Chandelier Mimics The Solar Analemma

The solar analemma is the shape the sun traces out when photographed each day at the same time and same location for a whole year – but you probably knew that already. [makendo] decided to use this skewed figure-eight shape as the inspiration for a chandelier, and the results are stunning.

A laser cutter was used to cut out segments of the analemma shape in plywood, such that they could slot together into the full form. These were then glued together on to a plywood sheet as a template to cut out the full-size form in a single piece. Some laminate edging was then added and the entire thing was given a coat of black gloss paint. String lights were cut up to provide the many globe fittings required, and installed on the back of the chandelier.

[makendo] notes that with a full 51 bulbs in the chandelier, it’s way too bright for most dining room settings. A dimmer is thus used to tone down the output to reduce eyestrain at mealtimes. It’s a fun build, and we’ve always loved light fixtures that are inspired by astronomy. If you like the moon more than the sun, though, there’s a build for you too!

Solaris Might Be Free If You Want It

There was a time when “real” engineering workstations ran Linux Unix. Apollo and Sun were big names and Sun’s version was Solaris. Solaris has been an iffy proposition since Oracle acquired Sun, but Oracle announced last month that you can download and use Solaris 11.4 CBE free for non-production use.

Do you care? If you ever wanted to run “real” Unix this is an option although, honestly, so is Free BSD and it probably has better community support. On the other hand, since you can virtualize a machine to spin up, it might be worth a little time to install it.

On the other hand, if you have an old SPARC machine — this could be big news. We aren’t sure how far back the hardware this will support will go, but this could be just what you need to breathe new life into that eBay pizza box from Sun you’ve had in the basement. Of course, if you have an FPGA SPARC system, this might be interesting too, but we have no idea how much other stuff you need to implement to be able to benefit from Solaris.

Will you install Solaris? If so, tell us why. We are sure we won’t have to prompt you to tell us why not. In 2017, we thought we’d seen the end of Solaris, but apparently not. Maybe this will help those folks still on Solaris 9.

Lego Orrery

LEGOpunk Orrery Knows Just The Right Technics

Is the unmistakable sound of the shuffling of LEGO pieces being dug through burned into your psyche? Did the catalog of ever more complex Technic pieces send your imagination soaring into the stratosphere and beyond? Judging by the artful contraption in the video below the break, we are fairly certain that [Marian] can relate to these things.

No doubt inspired by classic orreries driven by clockwork, [Marian]’s LEGO Sun-Earth-Moon orrery is instead driven by either hand cranks or by electric motors. The orrery aims to be astronomically correct. To that end, a full revolution of a hand crank produces a full day’s worth of movement.

Solar and lunar eclipses can be demonstrated, along with numerous other principals such as the tilt of the earth, moon phases, tidal locking, and more, which can be found at the project page.

While classical orreries predate the Victorian era, there seems to be an almost inexplicable link between orreries and the Steampunk aesthetic. But [Marian]’s orrery brought the term “LEGOpunk” to mind. Could it be? Given that there are 2305 pieces and 264 pages of instructions with 436 steps, we think so!

We’ve covered just a few orreries in the past, from this somewhat simple laser cut orrery to this horrifically complex and beautiful thing hereContinue reading “LEGOpunk Orrery Knows Just The Right Technics”

Antique Map Of Paris With Modern Tech

There’s plenty to love about antiques, from cars, furniture, to art. While it might be a little bit of survivorship bias, it’s easy to appreciate these older things for superior quality materials, craftsmanship, or even simplicity. They are missing out on all of our modern technology, though, so performing “restomods” on classics is a popular activity nowadays. This antique map of Paris, for example, is made of a beautiful hardwood but has been enhanced by some modern amenities as well.

At first the creator of this project, [Marc], just wanted to give it some ambient lighting, but it eventually progressed over the course of two years to have a series of Neopixels hidden behind it that illuminate according to the current sun and moon positions. The Neopixels get their instructions from an ESP8266 which calculates these positions using code [Marc] wrote himself based on the current date. Due to the limitations of the ESP8266 it’s not particularly precise, but it gets the job done to great effect.

To improve on the accuracy, [Marc] notes that an ESP32 could be used instead, but we can give the ESP8266 a pass for now since the whole project is an excellent art installation even if it is slightly off on its calculations. If you need higher accuracy for tracking celestial objects, you can always grab a Raspberry Pi too.

Automated Balcony Shade Uses NFC

[Udi] lives in an apartment with a pleasant balcony. He also has three kids who are home most of the time now, so he finds himself spending a little more time out on the balcony than he used to. To upgrade his experience, he installed a completely custom shade controller to automatically open and close his sunshade as the day progresses.

Automatic motors for blinds and other shades are available for purchase, but [Udi]’s shade is too big for any of these small motors to work. Finding a large servo with a 2:1 gear ration was the first step, as well as creating a custom mount for it to attach to the sunshade. Once the mechanical situation was solved, he programmed an ESP32 to control the servo. The ESP32 originally had control buttons wired to it, but [Udi] eventually transitioned to NFC for limit switch capabilities and also implemented voice control for the build as well.

