Name these parts: Verifone payment module tear down

[Jerzmacow] got his hands on this Verifone Vx570 handheld payment terminal at a flea market. It’s got a thermal printer, a magnetic card reader, and then there’s the big LCD screen and buttons. In other words, lots of parts for his hacking amusement. But first, he decided to take a look at the parts that went into the design. He carefully disassembled the device, documenting what he found along the way. He mentions that there’s a switch pressing against the underside of the LCD which disables the hardware when disassembled. So it sounds like he won’t be able to get it to work again (there’s a Lithium battery inside which we’d guess powers some type of hardware kill switch circuit).

He posted an HD video of the tear down which we’ve embedded after the break. We find some of the design to be quite peculiar. Normally we have [Dave Jones] to walk us through design choices in his EEVblog hardware reviews. Since [Jerzmacow] wasn’t able to provide that level of insight, we’d love to hear what you think each piece of hardware is for. Leave your comments, along with time-stamps from the video. Specifically, what’s up with that strange board shown at 1:51? [Read more...]

Fixing that broken laptop power jack

It seems that there’s a whole range of Toshiba Satellite laptop computers that suffer from a power jack design that is prone to breaking. We see some good and some bad in this. The jack is not mounted to the circuit board, so if it gets jammed into the body like the one above it doesn’t hose the electronics. But what has happened here is the plastic brackets inside the case responsible for keeping the jack in place have failed. You won’t be able to plug in the power adapter unless you figure out a way to fix it.

We’d wager the hardest part of this repair is getting the case open. Once inside, just cut away all of the mangled support tabs to make room for the replacement jack. The one used here has a threaded cuff that makes it a snap to mount the new part to the case. Clip off the old jack and solder the wires (mind the polarity!) and you’re in business.

Anyone know why we don’t see more of the magnetic connectors (MagSafe) that the Apple laptops have? Is it a patent issue?

[Thanks Dan]

Seeing with another person’s eyes

We suppose they could just trade shoes, but that wouldn’t be a hack. [Timothy] wanted to design a team-building exercise at work, and he figured the best way to get some empathy would be to have people swap eyes. He calls his project eyeSwap and it is supposed to, “put the eye back in team.”

[Tim] found a few CRT viewfinders in a junk box attached small video cameras to each one. During the ‘training phase’ of his team-building exercises, both people playing the game complete a few hand-eye coordination tasks to get a feel for the rig. After the training phase, the inputs are swapped; Alice’s cameras are sent to Bob’s viewfinders and vice versa. The participants then complete the same tasks they did during the training phase.

The tasks aren’t that hard – putting balls into holes, for example – but it does require a huge amount of communication and coordination. eyeSwap reportedly builds trust and empathy towards others, and looks like a lot more fun than a ‘trust fall.’

Check out the video of two people playing eyeSwap after the break.

[Read more...]

Sparkfun announces Free Day 2012

We got word that it was coming, and now SparkFun has just announced that Free Day 2012 will take place on January 11th. This is the third time around for the purveyor of goodies for electronic enthusiasts. Each year the offer is a little different, but like in the past you stand to get $100 of free stuff!

The first Free Day back in 2010 saw a lot of hammering which left the SparkFun servers a steaming pile of slag. In 2011 they bolstered their bandwidth handling and tried a quiz-based system for the giveaway. This time around they’re not asking questions but leaving the awards up to chance. Each person has the opportunity to win a $100 credit during the contest window (not specifically announced yet, but definitely starting at 9AM MST on 1/11/2012). There will be some type of bot monitoring, but other than that you can try to claim your credit as many times as you want, with the awards being randomly assigned to a pool of entrants. We recommend you keep an eye on their announcements for more details, but we’ll try to keep this thread updated as we hear more.

Not wanting to wait that long for your components? Don’t miss some of the sales that are going on over this Holiday weekend.

[via Reddit]

Reading inputs from shift registers using just one single pin

Here’s an interesting article about reading data from shift registers using less than three pins. 74HC165 shift registers are a popular choice for adding inputs to a microcontroller. They have a parallel input register which can be read using the latch, then shifted into a microcontroller via the data and clock pins. For those counting, that’s the three pins normally associated with driving these devices.

This hack first does away with the latch pin. The addition of a carefully trimmed RC circuit (capacitor is charged by the clock pin, then the resistor lets that cap slowly discharge) means that the device will not latch until after the clock stops toggling. This technique drops the control down to just two pins (data and clock). You can still use hardware SPI to read the data using this method. It’s the same as using SPI to drive 595 shift registers except the microcontroller reads data instead of writing it.

But wait, there’s more! The diagram above actually shows a way of reading this shift register with just one pin. Notice that the clock and data pins are now connected to just one of the microcontroller pins. The data pin has an added resistor, which keeps the current low enough that it will not compete with the clock signal coming from the microcontroller. In between clock pulses, the microcontroller switches from output to input to read the data pin on each cycle. Give it a try, it’s a fun experiment!

Gif player does it using paper medium

Ditch that fancy wide-format LCD monitor and go back to the days when animation was made up of moving frames played back by a specialized device. [Pieterjan Grandry] built this gif player which does just that. The frames of the animation are printed on a paper disk. When spun and viewed through a looking hole the same size as one frame an animated image is formed.

If you know a thing or two about how movie projectors work you might have a raised eyebrow right now. To make the animation smooth you need a way to hide the changing of the frames. With a projector there’s usually a spinning shutter (like a fan) that covers the transition between frames. In this case, [Pieterjan] has mounted the case of the gif player far enough in front of the paper disk that the image is in shadow, making it hard to see. A microcontroller responsible for the speed of the spinning disk flashes some white LEDs with precise timing which gives light to each frame at just the right time.

This is really a 2D equivalent to the 3D stroboscope we saw a few days ago.

[Thanks Agtrier]

Adventures in resurrecting a no-name IP webcam

webcam-repair

As many of us do, [Steaky] serves as a kind of on-call help desk for his family. His father in law recently contacted him because his pan and tilt webcam died, and he wanted to see if it could be fixed. Never turning down a challenge, [Steaky] decided to give it a shot.

He ended up having to disassemble it since the camera was completely unresponsive, and what he found inside piqued his interest. The no-name camera sported an ARM microprocessor at its core, and it seems that some of its pins were damaged due to a poorly designed case. He figured resoldering the pins would do the trick, but that wasn’t the end of his adventures.

As he dug deeper into the device, he found that the camera essentially killed itself, reading and writing data to the wrong places due to the damaged pins on the processor. After plenty of searching around, he was able to find a somewhat compatible firmware image, though not everything worked properly.

His father in law was so impressed with his work that he asked for the camera back, even though [Steaky] hadn’t fully repaired it yet. While he bid the camera goodbye, we’re pretty sure he’d be more than happy to reclaim it for a few days if any of our readers had some additional insight or resources that might help him finish the job.

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