Custom Controllers For Kerbal Space Program

kerbalKerbal Space Program is already a runaway indie video game hit, and if you ask some people, they’ll tell you it is the way to learn all about orbital dynamics, how spaceships actually fly, the challenges of getting to the mün. The controls in KSP are primarily keyboard and mouse, something that really breaks the immersion for a space flight simulator. We’ve seen a few before, but now custom controllers well suited for a Kerbal command pod can be made at home, with all the blinkey LEDs, gauges, and buttons you could want.

[Freshmeat] over on the KSP forums began his space adventures with a keyboard but found the fine control lacking. An old Logitech Dual Shock controller offered better control, but this gamepad doesn’t come with a throttle, and USB throttles for flight sims are expensive. He found a neat plugin for KSP made for interfacing an Arduino, and with a few modifications, turned his controller into a control panel, complete with sliders, pots, gauges, and all the other goodies a proper command pod should have.

[Freshmeat]‘s work is not the only custom Kerbal controller. There’s a whole thread of them, with implementations that would look great in everything from a modern spaceplane to kerbalkind’s first steps into the milky abyss of space. There’s even one over on the Hackaday projects site, ready to fly Bill, Bob, and Jeb to the mün or a fiery explosion. Either one works.

Thanks [drago] for the tip.

Apple Forces Non-Mac User To Make Ergonomic Mac Keyboard

Mac Ergonomic Keyboard

If you’ve ever typed for a significant amount of time you know that it can become painful. Long term exposure can cause wrist and arm injuries. There are some things that can help alleviate the risk of injury like taking frequent breaks, good posture and using an ergonomic keyboard. [Ian] likes the feel of Mac keyboard keys but doesn’t like the traditional straight layout. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t make an ergonomic keyboard so [Ian] stepped up to the plate and made one for himself.

Mac Ergonomic Keyboard

Just starting this project was an extreme pain. Apple glues their Mac keyboards together. A heat gun was used to melt the glue to 400°F as kitchen utensils were stuck in between the halves of the case, keeping the glue from re-sealing the case together. Once the case was apart the unnecessary keys were removed. [Ian] is actually modifying two keyboards into one because he wants the middle keys to show up on both sides of the keyboard. With the necessary keys identified, the metal support frame was removed from the unneeded sides of the keyboard.

[Read more...]

The Relay-Based Mouse Emulator

mouse

[Nixie]‘s job involves using some test software that requires moving a mouse around, clicking a few buttons, checking if everything is okay, and repeating the process over and over again. This is obviously a solution for some keyboard macros, but in a fit of sadistic spite, the test software requires someone to move a mouse around the screen. What is [Nixie] to do? Make a mouse emulator and automate the whole thing, of course.

The Memulator, as [Nixie] calls the device, is the latest in a series of devices to increase productivity when testing. The first version was the mouse tumor, an odd-looking device that simply switched off the LED for an optical mouse, keeping the cursor in one spot while [Nixie] hammered a button repeatedly. The second version is more advanced, capable of moving the cursor around the screen, all without doing an iota of USB programming: [Nixie] is simply using a resistive touch pad, some relays and a few pots to turn buttons into cursor movements. It’s such a simple solution it almost feels wrong.

There’s some interesting tech here, nonetheless. For some reason, [Nixie] has a few cases of old, can-shaped soviet-era relays in this build. While using such cool, awesome old components in such a useful and productive build seems odd, if you’re trying to fix ancient software that’s so obviously broken, you might as well go whole hog and build something that will make someone in twenty years scratch their head.

Vertical video of the Memulator below.

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An Audio Based USB Oscilloscope and Signal Generator for $20

SoundScope

Are you interested in building a 20kHz 2-channel oscilloscope and a 2-channel signal generator for only $20 with minimal effort? Be sure to check out [Jan_Henrik's] Instructable that goes over how to build this awesome tool from a cheap USB audio card.

We have featured tons and tons of DIY oscilloscopes in the past, but this effort resulted in something very well put together while remaining very simple to understand and easy to build. You don’t even need to modify the USB audio card at all. One of the coolest parts of this build is that you can unplug your probe assembly from your USB audio card, and bring it wherever your hacking takes you. After the build, all you need is [Christian Zeitnitz's] Soundcard Oscilloscope program and you are good to go. One of the major downsides that is often overlooked when using an audio based oscilloscope, is that it is “AC coupled”. This means you cannot measure low-frequencies (including DC signals) using a sound card. Be sure to heed [Jan_Henrik's] advice and do not use your built in audio card as an oscilloscope. With no protection circuitry, it is a sure fire way to fry your computer.

