A USB Connected Box-o-Encoders

picoscope-encoder

[Colin] loves his PicoScope, a USB based “headless” oscilloscope. While using it he found himself longing for a classic oscilloscope interface. Mouse clicks just weren’t a replacement for grabbing a dial and twisting it. To correct the situation he created his USB-Connected Box-o-Encoders. The box maps as a USB keyboard, so it will work with almost any program.

[Colin] started by finding encoders. There are plenty of choices – splined or flatted shaft, detents or no detents, panel, PCB, or chassis mount. He settled on an encoder from Bourns Inc. which uses an 18 spline shaft. His encoder also includes a push button switch for selection. With encoders down, knobs were next. [Colin] chose two distinct styles. The two knob styles aren’t just decorative. The user can tell which row of knobs they are on by touch alone. Electronics were made simple with the use of a Teensy++ 2.0. [Colin] used a ATUSBKey device running Teensy software, but says the Teensy would have been a much better choice in terms of size and simplicity.

Once everything was wired into the box, [Colin] found his encoders would “spin” when the knobs were turned. They are actually designed to be PCB mounted, and then screwed into a control panel. Attempts to tighten down the panel mounting nut resulted in a broken encoder. Rather than redesign with purely panel mounted encoders, [Colin] used a dab of epoxy to hold the encoder body in place.

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Ditch that boring mouse for a military-grade trackball

military-grade-trackball

The bad thing about this type of hack is that now [Tomek Dubrownik] needs to cut a hole in his desk to house the thing. He got this military grade trackball working over USB. It’s old, and could be used as a blunt weapon. But as the video shows it still makes a great input device.

He found the hardware on Allegro – a Polish auction site similar to eBay — for just $20. The original circuitry didn’t make a lot of sense, but a bit of probing with the old oscilloscope let him establish connections to the encoders which are read by some TI 54xx parts. Apparently they use the same logic as 7400 parts but are military grade. He chose a ATmega32u4 development board for his replacement control board. That chip has native USB support so the rest is just a matter of passing data like an HID input device. His code even lets him use those pushbuttons to toggle between cursor movement and window scrolling.

[Tomek] translated his post into English after some prompting by friends at the Warsaw Hackerspace. Here’s the original in Polish if you’re interested.

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Hacking a Brother thermal printer to use non-OEM continuous rolls

You can get your hands on a Brother thermal label printer for $65-75. But if you don’t want to buy the Brother branded continuous feed paper for it you’re out of luck. Unless you pull off this hack which lets you use any thermal paper you want with a Brother QL-500 printer.

The printer is tied to the OEM paper because of a pattern printed on the back of the roll. It’s basically an encoder strip made up of black rectangles spaced at regular intervals. Surely there are other brands that come with this pattern on them, but if you want to use paper without it the secret is in moving the sensor that reads that strip.

The brilliant solution is to use one of the white feed-gears as an encoder wheel. [CheapSkateVideo] used a magic marker to paint two opposite quarters of the gear black. He then removed the optical sensor and placed it on the side of the case facing the wheel. It needs to be adjusted along the radius of that gear until the timing is just right, but once it is you’re ready to go. The sensor is a safety feature to ensure there is media in the printer. If there’s not you can burn up the print head so keep that in mind. See the explanation in the video after the break.

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Turn your Wireless Keyboard into a MAME Controller!

For those of you that have a wireless keyboard laying around, you might be tempted to turn it into something else, like a wireless MAME controller. For those not familiar with it, MAME stands for “Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator” and is generally used to run older arcade games on a computer.

Encoders are available for this purpose, however, intending to save some money, and having an unused wireless keyboard, I decided to try to make one myself.  As far as I know there are no wireless encoders available for this purpose, so that was part of the motivation for trying this.

In this post I go over my mechanical design for the cabinet as well as the electrical process of going from keyboard to MAME controller. I did eventually get the thing working, but if more than a couple buttons were pressed simultaneously, some presses were omitted. The conclusion I eventually came to was that it was better to use an encoder to control everything. Not wireless, but much more reliable. If I absolutely needed a wireless controller in the future, I would think modding an actual wireless controller (or two) in a similar manner would have worked better for my purposes.

Rigol oscilloscope teardown and repair

oscope_teardown

[Hotsolder] encountered a bad encoder in his Rigol Oscilloscope, so he opened it up in order to replace the damaged part. According to him, it was quite an adventure, so he documented the disassembly and component swap for the benefit of anyone else out there that might have to do the same.

The teardown is in the form of a slideshow, which is available on his site. The images are all pretty well annotated, so you should be able to follow along quite easily if you happen to be tearing one apart yourself. There’s not a ton of exotic things to see inside the scope, it pretty much contains what you would expect to see if you cracked one open.

The encoder replacement went off without a hitch, and he even took pictures of the defective one to discuss how it works.

It’s definitely a quick and interesting read if you are simply curious about oscilloscopes, or if you happen to need to dismantle yours.

[Thanks, oakkar7]

Digital measuring tape

You’ll never come up short with this measuring tape. That’s because there isn’t actually any tape in the device; it measures distance based on the rotation of a wheel. Roll it across the room and you’ll get an accurate measurement of the distance the little bugger traveled. Like the Etch-a-Sketch from Monday this uses the encoder wheel from a mouse as the input. The IR emitter and sensor from the ubiquitous peripheral find a new home on the PCB that hosts the PIC 16F819. It monitors the rotation, turns it into inches, then spits that number out on a 7 segment display. Handy, and cheap!

Hackaday links: June 20, 2010

Nixie Voltmeter Clock

[Gmglickman] built a clock out of an old digital voltmeter. The Fluke 8300A came out in 1969 and is featured in their 60 years of innovation slideshow. What makes it a cool clock? The Voltmeter’s display is made up of Nixie tubes.

Easy optical encoder wheel generator

If you need to print out encoder wheels for your project there is an online tool you can use. It has almost any setting you would want to make a rotary encoder wheel.The black wheel can be used with old mouse parts and the checkered wheel with an optical sensor. [Thanks Bluewraith]

New CD without the CD

1-bit Symphony is a newly released album. It come in a CD jewel case but there’s no CD included. That’s because they’ve built a circuit to playback their music via a headphone jack. We didn’t see any info on what microcontroller was used, but we love the cleanliness of the design. This apparently isn’t the first time the artist has released an album like this either.[Thanks Juan]

Making a standard SIM work with the iPad

[Tony Million] used a standard SIM to reduce the monthly cost of using broadband on the iPad. This is the exact opposite of using the iPad SIM in an iPhone and requires that you cut down your standard SIM quite a lot. [Tony] did this because he imported his iPad to the UK from the United States and using AT&T wasn’t an option for him. [Thanks David]

16TB NAS is a thing of beauty

The Black Dwarf is a sixteen terabyte network attached storage device that looks more like a display counter for high-end hard drives. We’d usually think of this as a closet or basement dweller, but an item this gorgeously crafted deserves a place of honor in your home or office. Documenting the entire process was as complex as the build itself. We like seeing the time-lapse version. [Thanks Howard via Engadget]