Hackaday Links: November 3, 2013

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[Michael] just missed the deadline for the Trinket Contest but we still think his tablet is pretty cool. He says it predates the iPad and uses a custom aluminum case, a SoC he ripped from a Gecko Edubook, powered by eight NiMH batteries. Check out the front, the guts, and the sides.

Speaking of portable power sources, After doing a teardown of a 12V 6800 mAh Li-Po battery [Howard] strapped some prototyping equipment to either side of it and now he’s got a prototyping power supply that’s easy to take with him.

Blinky goodness doesn’t have to look hacked together (even if it is). This Raspberry Pi logo looks like a professional sign! It was cut from foam and plastic, primed and painted, then stuffed with addressable LED strips.

While we’re on the topic of refined RPi projects, check out this Raspberry Pi MAME cabinet. It’s a bit bigger than the Galaga cabinet we saw recently but still small enough to keep around the house without getting in the way.

If you’re a fan of automotive hacks you should check out this effort to build an Electronic Diesel Control.

We’ve been saving the gnarliest link for last. [Matthew] laments that his missed Halloween to show off this project. But we don’t think an almost-entirely wooden spider-like walker needs to be paired with a holiday. It’s very cool and somewhat operational, but still needs help working out all of the kinks. Our favorite moment in the video is when [Matthew] exclaims “It wants to live!”.

Video Game Automation Hacks

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3rd party console game controllers sometimes sport a “rapid-fire” button to give gamers an unfair advantage. [Connor’s] project is along the same lines, but his hack had a different goal: automate the input of GTA5 cheat codes. [Connor] admits that this is his first Arduino hack, but aside from a small hiccup, he managed to pull it off. The build connects each button on a PS3 controller via some ribbon cable to its own digital out on an Arduino Uno . After plugging in some pretty straightforward code, [Connor] can simply press one button to automate a lengthy cheat code process.

[Matt’s] hack manages to save him even more user input in this second video game hack, which automates finger clicks in an Android game. [Matt] pieced together a couple of servos plugged into a PICAXE-18M2 microcontroller, which repeats one simple action in [Matt’s] Sims Freeplay game: continuously “freshening” (flushing?) a toilet. To mimic the same capacitive response of two fingers, [Matt] built the two contact surfaces out of some anti-static foam, then grounded them out with a wire to the ground on the board.

Check out a gallery of [Connor’s] controller and a video of [Matt’s] tablet hack after the break, then check out a rapid fire controller hack that attacks an XBox360 controller.

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Perfect wall-mounted tablet integration

There’s a building downtown built about ten years ago that has tablet-sized LCD screens next to the entrance of each large meeting room. They’re never on and we always wonder why they didn’t just use one of those things that holds a sheet of printer paper to label what’s happening in the meeting space? Now this is a similar idea but with much better execution. Instead of just displaying data the in-wall tablet mount makes your room interactive.

[Tim’s] been working on it for a couple of years. He started out trying to house an iPod Touch behind a junction box cover plate. There are some pictures of that at the top of his build album. That didn’t quite take so keep scrolling to see the path to the finished product shown above. He cut a hole in the drywall and figured out how to mount a tablet dock that includes inductive charging. It holds the tablet in place with the small ledge and a few magnets, keeping its battery charged without a need for wires. Once tested he mudded, sanded, textured, and painted for a perfect finished product.

Adding WiFi to a kid’s tablet

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[Mick] has been playing around with the VTech Innotab – a $70 tablet computer aimed at kids – for a while now. He’s successfully turned this tablet soon to be found at yard sales the world over into a Linux tablet and can play everything from those magical LucasArts SCUMM adventure games to Angry Birds. What his tablet is missing, though, is any sort of Internet connection. He recently fixed this by soldering a USB WiFi adapter directly to the CPU of his InnoTab.

In all fairness, there’s not a terrible amount of software hackery going on here. VTech’s InnoTab 2s uses the same chipset as the cheaper InnoTab 2 but has an additional board soldered directly to the mainboard. This additional board provides a WiFi connection with an RT5370 chipset; soldering a WiFi dongle onto the InnoTab 2’s CPU D+ and D- USB lines effectively turns it into the WiFi enabled InnoTab 2s.

It’s an impressive piece of work for a low-power tablet that one can safely assume is both bullet and childproof. [Mick] was also able to mount a USB thumb drive on his upgraded kid’s tablet, so if you’re looking for a cheap tablet that doesn’t need much horsepower, you might want to check out your local Toys ‘R Us.

External pinball controls for an Android tablet

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This hack, which adds external flipper controls to Android pinball, is a great way to cut your teeth at Android hardware hacking.

[Ruben] decided to go with the TI Launchpad for this project. The MSP430 dev board offers serial communications via a USB connection, but it’s not quite as easy as just finding the right cable. His tablet does support USB On the Go (OTG), but the board identifies itself as an ACM device which needs to be handled differently. In order to get the tablet talking to the Launchpad he compiled a CDC_ACM module for the Linux underpinnings that make up every Android OS. In this case the module is tailored for the Allwinner A10 chip inside his model of tablet, but it shouldn’t be too hard to adapt his guide for other processors.

Of course you could go a different route and use Bluetooth for connectivity. We’ve seen several gaming peripherals that use this technique with Android devices.

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ODB-II hacking using an Android tablet

What a strange message to read on the digital dashboard display of your car. This is proof that [Kristoffer Smith] was able to control the ODB-II bus on his Eagle Grand Cherokee.

He’s not just doing this for the heck of it. It stems from his goal of adding an Android tablet on the dashboard which has been a popular hack as of late. This left [Kristoffer] with steering wheel controls that did nothing. They originally operated the radio, so he set out to make them control the tablet.

He had seen an Arduino used to control the CAN bus, but decided to go a different route. He grabbed a USB CAN bus interface for around $25. The first order of business was to use it with his computer to sniff the data available. From there he was able to decode the traffic and figure out the commands he needed to monitor. The last piece of the puzzle was to write his own Android code to watch for and react to the steering wheel buttons. You can check out the code at his repository and see the demo after the break.

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Semi-automatic pick and place machine

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This is a fascinating take on building your own pick and place machine. It does an amazing job of automating the hardest parts of hand assembly, while relying on human dexterity to achieve the hardest parts of automation. It’s a semiautomatic pick and place machine driven by an Arduino and controlled by an Android tablet.

The machine is built in two parts. The portion in the upper left feeds components from reels and is fully automated. The portion on the lower right consists of a padded arm-rest which slides smoothly along two axes. A mechanical arm with multiple articulations is attached to the end, culminating in a tip connector for some vacuum tweezers. Right handers are the only ones who will find this convenient, but oh well. The clip after the break shows it in action. The assembly technician first selects the component from an icon on the Android tablet. The reel machine then dispenses that part, which is picked up by the vacuum tweezers using the left hand to switch the vacuum on and off again. If the part orientation needs to be rotated it can done using the jog wheel on the Android app. It smooth, quick, and best of all, clever!

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