Convert Your Mouse Into A Paddle Controller

Early game consoles had a wide and interesting variety of controllers, many of which fell by the wayside as consoles evolved. One of these is the Atari 2600 paddle controller, which was the preferred interface for playing games like Kaboom!, Tempest, and Pong.  While it is possible to play these games with a mouse, [Retro Gaming I Guess] wanted to do it the historically correct way, so he created a simple hack to convert an optical mouse into a paddle controller.

The main idea Is to attach a rotary knob to the bottom of the mouse, with the optical sensor located just inside the edge of the knob. To the optical sensor, it appears that the bottom surface of the knob is moving in a straight line, so the mouse pointer will move in a straight line as the knob rotates. The 3D printed knob (or bottle cap) is magnetically attached to the bottom of the mouse, by gluing one magnet into the center of the knob, and the other on the inside of the mouse under the PCB. This allows for quick conversion back to a normal mouse. You could off course sacrifice an old mouse to the cause to create a dedicated paddle controller, and make it closer to the original by adding end stops and a spring return.

We really like the simplicity of this hack, and we’re sure our readers can come up with a few other use cases for it in the comments below. You can also approach old Atari games from the opposite end, like adding a machine vision powered laser blaster. While many may think the Atari 2600 was the first gaming console, that honor actually goes to the Magnavox Odyssey, which was the start the of the multi-billion dollar home gaming industry we know today.

Iron Becomes SMD Hot Plate

Few things have changed our workshops more than surface mount components. In 1980 it would have been strange to see a hobby bench with a microscope, hot air equipment, tweezers, and all the other accouterments that are a necessity today. [Electronoobs] wanted a reflow hot plate and decided that he could repurpose a consumer laundry iron for the job. You can see the results in the video below.

Opening the iron revealed surprisingly simple circuitry, so the build has some additional parts along with a controller and an LCD, of course. The power requirement for the heating element is significant — 13 amps — so the plate uses a solid state relay to turn things on and off.

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Hackaday Links: July 4, 2021

With rescue and recovery efforts at the horrific condo collapse in Florida this week still underway, we noted with interest some of the technology being employed on the site. Chief among these was a contribution of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), whose secretive Unit 9900 unveiled a 3D imaging system to help locate victims trapped in the rubble. The pictures look very much like the 3D “extrusions” that show up on Google Maps when you zoom into a satellite view and change the angle, but they were obviously built up from very recent aerial or satellite photos that show the damage to the building. The idea is to map where parts of the building — and unfortunately, the building’s occupants — ended up in the rubble pile, allowing responders to concentrate their efforts on the areas most likely to hold victims. The technology, which was developed for precision targeting of military targets, has apparently already located several voids in the debris that weren’t obvious to rescue teams. Here’s hoping that the system pays off, and that we get to learn a little about how it works.

Radio enthusiasts, take note: your hobby may just run you afoul of authorities if you’re not careful. That seems to be the case for one Stanislav Stetsenko, a resident of Crimea who was arrested on suspicion of treason this week. Video of the arrest was posted which shows the equipment Stetsenko allegedly used to track Russian military aircraft on behalf of Ukraine: several SDR dongles, a very dusty laptop running Airspy SDR#, an ICOM IC-R6 portable communications receiver, and various maps and charts. In short, it pretty much looks like what I can see on my own desk right now. We know little of the politics around this, but it does give one pause to consider how non-technical people view those with technical hobbies.

If you could choose a superpower to suddenly have, it really would take some careful consideration. Sure, it would be handy to shoot spider webs or burst into flames, but the whole idea of some kind of goo shooting out of your wrists seems gross, and what a nuisance to have to keep buying new clothes after every burn. Maybe just teaching yourself a new sense, like echolocation, would be a better place to start. And as it turns out, it’s not only possible for humans to echolocate, but it’s actually not that hard to learn. Researchers used a group of blind and sighted people for the test, ranging in age from 21 to 79 years, and put them through a 10-week training program to learn click-based echolocation. After getting the basics of making the clicks and listening for the returns in an anechoic chamber, participants ran through a series of tasks, like size and orientation discrimination of objects, and virtual navigation. The newly minted echolocators were also allowed out into the real world to test their skills. Three months after the study, the blind participants had mostly retained their new skill, and most of them were still using it and reported that it had improved their quality of life.

As with everything else he’s involved with, Elon Musk has drawn a lot of criticism for his Starlink satellite-based internet service. The growing constellation of satellites bothers astronomers, terrestrial ISPs are worried the service will kill their business model, and the beta version of the Starlink dish has been shown to be flakey in the summer heat. But it’s on equipment cost where Musk has taken the most flak, which seems unfair as the teardowns we’ve seen clearly show that the phased-array antenna in the Starlink dish is being sold for less than it costs to build. But still, Musk is assuring the world that Starlink home terminals will get down in the $250 to $300 range soon, and that the system could have 500,000 users within a year. There were a couple of other interesting insights, such as where Musk sees Starlink relative to 5G, and how he’s positioning Starlink to provide backhaul services to cellular companies.

