An Amazing DIY Single Board ARM Computer with BGA

DIY Single Board Computer ARM

Typically, you buy a single board Linux computer. [Henrik] had a better idea, build his own ARM based single board computer! How did he do it? By not being scared of ball grid array (BGA) ARM processors.

Everyone loves the Raspberry Pi and Beagle Board, but what is the fun in buying something that you can build? We have a hunch that most of our readers stay clear of BGA chips, and for good reason. Arguably, one of the most important aspects of [Henrik's] post is that you can easily solder BGAs with cheaply available tools. OSH Park provides the inexpensive high-quality PCBs, OSH Stencils provides the inexpensive stencils, and any toaster oven allows you to solder even the most difficult of components. Not only does he go over the PCB build, he also discusses the bootloader, u-boot, and how to get Linux running.

Everything worked out very well for [Henrik]. It’s a good thing too, cause we sure wouldn’t want to debug a PCB as complicated as this one. What projects have you built that use a BGA? Let us know how it went!

Gaming Keyboard Features Incredible Workmanship

Gaming Keyboard in Desk

Hello people, look at your keyboard, now back to this one, now back to your keyboard, now back to us. Sadly, your keyboard isn’t this one, but if you’re handy with wood and metalwork, it could look like this one!

This incredible keyboard was made with the blood, sweat, and tears of [Kurt Plubell], an architectural draftsman. He began a few years ago when he hung up his T-square and started using CAD for his work. His biggest complaint about CAD? Ergonomics! His setup slowly evolved as he was determined to find the most comfortable way to work. First, a keyboard and a trackball. Then, a keyboard, a trackball, and a left-handed mouse. Then, an ergonomic keyboard on a desk mounted tray (and trackball + mouse) — he still wasn’t satisfied. Thus began his journey into a fully customized setup.

He started with the ErgoDox keyboard, which is a two-part ergonomic keyboard. He ordered the aluminum version, which isn’t quite as nicely finished as you would think — but we doubt the manufacturer was expecting its consumers to be taking it apart and integrating it into something else. A lot of sandpaper, die grinding and polishing later, and it had a much nicer finish.

The keyboard was built up using wood and MDF, and finally finished with a very nice wood veneer, giving a very executive finish to the project. He’s integrated four arcade buttons and a Kensington track ball in the very middle — and of course, being a true typist, his keys have no markings.

[via Reddit]

Using Pulleys and Weights to Explain Binary Logic Gates

pulley computer

To demonstrate how computers work, [Alex Gorischek] has made a physical example of how binary logic gates work using pulleys and weights.

For anyone who doesn’t know much about logic gates (Wikipedia), it’s a great lesson in one of the fundamentals of circuitry. Using an old chessboard, eyelets, rings, weights, and string, [Alex] has designed a system that can show off all of the logic gates. This includes: NOT, BUFFER, NAND, AND, OR, NOR, XOR, XNOR. He’s also included a gallery of all his examples here.

The neat thing about this demonstration is it is shown in a way that anyone can understand, heck, it’s also something anyone can play with in order to learn! Stick around after the break and see for yourself.

[Read more...]

Physical Keys Not Just For Doors Anymore, Now Available For Windows

Physical Key Locks and Unlocks Windows Computer

If you have ever forgotten your computer password after a long weekend or maybe you can remember it but just can’t seem to type it correctly, [Thomas] has a project for you. It’s a physical key that locks and unlocks your PC.

So how does it work? The heart of the project is an Arduino Leonardo. You may recall that this board is a bit different from the preceding Arduinos as it can enumerate on a host computer as a Human Interface Device (HID), such as a keyboard or mouse. The Arduino sketch continually reads an input pin using an internal pull-up resistor to make it logic high with the key switch connecting the signal to ground. When the Arduino sees the pin change from high to low, it sends out a keyboard command consisting of the Windows Key and “L”, which is the keyboard shortcut for locking the computer.

When the physical key is turned again, the Arduino sees the pin change back to a high state and it again emulates a keyboard but this time enters your password. You do have to include your password in the Arduino sketch for this to work. In addition, there are two LED’s wired up to show if the computer is locked or not, but you’ll be able to tell pretty quick when trying to get back to work.

[Read more...]

Smile Meter Reacts to Your Expressions With Pharrell’s Happy

MIT's Smile Meter

Here’s a clever use of a webcam and some facial recognition software — They call it Happy ++ and it will DJ [Pharrell's] Happy according to how much you’re smiling (or not at all!).

It’s another project to come out of MIT’s Media Lab for a spring event this year by [Rob, Dan & Javier]. The facial tracking software was re-used from an older project, the MIT Mood Meter, which was a clever installation that had several zones on campus tracking the apparent “happiness” of the students walking by.

To create the program they’ve split up the song Happy into its various components. Drums, vocals, band, and the full mix. As the webcam recognizes a smile, it records the intensity, which in turn turns up the vocals and band. If no smiling is present there is only a drum beat.  [Read more...]

Wake On LAN With A Dev Board

Screen

At home, [Daniel] has an extremely powerful dual quad-core Xeon system with ECC RAM that he uses for heavy lifting tasks – compiling, CUDA processing, and actual computing. Of course the electric bill for running this box all the time would be crazy, so Wake on LAN it is. There’s only one problem: for some reason, the BIOS doesn’t have Wake on LAN. The solution, of course, was a microcontroller system that would listen for the magic WoL packet and turn the computer on when it was received. This project eventually turned into a great case mod with an integrated LCD that powers the computer up over Ethernet, shows the current running processes, CPU and memory usage, and is an excellent use of a TI dev board.

The dev board in question is a TI Sitara AM355x starter kit that runs Linux, has two Ethernet ports and a touch sensitive LCD, and more than enough power to handle something as simple as a system monitor. To power on his monster computer from the dev board, [Daniel] is using a LED on the board, an inverter, a ULN2003 driver chip, and a relay connected to the computer’s power button. It’s not exactly a masterpiece of craftsmanship, but the dev board looks good mounted in the case, and from the videos below, it’s a great way to get system information embedded right into a computer case.

[Read more...]

Laser Etching Brings New Life To An IBM Keyboard

IMG_20140314_011136

[Evan] was perusing his local thrift store when he found a beautiful IBM Model M 122-key keyboard made in 1987.

“This is my keyboard, there are many like it, but this one is mine.”

~The Typist’s Creed

In [Evan's] case, this might actually be the only one like it still in use today. An idea formed in his head. What if he took this ancient keyboard, gave it a USB driver, and customized the keys on a hardware level to do exactly what he wanted.

The first step was converting it to USB. He’s using a Teensy 2.0 mostly because it is super inexpensive, and its able to act as a USB HID device. In addition to wiring up the keyboard to the Teensy he’s also added foot pedals that connect via 1/8″ stereo plugs — these kind of act like extra mouse buttons, allowing him to scroll through galleries left to right, add page breaks, and other macros to increase efficiency.

[Read more...]

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