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Hackaday Links: November 17, 2013

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If you purchased a knock-off FM transmitter and were unhappy with its broadcast range [Thiagohersan] shows how to double the range with a simple transistor amplifier circuit. He also hacked it for used without the 12V car socket.

[Patrick Herd] had a project that required him to strip about twenty Mindstorm batteries from their plastic enclosures. It’s not too tough getting into them but it does require drilling out the plastic rivets. He made a jig and used a CNC mill to automate the process.

Speaking of CNC, [Bertho] added some abstraction to distance himself from what he calls the “50+ years archaic syntax and grammar that G-code programs have”. The project is a meta-compiler for G-Code.

If you need a cold one and don’t have a HaDuino on hand you’ll thank yourself for hacking together this five-cent workbench bottle opener.

Just make sure you do all the lathe work for a custom speaker enclosure before you start pounding back those brewskis. Not only does [Shaun's] creation look modern and stylish, but it boasts more than enough power to bump some tunes.

Here’s a project that adds LED feedback to your XBMC installation. It uses a Raspberry Pi to run the media center software, and a script to monitor it and actuate the lights on an Adafruit add-on board. At first glance you may not think much of it, but this is all the logic control you need to automate your viewing room. Who doesn’t want a home theater that automatically dims once you’ve made your viewing selection?

And finally, [08milluz] snagged some reactive electronics in the form of Disney’s Mickey Mouse ears. Apparently they glow different colors at live shows and based on where they are worn within the park. He did a complete teardown to show off the hardware within. It turns out to be controlled by an MSP430 which are known for their low power consumption. [Thanks Spikeo55]

Tearing down Disney’s Glow with the Show props

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[Andy’s] boss recently returned from a trip to Disneyland with a set of light-up [Mickey Mouse] ears in tow. He said that during the event, every set of “Glow with the Show” ears in the crowd changed colors in sync with the performance. After he and some co-workers speculated on how this was pulled off, [Andy’s] boss gave him a new assignment – to find out how the darned things work!

[Andy] carefully disassembled the ears, sharing his findings and speculations with us. Inside, he found a small flexible circuit board powered by three AAA batteries. At the center of the device resides a TI MSP430G2553 which is tasked with controlling the RGB LEDs embedded in the ears.

In one ear, he spotted what he believes to be a Vishay TSMP6000 IR receiver. Vishay-branded or not, he verified that it does indeed pick up IR signals using his oscilloscope and a TV remote. In the other ear, he found a pair of small IR diodes, which he speculates are used to repeat the IR timing/sync signal received in the opposite side of the device.

The synchronization methods seem completely different than those found in the Xylobands we covered a while back, so we’re really intrigued to find out more about technology behind them.

Stick around to see a video of the light show in action, and since [Andy] says he’s willing to entertain any thoughts on how Disney makes their magic happen, be sure to sound off in the comments.

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Building Main Street, USA in a coffee table

[Alex George] has been collecting miniatures of Main Street, USA in Disney Land hand crafted by artist [Robert Olszewski]. These models are incredibly accurate, but sadly static. [Alex] has some of the floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade that light up with the help of a few LEDs. One day, [Alex] found himself wishing he could watch a miniature parade circling around his diorama and did what any of us would do: make a tiny electrical parade move around his miniature town.

[Alex] began his build by designing a system of chains and sprockets underneath his miniature Main Street. When not on display, the parade floats are hidden underneath the town. At night, though, the parade ascends to the surface to put on a show.

It’s not an electrical parade if there aren’t any lights, so [Alex] grabbed a couple Blinkms to attach to the underside of each float. These are small programmable RGB LEDs that can repeat the same sequence of lights for the entire time the parade is visible. A very excellent job and a masterwork of craftsmanship for both [Alex] and [Robert Olszewski].

[Alex]‘s ‘making of’ video and a full demo of the float are available after the break.

via boingboing

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iTunes LP: there’s a hack for that

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One of the most-hyped features of iTunes version 9 is the addition of “iTunes LP,” which aims to recreate the classic record album experience with artwork and photos, lyrics, and liner notes — provided, of course, that you can pony up the purported $10,000 for production and you’re not one of those filthy indie labels.

Almost immediately upon its release, folks set about dismantling the iTunes LP format and found that it largely consists of an unprotected combination of HTML, CSS and JavaScript files. Such information is now scattered about the web, but a new site, iTunesLP.net, is jockeying to be the one-stop shop both for LP creation tutorials and for fan-made LP downloads (sans the copyrighted music tracks — bring your own). The first LP available for download there is [Walt Disney]’s 1957 release of Fantasia, faithfully reproducing the original 24-page color program in all its politically incorrect glory. Check it out…quickly, before Apple and Disney lay the smack down.

Magic wands for Disney

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[NRP] sent us a few of his projects. The most notable of the bunch was a school project funded by Disney. They were to make some kind of interactive entertainment for people waiting in line for rides. They decided on a wand style interface. Each wand has an accelerometer, an IR LED for tracking, an XBee unit, and a few buttons for interaction. They wrote some custom games and a multi person white board to test it all out.  You can see those in action, along with a space themed pong game in the video after the break. Even though this was funded by Disney, you can still find all the source code and schematics, available for free.

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