Mining bitcoins on a Nintendo

NES

His friends know [gbg] as an aficionado of just about anything with a 6502 processor in it. He’s also interested in bitcoins. A while back, a friend asked if it would be possible to mine bitcoins with an old Nintendo Entertainment System. While this suggestion was made in jest, it’s not one of those ideas anyone can let go of easily. Yes, it is possible to mine bitcoins with an NES, and [gbg] is here to show us how.

Mining bitcoins is simply just performing a SHA256 hash on a random value from the bitcoin network and relaying the result of that calculation back to the Internet. Of course this requires an Internet to NES bridge; [gbg] brought in a Raspberry Pi for this task. There’s the problem of actually getting data into an NES, though, and that’s something only a USB CopyNES can handle. After doing some 32-bit math, the NES sends this out to the Raspberry Pi and onto the bitcoin network.

When you consider that even a high-end gaming computer has little chance of mining a bitcoin in any reasonable amount of time, there’s little chance RetroMiner will ever be able to mine a bitcoin. It’s all random, though, so while it’s possible, we’ll just appreciate the awesome build for now.

A brick-sized Game Boy Advance SP

gameboy

For a few years now, [Michael] has wanted to put the guts of a Game Boy Advance – the small clamshell version with a backlit LCD – into the classic and comfortable DMG-01 ‘brick’ Game Boy. He’s finally finished with his project, and we’ve got to say it’s looking pretty good.

The build began by excising the backlit LCD from an old clamshell Game Boy Advance and hot gluing it to the screen bezel of an old DMG-01. The cartridge slot from the original ‘brick’ Game Boy remained, but this design decision did require a fair bit of soldering and a length of ribbon cable.

Since [Michael] is using the original cartridge slot found in the original Game Boy, he can’t play any games in the smaller Game Boy Advance cartridge format. Still, it should be possible to build an adapter to fit those smaller cartridges inside the larger Game Boy, and he can always play Tetris and Little Sound DJ, so nothing of value is lost.

Building a better NES

NES

The first model of the NES wasn’t all that great; just ask any one of the millions of six-year-olds who independently discovered blowing on a cartridge made it work. The second NES hardware revision, the top loader, was better but only had RF video output. These are the only two pieces of hardware that can play every single NES game, and even with years of hacking NES-on-a-chip devices, there’s still much to be desired.

[low_budget] over on the AtariAge forum decided he’d had enough of these hardware compromises and decided to build the first new NES hardware revision in 20 years. It’s got all the best features from both of its predecessors and a few new features not seen on any existing NES. There’s support for composite and RGB video generators, new and better amplifiers for the audio, no lockout chip, and a top loading cartridge slot to prevent bent pins on the 72 pin connector.

While [low_budget]‘s prototype works, it only does so by salvaging the CPU and PPU from a working NES. There’s still much work to be done on the prototype, but even if we’ll have to destroy our beloved NES, we’d love to get our hands on one of these improved consoles.

Hackaday Links: December 5, 2012

PS1 hombrew competition

code

The PlayStation Development Network is hosting a six-month long competition to develop homebrew games for the original PlayStation.We don’t get many homebrew games for old systems in our tip line, so if you’d like to show something off, send it in.

This is how you promote a kickstarter

snes

[Andy] has been working on an SNES Ethernet adapter and he’s finally got it working. Basically, it’s an ATMega644 with a Wiznet adapter connected to the second controller port. The ATMega sends… something, probably not packets… to the SNES where it is decoded with the help of some 65816 assembly on a PowerPak development cartridge. Why is he doing this? To keep track of a kickstarter project, of course.

What exactly is [Jeri] building?

jeri

[Jeri] put up an awesome tutorial going over the ins and outs of static and dynamic flip-flops. There’s a touch of historical commentary explaining why dynamic registers were used so much in the 70s and 80s before the industry switched over to static designs (transistors were big back then, and dynamic systems needed less chip area). At the end of her video, [Jeri] shows off a bucket-brigade sequencer of sort that goes through 15 unique patterns. We’re just left wondering what it’s for.

