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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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Super 8 Camera Brought Back To Life

The Super 8 camera, while a groundbreaking video recorder in its time, is borderline unusable now. Even if you can get film for it (and afford its often enormous price), it still only records on 8mm film which isn’t exactly the best quality of film around, not to mention that a good percentage of these cameras couldn’t even record audio. They were largely made obsolete by camcorders in the late ’80s and early ’90s, although some are still used for niche artistic purposes. If you’d rather not foot the bill for the film, though, you can still put one of these to work with the help of a Raspberry Pi.

[befinitiv] has a knack for repurposing antique analog equipment like this while preserving its aesthetic. While the bulk of the space inside of this camera would normally be used for housing film, this makes a perfect spot to place a Raspberry Pi Zero, a rechargeable battery, and a power converter circuit all in a 3D printed enclosure that snaps into the camera just as a film roll would have. It uses the Pi camera module but still makes use of the camera’s built in optics which include a zoom function. [befinitiv] also incorporated the original record button so that from the outside this looks like a completely unmodified Super 8 camera.

The camera can connect to a WiFi network and can stream live video to a computer, or it can record video files to an internal SD card. As a bonus, thanks to the power converter circuit, it is also capable of charging a cell phone. [befinitiv] notes that many of the aesthetic properties of 8 mm film seem to be preserved when using this method, and he has several theories as to why but no definitive answer. If you’d like to take a look at some of his other projects like this, check out this analog camera that is now able to take digital pictures. Continue reading “Super 8 Camera Brought Back To Life”

Is Solar Right For You? Find Out!

Solar panels are revolutionizing the electric power industry, but not everyone is a good candidate for rooftop solar. Obviously people in extreme northern or sothern latitudes aren’t going to be making a ton of energy during the winter compared to people living closer to the equator, for example, but there are other factors at play that are more specific to each individual house. To find out if any one in particular will benefit from solar panels, [Jake] and [Ryan]’s solar intensity sensor will help you find out.

The long-term intensity tracker is equipped with a small solar panel and a data recording device, properly contained in a waterproof enclosure, and is intended to be placed in the exact location that a potential solar installation will be. Once it has finished gathering data, it will help determine if it makes economical sense to install panels given that the roof slope might not be ideal, landscaping may be in the way, or you live in a climate where it rains a lot in the summer during peak production times.

As we move into the future of cheap, reliable solar panels, projects like this will become more and more valuable. If you’re not convinced yet that photovoltaics are the way of the future, though, there are other ways of harnessing that free solar power.

Now Toto’s Africa Is Stuck In Our Heads

April Fool’s Day is bad. April Fool’s Day is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. For one day a year, we’re inundated with pieces that can, accurately and without any sense of irony, be called fake news. YouTube is worse. But you know what’s worse than April Fool’s Day? A hundred children playing plastic recorders. But it’s April Fool’s Day, and things must get worse. Here’s a vacuum cleaner playing Africa by Toto.

This is the latest build from [James Bruton] or [Ecks Robots Dot Co Dot UK], who is the king of building just about anything with 3D printers. He’s got a BB8 and some of the cooler Star Wars droids, a Hulkbuster, and openDog. When it comes to confabulating robotics and 3D printers, [James] is the king. But this is April Fool’s Day, and if you’re a big YouTuber, you need to do something annoying. [James] is the king.

This build uses a Henry vacuum cleaner, a canister vacuum with a silk screened face, because why not, and you’re not truly living until you put googly eyes on your Roomba. Also, all vacuums in England are Hoovers, because reasons. In collaboration with [Mothcub], [James] adapted cheap children’s plastic recorders to a Henry vacuum cleaner with a few 3D printed parts, some servo-controlled valves, and a bit of plastic tubing. While using cheap kid’s recorders as the tone generator in what is effectively a pipe organ is interesting (the stickers over the holes are a great idea), this is something that should not be done ever. This idea should not be replicated. These recorders are not in tune and I don’t know how because they’re just one piece of plastic that came out of the same mold.

The servos, and therefore the entire pipe organ, are controlled via MIDI, which makes this the first DIY MIDI pipe organ we’ve seen. It’s a proof of concept, and a pretty good one. It also sounds terrible. This is proof that cheap plastic recorders don’t sound good. The video is below, and I highly suggest skipping the second half.

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Teardown And Repair Of A Police Recorder

You should probably hope you haven’t seen [Techmoan’s] cassette recorder before. That’s because it is a Neal interview recorder that was mainly used by police to tape interrogations. This one was apparently used by the Royal Navy and was sold for parts. Turns out, the repair was simple, but the teardown and the analysis of the machine — you can see it in the video below — is pretty interesting if you’ve never seen one of these before.

The unit looks like a heavy-duty piece of industrial electronics from the 1980s. Unlike a commercial tape deck, this one is made to do one thing: record. You can’t even rewind a tape in it. Also unlike a consumer recorder, the Neal has a few special features aimed at making sure you didn’t miss some important confession on tape. First, it beeps if there’s no microphone plugged in. When [Techmoan] showed the recording head, we noticed it looked like it was split in half. Towards the end of the video, we found out why. In addition, the unit records two tracks: one audio track and another with a voice reading the elapsed time every 10 seconds — pretty high tech for its day.

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The Magic Flute Of Rat Mind Control Aims To Mix Magic And Science

Well this is unusual. Behold the Magic Flute of Rat Mind Control, and as a project it is all about altering the response to the instrument, rather than being about hacking the musical instrument itself. It’s [Kurt White]’s entry to the Musical Instrument Challenge portion of The Hackaday Prize, and it’s as intriguing as it is different.

The Raspberry-Pi controlled, IoT Skinner box for rats, named Nicodemus.

[Kurt] has created a portable, internet-connected, automated food dispenser with a live streaming video feed and the ability to play recorded sounds. That device (named Nicodemus) is used as a Skinner Box to train rats — anywhere rats may be found — using operant conditioning to make them expect food when they hear a few bars of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man played on a small recorder (which is a type of flute.)

In short, the flute would allow one to summon hordes of rats as if by magic, because they have been trained by Nicodemus to associate Iron Man with food.

Many of the system’s elements are informed by the results of research into sound preference in rats, as well as their ability to discriminate between different melodies, so long as the right frequencies are present. The summoning part is all about science, but what about how to protect oneself from the hordes of hungry rodents who arrive with sharp teeth and high expectations of being fed? According to [Kurt], that’s where the magic comes in. He seems very certain that a ritual to convert a wooden recorder into a magic flute is all the protection one would need.

Embedded below is something I’m comfortable calling the strangest use case video we’ve ever seen. Well, we think it’s a dramatized use case. Perhaps it’s more correctly a mood piece or motivational assist. Outsider Art? You decide.

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