Vintage Transistor Radio Gets Internet Transplant

The invention of the transistor revolutionized radio, allowing receivers to be made far more compact and portable than ever before. In the middle of the 20th century, the devices exploded in popularity, and pocket transistor radios took the market by storm. [MisterM] had fond memories of such times, and when he found a 1970s Flirt radio at a car boot sale, it led to a cute little build.

The radio was stripped of its original hardware, with [MisterM] preferring internet radio to the terrestrial variety. In its place, a Raspberry Pi Zero was installed. This was fitted with a cavalcade of off-the-shelf modules to make it fit for pumping out the tunes. A Speaker PHAT was used for audio, while an Adafruit Micro Lipo board handled battery charging and a Pimoroni Lipo Shim served as the power supply. All this was bundled up inside the original casing.

The radio’s controls are a neat hack. The original volume and tuning dials were removed, sliced up, and glued onto two lever microswitches. This allows them to act as buttons instead. A new power switch was installed behind the original, and the Speaker PHAT’s LEDs were placed behind the tuning dial to act as a rudimentary display.

It’s a tidy build that repurposes an attractive vintage artefact into a device of the internet age, while remaining externally the same. [MisterM] has form in this space, with his vintage radio console build and video doorbell being particular highlights. Video after the break.

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Lane Keeping RC Car Uses OpenCV

Automakers continue to promise that fully autonomous cars are around the corner, but we’re still not quite there yet. However, there are a broad range of driver assist technologies that have come to market in recent years, with lane keeping assist being one of them. [raja_961] decided to implement this technology on an RC car, using a Raspberry Pi.

A regular off-the-shelf RC car is used as the base of the platform, outfitted with two drive motors and a third motor used for the steering. Unfortunately, the car can only turn either full-left or full-right only, limiting the finesse of the steering. Despite this, the work continued. A Raspberry Pi 3 was fitted out with a motor controller and camera, and hooked up to the chassis. With everything laced up, a Python script is used along with OpenCV to run the lane-keeping algorithm.

[raja_961] does a great job of explaining the lane keeping methodology. Rather than simply invoking a library and calling it good, instead the Instructable breaks down each stage of how the algorithm works. Incoming images are converted to the HSL color system, before a series of operations is used to pick out the apparent slope of the lane lines. This is then used with a PID algorithm to guide the steering of the car.

It’s a comprehensive explanation of a basic lane-keeping algorithm, and a great place to start if you’re interested in learning about the technology. There’s plenty going on in the world of self-driving RC cars, you just need to know where to look! Video after the break.

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DIY Video Microscopy

Owning a Microscope is great fun as a hobby in general, but for hackers, it is a particularly useful instrument for assembly and inspection, now that we are building hardware with “grain of sand” sized components in our basements and garages. [voidnill] was given an Eduval 4 microscope by a well-meaning friend during a holiday trip. This model is pretty old, but it’s a Carl Zeiss after all, made in Jena in the erstwhile GDR. Since an optical microscope was of limited use for him, [voidnill] set about digitizing it.

He settled on the Raspberry-Pi route. The Pi and a hard disk were attached directly to the frame of the microscope, and a VGA display connected via a converter. Finally, the Pi camera was jury-rigged to one of the eyepieces using some foam. It’s a quick and dirty hack, and not the best solution, but it works well for [voidnill] since he wanted to keep the original microscope intact.

The standard Pi camera has a wide angle lens. It is designed to capture a large image and converge it on to the small sensor area. Converting it to macro mode is possible, but requires a hack. The lens is removed and ‘flipped over’, and fixed at a distance away from the sensor – usually with the help of an extension tube. This allows the lens to image a very small area and focus it on the (relatively) large sensor. This hack is used in the “OpenFlexure” microscope project, which you can read about in the post we wrote earlier this year or at this updated link. If you want even higher magnification and image quality, OpenFlexure provides a design to mate the camera sensor directly to an RMS threaded microscope objective. Since earlier this year, this open source microscope project has made a lot of progress, and many folks around the world have successfully built their own versions. It offers a lot of customisation options such as basic or high-resolution optics and manual or motorised stages, which makes it a great project to try out.

If the OpenFlexure project proves to be an intimidating build, you can try something easier. Head over to the PublicLab where [partsandcrafts] shows you how to “Build a Basic Microscope with Raspberry Pi”. It borrows from other open source projects but keeps things simpler making it much easier to build.

In the video embed below, [voidnill] gives a brief overview (in German) of his quick hack. If you’ve got some microscope hacks, or have built one of your own, let us know in the comments section.

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Recreating Lord Nikon’s Laptop From Hackers

The outlandish computers from 1995’s Hackers are easily one of the most memorable elements of the iconic cult classic. In the film, each machine is customized to reflect the individual hacker that operates it, and feature everything from spray painted camouflage paint schemes to themed boot animations based on the owner’s personal iconography. But what might not so obvious is that the real-life props took a considerable amount of hardware hacking before they were ready for their big-screen debut.

