Remotely Navigate The Apocalypse In Mid-Century Style

One of the few positives to come of this pandemic is that the restrictive nature of scarcity can be a boon to creativity. Plus, the doom and gloom of it all is causing people to loosen up and do things they never felt free enough to do before in the demanding world of the before times.

For example, [ossum] makes R/C vehicles on commission to exacting standards, but took a break from perfection to build this remote control hellscape-faring van by the seat of his pants. It’s quite a resourceful build that combines pieces from previous projects with a few standard R/C parts and a handful of clever hacks.

The body is a test print of a 1957 Chevy Suburban van that [ossum] made for someone a few years back. It’s mounted on a scrap metal chassis and moves on printed tank treads designed for a different vehicle.

Since glass is a liability in an apocalypse (and because [ossum] doesn’t have a resin printer yet), the windows have fortified coverings that are printed, patina’d, and detailed with tiny rivet heads.

As far as hacks go, our favorite has to be the clothespin steering. [ossum] only had one electronic speed controller, so he used a servo to actuate a pair of spring-loaded clips, alternating between the two to move the tank-van. There’s a short video after the break that shows the rack and clothes-pinion steering, and it’s loaded up right after a brief demo of the van.

We realize that everyone’s apocalyptic needs are different, but there’s more than enough here to get you started. Don’t have access to enough R/C parts? Gear boxes and drive shafts can be printed, too.

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Scientific Calculator Whipped Up In Python

Scientific calculators were invaluable to most of us through high school and college, freeing us from the yoke of using tables to calculate logarithms and trigonometric functions. Once out in the real world, it’s no longer necessary to use an education board approved device to do your maths – you can do it all on your PC instead. For those keen to do so, [AstusRush]’s latest Python work may be just the ticket!

Far exceeding the capabilities of the usual calculator apps, there’s plenty of useful features under the hood. Particularly exciting is the LaTeX display, which shows equations in textbook-quality human-readable format. There’s also a graphing suite, and capability to handle matricies and vectors. LAN chat is implemented too, useful for working in teams.

It’s a useful tool that may suit better than a full-fat MATLAB install, particularly at the low, low price of free. This is one calculator that CASIO will have to keep their nose out of!

Original Xbox Gets The Steam Overhaul

When Microsoft released the original Xbox, it deviated from the design of traditional game consoles in that it used several off-the-shelf computer components. The fact that Microsoft would want their game console to resemble a PC isn’t particularly surprising in hindsight, but we doubt anyone at Redmond ever imagined folks like [Ryan Walmsley] would be cramming in full-fledged computers nearly 20 years later.

[Ryan] tells us he was looking for a way to play some older games from the early 2000s, and thought it was a good opportunity to put together a quiet set-top computer. The final hardware is more than capable of running older titles, and can even be used with Steam Link to stream newer content from his primary gaming computer.

Even with a diminutive Gigabyte GA-H81N Mini ITX motherboard, things are pretty tight inside the Xbox. Fairly tight wire management was required to prevent any airflow obstructions, especially since [Ryan] decided to put the system’s 80 watt laptop-style power supply inside the case. While this made the build a bit more complicated, it does make the final product a lot cleaner and makes it feel just that much more like a proper game console.

Benchmarks show the machine has decent performance, all things considered. [Ryan] says there are some potential upgrades down the line, but as with most gaming PC builds, cost is the limiting factor. Until he’s ready to spend the cash on revamping the internals, he says that streaming newer games over the the network has been working great.

For those looking for a slightly more modern alternative to this project, we’ve also seen a gaming PC shoehorned into an Xbox 360 with similarly impressive results.

Arduino Drums Bring The Noise, No MIDI Required

When looking through existing Arduino drum kit projects, [joekutz] noticed that most of them just used the microcontroller as an input for an existing MIDI device. That’s fine if you’re just looking to build your own hardware interface, but he wondered if it would be possible to forgo the MIDI device completely and actually generate the audio internally.

