[Ben Heck] builds his smallest 360 laptop ever

[Ben Heck] is no stranger to building Xbox 360 laptops. Over the years he’s built dozens, but for this week’s episode of The Ben Heck Show he’s throwing down the gauntlet and building the smallest Xbox laptop ever.

The latest and greatest Xbox laptop build is based around the newest and smallest  $199 4 Gig Xbox. A few compromises had to be made to turn this console into a laptop, though: The power that would have gone to a Kinect was repurposed to power the very thin 15.6″ LED LCD, while the port that would power a hard drive was used to drive a perfboard stereo amplifier. You can check out the official [Ben Heck] blog post here.

The final build is extremely compact and much smaller than [Ben Heck]’s previous Xbox laptop builds. At just 2.125″ thick and 16 ” wide and 9 ” long, it’s quite possibly the smallest Xbox that’s possible to build. Without a new hardware revision from Microsoft (which seems unlikely at this point), this is probably the smallest an Xbox 360 laptop can be. We tip our hat to [Ben], and wish him luck in the next season of The Ben Heck Show.

Wrapping up Maker Faire with [Ben Heck], giant Arduinos, and an Apple Lisa

All good things, and apparently our coverage of Maker Faire, must come to an end. Here’s a few more things we saw in New York this last weekend that piqued our interest:

A 10x scale Arduino

[Robert Fitzsimons] of Part Fusion Electronics made a gigantic Arduino. It wasn’t quite functional, but [Robert] did manage to make a few 10:1 scale LEDs (with built-in circuit protection), 1 inch pitch headers, and a few other miscellaneous components out of foam and paint.

Since he’s from Dublin, Ireland, [Robert] didn’t want to take this giant board home with him. He graciously gave it to me in the hopes of turning it in to a proper working Arduino. I’ll do my best, [Robert].

There are hundreds of Lisas buried in a landfill in Utah.

Tekserve, an indie Apple store located in the heart of Manhattan, really knows how to put on a good show. For the entirety of their stay at Maker Faire, they had people showing off one of the first digital cameras, Apple Newtons, and an awesome collection of vintage Macs. No, your eyes do not deceive you; that’s a real Lisa there in the bunch.

Sadly, they didn’t have the boot disk to turn any of these on. Pity.

Yes, there were celebrities at Maker Faire

Well, celebrities to the Hackaday crowd, at least. [Ben Heck] showed off the electronic automatic sunglasses he built. It’s a pair of lensless glasses, a servo, light detector, and a pair of clip-on sunglasses. When [Ben] is out in daylight, the sunglasses swivel down. Inside, the amount of light received by the detector decreases and the shades rotate up.

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One Hackaday reader’s experience going on the Ben Heck show

In the Hackaday Froums, [Colecago] shares his experience collaborating with [Ben Heck]. They were building some “Robot Luggage”, and you can see the episode after the break below. The idea was that they would build a piece of luggage that would follow you through an airport instead of having to be dragged.

[Colecago] shares a little about the “behind the scenes process”. There’s a surprising amount of work that goes into a very little amount of video. From what we can gather, this video took over a month to make. [Jesse/Colecago] was quite embarrassed to have run into a mistake that he called “UART Dislexia”, where he repeatedly wired the circuit incorrectly. We say, don’t stress, it happens to everyone.

Another point he brings up is how much of a pain in the butt the Arduino was in this process. While people in the comments often argue about the use of the arduino, [Jesse] explains how this specific case would have been much easier without.

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extMEDIA: An XBMC disc changer interface


A while back, [Ben Gilstad] built his first HTPC, loading XBMC on it to manage all of his digital media. He loved XBMC’s features and flexibility, but he needed a way to enjoy his DVD and Blu Ray collection on the device without too much hassle. Far before [Ben Heck] considered fitting his Xbox 360 DVD drive into a CD carousel, this [Ben] was busy hacking a Blu Ray player into his.

He bought a broken disc changer at a garage sale, and tore apart a standard SATA Blu Ray player in preparation for the optical drive transplant. An ATMega168 controls the changer’s mechanics, monitoring the carousel’s position and triggering the proper motors when discs need to be swapped out. The AVR currently takes its direction from the HTPC over its serial port via a UDP proxy as XBMC did not support a serial interface at the time he was building the changer.

The second half of [Ben’s] project is an XBMC add-on that he uses to manage his huge collection of optical discs. In order to get XBMC to recognize each disc as a valid ‘file’, he created a clever workaround involving blank WMV clips. This enables him to view his DVDs as if they were digital files on his hard drive, complete with cover art.

