Hacking a parallel port flash memory programmer

[Pulko Mandy] doesn’t use his flash ROM programmer very often, but he does use it. When he tried to get support for a new chip and the manufacturer suggested he just buy a newer version he decided to hack the programmer and it’s software instead.

This device connects to the parallel port and was intended for use with MS-DOS systems (no wonder there’s no longer support from the company). The board uses logic chips to add read and write function. So the first step was to analyze how they connect together and come up with a set of commands. While at it he also made some changes to the board to bring the voltage more in spec and ensure the logic levels on the parallel port met the correct voltages.

His plan was to use the board with a Linux system so the parallel port interface can stay. He used what he learned from the hardware inspection to write his own interface in C++. It works with a chip he was able to use under the MS-DOS software, but he hasn’t gotten it to work with the chip that sparked this adventure. If you’re familiar with how the AT29C040A works please consider lending a hand.

Safe-Sync protects your camera from older high-voltage flash modules

Since we’re not high-end camera aficionados it was a surprise to us that the hot shoe that allows a camera to interface with a flash module has changed rather dramatically over the years. Apparently the interface used to be mchanical-electrical in that the camera would use mechanical means to connect two electrodes from the hot shoe. It didn’t matter the voltages it was switching because the camera didn’t have an electrical system connected to the interface. The problem is that connecting a modern camera to what [David Cook] calls ‘legacy’ flash hardware could damage it. So he developed the Safe-Sync to interface modern cameras with older flash modules.

You can see the board which he’s holding up in the image. It includes a lot of nice features, like the ability to be powered from the external flash, or from a battery. There’s also an optional momentary push switch which can be used to test the flash control (or hack it for other purposes). In addition to providing protection with older equipment, this could also be used to interface flash modules from different manufacturers with your camera.

Graphic equalizer display flashes LED sign to the beat

Careful planning and a steady hand let [Leo Rampen] fit everything he needed to build a graphic equalizer display on his LED wall sign. There’s a lot of components that needed to fit on this board, and he decided not use to an etched board for the build.

The idea for the project started off as just an LED sign. After spelling out “Sweat Box” using LED rope lights, he needed a way to switch them on and off. But why stop there? He also decided to use an MSGEQ7 chip in the build since the sign adorns their party-room and adding music-based flashing lights seemed like a good idea.

He laid out the equalizer chip, ATmega328 (running the Arduino bootloader) and a series of N-channel MOSFETS for switching the LEDS out in Eagle. With design in hand he grabbed a medium-sized piece of strip board and used a drill to cut the traces where necessary. In the end he has a very flashy sign as shown in the clip after the break.

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Arduino Uno BIOS flasher

We’ve seen the Arduino used to flash BIOS chips several times now. But these hacks are almost always the result of a bad flash. This time around [GNUtoo] is interested in putting a tool in your hands which can be used to flash Coreboot to your motherboard. His offering uses the Arduino Uno, but there are several other hardware options covered as well.

The firmware makes use of the serprog-duino library which was crafted at writing to flash memory chips. On the computer side of things the flashrom package pushes the BIOS image to the Arduino. The nice thing is the flashrom is a common packge in Linux repositories so it’s probably just an apt-get away.

The process isn’t fast, taking about ten minutes to program a 1 Mb chip. But if you’re just interested in loading an open source BIOS alternative this is easy to set up.

Reusing an old pacemaker as a flash timer


Most people use pacemakers to, you know, keep their heart pumping at a steady rhythm. [David Prutchi] on the other hand has found a pretty novel use for some of the old pacemakers he has in his collection.

We really had no idea that pacemakers had uses outside the world of medicine, but [David] has taken advantage of their reliability in one of his favorite hobbies – high speed photography. In a darkened room, he set up an infrared barrier which feeds its signal to the atrium input of an old pacemaker. The signal is relayed through the ventricular output, which then fires his camera’s flash.

The pacemaker allows [David] to set an “AV” delay, which is the interval between when the atrium input receives an electrical impulse and when that signal is repeated from the ventricular output. This allows him to finely tune how much time elapses from when a drop of milk breaks the IR barrier to when his flash actuates.

We think this is a pretty cool way to reuse an old pacemaker, but check out the shots he has captured and judge for yourself.

Scam-o-Matic determines if you bought fake SD cards

[Andrew] recently got scammed on an SD card purchase and put together a small tool that can help you determine if you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes as well.

You see, he purchased a set of MicroSD cards, all of which had an advertised capacity of 4GiB. When he tried to use them, they all failed to write more than about 115MiB of data, so he knew something was up. He sat down with some tools that can be used to check the actual capacity of flash media, but he says they were unbelievably slow to scan the cards.

While he waited for one of the scans to complete, he decided to create a utility of his own that would do the same thing in a fraction of the time. His quick and dirty application, called “Scam-o-Matic”, writes random data to the card, double-checking the written region to ensure that data can be read back. If it finds errors your card is likely either a fake or damaged, but if not, it automatically prepares the media for use.

Obviously this sort of situation is relatively rare, but if you think that you have picked up some shady SD cards, be sure to check out [Andrew’s] Github repository.

NES controller is a slick way to carry around your portable OS


[Oliver] had an old NES controller laying around, and without any other use for it, he decided to repurpose it as a portable storage device.

He gutted most of the controller, removing the plastic standoffs, leaving the D-pad and remaining buttons intact. He crammed a 32 GB flash drive inside, along with the guts from an SD card reader. Using a Dremel he cut several openings into the controller, one for the flash drive and SD card reader’s USB ports, as well as for the SD card itself. When the physical modifications were finished, he installed a small Linux distro on the flash drive, which can be run by any PC that supports booting from USB.

While some might argue, we think it’s a neat way to reuse an old gaming peripheral that he might have otherwise thrown out. The portable OS is something that would certainly come in handy, though we can’t wait until the Raspberry Pi is finished – it would be awesome to have a complete computer packed in there too.