[Larry Bank]’s Arduino library to print text and graphics on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) thermal printers has some excellent features, and makes sending wireless print jobs to a number of common models about as easy as can be. These printers are small, inexpensive, and wireless. That’s a great mix that makes them attractive for projects that would benefit from printing out a hardcopy.
It’s not limited to simple default text, either. Fancier output can be done using Adafruit_GFX library-style fonts and options, which sends the formatted text as graphics. You can read all about what the library can do in this succinct list of concise functions.
But [Larry] hasn’t stopped there. While experimenting with microcontrollers and BLE thermal printers, he also wanted to explore talking to these printers from his Mac using BLE directly. Print2BLE is a MacOS application that allows dragging image files into the application’s window, and if the preview looks good, the print button makes it come out of the printer as a 1-bpp dithered image.
Small thermal printers make for neat projects, like this retrofitted Polaroid camera, and now that these little printers are both wireless and economical, things can only get easier with the help of a library like this. Of course, if that’s all starting to look a little too easy, one can always put the thermal back in thermal printing by using plasma, instead.
Thrift stores, antique shops, knick-knack stores- Whatever you might call them in your locale, they’re usually full of “another man’s treasure”. More often than not, we leave empty-handed, hoping another shop has something we just can’t live without. But on rare occasions, when the bits all flip in our favor, we find real gems that although we have no idea what we’re going to do with them, just have to come home with us.
[Charles] ran into this exact situation recently when he walked into yet another shop among many dotting the highways and byways of Georgia and spotted it: A Tomy Omnibot beckoning to him from the 1980s. [Charles] didn’t know what he’d do with the Omnibot, but he had to have it. Not being one to have things just sit around, he set out to make it useful by combining it with an era-appropriate Futaba 4 channel AM radio, and updating all of the electronics with modern hardware. The Mission? Drive it around at car shows and meetups where he already takes his 1980’s era vans.
We’re not going to spoil the goodies, but be sure to read [Charles]’ blog post to see how he hacked a modern 2.4 GHz 7 channel radio into the vintage Futaba 4 channel AM radio case. We appreciated his analytical approach to meshing the older gimbals and potentiometers with the new radio guts. Not to mention what it took to get the Omnibot back into service using parts from his battle bots bin. You’ll love the attention to detail on the new battery, too!
We’ve featured [Charles] work in the past, and his Power Wheels racer fed by a recovered Ford Fusion battery is simply unforgettable. You might also appreciate another Omnibot revival we featured recently. And as always, if you have a hack to share, submit it via the Tip Line!
As more and more ports are removed from our smart devices, it seems that we have one of two options available for using peripherals: either buy a dongle to continue to use wired devices, or switch to Bluetooth and deal with perpetually maintaining batteries. If neither of these options suits you, though, there’s a third option available as [befinitiv] shows us in this build where he integrates a tiny solar panel to his earbud case to allow them to automatically charge themselves.
To start, he begins by taking apart the earbud case. For those who still haven’t tried out a set of these, they typically charge only when placed inside of their carrying case, which in his case also contains a small battery itself. Soldering wires directly to the battery allow for the battery to charge without as much electrical loss as he would have had if he had connected to the USB pins on the circuit board. Even then, the cell only generates a single volt so he needs a 5V boost converter to properly charge the battery. That came with its own problem, though, as it wouldn’t fit into the case properly. To solve that issue, he desoldered all of the components and deadbugged them together in order to fit the converter into a much smaller space without having to modify the case in any other way.
With all of that done and the small solar cell attached to the case, [befinitiv] has a smart solution to keep his wireless earbuds topped up without having to carry cables or dongles around every day. We’ve seen plenty of interesting solutions to the problem of various electronics manufacturers removing the ubiquitous 3.5 mm headphone jack too, and not all of them have dealt with this problem without certain other quirks arising as a result.
Continue reading “Wireless Earbuds Charge Themselves”
A thermal camera is a tool I have been wanting to add to my workbench for quite a while, so when I learned about the tCam-Mini, a wireless thermal camera by Dan Julio, I placed an order. A thermal imager is a camera whose images represent temperatures, making it easy to see things like hot and cold spots, or read the temperature of any point within the camera’s view. The main (and most expensive) component of the tCam-Mini is the Lepton 3.5 sensor, which sits in a socket in the middle of the board. The sensor is sold separately, but the campaign made it available as an add-on.
