Posted: October 30, 2010 in Classic Hacks

IM-ME USB dongle hacking

posted Oct 23rd 2010 12:52pm by Mike Szczys
filed under: classic hacks

This circuit board is from the USB dongle of a Girl Tech IM-ME. [Joby Taffey] took it apart and poked around to learn its secrets. These dongles come along with the pink pager that has become a popular low-cost hacking platform. But we haven’t seen much done with the dongle itself up until now.

[Joby] used the OpenBench Logic Sniffer to gain some insight on what’s going on here. The board has two chips on it, a Cypress CY7C63803 USB microcontroller which talks to the computer over USB and also communicates over SPI with a Chipcon CC1110 SoC radio. It looks like reprogramming the Cypress chip is a no-go, so he went to work on the CC1110. The inter-chip communications data that he acquired by sniffing the SPI lines gave him all he needed to reimplement the protocol using his own firmware. As a proof of concept he to reflashed the CC1110 and can now send and receive arbitrary commands from the dongle. There’s a tiny video after the break showing a script on the computer turning the dongle’s LED on and off.

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1000W search light – now build a bat signal

posted Oct 22nd 2010 8:00am by Mike Szczys
filed under: classic hacks

Forget flashlights, and leave those burning lasers at home, [Ben Krasnow] built asearch light using a 1000W xenon arc lamp. That box you see on the side of the trash-can housing countains a starting circuit that shoots 30 kilovolts through the xenon lamp to get it started but it is separate from the power supply. [Ben] started experimenting with the lamp back in April but recently finished the project by using the inverter from an arc welder to get the 50 amps at 20 volts needed when the lamp is on.

The insert on the left of the image above is an outdoor picture of the beam. You can make out a tree at the bottom. Take a look at the video after the break for a full walk-through of the circuitry and some test footage of the finished product.

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Panaplex in a jar

posted Oct 22nd 2010 6:44am by Caleb Kraft
filed under: classic hacks

Check out this home made panaplex display. Panaplex displays are closely related to nixie tubes, but instead of layering individual numbers and lighting them separately, it uses pieces to build the numbers like a digital display. [Lindsay] managed to make one at home, using a jam jar as the vacuum tube.  Argon as the gas in the tube gives it a pleasant purple color. We really think the end result is fantastic, you can see some build pictures and a run through of the numbers on the site. Unfortunately there aren’t any videos of the display in action.

[via Makezine]

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Add supercaps to your exercise routine

posted Oct 8th 2010 11:00am by Mike Szczys
filed under: classic hacks

Many exercise machines generate electricity as you pedal or climb in order to run the on-board electronics. Unfortunately if you stop or even slow down too much the juice will die and your exercise program will reset. Wanting to improve on this gotcha, [Mike]cracked open his exercise bike and added some super capacitors.

On the circuit board he found an ATmega128 was in charge of the user interface. He probed the board a little bit and couldn’t find how it was connected to the power regulators. After some additional snooping he found it has its own SOIC regulator separate from the ones that run the display and peripherals. He takes us through the calculations he made before choosing his parts. What he ended up with is a set of three supercaps in series that add about two minutes of juice before the levels drop and the chip resets. The design of the board helped a lot as the high-load electronics (like the LCD screen) are on a separate power bus than the processor.

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Printing from a Famicom clone computer

posted Sep 30th 2010 12:00pm by Mike Szczys
filed under: classic hacksnintendo hacks

This is an 8-bit computer and Famicom clone that [133MHz] bought for $2. It plays Nintendo games and using an 80-in-1 cartridge it has a rudimentary operating system and set of applications. Seeing a standard DB25 port on the back [133MHz] wondered if he could make the system talk to a printer. His first step was to investigate the electronics inside to find that the connector has a couple of chips that map to the data bus of the CPU and use the same control lines as the cartridge. That means it can be setup to do just about anything in software. After a bit of coding he’s got it printing to a dot-matrix. See for yourself after the break.

