Raspberry Pi Saves Printer From Junk Pile

Around here, printers have a life expectancy of about two years if we are lucky. But [techtipsy] has a family member who has milked a long life from an old Canon PIXMA printer. That is, until Microsoft or Canon decided it was too old to print anymore. With Windows 10, it took some hacking to get it to work, but Windows 11 was the death knell. Well, it would have been if not for [techtipsy’s] ingenuity with a Raspberry Pi.

The Pi uses Linux, and, of course, Linux will happily continue to print without difficulty. If you are Linux savvy, you can probably see where this is going.

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Playing Chess Against Your Printer, With PostScript

Can you play chess against your printer? The answer will soon be yes, and it’s thanks to [Nicolas Seriot]’s PSChess. It’s a chess engine implemented in PostScript, of all things. It’s entirely working except for one last hurdle, but more on that in a moment.

What’s it like to play PSChess? Currently, one uses a PostScript interpreter (such as GhostScript) to run it, much like one would use the Python interpreter to run Python code. The user inputs moves by typing in commands like d2d4 (representing a piece’s source coordinate and a destination coordinate on the 2D board). Then the program makes a move, and outputs an updated board state to both the console and a PDF document. Then it’s the user’s turn again, and so on until somebody loses.

The chess parts are all working, but there’s one last feature in progress. The final step of the project is to enable PSChess to be run directly on a printer instead of using GhostScript as the interpreter. Intrigued? You can find the code at the project’s GitHub repository.

So why PostScript? While it is a Turing-complete stack-based interpreted language, it was never intended to be used directly by humans. There are no meaningful development tools to speak of. Nevertheless, [Nicolas] finds PostScript an appealing tool for programming projects and provides tips and techniques for like-minded folks. One of the appeals is working within constraints to solve a problem, just like implementing a chess engine in only 4k, or draw poker in 10 lines of BASIC.

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Hackaday Links: March 3, 2024

Who’d have thought that $30 doorbell cameras would end up being security liabilities? That’s the somewhat obvious conclusion reached by Consumer Reports after looking at some entry-level doorbell cameras available through the usual outfits and finding glaring security gaps which are totally not intentional in any way.

All these cameras appear to be the same basic hardware inside different enclosures, most supporting the same mobile app. Our favorite “exploit” for these cameras is the ability to put them into a pairing mode with the app, sometimes by pressing a public-facing button. Slightly more technically challenging would be accessing images from the app using the camera’s serial number, or finding file names being passed in plain text while sniffing network traffic. And that’s just the problems CR identified; who knows what else lurks under the covers? Some retailers have stopped offering these things, others have yet to, so buyer beware.

Speaking of our techno-dystopian surveillance state, if you’ve had it with the frustrations and expense of printers, has Hewlett-Packard got a deal for you. They want you to never own a printer again, preferring that you rent it from them instead. Their “All-In Plan” launched this week, which for $6.99 a month will set up up with an HP Envy inkjet printer, ink deliveries, and 24/7 tech support. It doesn’t appear that paper is included in the deal, so you’re on your own for that, but fear not — you won’t go through much since the entry-level plan only allows 20 prints per month. Plans scale up to 700 prints per month from an OfficeJet Pro for the low, low price of $36. The kicker, of course, is that your their printer has to be connected to the Internet, and HP can pretty much brick the thing anytime they want to. The terms of service also explicitly state that they’ll be sending your information to advertising partners, so that’ll be fun. This scheme hearkens back to the old pre-breakup days of AT&T, where you rented your phone from the phone company. That model made a lot more sense when the phone (probably) wasn’t listening in on everything you do. This just seems like asking for trouble.

“Enhance, enhance…” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/Simeon Schmauß

It’s been a while since Ingenuity‘s final rough landing on Mars permanently grounded the overachieving helicopter, long enough that it’s time for the post-mortem analyses to begin. The first photographic evidence we had was a shadowgram from one of the helicopter’s navigational cameras, showing damage to at least one of the rotor tips, presumably from contact with the ground. Then we were treated to a long-distance shot from Ingenuity‘s rover buddy Perseverance, which trained its MASTCAM instruments on the crash zone and gave us a wide view of its lonely resting place.