Want to see how evenly a 3D printer’s heat bed is warming up, or check whether a hot plate is actually reflowing PCBs at the optimal temperature? How about just seeing how weird your pets would look if you had heat vision instead of normal eyes? A thermal imager like the tCam-mini is the tool for that, but it’s important to understand exactly how the tCam-mini works. While it may look like a webcam, it does not work like one.
Continue reading “Hands-On Review: TCam-Mini WiFi Thermal Imager”
The digital camera revolution swept through the world in the early 2000s, and aside from some unique situations and a handful of artists still using film, almost everyone has switched over to digital since then. Unfortunately that means that there’s a lot of high quality film cameras in the world that are gathering dust, but with a few pieces of equipment it’s possible to convert them to digital and get some more use out of them.
[befinitiv]’s latest project handles this conversion by swapping in a Raspberry Pi Zero where the film cartridge would otherwise be inserted into the camera. The Pi is attached to a 3D-printed case which mimics the shape of the film, and also houses a Pi camera right in front of the location where the film would be exposed. By removing the Pi camera’s lens, this new setup is able to take advantage of the analog camera’s optics instead and is able to capture images of relatively decent quality.
There are some perks of using this setup as well, namely that video can be broadcast to this phone over a wireless connection to a computer via the Raspberry Pi. It’s a pretty interesting build with excellent results for a remarkably low price tag, and it would be pretty straightforward to interface the camera’s shutter and other control dials into the Raspberry Pi to further replicate the action of an old film camera. And, if you enjoy [befinitiv]’s projects of bringing old tech into the modern world, be sure to check out his 80s-era DOS laptop which is able to run a modern Linux installation.
Continue reading “Analog Camera Goes Digital”
Is it really cheating if the aimbot you’ve built plays the game worse than you do?
We vote no, and while we take a dim view on cheating in general, there are still some interesting hacks in this AI-powered bot for Valorant. This is a first-person shooter, team-based game that has a lot of action and a Counter-Strike vibe. As [River] points out, most cheat-bots have direct access to the memory of the computer which is playing the game, which gives it an unfair advantage over human players, who have to visually process the game field and make their moves in meatspace. To make the Valorant-bot more of a challenge, he decided to feed video of the game from one computer to another over an HDMI-to-USB capture device.
The second machine has a YOLOv5 model which was trained against two hours of gameplay, enough to identify friend from foe — most of the time. Navigation around the map was done by analyzing the game’s on-screen minimap with OpenCV and doing some rudimentary path-finding. Actually controlling the player on the game machine was particularly hacky; rather than rely on an API to send keyboard sequences, [River] used a wireless mouse dongle on the game machine and a USB transmitter on the second machine.
The results are — iffy, to say the least. The system tends to get the player stuck in corners, and doesn’t recognize enemies that pop up at close range. The former is a function of the low-res minimap, while the latter has to do with the training data set — most human players engage enemies at distance, so there’s a dearth of “bad breath range” encounters to train to. Still, we’re impressed that it’s possible to train a machine to play a complex FPS game at all, let alone this well.
Building a Bluetooth speaker is easy with the availability of cheap Bluetooth receivers, but surprisingly there isn’t a simple way to build a pair of truly wireless stereo speakers. [Matt] from DIY Perks realized that modern Bluetooth earbuds contain all the electronics to do just that.
Due to the popularity of these earbuds, a broken pair can be picked up very cheaply on eBay. Usually, it’s only the battery or speaker unit that give out, neither of which are required for this build. [Matt] goes through the process of taking a pair of earbuds apart, and then soldering on battery and speaker wires. The speaker wires are connected to an audio amp, which drives a mid-range and treble speaker driver, and a subwoofer. The outputs to the amp are also filtered to match the speakers. Power is provided by a set of four 18650 cells.
[Matt] housed the driver and electronics in some attractive CNC machined wood enclosures. In the video, he places a lot of emphasis on properly sealing all the gaps to get the best possible audio quality. As with all of his projects, the end result looks and performs like a high-end commercial product. We’re almost surprised that he didn’t add any brass to the speakers, as he did on his USB-C monitor or PS5 enclosure build. Continue reading “A Wireless Speaker Pair From Dead Earbuds”