Adding In-Game Reset To Classic Playstations

The first Playstation is quickly approaching three decades since its release, and while this might make some of us who were around for that event feel a little aged, the hardware inside these machines isn’t getting any younger either. Plenty of people are replacing the optical drive in the original hardware with an optical drive emulator as they begin to fail, and with that comes the option for several other modifications to the hardware like this in-game reset mod.

In-game reset is a function that allows a console to be reset via a controller button combination rather than pressing the console’s reset button directly. Especially for devices modified with either the XStation or PSIO drive emulators, this can be a handy feature to have as this method can more easily take the user back to the emulator menu as well as physically reset the device. The modification is a small PCB which attaches to the controller port and, unlike previous versions, only requires a single pin to be soldered to the Playstation’s control board.

If you’re someone who enjoys playing games on original hardware rather than a patchwork of emulators, this could be an excellent addition to your PS1 that still allows most of the original feel and experience the PS1 offered. The drive emulator can greatly expand the range of the hardware as well, much like this NES cartridge which similarly expands the capabilities of that much older system.

Algae Gene Gives Blind Man Some Light-Based Sight

What are single-celled organisms good for, you may wonder? Science has found a wonderful new use for one of them — restoring partial sight to people with inherited forms of blindness. More specifically, they took a gene from algae that responds to light and moves toward it in order to replace dead or defective photo-receptor cells that lie between the human pupil and the optic nerve.

When light enters the eye, it triggers photo-receptor cells that in turn send signals to nerve cells called ganglions. These add information about motion and send the complete picture to the brain via the optic nerve. The researchers basically hacked the ganglion cells and turned them into photo-receptors. First they used a virus to get light-sensing molecules called chrimson into one of the retinas of the lone volunteer they’d managed to train before the pandemic. He’d been wearing the goggles out on walks and told them he could see the stripes of the crosswalk.

They were able to get him into the lab in summer 2020, where he donned a pair of goggles that register light changes and send amber light into the eye whenever that happens. He also wore a cap full of electrodes so the researchers could see what parts of his brain lit up when the goggles do their thing. With the goggles on and ready to fire, the man was able to distinguish whether a black cup was in front of him, and was even able to count multiple cups correctly most of the time. Although this is not a full restoration of vision, it’s an excellent development in that direction, and we’re excited to see where it goes.

In the future, the researchers hope to slim down the goggles into something more fashionable. Combine them with these camera-enabled shoes, and accessibility goes way up.

Thanks for the tip, [foamyguy]!

Disposable Rocket Stove Keeps You Fueled In The Wild

Don’t know about you, but we can’t start the day without coffee and a shower. If you were to drag us on some overnight trip into the wilderness, we could probably forego the shower for a day, but we will be a grumpy trail mate without some kind coffee, even instant.

Yes, if you were to get us on an overnight outdoor adventure, we would insist on bringing along a couple of these little disposable, self-destructing rocket stoves, if for no other reason than that we can have some coffee without having to forage for a bunch of firewood and build a whole regular-sized campfire. Don’t worry — we’ll share the water because there’s plenty of time built in. Per [smogdog], these Swedish torches will boil water in 20 minutes and burn for 60 — that’s enough time to make a coffee, a bowl of soup, and toast a single marshmallow before the fire consumes the scrap wood.

We love the use of bike chain as a burner to raise up the pot for fire ventilation. But our favorite bit has to be the dual-purpose packaging. It’s nice-looking, it’s informative, and it’s paper, so you can use it as a fire starter. Failing that, [smogdog] has a backup fire starter system — rubbing alcohol in a small spray bottle. Unwrap a protein bar and check out the demo video after the break.

Tired of the same old, boring trail foods? How about flat-pack pasta that morphs into fun shapes when you boil it?

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Arduboy On The Big Screen

We’re big fans of the Arduboy here at Hackaday, but we’ll admit its tiny screen isn’t exactly ideal for long gaming sessions. There are some DIY builds of the open source handheld that use a larger SPI OLED display, though you’re relatively limited on what kind of changes can be made to the hardware before the games start balking. But as [Nick Bild] shows with his Arduboy home console, hacking the core system library opens up a lot of interesting possibilities.

Games written for the Arduboy make use of a common library that handles all the low-level hardware stuff, which includes a display() function to push the graphical data out to an SPI-connected OLED display. What [Nick] has done is re-write that function to instead output to a custom VGA generator running on the TinyFPGA BX. He had to delete support for the Arduboy’s RGB LEDs because he needed the extra pins, but that shouldn’t cause much of a problem in terms of software support.

This does mean that games need to be recompiled against the modified library to work on his hardware, but as the vast majority of Arduboy software is open source anyway, that’s not much of a problem. We particularly like the Super Game Boy style border  you get around the display at no extra cost.

