Wood Stove Runs on Arduino Power

Ahh, sweet scope creep! Usually it’s the death of a nice, simple little hack. But once in a hundred times, a small hack doesn’t get buried under the extra features, but instead absorbs them in stride and blossoms into a beautiful system. [rockfishon]’s Arduino-powered wood stove controller is one of these beautiful exceptions. (OK, we’d admit that it could use a fancier faceplate.)

He started off simply enough, wanting to connect a thermocouple to an Arduino, read out the value, and issue an alarm when the temperature got too high. But who could stop there? Just one air-baffle servo away from a closed-loop heating control system? So [rockfishon] added a display and a few more buttons and has a system that will keep his wood-burning stove running at exactly the right temperature, even overnight when nobody’s around to tend it. As a bonus, everything is logged for later analysis.

The code is relatively straightforward, and can be found in this Gist. If you’d like to build your own, you’ll need an Arduino Mega and can then get the control board made for you at OSHPark. Judging from the comments on the Hackaday.io project page, a couple people have already tried this out. We’ve seen other wood-stove monitoring hacks before, but this is the first we’ve seen that closes the control loop. Very cool.

Balancing D-Pad Gets You In the Game

Inspired by TRON, [lasttraveler] decided to try his hand at building a Balance Board — basically a giant joystick pad you can stand on to control.

Constructed of solid wood, the switches are actually very simple — he’s just using tin foil to make the contacts. By opening up the sacrificial keyboard, he’s taken the up/down/left/right keys and wired the contacts directly to the four tin foil pads. A recess in the bottom of the board allows the rest of the keyboard to remain intact — in case he ever wants to take it apart again. Or add new buttons!

Wooden crossbeams in the shape of an X allow the board to balance in the middle without touching any of the contacts — but as soon as you lean the connections are made and you’re off to the races!

Now strap on a VR headset and play some TRON! Though if you want even more accurate control you might want to pick up a cheap Wii balance board instead.

[via r/DIY]

Putting a Trackball Inside A Controller

Gaming on a PC is obviously superior and you would be a fool to argue otherwise. The keyboard and mouse is the obviously superior input device, but there are times when you just want to play games on a couch. [Gabriel] has an interesting solution to this input problem in the second version of his KeyBall Controller. It’s a controller, but it leverages the superior layout and precision of the keyboard and mouse combo, without making any compromises.

[Gabriel]’s KeyBall Controller began its life as several generic console controllers. The main body of is mostly a clone of the original Xbox S controller. Inside, there are parts from a clone SNES controller, a PSX controller, a generic USB trackball, and an iPazzPort USB handheld keyboard.

The construction of the KeyBall follows in the tradition of the best case modders we’ve ever seen: cutting plastic, gluing plastic, applying epoxy putty, and lots of sanding. The electronics for the controller also follow in the most hallowed traditions of case modders: perfboard, hot glue, and many fine strands of wire. Inside the controller is a USB hub to connect all the different USB devices.

It’s a great device that finally solves the problem of putting a traditional keyboard and mouse layout in the palms of your hands.

Scratching Vinyl Straddles Physical and Digital Realms

The life of a modern DJ is hard. [Gergely] loves his apps, but the MIDI controller that works with the app feels wrong when he’s scratching, and the best physical interfaces for scratching only work with their dedicated machines. [Gergely]’s blog documents his adventures in building an interface to drive his iPad apps from a physical turntable. But be warned, there’s a lot here and your best bet is to start at the beginning of the blog (scroll down) and work your way up. Or just let us guide you through it.

In one of his earliest posts he lays out his ideal solution: a black box that interprets time-code vinyl records and emulates the MIDI output of the sub-par MIDI controller. Sounds easy, right? [Gergely] gets the MIDI side working fairly early on, because it’s comparatively simple to sniff USB traffic and emulate it. So now he’s got control over the MIDI-driven app, and the hard part of interfacing with the real world began.

After experimenting a lot with timecode vinyl, [Gergely] gives up on that and looks for an easier alternative. He also considers using an optical mouse, but that turns out to be a dead-end as well. Finally, [Gergely] settled on using a Tascam TT-M1, which is basically an optical encoder that sits on top of the record, and that makes the microcontroller’s job a lot easier. You can see the result in the video below the break.

And then in a surprise ending worthy of M. Night (“I see dead people”) Shyamalan  he pulls timecode vinyl out of the grave, builds up a small hardware translator, and gets his original plan working. But we have the feeling that he’s not done yet: he also made a 3D printed optical-mouse holder.

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The Ommatid Is an Awesome “Thing”

[Jonathan Foote] made a really cool device: the Ommatid spherical display and controller. Part woodworking craft project, part art, and part tremendous hack, the Ommatid is something that we don’t really have a name for. But you can watch it in action, running demo code, in a video below the break.

The sphere design started out with a “20-sided regular polyhedron” with which D&D players should be familiar, and then divided each triangular face into four more triangles. An 80-sided die? Almost. One triangle’s worth was sacrificed for the part that mounts to the base.

Each facet contains an RGB LED and an IR sensor so that it can tell when a hand is nearby. All of this input and output is run through a Raspberry Pi, so both the sensing and display interactions are easily modified. [Jonathan] runs us through the electronics, programming, and interactivity in a separate Instructable. We really like [Jonathan]’s idea of turning this device into an OSC controller / display.

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Quick Keyboard Hack to Control Heavy Loads

When you want to control an external device (like a lamp) from your computer, you might reach for a USB enabled micro. Looking for an inexpensive and quick option to control two lamps [Pete] wanted to control a couple 12 volt halogen lamps, he reached for his keyboard and used a little bit of python.

Desktop PC keyboards have 3 LED’s indicating lock functions, hardly anyone uses the scroll lock, and on a laptop with no keypad, numlock is no big loss as well. Adding wires to the little PCB out of a USB keyboard the numlock and scroll lock LED’s 5 volt output was redirected to a switching circuit.

That switching circuit takes the output of either LED, inverts it with a PNP transistor, then connects to the gate of a FQP30N06L, “logic level” mosfet transistor to handle the heavy lifting. Once the wiring is in place a fairly simple Python script can take over turning on and off the two chosen lock keys, giving  control of up to 32 amps with the touch of a button.

NES Reborn as Nexus Player and NES

Anyone who has a Raspberry Pi and an old Nintendo has had the same thought. “Maybe I could shove the Pi in here?” This ran through [Adam’s] head, but instead of doing the same old Raspberry Pi build he decided to put a Nexus Player inside of this old video game console, with great success. Not only does it bring the power of a modern media player, it still works as an NES.

If you haven’t seen the Nexus Player yet, it’s Google’s venture into the low-cost home media center craze. It has some of the same features of the original Chromecast, but runs Android and is generally much more powerful. Knowing this, [Adam] realized it would surpass the capabilities of the Pi and would even be able to run NES emulators.

[Adam] went a little beyond a simple case mod. He used a custom PCB and an Arduino Pro Micro to interface the original controllers to the Nexus Player. 3D printed brackets make sure everything fits inside the NES case perfectly, rather than using zip ties and hot glue. He then details how to install all of the peripherals and how to set up the Player to run your favorite game ROMs. The end result is exceptionally professional, and brings to mind some other classic case mods we’ve seen before.