Keyboard Spoofs 4 NES Controllers for Chiptune Goodness

NES-keyboard

This toy keyboard is being used to play music on an NES. As you probably already know, the hardware inside those original controllers was dead simple. They’re just a parallel to serial shift register that reads from all of the keys. To get this keyboard up and running [heavyw8bit] simply mounted eight chips inside the gutted toy, connecting two of them to the keyboard keys, and the rest to the array of push buttons he added to the right.

So what’s the point of using this as a quadruple game controller? Are you expecting to see what a full speed-run of Contra looks like using this as the controls? That’s not the point at all. This becomes a musician-friendly frontend for the NES synthesizer ROM called NESK-1. [heavyw8bit] wrote the game/program in order to allow you to use the original console hardware to play all of the sounds you know and love. Our favorite is the arpeggio example heard at about 2:35 into the clip after the break.

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Game controller repurposed for flea market find

powerPannerControlReplacement

A jarring pan with your tripod can ruin a shot in your film, and tilting up or down usually requires some loosening and tightening kung fu to keep gravity from taking over. The “Power Panner” is a remote-controlled device that fits between the tripod and the camera, handling pans and tilts with ease. When [NeXT] found one at the Capitol Flea Market for $5, he didn’t care about the missing remote. He bought the Panner, dragged it home, and hacked together his own remote with a Sega Master Pad.

After researching similar devices online, [NeXT] had determined the original remote’s pinout: essentially a D-pad with adjustable speed control. He decided to ignore the speed pins and to instead search for a suitable replacement controller. A Sega Master Pad offered the most straightforward solution, so [NeXT] went to work separating out the wires and soldering them to a DIN connector. He couldn’t find the right plug to fit the Panner’s DIN-7 jack, so he substituted a DIN-8 with the extra pin snapped off.

Rather than use the remaining two buttons for speed control, [NeXT] chose to feed them directly into his camera to drive the focus and shutter, but the Master Pad’s wiring posed a problem: the camera would have to share the Power Panner’s ground, and the Panner plugs into the wall via a 6V adapter. Fingers crossed, he decided to push ahead and was relieved that everything worked. We suspect the shared ground won’t be a problem as long as one device uses a floating power supply, which the Panner can provide either through the proper wall wart or by using its 4 AA battery option.

If you’re in the mood for more camera hacks, check out the sound-dampening and waterproofing build from last week.

An arcade controller for the original PlayStation

I love it when you hit those switches

[Kevin] just finished a project for someone who lives in his apartment complex. This resident loves the game Pop ‘n Music – a Guitar Hero sort of game for the original Playstation and PS2 that uses nine colored buttons instead of five buttons along a fingerboard. His original idea was to wire up a few arcade buttons to a Playstation controller but this plan fell through, forcing [Kevin] to figure out the PSX bus all by his lonesome.

The initial code began with simply bit-banging the PSX controller interface with an AVR. This had a few problems, namely speed, forcing [Kevin] to move onto assembly programming to squeeze every last bit of performance out of a microcontroller.

The assembly route failed as well, dropping some transactions  Looking at the problem again, [Kevin] realized the PSX controller bus looked a little like an SPI bus. There were a few changes required – reversing the order of the bits, and using the MISO line to drive a transistor – but this method worked almost perfectly on the first try.

Now, [Kevin]‘s building mate has a custom Playstation controller for his favorite game. Of course all the code is up on github for all your PSX controller emulation needs, but be sure to check out this completely unrelated Pop ‘N Music video from someone who desperately needs a piano.

Custom made MIDI recorder for an 8 year old girl

recorder

[KDM] over at The Controller Project forums let us know about a cool project he’s been working on: a MIDI recorder for an 8-year-old girl born with two digits per hand.

The recorder – a simple woodwind instrument usually made of plastic – is a staple of grade school music classes the world over. It’s an excellent introduction to the performing arts, but for those with two fingers per hand, the fingering is a little difficult.

