1.37″ CRT Restored by Hacklab for Miniature MAME Cabinet

For $5, [William] of Toronto’s Hacklab hackerspace got a hold of one of the smallest CRT screens ever made – about the size of a large coin. Over the course of a couple sessions – including a public hack boothside at their Mini Makerfaire – [William], [Igor], and several other members managed to connect it as a monitor directly off a Raspberry Pi. The end-goal is the world’s smallest MAME cabinet (smaller by almost half than this LCD one).

As Canada followed the US and stopped broadcasting analog back in 2011, it became quite a challenge to feed the screen a video source. They disclosed early that the easiest solution would just be an RF transmitter on the Pi and then tune the micro-set to that channel. Too easy. They wanted something elegant and challenging so they went digging into the circuitry to find a place to insert a composite video signal directly.

The real story here is their persistence at reverse engineering. The PCB was folded like a cardboard box to fit in the original case, making large portions of the circuitboard and wiring inaccessible. Even when they managed to trace the signal to what they thought was the appropriate chip (marked C80580), they could not find any information on the 30 year old chip. Noting that every other chip on the board was Panasonic and started with “AN5″, [Igor] suspected the mystery silicon was just renamed and went through every single datasheet he could find with that prefix. Combined with form factor, pin count and purpose, his sleuthing was rewarded with a guess for a match – the AN5715. His hunch was correct – using that datasheet led him to the answers they required.

Then they just had to figure out how get the composite signal the Pi outputted into something the chip would use to display the correct image. There were no shortage of challenges, failures and dead ends here either, but they had help from the rest of their membership.

Their project log is an interesting narrative through the process and in the end of course, it worked. It is displayed beautifully with a clear acrylic case and ready for a cabinet to be built.

Calculator + MSP430 + IR LED = TV Remote?

Eschewing the store-bought solution, [Stefan] managed to build a TV remote out of an old calculator. The brains of the calculator were discarded and replaced with an MSP430, leaving only the button matrix and enclosure. Rather than look it up, he successfully mapped the matrix manually before getting stumped with the infrared code timings. Some research pointed him to a peculiarity with Samsung IR codes and with help from an open source remote control library he got it working.

When the range was too limited to satisfy him he added a booster circuit and an LED driver which he snapped off the top of an old remote; now it works from 30 feet away. Some electrical tape and hot glue later and it all fit back into the original case.

It cannot take photos or play Super Smash Brothers, but it does what a remote needs to do: browses channels in the guide, control volume, and turn the TV on or off. Considering that all this calculator was built to do was boring basic arithmetic, it is a procrastination-enabling upgrade.

See the video after the break for some smiles.

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Amazon Fire TV Update Bricks Hacked Devices

The Amazon Fire TV is Amazon’s answer to all of the other streaming media devices on the market today. Amazon is reportedly selling these devices at cost, making very little off of the hardware sales. Instead, they are relying on the fact that most users will rent or purchase digital content on these boxes, and they can make more money in the long run this way. In fact, the device does not allow users to download content directly from the Google Play store, or even play media via USB disk. This makes it more likely that you will purchase content though Amazon’s own channels.

We’re hackers. We like to make things do what they were never intended to do. We like to add functionality. We want to customize, upgrade, and break our devices. It’s fun for us. It’s no surprise that hackers have been jail breaking these devices to see what else they are capable of. A side effect of these hacks is that content can be downloaded directly from Google Play. USB playback can also be enabled. This makes the device more useful to the consumer, but obviously is not in line with Amazon’s business strategy.

Amazon’s response to these hacks was to release a firmware update that will brick the device if it discovers that it has been rooted. It also will not allow a hacker to downgrade the firmware to an older version, since this would of course remove the root detection features.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us. We’ve seen this type of thing for years with mobile phones. The iPhone has been locked to the Apple Store since the first generation, but the first iPhone was jailbroken just days after its initial release. Then there was the PlayStation 3 “downgrade” fiasco that resulted in hacks to restore the functionality. It seems that hackers and corporations are forever destined to disagree on who actually owns the hardware and what ownership really means. We’re locked in an epic game of cat and mouse, but usually the hackers seem to triumph in the end.

Homer Robot Ensures You Don’t Miss An Episode

With our busy lives, who has time to pay attention to TV show schedules? [Tamberg] certainly didn’t and that is why he came up with the web-enabled TV remove he calls the Smart Homer. This miraculous device knows when ‘The Simpsons’ is being broadcast, turns on the TV and switches to the appropriate channel.

