Android oscilloscope built from parts just lying around

So you need to debug a circuit and you don’t have an oscilloscope. That’s not a problem thanks to [retronics] $0 Android oscilloscope, made with parts he just happened to have lying around.

The heart of every modern oscilloscope is the ADC – the chip that takes analog input and outputs a digital signal. Every Android device has one of these converters connected to the microphone port. All [retronics] needed to do was solder up a 3mm headphone jack, wire in a few resistors, and attach a pair of alligator clips. After installing an oscilloscope app, [retronics] had a half decent ‘scope.

Yes, this is truly a poor man’s oscilloscope, and [retronics] probably won’t be debugging high frequency RF circuits with his Android microphone jack anytime soon. Low frequency stuff such as audio is where this ‘scope really excels; even more so if a small preamp is thrown into the mix.

You can check out [retronics]‘ build after the break. Sure, it’s not something for precise and calibrated measurement, but sometimes you only need a tool that will do the job.

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XBMC hits Android

XBMC just issued the announcement we’ve been waiting to hear for some time now. The Android platform is now officially supported. Having seen the popularity of this open source media center software, and the willingness of some to spend hundreds of dollars on small computers to use it as their set-top-box interface of choice, we knew it was only a matter of time before a hardware manufacturer stepped up to the plate. In this case it is a company called Pivos Technology Group, who helped fund the push to bring XBMC to Android.

The good news is that the Android version of XBMC should work on a very wide range of devices. The bad news is that it will take a bit of time for that wide range of devices to support hardware video acceleration. Right now the only platform that has the hardware accelration for all video formats is the Pivos XIOS DS unit seen above. Looks a bit like a white version of the Apple TV huh? This turns out to be a great alternative to the Apple hardware, which requires a jailbreak to run XBMC and there is no jailbreak available for the current generation of that hardware. You can grab the XIOS DS for about $100-120, and as you can see after the break, it runs XBMC without a hitch, shows the ability to navigate menus while 1080p video is playing, and demonstrates working video plug-ins.

Plus, it’s an Android device with access to apps like any other. We looked around and it seems the Netflix app will work, but there is currently a problem with the video driver on units which have been upgraded to ICS. You can check out an unboxing of the device in this forum post, which is where we got the image seen above.

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Printing a boat made out of milk jugs

Today, groups from all over the Pacific Northwest will take up their oars and head over to Green Lake for the 42nd annual Seafair Milk Carton derby. The team who builds the fastest boat made out of milk cartons wins the regatta (and $10,000). This year, we’d put our money on the 3D printer group from the University of Washington; they printed a boat large enough to carry a person using crushed melted milk jugs.

After building a huge extruder to feed shredded HDPE plastic through a nozzle, the team repurposed an old plasma cutter to serve as an 8-foot-long 3D printer. There were a number of problems the team ran into – getting layers to fuse together, finding a suitable printing surface, and perfecting the art of squeezing melted milk jugs through a heated metal tube – but the final result is impressive, to say the least.

As far as how lake-worthy the UW team’s boat is, we have no idea. The milk jug regatta will be held later today, and if you have an update of how the team fared, send us a tip.

Hacking a parallel port flash memory programmer

[Pulko Mandy] doesn’t use his flash ROM programmer very often, but he does use it. When he tried to get support for a new chip and the manufacturer suggested he just buy a newer version he decided to hack the programmer and it’s software instead.

This device connects to the parallel port and was intended for use with MS-DOS systems (no wonder there’s no longer support from the company). The board uses logic chips to add read and write function. So the first step was to analyze how they connect together and come up with a set of commands. While at it he also made some changes to the board to bring the voltage more in spec and ensure the logic levels on the parallel port met the correct voltages.

His plan was to use the board with a Linux system so the parallel port interface can stay. He used what he learned from the hardware inspection to write his own interface in C++. It works with a chip he was able to use under the MS-DOS software, but he hasn’t gotten it to work with the chip that sparked this adventure. If you’re familiar with how the AT29C040A works please consider lending a hand.