The Relay-Based Mouse Emulator

mouse

[Nixie]‘s job involves using some test software that requires moving a mouse around, clicking a few buttons, checking if everything is okay, and repeating the process over and over again. This is obviously a solution for some keyboard macros, but in a fit of sadistic spite, the test software requires someone to move a mouse around the screen. What is [Nixie] to do? Make a mouse emulator and automate the whole thing, of course.

The Memulator, as [Nixie] calls the device, is the latest in a series of devices to increase productivity when testing. The first version was the mouse tumor, an odd-looking device that simply switched off the LED for an optical mouse, keeping the cursor in one spot while [Nixie] hammered a button repeatedly. The second version is more advanced, capable of moving the cursor around the screen, all without doing an iota of USB programming: [Nixie] is simply using a resistive touch pad, some relays and a few pots to turn buttons into cursor movements. It’s such a simple solution it almost feels wrong.

There’s some interesting tech here, nonetheless. For some reason, [Nixie] has a few cases of old, can-shaped soviet-era relays in this build. While using such cool, awesome old components in such a useful and productive build seems odd, if you’re trying to fix ancient software that’s so obviously broken, you might as well go whole hog and build something that will make someone in twenty years scratch their head.

Vertical video of the Memulator below.

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Macro assembly for AVR chips

avr-macro-assembly

Here’s an interesting tip that can help improve your ability to write assembly code. In an effort to remove the complexity of assembly code for an AVR project [Quinn Dunki] figured out how to use macros when writing AVR code with the GNU toolchain. Anyone using AVR-GCC should keep this in mind if they ever want or need to pound out a project in assembly language.

If you look at the code snippet above you’ll see two commands that are obviously not assembly; PulseVRAMWrite and DisableVRAMWrite. These are macros that direct the assembler to roll in a hunk of code. But avr-as, the assembler used with this toolchain, lacks the ability to handle macros. That’s too bad because we agree with [Quinn] that these macros make the code easier to read and greatly reduce the probability of error from a typo since the code in the macro will be used repeatedly.

The answer is to alter the makefile to use GNU M4. We hadn’t heard of it, but sure enough it’s already installed on our Linux Mint system (“man m4″ for more info). It’s a robust macro processor that swaps out all of her macros based on a separate file which defines them. The result is an assembly file that will play nicely with avr-as.

Her implementation is to help in development of the GPU for her Veronica computer project.

Computer control for your Xbox controller

This wiring nightmare lets [H. Smeitink] map all the buttons from an Xbox 360 controller to his PC. It gives him the ability to push control input from his PC to the console. But it goes a step further than that because it actually acts as a pass-through device. He connected a wired controller to the computer and uses a program he wrote to translate those inputs and send them to the hacked controller.

The software is written in C#. It’s got a recording function that lets him save the keypress data from the wired controller while it’s sent to the Xbox in real time. When he finds a combination that he uses frequently he plucks out those commands, sets them up as a macro, and assigns one of the buttons to execute it. The controller hack uses one transistor for each button, and a PIC 18F4550 which controls them and provides USB connectivity with the PC.

This isn’t one nice package like some integrated rapid-fire and macro solutions we’ve seen. But it certainly opens up a lot more possibilities. See for yourself in the clip after the break.

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Hack a webcam and a film camera into a USB microscope

Most of you probably have a webcam sitting around somewhere, and after all the high voltage projects you’ve done using disposable cameras, we bet you have some camera lenses too. You could always do what [Butch] did and combine the lens from the camera with the webcam to do some up close inspection.

This seems like something we’ve seen several times, but we can’t find it in our archive. Such a simple and quick hack looks surprisingly effective in his shots. If you want to see the details, like where he tied into the webcam’s board to power an external LED, you’ll have to download the PDF.

Hackaday Links: December 7, 2011

LED Neurons

[Alexandra Olivier] put up an art installation at Wellesley College that looks like a bunch of neurons built out of LEDs. The neurons are connected to a couple PIR sensors and ‘fire’ whenever movement is detected. The result is a lot like being inside a brain. Fitting, then, that the installation is called Social Synapses.

Last year’s big toy was always evil, though

Last year, [Andrew] had to fight the throngs of shoppers to get the must have toy of the season, a Zhu Zhu pet. Since these robotic hamster things have spent the last 11 months in the back of a closet, it seems reasonable to make them evil. They’re still not as evil as a demonic Furby….

So we call it a bifocal, right?

There’s an old photography trick for a really hacky macro setup – just turn the lens around. Well, what if you wanted automatic metering and flash control? Simple, just electrically reverse the lens. Bonus points for being able to use the lens regularly as well.

Control all the bands

Well here’s something cool: an all-in-one USB 315mhz, 433mhz, and 868mhz transceiver. What can you do with it? Well, [codeninja] can control the outdoor lights for two of his neighbors, open gates and doors, crash his weather station, and just about anything else in those bands. It’s pretty much like war driving for important stuff nobody cares about.

So this is our favorite holiday now

There’s a Dutch tradition to play Sinterklaas and make someone a present. [Jenor] decided to build an antique-looking DC voltmeter with a pair of vacuum tubes. The tubes don’t work anymore, but the heaters still provide a nice warm glow. It’s a bit large to be regularly used as a piece of test equipment, but it really does look awesome. Very steampunkey, and it’s the though that counts anyway.

Macro lens and image stacking

[Samuel Sargent] built his own lens for making stacked macro images.This project, which was completed as part of his senior thesis, utilizes a Zeiss enlarger lens. The aperture ring was broken, making it difficult to tell how much light was being let into the camera. Instead of scrapping the whole thing he turned it around, making it a macro lens when combined with a few other parts. He’s used a Nikon PB-5 belows, a PK-13 extension tube, and a body cap to provide a way to mount the lens to his camera. A hole was added to the body cap using his Dremel, and a liberal dose of epoxy putty seals all of the gaps.

After the break you can see a couple of photos that [Samuel] made of bismuth. He estimates the sharpest focal length by taking a few test shots. Next he captures a series of images, moving the bellows slightly between each shot. Finally, this set is combined using Helicon Focus image stacking software. Maybe for his graduate thesis he can build a mechanized platform to move the subject automatically.

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Stackable macro photography rig

When taking macro photographs you lose a lot of clarity due to a reduced depth of field. One way to get sharp pictures is to take multiple shots at slightly different distances from the subject and then stack them into one image. There’s software to do this for you, but you still need a set pictures to start with. [Dsvilko] built this setup to easily capture a set of macro images.

He’s using the internals from an optical drive as a sled to carry the subject. A PICAXE drives the stepper motor that moves the carriage, which takes input from an IR remote control. This turns out to be a fantastic method as the sled can move in 0.2mm increments. After he’s got his set of images he uses Zerene to stack them together.

Bonus points to [Dsvilko] who used Linux command line tools to edit together the demonstration video embedded after the break.

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