This month’s column starts with what I called a ‘Net Workshop’ item about rechargeable power tools for the hobbyist, starting with the Ryobi ONE+ soldering iron R18SOI-0 iron that clips onto their 18V OnePlus battery; the Ryobi mini rotary tool (R18RT-0) has a flexible drive shaft for hobby projects, or there’s the new RRT18-0 pencil-style rotary tool as well. There’s even a USB accessory that turns a Ryobi 18V battery into a high capacity 5V powerbank, the R18USB-0. A variety of Ni-MH battery capacities is available from Ryobi – ‘starter kits’ often include a tool and battery or two bundled with a mains charger, and are a good place to start. Remember – ‘bare tools’ do not include a battery or charger. They are bought separately.
^ Ryobi rotary tool / USB Adaptor / Cordless soldering iron – all fit onto a Ryobi OnePlus 18V NiMH battery, sold separately.
Details of Ryobi’s European range will be found at https://uk.ryobitools.eu/ while readers in the USA, where there’s a much larger market, can view 200 attachments at https://www.ryobitools.com including a new ‘hybrid’ soldering station that works on a battery or 110V mains supply.
More recently, unofficial adaptors made by third parties now allow other brands of 18V battery to be fitted to Ryobi tools. Power take-off adaptors to fit Ryobi batteries are also sold, used for eg RC cars or projects. I found this typical one on eBay https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/402996794304. It’s best to add an inline fuse. Check Amazon for prices too, using the Camelizer plug-in to set up price drop alerts.
This month’s feature mentions ways of adding Bluetooth to audio equipment, to receive or transmit audio wirelessly.
^ SONRU brand Bluetooth 5.0 Transceiver has both a TOSLINK (optical) jack and a 3.5mm Aux jack. Select Tx or Rx mode as required. (Amazon.co.uk)
Some recent ‘retail therapy’ saw the delivery of a Bluetooth loudspeaker made by JBL. The JBL GO 2 is a very compact waterproof (IPX7) speaker that enables streaming audio to be enjoyed in, say, the shower or garden and it has a surprisingly rich tone for such a small unit. Available in several colours, the rechargeable speaker can last several hours between charges and it paired fuss-free with an Android phone. A separate 3.5mm Aux In jack is fitted for times when Bluetooth isn’t available, and it can double as a speakerphone for hands-free conference calls or for quizzing Google Assistant out loud (both of which depend on using your smartphone’s microphone).
^ JBL Go 2 Bluetooth water resistant speaker
Shop around: the JBL GO 2 was remarkable value for a street price of under £20. Newer models (the pricier GO 3) are available and there is, of course, a plethora of Bluetooth speakers sold by many other brands. Some also have a MicroSD slot to play audio files that way.
Next, what about a streaming audio source? Spotify Free https://www.spotify.com/uk/ offers unlimited songs sprinkled with adverts, or a paid-for service costing £9.99 per month. Amazon Prime membership bundles a selection of two million songs but access to Amazon’s 75 million song catalogue costs from £7.99 a month. Amazon’s Audible package https://www.audible.co.uk/ offers podcasts and audio books for £7.99 a month while Audiobooks.co.uk/.com has a free 30 day trial then £7.99 for two books a month. Audio magazines and meditation or natural soundtracks might be available as well.
As alternatives to DAB or FM radio, a myriad of radio stations stream their programmes online, accessible through apps or websites such as the free radio player from www.onlineradiobox.com. Sometimes your scribe will be found outside, tuned into Spain’s Spectrum FM Costa Blanca streaming over WiFi from the router indoors, with earbuds offering a convenient hands-free listening solution when paired to a smartphone. Or listen online at https://spectrumfm.net/
^ The Brennan B2 plays and rips audio CDs onto built-in storage, rips vinyl to MP3 and drives Sonos speakers directly. You need to check the full specs carefully.
Keen audio enthusiasts might like the Brennan B2, a self-contained CD ripper and amp which has a built-in Raspberry Pi module and will rip and store thousands of CDs in either MP3 or lossless FLAC format. A 2TB disk hosting 9,000 CDs as MP3s or 4,400 in FLAC format. The Brennan B2 2TB model lists at £569 and readers can check the specs at https://www.brennan.co.uk.
^ T-shaped pylons in Cambridge Science Park (Image: Google)
In last December’s issue I mentioned a new T-shaped design of electricity pylon that is putting in a limited appearance in the UK. My thanks go to reader Andrew Parker of Cambridge who writes:
“I really enjoy reading your Net Work column every month, and I was particularly interested in your December article about the first new pylon design in Britain for more than 100 years. While they may claim to be the first redesign to be deployed in quantity, these new T-pylons in Somerset, England aren’t radically different to similar single pole pylons erected nearly 40 years earlier, when the Cambridge Science Park was extended in the 1980s.
“To enhance the site, a more elegant design was used for the short section where the electricity cables passed through the Science Park. Quite an impressive feat, and presumably very costly, showing the power and influence of the landlord Trinity College! I think these were replacements for the existing conventional pylons. These four Cambridge pylons can still be seen on the latest Google Street Views. They need a coat of paint! A picture of one of them is on the first page of a website dedicated entirely to photos of UK pylons, of all things, at https://www.gorge.org/pylons/envision/.”
Thanks for writing!
I’m grateful to Dr Stephen Alsop for writing in with practical advice for any W10 PC user contemplating upgrading to W11 [as covered in recent Net Work columns]. Steve writes:
“I have 3 x PCs on W10, which contain Intel i7 3.40GHz CPUs, 16G, etc, used for R&D. However, according to Microsoft they cannot be updated from W10 to W11. I came across this method do this and have sent it in case it assists you:
I dislike the new system as it is not structured for productive professional engineers, who have dozens of R&D compilers and PCB stuff, because in W11 you will not be able to find them. However W11 is good if you are vacuous and just want to chat or watch media stuff…. end of rant!
To regain the proper START MENU and recover the Taskbar Toolbars (not just simply making it left justify) I use these 2 programs:
Open-Shell (use the options to get the start menu) – https://open-shell.github.io/Open-Shell-Menu/
WinAero Tweaker (to get a proper Toolbar back) – https://winaero.com/
I obviously don’t know if MS will block this at a future date, but providing you have kept a cloned W10 disk there is nothing to lose.”
The James Webb Space Telescope has launched and at the time of writing is deploying its mirror. The space observatory is a joint venture between NASA, Europe’s ESA and Canada’s Space Agency, and it carries a 21’ mirror made of 18 gold-plated hexagonal segments. More information about the instruments it carries can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/webb/observatory/index.html and space fans can see details of various JWST deployments at https://jwst.nasa.gov/content/webbLaunch/deploymentExplorer.html.
Rolls-Royce has made what it claims is the world’s fastest flight in an all-electric plane (dubbed The Spirit of innovation – see December issue). It’s emerged that the airframe was an off-the-shelf kit – the Nemesis NXT racing plane, which Rolls-Royce used as a testbed. More at https://www.nemesisnxt.com/kit/index.php
Lots more interesting information and news is in the latest Net Work column – the longest running magazine column of its type, published every month in Practical Electronics magazine since 1996!