Like the real Homer, not too much is going on up in this toy’s noggin. A couple of IR emitters are mounted in place of pupils and the associated wires are run down into his body. Right between a pink donut and a Krusty burger resides an Arduino and ethernet shield. This electronic duo acts as a web server and looks out to the ‘net for an online script. The script polls an online TV Program Guide and if ‘The Simpsons’ are on at that time, it sends a signal back to the Arduino to turn the TV on.

Homer Smart Remote   Jolly Homer

Custom Video Streaming Box

There are a lot of options out today for streaming video to your Internet-connected devices. Whether it’s Hulu, Netflix, Slingbox, or the late Aereo, there is no shortage of ways to get your TV fix. However, [Jaruzel] wasn’t happy with any of these services and wanted a more custom solution, so he built his own TV-streaming box out of hardware he had lying around.

[Jaruzel] gets TV from a service called SkyTV, but wanted to be able to stream it to his tablet, laptop, and XBMC. While rummaging through his parts bin, he came up with a WinTV tuner card for capturing TV and a Mini-ITX board to process everything and stream it out over his network.

Once the computer was put in a custom enclosure, [Jaruzel] got to work installing Puppy Linux. He wrote a boot script that configures the WinTV card and then starts VLC to handle the streaming service which allows him to view the TV stream over HTTP on the network. This is a great hack that would presumably work for any TV stream you can find, even if it’s just an over-the-air source.

Black Mirror, Black Hole: Kill Your Television

don't waste your time TV screenWould you believe that some people think the internet is a time waster? Well, not at this particular address of course, but we can think of some other sites that are absolute rabbit holes without so much as a rousing game of croquet at the bottom. If you need help achieving what Tim Ferriss dubbed a Low Information Diet, there are browser extensions that will block your access to sites that keep you from getting things done. [Ivan’s girlfriend] has taken this time management tack seriously and even created a simple web page that states “Don’t Waste Your Time!” that will show if she tries to get to Facebook.

There’s one small problem with all this, and it’s been around for a long time. [Ivan’s girlfriend] still watches TV. Out of love and respect for her goals, he decided to prank her by blocking her TV viewing. In a delightful twist, the TV will display her own web page to her after 30 seconds.

They have digital and analog TVs, so he had to set up both in order to cover his bases. The digital TV is a monitor fed from a set-top box with HDMI out. As the STB can only be controlled via IR remote, [Ivan] used an HDMI switch to change from the STB input to a Raspi that will display the reprimanding web page and play Pink Floyd’s “Time“.

The analog TV took  slightly more doing. He put a Raspi on the AV input, but connected it from the inside so nothing looked suspicious. The Raspi checks the TV status every second and switches to the Pi once the TV is on. Same deal: judgmental web page, Pink Floyd. The beauty part is that both of [Ivan]’s setups also record her reaction; the digital TV uses a dash camera and the analog  uses an Android phone. Check out [Ivan]’s tour of the analog TV Pi after the break.

If you or [Ivan’s girlfriend] need even more time management help, there’s always the roll-your-own-Pomodoro timer.

 

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Rebuilding a 1940s TV

TV

There’s a lot of cool stuff to be found under piles of trash in an antique store. [dijt] discovered this when he found a tiny 7″ Motorola television from the 1940s under a stack of trinkets from earlier eras. We can understand [dijt]’s impulse buy, and the trials of rebuilding this ancient TV more than qualifies it as a hack.

If you know where to look, there are hundreds of resources available for old televisions, Hi-Fis, and radio equipment from the dawn of the electrical era to the modern day. After consulting with a few forums, [dijt] got his hands on a schematic for his television set and began work on diagnosing what was wrong with it.

It turned out the original ballast tube in this set had long since given up the ghost. Luckily, this is a common problem in old TVs, and after consulting some forums [dijt] had a schematic to replace this ballast tube with some newer caps and resistors.

After constructing the circuit and testing it out, [dijt] mounted it in the old ballast tube to replicate the original look and feel of the 1949 television. Interestingly, this is the second time this TV had been restored; the 1960s-era caps and resistors told [djit] this TV had once went into a television repair shop. Let’s just hope [djit] remembered to glue the schematics to the inside of the chassis this time.