Apple ][ Disk Emulation

A while ago, [Steve] over at Big Mess ‘O Wires created a device that would emulate old Macintosh disk drives, storing all the data on an SD card. No, it’s not SCSI; the early Apples had a DB-19 connector for connecting 400 and 800kB disk drives. It’s a great piece of hardware for bootstrapping that old Mac you might have sitting around. Apple ][s, IIs, and //s use an extremely similar connector for their disk drives. A few rumors on some forums led [Steve] to experiment with some ancient bromide-stained boxes, and the results are interesting to say the least.

After pulling out an old //e and IIgs from storage, [Steve] found his Macintosh Floppy Emulator didn’t work with the Apples. This was due to the way Apples could daisy chain their disk drives. There’s an extra enable signal on the connector that either brings Drive 1 or Drive 2 into the circuit. Macs don’t care about this signal, but Apples do. Luckily the 800kB drives for the IIgs have an extra board that handles this daisy chain and drive eject circuitry.

After removing this extra board from a IIgs drive and connecting it to the Floppy Emu, everything worked beautifully. With schematics and a working circuit in hand, it’s now a piece of cake to build an adapter board for using the Macintosh Floppy Emu with Apples, or to build that circuit into a future revision of the Floppy Emulator.

Considering how much trouble [Steve] had bootstrapping these Apples without an SD card to Floppy drive emulator, we’re thinking this is great. The current way of making an Apple II useful is ADTPro, a program that uses audio to communicate with Apples over the cassette port. In case you haven’t noticed, microphone and headphone ports on laptops are inexplicably disappearing, making a hardware device like a SD card floppy emulator the best way to bring disk images to 30-year-old hardware.

Arduino IDE Support for the ESP8266

Despite a wealth of tutorials for setting up and writing code for the ESP8266 WiFi module, there has not been much of anything on programming this cheap wireless module with the Arduino IDE. Finally, this has changed. After many months of coding, the Arduino IDE supports the ESP8266 module.

The Arduino IDE support was announced on the ESP8266 community forum. Setup is fairly simple with downloads for Linux, OS X, and Windows. This isn’t an ESP8266 shield, either: you can write code for the ESP module, connect the serial pins, and hit the program button.

The basic functions of the Arduino IDE – pinMode, digitalRead, digitalWrite, and analogRead – are available. Most of the WiFi functions work just like the WiFi shield library.

There are a few things that aren’t written yet; PWM doesn’t work, as the ESP8266 only has one hardware PWM source. SPI and I2C slave mode aren’t done yet, and uploading sketches via WiFi needs a little bit of thought. That said, this is a great introduction to programming the ESP module. If the Arduino IDE isn’t your thing, you could always do it the cool way with [CNLohr]’s programming tutorial we featured last week.

Speaking CAN With Open Source Hardware

You can buy a dongle with a weird industrial connector that fits under the dash of any car on the road for $15. This is just a simple ODB-II transceiver meant for reading error codes and turning a Crown Vic into a police interceptor. There’s a lot more to the CAN Bus than OBD-II; robots and industrial control units, for instance, and Hackaday alum [Eric] has developed an open source tool for all things CAN.

[Eric] built this tool because of a lac of open-source tools that can talk CAN. There are plenty of boards floating around that can reset codes in a car using OBD-II, but an open hardware CAN device doesn’t really exist.

The CANtact is a small board outfitted with a USB port on one end, a DE-9 port on the other, and enough electronics to talk to any CAN device. The hardware on the CANtact is an STM32F0 – an ARM Cortex M0 that comes with USB and CAN interfaces. This chip connects to a Microchip CAN transceiver, and that’s pretty much all you need to talk to cars and industrial automation equipment. If doing something legal, moral, or safe with the CAN bus in your car isn’t your thing, Wired reports you can digitally cut someone’s brake lines.

On the software side of things, the CANtact can interface with Wireshark and the CANard Python library. All the files, from hardware to software, are available on the Github. Oh, CANtact was at Black Hat Asia, which means [Eric] was at Black Hat Asia. We should have sent stickers with him.

Transmitting HD Video From A Raspberry Pi

It’s been a few years since the RTL-SDR TV Tuner dongle blew up the world of amateur radio; it’s a simple device that listens in on digital television frequencies, but it’s one of those tools that’s just capable enough to have a lot of fun. Now, we have a transmitting dongle. It’s only being used to transmit live HDTV from a Pi, but that in itself is very interesting and opens up a lot of possible builds.

The key piece of hardware for this build is a UT-100C DVB-T modulator. It’s a $169 USB dongle capable of transmitting between 1200-1350 MHz, and with a special edition of OpenCaster it’s possible to transmit over-the-air TV. There’s no amplifier, so you won’t be sending TV very far, but it does work.

On the Raspberry Pi side of the build, the standard camera captures H.264 video with raspivid, which is converted to a DVB compliant stream using ffmpeg. These are well-worn bits of software in the Raspberry Pi world, and OpenCaster takes care of the rest.

While this seems like the perfect solution to completely overbuilt quadcopters, keep in mind transmitting on the 23cm band does require a license. Transmitting in the UHF TV bands is a bad idea.

Hacklet 39: Battery Power

3296371398740598106[robin] has a Red Camera (lucky!), an absurdly expensive digital video camera. As you would expect the batteries are also absurdly expensive. What’s the solution? Battery packs from cordless drills.

Cordless drills are interesting pieces of tech that can be easily repurposed; there are huge battery packs in them, big, beefy motors, and enough hardware to build an Automatic Cat Feeder or a motorized bicycle.