At this point the hardware looks less like a console and more like a breadboard filled with jumpers, so we’re interested in seeing this project taken to its logical conclusion. A custom PCB, enclosure, and possibly even support for using the original NES controllers would turn this into proper system worthy of any hacker’s game room. You could even put the games on custom cartridges if you wanted, though a flash chip that holds the system’s entire library would be quite a bit more convenient.

Anti-Gravity, Time Travel, And Teleportation: Dr. Hamming Gives Advice

You may not know the name [Richard Hamming], but you definitely use some of his work. While working for Bell Labs, he developed Hamming codes — the parent of a class of codes that detect, and sometimes correct, errors in everything from error-correcting memory to hard drives. He also worked on the Manhattan Project and was a lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate school.

Turns out [Hamming] has an entire class from the 1990s on YouTube and if you are interested in coding theory or several other topics, you could do worse than watch some of them. However, those videos aren’t what attracted me to the lectures. As the last lecture of his course, [Hamming] used to give a talk called “You and Your Research” and you can see one of the times he delivered it in the video below. You might think that it won’t apply to you because you aren’t a professional academic or researcher, but don’t be too quick to judge.

Turns out, [Hamming’s] advice — even by his own admission — is pretty general purpose for your career or even your life. His premise: As far as we know, you have one life to live, so why shouldn’t it be a worthwhile one by your definition of worthwhile.

Along the way, he has an odd combination of personal philosophy, advice for approaching technical problems, and survival skills for working with others. If you are in the field, you’ll probably recognize at least some of the names he drops and you’ll find some of this technical advice useful. But even if you aren’t, you’ll come away with something. Some of it seems like common sense, but it is different, somehow, to hear it spoken out loud. For example:

If you don’t work on important problems, it’s not likely that you’ll do important work.

One piece of technical advice? Don’t waste time working on problems you have no way to attack. He points out that anti-gravity, time travel, and teleportation would be very lucrative. But why work on them when there appears to be no way to even remotely accomplish them today. Well, at least when he said that. There has been a little progress on a form of teleportation, but that wasn’t what he was talking about anyway.

While not a hack in the traditional sense, examining your life, career, and technical research to improve your own effectiveness is something to take seriously. We were hoping he would throw in a joke about error-correcting your career, but unless we blinked, no such luck.

Hamming’s work on block codes was followed about ten years later by the Reed-Solomon code which is found nearly everywhere now. Hamming is also associated with the term “hamming distance,” something we talked about when discussing Gray code.

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Satellite Communications Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, June 2 at noon Pacific for the Satellite Comms Hack Chat with Paul Marsh!

All things considered, space isn’t that far away; you could drive the equivalent distance in an hour or two, with time for a couple of stops on the way. Of course, getting to space isn’t as simple as a Sunday drive, and yet despite the expense and trouble, we’ve still managed to fill our little corner of the solar system with an astonishing number of satellites.

Almost every single one of the spacecraft we’ve put in orbit represents a huge capital investment, both in terms of building something that can withstand the extreme environment up there and as far as the expense involved in getting it there. So once it gets there, it needs to start producing results, and for the most part that means sending some kind of messages back down to Earth. And those communications can be tempting indeed to hardware hackers.

Monitoring messages from on high is what the satcom radio hobby is all about. Learning how to do it properly can be tricky, though. What frequencies does one use? What are the modulation schemes? What kind of antennas would someone need? And what about tracking these birds as they whizz overhead?

To answer these questions and more, Paul Marsh from UHF-Satcom will stop by the Hack Chat. Paul has been interested in satellites since the early 1990s and coupled with his background in infosec and pentesting, he has uncovered a lot about the ins and outs of satellite snooping. Stop by the Hack Chat and learn how to sniff in on what’s going on upstairs.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, June 2 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Trippy Tripteron Kinematics Brainteaser

[JK Lee] has been experimenting with a monorail tripteron motion control system (video, embedded below) and trying to improve performance with varying tweaks to the design and with varying degrees of success. But [JK] is enjoying this project — he was inspired by an idea that maker [Nicholas Seward] proposed — building a tripteron on two rails (video), or even building one on a single rail (video). He is making good progress, most recently working on solving a vertical bounce issue. He is focusing on the middle arm, as this arm carries most of the weight. You can see a brief video explanation of the kinematics of the monorail tripteron that [JK] made (he warns us that English is not his native language, so focus on the equations and diagrams and not the grammar).

If you’re not familiar with the tripteron, it was conceived, along with the quadrupteron, at the Robotics Laboratory at Université Laval in Canada and patented by their researchers back in 2004. We wrote about an early implementation of a tripteron by [Apsu] back in 2016. These recent experiments, reducing the mechanism down to a single or double rail, are interesting.

Other than cool projects for makers like [Nicholas] and [JK] who enjoy tinkering, are there any applications of tripterons and/or quatrupterons in the real world? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks to [Littlejohn] for sending in the tip.

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