Freedom Toaster dispenses FOSS… for free

The Seneca College Linux Club figured out a fantastic way to help promote Linux to a wider audience. They took some surplus hardware and made an Open Source software vending machine. That is and isn’t a play on words. The project itself is an open source project, and the goal is to dispense other open source software in the form of CDs and DVDs.

Their build page shares all of the details. They acquired an older server cabinet which was on the way out from the IT department. It’s more than large enough to fit a person inside, which is overkill but it makes it much less likely that someone will try to walk off with the thing. Inside you’ll find a computer, two monitors (one is a touch screen for consumer use, the other is just an extra hidden inside for maintenance.

You must bring your own blank CD-R or DVD-R (but the burning is free). You can see the DVD shelf at waist-level on the fully painted kiosk above. The only thing we think is missing here is a USB port for brewing up a bootable USB stick.

[Thanks MS3FGX]

Automated CD ripper build from Lego and other parts

[Paul Rea] decided it was finally time to get rid his CD and DVD library by ripping the data onto a hard drive. He has a rather extensive collection of discs and didn’t relish the thought of ripping them one at a time. So he set to work building his own automatic CD ripper/duplicator.

Right off the bat he had several specifications for the build. He wanted it to be platform independent, reliable, and cheap to build. We think he really hit the mark, but he does mention that he’s got a second duplicator build in mind already. This version makes heavy use of Lego parts for the arm and gearing. The base has a stepper motor which swings the arm in an arc which reaches the input pile, the optical drive try, and the output bin. The arm itself has a two-part wooden gripper that is positioned over a CD and uses a limiting switch to sense when the vertical orientation is at the proper point for gripping a disc. We enjoyed reading his log as he discusses the various building challenges he encountered and how each was overcome.

We’ve seen a few other builds like this before. One of our favorites is from way back.

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Make Your Own Odometer from Scraps

For those out there who would enjoy a quick and interesting weekend project, this odometer made by [PeckLauros] is for you. Featured on Instructables it is made from the simplest of materials including some cardboard, a calculator, wires, glue, hot glue, magnetic drive key, an old CD and a reader, and a rubber band.  The magnets, when attached to the CD work in a calculation to add 0.11m to the calculator when a magnet closes the circuit. [PeckLauros] points out that since it is a homebrewed device, it does have flaws such as adding 0.11m twice when the CD is rotated too slowly.  It is easily fixed by simply running faster.  The video is below the break.

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Build a simple switch

Forget hacking an easy button, grab a couple of those outdated CD-Rs and build your own switch for that next project. This was developed with handicapped accessibility in mind; assembled easily with common products and it’s fairly robust. In fact, our junk box has everything you need except the adhesive backed copper foil. Combine two old CD’s, covered in copper on facing sides, separated by two strips of Velcro to separate the conductors. When pressure is applied, one CD flexes to make contact with the other and complete the circuit. So easy, yet we never thought of it. We’ll add it to our list of homebrew input devices.

[Thanks Michael]

Destroying optical media

We got a tip about a USB CD destroyer. We found its methods amusing as it just scratches the CD as seen above on the left. If you really have data security issues, perhaps something more than scratched plastic should be used. There are a lot of paper shredders that can also shred CDs, what about taking that shredder with the burnt out motor and turning it into a hand-cranked shredder that doubles as a CD killer?

Got a lot of optical media that needs to go? These folks developed the chain-gun of CD shredding with an automatic feed. This consists of a CD shredder and a slew of discs connected with packing tape. As seen in the video after the break, the shredder advances and the next disk is pulled into its jaws.

Microwave has been a popular bringer of death for disc media. The light show and resulting chaotic art (above on the right and after the break) are what make this interesting, but it’s pretty hard on the much-loved kitchen appliance. What we’re really looking for is a way to force a CD/DVD writer to overwrite data. The fact that burnt discs, rather than factory pressed versions, are what normally need to be disposed of makes this a hack waiting to happen. Why isn’t this a standard hardware feature of all drives, and can it be implemented in software?

There’s always the low-tech snap, scratch, or mangle methods. We usually just scratch the foil off the top of the disc.

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Repurpose an unused portable CD player


[Ariel] liked the look of the Muji wall mounted CD player. He set out to build his own, posting a how-to that documents his project. The custom paperboard case contains a portable CD player, two portable speakers with amplifier, and a pull-string switch to turn it on and off. With mp3 players sending portable CD players the way of the dodo, and with the proliferation of powered mini-speakers this is a thrift-store build waiting to happen.

[via Boing Boing Gadgets]

Circuit board instrument

[Moldover] decided to change up the way CDs are packaged for his album release. Yes, you still get a CD with some pretty sweet music, but the case can also play sounds. He custom printed a circuit board containing some LEDs, buttons, photoresistors, and what looks to be a piezo transducer which all combine to produce a strange whine like noise. But with the included headphone jack, he shows it can be used to produce some very interesting music – reminds us of circuit bending.

[Thanks Ferdinand]