66% or better

One man’s adventures in custom keyboard development

BlueCube-flat

As a software developer, [suka] spends a lot of time every day in front of a keyboard. He had been trying out different keyboard layouts far less common than even the moderetly obscure Dvorak layout, and after some time decided a custom ergonomic keyboard was what he wanted. His progress of designing his own custom ergonomic keyboard is a fascinating read, made even cooler by the fact these are real, professional-quality keyboards with mechanical switches and custom enclosures.

After starting off with a few USB numpads, [suka] dove in to the world of Cherry switches by crafting his own wing-style keyboard. [suka] works for one of the larger manufacturers of laser-sintering machines, so he was able to create the enclosures for his keybaord – as well as the key caps – fairly easily. The technology behind laser sintering allowed [suka] to create some strange bowl and trough-shaped keyboards before settling on his daily driver, seen above.

The Blue Cube, as [suka] calls it, includes an integrated stand, an integrated IBM trackpoint mouse, and is powered by a Teensy microcontroller. [suka]‘s keyboards might not be heafty enough for melee combat like the venerable IBM Model M, but it’s exactly what [suka] wants, and that’s just fine by us.

Wireless rover with Android control

android-rover

[Radu] spend the first portion of this year building and improving upon this wireless rover project. It’s actually the second generation of an autonomous follower project he started a few years back. If you browse through his old postings you’ll find that this version is leaps and bounds ahead of the last.

He purchased the chassis which also came with the gear-head motors and tires. Why reinvent the wheel (har har) when you’ve got bigger things on your plate? To make enough room inside for his own goodies he started out by ditching the control board which came with the Lynxmotion chassis in favor of an AVR ATmega128 development board. He also chose to use his own motor controller board. Next he added a metal bracket system to hold the battery pack. Things start to get pretty crowded in there when he installed his own Bluetooth and GPS modules. Rounding out his hardware additions were a set of five ultrasonic sensors (the grey tubes on top), a character display, as well as head and tail lights. The demo video shows off the control app he uses. We like that tic-tac-toe design for motion control, and that he added in buttons to control the lights.

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Arduino particle light box generates animations from sound

arduino-particle-display

Simple tools used well can produce fantastic results. The hardware which [Gilad] uses in this project is the definition of common. We’d bet you have most if not all of them on hand right now. But the end product is a light box which seems to dance and twirl with every sound in the room. You should go watch the demo video before reading the bill of materials so that the simplicity doesn’t spoil it for you.

A wooden craft box serves as the enclosure. Inside you’ll find an Arduino board, microphone, and an 8×8 RGB module. The front cover of the project box diffuses the light using a sheet of tracing paper on a frame of foam board. It’s the code that brings everything together. He wrote his own particle system library to generate interesting animations.

If you don’t have a project box on hand this might work with an extra-deep picture frame.
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An overkill network adapter for retrocomputers

amiga

If you want to get an old Apple, Commodore 64, Amiga, or any other retrocomputer up on the Internet, this is for you. [Stian] had an Amiga 500 lying around and wanted to put it on a network. The A500 isn’t expandable, so he needed to look at some sort of adapter to put it on a network. The solution came to him in the form of a Raspberry Pi, a null modem cable, and a few bits of software.

To connect his Amiga to his network, [Stian] made a small serial converter board for his Raspi that breaks out the Tx and Rx pins on the Pi to a 9-pin serial port. With the physical connection to the Pi made, the only thing left to do was to get some software for the Amiga, namely AmiTCP and PPP. It’s not exactly a fast network connection, but this build allows [Stian] to connect to WiFi networks with ancient hardware.

One interesting aspect of [Stian]‘s build is the fact it’s completely transferable to other retrocomputers – everything from old S-100 bus computers to classic macs, apples, and pretty much anything else with a serial port that supports PPP. Even with the expense of a Raspberry Pi, it’s much cheaper than absurdly expensive second-hand SCSI to Ethernet controllers and other tomfoolery.

Shocking your brain and making yourself smarter

tds

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation – or tDCS – is the technique of applying electrodes to the skull and running a small but perceptible current through them. It’s not much current – usually on the order of 1 or 2 mA, but the effect of either increasing or decreasing neural activity has led to some interesting studies. [Theo] over on Instructables wrote a tutorial for making his own tDCS suppy that will supply 2 mA to electrodes placed on the skull for everyone to experiment with.

The basic idea behind tDCS is to put the positive electrode over the part of the brain to be excited or the negative electrode over the part of the brain to be inhibited. This is a well-studied technique that can be used to improve mathematical ability. It’s not electroshock therapy (although that is a valid treatment for depression and schizophrenia) in that a seizure is induced; tDCS just applies a small current to specific areas of the brain to excite or inhibit function.

[Theo]‘s device is a simple circuit made of a transistor, resistors, and a few diodes to provide about 2 mA to a pair of electrical contacts. With this circuit and a few gel electrode pads for your head, you too can experiment with direct current stimulation of your brain.

Of course we need to warn you about putting electricity into your head. In any event, here’s a quadcopter / stun gun mashup we made. Don’t do that, either. You might get a takedown request.

Etch your own CPLD development board

etch-your-own-cpld-breakout

Ever wanted to make the jump from microcontrollers to logic chips? Although not technically the same thing we consider FPGA and CPLD devices to be in similar categories. Like FPGAs, Complex Programmable Logic Devices let you build hardware inside of a chip. And if you’ve got the knack for etching circuit boards you can now build your own CPLD development module. Long-time Hackaday readers will remember our own offering in this area.

Our years of microcontroller experience have taught us a mantra: if it doesn’t work it’s a hardware problem. We have a knack for wasting hours trying to figure out why our code doesn’t work. The majority of the time it’s a hardware issue. And this is why you might not want to design your own dev tools when just starting out. But one thing this guide has going for it is incremental testing. After etching and inspecting the board, it is populated in stages. There is test code available for each stage that will help verify that the hardware is working as expected.

The CPLD is programmed using that 10-pin header. If you don’t have a programmer you can build your own that uses a parallel port. Included on the board is an ATtiny2313 which is a nice touch as it can simulate all kinds of different hardware to test with your VHDL code. There is also a row of LEDs, a set of DIP switches, and a few breakout headers to boot.