Hackaday Links: January 10, 2016

Everybody loves cheap stuff, and we hate telling everyone about coupon codes. That said, TI has a new LaunchPad development board they’re promoting. It’s based on the MSP432, the ARM extension of their MSP430 line. The MSP432 is an ARM Cortex M4F, low power, and planned for production later this year.

Here’s your daily CES garbage post. Through a collaboration between Sony and Nissan, a car has become a video game controller controller. A controller plugs into the ODB II port, reads throttle, brake, and steering wheel positions (and buttons on the dash/steering wheel, I guess), and translates that into controller input for a PlayStation 4. What games do they play with a car? You would think Gran Turismo, Rocket League, or other games with cars in them. Nope. Football.

Dangerous Prototypes is a legal Chinese company! [Ian] didn’t say anything about the process about becoming a legal Chinese company because he wrote a blog post, not a book. Shenzhen Dangerous Prototypes Electronics Technology Limited allows them to have an office in the Shenzhen electronics market, hire local and foreign hackers, host Hacker Camp Shenzhen, and allow people to apply for ‘Authorized Authority’ visa letters for the people who need them. Great news for a great company.

The Forge hackerspace in Greensboro, NC is growing. In just over a year they have 160 members and they’ve already outgrown their 3,400 square foot space. Now they’re moving to a larger space that’s twice the size and they’re looking for donations.

People have been taking old iPad screens and turning them into HDMI displays for years now. [Dave] got his mitts on a panel from a Macbook Pro 17″, and turned it into a monitor. It required a $50 LVDS adapter, but the end result is great – a 1920×1200 panel that looks pretty good.

Add Extra Storage to Your PS4 With Retro Flair

[Frank] came up with a clever way to extend the storage of his PS4. He’s managed to store his digital PS4 games inside of storage devices in the shape of classic NES cartridges. It’s a relatively simple hack on the technical side of things, but the result is a fun and interesting way to store your digital games.

He started out by designing his own 3D model of the NES cartridge. He then printed the cartridge on his Ultimaker 3D printer. The final print is a very good quality replica of the old style cartridge. The trick of this build is that each cartridge actually contains a 2.5″ hard drive. [Frank] can store each game on a separate drive, placing each one in a separate cartridge. He then prints his own 80’s style labels for these current generation games. You would have a hard time noticing that these games are not classic NES games at first glance.

Storing the game in cartridge form is one thing, but reading them into the PS4 is another. The trick is to use a SATA connector attached to the PS4’s motherboard. [Frank’s] project page makes it sound like he was able to plug the SATA cable in without opening the PS4, by attaching the connector to a Popsicle stick and then using that to reach in and plug the connector in place. The other end of the SATA cable goes into a custom 3D printed housing that fits the fake NES cartridges. This housing is attached to the side of the PS4 using machine screws.

Now [Frank] can just slide the cartridge of his choice into the slot and the PS4 instantly reads it. In an age where we try to cram more and more bits into smaller and smaller places, this may not be the most practical build. But sometimes hacking isn’t about being practical. Sometimes it’s simply about having fun. This project is a perfect example. Continue reading “Add Extra Storage to Your PS4 With Retro Flair”

Get Better at Mortal Kombat by Hacking Your PS3 Controller

Fighting games like Mortal Kombat provide you with a variety of different available moves. These include kicks, punches, grabs, etc. They also normally include various combination moves you can perform. These combo moves require you to press the proper buttons in the correct order and also require you to time the presses correctly. [Egzola] realized that he could just hack his controller to simulate the button presses for him. This bypasses the learning curve and allows him to perform more complicated combinations with just the press of a single button.

[Egzola] started by taking apart his Playstation 3 controller. There were two PCB’s inside connected by a ribbon cable. Luckily, each individual pad for this cable was labeled with the corresponding controller button. This made it extremely simple to hack the controller. [Egzola] soldered his own wires to each of these pads. Each wire is a different color. The wires then go to two different connectors to make them easier to hook up to a bread board.

Each wire is then broken out on the breadboard. The signal from each button is run through a 4n25 optoisolator. From there the signal makes its way back to various Arduino pins. The 4n25 chips keeps the controller circuit isolated from the Arduino’s electrical circuit. The Arduino also has two push buttons connected to it. These buttons are mounted to the PS3 controller.

Now when [Egzola] presses one of the buttons, the Arduino senses the button press and simulates pressing the various controller buttons in a pre-programmed order. The result is a devastating combination move that would normally require practice and repetition to remember. You might say that [Egzola] could have spent his time just learning the moves, but that wasn’t really the point was it? Check out the video below for a demonstration. Continue reading “Get Better at Mortal Kombat by Hacking Your PS3 Controller”

College Researcher Makes Supercomputer from 420 PS3s

Noting that funding for science has run dry for many researchers, [Gaurav] has built a supercomputer from 200 Playstation 3 consoles housed and chilled inside an old refrigerated shipping trailer. His mission at UMass Dartmouth from the National Science Foundation is simulating black hole collisions with an eye on learning something about gravitational waves.

