Read every bit on a DVD

If you are curious about reading all the bits on a DVD, [tmbinc] has devised a hardware hack that uses a Pioneer DVD drive with leads soldered onto it and a Cypress FX2 microcontroller board to grab the flow of bits and push them over USB2.0. My favorite part of this tutorial is when you slow the spinning DVD down very slightly with your finger with a scope hooked up over what you believe to be the raw data stream from the disk. If the data rate slows when you physically slow down the disk, you probably are grabbing data from the correct pin. [tmbinc] even put together a software tool to process the resulting raw DVD data.

Automatic JTAG Pinout Detection

Figuring out the JTAG pinout on a device turns out to be the most time consuming hardware portion of many hacks. [hunz] started a project called JTAG Finder to automatically detect the JTAG pinouts on arbitrary devices using an 8bit AVR ATmega16/32L microcontroller. Check out the slides (PDF) from the talk as they break down how one finds JTAG ports on an arbitrary device, with or without a pinout detection tool. [hunz] is looking for people to pick up the project where he left off.

Once you determine the correct pinout, you will need a JTAG cable: there are two main types, buffered and unbuffered, both of which I have soldered up and tested from these circuit diagrams (image of completed buffered cable here). The software most hardware people use today are the openwince JTAG Tools. To get the JTAG Tools to compile, grab the latest source directly from their CVS repository.

The last time we featured JTAG was with regards to Linksys devices, but the tools listed above can be applied to any device with JTAG.

Fnordlicht: RGB mixing LED light


While [Will] goes and hides in his offshore datashelter, Hack-A-Day is happy to welcome back our veteran foreign correspondent [fbz]. She promises future posts will have far less ‘German by example’. -[Eliot]

The Fnordlicht is a color mixing LED platform with free hardware schematics and open source firmware initially started by [fd0]. The system is dynamically controllable (via RS-485) and can also work as a standalone with pre-loaded color mixing. I have one of these soldered up and working at home; the circuits come in a stack of three boards with an optional serial level shifter board add-on. There are project pages in German about the Fnordlicht as well, which include some photos of the first prototype. Full kits (“Fnordlicht Bausatz” means “Fnordlicht kit”) and printed circuit boards (“Fnordlicht Platinensatz ohne Bauteile” means “Fnordlicht circuit board set without parts”) can be purchased from their shop, but be sure to ask them first about shipping prices to your location. I love this project, I fire it up and stick it in a corner of my hack room to add some color-changing atmosphere.

A while ago [Eliot] covered the MoMolight, a color changing led project controlled by the colors playing on your monitor.

USB 2.0 FPGA based 24 channel logic analyzer


[lekernel] sent in his USB logic analyzer. I might just have to build this one for my work bench. It’s based on an Altera Cyclone 2 FPGA and he’s provided full schematics, source and a quick and dirty Linux driver to get things going. The board is nearly all surface mount, but he points out that the entire thing was soldered with a standard iron and de-soldering wick. If you’re looking for a good starter FPGA project, this looks like a good one.

I started writing for Hack-A-Day a little over a year ago. I’ve barely taken a break, but for the next week I’m going to be taking some serious time off on a Caribbean island. Thanks for a great year guys! While I’m gone, [fbz] has kindly consented to take over the reins. I’m looking forward to another year when I get back, but right now I’ve got to finish packing my dive gear.

Make your own jacobs ladder and other HV fun


We’ve covered a few tesla coils, but somehow we never hit this classic – making your own jacobs ladder. The spark climbing the increasing gap between a pair of electrodes is easy enough to create – just get a high voltage transformer (like a neon sign transformer), make a set of insulated electrodes and wire things up.

Now that I’ve mentioned a couple of HV sources, I can point to this set of awesome high voltage photos from the same guy that put together the portable tesla coil.

Convert a DVD-R Drive into a Lab scanner


[bodiby] was first to send in this New Scientist article about converting a DVD drive into a lab scanner. I did some digging and came up with the details. Here’s the paper describing the process and results. Here’s a basic schematic and description of the mod. A set of samples is placed onto a CDR. A photo sensor is used to locate the samples on the CD, while the laser is fired through each sample. A planar photodiode is used to measure the attenuation of the laser as it’s transmitted through each sample. Sadly, I couldn’t find any details on the custom control electronics.

Serial output for your weather station


I spent part of my weekend with some sort of stomach virus, so Eliot stepped in for me yesterday. I’m taking next week off, so we’ll have a special guest starting Friday – but I’m not revealing who just yet.

[Fickara] sent in his AVR interface(in Italian) for an Oregon Scientific remote weather station. Thanks to the AVR, data is output via RS232. There are quite a few less expensive weather stations – usually PC output models are over $100, so this could be pretty handy. His page has several other projects including an oscope clock, POV on a stick, etc.

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