66% or better

Functional NES controller coffee table

For reddit user [the_masked_cabana], button mashing has taken on a whole new meaning.  His gigantic NES controller coffee table makes it hard to punch in the Konami code without breaking a sweat.

Even before discussing the electricals, this is one impressive build.  Each component was cut from multiple layers of MDF and assembled with screws, glue, and putty.  Once they were sanded smooth, he used layers of carefully applied Krylon paint to achieve a plastic sheen that is remarkably faithful to its 5″ counterpart.  For the more precise lettering, custom cut vinyl stickers did the trick.

Of course, looking the part is only half the battle.  Tearing apart an original NES controller, he soldered wires to the button connections and ran them to eight arcade style buttons located under the replica button covers.  A collection of bolts and springs keep everything aligned and produce the right kind of tactile feedback to the user.  A removable cable in the back provides the connection to the console.

If a four foot NES controller isn’t practical enough for you, he also added some storage space in the base and a removable glass cover that converts the controller into a coffee table.  For more details on the build, check out the reddit discussion.  You can also find an eerily similar working NES controller table in this geeky coffee table roundup from five years ago.

Completely analog electronic music box

For the Ottawa Mini-Maker Faire this year, [Steven Dufresne] created an electronic take on the classic mechanical music box.

A typical music box uses a sequence of bumps on a rotating drum to pluck the tuned teeth (called lamellae) of a metal comb. Steven ditched the drum and comb and replaced them with a strip of paper and a single 555 timer.  The timer is configured as an astable oscillator with a fixed capacitor and charging resistor.  The discharge resistor is selected via a series of 13 shaped wires that drag along the strip of paper.  When a wire drags over a hole, it is connected to a copper pad below that is soldered to a specific resistor.  This completes the circuit and generates a tone specific to the resistor selected.

While the electrical aspects of the project are fairly simple (not even requiring a circuit board), the mechanical parts are much more sophisticated.  Steven had problems getting the dragging wires to make good contact and keeping the paper roll pulled tight.  He outlines all of these challenges and how he solved them in his very thorough video summary (embedded after the break).  With all of his incremental improvements to the design, the finished music box stood up to a whole 14 hours of abuse at the Faire.

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A PC rig that belongs on the wall of an art museum

When Overclock.net user [Show4Pro] decided to upgrade his “old dusty rig”, he eschewed the conventional PC form factor and instead built an incredibly sexy custom wall-mounted case.

The six sticks of RAM, quad HDD/SSDs, and dual Radeon HD7970s are enough to make all but the most hard core gamer blush, but that was only the beginning here.  Using a Dremel tool, Show4Pro cut the frame from a piece of hardboard and coated it with a mock-carbon fiber vinyl sheet.  This backdrop acts to both hide the (many) cables and provide structural support to the components.  Custom light guides cut from an acrylic sheet are back lit with LEDs and serve as a border for each of the components.

Laying all of the boards flat on the frame required the use of PCIe risers to move the video cards away from the mother board.  Long PCIe connectors are very susceptible to EMI though, and Show4Pro ran into a few stability problems that he eventually had to resolve with some high-end shielded risers.

Besides that one minor hiccough, the project went off without a hitch and it looks like his 100+ hours of work have really paid off.

Via Reddit.

Couch to 5K with 1K to spare

In a market full of Fitbits, Misfits, and Fuelbands, it’s easy to get carried away with sophisticated personal fitness tracking technology.  That’s why [André] took a totally different approach with his super simple run tracking device, the C25K machine.

C25K stands for “Couch to 5k” which is a slimmed down exercise schedule designed to gradually bring people who have otherwise no exercise routine up to a level of fitness where they can run a 5k in just 9 weeks.  To keep participants from wearing themselves out too early, the routine specifies a sequence of running and walking periods to be completed in series on specific days.  Though simpler than most fitness plans, it’s still a lot to keep track of especially when you’re sweating so hard you can barely see your stopwatch.

André found a solution using a bare-bones circuit based on the ATTiny2313.  After loading the C25k calendar into its firmware (which takes up less than half of its 2K of flash), he needs only to toggle the dipswitch to select the appropriate day of the program, and the little device (scarcely larger than a key fob) will beep to let him know to switch from running to walking or back again.

Definitely a great project for any hobbyist looking for a geeky way to get in shape.

Browsing the web one step at a time

After modifying his new manual treadmill to fit under his standing desk, [Brian Peiris] found a way to let him stroll all over the internet.

After removing the treadmill’s original time/distance display, [Peiris] reverse engineered the speed sensor to send data to an Arduino and his PC.  We’ve seen a number of projects that interface treadmills with virtual worlds, but what really makes this project stand out is a simple script using the Throxy Python library which allows the treadmill to throttle his machine’s internet connection.

The end result is a browsing experience that reacts to how fast the user runs.  In the demonstration video, you can see Peiris tiptoe through images or jog through YouTube videos.  A minimum bandwidth setting keeps the connection live, so if you can’t make it all the way through that HD Netflix movie, taking a breather won’t time out the connection.

It’s certainly a great way to get in shape, or at the very least, it’ll make your ISP’s bandwidth cap feel a lot bigger.

Video after the jump.

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Twitter Knitter combines 40 year old hardware with modern social media

When presented with a vintage Empisal Knitmaster knitting machine, members of the TOG Dublin Hackerspace worked together to not only bring it back from the dead but to also add some custom hardware that allows for computer generated patterns.

At first the Knitmaster was in fairly bad shape requiring a few custom machined parts just to function.  It was originally designed to feed in special punch cards that mechanically directed the many moving parts of the machine (called “dibblers”) to knit patterns in yarn.  Using an Arduino, a number of servos, and a microswitch to detect when the knitting carriage is pulled across, this card-read system was replaced with a computer controlled mechanism that can direct the machine to print out images one row at a time.

Of course, you don’t get too many opportunities to name your project something as cute as “The Twitter Knitter”, so once the system was working, it was only a matter of writing some code to snatch tweets from the web and generate images out of the text.  Visitors of the Dublin Mini Maker Faire got to watch it in action as they posted tweets with a particular hashtag which the machine happily printed in yarn (as long as they weren’t too long).

Video demo after the jump.

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Boominator solar stereo keeps the music pumping even in cloudy weather

boominator

Despite 40-some years of product improvements, boomboxes today still require a half dozen D-cell batteries and measure their life in single digit hours.  After this, the batteries get chucked in the trash. Tired of the absurd cost and quantity of batteries required in a typical boombox, reddit user [anders202] has whipped up a solution that will keep the party going and the landfills empty. Using some off-the-shelf components and some impressive woodworking skills, he created the “Boominator”.

Despite its environmentally-conscious design, this green machine packs a whallop. Using its dual 10W solar panels, it can drive four woofers and tweeters to produce an estimated 102dB of sound with power to spare.  This extra juice can be used to charge its two internal 7.2Ah batteries or a cellphone using the integrated USB charging ports.  Better still, Anders chose amorphous solar panels (as opposed to crystalline) which produce power even in cloudy weather as demonstrated during a cloudy day at the Roskilde festival in Denmark.  For more information, check out the reddit comment thread.

Video demo after the jump

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