Dr. [Gaurav Khanna] is no stranger to using PS3 supercomputers to do meaningful science. Seven years ago he proposed a 16-PS3 supercomputer running Linux and managed to convince Sony to donate four consoles. The university kicked in funding for another 8 and [Gaurav] ponied up for the last four out of his own pocket. He dubbed it the “PS3 Gravity Grid” and received international attention for the cluster. For equivalent performance, it cost him only 10% the price of a real supercomputer. This led to published papers on both hacked supercomputers and gravity waves. But that rig is looking a little old today. Enter the Air Force.

Dr. [Khanna] was not the only one using PS3s to crunch data – back in 2010 the US Air Force built the “Condor Cluster” of 1,760 PS3s to perform radar imaging of entire cities and do neuromorphic AI research. With their hardware now expired, the Air Force donated 200 of the PS3s to [Gaurav] for his new build. Now that he has wired them up, the Air Force is donating another 220 for a not-snicker-proofed total of 420.

For those sceptical that the now 8-year-old hardware is still cost-effective, even with free consoles it is marginal. RAM is an issue and modern graphics cards are each equivalent to 20 PS3s. Ever the popular target these days, Sony has the PS4 OS locked down from the get go – thanks Sony. The next cluster planned will be with PCs and graphics cards. For now, [Gaurav] has plenty of calculations that need crunching and a queue of colleagues have formed behind him.

Counting Transistors In The Playstation

Over in Russia there are a few people doing extremely in-depth technical teardowns, and the latest is one of the most ambitious ever seen. The PSXDEV team is tearing into the heart of the original PlayStation (Google translatrix), looking at 300,000 transistors, and re-implementing the entire console in a logic level simulator.

While the CPU in the PSX is unique to that specific piece of hardware, a lot of this custom silicon can be found in other places. The core – a RISC LSI LR33300 – is documented in a few rare tomes that are somehow available for free on the Internet. Other parts of this chip are a little stranger. There is a bizarre register that isn’t documented anywhere, a Bus Unit that handles the access between various devices and peripherals, and a motion picture decompressor.

The reverse engineering process begins by de-encapsulating the CPU, GPU, sound processing unit, and CD-ROM controller, taking very high magnification photos of the dies, and slowly mapping out the semiconductors and metals to figure out what cells do what function, how they’re connected, and what the big picture is. It’s a painstaking process that requires combing through gigabytes of die shots and apparently highlight gates, wires, and busses with MS Paint.

The end result of all this squinting at a monitor is turning tracings of chips into logic elements with Logisim. From there, the function of the CPU can be understood, studied, and yes, eventually emulated down to the gate level. It’s an astonishing undertaking, really.

If this sort of thing sounds familiar, you’re right: the same team behind PSXDEV is also responsible for a similar effort focused on the Nintendo Entertainment System. There, the CPU inside the NES – the Ricoh 2A03 – was torn down, revealing the 6502 core, APU, DMA, and all the extra bits that made this a custom chip.

Thanks [Rasz] for the tip.

Remote Control Anything With A PS3 Controller


When looking for a remote control for your next project, you might want to look in your living room. Wii controllers are a hacker’s favorite, but wagging an electronic wand around isn’t the greatest for remote control planes, cars, tanks, and multicopters. What you need for this is dual analog controls, something every playstation since the 90s has included.

[Marcel] created a replacement electronics board for the Sony DualShock 3 controller for just this purpose. With this board, an XBee, and an old controller, it’s easy to add dual analog control and a whole lot of buttons to any project using an XBee receiver.

The replacement board is based on the ATMega328p uC, includes a Lipo charge circuit and power supply, and inputs for the analog sticks and all the button boards inside the DualShock controller.

Yes, we have seen an earlier version of [Marcel]’s project before, but this time he’s added a few new features – the rumble now works and thanks to multiple people unable or unwilling to spin a few boards, [Marcel] has put up an Indiegogo campaign.

Video below.
Continue reading “Remote Control Anything With A PS3 Controller”

Using XBox One And PS4 Controllers With Everything

The controllers from the last generation of consoles served their purpose well. They were there for us when we wanted to experiment with an I2C bus, and they stood by when we wanted to build a quadcopter out of parts just lying around. A new generation of consoles is now upon us, and with them come new controllers. Controllers for which Arduino libraries haven’t been written yet. The horror.

Until those libraries are developed, there’s ChronusMAX, a USB dongle that allows you to use XBox One controllers on a PS4, PS4 controllers on the XBox, mice and keyboards on both systems, and both types of controllers on your PC.

The folks behind ChronusMAX put up a video demoing the XBox One controller working on the 360, PS3, and PC, with another video showing the same for the PS4 controller. As far as what we can see from the PC demos, everything on these controllers can be read, right down to the accelerometer data on the DualShock 4.

Although this is a commercial product, we’re surprised we haven’t seen a more open version by now. From the looks of it, it’s a very small device with two USB ports and a firmware upload utility. Microcontrollers with two native USB ports are usually encased in large packages, so there might be some very clever engineering in this device. Let us know when someone does a teardown of one of these.

Thanks [Josh] for sending this one in.