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The Changelog The Changelog #428

Open source civilization

This week we’re talking about open source industrial machines. We’re joined by Marcin Jakubowski from Open Source Ecology where they’re developing open source industrial machines that can be made for a fraction of commercial costs, and they’re sharing their designs online for free. The goal is to create an efficient open source economy that increases innovation through open collaboration. We talk about what it takes to build a civilization from scratch, the Open Building Institute and their Eco-Building Toolkit, the right to repair movement, DIY maker culture, and how Marcin plans to build 10,000 micro factories worldwide where anyone can come and make.

Hardware github.com

Turn your Kindle into a HUD for every day life

David Hamp-Gonsalves created a really cool use for your old Kindle:

Second hand Kindles are waiting in drawers for someone to repurpose them into something great. Boasting large e-ink screens, wifi connectivity and ARM processors they are an amazing hacking platform.

In my case I created an information panel summarizing my day such as my calendar, surf and weather forecast, garbage schedule, school closures, etc. My favorite part is that any extra space is filled with a random Pokémon sprite which my kids(not me) like to come check in on.

Built with Rust plus some serverless backend data collection bits.

Turn your Kindle into a HUD for every day life

Hardware clockworkpi.com

An open source portable terminal for every dev

DevTerm is a post-modern, digital minimalist lifestyle. The A5 notebook size integrates complete PC functions with a retro-futurism design, a 6.8-inch ultra-wide screen, classic QWERTY keyboard, necessary interfaces, high-speed wireless, long battery life, and even includes a practical thermal printer.

It even includes a printer?! This thing is bonkers. Pre-order today. Shipping “before April 2021”.

An open source portable terminal for every dev

Practical AI Practical AI #112

Building a deep learning workstation

What’s it like to try and build your own deep learning workstation? Is it worth it in terms of money, effort, and maintenance? Then once built, what’s the best way to utilize it? Chris and Daniel dig into questions today as they talk about Daniel’s recent workstation build. He built a workstation for his NLP and Speech work with two GPUs, and it has been serving him well (minus a few things he would change if he did it again).

Raspberry Pi raspberrypi.org

A $70 desktop Raspberry Pi in a keyboard (!)

You likely already saw this, but I don’t even care because I have to link to it because it is so freakin’ cool!

We’ve never been shy about borrowing a good idea. Which brings us to Raspberry Pi 400: it’s a faster, cooler 4GB Raspberry Pi 4, integrated into a compact keyboard. Priced at just $70 for the computer on its own, or $100 for a ready-to-go kit, if you’re looking for an affordable PC for day-to-day use this is the Raspberry Pi for you.

A $70 desktop Raspberry Pi in a keyboard (!)

Elixir dockyard.com

Creating a Sonos volume knob with Elixir and LiveView

Steven Fuchs loves his Sonos, but…

While it is the radio of the future, our most common usage is as the radio of the past. We tend to tune it to one station and leave it there. By far, our most common interactions with the system are changing the volume and pausing/playing the music, often creating scrambles to find a phone to turn down the volume in order to answer a different phone. What we needed was an analog interface to this digital system that was always at arms reach.

Hackers gonna hack. Steven reached for Elixir and scratched his own itch with this very cool little hardware project. Here’s a demo video of it in action.

Max Braun Medium

PiSight brings back Apple iSight

Max Braun thinks today’s webcams are boring, so he brought back a classic. Max took an Apple iSight and retrofitted it with a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero, which “fits the iSight’s dimensions almost perfectly.”

The PiSight actually works like you’d expect it to. Just plug in the USB cable and the camera will show up in your video conferencing app of choice. The image quality is quite good, possibly better than the built-in camera of today’s MacBooks.

The best part is you can do this too because Max made all the plans available as open source.

Just in case you’re not completely taken aback by the absurdity of this project and are now considering building your very own PiSight, rest assured that I’m making everything available as open source.

The GitHub repo has a list of parts and where to get them, the 3D-print-ready model of the frame, and the source code. I’m thinking it should be possible to get the total cost down to under $150. I had to spend a bit more than that because I needed to experiment and opted for higher-end materials.

PiSight brings back Apple iSight

Hardware github.com

The Open Book Project

An ambitious attempt to create an open source device for reading. But why?

As a society, we need an open source device for reading. Books are among the most important documents of our culture, yet the most popular and widespread devices we have for reading — the Kobo, the Nook, the Kindle and even the iPad — are closed devices, operating as small moving parts in a set of giant closed platforms whose owners’ interests are not always aligned with readers’.

