclosure, making for a tiny and very neat laptop. We want one, and now you probably do too. (We wouldn’t say “no” to some level shifters and a GPIO port…)

If we had to pick another high-quality Pi laptop to compare this one with, it would have to be this one with a Psion-inspired hinge.

Hackaday Links: December 3, 2017

Remember the Psion? Back when PDAs were a thing, the Psion was the best you could get. It was, effectively, a palm-top computer with a real qwerty keyboard. It didn’t have Bluetooth, it couldn’t browse the web, and it didn’t have WiFi, but this was an AA-powered productivity machine that could fit in your pocket. Now there’s a new palmtop from Psion engineers. The Gemini PDA is basically a smartphone with a real keyboard that runs Ubuntu. It’s also has a smaller battery than other devices with this form factor, meaning the TSA thinks it’s a smartphone. This thing is going to be cool.

TechShop, Inc. has reached an agreement to sell the company to TechShop 2.0, LLC. New ownership seeks to re-open, continue running makerspaces. Details coming soon.

Arcade monitors are cool, and vector monitors are even cooler. [Arcade Jason] created a gigantic 36″ vector monitor. It’s thirty-six inches of Gravitar, in all its vector glory.

A few links posts ago, I pointed out someone was selling really awesome, really cheap LED panels on eBay. I got my ten panels, and [Ian Hanschen] bought sixty or some other absurd amount. Now, these panels are going for $300 for a 10-pack instead of $50. Sorry about that. Nevertheless, the reverse engineering adventure is still ongoing, and eventually, someone is going to play Mario on these things.

The ESP32 is finding its way into all sorts of consumer electronics. Check this thing out. It’s an ESP32, four buttons, and a circular display. If you want to make your own Nest thermostat, or anything else that needs an awesome circular display, there you go.

Speaking of circular displays, are there any non-CRT displays that come with a polar coordinate system? Every circular LCD or OLED I’ve ever seen uses a Cartesian system, which doesn’t really make sense when you can’t see 30% of the pixels.

Hold the phone, this is far too clever. [Eduardo] needed to flash an ESP-12 module before soldering it onto a PCB. The usual way of doing this is with an absurd pogo pin jig. You know what’s cheaper than pogo pins? Safety pins. Clever overwhelming.

Turn That Old Tablet Into A Sub-$100 Linux Laptop

Tiny laptops have always been devices that promise so much, yet fail somehow to deliver. From the Atari Portfolio palmtops through to the recent crop of netbooks they have been either eye-wateringly expensive if they are any good, or so compromised by their size constraints as to be next-to-useless. We’ve seen DOS, EPOC, Windows, WinCE, Palm OS, Linux distros and more in tiny form factors over the years, yet few have made a significant mark.

The prospect of a “proper” computer in your hand isn’t something to abandon just yet though. We are now reaching the point at which the previous generation of higher-end Android tablets are both acceptably powerful and sufficiently numerous as to be available at a very reasonable price. Perhaps these can provide the tiny laptop seeker with a basis for something useful. [NODE] certainly thinks so, because he’s produced a nice little Ubuntu laptop using a second-hand Nexus 7 tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard case. Android is replaced with an Ubuntu image, and a cardboard cut-out display bezel is held in place with magnetic strips. A step-by-step guide has been put up to help others interested in following the same path.

This is not the most amazing of hardware hacks, in that it involves mostly off-the-shelf items and a piece of software. However it’s worth a look because it does provide a route to a very acceptable little Linux laptop for an extremely reasonable price. One concern is that the Ubuntu version seems not to be a recent one, however we’re sure readers will point at any newer distribution builds in the comments. If you fancy a look at the finished laptop he’s posted a video which we’ve included below the break.

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