Dual Direction Gaming/Dining Room Beam Lights

Sometimes, you just can’t find something you want, and that’s when you break out the tools and get dirty with a bit of DIY. Reddit user [JaredBanyard] wanted a nice beam light for the dining room/gaming room. He ended up building one that shone both downward, on the table, and upward, adding some light to the room.

Warm white LED strip lighting was chosen, and two aluminum channels were glued together to hold them. After wiring the four LED strips together a diffuser was placed over them and then they were wired up and turned on to check the amount of light. With two strips per channel, even with the diffuser, there was plenty.

Each pair of channels were set into the main housing, which is made from Sirari hardwood. Two long outside side pieces make for a great looking final product, and the end pieces are sandwiched between the two outside pieces. After a bit of sanding and an application of matte polyacrylic, transformers were screwed inside and then the channels were placed on top. The circuitry was wired to a Z-Wave dimmer to control the lights remotely.

[JaredBanyard]’s put together a bill of materials and there are plenty of pictures. It’s a great, unique, light for the room, which includes a Duchess gaming table from boardgametables.com. For more lighting articles, check out this 2017 Hackaday Prize entry article on modular rail lighting, or this article about adding intelligence to your lighting solution.

[via Reddit]

Using an Arduino to Re-Create a Computer’s Keyboard Decoder

[Max Breedon] found an old Apple IIe clone twenty years ago. He recently dug this Epson AP-200 out of the salvage heap and quickly discovered that the keyboard decoder chip was fried. The old chip was way too obscure to source a replacement — and soon this post will be the top Google result for the string, ‘C35224E’ — so he busted out his trusty UNO and created a replacement keyboard decoder.

Unlike the Apple II, where all the keyboard decoding happens on the keyboard, this clone used a dedicated chip on the main board. Although it’s a rare part that’s virtually ungoogleable, this chip’s architecture and pinout can be figured out by testing out every trace for continuity. After locating what looked like four data pins, he had the Arduino send signals onto the clone to see what characters popped up. That didn’t work, but it led him to idea that two of the wires were clock and data, and after a bit of experimenting figured out that the third pin was a latch enable of some sort that sent the character.

So, [Max] created an Arduino rig to do the same thing. The Arduino uses a shift register to interact with the keyboard’s 8×10 matrix, and the sketch translates any serial data it receives into the keypresses the clone is expecting. After prototyping with the UNO, [Max] hardwired an Arduino Nano (as well as the shift register) into a daughter board with pins extending into the old chip’s sockets. A permanent solution!

In addition to a weird keyboard controller that has been lost to the sands of time, this Apple IIe clone features a few more parts that are downright weird. There are two chips that are found in a few other Apple clones labeled STK 65301 and STK 65371, used as ASICs, MMUs, or a 20-IC expression of Wozzian brilliance condensed into custom silicon. There’s another weird chip in this clone, a 27c32 ROM loaded up with repetitive bits. There is no obvious 6502 code or strings in this ROM, so if anyone has an idea what this chip does, send [Max] a note.

Hackaday Links: October 22, 2017

A few weeks ago, the popcorn overflowed because of an ambiguous tweet from AdafruitDid Adafruit just buy Radio Shack? While everyone else was foaming at the mouth, we called it unlikely. The smart money is that Adafruit just bought a few fancy stock certificates, incorporation papers, and other official-looking documents at the Radio Shack corporate auction a few months ago. They also didn’t pick up that monster cache of Trash-80s, but I digress.

Here’s some more popcorn: Adafruit just applied for the ‘Radiofruit’ trademark. Is this Adafruit’s play to take over the Radio Shack brand? Probably not; they put a bunch of radio modules on Feather boards, and are just doing what they do. It does demonstrate Adafruit’s masterful manipulation effective use of social media, though.

Remember those 2D tilty maze rolling marble labyrinth game things? Here’s a 3D version on Kickstarter. It’s handheld, so this really needs a gimbal and associated twisty knobs.

In a video making the meme rounds, someone found an easter egg in the gauge cluster of a Russian GAZ van. It plays Tetris.

It’s Sunday, so it’s time to talk Star Trek. Here’s something interesting that hit my email: a press release telling me, “Trekkies Scramble To Get The First Toothbrush In Space As Seen On Star Trek Discovery”. This is the toothbrush, and here is the press kit. Dumb? Not at all. Star Trek has a long history of using off-the-shelf tools and devices for props. For example, the hyperspanners seen in Star Trek: Enterprise were actually this non-contact thermometer available from Harbor Freight. At least the hyperspanners and thermometers came out of the same injection mold.

There’s a new LimeSDR board on CrowdSupply. It extends any LimeSDR to 10 GHz.

Kerf bending is the application of (usually laser-cut) slots to bend plywood around corners. You’ve seen it a million times before, and done correctly the technique can produce some very interesting results. What about metal, though? You need a pretty big laser for that. [Proto G] is using a 2000 W fiber laser to experiment with kerf bending in stainless steel. It works as you would expect, and we eagerly await someone to replicate this, if only to see another 2000 Watt laser in action.

Apparently Fruit Flies Like a Raspberry Pi

Groucho Marx famously said, “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.” As insulting as it is, researchers often use fruit flies for research because they have similar behavior and genetics to humans. For example, the flies exhibit signs of anxiety, stress, and many common diseases. Researchers at Imperial College London built an inexpensive and customizable research platform for fruit flies — the ethoscope — that uses a 3D printed enclosure and a Raspberry Pi to study our winged counterparts. You can see a video about the ethoscope, below.