While not the first shade controller we’ve ever seen, this build does make excellent use of appropriate hardware and its built-in features and although we suppose it’s possible this could have been done with a 555 timer, the project came together very well, especially for [Ubi]’s first Arduino-compatible build. If you decide to replicate this build, though, make sure that your shade controller is rental-friendly if it needs to be.

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Hackaday Links: December 13, 2020

Our Sun is getting a bit frisky these days, and has rewarded us with perhaps the best screensaver image ever taken. The incredibly detailed photo of a sunspot was actually taken back in January by the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, a 4-meter instrument with adaptive optics that can image the sun from the near-infrared to visible wavelengths and resolve surface details down to 20 km. The photo, with a distinct “Eye of Sauron” look, shows the massive convection cells surrounding the dark sunspot; an accompanying animation shows the movement of plasmas along the tortured lines of magnetic flux that cause the sunspot to form. It’s fascinating to watch, and even more interesting to mull over the technology that went into capturing it.

With the dustup surrounding the youtube-dl DCMA takedown by GitHub fresh on the open-source community’s minds, GitHub Universe 2020 had an interesting discussion about maintaining open-source software projects that’s worth watching. They focused on the challenges that youtube-dl maintainers face in keeping the tool working, and the impact their effort has on the people and groups that rely on them. To underscore that point, they featured a researcher with Human Rights Watch who depends on youtube-dl in her work, and made it quite clear that keeping up with all the API changes that constantly break open source tools like youtube-dl make the role of the maintainers that much more critical.

Speaking of GitHub, here’s a frightening and fascinating new tool: Depix, the password de-pixelizer. Developer Sipke Mellema noticed that his company often used pixelization to obscure passwords in documentation, and wondered if he could undo the process. He wrote up an article describing the pixelization process using a linear box filter and his method for attacking it, which involves generating a De Bruijn sequence in the same font, text size, and colors as the original document and feeding a screenshot of that and the pixellated password into the tool. We suspect it’ll only work for a subset of obfuscated passwords, but it’s still pretty clever.

‘Tis the season for Advent calendars, and the folks at QEMU have posted theirs. Open each of 24 doors on the calendar and you’re rewarded with a downloadable QEMU disk image that implements something fun. Minesweeper, a ray tracer that fits into a boot loader, and of course Conway’s Game of Life. The GW-BASIC image on Day 3 caught our eye — brings back some memories.

For anyone who has ever watched a Pixar film and wondered how all that animation actually works, here’s a great lesson in making art with math. The video is by Inigo Quilez and goes through the basics of rendering images using raymarching SDFs, or signed distance functions. In the beginning, it seemed like it was going to be a little bit like drawing an owl, but his descriptions of the math involved and how each element of the animation is just another formula is fascinating. What’s more, there’s a real-time rendering tool where you can inspect the code and edit it. Alas, my changes only made things worse, but it was still fun and instructive to play with. Check out the video after the break!

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: December 13, 2020”

OpenOffice Or LibreOffice? A Star Is Torn

When it comes to open source office suites, most people choose OpenOffice or LibreOffice, and they both look suspiciously similar. That isn’t surprising since they both started with exactly the same code base. However, the LibreOffice team recently penned an open letter to the Apache project — the current keepers of OpenOffice — asking them to redirect new users to the LibreOffice project. Their logic is that OpenOffice has huge name recognition, but hasn’t had a new major release in several years. LibreOffice, on the other hand, is a very active project. We could argue that case either way, but we won’t. But it did get us thinking about how things got here.

It all started when German Marco Börries wrote StarWriter in 1985 for the Zilog Z80. By 1986, he created a company, Star Division, porting the word processor to platforms like CP/M and MSDOS. Eventually, the company added other office suite programs and with support for DOS, OS/2, and Windows, the suite became known as StarOffice.

The program was far less expensive than most competitors, costing about $70, yet in 1999 that price point prompted Sun Microsystems to buy StarOffice. We don’t mean they bought a copy or a license, they bought the entire thing for just under $74 million. The story was that it was still cheaper than buying a license for each Sun employee, particularly since most had both a Windows machine and a Unix machine which still required some capability.

Sun in Charge

Sun provided StarOffice 5.2 in 2000 as a free download for personal use, which gave the software a lot of attention. It eventually released much of the code under an open source license producing OpenOffice. Sun contributed to the project and would periodically snapshot the code to market future versions of StarOffice.

This was the state of affairs for a while. StarOffice 6.0 corresponded to OpenOffice 1.0. In 2003, release 1.1 turned into StarOffice 7. A couple of years later, StarOffice 8/OpenOffice 2.0 appeared and by 2008, we had StarOffice 9 with OpenOffice 3.0 just before Oracle entered the picture.

Continue reading “OpenOffice Or LibreOffice? A Star Is Torn”