A Wii Playing The GameCube, Disguised As A Game Boy SP

It may be hard to believe, but thanks to the expert work of Nintendo aficionado [Bill Paxton], the Game Boy Advance SP and GameCube lovechild that you see before you started its life as a Wii. That means not only can it play commercial GameCube and Wii games, but also has access to the wide library of homebrew games and emulators available for those systems.

To create this marvel, [Bill] first had to expertly cut away extraneous components from the Wii’s motherboard. He then mated the “trimmed” PCB to a new board that holds the controls as well as some other ancillary components such as the audio amplifier and USB port. He even managed to squeeze a battery in there, as demonstrated in the video after the break.

Finally, he designed a 3D printed enclosure that incorporates GameCube-style controls (complete with printed buttons) into the classic clamshell Game Boy SP shape. Because of the complexity of the design, [Bill] decided to have it professionally printed at Shapeways rather than trying to run it off of his home printer, which he says helps sells the professional look. It did take him some trial and error before he got the hang of painting the printed material to his satisfaction, but we think the end result was certainly worth the effort.

It probably won’t come as a huge surprise to find that this isn’t the first time [Bill] has pulled off a stunt like this. A few years back he created a very similar “GameCube SP”, but by the looks of it, this revised attempt improves on the original version in every way possible.

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Hackaday Links: June 9, 2019

The Chicago Pile led to the Manhattan Project, which led to the atomic bomb. In Germany, there were similar efforts with less success, and now we have physical evidence from the first attempted nuclear reactor in Germany. In Physics Today, there’s a lovely historical retrospective of one of the ‘fuel cubes’ that went into one of Germany’s unsuccessful reactor experiments. This is a five-centimeter cube that recently showed up in the hands of a uranium collector. In the test reactor, six hundred of these cubes were strung along strings and suspended like a chandelier. This chandelier was then set inside a tub surrounded by graphite. This reactor never reached criticality — spectroscopy tells us the cube does not contain fission products — but it was the best attempt Germany made at a self-sustaining nuclear reaction.

The biggest failing of the Arduino is the pinout. Those header pins aren’t all on 0.1″ centers, and the board itself is too wide to fit on a single solderless breadboard. Here’s the solution to that problem. It’s the BreadShield, an Arduino Uno-to-Breadboard adapter. Plug an Uno on one end, and you get all the pins on the other.

There’s a new listing on AirBnB. this time from NASA. They’re planning on opening the space station up to tourism, starting at $35,000 USD per night. That’s a cool quarter mil per week, launch not included. The plan appears to allow other commercial companies (SpaceX and whoever buys a Boeing Starliner) to accept space tourists, the $35k/night is just for the stop at the ISS. Costs for launch and landing are expected to be somewhere between $20 and $60 Million per flight. Other space tourists have paid as much: [Dennis Tito], the first ‘fee-paying’ space tourist, paid $20M for a trip to the ISS in 2001. [Mark Shuttleworth] also paid $20M a year later. Earlier space ‘tourists’ paid a similar amount; Japanese journalist [Toyohiro Akiyama] flew to Mir at a cost of between $12M and $37M. Yes, the space station is now an AirBnB, but it’s going to cost twenty million dollars for the ride up there.

We’re getting into conference season, and there are two hardware cons coming up you should be aware of. The first is Hardwear.io, keynoted by [Christopher Tarnovsky], famous for DirecTV hacks. There will be other talks by [@TubeTimeUS] on cloning the Sound Blaster and [John McMaster] on dropping acid. All of this is going down this week at The Biltmore in Santa Clara, CA. The second upcoming conference of note is Teardown, the hardware conference put on by Crowd Supply. That’s in Portland, June 21-23, with a presence from the Church of Robotron.

GPS And ADS-B Problems Cause Cancelled Flights

Something strange has been going on in the friendly skies over the last day or so. Flights are being canceled. Aircraft are grounded. Passengers are understandably upset. The core of the issue is GPS and ADS-B systems. The ADS-B system depends on GPS data to function properly, but over this weekend a problem with the quality of the GPS data has disrupted normal ADS-B features on some planes, leading to the cancellations.

What is ADS-B and Why Is It Having Trouble?

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is a communication system used in aircraft worldwide. Planes transmit location, speed, flight number, and other information on 1090 MHz. This data is picked up by ground stations and eventually displayed on air traffic controller screens. Aircraft also receive this data from each other as part of the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).

ADS-B isn’t a complex or encrypted signal. In fact, anyone with a cheap RTL-SDR can receive the signal. Aviation buffs know how cool it is to see a map of all the aircraft flying above your house. Plenty of hackers have worked on these systems, and we’ve covered that here on Hackaday. In the USA, the FAA will effectively require all aircraft to carry ADS-B transponders by January 1st, 2020. So as you can imagine, most aircraft already have the systems installed.

The ADS-B system in a plane needs to get position data before it can transmit. These days, that data comes from a global satellite navigation system. In the USA, that means GPS. GPS is currently having some problems though. This is where Receiver autonomous integrity monitoring (RAIM) comes in. Safety-critical GPS systems (those in planes and ships) cross-check their current position. If GPS is sending degraded or incorrect data, it is sent to the FAA who displays it on their website. The non-precision approach current outage map is showing degraded service all over the US Eastern seaboard, as well as the North. The cause of this signal degradation is currently unknown.

What Hardware is Affected?

