JJ Dasher: The Tinkerer (Documentary)

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This isn’t our usual faire, it’s a really cool documentary on a hacker. [JJ Dasher] is a tinkerer from Taylorsville, Utah — and this is his story.

Like many mechanical hackers, he got his start taking apart engines with his dad who owned a motorcycle repair shop at the time. The cover photo above is of his micro-bike project, which can get him going quite fast! He’s also built quite a few tesla coils, and loves picking up things from thrift stores to hack. He’s got a kid now which takes up a lot of his time, but he jokes that his son is just his next big project waiting to be finished.

We’ve actually featured [JJ's] projects quite a few times before. He brought us the Doombox (handheld Doom-only computer), the awesome brute force GPS PIN cracker, and in the spirit of halloween one of our favorites: a tesla coil that delivers shocking candy!

Stick around after the break to watch the well-filmed documentary — don’t worry, it’s only 8 minutes long!

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Doom for your calculator gets a color upgrade

You’re not still playing nDoom in black and white, are you? What decade do live in? Thankfully, the Doom port for TI-nspire calculators has been upgraded to support color. That is if you’ve got the hardware to run it.

The video after the break (and the image above) shows a TI-nspire CX running the popular first-person-shooter. It’s seen several upgrades since the beta version which we saw piggy-backed with a different TI-83 hack a year ago. The control scheme has been tweaked, and a menu system was added. It’s not the same on-screen menu that you would see with the DOS version of the game, but it accomplishes that same thing. This port is packaged with the Ndless program that unlocks the hardware so that you can perform your own hacks.

Unfortunately there is still no sound available for the game but that is a project for a different time. We know it must be possible because we’ve seen a TI-84+ used to play music stored on a thumb drive. [Read more...]

Doom II on epaper display

We love to see Doom ported to new hardware because it usually means that someone has found a way around the manufacturer’s security measures. But the most exciting thing for us to see this time is that Doom II is played on an epaper display. These are notorious for slow refresh rates, but as you can see in the video after the break, this one achieves an admirably fast page redraw.

According to a translation of the original forum post, the PocketBook 360° Plus boasts a 5″ E Ink Pearl screen, 533 MHz Freescale i.MX35 ARM11 processor, 128 Mb of RAM, 2 gigs of storage, and WiFi. No word on price for one of these babies as it seems they’ve not yet been release. Remind anyone of the green monochrome goodness from the original Game Boy?

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Robot hand has no problem giving you the finger

Get your Terminator clichés ready, this robot hand reeks of Skynet. It is designed to function like the human hand, but the main goal is one of robustness. A lot of effort went into making sure this won’t break in the field. Instead of rigid gears, a system of tendons actuates each digit. The pulleys that control these are located in the forearm and each has a spring mechanism that helps to cushion shocks to the apparatus which might damage other grippers. It has bone-crushing power behind the 19 degrees of movement and, as you’ve already guessed, this comes at a pretty steep price tag; topping out around 100,000 Euros. It’s more complicated, and more expensive that jamming grippers, but it’s also far scarier. See for yourself in the silent movie after the break.

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doomBox: Classic keys meet tiny screen

The doomBox is a dedicated gaming rig for lovers of ID Software’s classic title. [JJ] built this from an old Kodak DC290 camera that had a broken lens. Since this runs the Digita OS, he was able to use the Doom port that already exists. But the camera’s factory buttons were not well suited as controls. By whipping up his own button board, and using the traditional keyboard keys for the button caps, he achieved a much more comfortable (yet squint-inducing) gaming experience. The finished project resides in an all-too-familiar black project box. See him fire it up after the break.

The original Doom for Digita OS pages seem to be down so here’s an alternate if you’re interested.

Update: Looks like the original website is back up.

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Polycarbonate fish uses three servos to swim

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[Amnon] is learning the hard way that water and electronics don’t always like to play nicely together. He’s been working on creating a swimming fish that uses three servos to flex a sheet of fish-shaped polycarbonate. This photo doesn’t really do the project justice but you can get a better idea of what he’s accomplished by watching the videos after the break.

The three servos along with some distance sensors for obstacle avoidance are all controlled by a PIC 16F877A microcontroller. [Amnon] tried out three different waterproofing methods; coating the device in varnish, dipping it in hot glue, and dipping it in epoxy. The first two resulted in water damage to the electronics, but the third managed to work. It kept the water out, but also prevents reprogramming of the controller.

Although not successful, we would have loved to see the process of dipping the fish in a churning vat of molten glue. Once perfected, this may be the perfect platform for carrying our weapons of doom.

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Doom on a picture key chain

Alright, so Doom isn’t actually running on the key chain itself, but rather a BifferBoard: a small 150MHz x86 containing ethernet, serial, and even USB with only one watt of power consumption! The project is to show how easy it is to program the BifferBoard and getting it talking to other hackable items – such as the picture key chain for a display. Doom does appear a bit slow, but [Biff] figures its do to how haphazardly it grabs keyboard input over SSH.