This Home-Made PDA Is A Work Of Art

There was a time, back in the 1990s, when a PDA, or Personal Digital Assistant, was the height of mobile computing sophistication. These little hand-held touch-screen devices had no Internet connection, but had preloaded software to manage such things as your calendar and your contacts. [Brtnst] was introduced to PDAs through a Palm IIIc and fell in love with the idea, but became disillusioned with the Palm for its closed nature and lack of available software a couple of decades later.

His solution might have been to follow the herd and use a smartphone, but he went instead for the unconventional and produced his own PDA. And after a few prototypes, he’s come up with rather a well-executed take on the ’90s object of desire. Taking an ARM microcontroller board and a commodity resistive touchscreen, he’s clad them in a 3D-printed PDA case and produced his own software stack. He’s not prepared to release it just yet as he’s ashamed of some of its internal messiness, but lets hope that changes with time.

What this project shows is how it is now so much easier to make near commercial quality one-off projects from scratch. Accessible 3D printing has become so commonplace as to be mundane in our community, but it’s worth remembering just how much of a game-changer it has been.

To see the device in action, take a look at the video below the break.

Continue reading “This Home-Made PDA Is A Work Of Art”

Printed It: Rubber Band PCB Vise

If you’ve ever worked on a small PCB, you know how much of a hassle it can be to hold on to the thing. It’s almost as if they weren’t designed to be held in the grubby mitts of a human. As designs have become miniaturized over time, PCBs are often so fragile and festooned with components that tossing them into the alligator clips of the classic soldering “third hand” can damage them. The proper tool for this job is a dedicated PCB vise, which is like a normal bench vise except it doesn’t crank down very hard and usually has plastic pads on the jaws to protect the board.

Only problem with a PCB vise is, like many cool tools and gadgets out there, not everybody owns one. Unless you’re doing regular PCB fabrication, you might not take the plunge and buy one either. So what’s a hacker on a budget to do when they’ve got fiddly little PCBs that need attention?

Luckily for us, we live in a world where you can press a button and have a magical robot on your desktop build things for you. Online model repositories like Thingiverse and YouMagine are full of designs for printable PCB vises, all you have to do is pick one. After looking through a number of them I eventually decided on a model designed by [Delph27] on Thingiverse, which I think has a couple of compelling features and more than deserves the few meters of filament it will take to add to your bench.

Of course the best part of all of this is that you can customize and improve the designs you download, which is what I’m about to do with this PCB vise!

Continue reading “Printed It: Rubber Band PCB Vise”

Firing Up 750 Raspberry Pis

Creating Raspberry Pi clusters is a popular hacker activity. Bitscope has been commercializing these clusters for a bit now and last year they created a cluster of 750 Pis for Los Alamos National Labs. You might wonder what an institution know for supercomputers wants with a cluster of Raspberry Pis. Turns out it is tough to justify taking a real high-speed cluster down just to test software. Now developers can run small test programs with a large number of CPU cores without requiring time on the big iron.

On the face of it, this doesn’t sound too hard, but hooking up 750 of anything is going to have its challenges. You have to provide power and carry away heat. They all have to communicate, and you aren’t going to want to house the thing in a few hundred square feet which makes heat and power even more difficult.

Continue reading “Firing Up 750 Raspberry Pis”

DIY Dungeon Crawler Game Plays On Single LED Strip

A delightful version of a clever one-dimensional game has been made by [Critters] which he calls TWANG! because the joystick is made from a spring doorstop with an accelerometer in the tip. The game itself is played out on an RGB LED strip. As a result, the game world, the player, goal, and enemies are all represented on a single line of LEDs.

How can a dungeon crawler game be represented in 1D, and how is this unusual game played? The goal is for the player (a green dot) to reach the goal (a blue dot) to advance to the next level. Making this more difficult are enemies (red dots) which move in different ways. The joystick is moved left or right to advance the player’s blue dot left or right, and the player can attack with a “twang” motion of the joystick, which eliminates nearby enemies. By playing with brightness and color, a surprising amount of gameplay can be jammed into a one-dimensional display!

Code for TWANG! is on github and models for 3D printing the physical pieces are on Thingiverse. The video (embedded below) focuses mainly on the development process, but does have the gameplay elements explained as well and demonstrates some slick animations and sharp feedback.

Continue reading “DIY Dungeon Crawler Game Plays On Single LED Strip”