Installing Linux on old PC’s Part 2

In part one I showed you that you could install a linux distro on a new computer and transplant it into a 386 computer in a short amount of time and with little effort. Now it is time to move on to bigger and beefier machines like 486′s, Pentiums and better.

I am going to break this quick tutorial down into sections based on installed RAM. While this won’t be a “how to” for all old PCs in the world I hope to at least send you in the right direction. I will mention a few distributions mainly for the super low ram machines. Its not my intent to start a distrubution war, and I have not personally sat down with every single one to make a educated assessment. However, you’re more than welcome to chime in.

Join us after the break and see what options you have for that old “boat anchor” sitting in the closet!

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Adding wireless controls to vintage stereo equipment


[Jean] was shopping around for a vintage stereo receiver, and happened upon a broken, but repairable Marantz 4240. After getting things back to working order, he thought it would be great if he could use his iPhone to remotely control the unit (PDF Writeup, Schematics and Code).

He scrounged around for parts, and after locating a PIC and a handful of parts from old copiers and printers, he got down to business. He etched some custom boards to house electronic bits, then strapped motors to the volume and source selection knobs. He also rigged up the push button power switch on the receiver, using a small servo and a bit of string.

Now, he can control everything using his iPhone, which communicates with the stereo over WiFi. While the power, volume knob, and input selector can be triggered remotely, he still has the ability to tweak any of these items manually if desired.

We think that this is a great way to add modern amenities to vintage electronics, without ruining the aesthetics of the components. Don’t take our word for it though, check out the video demonstrations [Jean] but together after the jump.

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Robotic arm and claw sculpted entirely from ShapeLock


[Alexey] wrote in to share a mechanical claw (Google Translation) he has been hard at work on for quite some time. While a lot of people will turn to some sort of 3D plastic printer such as the MakerBot if they need plastic parts built, [Alexey] didn’t have access to one. Instead, he carefully crafted the entire mechanism from polycaprolactone, or as it’s more commonly known, Shapelock.

Using a wide range of tools from hair dryers and knives to lighting fixtures, he manually sculpted the claw and its control arm out of plastic, piece by piece. We are particularly impressed by the gearing he was able to cut from the plastic, which can be finicky at times.

As you can see in the video below, The claw mimics each movement he makes with the control arm via a handful of Arduino-driven servos. Everything seems to work quite well, and despite the rough translation by Google, we think this is a great project. If you are looking to do something similar yourself, he has plenty of pictures on his site, which should give you a pretty good idea as to how things were put together.

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The Hand-Mounted Haptic Feedback Sonar Obstacle Avoidance Asstance Device.. Or the Tacit

Here is a hack that takes the stick out of the blind mans hand. [Steve] has been working on the Tacit, a wrist mounted sonar device with haptic feedback, it’s like strapping a bat to your wrist to help you see. The Tacit uses two sonar ping sensors to measure the distance to the nearest obstacle, the relative distance to an object is then fed back to the user using two servos which apply pressure to the back of the wrist. The Tacit is sporting an Arduino pro mini to control the ping sensors and drive the servos, and runs off a 9 volt battery.

This is not an entirely new concept, haptic headbands have been around on the net for a while, but the Tacit allows the user to detect  obstacles on the ground waiting to trip you up. All in all a neat hack that may have a future in helping the blind. Check out the video after the break to see it in action.

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Building a message board with a web interface

[Sergio] is just getting into hardware hacking. He started by getting an HD44780 compatible LCD screen running with his Arduino. To take the project to the next level, he decided to add a web interface for changing the message displayed on the LCD.

He’s doing things on the cheap (a man after our own hearts), purchasing many of his components off of eBay. Unfortunately that decision came back to bite him when it was time to connect his Arduino to the network. The Ethernet Shield knock-off wasn’t the same as the official version. That one’s got a Wiznet W5100 ethernet chip with does a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Instead, [Sergio] is using a board with an ENC28J60. It took a bit of searching, but eventually he came up with an example to help him get his Arduino serving web pages and listening for updates from them.

The ENC28J60 is actually not a bad piece of hardware. It’s cheap enough, and there are a few hardware/software demos out there that are worth taking a look at.

Adding USB control for Ikea RGB LED strips

Here’s an altered PCB that gives USB control to an Ikea Dioder. This is a $50 product that comes with four strips each containing nine RGB LEDs. The stock controller has a color selection wheel and a couple of buttons. [Rikard Lindström] wanted to use it to match ambient light to the colors of his computer monitor — yes, it’s another ambilight clone.

Since he already had a bunch of AT90USB162 chips on hand he chose that route. These chips have native USB support (he’s using the LUFA package which is a popular choice), but no on-board ADC. That means no need for the potentiometer from the original controller because there’s no easy way to read its value. Removing it made plenty of room for his add-on PCB. He also depopulated the PIC microcontroller that originally drove the unit, soldering to the empty pads in order to connect is own board. The finished product fits back in the original case, with the addition of a USB cable as the only visible alteration. Now he can dial in colors using a program he wrote.

In case you’re wondering, it looks like this is a newer version of control circuitry when compared to the original Dioder hack we covered.

Using an MSP430 for time lapse photography


Hackaday reader [onefivefour] had an old VistaQuest VQ1005 keychain camera kicking around, and wanted to do something useful with it. A while back he hooked up a 555 timer and did a bit of time lapse photography, but he wanted more control over the process. Specifically, he desired the ability to tweak the delay between shots in a more granular fashion, as well as way to prevent the VistaQuest from going to sleep after sitting idle for 60 seconds.

His weapon of choice to get this task done was an MSP430, since the microcontroller can be found quite cheaply, and because it is relatively easy to use. He added a few header pins to the LaunchPad board wiring them up to the camera’s trigger as well as the on/off switch. When the wire connected to the trigger is pulled low, the camera snaps a picture. The wire connected to the on/off switch is always held low, ensuring that the camera is on and ready to go whenever it’s time to take a shot.

It’s a relatively simple project, but definitely useful. While there are many ways to build an intervalometer, the MSP430 is a great platform to use, especially for beginners.

Stick around to see a quick video [onefivefour] put together, showing off his time lapse rig’s capabilities.

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