Purpose-Built Plotter Pitches In To Solve Wordblitz On Your Phone

It seems like most hackers have never played a game without at least wondering how to cheat at it. It’s not that we’re a dishonest lot, at least not as a rule. It’s more that most games hold less challenge for us than does figuring out how to reverse engineer the game’s mechanics. We don’t intend to cheat; it just sort of happens.

Or at least that’s the charitable way to look at such smartphone game cheats as this automated word-search puzzle solver. The game is Wordblitz, which is basically an implementation of classic Boggle along with extra features to release more dopamine and keep you playing. Not one to fall for that trick, [ghettobastler] whipped up a quick X-Y gantry from MDF using a laser cutter, added a stylus in the form of a cotton swab tipped with aluminum foil, and a vision system based on a simple web camera. The bed of the gantry has a capacitive plate so the stylus can operate the phone, along with a frame of ArUco fiducial marker to aid in locating the phone.

A Raspberry Pi handles the machine vision part of the process, which uses OpenCV to estimate the phone’s location and extract the current game tiles. The words in the game field are located by a solver that [ghetto] had previously written; a script then streams G-code to the plotter to peck out the answers at blazing speed, or at least faster than even [Peggy Hill] could manage. See the video below for a sample game being solved.

One word of warning if you choose to build this: [ghettobastler]’s puzzle-solving algorithm is based on a French dictionary, so you’ll have to re-teach it for other languages. But whatever language it’s in, this reminds us a bit of some of the Wordle solvers we’ve seen recently.

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Hackaday Links: June 26, 2022

Head for the hills!! We’re all doomed! At least that’s the impression you might get from the headlines about the monster Earth-facing sunspot this week. While any sunspot that doubles in size within a matter of days as AR3038 has done is worth looking at, chances are pretty low that it will cause problems here on Earth. About the best this class of sunspot can manage is an M-class solar flare, which generally cause radio blackouts only at the poles, and may present a radiation problem for the crew of the ISS. So no, this sunspot is probably not going to kill us all. But then again, this is the 2020s, and pretty much everything bad seems like it’s possible.

Speaking of bad outcomes, pity the poor Sonos customers and their ongoing battle with the company’s odd “glitches.” For whatever reason, customers have been getting shipments of Sonos products they never ordered, with at least one customer getting over $15,000 worth of products shipped. The customer reports ordering five Sonos items, but the company saw fit to fill the order six times, stuffing their apartment with goods. Sonos doesn’t appear to be doing much to make it right; while offering the customer free shipping labels to return the goods, they were expected to schlep the packages to a UPS store. And then there’s the money — Sonos charged the customer for all the unordered goods, and won’t issue a refund till it’s all returned.

If you’ve ever wondered exactly what the signals going up and down your cable line look like, you’ll want to check out this video from Double A Labs. Using an RTL-SDR dongle and some spectrum analyzer software they probed the RF signals on the cable, with some fascinating results. The first 11 minutes or so of the video are devoted to setting up the hardware and software, although there is some interesting stuff about broadband network architecture right up at the start. The scans are interesting — you can clearly see the 6-MHz quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) digital channels. We were surprised to learn that these start at just about the FM broadcast band — about 108 MHz. There were a couple of little surprises hiding in the spectrum, like two unmodulated analog TV carriers in one spot, and the fact that there are over 400 virtual channels jammed into 41 6-MHz QAM channels. Broadband indeed.

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This Arduino Pen Plotter Is Built For Speed

We see a lot of simple pen plotter projects around here, and while we appreciate them one and all, most of them are a little on the slow side. That’s OK — a glacial pace is sometimes all that’s needed, as long as it gets the job done. But there’s nothing wrong with putting the pedal to the metal, so to speak. And that’s exactly what this super-fast Arduino-based plotter is all about.

As the story goes, [IV Projects] felt the need for speed after building an earlier pen plotter project that worked, but failed to excite. With the additional goal of keeping the plotter easy to build with cheap parts, the design centers on a “grit roller drive” for the Y-axis — the one that actually moves the paper back and forth. And move it does, using Dremel tool sanding drums on a lightweight shaft to maximize acceleration. In fact, all the moving parts are kept as lightweight as possible, and the results really show — the three steppers really sing when this plotter is in action.

