NES controller is a slick way to carry around your portable OS

nes-controller-linux-drive

[Oliver] had an old NES controller laying around, and without any other use for it, he decided to repurpose it as a portable storage device.

He gutted most of the controller, removing the plastic standoffs, leaving the D-pad and remaining buttons intact. He crammed a 32 GB flash drive inside, along with the guts from an SD card reader. Using a Dremel he cut several openings into the controller, one for the flash drive and SD card reader’s USB ports, as well as for the SD card itself. When the physical modifications were finished, he installed a small Linux distro on the flash drive, which can be run by any PC that supports booting from USB.

While some might argue, we think it’s a neat way to reuse an old gaming peripheral that he might have otherwise thrown out. The portable OS is something that would certainly come in handy, though we can’t wait until the Raspberry Pi is finished – it would be awesome to have a complete computer packed in there too.

Chicken light keeps up egg production

It turns out that as the days get shorter, chickens lay fewer eggs. But you can trick them into keep up production using artificial light. [Jpitz31] decided to build his own timed coop light to bridge the gap until the days of plentiful sunlight return.

He already had an LED camping light to use, but needed to find a way to power it and to switch it on and off on a schedule. He chose an ATmega328 for the latter, as he had a bunch of extras sitting around. As for power, there isn’t AC available where the coop is, so he opted for a 12V lead-acid battery with hopes of adding solar charging features in the future.

Switching is handled by a relay, with accurate time kept by a DS1307 real-time clock (it’s the red PCB seen above). Everything fits nicely on the board, and we have a couple of feature suggestions for future improvements. The linear regulators will eat up some extra power so moving to a switching regulator will help save juice. Also, it would be very easy to add a light sensor so that the light will only be on when the ambient light drops to a preset level. This way he won’t need to mess with the schedule as the length of the days change.

ColorNode: A drop-in GE Color Effects LED controller

colornode-ge-color-effects-controller

[Paul] was looking to spice up his holiday decorations this year, so he picked up some GE Color Effects lights and started hacking away.

We’ve already seen how hacker-friendly these LED bulbs are, which is why [Paul] decided to give them a try. His ultimate goal was to synchronize several sets of lights from one location, which would unfortunately require that he run wires from his control board to each of the strings.

He then decided to go a different route, and build his own control board that would work as a drop-in replacement for GE’s controller circuitry. He wanted to retain the wireless control aspect of the lights, so he picked up some RFM12B wireless modules which happen to be well-supported by the folks at JeeLabs.

He modified their JeeNode board design to fit it in the Color Effects electronics enclosure, paring it back to the minimum components necessary to control his lights.

The hardware side of the ColorNode is complete, but the software is a work in progress. [Paul] says that once he gets things wrapped up, he will make the code available on his site.

Sous vide with racing stripes

We’re not going to question the logic that went into putting racing stripes on a slow cooker, but [Evan]‘s sous vide machine is the most professional one we’ve seen.

After [Evan] found a cooking book that went into the physics and chemistry of making a meal, he wanted to make some really good meals. Sous vide spoke out to him and [Evan] committed himself to building an immersion cooker.

After trolling around on the Internet, [Evan] came across a little gem on Make. The Make build was cheap – it was built around an off-the-shelf PID controller and thermocouples. [Evan] though about building his own PID controller, but time is money and he couldn’t beat the commercial version in features.

The enclosure was the most time-consuming part of [Evan]‘s build. It’s a 1/8″ sheet of aluminum cut and bent to the correct size. The sharp edges were filed down and joined with epoxy; definitely not the ‘normal’ way of building an enclosure. The color scheme is borrowed from this Renault – French cooking inspired by a French car.

As for [Evan]‘s results, he cooked a 5oz filet marinated in garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. This dish was flanked with some roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and sautéed broccoli. Our mouth is watering just looking at the picture, so we’re betting [Evan] did an excellent job.

Rebuilding a Bridgeport mill

It looks like the Internet’s resident steampunker is moving up a century or two. [Jake Von Slatt] rebuilt the CNC portion of a Bridgeport Series II mill so it can interface with a computer. It’s a feat even more impressive than moving the mill into [Jake]‘s garage.

The first step of the build was tearing out the BOSS 5 industrial microcomputer and replacing it with a Win XP laptop running ArtSoft’s Mach 3. This allows G-code to be displayed directly on the screen. The old power supply for the mill did give [Jake] a few problems. The Gecko stepper drivers that replace the old electronics couldn’t handle the voltage of the old power supply. That can be dealt with by opening the transformer and removing a few turns of wire.

[Jake] has been sending in a few of his hacks as of late, so it’s good to see Hack a Day has another fan, especially one of [Mr. Von Slatt]‘s caliber. There is a problem with the mill modifications though – [Jake] hasn’t figured out how to program it. If any HaD readers would like to chime in on the best way to program G-code for the mill, feel free to leave a message in the comments.

A Kinect Primer

Yes, the Kinect is over one year old now, and after some initial unhappiness from [Microsoft], it’s become a hacker’s best friend. [Eric] decided to celebrate this with an Article all about how it works.  If you’re new to this piece of hardware and want to get into working with it, this should be a good hacking introduction.  If you’ve been reading [HAD] lately, you will have noticed this information being used to “build a Kinect bot for 500 bones.”

Some interesting facts in this article include that the Kinect measures 307200 distance point, known as a “point cloud” in the gaming area. From this, it’s able to construct a 3D image of the environment around it and allow interaction. Such interesting hardware didn’t take long to hack after Adafruit announced a $3000.00 bounty to open it up to the masses.  This only took four days to do, making one wonder why, with their incredible resources, [Microsoft] wouldn’t either more effectively lock it down or officially open it to be hacked and modified to begin with. Our vote would be to officially open it up, but no one consulted us on the decision.

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