IOIO controller replacement for an RC truck

This RC truck can be controlled with the tip of your thumb or the tilt of a wrist. That’s thanks to the IOIO which was inserted in place of the toy’s original controller. [Exanko] made the hardware changes in order to use his Android phone as the controller. The white circle is a software joystick that acts as throttle when your thumb moves along the Y axis, and steering when it moves along the X axis. But while he was at it he also included accelerometer input as an alternative control option.

The IOIO board has a Bluetooth dongle connected to its USB port as a means of wireless communication. The dongle was hacked to accept an external antenna, thereby increasing the truck’s range. There is also some on-board flair like LEDs for lights and even a laser diode for… well we’re not sure what that’s for. Get a better look at the hardware internals in the clip after the break.

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Typewriter is USB keyboard, also awesome

If you’re a brooding author putting the finishing touches on the next Great American Novel™ while sipping a latte in Starbucks, a MacBook is far too common to impress uncultured proles guzzling caramel macchiatos. No, to impress the next [Joyce] or [T. S. Eliot] sitting at the table next to you, you’ll need something much more hip, like a kit to turn a typewriter into a USB keyboard.

This kit to turn an old Underwood into a USB keyboard comes from the drawing board of [Jack Zylkin], member of Philly hackerspace Hive 76. [Jack] managed to make the process of turning an old typewriter into a keyboard a relatively painless process.

[Jack] created a sensor board loaded up with 74HC595 shift registers that easily mounts to the frame of just about any typewriter. When a key on the typewriter is struck, the mechanical levers strike metal strips soldered to the sensor board. An ATMega microcontroller records these keypresses and sends them over a USB port just like any other USB keyboard.

Modifying a typewriter into a USB keyboard is one of those projects we’d dread; you’d think there would be far too much futzing about with a lot of small electrical contacts and dirty mechanical devices. [Jack] actually managed to put together a very nice kit to turn a typewriter into a keyboard here.

You can pick up a kit over at [Jack]‘s etsy store, but doing the same thing with a bit of perf board isn’t out of the question. Awesome video after the break.

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Giving the Nexus 7 HD video recording

As released, the Nexus 7 tablet includes a 1.2 Megapixel front-facing camera. Even though the camera supports taking pictures at a resolution of 1280 x 960, recording video is limited to a paltry 480p resolution. It turns out the inability to record HD 720p video isn’t a hardware limitation; engineers at either Google or Asus simply didn’t bother telling the Nexus 7 how to record in 720p.

[hillbeast] over on the XDA developers forum came up with a very easy fix for this problem that only involves a quick copy and paste job into the media_profiles.xml file.

After the break you can see two videos recorded with [thehillbeast]‘s Nexus 7. The first is a 480p video of a bit of shrubbery and a fence, while the second video is the same scene recorded at 720p. A noticable difference in quality, and a neat hack to give the already awesome Nexus 7 some additional capabilities.

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Disco Planet, a massive RGBW LED array in a 6′ globe

About half a year ago [John] over at Frank’s Kitchens came to me with an idea for a giant lighting project. He had this 6ft diameter aluminum frame globe rescued from the Philadelphia Theater Company and wanted it to be an interactive display of sorts. After a few discussions we got together and somehow managed to order 800 3 watt LEDs in red, green, blue, and white. We had a system that worked great on paper, and managed to get it built by Valentines day for a big show. It failed miserably and hardly even illuminated the LEDs. I, naturally, took this far too personally and set out for a complete redesign, looking in the direction of digitally addressable LED strips.

In addition to building a crazy turbo charged LED array I also spent a lot (a whole lot) of time coding a nice clean fully functioning RGB LED strip controller using an Arduino Pro Mini (5V 16 MHz), the MSGEQ7 audio frequency multiplexer (PDF) , and an IR remote. I plan on using this for other projects so the code can be easily reconfigured to use many different LED strips and a whole slew of IR remotes.

The schematic of the globe is here. The top half  of that schematic be catered to other projects using a variety of pre-built LED strips. The pastebin with code is here,  fastSPI_LED and IRRemote here and here. Some code jockeying was required to get IRRemote.h and FastSPI_LED to play nicely together, so check the code comments.

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Bed of nails and accuracy in PCB manufacturing

A few days ago, we mentioned the new ARM-powered Teensy 3.0 project on Kickstarter. The creator, [Paul Stoffregen], decided to share the trials of building a test fixture along with a shocking comparison of the accuracy of different PCB manufacturers in an update to his Kickstarter.

Because [Paul]‘s Teensy 3.0 has more IO pins than should be possible on such a small board, the test fixture to verify if a board is defective or not is fairly complex. To test each board, a Teensy is placed on dozens of spring-loaded contacts arranged like a bed of nails. From there, another Teensy (this time a Teensy 2.0) performs a few tests by cycling through all the pins with several patterns.

Because the spring-loaded contacts require rather precise drill holes in the PCB of his test fixture, [Paul] thought it would be neat to compare the accuracy of several board houses. In the title pic for this post (click to embiggen), [Paul] demonstrates the capabilities of OSH Park, Seeed Studio, and iTead Studio. The lesson here is probably going with a US company if quality drill work is a necessary requirement of your next project.