Netflix Player source code released

The Netflix Player continues to gain in popularity. Roku has finally released the GPL code for their Netflix Player. Just today Forbes published that Roku would roll out a software update allowing it to stream from other online services. The diminutive device has no internal storage and just enough RAM to buffer the stream. Many have wondered how a Linux box is handling the DRM; this is purely a feature of the NXP PNX8935 processor being used. While waiting for the code, hackers have already popped the box open to see what’s inside. We found [hokiokie7]‘s photos of the internals on Roku’s forum. The only really interesting thing we’ve seen so far is that the WiFi is on a daughter card that plugs into the USB. That should make it much easier to support other devices, if users ever manage to get into the system.

UPDATE: [mbailey] points out in the comments that he was able to telnet to the device.

Beer Bot will pour you a cold one

We love beer and we love robots, so guessing how we feel about this robotic bartender should be a no-brainer. Known as Mr. Asahi, the robot opens bottles and pours beer while taking your orders with aplomb and a jovial British accent. It also has a customized lazy susan with slots for bottles and notches for the robot’s hand to grasp.

Amazingly, this is not Asahi’s first beer pouring robot. That one requires you to do most of the leg work, though, so this one is a marked improvement. Best of all, it won’t ignore you when a person more attractive than you comes into the bar, and it won’t snub you for leaving a lousy tip. We now fear alcohol fueled robot rampages… they get more human every day. Video after the break.

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Eee PC 900 touchscreen

Jkkmobile has just posted their touchscreen hack for an Eee PC 900, and it looks great. Installation of this kit is pretty easy, just fit the panel to the screen, connect the controller to the USB lines, close it up, calibrate it, and you’re done. The controller board is placed on top of the WiFi card. Jkkmobile has informed us of touchscreens for older Eee PCs before, but this is one of the first we’ve seen for a 900+ model. The post lists a few sources for touchscreen kits, but no word on which one they used.

VU Meter made with an LM3915

So here’s the situation: you have an audio device, maybe a boombox, perhaps one you built yourself, but it has no VU meter. No problem; building a VU meter is easy with these instructions from [Joe].

You’ll need either an LM3915 or LM3916 chip, a couple of bread boards, two audio jacks, ten LEDs, and a few other components. Wire them all together per the schematic, then plug an audio source into the input jack. You can plug your speakers or output device into the output jack, and you’re done. Keep in mind that LM3916s switch negative, so positive to positive wiring from LEDs to the bread board will be necessary. The wiring on [Joe]‘s version is a bit convoluted, but it can be cleaned up on yours if you take the time. Video embedded below.

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Easiest Rock Band to MIDI setup yet

We have news for those of you dismissing the new Wii Version of Rock Band. Sure, the lack of DLC is a huge factor, but if you’re looking to use the instruments with MIDI software, [Jordan Balagot] has found what may be the easiest way. Since the Wii instruments are connected via USB, they are easy to connect to a computer. [Balagot] used a program called junXion that is a data routing app for OS X. JunXion can take any USB human interface device and remap the buttons, making it easy to set up the drums as a MIDI input device in an intuitive way. Install junXion, plug in the drums, map the pads, and rock out.

[via Create Digital Music]

Age verification cameras easily fooled

Nice try, Fujitaka. They manufacture cigarette vending machines in Japan, and were all set to roll out a new system of age verification cameras on their machines, which would scan the face of the buyer to look for sagging skin, wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of legal smoking age. The system is easily circumvented, however: people with a photo of an older person clipped from a magazine can fool the machine by simply showing the photo instead of their own faces.

Another aspect to Japan’s cigarette control is the Taspo card, which is an age verified ID issued to smokers of legal age or older (20 years old is the legal age in Japan). Taspo cards are required for over the counter purchases, and the majority of vending machines require them as well. Relatively few machines are outfitted with face recognition systems, but many more are set to ship in the coming months. Fujitaka claims they are working on a solution by improving the face recognition software, but we think it would be a lot easier to simply check the background of the image. Since the camera is static and always pointed in one direction, the portraits it captures should always have the same background. Someone please tell Fujitaka we just saved them a boatload of R&D money… until Guy Fawkes masks become more popular.

Another helping hand for the work bench

We like clever work bench accessories; especially the kind that make our projects that much easier. [rstraugh] put up his version of the ubiquitous helping hands: thirdhand++. The arms are made from modular coolant tubing that’s made for machine tools. With the basic arms in place, he created several attachments – like this PCB holder, a LCD holder, the usual alligator clips and even an oscilloscope probe holder.