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« July 2007 | Main | September 2007 »

PC on the Head of a Pin


Laptops got you down, bucko? Portable PCs too much buck for the bang? How about a PC that can dangle off the end of an Ethernet plug and leave you enough money in your pocket to buy a router, hub, and a year’s subscription of DSL high-speed service?

I present to you the picotux 100. Brought to you by the Munich-based Kleinhenz Elektronik GmbH and priced around $125 (dependent upon Euros-to-dollars exchange rate), the picotux 100 is based on 32-bit ARM 7 technology. Best of all, it’s a Linux system featuring uClinux 2.4.27 and Busybox 1.0.

If you build a project featuring the picotux 100 or have experience using this pint-sized PC, please let us know below in the comments.

(Image: Kleinhenz Elektronik GmbH)

New! The 5-Minute Project Series is Now a Video Podcast

5minute_podcast_logo Now you can get our five minute project videos delivered directly to iTunes or any other podcasting app. Subscribe here via iTunes, or use our RSS feed (http://popsci.libsyn.com/rss).

Some of you may be wondering what cruel fate may have befallen our brave podcaster Jonathan Coulton out on Lunar Base One. Well, a critical Doritos shortage after a lunar cargo supply chain error left Jonathan with a choice: continue to broadcast his weekly dispatches in solitude on the moon sans Doritos, or return to Earth to devote his full energies to being the interstellar rock star that he is, with the added benefit of all the Doritos he could eat. I think we can all see how the latter option won out. We wish our contributing troubadour all the best—you can still relive all the excitement via the same RSS feed in iTunes where every episode is archived.

Modeling Memories


If you’re in search of vintage (ca. 1935-1945) model airplane (e.g., Supermarine Spitfire, Grumman XF5F-1, etc.) plans (published in Bill Barnes Air Trails, Flying Aces, and Model Airplane News), then plan a stop at Ken Horne’s Web site. Packed with Adobe Acrobat PDF reprints from the great DIY airplane building magazines from America’s modeling heyday, this site risks filling your hard drive with way too many plans—all of which could take a lifetime to build.

Although somewhat dated (i.e., the last site update was 2004), this site does provide a wide smattering of 3-views, flying model plans, and solid model profiles that are worth investigating prior to buying one of today’s ready-to-fly foam kits. Supplementing this large library of bygone building plans is a healthy dose of folksy, pulp fiction av tails that can help fill those hours while you’re waiting for the glue to dry. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: Ken Horne)

5-Minute Project Video: Peephole Fisheye Lens

One from the "why didn't I think of THAT" department: a fisheye lens from a standard peephole just like in your front door. You can pick up a peephole (sans door) for around $10 at most hardware stores and be shooting cool ultra-wide-angle, amusingly distorted images with your point-and-shoot digicam in the time it takes to simply tape it to your lens. Adding similar capabilities to a fancier DSLR can easily cost 50 times as much. Yay, cheapness! —John Mahoney

We Have a Winner: The DIY Hydroponic Bog Garden

We are happy to announce the winner of our Go Green contest, thrown over on Instructables with the help from our friends at TreeHugger. The winning project details an ingenious way of further purifying the effluent water output of a sewage treatment tank (also designed by the contest winner's organization) and using it to grow plants in a hydroponic garden. Well done! Stay tuned here for more of our favorite entires, published in their step-by-step glory. Congratulations and thanks to all who entered! —John Mahoney

Noggin Logger II

Those Spark Fun folks just can't stop rolling out cool DIY components, apparently. If you recall, a recent PopSci Weekly Project that we ran on Instructables featured one of their GPS loggers. In this project, we embedded the logger inside a baseball cap for discrete, field-based data logging. Now might be a good time to revisit that project. A new product from Spark Fun Electronics makes GPS data logging much tidier and more powerful. Oh, and this new product is cheaper, too.

Dubbed the GeoChron, this new GPS data logger is empowered by an EM408 GPS receiver coupled to a space-age LiPoly battery and onboard LiPoly battery charger (via USB). Many of the nits with the original data logger have been eliminated with the GeoChron—configurable time lapse between records and user selectable GPS data sentences. The GeoChron is priced at $149.95.

(Image: Spark Fun Electronics)

Can Touch This

The good folks over at Spark Fun Electronics have a great input device that is a mate for their popular PSP 24-bit color LCD. This 4.3-inch 4-wire resistive analog touch screen is even prepped with adhesive for direct attachment to the PSP LCD. Be forewarned, you will have to develop (or locate) software for enabling a user interface with this screen add-on. The touch screen retails for $23.95, while the PSP LCD sells for $69.95. Now, if only these products had been available when I wrote, PSP Hacks, Mods, and Expansions (McGraw-Hill, 2006), then I might’ve sold more copies. Nah!

(Image: Spark Fun Electronics)

FREE GBA Power Pack on Sale

Gba_solar_pakThat seems contradictory, doesn’t it? Well, the power is free, but the power pack is not. A recent price reduction at All Electronics, however, has just put the solar-powered battery pack for the Game Boy® Advance within reach.

The SOLAR PAK™ (All Electronics #SPL-08) is a great solar panel platform that can power the GBA, as well as illuminate the screen with four onboard ultra-bright white LEDs. While the LED illumination is suspect (due to screen glare), the rechargeable solar-powered battery pack is a great way to hedge against battery landfill waste. Unfortunately, most SOLAR PAKs arrive with dead batteries. Fortunately, these batteries can be easily replaced. A PopSci Weekly Project hosted by Instructables can show you the step-by-step procedure.

The new, reduced price for the SOLAR PAK is $3.95. While you’re shopping at All Electronics be sure to give a close look to the 400-foot spool of twisted 22-guage solid wire (#22TW-400) for $9.50 and the SEARS® Craftsman Model 82061 digital multimeter featuring resistance, capacitance, and continuity signal (#DMM-61) for $10.65. Then make All Electronics one of your regular stops in search of new project materials.

Green Contest Now Officially Closed

I just wanted to thank everyone who entered our "Go Green" contest over on Instructables—and everyone else who submitted great greening ideas to the original post's comment thread. We're thrilled with the great response we've gotten, and it'll be a tough job judging all the entries. Stay tuned here for the winner's announcement and several of our favorite projects. —John Mahoney

Flyweight Volts


If you’re looking for a method to beat battery weight or add some big volts in a tiny space, try experimenting with polymer lithium ion batteries. Better known as LiPoly, lipo, and LipIon, these batteries are very small and lightweight, but they can deliver 3.7V @ 100mAh.

Be forewarned, however, LiPoly batteries require some special handling. For example, only a special polymer lithium battery charger circuit can be used for charging these batteries. Also, soldering the battery’s positive and negative terminal tabs to your project board can be very challenging. Do not exceed a 350F soldering iron temp and work swiftly; using a soldering time of less than 5 seconds.

You can purchase LiPoly batteries from Spark Fun Electronics. A single 100mAh batteries costs around $7.

(Image: Spark Fun Electronics)

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