AVR programmer modelled after the MkII – uses LUFA

Here’s a new option for building your own AVR programmer. It’s called the MkII Slim and the diminutive size makes it live up to its name. The design is rather spartan, using just three chips; a voltage regulator, a MAX3002 level converter, and an Atmel AT90USB162 as the main microcontroller. This chip has a built-in USB module, foregoing the need for a separate FTDI chip.

The firmware is built on the Lightweight USB Framework for AVRs (LUFA). This is a USB stack implementation originally called MyUSB that was developed by [Dean Camera]. Regular lurkers over at the AVRfreaks forums will recognize [Dean's] name, or his handle [abcminiuser] as a source for many of the high quality AVR tutorials found there. But we digress.

The programmer offers all the features you’d want in an In-System Programmer. It can easily be reflashed with future updates thanks to the bootloader running on the chip. There’s jumper-selectable power options, and it can program targets running at 3.3V or 5v. The full development package including code and artwork is available for download at the site linked above. For your convenience we’ve embedded the schematic after the break.

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R/C Hexababy is guaranteed to give you nightmares

hexapod_baby

For this week’s hack, [Dino] was working on a mechanical cat toy, but the project fell apart towards the end for some reason or another. With time running out, he had to come up with something on pretty short notice, using whatever he happened to have on hand. Luckily he picks up some seriously weird stuff at the local thrift store and had a disembodied doll’s head kicking around for this last minute project.

Taking a cue from Toy Story’s [Sid Phillips], [Dino’s] doll’s head hexapod is as creepy as it is simple. He had a remote controlled hexapod from RadioShack sitting around, and thought it would be fun to combine it with the doll’s head. He replaced the dolls eyes with a handful of LEDs, which are green as the hexapod retreats, but glow a bright red as it advances towards you. The only way it could be any creepier is if [Dino] added a voice box that plaintively called for “mommy” as the doll crawls around!

It’s a relatively goofy project, but it gave us a good chuckle. The most disturbing highlight of the build is when [Dino] removes the doll’s eyes using a wood drill bit around the 6:00 mark.

If you’re looking to kill a few minutes, be sure to check it out – [Dino’s] work is entertaining as always.

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Bejeweled Blitz bot makes your high score look just sad

Programmers don’t need to get good at a game to achieve a high score, they code a bot for that instead. Take [hypnotizd] for instance. He was learning to write in the C# language and decided to make a bot that plays Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook. He figures he took between 48 and 72 hours of coding over a couple of weeks, but remember, he was learning the language at the same time. We think you’d be hard pressed to achieve a 1.5 million range score by yourself, even with that amount of practice time.

We spoke with [hypnotizd] yesterday afternoon to get a bit of background on how he made this happen. His code (he’s not releasing it so you’ll have to write your own) scrapes the screen image as input. You can see at the beginning of the video after the break that he sizes his app to properly align each jewel in its grid. The program then identifies each game piece by finding the center of the cell and taking a 25 square-pixel average color. Many of the jewels are easily recognized in this first pass, but some are harder and require several different tests to identify. That’s the difficult part, choosing the best move is just a matter of coming up with your own rules on how the bot should play the game.

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USB Reddit Upvote/Downvote button

reddit_upvote_downvote_button

[Chris] has recently become a self-declared Reddit addict and wanted to build something that would streamline the process of voting on posts. Inspired by the Awesome Button hack featured on Make a little while back, he thought that a physical upvote/downvote button would be the ideal peripheral for all of his Reddit needs.

He was a big fan of using the Reddit Enhancement Suite, which allows you to submit votes with a single keystroke. He combined this browser extension with a Teensy development board, and had his voting button prototyped in no time. Once he fine-tuned the Arduino sketch that he used to emulate the required keypresses, he got busy building a case for his creation.

He busted out his 3D printer and had a custom working project box in about 30 minutes. He printed arrows for the upvote and downvote buttons, snapped everything together, and then gave his quick vote box a spin. Everything worked perfectly, and he’s quite happy with his creation.

We imagine that our resident Reddit addict in chief is pretty jealous right about now…

Stick around if you’d like to see a time lapse video of the button’s creation.

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AM Singer: a tiny AM transmitter


[Simon Orr] wrote in to tell us about his AM transmitter prototype that he plans to put into production in a few months. The build is based on an “Easy AM Transmitter” featured in this Instructables article.

Interestingly enough, this device is capable of transmitting in the 100KHz to 480KHz frequencies. The AM band goes from 520 KHz to 1610KHz, so in order to hear this signal, one must actually tune the radio to twice the emitted frequency. This allows one to tune into the harmonic frequency and receive a signal in this range.

Using the harmonic frequency to transmit is an interesting concept by itself. Additionally, the idea that one could build this device with or without the kit in the future should appeal to experienced hackers and those just starting out alike. Check out the “AM Singer” prototype video after the break. [Read more...]

Making structured wiring do your bidding

So you’ve just moved into a home that has cat5 running throughout. This is called structured wiring and is a great feature for a home. But what if the existing wiring doesn’t work the way you would prefer to setup your network? [Firestorm_v1] has a workaround that lets you reconfigure Ethernet without pulling new cables.

He’s making splitters out of patch cables. Often, Ethernet devices are not using all eight conductors in the cable. Unless you are using Gigabit Ethernet, or running Power over Ethernet, only four of the conductors in each run are being utilized. This means you can create twice as many connections without running new cable or using addition switches. Each splitter has three RJ-45 connectors on it. One of them hooks to the wired jack in the wall while the other two hook to two different devices. You’ll need a second splitter to use on the opposite end of the wall jack, usually this is where the router or switch is located, in order to separate the combined signals.

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