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Tiny Cray-1 courtesy of an FPGA

posted Sep 29th 2010 12:00pm by Mike Szczys
filed under: classic hacks

[Chris Fenton] spent a year and a half constructing a 1/10th scale Cray-1 reproduction. The famous supercomputer was meticulously modelled in a field programmable gate array for a “nearly cycle-accurate” reproduction. [Chris’] hardware of choice for the project is a Xilinx Spartan-3E 1600 development board, using 75-80% of the available resources. The finished product runs at 33 MHz and is missing a few functions but it sounds like they don’t affect code execution. We like that he didn’t stop with the processor implementation, but also took the time to produce a case for the development board that looks just like the original.

Unlike the Atari 2600 FPGA project, we’re not quite sure what we’d use this for. But that doesn’t diminish the excellence of his work.

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Graffiti Analysis

posted Sep 28th 2010 11:00am by Mike Szczys
filed under: classic hacks

Here’s a fascinating project that started with a great idea and piled on a remarkable amount of innovation. Graffiti Analysis is a project that captures gestures used to create graffiti art and codifies them through a data-type called Graffiti Markup Language (GML). After the break you can watch a video showing the data capture method used in version 2.0 of the project. A marker taped to a light source is used to draw a graffiti tag on a piece of paper. The paper rests on a plexiglass drawing surface with a webcam tracking the underside in order to capture each motion.

The newest iteration, version 3.0, has some unbelievable features. The addition of audio input means that the markup can be projected and animated based on sound, with the example of graffiti interacting with a fireworks show. The 3D tools are quite amazing too, allowing not only for stereoscopic video playback, but for printing out graffiti markup using a 3D printer. The collection of new features is so vast, and produces such amazing results it’s hard to put into words. So we’ve also embedded the demo of the freshly released version after the break.

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New term for art: Sculptural Robotics

posted Sep 21st 2010 6:00am by Jakob Griffith
filed under: classic hacks

[Dan Roe] has been working on Sculptural Robotics for quite some time, and most recently presented his newest creation: Solar Flowers 2010. Typically, Sculptural Robotics (coined by [Dan] himself) are stand alone, static art presentations made from electronic components and wire. [Dan] of course has taken it quite a bit further; giving all his sculptures life using solar panels, motors, engine circuits, and more. Making them zero emission, and beautiful at the same time. You can catch four videos after the jump of his moving sculptures. Not that we’re picking favorites, but the dragonfly is pretty amazing if we do say so ourselves.

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Homebrew firmware upgrade for VCI-100 turntable controller

posted Sep 20th 2010 3:00pm by Mike Szczys
filed under: classic hacks

We love hacks that take quality products and make them better. This enhanced firmware for the VCI-100 is a great example of that. In a similar fashion as the Behringer hack, [DaveX] reverse engineer the firmware for the device and figured out a few ways to make it better. It improves the scratch controller and slider accuracy to use 9-bit accuracy from the ADC readings, which in the stock version were being shifted down to 7-bits. There’s also a few LED tricks they call Disco Mode. They’re selling a “chip” that you need to flash the firmware but from what we can see it’s simply an RS232 converter so you might be able to figure out how to work without that part. We’ve embedded a demo of firmware version 1.4 after the break.

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Dead motor? Think again

posted Sep 16th 2010 6:25am by Jakob Griffith
filed under: classic hacks

While hobby brush motors are pretty cheap now adays, there’s always that feeling of why replace when you can rebuild and reuse. As such [John Carr] presents how tochange the brush position in motors to revive a dead motor. So long as the motor dies from natural causes commutator wear, the idea is the brushes can be moved along the axes and fixed to a new portion of commutator that’s not worn at all. [John] also goes through the details of some tricky reassembly, but we think to make this complete a guide on brush replacement and commutator replacement might be in order hint hint.

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