GPS isn’t down though — you can walk outside with your cell phone to verify that. However, it is degraded. How a plane’s GPS system reacts to that depends on the software built into the GPS receiver. If the system fails, the pilots will have to rely on older systems like VOR to navigate. But ADS-B will have even more problems. An aircraft ADS-B system needs position data to operate.  If you can’t transmit your position information, air traffic controllers need to rely on old fashioned radar to determine position. All of this adds up to a safety of flight problem, which means grounding the aircraft.

Digging through canceled flight lists, one can glean which aircraft are having issues. From the early reports, it seems like Bombardier CRJ 700 and 900 have problems. Folks on Airliners.net are speculating that any aircraft with Rockwell Collins flight management systems are having problems.

This is not a small issue, there are hundreds or thousands of canceled flights. The FAA set up a teleconference to assess the issue. Since then, the FAA has issued a blanket waiver to all affected flights. They can fly, but only up to 28,000 feet.

This is a developing story, and we’ll be keeping an eye on it. Seeing how the industry handles major problems is always educational, and there will be much to learn in the coming days.

Dead Bug Arduino Is Lively And Shield-Compatible

Microcontroller demo boards such as the Arduino UNO are ubiquitous on Hackaday as the brains of many a project which inevitably does something impressive or unusual. Sometime someone builds a particularly tiny demo board, or an impressively large one. In the case of the board featured here, the Arduino is a gorgeous labor of love which can’t really be called a board since there is no PCB. Instead of the traditional fiberglass, [Jiří Praus] formed brass bars into the circuitry and held it together with solder.

This kind of dedication to a project leaves an impression. His notes show he saw the barest way to operate an ATMega328, built it, tested, and moved on to the power supply to make it self-sustaining, then onto the communication circuit, and finally the lights. The video below shows a fully-functional Arduino happily running the blink program. He plans to encase the brass portion in resin to toughen it up and presumably keep every bump from causing a short circuit. The components are in the same position due to a custom jig which means a standard shield will fit right into place.

The Arduino started far less flashy yet nearly as fragile, and it has grown. And shrunk.

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Assembling A Lathe From Not A Lot

Most people have a piece of equipment without which they consider their workshop or bench to be incomplete. For some, it is an oscilloscope, for others a bandsaw, but for many metalworkers, it is a lathe. Lathes are expensive if you are seeking a good one, quite cheap if you don’t mind a bad one, and sometimes even free if you can deal with a good one that’s very old and needs six burly friends and a forklift truck to move.

There is another way to acquire a lathe, and it’s one that [Sek Austria] demonstrates in the video below the break: build your own. It’s a fascinating demonstration of how machine tools evolved with each successive generation made by the last at every increasing precision. He achieves good-enough construction from a welded steel frame with little more than hand tools, and though his result is by no means a perfect lathe it does allow him to achieve the next level of machining precision. Off the shelf come a set of optical guide rails and linear bearings along with a chuck and tool holder, but the rest is all his. And the washing machine motor driving it is a touch of pure class, even though he is embarrassed enough to cover it with a glove for filming. Sometimes in our community, we adopt the sledgehammer to crack a nut methodology, using  CNC or similar techniques to fabricate things that can be made more speedily with less accomplished methods. We couldn’t help wincing at his hammering in the vice to create the lead screw nut bracket, though.

As homemade lathes go, this one is surprisingly conventional. Others have been fashioned from engine parts, or concrete.

Thanks [Xavier] for the tip.

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Homebrew Laptop Makes A Statement With A Steampunk Theme

Some may argue, but your choice of computing hardware says exactly zero about you, at least when you buy off the shelf. Your laptop or PC is only one of millions, and the chances of seeing someone with the exact same machine are pretty good. If you want to be different, you really need to build something yourself.

This homebrew steampunk laptop does a great job at standing out from the crowd. [Starhawk]’s build is an homage to the Steampunk genre, in a wooden case with brass bits and bobs adorning. The guts are based on an Intel motherboard, a bit dated but serviceable enough for the job. There’s a touch-capable LCD in the lid, and we absolutely love the look of the keyboard with its retro-style chrome and phenolic keycaps. Exposed USB cables run to and fro, and the braided jackets contribute to the old-timey look. The copier roller as a lid hinge is a nice touch too.

[Starhawk]’s build log is long and detailed, and covers the entire build. We’ve seen interesting builds from him before, like this junk-bin PC build for a friend in need. Looks like this one is for personal use, though, and we can’t blame him.

Protect Your Coffee Machine With A Filter Monitor

Coffee machines are delicate instruments, likely to be damaged by limescale. Thus they will often have a filter present, but filters have a limited capacity of water upon which they can be effective. At Make Bournemouth, they have approached the problem of when to change filters on their coffee machine by applying a bit of high-tech.

The water passing through the filter is monitored by a couple of DFRobot TDS modules, a flow meter, and a DS18B20 temperature sensor. The data from these is fed into an ESP32 dev board, which makes it available by a web interface for handy accessibility through a smartphone. It can then be used to work out how much of the filter’s capacity has been used, and indicate when a replacement is needed. All the code is available in a GitHub repository, and with luck now Bournemouth’s hackerspace will never see the coffee machine succumb to limescale.

Of course, this isn’t the first coffee maker water hack we’ve brought you. A year or two ago we told you about somebody making their pod coffee maker auto-fill too.