Hackaday links: January 2, 2011

DIY driving controller

It looks like this steering wheel, shifter, and foot pedal were all made from string and garbage. That being said, you can see it works quite well. The setup just pushed keys on the keyboard,  which reminds us of the junky plastic add-ons for the Wii remote. [Thanks Toumal]

Taping PCI express

[Pseudolobster's] company was putting together point-of-sale machines for a retailer. They had surplus computers which really brought the price down but ran into a snag when adding the second monitor. The boxes wouldn’t play nicely with PCIe 16x. His solution was to scotch tape pins 19-82 on the cards, effectively turning them into PCIe 1x… and it worked! No link here but we wanted to share the trick anyway.

USB character display

[Simon Inns] shows how to add a character display to a PC case. We’ve seen him work with these PIC 18F2550 controllers several times before but we like how nicely this piggy-backs the display board seen in green.

29 thoughts on “Hackaday links: January 2, 2011

  1. tape on the pins is kind of common in the macintosh world, apple’s 1-2x agp card’s had power running through them for the monitors, and utilized a couple pins for detection, so what happens when everyone goes 4-8x? oops

    so if you have a old quicksilver or something, and want to remove that (even at that time) weakling rage 128 for lets say a geforce 6 better break out the scotch tape

  2. POS systems often live for a long time before being upgraded. I’d be very wary of using tape in such a way. Could end up giving some poor tech grief in 5 years time.

  3. thats a good point, maybe coloring the tape with a marker (cause your probably going to pull the card) but then again its not going to me moving around much to physically wear though

  4. Booker T Worthington approved this controller!

    This is like something I would have done when I was ten years old, before I really knew better.

  5. Wow, that driving controller is amazing, so silly and yet so working, it sort of makes all that money for the development of the wii and such seem very pointless doesn’t it :) If only keys weren’t so digital with only on and off.
    Still it shows that if you want to hack something together with what’s in the house you can.

  6. @Driving ‘controller’: Neat, in a ghetto sort of way but it is still not an analog steering wheel. And from the looks of the video, it really doesn’t work to well.

  7. I have been running a PCIe x16 card in an x1 slot for a couple of years now. Unfortunately, I tried snipping the end of the x1 slot with a wire cutter and bend a couple of the metal strips in the connector. I straightened them with a dental pick and small tweezers, then finished cutting a slot in the end of the socket with a dremel tool. It works great. I have had up to seven monitors attached to this computer at one time (including one connected to a USB VGA adapter).

    The PCIe specification says all PCIe cards must support x1, but I have found that some video cards do not work in an x1 slot.

    I have also successfully run an x4 SATA card in an x1 slot.

  8. VERY cool hack with the tape.
    Sometimes kludges work for a LONG time.

    The driving controls? Well it is a creative way to handle it, but not my cup of tea I think.
    Still, if it works…it’s good! :D

  9. @Rob Wentworth
    I’ve always been wondering why motherboard manufacturers (or PCIe standarization board) didn’t make the x1 and x4 connector open-ended, so that one could slide larger cards into the smaller slots.

    Imagine the artwork.. x1 slot supporting up to x16 cards ;)

  10. The controller hack is pretty useless. But I once made a steering wheel from Lego. Which was awesome, it worked great. It looked silly, but it beat keyboard players every time.

    Just a joystick connector and a potmeter salvaged from an old radio. Never build the analogue gas paddle, but it had 2 buttons for gas and brakes.

  11. Taping off pins on a edge card connector reminds me of how some people used to rip cartridge ROM’s on the old computers like the Coco, TI99/4A and VIC=20. Covering up one pin would stop them from auto-executing letting you save the contents to tape and/or disk.

    … and was a lot less likely to fry the machine than the trick of plugging in the cartridge with the machine already on. (especially on the Coco1 with the +12V line on the cart port)

  12. In the industry the proper technical term for ‘Kludge’ is “Proof of Concept”. :D I give the kid a lot of credit, he built a working controller out of junk. I did a lot of stuff like this as a kid. It cost me nothing and it helped me develop the skills I later turned into a career.

  13. I’ve made a pci-e 1x card from a pci-e 16x card, but I didn’t use any fancy tools like dremel, I had a hacksaw.

    Made 3 cards, 2 worked.

  14. @o A modern motherboard has at least 5 layers, and you don’t see the ones hidden inside, so it’s not that simple anymore to cut what you want.
    What you could do though is get a PCIE riserboard and cut traces on that.

  15. Addendum: or do you mean cut them on the card near the edge? That would work but ruin future use, still it’s an idea, you could also dremel the copper away from the actual connector I guess.

  16. @Whatnot: We used to cut inner traces on mult-layer PCBs by drilling a hole that intersects ONLY the trace to be cut. To connect a jumper wire to an inner trace, you need to find where the trace surfaces at a plated-through-hole or at an IC pin, and connect the jumper there.

  17. @qdot

    “I’ve always been wondering why motherboard manufacturers (or PCIe standarization board) didn’t make the x1 and x4 connector open-ended, so that one could slide larger cards into the smaller slots.”

    Asus did this for there x4 connectors, I have a few like that. Shame I won’t be buying from them again for other more damning reasons.

  18. Would love to see a link or other information on the tape hack, so that I know WHERE NOT TO BUY HARDWARE.

    Jesus H Christ on a popsicle stick, you don’t SELL butcherous kludges.

  19. Plaid: There was a bit of a miscommunication when I submitted that. I guess I didn’t make it clear enough, or perhaps HaD only skimmed it.

    The gist is, we’re a computer company, we deal with a POS company, who is one of our largest clients. They normally buy our computers to make into their POS boxes, but they recently stopped buying. They found their own source of government surplus IBM Thinkcentre’s. We would have lost them as a customer, except they needed to buy video cards in order to get a second display. When they installed a video card, realized the mistake they made, and came back to us, I figured out a hack that would work, saved them a few thousand dollars, sold them a few hundred video cards, and saved them as a client.

    We do not sell used hardware. They made the decision to go buy these fifty dollar computers, then I proved our worth by getting them out of a sticky situation.

  20. @Rob Wentworth:

    The reason some x16 cards don’t work in x1 slots is because of the PCIe presence detection mechanism that some (not all) motherboards implement.

    Fortunately there is an workaround: short the PCIe pins A1 and B17 with a small wire. I have done that myself, read the “Down-plugging x16 Cards in x1 Connectors” section in:

    http://blog.zorinaq.com/?e=42

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