Adafruit Learning System Weekly Update: PDF Edition #AdafruitLearningSystem

This week on the Adafruit Learning System, we published four new guides. Learn how to make a talking computer from Star Trek, learn how to hack holiday animatronics, create a no-code WipperSnapper action counter, and learn how to make a glowy message crown.

Favorite New Guide

This week my favorite new guide shows you how to build a talking computer from Star Trek!

It’s a simple matter of economics that retail mass-produced costumes and props will always be the popular main characters.

3D printing and electronics affords us the opportunity to faithfully cosplay the “deep cuts” — supporting or background characters with little screen time that never got a Funko POP! of their own. Everyone has an odd favorite…Willrow Hood from The Empire Strikes Back is now a cosplay staple, eventually earning his own action figure. But most remain obscure.

Episode 14 of Star Trek: The Animated Series was notable for its crossover with episode writer Larry Niven’s Known Space universe. The show’s depiction of his Kzinti species — bloodthirsty, warlike humanoid cats — was hard to take seriously with their pink space unitards (the director, it was later learned, was color blind). The entire Animated Series was so off-the-wall that its canonicity is often debated, so you don’t really see much of it. Pity!

The MacGuffin of this episode was a powerful alien weapon that could change function and shape. It seemed like a fun idea for a DIY project — one design for electronics and code, two different props. The show’s weapon is seen transmogrifying among nine shapes, but time and space are finite…we picked just a couple favorites that struck a nice balance: the “talking computer” and “total conversion beam.” If you’re handy with 3D modeling, you could try for some of the others.

If you’re not looking for a Star Trek prop, the circuit and code might be helpful as a starting point for your own ideas!

Overhauling the PDF generator for ALS

Anyone who spends a lot of time working with the Adobe PDF format knows how painful the process can be. This is doubly true when trying to automatically convert documents and webpages to PDF. The PDF generator for the Adafruit Learning System has, for years, been unreliable and buggy. We have kept the PDF generator from breaking with lots of duct tape and bubble gum, but eventually we ran out of bubble gum. So, we decided to do a complete overhaul of the PDF generator.

Many of you may wonder why anyone would even want a PDF version of a Learn guide. There are many niche reasons to use the PDF version, but the vast majority of those who use the PDF version of guides are educators who load them on tablets without internet access for children to use. This also meant when PDFs were broken, it was especially disruptive to those who needed them for an upcoming class.

The good news is, not only did we fix many of the issues, but PDF’s are much cleaner and more compact. They should be easier to read and we should have far fewer bugs (these are still PDFs, so we expect plenty of bug fixes in the future, but it should be less).

The new PDF generator should be launched very soon, so keep an eye out for it if this update is for you!

ALS Deep Cut

With so many guides on the Adafruit Learning System, some amazing guides of years past get buried and lost. ALS Deep Cuts brings these guides back up to the surface. This week’s guide is from back in 2015.

Hack your existing charger and build your own portable Apple Watch charger!

Here’s how to build a wireless charger for Qi compatible devices like the Apple Watch.

Forget waiting on a kickstarter, you can hack your existing charger and build your own portable charger with components from Adafruit.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

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