Hackit: Crap modding

When Boing Boing Gadgets posted about this $13 robot hand music box, we immediately thought “OH EXPLOITABLE!”. Over the years, we’ve acquired quite a bit of cheap trash just operating under the assumption that we would turn it into something else. Most of our acquisitions are Woot‘s fault. Just this morning we were dismayed to find out that the purveyor of cheap electronics had already sold out of animatronic Elvis heads. Now that would have been fun. We’ve purchased things like Tony Hawk helmet cams, jumbo remotes, Bluetooth headphones, Gyration mice, IMFree chatpads, and many other items of questionable use thinking that some day we’d use it. How about you? What sort of irrational purchases have you made and what would you do with a $13 mechanized hand?

[Just as we were wrapping this up, Woot posted a $49 HMD; you better believe we bought that.]

Hackit: Designing a web tablet for $200


TechCrunch is asking its readers to help them design a web tablet costing just under $200. They claim that there does not yet exist a cheap and usable web tablet designed for things like browsing, web conferencing, mail, chat, and VoIP. Here are some of the specs they are asking for:

  • thin as possible
  • touch screen (except for power button)
  • WiFi
  • video camera and low-end speakers
  • 4 Gigabyte hard drive
  • 1/2 Gigabyte of RAM
  • Linux and Firefox (in kiosk mode)
  • no desktop interface

We are not completely sure that this device does not exist in some form. Tablets have been around for a while and many cover most of these features. Consider the Nokia N800 or the Pepper Pad.

We also think the TechCrunch readers, who generally concern themselves with what they can buy rather than what they can make, are not really the best crowd for this job. Considering our reader’s abilities to do things on the cheap, we thought we would pose the question ourselves with our own spin. What old and cheap hardware could you re-purpose to create this product?

Hackit: Ripping DVDs


A recent report from Futuresource Consulting states that just under 1/3 of Americans and just over 1/3 of UK residents have engaged in some form of DVD ripping in the last 6 months. Though [Jacqui Cheng] of Ars Technica was unphased, we were very surprised to learn that one of the most common methods is possibly the most low-tech, yet certainly cross-platform: hooking a DVD player to a DVD recorder via coaxial cable or composite. Our toolbelt is somewhat different, as we imagine yours is.

Continue reading “Hackit: Ripping DVDs”

Hackit: The Bronco Table


While attending LA SIGGRAPH Maker Night, we got to talk to [Brett Doar] about his Bronco Table. The table is meant to make life more difficult by bucking off anything that’s set on top of it. Right now, it uses a tiny piezo mic to listen for the impact and then drives three leg motors in a random pattern. He envisions later generations either running away or following you intently when something is set on them.

The main problem with the current design is that you have to hit the table hard enough to make a noise the mic can pick up. The ideal solution would be able to detect anything, no matter what the material or how forcefully it was set down. How would you detect objects being placed on the surface (table doesn’t have to be wood)?

Hackit: What to do with a 1st gen iPhone?


There’s a new iPhone 3G coming out in July. If that statement shocks you, you might want to check your connection. We love new shiny hardware, but what we’re really interested in is the number of “old” iPhones that are going to be hitting the market. Many people will be ditching their 1st generation iPhones just to get GPS and 3G. This abundance plus the new $200 price tag is bound to depress the price for used phones.

A used 1st generation iPhone is actually a pretty attractive device. It’s already been laid wide open by hackers so you can run pretty much anything you want on it instead of waiting for the App Store to tell you what you can and can’t do. You could use it as a WiFi Voip phone, a simple web pad, run an NES emulator, use it as a musical instrument, or build an army of robots.

What will you do when the price of used iPhones bottoms out?

Hackit: Simple portable monitor


We’re often asked what a simple way to add a display to a project is and we even hinted at this yesterday with the HMD comparison. The answer is: we’re not really sure. In the past, the go to was PSOne add on displays. They accept composite input which means you can painlessly attach almost any other consumer device with video out. The problem is they’re a little large. Then there’s the spy video car HMD. It’s black and white and accepts composite video too. It’s a little small though, which makes it difficult to work with outside of the original application. So, Hack-a-Day readers, what have you used as a simple palm sized portable display in your projects?

Hackit: Your ultimate hacking workbench


This isn’t quite a traditional Hackit, but I think you guys will dig it. Here’s the challenge: Given a budget of $600, put together the best hacking workbench you can. Don’t include computers or the actual bench in your budget. Oh, and you have to spend it all.

By the way, the best five submissions will get a chance to win a secret prize that I’ll be announcing around the end of next month.