MAMEing a CNC router

[Ed] is pretty old school. He loves the functionality of old industrial shop tools that have their own dedicated systems. With huge candy-like buttons, who wouldn’t? [Ed] decided to replicate this aesthetic by building a MAME controller for his Mach3 controlled router.

[Ed] had a bunch of MAME buttons and joysticks sitting around from a forgotten project. With his vinyl plotter, it was relatively easy to make a very nice looking control panel. To connect the buttons to the Mach3 computer, a disused I-Pac was brought into the mix. The I-Pac reads the state of the buttons and sends keyboard codes over USB to the computer.

Because the very popular Mach3 CNC software responds to hotkeys, it was very simple to make the buttons do as they say. [Ed] has full control over the X, Y, and Z axes as well as the spindle speed. It seems like this would be interesting to do some ‘free form’ CNC work on [Ed]‘s router.

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Keeping Christmas present hunters guessing with QR code gift tags

qr-code-gift-tags

[Thadd Brooks] is a geeky dad of the highest degree. His kids are constantly trying to figure out what mom and dad bought them for Christmas, while he continues to think up ways to stymie their progress. He certainly could have put a few prank presents under the tree, but he opted to go a different route, confusing his smartphone-wielding kids with QR codes.

Each gift under the tree bears no name tag, rather they are adorned with a single QR code sticker which [Thadd] printed out. When scanned, the code brings his children to a page on his web server stating who the gift is for.

The catch? Well, the codes bring up a random page each time, attributing the gift to every member of the family along the way. There’s no chance that any of the kids will be able to correctly identify their gifts before Christmas Eve, when [Thadd] flips a switch on the server and reveals the actual gift recipients.

It’s certainly a clever, yet frustrating, way to keep his family on their toes, and we think it’s a pretty awesome idea.

If you’d like to see some of the pages he has created to confuse his kids, just click the “Search” button on the link above.

Microcontroller comm with a computer monitor

Prolific Hack a Day author [Mike S] has been playing in his lab again and he’s come up with a neat way to talk to microcontrollers with an LCD monitor. The basic idea behind [Mike]‘s work isn’t much different from the weird and/or cool Timex Datalink watch from the 1990s.

Despite the fancy dev board, the hardware is very simple – a photoresistor is pointed at a computer monitor and reads bits using Manchester encoding. The computer flashes a series of black and white screens thanks to a simple Javascript/HTML page, and data is (mostly) transmitted to the micro. [Mike] says he has about a failed message about 60% of the time, and he’s not quite sure where the problem is. He’s looking into another kind of Manchester encoding that uses samples instead of edges, so we hope everything works out for him.

This build is very similar – and was inspired by – an earlier post about microcontroller communication with flashing lights. Still, [Mike]‘s build reminds us of the strangely futuristic Ironman watch we had in ’97. Check out [Mike]‘s demo of his computer/micro comm link after the break and his code on github.

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Tannenbaum ticker, even though the markets close for Christmas

Maybe we’re a little bitter because we held on to our pumpkin futures well into November, but we’ve got to respect [Nick]‘s stock ticker ornament. It’s an Internet-connected Christmas ornament that queries stock prices and displays the change with an RGB LED.

The build uses a Propeller Platform USB and the Propeller E-Net Module to pull stock quotes down from Google. With the attached source, selecting any traded company is easy enough; all that’s needed is to select a company is changing a line in the code. The Propeller pulls the quote every 30 seconds during the trading day, and parses it into a ‘percent changed’ format. The ornament glows red if the change is more than a 4% negative change, green for within 0.2% of open, and blue if more than a 4% positive change.

[Nick] is more of a ‘set it and forget it’ investor, so this ornament is a handy, passive way to keep an eye on his investments. Check out the demo vid after the break.

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How to grow your own EL wire DNA helix lamp

el-wire-helix-lamp

[LucidMovement] was looking for some crystal-based artwork and just couldn’t seem to find anything that fit the bill, so he decided to build something himself.

The inspiration for his desk lamp came from something we’re all familiar with, a DNA double-helix. To grow the crystals he built a helix-shaped growing substrate out of nichrome and EL wires, submerging them in a warm alum solution. Once he had a nice set of crystals, he mounted it in an acrylic tube, filling the air space with clear silicone to seal off the display. He then mounted the silicone-filled tube on top of a rotating acrylic stand that he had cut for the project. The stand is made from several sheets of acrylic and contains both the gearing for movement as well as RGB LEDs to light the display from the bottom.

The lamp looks great when sitting idle, but when he powers it on it really shines (no pun intended). [LucidMovement] put a ton of work into the lamp, and offers up all sorts of tips, tricks, and considerations for anyone looking to build their own. Be sure to check out his writeup for plenty more details, and stick around to see a short video of the lamp in action.

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Handheld Jaguar makes 32 or 64 bits portable

There’s nothing wrong with portable NESs, Super Nintendos, N64, or even a portable Sega CD. What about a portable version the oft-maligned Atari Jaguar, though? [Evil Nod] pulled it off, and it looks great.

The build is fairly standard for a portable console. A PS1 screen is used for the display, and a cut up and re-wired controller provides the input. From what we see on the build log, moving the 104-pin cartridge slot onto ribbon cables was an exercise in patience. The case is absolutely phenomenal with a textured finish we would expect to see on an early 90s console. Of course, [Nod] kept the numeric keypad; there was space left over anyway.

We can’t rag on the Jaguar or [Nod]‘s build. It’s a great execution and there’s an impressive library of games that include Worms, Rayman, Doom, and Myst. Still, we wonder what the build would look like with the Jaguar CD-ROM attached.

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