Examining Vintage Printer Server Hardward for Apple II

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Need to share a printer between several Apple II computers? Of course you don’t, but back in the day this would have been a really awesome piece of hardware to own. It’s a Pacemark iiEasy Print (we’re not sure on the capitalization of the name so talk amongst yourselves). It is an automatic buffer and switch that you can have now-a-days for just a couple of Hamiltons. [David] doesn’t mention where he “acquired” his specimen, but all the details about his adventures reverse engineering the card are shared in detail.

First off, we have to mention his unorthodox bench tools. To the untrained eye it would appear that he has attached the iiEasy Print to a Commodore 64; and that eye would be right. [David] says he uses the C64 something like an Arduino (if that’s even possible). The green card is plugged into the C64 memory bus, connecting to the DIP socket breakout board on the left and the chip select pins for most of the other IC’s on the original board. The gist of this setup is that it’s simple to use the “passthrough” DIP socket to monitor what the 6502-like processor is doing, while mapping the memory with the help of the chip select signals.

What did he learn from all this? Quite a lot but you might as well click that link above and hear it from his own mouth.

Laptop Trackpads and MIDI Controllers

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A bunch of pads connected to a MIDI out port is as old an idea as the Akai MPC. creating a homebrew version is great, but [Scott] took his version one step further. He used old laptop trackpads to control note on and note off commands when the each pad is tapped, and also added MIDI CC values for the touch pressure and the x and y-axis position.

The trackpads were identical models, each having their own PS/2 output. A few ribbon cable to 8-pin header adapters were manufactured, and the entire ensemble encased in a wonderful maple and aluminum enclosure.

The electronics are based on an Arduino Mega with 16 clock and data points for each touchpad eating up 32 of the 54 available pins on the ‘duino. The PS/2 protocol is well documented, but running 16 separate PS/2 id most certainly not. [Scott] ended up writing his own asynchronous PS/2 communications library to get the latency of his midi device down to about 50ms.

It’s an amazing bit of kit and comparatively inexpensive, given that [Scott] now has a 16-channel Kaoss pad. Video of the device hooked up to a MicroKorg below.

[Read more...]

Mechanical Typewriter Types Your Tweets!

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While we weren’t able to visit the Toronto Maker Faire this past weekend, a friend let us know about this great hack. A mechanized typewriter that types out tweets directed at the maker, @mschwanzer!

[Michael Schwanzer] has a few blog posts outlining the build, but the first part of this news article and accompanying video explain it quite nicely. The printer-typewriter features an array of solenoids that are controlled by an Arduino using shift registers. A Raspberry Pi collects the information from Twitter and then parses the data to the Arduino for typing. A simple concept, but a complex and relatively expensive build.

During the fair, people could have their own tweets printed and streamed on this site. You can still see it in action though, just check out the video after the break! [Read more...]

Hacking a flatbed scanner to scan very large documents

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When you need to scan really large documents, camera setups can get pretty expensive. There are professionals that do it, but they are fairly pricey too. What if you need to do it on the cheap? A flatbed scanner would be perfect, but the lip on the edge of most flatbed scanners keeps the document from touching the platen properly. [Matthew] decided to hack his Canon LiDE 90 scanner to use it in a face-down format. By removing the top of the case, and making a couple extra tweaks, the scanner can now lay flat and simply be moved in a grid.

Once you have the images, you’ll need a way to stitch them together. [Matthew] points to this tutorial, but he awesomely decided to write a little Python script to make it all happen automatically. We imagine that script might be useful for more than just this project.

We’ve seen some other scanners recently, but this one is probably the easiest for the majority of hobbyists to achieve with parts on hand.

castAR comes to Maker Faire NY 2013

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If there was one sentence heard over and over at Maker Faire NY, it was “Did you see castAR yet?” The Technical Illusions team was at Maker Faire in full force. [Jeri Ellsworth], [Rick Johnson,] and team brought two demos:  the tried and true Jenga simulator, and a newer overhead shooter based on the Unity 3D engine. We didn’t see any earth shattering changes from the previous demos of castAR, as [Jeri] has moved into optimization of the Hardware, and [Rick] toward even more immersive demos of the software. Optimization and preparing for market are considered the “hard yards” of any product design. This is the place where a huge amount of work goes in, but the changes are subtle to the layperson.

In addition to her development of castAR’s ASIC, [Jeri] has been hard at work on the optics. The “old” glasses used a solid plastic optical path. The newer glasses use a hollow path for the twin 720p projectors. This makes them even lighter than the previous generation. Weight on the castAR glasses can’t be overstated. They feel incredibly light. There was no perceptible pressure on the nose or ears when wearing them. Also missing was the motion sickness people often experience with VR. This is because castAR doesn’t replace the user’s vision field, it only augments the vision. Peripheral motion cues are still there, which makes for a much more comfortable experience. [Read more...]

Advanced Transcend WiFi SD Hacking: Custom Kernels, X, and Firefox

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[Dmitry] read about hacking the Transcend WiFi cards, and decided to give it a try himself.   We already covered [Pablo's] work with the Transcend card. [Dmitry] took a different enough approach to warrant a second look.

Rather than work from the web interface and user scripts down, [Dmitry] decided to start from Transcend’s GPL package and work his way up. Unfortunately, he found that the package was woefully incomplete – putting the card firmly into the “violates GPL” category. Undaunted, [Dmitry] fired off some emails to the support staff and soldiered on.

It turns out the card uses u-boot to expand the kernel and basic file system into a ramdisk. Unfortunately the size is limited to 3MB. The limit is hard-coded into u-boot, the sources of which transcend didn’t include in the GPL package.

[Dmitry] was able to create his own binary image within the 3MB limit and load it on the card. He discovered a few very interesting (and scary) things. The flash file system must be formatted FAT32, or the controller will become very upset. The 16 (or 32)GB of flash is also mounted read/write to TWO operating systems. Linux on the SD card, and whatever host system the card happens to be plugged in to. This is dangerous to say the least. Any write to the flash could cause a collision leading to lost data – or even a completely corrupt file system. [Read more...]

USB Ableton foot controller reuses old keyboard

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No, Hackaday hasn’t started advertising shoes, this is [Matlek's] foot controller for Ableton Live.

Matlek plays guitar and needed an easy way to control Ableton Live, which he uses as a looper. Ableton normally expects keyboard input, so that’s exactly what he gave it.

An old dell keyboard was gutted down to its controller board. This exposes  the leads the keyboard uses to scan the key matrix.  From there it is simply trial and error connecting different pins together and seeing which keys are printed on the PC screen (A text editor works well for this). Only 8 characters are needed to control the looper, so [Matlek] chose digits 1-8.

Since some of the wires are going to be sharing pins, a small piece of stripboard comes in handy between the buttons and the keyboard controller. [Maltek] used basic momentary push buttons for his mini key matrix, though we think that box looks sturdy enough to support some larger stomp box style buttons.

Everything comes together inside a sturdy shoebox, which also serves to insulate the exposed keyboard PCB from shorting out.

The only major downside to the project is that the box is light enough that it slides easily on the floor when recording or triggering loops. Adding some heavy items (or dare we say, some shoes) would solve this problem. Self adhesive rubber feet on the bottom of the box would help too.

[Read more...]