66% or better

Button automatically tells people to bugger off in Gmail

[Kevin]‘s friend is a remarkably helpful engineer, and when his friend gets requests to help out on a few projects he always has a hard time saying no. Really, [Kevin]‘s friends’ time is much too valuable to take up many more projects, but saying no to someone will drag you down. To  alieve his friend of the torment of saying no, [Kevin] built an automated Gmail assistant that will automatically replay to an annoying email with the words, “Go F*** Yourself!”.

The automated Gmail assistant is built around a Teensy 2.0 microcontroller equipped with a key that serves as a safety, lest an accidental “F*** you” be sent to friends, family, or employers.

If [Kevin]‘s friend feels bad for telling so many people off there’s also a handy feature to make sure the engineer friend doesn’t seem too unhelpful: there’s a one percent chance of the Gmail assistant of replying with, “That’s a Great idea, I’ll get right on it!”.

8x8x8 LED cube and the board that drives it

Check out the LED cube which [Thomas], [Max], and [Felix] put together. But don’t forget to look at that beautiful PCB which drives it… nice! But hardware is only part of what goes into a project like this one. After the soldering iron had cooled they kept going and wrote their own software to generate patterns for the three-dimensional display.

Looking at a clean build like this one doesn’t drive home the amount of connections one has to make to get everything running. To appreciate it you should take a look at this other 512 LED cube which has its wires showing. You can see from the schematic (available in the project repository) that all of these lines are managed by a series of shift registers. The board itself connects to a computer from which it gets the visualization commands. A Java program they call CubeControl can push letters or turn the cube into a VU meter.

The team built at least two of these. This smaller version uses red LEDs, while the larger one shown in the video after the break has blue ones.

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Hackaday Links November 22nd 2012

HDD Grinder

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As [unicorn] described it, “this is no big thing.”  We would agree, but a grinder made from a hard disk drive at least deserves to be in a [HAD] links post. Here’s the original source.

The No-Video Game

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What do you get when take [Sub Hunt] and take away the ability to see what you’re playing with? The No-Video Game is what [Sean] at [Hive76] came up with. Thanks [Kyle] for writing in to tell us about it!

SD Card Hack ‘N Slash

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[Paul] wrote in to tell us about his friend [Ahmad's] discovery that you can cut a standard SD card in two and still have it function. Sure, some people know this, but we’d be willing to bet most don’t. In the pictures provided, it makes for a nice upgrade to the Raspberry Pi’s form factor.

FM Transmitter for FPGA

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[Hamster] wrote in to tell us about how he added an FM tranmitter to his field programmable gate array project. Check out the wiki for the code to do this with, or this Youtube video to see it in action!

Brute Force Hack a Garmin GPS

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Although there’s only a Youtube video to describe this hack, it’s really worth seeing.  Some people might go with a pure electrical method to open up their Garmin GPS, but why do that when you can “just” create an array of fingers to do it for you! Thanks [David] for the tip!

Adding a SCART input to a console VGA converter

If you’re working with a CGA, EGA, or RGB gaming system this inexpensive board does a great job of converting the signal to VGA so that you can play using a modern display. But what if you have a SCART connector as an output? That’s the situation in which [EverestX] found himself so he hacked in SCART support.

The first step is to source a female SCART connector. He grabbed a coupler off of eBay and cracked it open, yielding two connectors. Now comes the wiring and you may have already noticed that there’s a lot more going on here than the color channels, sync signal, and ground. Technically that’s all you really need to make this happen, but the results will not be good. First off, the sync signal for SCART tends to be rather awful. That’s where the blue breakout board comes into play. [EverestX] used an LM1881 to grab the composite sync (yes, composite sync, not component sync) signal as a feed for the VGA converter. He also added in an audio jack for the sound that is coming through the connector.

Dead NES controller used as a Makey Makey shield

[Guillermo Amaral's] NES controller was in great shape. Well, except for the fact that it didn’t work. Upon closer inspection it seems the shift register — which is the only IC on these ancient peripherals — had given up the ghost. But he made it usable again by making the NES controller into a MaKey MaKey shield.

You should remember the MaKey MaKey. It’s a little board that lets you create controllers out of just about anything — bananas being one of the more popular examples. All he needed to do is wire up the controller’s buttons to the board. For the task he chose to use extra long pin headers. To find the location for holes in the case he applied red ink to the top of each pin, then held the PCB up to the outside of the controller. After drilling at each red mark he glued the pin headers in place and started in on the controller’s original circuit board. Once all the point-to-point wiring was done he had a working controller. See for yourself in the clip after the jump.

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Kitchen island monitors and distributes home brew beer

This piece of furniture actually resides in [Matt Pratt's] livingroom but we think it would make a perfect kitchen island. The base is a chest freezer modified to keep the beer inside at just the right temperature. But this doesn’t just dispense the beer, the system is designed to tell you how many pints are left in each keg.

The freezer offers enough room for four five-gallon Cornelius kegs. [Matt] salvaged the weight sensors from some cheap bathroom scales and rigged them up with some plywood discs to serve as the base for each keg. After working out the electronics to reliably read from the sensors (which was no small job) he hooked them up to a microcontroller and a touch screen. As you can see in the video after the break, the system calculates the number of pints left in each keg based on its weight. This can be easily calibrated using the touch screen.

He didn’t talk all that much about the control hardware, but having see his post about ARM LCD dev boards we’d bet that’s what he’s using here.

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Boiling acid used to see chip die

When a project starts off by heating acid to its boiling point we say no thanks. But then again we’re more for the projects that use ones and zeros or a hot soldering iron. If you’re comfortable with the chemistry like [Michail] this might be right up your alley. He used boiling acid to expose and photograph the die from several integrated circuits.

The title of our feature is a play on words. In this case, die refers to the silicone on which the IC has been etched. To protect it the hardware manufacturer first attaches the metal pins to the die, then encapsulates it in plastic. [Michail] removes that plastic case by heating sulfuric acid to about 300 degrees Celsius (that’s 572 Fahrenheit) then submerges the chips in the acid inside of a sealed container for about forty minutes. Some of the larger packages require multiple trips through the acid bath. After this he takes detailed pictures of the die and uses post processing to color enhance them.

This isn’t the only way to get to the guts of a chip. We’ve seen nitric acid and even tree sap (in the form of bow rosin) do the trick.