Western Digital recently released a media player that attaches to your TV and allows you to play HD media straight from an external USB drive to the television. With a price point of about $100, it’s strange that the device hasn’t made more of a stir in the consumer electronics market. Of course, if it exists, someone will hack it, though. Clever hardware and software hackers have already managed to get an alternative firmware running on the device, allowing for packages like a web server, RSS reader, Apple trailer viewer, and other linux-based packages. It’s good to see a device with so many software mods so early into production.
[Edo] wrote in to show us how he added RDS decoding to a radio made in 1957. RDS or Radio Data System is a protocol for data transmission. This allows date, time, artist info, and more to be broadcast along with the music. Its a nice feature that many new cars come with from the factory. [Edo] wanted to add it to his old radio though. He kept the radio stock looking, choosing to use an external LCD to display the data. He has posted the information on where to splice in to add this unit to pretty much any FM radio as well as posting the schematics and source code for the unit itself. Look at the very bottom of the page for the download link, its a bit hidden with the advertisements.
[Graham] bought a new stereo for his Peugeot 406. Unfortunately, the built in radio controls in his steering wheel didn’t interface directly with the head unit, but rather with the vehicle itself. His solution was to build a device to decode the button presses and send them to the head unit in the appropriate fashion. All source code and schematics are available on his site. He states that this should work on any PSA/Renault vehicle with a 125Kb VAN bus. We’re curious how similar some of the American systems are. We have seen something similar where someone wanted to control their Zune from the steering wheel.
The new Palm Pre cellphone has a “media sync” feature which lets the device sync with iTunes in a fashion identical to an iPod. Last week [Jon Lech Johansen] speculated that this was not done in cooperation with Apple and that Palm was spoofing the iPod’s USB controller. This was confirmed today when a tipster sent him a screenshot of what the device reports in both standard and media sync modes. The Palm Pre reports its Product ID as iPod and Vendor ID as Apple with a few other changes. [Jon] notes that it doesn’t change the root USB node, so Apple should be able to block this behavior with an iTunes update. With Palm already pulling tricks like this presumably through software we wonder if this will become a full-on arms race.
[Matt] wrote in to tell us about this project. He plans on travelling with his MSI Wind and wanted better audio recording capabilities. He decided to install an additional microphone and a preamp. He made a custom preamp and wired it directly to the motherboard. The microphone was then mounted in the laptop screen. The second microphone is placed opposite of the first, about 18cm apart which [Matt] claims gives it a binaural effect. We think that this might just classify as stereo though. Wouldn’t you have to seperate them with a barrier or dampening device for binaural? It doesn’t really matter though, stereo mics are a great addition to the MSI Wind, and he did it very well. He does point out that it picks up a lot of noise though. There’s always room for improvement.
Many people find themselves frustrated when working with headphones. The tiny coated wire can be a real pain to work with. They are so very very small, and usually coated. We generally just end up doing a quick “sand and tape” which just isn’t very high quality. [Alex] sent in some tips that can really help you get those repairs or modifications going.
For their final project in ECE 4760 at Cornell, [Christina] and [Joe] made a small single octave keyboard using LEDs as the input. They used a total of 63 LEDs to make the keys. Each key consists of 9 LEDs, with the center one acting as a sensor. When you lay your finger on it, the light reflects off of your finger and is picked up by the center LED. An ATMega 664 runs custom code to play a sound. You can find out more details about the construction as well as download the source code on the site. You can also download an example movie of it in action ( 7MB .mp4)