How a HP VFD Module was Reverse Engineered

We all love getting a good deal on sweet parts, but not all of them are documented. Some of us have trained our eyes and brains to spot “timesinks”, having been burned before. The rest sit down with whatever pile of stuff they have on hand, and figure out how to talk to that HP Media Center VFD.

[Jayeson] found some good deals on some Vacuum Fluorescent Displays from a HP Media Center computer as “new”, from some (unmentioned) shady dealers. Once receiving his B stock displays he needed to figure out a way to make them work.

Fun and excitement includes: figuring out the pins, first attempts of communication, getting the data sheet for a house brand chip… that still has the Atmel stamp on it, sniffing traffic with a logic analyzer, and deciphering that data. All that while being a pretty interesting read, good showing of willpower, and resulting in a couple Arduino Libraries as a bonus.

Portable bench supply carries around 10 amp-hours of juice

[Punish3r] wanted to have power for prototyping on the go. What he came up with is this little thing above. Inside you’ll find common components that let the unit provide 10 amp hours of current with a 12V 500mA output.

The storage capacity is provided by a dozen Lithium batteries. These 3.7V cheapies are wired in parallel behind a protection board. For charging and discharging, a Sparkfun LiPo charger board was used, taking care of all the work necessary to top off the batteries using a wall-wort. The final piece in the puzzle is a boost converter that provides the regulated 12v connected to the red and black banana plug receivers on the bottom of the case.

This is very much a plug-and-play design… just make sure you hook the parts up correctly and you’re up and running. We would love to see a roll-your-own boost converter circuit that include a switch or dial that lets you select common PSU voltage levels. If you’re going to the trouble to make your own board you might as well incorporate the charging circuit at the same time.

[Thanks Paul]

PS3 gun/controller hybrid

[Luis] is very particular about his gaming controllers. He wanted to mod a Six Axis controller to fit into a Nerf gun body but there wasn’t really enough room for all of the components. After shopping around for a while he discovered a wired gun controller made by Namco which was developed for use with the game Time Crisis. He picked one up and went to work replacing the guts with a set pulled from a wireless controller.

The majority of the work on a mod like this one comes in extending the reach of each component. After cracking open the gun controller’s case, [Luis] begins preparing and soldering all twenty contact on the Six Axis controller PCB, then completing the connections necessary for each relocated component. This does make us wonder if there won’t be some element of noise introduced to the signals coming from the analog sticks? He mentions that one of them is ‘glitchy’ but that could be because he started with a used controller from eBay.

We took a couple of good tips out of this. Since the plastic housing is designed to hold each of the original PCBs securely, [Luis] reused them as a mounting surface for the replacement components. A little creative use of protoboard and some time in the paint shop and you’re done. Check out a video of the entire process, which also shares the finished results, after the break.

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