Now, geovisual design student [Simeon Schmauβ] has taken long shots made with the rover’s SuperCam instrument and processed them into amazingly detailed closeups, which show just how extensive the damage really is. One rotor blade sheared clean off on contact, flying 15 meters before gouging a hole in the regolith. Another blade looks to be about half gone, while the remaining two blades show the damaged tips we’ve already seen. That the helicopter is still on its feet given the obvious violence of the crash is amazing, as well as an incredible piece of luck, since it means the craft’s solar panel is pointing in roughly the right direction to keep it powered up.

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[Usagi] Whips A Chain Printer Into Shape

What does it take to get a 47-year-old printer working? [Usagi Electric] shows us it’s not too hard, even if you don’t exactly know what you’re doing.  When we last left this project, he’d tested and verified his power supply was working. This week, after a bit of cleaning, it was time to dig into the mechanics.

If you haven’t seen a chain printer in action before, definitely check one out. They’re big, loud, and sound a bit like a turbine when they spool up. The type chains on these printers never stops moving. This means the printer has to know exactly where a particular letter is before launching one of 66 hammers at it. If the timing is off, parts will fly. To the average computer user, they’re quite intimidating.

Thankfully [Usagi’s] printer was in pretty good shape. When he flipped the big power switch, there was plenty of strange noises, culminating in the test pattern of dollar signs. Probably an early reminder to customers that they needed to order more print supplies.

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Bringing A Chain Printer Back To Life: The Power Supply

[Usagi Electric] has his Centurion minicomputer (and a few others) running like a top.  One feature that’s missing, though, is the ability to produce a hard copy. Now, a serious machine like the Centurion demands a serious printer. The answer to that is an ODEC-manufactured printer dressed in proper Centurion blue. This is no ordinary desktop printer, though. It’s a roughly 175lb (80 Kg) beast capable of printing 100 lines per minute. Each line is 132 characters wide, printed on the tractor-feed green bar paper we all associate with old computer systems.

This sort of printer was commonly known as a chain printer, as the letters are on a chain that rides over a series of 66 hammers. Logic on this printer is 74 series logic chips – no custom silicon or LSI (Large Scale Integration) parts on this 47-year-old monster.

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Dot Matrix Printer Gets An Epson Ribbon Transplant

What do you do when your dot matrix printer’s ribbon is torn to shreds after decades of use, and no new cartridges are available? You might like to attempt a ribbon transplant from another printer’s cartridge, and that’s just what [Chris Jones] did.

[Chris] was hoping to find a new ribbon for his Canon PW-1080A after the 33-year-old ribbon had been hammered to bits. With replacements unavailable, he instead turned to the more popular Epson FX80, for which new ribbons can still be found. Thankfully, the FX80’s ribbon is the same width as the one used in the Canon printer, even if the cartridge is of a completely different design.

The first step was to crack open the Canon cartridge to dump out the old ribbon. With that done, the Epson ribbon could be looped into the Canon cartridge and wound in using the built-in winder. With this done, [Chris] attempted a test print, but found results to be poor. The ribbon wasn’t advancing properly and there was a rather horrible noise.

The problem was that the Epson ribbon was significantly longer than the Canon part, and thus was getting jammed inside the cartridge housing. [Chris] was able to fix this by cutting out a slice of the Epson ribbon and sticking the two ends back together with superglue. With that done, the printer was happily up and running once more.

If you’ve got a dot matrix printer ribbon that’s dried up but not yet falling apart, you can always try reinking it. Video after the break.

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A Paper Printer For QR Code Menus

Do you miss the days of thumbing through a sticky, laminated booklet to order your food? Sick of restaurants and their frustrating electronic menus? Fear not, for [Guy Dupont] and his QR code menu printer are here to save the day.

Yes, that’s right — it’s a lunchbox-sized printer designed to spit out a paper version of a digital menu. Using a Tiny Code Reader from Useful Sensors, the device can scan a QR code at a restaurant to access its menu. A Seeed Studio XIAO ESP32 takes the link, and then passes it to a remote computer which accesses the menu online and screenshots it. The image is processed with TesseractOCR to extract food items and prices, and the data is then collated into a simple text-only format using ChatGPT. The simplified menu is finally sent to a thermal printer to be spat out on receipt paper for your casual perusal.

[Guy] was inspired to build the project after hating the experience of using QR code menus in restaurants and bars around town. It’s his latest project that solves an everyday problem, it makes a great sequel to his smart jeans that tell you when your fly is down.

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