A Few Reasonable Rules For The Responsible Use Of New Technology

If there’s one thing which probably unites all of Hackaday’s community, it’s a love of technology. We live to hear about the very latest developments before anyone else, and the chances are for a lot of them we’ll all have a pretty good idea how they work. But if there’s something which probably annoys a lot of us the most, it’s when we see a piece of new technology misused. A lot of us are open-source enthusiasts not because we’re averse to commercial profit, but because we’ve seen the effects of monopolistic practices distorting the market with their new technologies and making matters worse, not better. After all, if a new technology isn’t capable of making the world a better place in some way, what use is it?

It’s depressing then to watch the same cycle repeat itself over and over, to see new technologies used in the service of restrictive practices for short-term gain rather than to make better products. We probably all have examples of new high-tech products that are simply bad, that are new technology simply for the sake of marketing, and which ultimately deliver something worse than what came before, but with more bling. Perhaps the worst part is the powerlessness,  watching gullible members of the public lapping up something shiny and new that you know to be flawed, and not being able to do anything about it.

Here at Hackaday though, perhaps there is something I can do about it. I don’t sit in any boardroom that matters but I do have here a soapbox on which to stand, and from it I can talk to you, people whose work takes you into many fascinating corners of the tech industry and elsewhere. If I think that new technologies are being used irresponsibly to create bad products, at least I can codify how that might be changed. So here are my four Rules For The Responsible Use Of New Technology, each with some examples. They should each be self-evident, and I hope you’ll agree with me. Continue reading “A Few Reasonable Rules For The Responsible Use Of New Technology”

Hall Sensors Offer Drop-In Replacement For Drifting Game Console Joysticks

No bananas were harmed in the making of this Hall effect drift-proof joystick replacement. OK, not really — two bananas were turned to mush. But it’s OK, they’re just bananas, after all.

Why bananas, you ask? Because [Marius Heier] uses them to demonstrate what we all intuitively know — that rubbing something over and over again tends to wear it away — but engineers seem to have forgotten. Wear such as this, with resistance material rather than fruits, is what causes the dreaded drift, a problem that the world collectively spends $20 billion a year dealing with, according to [Marius].

While numbers like that seem to be firmly in class-action lawsuit territory, sometimes it’s best to take matters into your own hands and not wait for the courts. The fix [Marius] shows here is to yank the potentiometers off a PS4 joystick and replace them with contactless Hall effect sensors. The end of the shaft for each axis gets a diametral neodymium magnet attached to it, while a 3D printed bracket holds a tiny custom PCB in close proximity. The PCB has an AS5600 Hall sensor, which translates the shaft angle to an analog voltage output. After programming the chip over its I2C bus, the sensor outputs a voltage proportional to the angle of each shaft, just like the original pots, but without all the wear and tear.

While [Marius] is selling these as drop-in replacements for PS4 controllers, he plans to release all the design files so you can build one yourself. He also has his sights set on replacements for PS5 and Xbox controllers, so watch for those. This isn’t his first foray into joystick hacking, having shared his 3D Hall effect and haptic feedback joysticks with us previously.

Continue reading “Hall Sensors Offer Drop-In Replacement For Drifting Game Console Joysticks”

A bike computer sits on a wooden background. The back of the bike computer has a 3D printed attachment with two white translucent zip ties running through the back.

Repairing A Bike GPS With 3D Printing

We love hacks that keep gadgets out of the trash heap, and [Brieuc du Maugouër] has us covered with this 3D printable replacement mount he designed for his bike GPS.

One of the most frustrating ways a gadget can fail is when a small, but critical part of the device fails. [du Maugouër] combined a 3D printed back and four M2x6mm screws to make a robust new mount to replace the broken OEM mount on his handlebar-mounted GPS. Slots for zip tie mounting are included in case the replacement mount breaks before yet another replacement can be printed. Apparently [du Maugouër] agrees with Chief O’Brien that “in a crunch, I wouldn’t like to be caught without a second backup.” [Youtube]

It’s exciting that we’re finally in a time when 3D printed replacement parts are living up to their potential. This would be a lot easier if more manufacturers posted 3D printed design files instead of getting them pulled from 3D file platforms, but makers will find a way regardless of OEM approval.

We’ve covered a lot of bike hacks over the years including DIY Bike Computers and GPS Trackers. Do you have a project that keeps something from becoming trash or might save the world another way? There’s still time to enter the Save the World Wildcard round of the Hackaday Prize (closes October 16th).

Fighting Back Against Dodgy Dyson Batteries

If you’ve ever worked with multi-cell rechargeable battery packs, you know that the individual cells will eventually become imbalanced. To keep the pack working optimally, each cell needs to be analyzed and charged individually — which is why RC style battery packs have a dedicated balance connector. So if you know it, and we know it, why doesn’t Dyson know it?

It’s that question which inspired [tinfever] to start work on the FU-Dyson-BMS project. As you might have surmised from the name, [tinfever] believes that Dyson has intentionally engineered their V6 and V7 batteries to fail by not using the cell balancing function of the onboard ISL94208 battery management IC. What’s worse, once the cells get as little as 300 mV out of balance, the controller considers the entire pack to be shot and will no longer allow it to be charged.

These missing resistors deserve justice.