By using a camera, the Pi can watch the flies, something researchers used to do by hand. The software is easy to customize. For example, while studying sleep deprivation, the ethoscope could detect when a fly didn’t move for 20 seconds and rotate its tube to wake it up.

Continue reading “Apparently Fruit Flies Like a Raspberry Pi”

Hazardous Dollhouse Teaches Fire Safety

Fire safety is drilled into us from a young age. And for good reason, too, because fire hazards are everywhere in the average home. Even a small fire can turn devastatingly dangerous in a matter of minutes. But how do you get kids to really pay attention to scary (and often boring) adult concepts? You can teach a kid to stop, drop, and roll until you’re blue in the face and still might not drive home the importance of fire prevention. Subjects like this call for child-sized visual aids that ignite imaginations.

That’s exactly what firefighters in Poznań, Poland did in collaboration with mlabs, a local software company. They built a mobile, interactive fire safety education tool that simulates common household fire hazards in great detail (translated). This is easily the most tricked-out dollhouse we’ve ever seen. The many different hazard scenarios are controlled via touchscreen using a custom-built application. At the tap of a button, the house becomes a total death trap. The lamp-lit hazards glow realistically and with varied intensity, and there is actual smoke coming out of them that triggers smoke detectors. Cameras embedded throughout the house provide a first-person view of the terror on a nearby monitor.

Almost no room is safe for the figurine family that lives inside this intricately detailed 1:12 scale dwelling. Dad’s in the kitchen standing idly by while food scorches on the stove. Grandma’s sitting on her bed upstairs, her forgotten cigarette burning a hole in the duvet. Daughter is overloading the electrical outlets in her bedroom with all her gizmos. Smoldering coals have spilled out from the toppled stove in the utility room.

This isn’t the first smart dollhouse we’ve seen, but it’s probably the most intriguing. The fire safety dollhouse was on display this week at POL-EKO-SYSTEM, an annual environmental fair in Poznań. Nowhere near Poland? Check out the video after the break.

Continue reading “Hazardous Dollhouse Teaches Fire Safety”

Making the Best Plywood for Laser Cut Puzzles

Plywood laser-cuts fairly well but has drawbacks when used in serious production runs, as [Marie] explains in a blog post about a quest for the ultimate laser-cutting plywood. One of the things [Nervous System] makes and sells is generative jigsaw puzzles, and they shared their experience with the challenges in producing them. The biggest issue was the wood itself. They ended up getting a custom plywood made to fit their exact needs, a process that turned out neither as complex nor as unusual as it may sound.

An example of how a dense knot hidden in one of the plywood layers caused the laser to not cut all the way through.

Plywood is great because it’s readily available, but there are some drawbacks that cause problems when trying to do serious production of laser-cut plywood pieces. Laser cutting works best when the material being cut is consistent, but there can be areas of inconsistent density in plywood. If the laser encounters an unexpected knot somewhere in the wood, there is no way to slow down or to increase power to compensate. The result is a small area where the laser perhaps doesn’t quite make it through. A picture of an example from my workshop shows what this looks like.

When doing basic project work or prototyping, this kind of issue is inconvenient but usually some trimming and sanding will sort things out. When doing a production run for puzzles like [Nervous System] was doing, the issue is more serious:

  1. A jigsaw puzzle with a large number of cuts in a relatively small area has a higher chance of running into any problem spots in the material. If they exist, the laser will probably encounter them.
  2. Trouble spots in plywood can be on the inside layers, meaning they can’t be detected visually and are only discovered after they cause an incomplete cut.
  3. Increasing laser power for the whole job is an incomplete solution, as excessive laser power tends to make the cuts uglier due to increased scorching and charring.
  4. An inspection process becomes needed to check each puzzle piece for problems, which adds time and effort.
  5. A puzzle that had even one piece that did not cut properly will probably be scrapped because rework is not practical. That material (and any time and money that went into getting the nice artwork onto it) becomes waste.

Plywood is great stuff and can look gorgeous, but [Marie] says they struggled with its issues for a long time and eventually realized they had gone as far as they could with off-the-shelf plywoods, even specialty ones. They knew exactly what they needed, and it was time for something custom-made to serve those specific needs.

Having your own plywood custom-made may sound a little extreme, but [Marie] assures us it’s not particularly difficult or unreasonable. They contacted a small manufacturer who specialized in custom aircraft plywoods and was able to provide their laser-cut plywood holy grail: a 3-ply sheet, with high quality basswood core with birch veneers, and a melamine-based glue. It cuts better than anything else they have used, and [Marie] says that after four years they had certainly tried just about everything.

The Web Clock You Can Control Over a LAN

Not every project is meant to solve a new problem. Some projects can be an extension of an existing solution just to flex the geek muscles. One such project by [limbo] is the Web Clock 2.0 which is an internet-connected clock.

Yes, it uses a WEMOS D1 mini which is equipped with an ESP-12F (ESP8266) and yes, it uses an LCD with an I2C module to interface the two. The system works by connecting to the Google servers to get GMT and then offsets it to calculate the local time. It also has the hourly nagging chime to let you know that another precious hour of your life has gone and you need to set it up.

What [limbo] adds to the conventional functionality is a LAN application to send custom messages to the LCD. The software is called ‘Clock Commander’ and can be downloaded as a Windows binary through the source code is unavailable for now. Simply point it to the correct IP address and you can then send it commands to display stuff as well as control the sound. The project comes with Lua scripts and instruction how to DIY.

We imagine this can be used to create a custom geeky table clock or hack a digital coo-coo clock to drive your co-workers crazy at the press of a button. For those who are looking for something with lasers, check out the Laser Pointer Clock for a slightly more challenging build. Continue reading “The Web Clock You Can Control Over a LAN”