Finally, a camera for the Raspberry Pi

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In case you weren’t aware, the camera board for the Raspberry Pi will be released sometime early next year. Not wanting to wait a whole month and a half, [Jouni] connected a LinkSprite JPEG serial camera to his Raspberry Pi. The whole thing actually works, but [Jouni] didn’t bother posting the code. Maybe we can encourage him to do so?

Blatant advertising? Yes, but fireballs

Nintendo gave [MikenGary] a Wii U and asked them to make a film inspired by 30 years of Nintendo lore and characters. They did an awesome job thanks in no small part to Hackaday boss man [Caleb](supplied the fire), writer [Ryan] (costume construction) and a bunch of people over at the Squidfoo hackerspace.

Tearing down the Wii U

With the release of the Wii U last weekend we knew it wouldn’t be long before we saw those glorious gut shots on the Internet. The folks at iFixit have torn down a Wii U, and the insides look somewhat promising for a potential hack to take control of the Wii U Game Pad.

The components in the Wii U console aren’t terribly surprising; a few wireless controllers, HDMI adapters, Flash memory chips, and the IBM Power CPU make up most of the interesting components. The insides of the GamePad, though, look pretty interesting. It appears the Wii U GamePad is powered by an ARM Cortex microcontroller built by STMicroelectronics, but the part numbers for the major ICs on the GamePad board are impervious to Googling.

Of course there’s still the question of how video is transmitted wirelessly from the Wii U console to the GamePad. iFixit found a Broadcom BCM4319XKUBG Wireless module that operates on normal WiFi frequencies. This module has been used in a few other pieces of video gear, most notably the Boxee Box, so there is some possibility of intercepting the video signal transmitted to the GamePad and figuring out the protocol.

The long and short of iFixit’s teardown, at least from the hacker perspective, is that all the interesting parts use hardware similar to what you’d find on any other eminently hackable device. Here’s to hoping we get an open Wii U GamePad before the year is out.

The smallest NES controller ever

A few months ago, [Ben] saw a video of the world’s largest NES controller. “I bet I could make the smallest,” he thought in a strange game of one-upmanship. Now [Ben] has the smallest fully functional NES compatible controller, a feat of engineering that can only end in very, very sore thumbs.

The old NES controller is a very simple device: eight buttons are connected directly to a 4021 shift register. Every time the NES is looking for a change in input, it reads out the data in the shift register and gets the status of all the buttons.

After finding the  smallest footprint 4021 shift register he thought he could solder, [Ben] found some very small SMD push buttons and a very tiny resistor network for the pull ups. The result is tiny, and thanks to the sacrifices of a few NES controller extension cables he found on Amazon, 100% compatible with his old NES.

You can grab all the schematics over on [Ben]‘s git. Tip ‘o the hat to [Troy] for sending this one in.

Making a Game Boy Color louder

When [Anton] picked up an old translucent purple Game Boy Color, he noticed a nearly complete lack of sound coming from the speaker. This simply would not do, so [Anton] replaced the speaker and soldered in a 2 Watt amp, making his Game Boy very loud indeed.

After cracking open his Game Boy, [Anton] noticed the speaker was rusted. He replaced it by soldering in a speaker from a Motorola cell phone, fixing the most immediate problem. After plugging in a few batteries, he still noticed a nearly complete lack of sound.

Turning to his electronics junk drawer, [Anton] pulled out a TI TPA2000D1 Class D amplifier. This tiny amplifier is able to provide 2 Watts to a speaker and is very power efficient given it’s Class D pedigree.

After making a PCB and wiring up his amp to the Game Boy’s circuit board, [Anton] spent a little time tracking down the source of some high-frequency hissing. As it turns out, the power regulators and converters on a 15-year old Game Boy aren’t of the highest quality, but after adding a few capacitors [Anton] got everything under control.

Now [Anton]‘s Game Boy has very loud, crystal-clear sound. Considering the lengths chiptune artists take modifying old ‘brick’ style game boys for use with Little Sound DJ or nanoloop, [Anton]‘s build could become a worthwhile modification for musicians looking for a little more oomph to their performance.