Reduced-cost Braille display for use with computers

Apparently a Braille computer display can cost several thousand dollars. That’s why [David Pankhurst] is working on a low-cost alternative. His offering is an open source version he calls the Audrey Braille Display.

The concept is quite good. This prototype has one line of six Braille characters. Each character is made of two sliding strips containing eight arrangements of bumps. These can make up any character when positioned correctly. Two motors do all the work, one engages a single strip to reposition it, the other moves the first motor to select which strip should move. This is explained quite well in [David's] most recent post. Or you can get a preview of the physical build here.

The concept is sound, but the refresh rate must be very slow. We wonder if there’s a way to keep one motor stationary and use solenoids to engage a drive shaft on the individual slide rods? This way, every row could be changed at the same time, disengaging when the appropriate slot is reached.

This hardware is much needed until developing Braille technologies actually come to market.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

We’re on an Atari Jaguar kick, apparently

We don’t know why, but the Atari Jaguar is getting a lot of attention this week. [10P6] just came up with this Jaguar/CD combo that reminds us what Atari could have come up with in 1993.

The build itself is relatively simple once you get past [kevincal]‘s ‘April Fools’ type joke he played on the Atari Age forum. [10P6] took a regular Jaguar CD drive and cut a hole into a Jaguar case. The whole case mod took less than a three hours, but [10P6] gives us a lot of commentary into what Atari could and/or should have built in 1993.

[10P6] suggests this type of Jaguar would have saved Atari money if the CD drive was stock on the base unit and released at a slightly increased price. This would cut out the cost of the cart slots and reduced the amount of plastic in manufacturing. [10P6] also talks about how Atari engineers could have dropped the 68000 coprocessor with an increase in the system clock. We’re not quite fond of that idea (ask us about our tattoo), but the logic does make sense.

Of course, this build comes on the heels of the Jaguar Portable we saw a few days ago. Honestly, we have no idea what’s going on with the Jaguar build.

DIY solution does PoE on the cheap


Depending on the scope of your requirements, Power over Ethernet (PoE) components can get pretty pricey. [Fire] wrote in to share a 4-port PoE solution he put together for under 20 euros (Ignore any SSL errors – we’ve checked it out, it’s safe).

The most expensive part of the build was the 8-port patch panel he purchased for 11 euros. He popped it open, wiring the first four ports for power after drilling spots for an indicator LED and the PSU. He wound the power lines through ferrite beads to hoping to dampen any interference that might occur before reassembling the panel.

In the picture above, you might notice that the panel is being powered via the first Ethernet port rather than through the barrel jack, which [Fire] said was done for testing purposes. When deployed in his network, he plans on using a regulated power supply from a junked laptop to provide electricity.

If you need to provide PoE to devices on your network, this is a great way to go about it. Using a patch panel like [Fire] has gives you the flexibility to easily wire up as many powered ports as you need without much hassle.

Digital synth for the non-chiptune inclined

Chiptunes are great, and we can’t imagine a world without the Mega Man 2 soundtrack, but sometimes we all like a more 70′s style synth. This is where the Roninsynth steps in. It’s an Arduino shield that puts the basic components of a wall of synth into your pocket.

Unlike the analog oscillators of yore, the Roninsynth is based on a single dsPIC33F chip. It has all the waveforms we would expect from its big brother – sine, saw, triangle, square, and noise – and a couple modulation options.  What’s really interesting is the GUI the Roninsynth team put together. Instead of going with the knobs and buttons approach of the MIDIbox SID, the Roninsynth does everything with software. Think of it as a hardware-based softsynth.

Of course, there isn’t support for looping and phrases like what we saw yesterday, but there’s a ton of neat sounds that can be made and the capability for analog input. If you’ve ever wanted to sound like Radiohead, we can’t think of an easier way to build an Ondes Martenot.