Lego Goes Underwater, With Model Submarines And Missiles

It is fun to make a toy vehicle with Lego, but it is even more fun to make one that actually works. [PeterSripol] made two Lego submarines, and you can see them in the video below. There isn’t a lot of build information, but watching the subs fire missiles and then getting destroyed by depth charges is worth something.

One of the subs is larger and uses a rudder to steer. It was apparently harder to control than the other smaller sub which used two motors thrusting opposite one another to steer. Looks like fun.

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Hail To The King, Baby: Reverse Engineering Duke

If you’re a fan of DOS games from the 1990s, you’ve almost certainly used DOSBox to replay them on a modern computer. It allows you to run software in a virtual environment that replicates an era-appropriate computer. That’s great for historical accuracy, but doesn’t do you much good if you’re trying to leverage modern computing power to breathe some new life into those classic titles. For that, you need to dig in a little deeper.

For the last two and a half years, [Nikolai Wuttke] has been doing exactly that for 1993’s Duke Nukem II. The end result is RigelEngine, an open source drop-in replacement for the original game binary that not only runs on a modern Windows, Linux, or Mac OS machine, but manages to improve on the original in a number of ways. An accomplishment made even more impressive once you learn that the original source code for the game has been lost to time, and that he had to do everything blind.

In a blog post chronicling his progress so far, [Nikolai] explains the arduous process he used to make sure his re-implementation was as accurate as possible to the original game. He spent untold hours studying the original game’s disassembled code in Ida Pro, handwriting out pages of notes and pseudocode as he tried to understand what was happening behind the scenes. Once a particular enemy or element of the game was implemented in RigelEngine, he’d record the gameplay from his version and compare it to the original frame by frame so he could fine tune the experience.

So what’s the end result of more than two years of work and over 25K lines of code? Thanks to the incredible advancements in computing power since the game’s release nearly 30 years ago, [Nikolai] has managed to remove the need for loading screens. His engine is also capable of displaying an unlimited number of particle effects on the screen at once, and multiple sound effects can now be played simultaneously. In the future he’s looking to implement smooth character movement (in the original game, movement was in 8 pixel increments) and adaptive volume for sound effects based on their distance from Duke. Ultimately, RigelEngine should be able to replace the original graphics with new high resolution textures once some issues with the rendering buffer gets sorted out.

It’s hard to overstate how important some of these classic games are to those who grew up playing them. With John Romero still releasing DLC for the original DOOM and hackers disassembling nearly 40 year old games to fix bugs, it doesn’t seem like they’re in any danger of being forgotten.

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Circuit Bending Those Adorable Voices

Leapfrog make some pretty awesome kids electronics. Especially admirable is the low cost, the battery life, and the audio quality of these devices. This circuit bending hack takes advantage of those audio circuits by turning the Alphabet Pal into your lead vocalist. The performance in the demo video begins with some impressive tricks, but just wait for it because by the end the little purple caterpillar proves itself an instrument worthy of a position beside that fancy Eurorack you’ve been assembling.

The image above provides a great look inside the beastie. [Jason Hotchkiss] mentions he’s impressed by the build quality, and we have to agree. Plus, look at all of those inputs — this is begging to leave toyland and join the band. With an intuitive sense that can only be gained through lots of circuit-bending experience, he guessed that the single through-hole resistor on the PCB was used to dial in the clock speed. That made it easy to throw in a trimpot for pitch-bending and he moved on to figure out individual note control.

All of those caterpillar feet are arranged in a keyboard matrix to detect button presses. After pulling out the oscilloscope for a bit of reverse engineering, [Jason] grabbed a PIC microcontroller and added it to the same solder points as the stock ribbon connector. The result is that the buttons on the feet still work, but now the Alphabet Pal also has MIDI control.

Take a look at the writeup for full details, and the video after the break to hear it in action. If you’re a fan of circuit-bent toys, this pretty pink keyboard hack always impressed us, especially the spring reverb that was added!