[KDM] contacted a manufacturer of these instruments and they were kind enough to send over a half-dozen for his experimentations. He drilled out these recorders on a lathe and started work on a simple circuit to turn this recorder into a MIDI instrument. A simple PIC micro and a few buttons were used, with a DIN 5 port on the horn of the instrument.

The build works, but we’re thinking with a small electronic wind sensor, this instrument could easily become a full-fledged MIDI wind controller that could be easily and cheaply reproduced for other budding musicians with special needs.

Oh, one more thing. We’d like to give a big shout out to the giant dork who started The Controller Project. A lot of Hackaday readers know how to work a microcontroller and a soldering iron, so how about heading over to their forums and doing some good with your skills?

[Sprite_TM] OHM2013 Talk: Hacking hard drive controller chips

hacking-hard-drive-controllers

Even if he hadn’t done any firmware hacking on this hard drive [Sprite_TM's] digital exploration of the controller is fascinating. He gave a talk at this year’s Observe, Hack, Make (OHM2013) — a non-commercial community run event in the Netherlands and we can’t wait for the video. But all the information on how he hacked into the three-core controller chip is included in his write up.

[Sprite_TM] mentions that you’re not going to find datasheets for the controllers on these drives. He got his foot in the door after finding a JTAG pinout mentioned on a forum post. The image above shows his JTAG hardware which he’s controlling with OpenOCD. This led him to discover that there are three cores inside the controller, each used for a different purpose. The difference between [Sprite_TM's] work and that of mere mortals is that he has a knack for drawing surprisingly accurate conclusions from meager clues. To see what we mean check out the memory map for the second core which he posted on page 3 or his article.

Using JTAG he was able to inject a jump into the code (along with a filler word to keep the checksum valid) and run his own code. To begin the firmware hacking portion of the project he pulled the flash ROM off of the board and installed it on that little board sticking out on the left. This made it easy for him to backup and reflash the chip. Eventually this let him pull off the same proof of concept as a firmware-only hack (no JTAG necessary). He goes onto detail how an attacker who has root access could flash hacked firmware which compromises data without any indication to they system admin or user. But we also like his suggestion that you should try this out on your broken hard drives to see if you can reuse the controllers for embedded projects. That idea is a ton a fun!

When we were poking around the OHM2013 website (linked above) we noticed that the tickets are sold out; good for them! But if you were still able to buy them they take Bitcoin as one payment option. Are there any other conferences that allow Bitcoin for registration?

Building a hard drive scratch controller

hard-disk-scratch-controller

If you’re reading this blog then chances are you have a dead hard drive hanging out somewhere in your house. Here’s a weekend project that will put it back into use. [Andreas] took on the popular project which combines a hard drive and optical mouse to build a scratch controller.

The gist of the build is that you use an optical mouse sensor to track the movement of the platter. But [Andreas] made things harder on himself by not using the USB capability of the mouse and mapping it in software for his needs. Instead he plucked the sensor from the mouse, reading it using an Arduino. After much trial and error with the best way to coat the underside of the platter to play nicely with the sensor he managed to get it up and running. The controller issues commands using the MIDI protocol, forming a strong foundation for future upgrades which could lead to a full-blown DJ console hack.

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How to play a Game Boy emulator on Chromecast

gameboy-on-chromecast

It’s small, it’s blurry, but it’s working. Here’s a proof of concept for playing emulators on a Chromecast which uses the original Game Boy as an example.

Notice that there are two screens shown in the demo. Out of focus in the background is the television with the Chromecast displaying the game play. In the foreground is a computer with a browser open which lists off the control setup. These are the button mappings for an Xbox 360 controller. The emulator is a JavaScript Game Boy emulator. This is loaded on the Chromecast through a simple html file (called the receiver in the repo). The sender — also a simple html file — loads another JavaScript package on the computer which translates the controller’s button presses to keyboard inputs and sends them out to the receiver.

This puts stars in our eyes about emulator hacks. We’d love to see this boiled down to smartphone and Chromecast as the two pieces of hardware, with the touchscreen as the gaming input.

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