What analog projects have you built around an audio interface? We have seen such an interface used for many different applications, including a few fun medical related hacks (be sure to keep safety your first priority). Write in and let us know!

Capacitive Sensing And Old IBM Keyboards

bar

The pen is mightier than the sword, but the IBM Model M keyboard, properly applied, can knock teeth in. There are a few more IBM keyboards even better suited to blunt force trauma – the extremely vintage beam spring keyboards made for terminals and desktop publishers. Being so very old, there’s no easy way to connect these keyboards to a modern system, so when [xwhatsit] wanted to make his work, he needed to build his own controller.

The beam spring keyboards use capacitive switches, and with 122 keys, the usual method of reading capacitance – putting a capacitor in an oscillator – would be far too slow to be of any use in a keyboard. There is another method of reading capacitance: measuring the current going through the capacitive switch. This can easily be accomplished with an LM339 comparator.

[xwhatsit]‘s keyboard controller uses this capacitive sensing circuit to read the four rows of keys, with a few shift registers taking care of the columns. An ATMega32u2 is the brains of the outfit, running LUFA to translate the key presses to USB.

If you’re lucky enough to have one of these ancient keyboards, [xwhatsit] is selling a few over on the usual mechanical keyboard forums. There’s also a controller for the Model F keyboard using the same basic circuit. If you need one just drop him a line or grab the gerbers and roll your own.

 

 

These Trackpad Winamp Visualizations Really Whip the Llama’s Ass

winamp visualizationAs much as we like a good clean Model M specimen, those curly-corded clicky behemoths are somewhat lacking for certain flavors of gaming. There aren’t any blank keys to override, and there sure isn’t a full-color trackpad that you can write apps for. [Gus] has such a keyboard: the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate which features the SwitchBlade UI. He made himself this sweet audio visualizer for it that extends Winamp visualizations to the Switchblade UI.

[Gus]‘s hack is built on the Tiny3D visualization framework. It does what you might expect—reads the visualization values, sets them up for display on the trackpad, and renders them to said trackpad. [Gus] uses some of the 10 programmable keys to change colors on the fly, and the result is pretty awesome. As [Gus] points out, this is just the beginning of what the plugin can do. You’ll need the Razer SDK to get started, and you can get the other ingredients from [Gus]‘s repo. Once you’re done with this, you could try auto-dimming your keyboard backlight.

Of course there are demo videos after the jump. Come on.

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Learning to Reverse Engineer on a Broken Printer

Lexmark Hack

When a Lexmark inkjet printer stopped working, [Mojobobo] was able to claim it as his own. He quickly realized that the machine was flooded with ink and not worth repairing, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t still find a use for it. When he learned that the printer’s firmware was not only upgradable but also unprotected, he knew he should be able to get the printer to do his own bidding.

[Mojobobo] started his journey with the motherboard. The unit still powered up, but it was asking to insert a “duplex module” before it would boot any further. [Mojobobo] first tried to find a way to trick the duplex module sensor, but was unsuccessful. His next step was to search for some kind of serial communications port. He didn’t have an oscilloscope, so instead he used a speaker with a wire probe. In theory, if the wire was pressed against an active serial port, he would be able to hear varying tones through the speaker. Sure enough, he found some interesting tones after probing around some ports next to a “JTAG” label. He looked up some information about the nearby chip and found that it included an SPI bus.

After some internet research, [Mojobobo] learned enough about SPI to have a rough idea of how to use it. Having limited tools available to him, he decided to use his Arduino to try to communicate with the motherboard. After wiring up a simple circuit, (and then re-wiring it) he was able to dump the first 4096 bytes of the motherboard’s boot loader to the Arduino via the SPI interface.

[Mojobobo's] next steps will be to find a faster way to dump the boot loader. At 9600 baud, he grew tired of waiting after three hours. Once he has the full boot loader he intends to search for a way to bypass the duplex sensor and get the board to finish booting. Then he may just use the printer for its scanning functions, or he might find other interesting uses for it.

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