HTPC for Lunch

xbmcLunchbox

If you’re hungry for a portable HTPC (Home Theatre PC) solution, maybe packing everything into a stylish mini lunch box is the way to go. [tomhung] wanted a quick and easy way to drag his media around while he’s away from home, but in an intentionally portable, self-contained enclosure, and the Star Wars lunch box provided plenty of space for the necessary guts.

Inside, he’s stacked the RasPi and a USB hub on top of one another. Each is mounted to its own platform made out of plastic DVD covers, and kept separate by standoffs carved from what appear to be the casings of inexpensive plastic pens. The stack also includes a 250GB 2.5″ HD, which [tomhung] simply attached with velcro for easy removal. The cables underwent minor surgery to keep the rat’s nest under control, and although the interior may still cause cable management enthusiasts to cringe, the exterior of the box cleans up well for its evening out. [tomhung] fit a simple 6-port keystone wall plate to the face of the lunch box to provide simple connections for all the important plugs.

Hacking a DVD Recorder

Hacked DVD Recorder

[w00fer] wanted to see if any modifications to a DVD Recorder were possible. Initially, the goal was to upgrade the internal hard drive for additional storage. However, after cracking open a DVDR3570H and finding a service port, he decided to look a bit deeper.

Connecting an RS232 to USB converter to the service port resulted in garbled data. It turned out that the port was using TTL signal levels instead of RS232 levels. This was solved by building a converter using the MAX232 converter IC.

With the converter in place, the service menu appeared. It performs some tests and spits out the results when the device is booted. After that, it sits at a prompt and waits for commands. Fortunately, [w00fer] found the service manual which lists the available commands. So far, he’s been able to generate test patterns, test lights, change the display text, spin up the hard drive, and read device information. However, the next steps include disabling Macrovision copy protection, dumping the EEPROM and NVRAM, and copying data off of the hard drive. If you think you can help [w00fer] out, let him know.

Cobalt RaQ Retrofit Help Geek Up Your Entertainment Center

cobalt-raq-jukebox

Even network engineers who toil away in hot server rooms (which aren’t actually all that hot because they’re well climate controlled) deserve nice things. That’s why Cobalt came out with these gorgeous front bezels for their rack mounted equipment… around twenty years ago. [Geekmansworld] is reviving the look, but he’s not hiding it away in a server rack. He scrapped the guts and used the front bezel and controls as part of his media server.

His first new addition to the case was a pair of hard drives which connect to an eSATA hub also stored in the enclosure. He buttoned it up and gave it a test run. Everything worked smoothly and he hopes that it will continue that way without overheating when the summer rolls around again.

Of course a dead front bezel is no fun so he cut off the portion of the original circuit board which hosts the buttons seen on the right. These buttons now connect to a U-HID board which turns the button presses into mouse or keyboard inputs using a USB connection. The original display was swapped out for a backlit character LCD. The LEDs to the left are a refit which turns the status indicators into a VU-Meter. See the entire thing at work after the break.

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Easy Multi-Touch Table

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 1.53.13 PM

[2bigbros] put up an Instructable on his multi-touch table build. It’s a nice setup, using the typical frustrated total internal reflection method for touch sensing. Tinkerman’s Method was used for the screen itself, which involves rolling silicon onto vellum with a paint roller to improve the bond. [2bigbros] then built a nice aluminum and wooden frame for the whole thing. He’s light on some details, but most people with a basic understanding and Google will be able to figure it out.

This is a very accessible project for most builders. If you’re interested in getting into it, there are plenty of projects to reference. We previously covered the basics, as well as a more involved build. We’ve even seen an interactive tower defense game using multi-touch. If you decide to build one of your own, don’t forget the excellent resource at TUIO for finding frameworks and example implementations.

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Fubarino-Contest: 1980’s CD Player with MPD

fubarino-cd-shelf-player

[Ronald] had to scramble to get his submission in, but we’re glad he did. His demo video shows the display of a 1980’s CD player working with Music Player Daemon. It’s really just the original display itself that works, but the project is not yet finished. However, is far enough along to show our URL when a track reaches the 22:00 mark.

The display is driven by an ATmega32 chip which uses a USB connection to receive commands from the computer running MPD. [Ronald] had troubles figuring out how to send int values over USB so he hacked his own protocol that just uses the LSB of each byte coming over the bus. After the break you can see the video, and read the description which he included with his submission. There is also a code package available here.


This is an entry in the Fubarino Contest for a chance at one of the 20 Fubarino SD boards which Microchip has put up as prizes!

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Sniffing Out LG Smart TV Tracking Protocol

[DoctorBeet] noticed the advertisements on the landing screen of his new LG smart television and started wondering about tracking. His curiosity got the better of him when he came across a promotional video aimed at advertisers that boasts about the information gathered from people who use these TVs. He decided to sniff the web traffic. If what he discovered is accurate, there is an invasive amount of data being collect by this hardware. To make matters worse, his testing showed that even if the user switches the “Collection of watching info” menu item to off it doesn’t stop the data from being phoned home.

The findings start off rather innocuous, with the channel name and a unique ID being transmitted every time you change the station. Based on when the server receives the packets a description of your schedule and preferred content can be put together. This appears to be sent as plain data without any type of encryption or obfuscation.

Things get a lot more interesting when he discovers that filenames from a USB drive connected to the television are being broadcast as well. The server address they’re being sent to is a dead link — which makes us think this is some type of debugging step that was left in the production firmware — but it is still a rather sizable blunder when it comes to personal privacy. If you have one of these televisions [DoctorBeet] has a preliminary list of URLs to block with your router in order to help safeguard your privacy.

[Thanks Radcom]

Primer Tutorials for Arduino IR Remote Cloning and Keyboard Simulation

ir arduino

We’ve featured loads of IR Arduino projects and they are all exciting and unique. The projects spring from a specific need or problem where a custom infrared remote control is the solution. [Rick’s] double feature we’re sharing in this article is no exception, but what is interesting and different about [Rick’s] projects is his careful and deliberate tutorial delivery on how to copy infrared remote codes, store the codes with a flavor of Arduino and then either transmit or receive the codes to control devices.

In the case of his space heater an Arduino was used to record and later retransmit the “power on” IR code to the heater before he awakes on a cold morning. This way his room is toasty warm before he has to climb out from under the covers, which has the added benefit of saving the cost of running the heater all night. Brilliant idea if you don’t have a programmable heating system. Maybe he will add a temperature sensor someday so it doesn’t have to run on strictly time.

A more complicated problem was controlling DVD playback software on his computer remotely. [Rick] says he sits at a distance when watching DVDs on his computer but his computer doesn’t have a remote control like a normal TV. Arduino to the rescue again! But this time he pulls out a Teensyduino because of its added feature of being able to emulate a keyboard and of course the computer DVD playback software accepts keyboard commands. Once again he used the “IRremote.h” library to record certain button codes from an old remote control before adding the retrieved codes to a Teensyduino setup and programmed to receive and decode the remote’s IR signals. The Teensyduino then maps the IR codes to known keyboard shortcuts and transmits the simulated keyboard shortcut commands to the computer via its USB cable where the DVD playback software recognizes the key commands.

As always [Rick] shares all his libraries and sketches on his blog so follow the above links to download the files. You will not miss a single step if you follow his excellent videos below. Plus, here are some other ways and other tools for using an IR remote with your Arduino and cloning an infrared remote.

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