When the Game Boy Advance came on the scene in 2001, it was a pretty big deal. The 32-bit handheld represented the single biggest upgrade the iconic Game Boy line had ever received, not only in terms of raw processing power, but overall design. It would set the state-of-the-art in portable gaming for years, and Nintendo was eager to get developers on board.
Which could explain why the official GBA development kit, recently shown off by [Hard4Games], looks like something that was built in a hackerspace. It’s pretty common for console development systems to look more like boxy 1990s computers than the sleek injection molded units that eventually take up residence under your television, but they don’t often come in the form of a bare PCB. It seems that Nintendo was in such a rush to get an early version of their latest handheld’s guts out to developers that they couldn’t even take the time to get a sheet metal case stamped out for it.
All of the principle parts of the final GBA are here, and as demonstrated in the video after the break, the board even plays commercially released games. Though [Hard4Games] did find that some titles from the later part of the handheld’s life had unusual graphical glitches; hinting that there are likely some low-level differences that don’t manifest themselves unless the developer was really digging deep to squeeze out all the performance they could.
The board also lacks support for Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, though this is not wholly surprising. When an older game was inserted into a GBA, the cartridge would physically depress a switch that enabled a special 8080-based coprocessor that existed solely for backwards compatibility. Adding that hardware to a development board would have made it more expensive and added no practical benefit. That said, [Hard4Games] does point out that there appears to be a unpopulated area of the board where the backwards compatibility switch could have been mounted.
The mini-mobile phone [Jim Yang] got his hands on deserves a bit of background. Palm had the concept of a companion mobile phone, and this manifested itself in late 2018 as a cute palm-sized smartphone that one could carry around when one didn’t wish to haul along their “real” phone. This smaller and simpler phone was originally intended to share the same mobile number as one’s primary phone (though it has since been made able to work as a standalone device.)
Palm’s companion phone idea hasn’t really caught on in a commercial sense, but in a way, [Jim] is validating the concept. After getting it up and running, he attached it to his bike with a custom mount to enjoy the benefits of having a mobile phone along without actually risking his primary device.
It’s often said that necessity breeds creativity, and during a global pandemic such words have proved truer than ever. Realising the common doorbell could be a potential surface transmission point for coronavirus, [CasperHuang] whipped up a quick build.
The build eschews the typical pushbutton we’re all familiar with. Instead, it relies on an ultrasonic distance sensor to detect a hand (or foot) waved in front of the door. An Arduino Leonardo runs the show, sounding a buzzer when the ultrasonic sensor is triggered. In order to avoid modifying the apartment door, the build is housed in a pair of cardboard boxes, taped to the base of the door, with wires passing underneath.
It’s a tidy way to handle contactless deliveries. We imagine little touches like this may become far more common in future design, as the world learns lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. Every little bit helps, after all. Video after the break.
When we talk about CNC machines, we almost invariably mean a computer controlled router. Naturally you can do other forms of automated cutting, say using a laser or a water jet, but what about adding computer control to other types of saws? [Andrew Consroe] recently put together a postmortem video about this experimental CNC scroll saw. While he never quite got it working reliably, we think his approach is absolutely fascinating and hope this isn’t the last we see of the idea.
Those who’ve used a scroll saw in the past might immediately see the challenge of this build: while a router bit or laser beam can cut in any direction, a scroll saw blade can only cut in one. If you tried to make a sharp turn on a scroll saw, you’ll just snap the fragile blade right off. To work around this limitation, [Andrew] came up with the brilliant rotary table that can be seen in the video after the break.
By combining motion of the gantry with table rotation, he’s able to keep the blade from ever making too tight a turn. Or at least, that’s the theory. While the machine works well enough with a marker mounted in place of the blade, [Andrew] says he never got it to the point it could reliably make cuts. It sounds like positioning errors would compound until the machine ended up moving the work piece in such a way that would snap the blade. Still, the concept definitely works; towards the end of the video he shows off a couple of pieces that were successfully cut on his machine before it threw the blade.
As the world settles into this pandemic, some things are still difficult to mentally reckon, such as the day of the week. We featured a printed day clock a few months ago that used a large pointer to provide this basic psyche-grounding information. In the years since then, [Jeff Thieleke] whipped up a feature-rich remix that adds indoor air quality readings and a lot more.
Like [phreakmonkey]’s original day tripper, an ESP32 takes care of figuring out what day it is and moves a 9 g servo accordingly. [Jeff] wanted a little more visual action, so the pointer moves a tad bit every hour. A temperature/humidity sensor and a separate CO₂ sensor output their readings to an LCD screen mounted under the pointer. Since [Jeff] is keeping this across the basement workshop from the bench, the data is also available from a web server running on the ESP32 via XML and JSON, and the day clock can get OTA updates.
Long ago, before smartphones were ubiquitous and children in restaurants were quieted with awful games on iPads, there was a beautiful moment. A moment in which the end user could purchase, at a bargain price, an x86 computer in a compact, portable shell. In 2007, the netbook was born, and took the world by storm – only to suddenly vanish a few years later. What exactly was it that made netbooks so great, and where did they go?
A Beautiful Combination
The first machine to kick off the craze was the Asus EEE PC 701, inspired by the One Laptop Per Child project. Packing a 700Mhz Celeron processor, a small 7″ LCD screen, and a 4 GB SSD, it was available with Linux or Windows XP installed from the factory. With this model, Asus seemed to find a market that Toshiba never quite hit with their Libretto machines a decade earlier. The advent of the wireless network and an ever-more exciting Internet suddenly made a tiny, toteable laptop attractive, whereas previously it would have just been a painful machine to do work on. The name “netbook” was no accident, highlighting the popular use case — a lightweight, portable machine that’s perfect for web browsing and casual tasks.
But the netbook was more than the sum of its parts. Battery life was in excess of 3 hours, and the CPU was a full-fat x86 processor. This wasn’t a machine that required users to run special cut-down software or compromise on usage. Anything you could run on an average, low-spec PC, you could run on this, too. USB and VGA out were available, along with WiFi, so presentations were easy and getting files on and off was a cinch. It bears remembering, too, that back in the Windows XP days, it was easy to share files across a network without clicking through 7 different permissions tabs and typing in your password 19 times.
As wonderful as mechanical keyboards are, most of the pre-fab and group buy models out there have zero media controls. If you want rotary encoders and OLED screens to show what function layer you’re working in, you’ll probably have to build your own keyboard from the ground up.
Hackaday alum [Cameron Coward] got around this problem by building an electromechanical buddy for his keyboard that works as a volume control. Now that we don’t rely on them to make phone calls, rotary dials are a fun throwback to a time that seems simpler based on its robust and rudimentary technology. This one is from a lovely burnt orange Bell Trimline phone, which was peak rotary dial and one of the idea’s last gasps before tone dialing took over completely.
Operationally speaking, [Cameron] is reading in the dial’s pulses with an Arduino Nano and using a Python script to monitor the serial connection and translate the pulses to volume control. We like that this is isn’t a volume knob in the traditional sense — it’s a game of percentages. Dialing ‘2’ gives 20% volume across all programs, and ‘8’ raises it to 80% of maximum. Need to mute? Just dial ‘0’, and you’ll begin to understand why people wanted to move on from rotary dialing. It won’t take that long, but it’s not instant. Check out the demo after the break.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a rotary dial used to control volume, but that’s one of the minor selling points of this rotary cell phone.