A group of dedicated Hackers fans have created a website to document, and ideally recreate, all the custom work that went into the various pieces of tech featured in the film. As explained by [Nandemoguy], the group’s latest triumph is a screen-accurate build of Lord Nikon’s laptop. The final product not only looks just like the machine used in the film, but thanks to the internal Raspberry Pi, is far more powerful than the original computer would have been.

Unless you’re on the team over at HackersCurator.com, you might not know that the laptops in the film were handmade chimeras that combined the external cases of various PCs with (usually) the internals of an Apple Powerbook 180c. Why the prop masters of the film would have gone through so much trouble to create the character’s computers is not immediately clear, but if we had to guess, presumably it was due to the requirements of the over-the-top graphical interfaces that are featured so heavily in the film.

At any rate, the replica created by [Nandemoguy] is built in much the same way. At least for the parts you can see on the outside, anyway. He goes through the considerable case modifications required to replace the original keyboard on the Toshiba Satellite T1850 with a Powerbook keyboard, which as you might have guessed, has been converted into a USB HID device with a Teensy microcontroller. He even cuts the ports off the back of the Mac’s motherboard and glues them in place around the backside of the machine. But everything else, including the LCD, is all new hardware. After all, who really wants to go through all that trouble just to have a fancy Powerbook 180c in 2019?

Even if you weren’t a fan of Hackers, the level of detail and effort put into this build it absolutely phenomenal. It’s interesting to see the parallels between this replica and the burgeoning cyberdeck scene; it seems like with a Teensy, a Raspberry Pi, and enough Bondo, anything can be turned into a functional computer.

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Hackaday Prize China Finalists Announced

In the time since the Hackaday Prize was first run it has nurtured an astonishing array of projects from around the world, and brought to the fore some truly exceptional winners that have demonstrated world-changing possibilities. This year it has been extended to a new frontier with the launch of the Hackaday Prize China (Chinese language, here’s a Google Translate link), allowing engineers, makers, and inventors from that country to join the fun. We’re pleased to announce the finalists, from which a winner will be announced in Shenzhen, China on November 23rd. If you’re in Shenzen area, you’re invited to attend the award ceremony!

All six of these final project entries have been translated into English to help share information about projects across the language barrier. On the left sidebar of each project page you can find a link back to the original Chinese language project entry. Each presents a fascinating look into what people in our global community can produce when they live at the source of the component supply chain. Among them are a healthy cross-section of projects which we’ll visit in no particular order. Let’s dig in and see what these are all about!

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Fortified Feeder For Feral Felines

Most of the commercially-available pet feeders littering the internet are cheaply-made, with wimpy motors and infuriating interfaces. Want to use it outdoors? Good luck. If you need a heavy-duty, outdoor cat feeder, you gotta heat up your soldering iron and do it yourself.

[jplanaux] is under contract to feed a bunch of feral cats that hang around, but he’s often gone for weeks at a time. His two-feeder fail-over system has one weak link, and it’s these commercial feeders — they’re under-powered and just plain unreliable, even after modding them for Raspi control. What he needed was an industrial strength automatic feeder that’s completely customized for his situation.

A simple web interface lets him set up automatic feeding times, or push kibble on demand if customers show up and there’s no food. The system takes pictures of the bowl to verify that food came out and was subsequently eaten. It’s supposed to be racoon-proof, so [jplanaux] can see who or what is chowing down. Aside from that, the feeder is pretty standard, with a large hopper on top of a screw drive that’s driven by a NEMA17. The stepper is relay-driven, so it only uses power when it’s driving the screw.

[jplanaux] has the STL files and code available, and even designed a bowl and base extension for people who want to build one and use it indoors. Nibble at the kibble-sized demo video after the break.

The lion’s share of the auto-feeder builds we chew on around here are designed for dry food. Serving wet food is a much harder problem, but is definitely possible to pull off.

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Building IoT Devices The Easy Way

Do you have a Raspberry Pi? What is it being used for right now? If you’re like the majority of people who replied to [Michael Hall’s] poll on Twitter, it’s likely yours is sitting on a shelf doing nothing too. So why not just turn it into an IoT device for your home?

[Michael] wrote an easy-to-follow guide focusing on getting the EdgeX Foundry IoT platform running on the Raspberry Pi. It is designed to be a unified multi-platform base for IoT devices hosted by the Linux Foundation, making it easy to control and integrate them into other systems. The framework for this consists of two parts, a Device Service running on your Pi, and the rest of the services running on a desktop or laptop where you’ll be monitoring it.

His guide goes into detail on how to get both parts working on your computer and your Pi using Docker for ease of installation. As for the IoT device, he uses the built-in PIR sensor example to show how to configure it without having to write any programming. You can then monitor the device’s sensors, which you can just connect straight to the Pi’s GPIO pins, from your desktop. Since the EdgeX software is designed to run on any flavor of Linux, this should make it easy to repurpose any forgotten single-board computer into the beginnings of a home automation system.

However, if you are confident in your programming skills, you’re probably looking for something slimmer such as the ESP8266 family of microcontrollers to do your bidding. Why not try an energy monitor or a smoke detector project with them?