It’s still early days, but the project got a boost of support by winning Hackaday’s Take Flight with Feather contest in January.

The Open Book Project

Hardware tindie.com

An open source, drop-in controller for the IKEA Bekant standing desk

OK so maybe you don’t use a standing desk… like I do. OR maybe you do, but you don’t use the IKEA Bekant desk in particular… like I do. STILL you can appreciate how hacker it is that someone built their own drop-in controller to add memory positions to the Bekant… right?

I wanted to have memory positions for easily switching between various work positions. I also didn’t want to be limited to just 2 positions. However, as I went through the process, I realized the hardest part was designing the enclosure. 3D Printing is a great option, but lacks that professional look, and limits the availability to those with printers. Additionally, getting custom membrane buttons that would look good was also extremely expensive. Simple push-buttons would take away from the look of the desk.

By targeting the factory enclosure, it keeps the original look and robustness, while adding functionality.

See it in action right here.

Nikita Prokopov tonsky.me

Time to upgrade your monitor

According to my research among programmers, 43% are still using monitors with pixel per inch density less than 150…

Why is this a problem? Because the only way to get good letters is by spending more pixels per letter. That simple. In the past, the displays’ pixel count was small, so we learned to live with that and even invented some very clever tricks to make our lives better.

Nikita goes on to share more details of how text looks on a low-resolution display vs a retina display. I’d love to see a follow up poll of the 43% using 150 PPI or less monitors on “why” they haven’t made the move to retina yet.

Practical AI Practical AI #90

Exploring NVIDIA's Ampere & the A100 GPU

On the heels of NVIDIA’s latest announcements, Daniel and Chris explore how the new NVIDIA Ampere architecture evolves the high-performance computing (HPC) landscape for artificial intelligence. After investigating the new specifications of the NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPU, Chris and Daniel turn their attention to the data center with the NVIDIA DGX A100, and then finish their journey at “the edge” with the NVIDIA EGX A100 and the NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX.

Practical AI Practical AI #87

Reinforcement learning for chip design

Daniel and Chris have a fascinating discussion with Anna Goldie and Azalia Mirhoseini from Google Brain about the use of reinforcement learning for chip floor planning - or placement - in which many new designs are generated, and then evaluated, to find an optimal component layout. Anna and Azalia also describe the use of graph convolutional neural networks in their approach.

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

The rise of RISC-V

John Cassel from The New Stack lays out the quiet-yet-effective push toward open source hardware. We first heard about RISC-V from Ron Evans on Go Time. He was very excited about its potential, saying:

it’s an open source set of silicon designs, so that you can build your own custom chips the same way that we’ve been able to build our own custom operating systems; either pieces of Linux to create their own Linux distros - we’ll be able to do the same exact things with custom silicon

Hardware justine-haupt.com

An open source DIY rotary cellphone 👏

Why a rotary cellphone? Because in a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting.

This reminds me a bit of the finding your analog conversation we had at the end of The Changelog #378. What’s super cool about this phone is that it is super functional!

So it’s not just a show-and-tell piece… My intent is to use it as my primary phone. It fits in a pocket.; It’s reasonably compact; calling the people I most often call is faster than with my old phone, and the battery lasts almost 24 hours.

An open source DIY rotary cellphone 👏

The Changelog The Changelog

The soul of an old machine

We partnered with Red Hat to promote Season 4 of Command Line Heroes — a podcast about the people who transform technology from the command line up. Season 4 is all about hardware that changed the game. We’re featuring episode 1 from season 4 — called “Minicomputers: The soul of an old machine.” This is the story of Minicomputers and how they paved the way for the personal computers that could fit in a bag and, eventually, the phones in our pockets.

Learn more and subscribe at redhat.com/commandlineheroes.

Hardware blog.athrunen.dev

Learning hardware programming as a software engineer

I’ve had never really come into contact with hardware programming, working mostly in python or C#, until a friend of mine asked me for some help with programming a simple controller for RGB strips using Arduino Nanos.

We’d, of course, fail spectacularly.

Not only did our hardware not work quite like intended and a few Nanos died in the process(but that’s a story for another time), but I actually learned a lot from this and similar projects.

And I want to tell you some of my mistakes, what I learned by making them and how to prevent them.

Learning hardware programming as a software engineer
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