Followup: portable SID player is now PC output

When we first covered [Markus]‘ portable SID player we starting dreaming about an alternative universe circa 1987 that included a pocket-sized music player called the Commodore ePod. [Markus]‘ updated firmware that connects his SID player to a PC will have to do for now, we suppose.

[Read more...]

Amazing pipe organ desk features secret compartments and an all-wood logic board


Feeling pretty good after putting together your brand new standing computer desk? Step aside please, [Kagen Schaefer] has something he’d like to show you.

His Pipe Organ Desk is undoubtedly one of the coolest pieces of furniture we have seen in a long time. The project took [Kagen] over three years to complete, which sounds about right once you see how much attention was put into every last detail.

This desk is amazing in several ways. First off, the entire desk was constructed solely from wood. The drawers, the supports, knobs, screws, and even the air valves – all wood. Secondly, when one of the desk’s drawers are pushed in, air is directed to the organ pipes at the front of the desk, which plays a note.

A small portion of the air is also directed into the desk’s pneumatic logic board, which keeps track of each note that has been played. When someone manages to play the correct tune, a secret compartment is unlocked. The pneumatic logic board is an unbelievable creation, consisting of well over 100 wooden screws which can be tuned to recognize any number of “secret tunes”.

Sure a well-placed axe can open the compartment too, but who would destroy such a fine piece of work?

[via Make]

Roomba used to map indoor air quality


The next time you set off for a long day in the coal mines, forget the canary – bring your Roomba along instead!

While we are pretty sure that canaries are no longer used in the mining industry, this Roomba hack could make a suitable replacement if they were. A team from the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) recently showed off a Roomba which they modified to test an area’s air quality. Using an Arduino and a volatile organic chemical (VOC) detecting air quality sensor, the Roomba goes about its normal business, lighting an LED any time it encounters overly contaminated air. When captured via a long exposure image, the process creates a “bad air” map of sorts, with the polluted areas highlighted by the glow of the LED.

While the Roomba currently only detects VOCs, the team plans on adding additional sensors in the near future to expand its functionality. The Roomba is merely a proof of concept at the moment, but we imagine that similar technology will be adapted for use in unmanned explorations of chemically hostile environments, if that hasn’t happened already.

[via DVice] [Image via TechnologyReview]

Output up to 768 PWM signals from one Arduino

Here’s an Arduino library that will let you drive a very large number of LEDs. [Elco Jacobs], an electrical engineering student, is the author of the library. He has a work-study job that has him helping out others with their electrical projects and he was constantly being solicited for methods to control droves of light emitting diodes. This was the motivation that led him to produce the dazzling 16 RGB LED example seen in the video after the break.

His setup doesn’t use expensive LED drivers, but instead utilizes 595 shift registers which are both common and cheap. He calculates that it is possible to control up to 96 of these shift registers, each driving 8 LEDs, with reasonably satisfying results. This is thanks to his well-optimized code that manages to drive the clock pin of the registers at 1.33 MHz. This optimization is done by writing each command in assembly, which allows him to precisely count the cycles. Each individual pin takes 12-13 cycles to address, totally 9984 cycles at worst when addressing the maximum number of outputs.

[Elco] thinks this is as fast as he can make the routine run, but he is asking for help with testing. If you think you know how to squeeze out a few more cycles, make sure you join in on his forum thread.

[Read more...]

Hackaday in the social tangle

Like any other organization out there, we’re always trying to find new ways to reach our audience. Admittedly, we’re not the fastest when it comes to adopting a new social communication site. We’re working on it though, trying to be a bit more interactive … or just plain active.

So, if you’re looking for other ways to get your hacking fix, or see some interesting commentary, find us on facebook, twitter, our own forums, and now G+. We just signed up to G+ and our name is “Hackie Smith”. If you need an invite, email us at see below.   Sometimes there’s good discussion in those places that doesn’t end up here on the site.

You can also find several of us spattered across the web in sites like Reddit and Slashdot.

[Update: Our g+ page got shut down. Feel free to find any of the writers on g+. I'll give out invites, look for "Caleb Kraft" or 60mango@gmail]

Beat707 LE: A Button Pad-based Standalone MIDI sequencer


[Guilherme] picked up a SparkFun Button Pad and was taking a closer look at the device when he noticed that it was based off the ATMega328 microcontroller. Since he loves working with MIDI, he thought that the Button Pad would make a slick yet compact standalone MIDI controller.

Since his ultimate goal was to create a completely standalone controller aside from the power plug and MIDI interface, it forced him to work quite closely with the ATMega chip. He and his partners spent a good deal of time working through some serial communications issues so as not to block the LEDs or MIDI block timer during operation. Ensuring that the Arduino doesn’t block any other functions is obviously important when you are building a MIDI timer, and it seems [Guilherme] was successful in his quest.

The MIDI controller works quite nicely as you can see in the videos below, great job!

[Read more...]

Hacking your MacBook Air restore drive to install OSX Lion


[Josh Wright] wrote in with a handy little hack just in time for today’s release of Mac OSX Lion. If you’re not familiar with the new version of the OS, Apple has decided to change things up this time around, completely eliminating physical distribution media.

In the event that you need to run a factory restore, this becomes an issue for some users. Computers with DVD drives can run a burned copy of the previously downloaded Lion installer, but MacBook Air owners are left hanging. Their restoration process is more time consuming, requiring a system restore and the download of OSX Lion, followed by the subsequent upgrade process. [Josh] thought it would be great if you skip the initial restore step and jump straight to installing Lion, so he hacked his USB restore media to do just that.

While copying the OS to a USB drive might sound trivial, the process is not as straightforward as it sounds – not surprisingly, Apple has put measures in place to prevent mere mortals from altering the contents of the drive. [Josh] put together an easy to follow tutorial that walks you through removing the drive’s protection and copying your brand new OSX Lion restore image to it.

While you might be asking, “Why jump through all these hoops when a normal flash drive would suffice?”, we think that his writeup is quite helpful. We see no reason to tie up a usable flash drive to store your restoration disc when you already have a perfectly good (albeit locked) drive at your disposal.

♦The only caveat to the process is that you need a Windows machine, virtual or otherwise, to complete the first step – a requirement that elicited a hearty chuckle from us.