To be sure, this is a lot to ask of an 8-bit microcontroller, which is probably why nobody does it this way. But [joekutz] wasn’t giving up without a fight. One of the trickiest aspects was storing the samples: the 8-bit, 11.025 KHz mono WAV files ultimately had to be converted into C data arrays with a custom Python script.

Unfortunately, since the samples are essentially part of the drum’s source code, he says distributing the firmware is something of a problem. Though it sounds as though there might be a solution to this soon for those who want to play along at home.

But don’t get the impression that this project is just software. Check out the custom impact sensors lovingly crafted from popsicle sticks and metal cut from soda cans, which have been mated with sections cut out of old DVD-Rs. Actually getting the beats out of the Arduino required the addition of a R2R DAC circuit and a TDA2822 amplifier. In the video after the break, you can hear the results for yourself.

[joekutz] is no stranger to homebrew electronic instruments. When we last heard from him, he was turning a very pink keyboard into his own personal circuit bending playground.

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Social Distancing Headgear For The Futuristically Inclined

Those of you with an eye to classic cinema will remember 1985’s Back To The Future, and particularly its scientist character Dr. Emmett Brown. When the protagonist Marty McFly finds himself in 1955, on his first meeting with they younger Dr. Brown the latter is wearing an experimental helmet designed to read thoughts. It doesn’t work, but it’s an aesthetic we’re reminded of in [HĆ„kan Lidbo]’s Corona Hat, a social distancing tool that incorporates distance sensors into a piece of headgear.

The device is simple enough, half of a globe fitted with a set of car reversing sensors and the battery from an autonomous vacuum cleaner. It’s sprayed a bright orange, and worn on the head as he walks around town in the video below the break. It beeps any time something or somebody gets too close, and as far as we can see it’s effective in what it does. We are not so sure about the look though, to us as well as Emmett Brown it’s a little too reminiscent of the character Sheev in the 2005 Dukes of Hazzard movie who wore an armadillo’s armour as a hat. Perhaps more conventional headgear as a basis might gain it a few fewer askance looks.

This isn’t the first ultrasonic social distancing sensor we’ve seen. Probably the most noteworthy project in this arena though has to be the one with the high voltage that scares more with its bark than its bite.

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Inputs Of Interest: ErgoDox Post-Mortem

In the last installment, I told you I was building an open-source, split, ortholinear keyboard called the ErgoDox. I’m doing this because although I totally love my Kinesis Advantage, it has made me want to crack my knuckles and explore the world of split keyboards. Apparently there are several of you who want to do the same, as evidenced by your interest in the I’m Building an ErgoDox! project on IO. Thank you!

Well boys and girls, the dust has settled, the soldering iron has cooled, and the keycaps are in place. The ErgoDox is built and working. Now that it’s all said and done, let me tell you how it went. Spoiler alert: not great. But I got through it, and it keyboards just like it’s supposed to. I’m gonna lay this journey out as it happened, step by step, so you can live vicariously through my experience.

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An Open Source HDMI Implementation For FPGAs

With some clever hacks and fast IO work, it’s possible to get your average garden-variety microcontroller to output some form of video. Old analog standards like composite and VGA are just slow enough that it’s possible to bitbash one’s way to success. If you’re serious about video work, however, you’ll want something more capable. For those use cases, [purisame]’s got what you need – an open source HDMI implementation for FPGAs.

Unlike other free and open source projects in this space, [purisame] has eschewed simply outputting compatible DVI signals on the port. This implementation is pure HDMI 1.4b, enabling the extended capabilities this brings, like combined video and audio streams. Thus far, it’s been tested on Xilinx and Altera platforms, though it may be compatible with Lattice, too.

In addition to the code, [purisame] breaks down options for those looking at going into production with an HDMI device. Licencing the technology for sale can be a fraught area, so a lawyer is recommended if you’re heading to market. Oh, and funnily enough, if your really do want to do HDMI on an Arduino, there’s a shield for that, too. Natch!