There are some really clever details in [IV Projects]’ design. We particularly like the way the pen lift mechanism works, and the surprise appearance of a clothespin spring as a belt tensioner was a real treat. Judging by the pile of rejected prototype parts, it took quite a bit of work to get this design right. If you’d like to build your own, STLs are available for the printed parts.

If you’re interested in what the other end of the speed scale looks like, check out this bare-minimum pen plotter.

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All The Sticky Labels You Could Ever Need: No DRM, Just Masking Tape

Printable sticky labels are a marvelous innovation, but sadly also one beset by a variety of competing offerings, and more recently attempts by manufacturers to impose DRM on their media. Fortunately they don’t have to rely on expensive printers or proprietary rolls of stickies, as [michimartini] demonstrates with the masking tape plotter. It’s a tiny pen plotter that writes your label onto the tape.

At its heart is the popular grbl G-code to motion parser, and its mechanism uses the lead screw axis from a DVD drive. Not for this project simply another hacked-apart drive mechanism though, for it has a custom-designed carriage for the axis. It’s 3D printed, and to ensure the least friction possible for a pen using only its weight to keep contact with the tape it was heated up once assembled to ensure all parts had a chance to bed in. Meanwhile the tape roll forming the X axis is turned directly by a standard stepper motor.

We like this project a lot, and look forward to any refinements to the idea. Meanwhile, it’s not the first custom label printer we’ve shown you.

Multicolor Drawbot Highlights Importance Of Limit Switches

Plotters and drawing robots are fun projects that let you create art with all the precision and perfection that computer numerical control can deliver. [TUENHIDIY] demonstrates that ably with the Multicolor DrawBot.

The build relies on a simple XY Cartesian design, using a pair of NEMA 17 stepper motors. It’s built in the typical CoreXY fashion, running GRBL firmware on an Arduino Uno.

Where [TUENHIDIY] gets creative is in the pen itself. Rather than using a simple ballpoint or marker, instead, a retractable multicolor pen is used instead. With the multicolor pen on board, [TUENHIDIY] notes the importance of limit switches in the design. These allow the the ‘bot to make multiple passes, each time in a different color, to build up a multicolor image. Without the limit switches in place, it would be impossible to line up each following pass.

We’d love to see the build taken even further with a servo-based system for switching colors automatically. As it is, though, [TUENHIDIY] has a capable plotter that can deliver tidy multicolor artworks.

One of the more curious applications of plotters of late are those used to send faux handwritten letters through the postal system.  Video after the break.

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Fumik: An Arduino Wall Drawing Robot Jellyfish

If you’ve ever wanted to build a large format plotter but didn’t have the floor space, maybe put it up against the wall and make it cute. That’s the idea behind Fumik, the wall-drawing robot. As you might expect, the little device is just a motion base with a pen. We hope there’s paper against the wall since not everyone wants computer-generated art on their drywall.

The maximum size is apparently 5 m wide by 3 m tall, plenty of room to express yourself. The controller is an Arduino Mega, and stepper motors with a CNC shield drive the whole assembly. Interestingly, the motor and electronics are all onboard the jellyfish itself, rather than the wall.

The device only holds one pen at a time, but you can draw with one color and then manually change the pen. The files on GitHub are good, but you’ll need to intuit some of the mechanics from the videos. However, since it uses off-the-shelf hardware, it should be pretty easy to figure it out. This looks like a cheap and cheerful wall plotter, and the results speak for themselves.

We have seen similar wall plotters. More than once, even.

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Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Ballpoint Typewriters

So you want to minimize finger movement when you type, but don’t have three grand to drop on an old DataHand, or enough time to build the open-source lalboard? Check out these two concept keebs from [SouthPawEngineer], which only look like chord boards.

Every key on the home row is a five-way switch — like a D-pad with straight down input. [SouthPawEngineer] has them set up so that each one covers a QWERTY column. So like, for the left pinky switch, up is Q, right is A, down is Z, and left is 1. Technically, the split has 58 keys, and the uni has 56.

Both of these keebs use KB2040 boards, which are Adafruit’s answer to the keyboard-building craze of these roaring 2020s. These little boards are of course easy to program with CircuitPython, which supports KMK, an offshoot of the popular QMK. Thanks for the tip, [foamyguy]!

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