Well, this is embarrassing. Last week, we mentioned that certain unlucky users of an obsolete but still popular NAS device found that their data had disappeared, apparently due to malefactors accessing the device over the internet and forcing a factory reset. Since this seems like something that should require entering a password, someone took a look at the PHP script for the factory restore function and found that a developer had commented out the very lines that would have performed the authentication:

    function get($urlPath, $queryParams=null, $ouputFormat='xml'){
//        if(!authenticateAsOwner($queryParams))
//        {
//            header("HTTP/1.0 401 Unauthorized");
//            return;
//        }

It’s not clear when the PHP script was updated, but support for MyBook Live was dropped in 2015, so this could have been a really old change. Still, it was all the hacker needed to get in and wreak havoc; interestingly, the latest attack may be a reaction to a three-year-old exploit that turned many of these devices into a botnet. Could this be a case of hacker vs. hacker?

Hacking A Thermal Imager For Dual-use Of The Thermal Sensor

Sometimes a device doesn’t do quite what one needs, and in those cases a bit of tampering might do the trick. That’s what led to being able to record video from a HTI HT-A1 thermal imager despite the device not actually supporting that function, thanks to careful investigation and warranty violation.

Plugging in a custom USB cable allows a mobile phone app to access the thermal sensor, while the host device itself remains ignorant.

We’ve seen a teardown of the HT-A1 in the past, and it turns out that Seek — the manufacturer for the actual thermal sensor inside the device — released an OEM development kit and mobile phone app for their modules. Could this mean that the raw sensor module in the HT-A1 could be accessed via the developer kit app? One hacked together USB cable later showed that the answer is yes! Not only does the app allow viewing thermal imagery, but it makes it possible to do things like record video (a function the HT-A1 itself does not support.)

But even if the HT-A1 doesn’t allow recording, as a handheld thermal sensor with a screen it’s still pretty useful in its own way and it would be shame to gut the unit just for a raw sensor module. The best solution ended up being to put the sensor back into the HT-A1, and install some switching circuitry to disconnect the sensor from the HT-A1’s CPU and divert its data to the USB plug on demand. This means the HT-A1 can be used normally, but by plugging in a custom-made cable while the unit is off, the thermal sensor can be accessed by the mobile phone app instead. Best of both worlds. You can see a brief celebratory thermal cat video embedded below, proving it works.

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Machine Extrudes Filament

We’ve seen a lot of homebrew filament extruders, but [Stefan] at CNC Kitchen shows off a commercial desktop filament extruder in his latest video, which you can see below. The 3DEVO extruder is pretty slick but at around $7,000-$8,000 we probably won’t rush out and buy one. We might, though, get some ideas from it for our next attempt to build something similar.

In concept, any machine that creates filament is pretty straightforward. Melt pellets and push them out of a nozzle. Cool the filament and wind it up. Easy, right? But, of course, the problems are all in the details. Die swell, for example, means you can’t just assume the nozzle’s hole size will give you the right size filament. Continue reading “Machine Extrudes Filament”

Vintage Remote Control Gets Bluetooth Upgrade

This swanky Magnavox remote is old enough to predate the use of infrared, and actually relies on ultrasound to communicate with the television. It’s a neat conversation starter, but not terribly useful today. Which is why [Chad Lawson] decided to gut the original electronics and replace it with a Adafruit Feather 32u4 Bluefruit LE that can actually talk to modern devices.

We know, we know. Some in the audience will¬† probably take offense to such a cool gadget being unceremoniously torn apart, but to be fair, [Chad] does say he has a second one that will remain in its original state. Plus a quick check on eBay shows these old remotes don’t seem to be particularly rare or valuable. In fact, after some browsing through the recently concluded auctions, we’re fairly sure he paid $27 USD for both of these remotes.

Anyway, [Chad] found that a piece of perfboard in his collection just happened to be nearly the same size as the PCB from the remote, which made the rest of the conversion pretty straightforward. He simply had to mount tactile switches on one side of the perfboard so the remote’s original buttons would hit them when pressed, and then wire those to the Adafruit on the other side. We know there’s a 3.7 V 500 mAh pouch battery in there someplace as well, though it’s not immediately clear where he hid it in the images.

The code [Chad] came up with tells the Adafruit to mimic a Bluetooth Human Interface Device (HID) and send standard key codes to whatever device pairs with it. That makes it easy to use as a media remote on the computer, for example. We’ve seen something similar done with the ESP32, if you’ve already got one in the parts bin and are looking to revamp a remote control of your own.

At the end of the write-up, [Chad] mentions he may try developing an ultrasonic receiver that can pick up the signals from the unmodified remote control. That would be a nice way to bring this whole thing full circle, and should appease even the most hardcore vintage remote control aficionados.

This Arduino Isn’t Color Blind

You can sense a lot of things with the right sensor, and [Nikhil Nailwal] is here to show us how to sense colors using a TCS230. The project is a simple demo. It displays the color and lights up an LED to correspond to the detected color.

If you haven’t seen the TCS230 before, it is a chip with an array of photosensors, for different light wavelengths. The controlling chip — an Arduino, in this case — can read the intensity of the selected color.

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