It’s a fantastic project, and [Ben] says that his system should be able to support any number of physical disc changers simultaneously, without much issue. Unfortunately the project went on hiatus when he lost his job, so it’s packed away in storage for the time being. Once he gets back on his feet however, he has a whole list of planned changes and improvements to work on – we can’t wait to see it once complete!

Keep reading to check out a video demonstration of his XBMC add-on in action.

Continue reading “extMEDIA: An XBMC disc changer interface”

Xbox 360 DVD changer is the ultimate in gaming laziness


Let’s face it – gamers have a reputation for being pretty lazy. In the most recent episode of his web series, [Ben Heck] takes on the stereotypical gamer role and cranks the laziness factor to 11, lamenting the fact that he needs to get up off the couch to swap discs in his Xbox 360 console. Never allowing laziness get in the way of his hacking, he springs into action, hauling off to his shop in order to construct an Xbox DVD changer system.

He grabbed a pair of CD changers and popped them open to see how they operated. After choosing the best candidate based on its CD loading method, he got to work disassembling the changer. The old CD player and its guts were removed, which he replaced with DVD drive components ripped from his Xbox. Quite a bit of trimming and tweaking was required to swap out the components, but it seems that [Ben] got things working just fine.

With the mechanical portion of the project out of the way, he dug into the electronics. The CD changer had no way of knowing how to interface with the Xbox and vice versa, so [Ben] had to devise a way for the two devices to communicate. He used an Arduino Uno to control the systems, triggering the CD carousel only when the Xbox thought it had its drive slot opened.

While the system looks a bit unpolished, and the controller quite bulky, we love this thing!  No matter if you are lazy or not, jamming these two devices together is exactly what hacking is all about.

Hacking automated hand sanitizers with Ben Heck


If you have visited a hospital any time recently, you probably noticed quite a few automated hand sanitizer dispensers scattered throughout the hallways and in each patient’s room. Since hospital-acquired infections are a growing problem, there has been a push for all personnel to use these hand sanitizers regularly to lessen the likelihood of spreading disease.

In the most recent episode of his web show, [Ben Heck] took on the challenge of hacking one of these dispensers to use motion sensors in order to sense when hospital personnel are near, as well as to remind them that they should sanitize their hands on the way out.

He disassembled the dispenser to see how it operated, then worked on replacing the IR sensor pair with a set of motion detectors. He hooked the motion sensors to a Propeller board, which uses a separate add-on board for keeping time. Once the motion sensors are triggered, the passer-by is given a window of time before the machine notifies them to kindly sanitize their hands. All movements and sanitizer dispensing events are logged to an SD card connected to the controller, which can be reviewed to ensure policy compliance.

If you have about 20 minutes to spare it’s worth checking out, and if you are interested in more hand washing tech, check out this DIY hand dryer we featured a while back.

Hackaday Links: March 22, 2011

3D holographic fog display


Some researchers in Japan are hard at work building a 3D volumetric fog display that would allow you to live out some of your Leia-related Star Wars fantasies. Using a column of fog and three projectors, they were able to create a display that looks three-dimensional from any angle. It might be a while before the technology hits your living room, so don’t clear your calendar just yet, Obi Wan. [via Neatorama]

The Claw – a three-fingered robotic gripper


Instructables user [AntMan] has been hard at work revising his robotic claw gripping mechanism. Laser cut from wood, this servo-driven claw can easily grasp small objects with little effort. We can’t wait to see someone build a version from milled aluminum!

Ben Heck’s retro Xbox 360


[Ben Heck] is at it again, and has recently given the Xbox 360 a sweet retro makeover. Taking inspiration from gaming consoles of the 70’s, he converted an Xbox 360 into a laptop-style portable (again), but this time with the look and feel of an old Atari 2600. Retro gamers rejoice, you can now get your Xbox on while enjoying the sweet simulated wood-grain you grew up with.

Rocket-based ice fishing notification system


What fun is ice fishing if you have to sit outside freezing your butt off? We’re assuming that was the driving thought behind [Mike’s] rocket-based ice fishing rig. A model rocket is attached to his fishing sledge, which is triggered when a fish is detected on the line. Using a low-tech detonator, the rocket lets him know it’s time to check the lines. Now only if we could get the fish to fillet themselves…

Case modding video series hits the web


The “Mod Men” is a fairly new web series that takes you out of the basement and into the garage for some professionally constructed case mods. Described as “American Chopper for geeks with a dash of This Old House”, the creators aim to showcase over-the-top case mods with a professional flair. They already have three episodes under their belt, all of which are available on their site.