Driving and old receipt printer

It seems like receipt printers are pretty popular as hacking targets lately. Aside from the wasted paper, they cooler than plain old blinking LEDs and we’d image there’s a ton of them floating around out there as advances in technology have prompted retailers to trade in the bulky dinosaurs for slimmer thermal printers. [Philip Hayton] picked up this Epson model at some type of equipment sale and set to work figuring out how to control it.

This unit is addressed via a parallel interface. After assessing the pinout and searching a bit for protocol information [Philip] hooked up his Arduino and printed out a fitting first message that reads: “Hello World”. He’s got a few tricks you can learn from when trying to talk to hardware with which you are not well acquainted.

Need a reason to go out and find your own receipt printer? Check out this paper-based gaming system for some inspiration. Now develop your own paper recycling setup and we can file this one under ‘green hacks‘.

[Thanks Andy]

Revive a DockStar and get so much more

[Firestorm_v1] has done a fabulous writeup on not only resurrecting his dead DockStar with JTAG, but also includes some handy techniques and useful information that could be used with other hardware and JTAG equipped devices.

The tutorial itself goes into the details of finding the JTAG, correctly identifying the ports and making an adapter cable. Then wiring a TIAO Parallel JTAG kit and finally the flash and upload of firmware to the deceased Dockstar to give it new life.

While the fun stops a little short, we’ll be sure to keep an eye out for [Firestorm_v1’s] future plans involving these surprisingly useful (read: hackable) storage devices, “roving USB camera with WiFi” we hear?

WRT54GL, meet Alice

When it comes to routers, there is one that is hacker’s favorite, the WRT54GL. But a slightly lesser known company, Pirelli with their “Alice Gate2 plus Wi-Fi”, seems to be a popular choice among our Italian friends.

[Esteban] has done everything from installing serial and parallel ports, to unlocking firmware while installing Debian. Our personal favorite is the creative wiring of an additional USB port, where he had to custom create a power circuit to run his webcam and external drive.

[Thanks Marco]

[Update: It would appear Roleo, Beghiaro, and Zibri did the actual grunt work at ilpuntotecnicoeadsl and Esteban simply wrote the guides. Thanks for your hard work and hacking skills guys!]


[Chris] is getting his feet wet with Computer Numerical Control starting with an Etch-a-Sketch interface. This is a great way to start out because the really tough parts of the project are already inside of the toy. He’s replaced the two white knobs with stepper motors and connected them through a mosfet network to a PIC 16f84a. The PIC then gets its commands from a computer via the parallel port.

A video of the CNC machine can be seen after the break. He needs to add a frame to increase the precision of the images drawn but this first attempt is pretty good. We prefer to have the computer in charge of the design because controlling an Etch-a-Sketch with a mouse doesn’t make our drawings any better. Continue reading “Step-a-sketch”

What’s the worst way to transmit video?

Perhaps the worst possible way to transmit video would be to send all pixel data in parallel.  That’s exactly how [Gebhard Sengmüller’s] parallel image device works. To be fair, this is an art piece called “A Parallel Image” that addresses the concept of where we would be if serial data transmission had never come to fruition. The brochure (PDF) accompanying the exhibit gives the juicy details we’re always looking for.

The device consists of a photo sensor unit and a display unit. Both are one-square-meter stripboard panels made of epoxy. The sensor unit consists of a 50×50 grid of photo-conductors that have their counterparts in the 50×50 grid of light bulbs on the display unit. Things start to get pretty crazy when you throw in the 7500 meters of magnet wire that connect the 2500 pixel sensor unit to the display unit.

You should be able to put together how this works. The sensors pick up light and then effect the brightness of the corresponding light bulbs. The result is an interesting image, and a nightmare of wire porn that would drive any TV repairman to drink.

Continue reading “What’s the worst way to transmit video?”

Introduction to FTDI bitbang mode

It was an interface that launched a thousand hacks. Near trivial to program, enough I/O lines for useful work, and sufficiently fast for a multitude of applications: homebrew logic analyzers, chip programmers, LCD interfaces and LED light shows, to name a few.

Today the parallel printer port is on the brink of extinction (and good riddance, some would say). Largely rendered obsolete by USB, few (if any) new peripherals even include a parallel connector, and today’s shrinking computers — nettops, netbooks, media center PCs — wouldn’t have space for it anyway. That’s great for tidy desks, but not so good if you enjoyed the dirt-cheap hacks that the legacy parallel port made possible.

Fear not, for there’s a viable USB alternative that can resurrect many of these classic hacks! And if you’ve done much work with Arduino, there’s a good chance it’s already lurking in your parts drawer.

Continue reading “Introduction to FTDI bitbang mode”

Modular computing

This is the Illuminato X Machina, a “cellular” style computing system.  Each unit is a fully functioning computer with its own processor, storage and communications.  You can watch above as a change in the operating software is propagated across the grid. You can see the LEDs in the video going nuts, there are actually LEDs on the sides too. [Justin] described it to us as a personal fireworks show on your desk.  This system is fully open with the schematics and source code available on their site. You might recognize these guys too, we covered their Open Source GameBoy.