Hackaday Prize Entry: Orchestral Invention Defies Convention

Like many of us, [Laurens] likes video game music and bending hardware to his will. Armed with a Printrbot, a couple of floppy drives, and some old HDDs, he built the Unconventional Instrument Orchestra. This 2015 Hackaday Prize contender takes any MIDI file and plays it on stepper and solenoid-based hardware through a Java program.

A while back, [Laurens] won a Fubarino in our contest by using a MIDI keyboard and an Arduino to control the Minecraft environment with Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time songs. The Unconventional Instrument Orchestra uses that Fubarino of victory to control the steppers of two floppy drives. He only needed three pins to control the drives—one to enable, one to set the head’s direction, and one to make it step once per pulse.

If ever you’ve been around a 3D printer, you know they make music as a natural side effect. The problem is getting the printer to obey the rests in a piece of music. In order to do this, [Laurens] used his software to control the printer, essentially withholding the next command until the appropriate time in the song.

The percussive elements of this orchestra are provided by a hard drive beating its head against the wall. Since it’s basically impossible to get an HDD to do this as designed (thankfully), [Laurens] replaced the control board with a single transistor to drive the coil that moves the head.

[Laurens] has made several videos of the orchestra in concert, which are a joy all their own. Most of the visual real estate of each video is taken up with a real-time visualization of the music produced by the software. There’s still plenty of room to show the orchestra itself, song-specific gameplay, and a textual commentary crawl in 16-segment displays. Check out the playlist we’ve embedded after the break.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: Orchestral Invention Defies Convention”

Hard Drive Becomes Hard Drive Activity Light; Stores no Data

A while ago [Frank Zhao] built a computer in an aquarium. It’s exactly what you would expect – a bunch of parts stuffed into a container filled with mineral oil. Yes, there’s an i7 and a GTX970 in there, but there’s also a bunch of neopixels and a neat little bubbling treasure chest. That wasn’t enough for [Frank], and he wanted to add a HDD activity monitor. What’s the most absurd activity monitor for an SSD? An old platter-based drive, of course.

The build is relatively simple and something [Frank] put together from spare parts in a day. After cracking open an old PATA hard drive, the voice coil for the hard drive arm was connected to the motherboard’s HDD activity signal through a few MOSFETs. The platter motor is controlled by an MTD6501 motor driver, set to spin up when the circuit is on.

It’s a kludge as far as controlling the components of a hard drive go, but that’s not really the point. It’s just a neat project to show when the SSD in the aquarium computer is being accessed. That said, the activity monitor is currently disconnected because the old HDD is so freakin’ loud. It looks really cool, though.

HDD POV clock takes the best from those that came before it

hdd-pov-clock

The concept behind this clock has been seen before, but [Dieter] tried to combine the best aspects of several projects into his HDD POV clock (translated). The basic principle of the design is to cut a slot into the top platter of the hard drive. This will let the light from some LEDs shine through. By carefully synchronizing the LED with the spinning platter a set of differently colored hands can be shown to mark time. We’ve been looking at the project for several minutes now and we’re not quite sure if the lines marking the 5-minute segments on the clock are generated in the same way as the hands, or if they’re marks on a faceplate on top of the platters. Check out the clip after the break and let us know what you think.

Past HDD clock project include this one, or this other one. Some of the design improvements include a better motor driver (which [Dieter] pulled from an old VCR) and the inclusion of an RTC chip to keep accurate time without the need to be connected to a computer. We also think it’s a nice touch to sandwich the hardware between two picture frames for a nice finished look.

Continue reading “HDD POV clock takes the best from those that came before it”

Repurposing old HDD Components

hdd-stepper

[IronJungle] had an old hard drive taking up space in his workshop, so he took it apart and wrote in to remind us how useful these old pieces of hardware can be. Aside from offering up incredibly strong magnets and donut-shaped mirrors, HDDs also come with a reliable stepper motor in tow.

He pulled theold drive apart, wiring up two of the stepper motor pins to a pair of the drive’s header pins. This allowed him to easily access the signals produced by the stepper simply by hooking up a small JST connector to the back of the drive.

From there, he can use the drive for any number of purposes. For the sake of discussion, [IronJungle] used it to flash an LED as seen in the video below – something he willingly admits is no great feat. However, stepper motors can be used for in a wide array of projects, both simple and complex. Be sure to share your favorite use for salvaged HDD motors in the comments.

Continue reading “Repurposing old HDD Components”

Slick 16-segment POV hard drive clock

pov_hdd_clock

Hackaday reader [svofski] sent in a fantastic looking hard drive-based POV clock (Google Translation) created by a maker in the Sichuan province of China. The clock, like the one [svofski] built, relies on LEDs placed behind the spinning platter to create the POV effect.

Quite a few carefully placed cuts have been made to the platter, which make up the segments required to display both numbers and letters of the alphabet. This isn’t a simple 16-segment POV display however. The font uses a lot of sharp edges and odd segment lengths, so we’re guessing that quite a bit of care was taken in the production of this clock.

You can see a demonstration of the clock in the video embedded below, which shows off its ability to display numbers, text, as well as a handful of simple patterns. It looks like there are some details available on the designer’s site, however it is all in Chinese, and Google’s translation is questionable at best. If only we knew someone that could give us a hand with deciphering the inner-workings of this clock…

Continue reading “Slick 16-segment POV hard drive clock”

Stirring plate from USB enclosure

[Loreno Minati] built his own stir plate out of a hard drive enclosure. It’s the exact same hack as the one we saw a few weeks ago. A magnet was glued to the center of a computer fan, which causes the magnetic capsule inside the beaker to spin. This creates a vortex, evenly mixing the liquid.

Using a hard drive enclosure is a brilliant idea. It’s designed to sit in plain sight so you get a very nice finished look. It’s also exactly the right size for the fan itself. A potentiometer mounted in the cap of the enclosure allows for variable speeds, and the DC barrel jack is being used for the power source. Now that we think of it, this may be the best use of an external HDD enclosure we’ve ever seen (even eclipsing its original purpose). Check out a video and image gallery of the project after the break.

We’ve categorized this as a beer hack since stir plates are often built by hobbyists for growing yeast starters used in home brewing.

Continue reading “Stirring plate from USB enclosure”

Speeding up a ThinkPad x41 via a SATA SSD conversion

[Marek Walther] uses a ThinkPad x41 tablet for business on a daily basis. Since he’s on the go with the device he figures that hardware failure is eventually going to strike and with that in mind he purchased a second unit – slightly broken – to fix as a backup. He had never been excited about the speed of the tablet so he set out to find improvements. One of the options was to replace the traditional hard drive with a solid state model (translated). But simply dropping in an SSD isn’t going to make things faster. That’s because the stock drive uses a PATA interface. After a bit of snooping [Marek] discovered that the motherboard has a SATA interface that has a bridge connecting to the PATA plug. By removing the bridge and soldering a SATA cable to the board he was able to improve performance while increasing storage capacity at the same time.