Or at least, that’s what used to happen. With the replacement firmware [tinfever] has developed, the pack’s battery management system (BMS) will ignore imbalanced cells so you can continue to use the pack (albeit at a reduced capacity). Of course the ideal solution would have been to enable cell balancing on the ISL94208, but unfortunately Dyson didn’t include the necessary resistors on the PCB. Though it’s worth noting that earlier versions of the board did have unpopulated spots for them, lending some credence to the idea that their omission was intentional on Dyson’s part.

But not everyone is onboard with the conspiracy theory. Over on the EEVBlog forums, some users pointed out that a poorly implemented cell balancing routine can be more problematic than not having one at all. It’s possible that Dyson had some bad experiences with the technology in earlier packs, and decided to move away from it and try to compensate by using higher-quality cells. That said, at least one person in the thread was able to revive their own “dead” battery pack by installing this unofficial firmware, so whether intentional or not, it seems there’s little debate that usable batteries are indeed being prematurely marked as defective.

Proper cell balancing is key even in DIY projects, so we do have to agree that it seems more than a little unusual that Dyson would intentionally turn off this important feature in their packs. But the jury is still out on whether or not Sir James is trying to pull a fast one on his customers — as Hanlon’s Razor states, “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

Continue reading “Fighting Back Against Dodgy Dyson Batteries”

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: February 20, 2022

Sounds like somebody had a really bad day at work, as Western Digital reports that “factory contamination” caused a batch of flash memory chips to be spoiled. How much, you ask? Oh, only about 7 billion gigabytes! For those of you fond of SI prefixes, that’s 7 exabytes of storage; to put that into perspective, it’s seven times what Google used for Gmail storage in 2012, and enough to store approximately 1.69 trillion copies of Project Gutenberg’s ASCII King James Version Bible. Very few details were available other than the unspecified contamination of two factories, but this stands poised to cause problems with everything from flash drives to phones to SSDs, and will probably only worsen the ongoing chip shortage. And while we hate to be cynical, it’ll probably be prudent to watch out for any “too good to be true” deals on memory that pop up on eBay and Ali in the coming months.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: February 20, 2022”

Low-Tech Fix Saves Expensive, High-Tech TV From Junk Pile

Wiggling this connector caused the backlight to turn off and on.

[Tweepy]’s TV stopped working, and the experience is a brief reminder that if a modern appliance fails, it is worth taking a look inside because the failure might be something simple. In this case, the dead TV was actually a dead LED backlight, and the fix was so embarrassingly simple that [Tweepy] is tempted to chalk it up to negligently poor DFM (design for manufacture) at best, or even some kind of effort at planned obsolescence at worst.

What happened is this: the TV appeared to stop working, but one could still make out screen content while shining a bright light on the screen. Seeing this, [Tweepy] deduced that the backlight had failed, and opened up the device to see if it could be repaired. However, the reason for the backlight failure was a surprise. It was not the power supply, nor even any of the LEDs themselves; the whole backlight wouldn’t turn on because of a cheap little PCB-to-PCB connector, and the two small spring contacts inside that had failed.

The failed connector, once cut open, showed contacts in poor condition (click to enlarge). It was ditched for a soldered connection, and the TV lived again.

From the outside things looked okay, but wiggling the connector made the backlight turn on and off, so the connection was clearly bad. Investigating further, [Tweepy] saw that the contact points of the PCBs and the two little conductors inside the connector showed clear signs of arcing and oxidation, leading to a poor connection that eventually failed, resulting in a useless TV. The fix wasn’t to clean the contacts; the correct fix was to replace the connector with a soldered connection.

Using that cheap little connector doubtlessly saved some assembly time at the factory, but it also led to failure within a fairly short amount of time. Had [Tweepy] not been handy with a screwdriver (or not bothered to investigate) the otherwise working TV would doubtlessly have ended up in a landfill.

It serves as a good reminder to make some time to investigate failures of appliances, even if one’s repair skills are limited, because the problem might be a simple one. Planned obsolescence is a tempting doorstep upon which to dump failures like this, but a good case can be made that planned obsolescence isn’t really a thing, even if manufacturers compromising products in one way or another certainly is.

Defeating Fridge DRM With Duct Tape And A Dremel

We love writing about DRM here at Hackaday. Because when we do, it usually means someone found a way to circumvent the forced restrictions laid upon by a vendor, limiting the use of a device we thought is ours once we bought it. The device in question this time: the water filter built into GE’s fridges that would normally allow its “owner” to pour a refreshing glass of cold water. Except the filter is equipped with an RFID tag and an expiration, which will eventually deny you that little luxury. And if that’s already a feature, you can bet it won’t just let you insert any arbitrary filter as replacement either.

Enraged by every single aspect of that, [Anonymous] made a website to vent the frustration, and ended up tearing the culprit apart and circumvent the problem, with a little help from someone who was in the same situation before. As it turns out, the fridge comes with a “bypass filter” that is just a piece of plastic to fit in place of the actual filter, to pour unfiltered, but still cold water. That bypass filter is also equipped with an RFID tag, so the reader will recognize it as a special-case filter, which luckily enough doesn’t have an expiration counter.

The general idea is to take out that bypass filter’s RFID tag and place it on a generic, way cheaper filter to trick the fridge into thinking it simply doesn’t have a filter in the first place, while still enjoying the filters actual functionality. However, this might not be the most stable solution if the tag isn’t placed in the exact position. Also, retrieving the tag in the first place proved tricky, and [Anonymous] initially ended up with nothing but the antenna pad, while the tag itself remained sturdily glued into the plastic piece.

Continue reading “Defeating Fridge DRM With Duct Tape And A Dremel”