Thecontrollerproject’s first contest, with prizes


One of [Caleb]’s side projects before he left us was TheControllerProject, a place for controller and console modders to hook up with gamers with disabilities. Things must be hopping over there, because [Caleb] just announced his first contest, with prizes, even.

The goal of this contest is to make the trigger buttons on XBox and PS3 controllers able to be controlled from the top of the controller. This is a huge problem for gamers with disabilities, and no open system currently exists to solve this problem. If you can make some sort of mechanical device to turn shoulder-mounted buttons into top-mounted actuators, just host it somewhere and win a prize.

The prizes are an iFixit toolkit and magnetic mat. The first five people to send in a solution to the shoulder mounted button problem get this prize. Originally, [Caleb] thought about tearing apart these controllers and soldering extra buttons, but a snap-on mechanical solution is much easier to install.

If you design a solution to this problem, send it in (but send it to [Caleb] first!) and we’ll probably feature it too.

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Hackaday Links: Sunday, July 28th, 2013


[Chris Gammell] tipped us off that he’s building an online training program for learning electronics. The ten session course will cost money to take but you can get the goods for free if you’re one of the beta testers. We love to listen to The Amp Hour podcast which is just one of [Chris’] many endeavors.

Did you buy a Chromecast this week? We did, but we don’t have it in hand yet (ordered through Amazon). You can still get a look inside from the iFixit teardown.

Practice your Processing skills by using it to code a game of Pong.

A bit of lighter fluid and a hacked insert will get you a flaming wallet. We guess this is a different type of an anti-pickpocket device. [Thanks Stephen]

[Brain] used a $1.50 magnifying lens to help his Raspberry Pi camera module read QR codes better.

We really like [Aaron Christophel’s] LED matrix clock (translated). He started from a marquee that must be at least a decade old. He stripped it down and figured out how to drive it using a Sanguino as a controller.

Giving the VirtualBoy a VGA out

Nintendo’s VirtualBoy – the odd console-inside-a-pair-of-goggles  and arguable ancestor of Nintendo’s 3DS – was a marvelous piece of technology for its time. In a small tabletop unit, you were able to play true 3D video games at an impressive 384 x 224 pixel resolution. Of course the VirtualBoy was a complete failure, but that doesn’t mean hardware tinkerers are leaving this wonderful system to video game collectors. [furrtek] has been playing around with his VirtualBoy and managed to add VGA out.

As a 3D system with two displays, any sort of video out was rightfully ignored by the VirtualBoy system designers. Still, [furrtek] wanted some sort of video out on his system, so he began poking around with a small FPGA board to generate some VGA signals.

The two displays inside the VirtualBoy aren’t your normal LCD display – as seen in this iFixit teardown. they’re really two linear LED arrays that generate a single line of 244 pixels, with mirrors scanning the line in the in the Y axis. These LED arrays are controlled by the VirtualBoy CPU through a series of shift registers, and by carefully tapping the lines of each LED array, [furrtek] was able to copy all the image data into the RAM of an FPGA.

After stuffing an XESS XULA-200 FPGA board inside the case of his VirtualBoy, [furrtek] wired up a few resistors for a DAC and installed a VGA out port on the underside of his console. Everything worked the first time he powered it up, and he began playing his VirtualBoy on his big screen TV.

Because [furrtek] is only reading one of the VirtualBoy’s displays, all the 3D data – and the main feature of the VirtualBoy – is lost when it’s displayed on a TV. 3D TVs do exist, though, and we’d love to see an improved version of this that captures data from both of the VirtualBoy displays.

You can see [furrtek]’s video of his mod in action below.

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Hacking the Oculus Rift: the Oculight

Our Oculus Rift finally arrived in the mail. I’ll spare you my thoughts on the item itself other than to say it is amazing. There are tons of videos to choose from that show people’s thoughts and reactions, and Ifixit has their usual detailed teardown as well.

The mod I decided to tackle first was the horizontal peripheral vision lights. The shape of the Oculus means that it feels like you are wearing a skii mask, or diving mask. There are big black borders at the far edges of the sides. It would seem that a simple mod would be to add some RGB LEDs and run a simple ambilight clone.

I downloaded the Adalight code and plugged in an RGB LED strip I had sitting around. The rift has some mesh areas at the 4 corners to allow air to move around in there. I took advantage of this so I didn’t even have to cut into the rift… yet. I simply strapped the strip to the rift with the proper LEDs shining through the holes.

The result was decent. Since the LEDs are further back in your peripheral vision than the edge of the screen, it looks like maybe a little light from the surroundings is just “leaking” into the headset. It gives the impression of seeing things that are far beyond the edge of the screen.  A better installation, allowing lights all the way up the left and right sides instead of just the corners might yield even better results.

Tearing down the Wii U

With the release of the Wii U last weekend we knew it wouldn’t be long before we saw those glorious gut shots on the Internet. The folks at iFixit have torn down a Wii U, and the insides look somewhat promising for a potential hack to take control of the Wii U Game Pad.

The components in the Wii U console aren’t terribly surprising; a few wireless controllers, HDMI adapters, Flash memory chips, and the IBM Power CPU make up most of the interesting components. The insides of the GamePad, though, look pretty interesting. It appears the Wii U GamePad is powered by an ARM Cortex microcontroller built by STMicroelectronics, but the part numbers for the major ICs on the GamePad board are impervious to Googling.

Of course there’s still the question of how video is transmitted wirelessly from the Wii U console to the GamePad. iFixit found a Broadcom BCM4319XKUBG Wireless module that operates on normal WiFi frequencies. This module has been used in a few other pieces of video gear, most notably the Boxee Box, so there is some possibility of intercepting the video signal transmitted to the GamePad and figuring out the protocol.

The long and short of iFixit’s teardown, at least from the hacker perspective, is that all the interesting parts use hardware similar to what you’d find on any other eminently hackable device. Here’s to hoping we get an open Wii U GamePad before the year is out.

Dell Streak screen repair yields a few welcome surprises


[Rupert’s] friend cracked the screen on his beloved Dell Streak 5 phone and handed it off to see if [Rupert] could repair it. He says that the glass replacement was a relatively straightforward affair – a process he documented in thorough detail worthy of iFixit.

He did come across a few interesting tidbits along the way, including an Atmel Mega168P hanging out on the broken screen’s digitizer board, which now resides in his parts bin. The most intriguing thing [Rupert] discovered however was that the phone’s on-board memory chip wasn’t soldered in as he would have expected. Instead, he found a standard microSD slot with a 2GB card in tow. He didn’t happen to have a larger card on hand, but after researching a bit he did find out that swapping the card is a relatively simple process.

If you happen to have one of these phones sitting around, or come across a damaged unit at any point, it definitely seems worth it to resurrect it and change the factory card out for something along the lines of a 32GB model. We certainly wouldn’t complain if we had a rooted 32GB Streak kicking around!

FBI tracking device found; disassembled

[ifixit] has apparently grown tired of tearing apart Apple’s latest gizmos, and their latest display of un-engineering has a decidedly more federal flair. You may have heard about Yasir Afifi’s discovery of a FBI-installed tracking device on his car back in October of last year. Apparently, the feds abandoned a similar device with activist Kathy Thomas. Wired magazine managed to get their hands on it, and gave it to ifixit to take apart. There’ve even posted a video.

The hardware itself isn’t that remarkable, it’s essentially a GPS receiver designed before the turn of the century paired with a short range wireless transceiver. The whole device is powered by a set of D-sized lithium-thionyl chloride batteries which should be enough juice to run the whole setup for another few decades–long enough to outlast any reasonable expectations of privacy, with freedom and justice for all.