What if those old Makita batteries don’t charge? That usually means only one or two cells are dead, not the whole pack. Free LiIon cells, but you need to charge them. Here’s a single cell charger/boost converter that will do the trick.


A problem faced by amateur radio operators around the world is the lack of commercial power. Plugging a portable shack into a wall will work, but for uninterrupted power car batteries are everywhere. How do you combine wall power and car batteries for the best of both worlds? With an In-line battery backup module.

9k=All of the projects above rely on charging a battery through wall power, and sometimes even that is impossible. Solar is where we’re headed, with solar LiPo chargers, and solar LiFe chargers. That’s more than enough to keep a smartphone charged, but if you want to go completely off the grid, you’re going to need something bigger.

[Michel] has been off the power grid 80% of the time since he installed his home PV system a few years ago. How’s he doing it? A literal ton of batteries, huge chargers, and a 5kW inverter.


Wrapping Up The Last Midwest RepRap Festival

The Midwest RepRap Festival is over – forever. This was the last one. Apparently enough people complained that Goshen, Indiana wasn’t in the midwest. The number of Dairy Queens I passed contradicts this, but whatever. Next year, there’s going to be a different con in Goshen. Same content, different name. If you have a suggestion, you know where to put it.

I promised the world’s largest 3D printed trash can, and I gave you the world’s largest 3D printed trash can. This gigantic orange vase was printed on the PartDaddy, SeeMeCNC’s 18-foot tall delta printer a few months ago at the NYC Maker Faire. I have been using this as a trash can in my basement since then, making me one of the only people who have their trash can on Wikipedia.

A failed print on Saturday morning

Speaking of the PartDaddy, this is what a fail looks like. The first PartDaddy print was a Groot, a 13-hour long print job. It was left running overnight, but it ran out of PLA pellets sometime around 4 in the morning. If you’re wondering what the black band is around the Groot’s face is, here’s the breakdown:

The PartDaddy sucks PLA pellets up from a trash can (that’s not 3D printed), and dispenses it into a hopper above the print head. This hopper was 3D printed on the PartDaddy, and there is still a little bit of colarant dust in there. When the PLA pellets run out, that dust is embedded in the extrusion. When you realize that masterbatch is only about 5% of the finished plastic, it doesn’t take much black dust to discolor a print.

Yes, this is a print fail that could have been fixed by having an all-night bash. A few other people left their printers running overnight including [The Great Fredini] and his Scan-A-Rama. This was a Rostock Max that had something wonky happen with the Bowden. There was filament everywhere.

How about some Star Wars droids? An R2 from the Droid Builder’s Club was there, but there was also the beginnings of a completely 3D printed Roger. While we’re on the subject of plastic robots that will fall apart at a moment’s notice, there was a K’NEX 3D printer. Yes, it’s made almost entirely out of K’NEX, and it did work at one time. Those orange parts sitting next to it? Those came out of the K’NEX printer.  If you’re looking for the definitive RepStrap, there ‘ya go.



For the last few months, metal filaments – PLA with tiny particles of copper, brass, bronze, iron, or aluminum have been available. MRRF was the first place where you could see them all together. A few things of note: these filaments are heavy – the printed objects actually feel like they’re made out of metal. They’re actually metal, too: the iron-based filaments had a tiny bit of red corrosion, and the Lincoln death mask above was treated with acetic acid. These filaments are also expensive, around $100 for 1kg. Still, if you want to print something that will be around in 100 years, this is what you should get.

The most beautiful printer ever

MRRF should have had a contest for the best looking 3D printer at the show. A beautiful delta from Detroit Rock City would have won:


DSC_0075That white hexagon in the center is a ceramic PCB that I’m told cost an ungodly amount of money. Underneath the ceramic build plate, there’s a few Peltiers between the bed and the large copper heat sink. The heat sink is connected to the three risers by heat pipes, making the entire printer one gigantic heat sink. Why would anyone make such an amazing art deco printer? For this.

Because you can use Peltiers to heat and cool a bed, a little bit of GCode at the end of a print will cool the bed to below room temperature. If you do your design right, this means the print will just fall over when it’s done. When the print bed is cooling, you can actually hear the bond between the bed and print cracking. It’s beautiful, it’s cool, and I’m told this printer will make its way to soon.

There you go, the best and coolest from the last Midwest RepRap Festival ever. There will never be another one. It only needs a better name, and [John] at SeeMeCNC is great at coming up with names. Just ask what VIP is a backronym of.

I told you there would be a T-shirt cannon. That’s 300 PSI shop air.

The Pi 2 Means Faster GPIO

The Raspberry Pi is a great machine to learn the ins and outs of blinking pins, but for doing anything that requires blinking pins fast, you’re better off going with a BeagleBone. This has been the conventional wisdom for years now, and now that the updated Raspberry Pi 2 is out, there’s the expectation that you’ll be able to blink a pin faster. The data are here, and yes, you can.

The method of testing was connecting a PicoScope 5444B to a pin on the GPIO pin and toggling between zero and one as fast as possible. The original test wasn’t very encouraging; Python maxed out at around 70 kHz, Ruby was terrible, and only C with the native library was useful for interesting stuff – 22MHz.

Using the same experimental setup, the Raspberry Pi 2 is about 2 to three times faster. The fastest is still the C native library, topping out at just under 42 MHz. Other languages and libraries are much slower, but the RPi.GPIO Python library stukk sees a 2.5x increase.