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Unconventional Drone Uses Gas Thrusters For Control

You’ve got to hand it to [Tom Stanton] – he really thinks outside the box. And potentially outside the atmosphere, to wit: we present his reaction control gas thruster-controlled drone.

Before anyone gets too excited, [Tom] isn’t building drones for use in a vacuum, although we can certainly see a use case for such devices. This is more of a hybrid affair, with counter-rotating props mounted in a centrally located duct providing the lift and the yaw control. Flanking that is a triangular frame supporting three two-liter soda bottle air reservoirs, each of which supplies a down-firing nozzle at each apex of the triangle. Solenoid valves control the flow of compressed air from the bottles to the nozzles, providing thrust to stabilize the roll and pitch axes. As there aren’t many off-the-shelf flight control systems set up for reaction control, [Tom] had to improvise thruster control; an Arduino watches the throttle signals normally sent to a drone’s motors and fires the solenoids when they get to a preset threshold. It took some tuning, but [Tom] was eventually able to get a stable, untethered hover. And he’s right – the RCS jets do sound amazing when they’re firing, as long as the main motors are off.

This looks as though it has a lot of potential, and we’d love to see it developed more. It reminds us a bit of this ducted-prop drone, another great example of stretching conventional drone control concepts to the limit.

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Play To The Beat Of This Robotic Drummer In A Box

No drummer? No problem! With a little ingenuity, you can stuff the essentials of a drum kit into a box, and automate your rhythm section.

Mind you, [Franco Molina]’s “DrumCube” doesn’t quite have the flash of a human drummer, but it does keep a steady beat and has a charm of its own. The drum machine is mostly mechanical, reminding us somewhat of the Wintergatan Marble Machine which is as captivating to watch as it is to hear. The DrumCube has a snare drum played by two servo-controlled sticks, a kick drum using foam waggled back and forth between two piezo transducers hooked to a low-pass filter, and a reverse-biased transistor white noise generator used for the hi-hat. Sadly, the large gear appears to be just for show. An Arduino runs everything and makes sure the mechanical drum hits are synced to the electronic cymbals, which was no mean feat.

The video below shows it in action accompanying [Franco] on his guitar, and it looks as good as it sounds.┬áPrefer a more compact, all-electronic drum kit? Here’s one that fits in your pocket.

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Panadaptors Didn’t Start With SDRs

The must-have accessory on a modern all-singing, all-dancing amateur radio transceiver is a panadaptor. Inevitably driven by SDR technology, it’s a view of a band in the frequency domain, and it will usually be displayed as a “waterfall” giving a time dimension to see transmissions over a period.

[Bill Meara, N2CQR] reminds us that panadaptors are nothing new, indeed that they date back to the first half of the last century and don’t even need an SDR to work. And to prove it, he’s produced one for part of the 40-metre amateur band.

The principle behind an analogue panadaptor is simple enough, it’s a normal receiver whose local oscillator is given a linear periodic sweep over the desired frequency band and whose output drives the Y axis of an oscilloscope whose X axis is driven by the sweep. In [Bill]’s case the receiver is a BitX homebrew transceiver, and the swept local oscillator is provided by his Foeltech signal generator. A neat touch comes in the ‘scope being synchronised by triggering on a marker frequency at the bottom of the range being swept. He’s created a video showing it in action, which you can see below the break.

There are quite a few routes into making this type of simple spectrum analyser, indeed some of us have tried ti with TV tuners.

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1980s Plotter Plays Flappy Bird

Should you happen to have an HP7440A or similar plotter hanging around, you could have a quick game of Flappy Bird — or Plotty Bird as [WesleyAC] calls it. Just be sure you have some blank paper. The whole thing fits in about 200 lines of Rust code and — according to the author — gets to about 20 frames per second.

Watching the thing go, it appears that it draws a random set of pipes and then traces your flight path on the same page in real time.

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