Communicating with an LED matrix

Most of the LED matrix posts we run delve into the hardware design. This time around [J Bremnant] used prefab modules and focused on writing code to address the display. The hardware combines two 24×16 LED boards from Sure Electronics with a Teensy 2.0 to drive the display and provide a USB connection. The firmware comes in just under 8k, leaving graphic manipulation up to a PC.

[J Bremnant's] Python script offers a lot of flexibility when working with the display. There are three modes selectable through a terminal interface. One just tests the display and then drops into Conway’s Game of Life. The second mode lets you send commands via serial interface so it can be used as a message ticker. The final feature is frame addressing that allows graphics to be dropped into the display. See each of these featured in the video after the break.

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Playing hacker with a toy vault

[Thomas Cannon] created his own hacking game by adding some circuitry to this toy vault. The original toy uses the keypad to control a solenoid keeping the door shut. He kept the mechanical setup, but replaced the original circuit board with his own ATmega328 based internals. He also added a USB port to the front. The gist of the game is that you plug-in through USB to gain access to the vault’s terminal software. If you can make your way through the various levels of admin access the loot inside will be yours.

Reuse that PDA as a WRT terminal

[Michu] used his old Palm IIIc to make a serial interface for his OpenWRT router. It’s a matter of cracking open both the router and the Palm device, then connecting the TTL lines from the router to the MAX 3386e level converter chip inside the Palm. From there, Pocketterm can connect to the router’s serial terminal.

A lot of us have old electronics lying around that work perfectly well. It’s nice to find hacks that make them useful again.

[Thanks Isama]

Update: 50MHz to 100Mhz scope conversion

Changing this 50MHz Rigol oscilloscope into its larger, more expensive brother just became quite a bit easier. When we originally looked at this hack it required pulling some capacitors off of the board. Now all it takes is three commands over a serial terminal connection.

Take a look at the walk through video after the break. You’ll see that there’s one chip that needs to be setup differently to change the functionality. Removing capacitors was actually changing the commands sent to initialize that chip at power-up. Now you can just change the model number and one letter of the serial number via a terminal and the firmware will recognize this as the more expensive DS1102E.

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Oscilloscope doubles as a serial terminal

PC-based USB oscilloscopes are fast becoming all the rage. [Matt Sarnoff’s] Terminalscope takes the reverse approach, adapting an oscilloscope into a full serial terminal. You may have seen something similar before in the Dutchtronix/SparkFun O-Clock, but [Matt’s] project goes one further by adding a PS/2 keyboard port for full bidirectional serial communication, and with much sharper display resolution to boot.

The mostly VT-100 compatible Terminalscope is built around two AVR microcontrollers: an ATmega328P runs full-tilt to generate the video signal and handle serial I/O, while an ATtiny45 handles keyboard input to avoid interrupting the ’328’s duties. Rather than vector trace each character, a raster-scanning approach is used: the beam follows a fixed X/Y path (like a television), while modulating the Z input (beam intensity) to form an image. The device can be connected to a PC via serial port or USB-to-TTY adapter, or directly to another microcontroller to debug serial output.

We recently showed an oscilloscope being used as a multichannel digital logic display. The Terminalscope provides yet another use for this essential bench tool and could nicely round out a “poor man’s” testing setup. The schematic and full source code are available for download.

Update: more pink wireless-terminal hacking

[Dave] poked around inside of an IM-ME wireless toy and compiled his findings. He read about the device when we covered it in November and picked up a couple to see what he could do. He patched into the debug port in the CC1110 processor and enabled it by performing a chip erase. He then began mapping out how the processor connects and communicates with the qwerty keyboard, the wireless radio, and the LCD screen. The board is full of test points which make the hardware easy to access. [Dave's] experiments show that this hackable device is full of potential so let’s see what you can do!

Pink wireless-terminal of wonder

[Hunter Davis] is at it again, this time hacking the pink IM-ME to use as a wireless terminal. It sells for between $12-16 and he ordered it to get free shipping with another purchase. The wireless antenna registered as an HID device when he plugged it into his Linux box. He then sat down for a long USB sniffing session only to be surprised by the lack of any type of security. Everything transferred to the device is just plain text in hexidecimal. Because of possible DMCA issues he hasn’t posted a driver but does explain most of the process to write your own.

[Hunter] has given us a lot of handheld hacks. This device is meant as a remote terminal for instant messaging. We’re sure you can think up a lot better uses so let us know in the comments and don’t forget to send in any projects you come up with.

[Thanks Paul]

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