Having grown up with 386-level systems during the early 90s like so many of us, [Alexandru Groza] experienced an intense longing to experience the nostalgia of these computer systems from an interesting angle: by building his own 80386DX-based single board computer. Courtesy of the 16-bit ISA form factor, the entire system fits into a 16-bit ISA backplane which then provides power and expansion slots for further functionality beyond what is integrated on the SBMC card.
Having started the project in 2019, it is now in the home stretch towards completion. Featuring an 80386DX and 80387DX FPU alongside 128 kB of cache and a grand total of 32 MB of RAM, an OPTi chipset was used to connect with the rest of the system alongside the standard 8042-class PS/2 keyboard and mouse controller. A large part of the fun of assembling such a system is that while the parts themselves are easy enough to obtain, finding datasheets is hard to impossible for some components.
Undeterred, some reverse-engineering of signaling on functional mainboards was sufficient to fill in the missing details. Helpfully, [Alexandru] provides the full schematics and BOM of the resulting board and takes us along with bootstrapping the system after obtaining the PCBs and components. After an initial facepalm moment due to an incorrectly inserted (and subsequently very dead) CPU and boot issues, ultimately [Alexandru] gave up on the v1.6 revision of the board
Fortunately the v1.8 revision with a logic analyzer led to a number of discoveries that has led to the system mostly working, minus what appears to be DMA-related issues. Even so, it is a remarkable achievement that demonstrates the complexity of these old systems.
One boring evening, [XenRE] was looking through service menus on their LG Smart TV (Russian, Google Translate), such menus accessible through use of undocumented IR remote codes. In other words, a fairly regular evening. They noticed an “Access USB Status” entry and thought the “Access USB” part looked peculiar. A few service manuals hinted that there’s a service mode you could access with an adapter made out of two back-to-back PL2303 USB-UART adapters – a few female-female jumper wires later, serial prompt greeted our hacker, and entering ‘debug’ into the prompt responded with some text, among it, “Access USB is NOT opened!!!”.
[XenRE] found the WebOS firmware for the TV online, encrypted and compressed into a proprietary LG
.epk format, but liberated with an open-source tool. A few modules referred to AccessUSB there, and one detour into investigating and explaining WebOS USB vendor lock-in implementation later, they programmed an STM32 with the same VID and PID as the mythical AccessUSB device found in relevant WebOS modules decompiled with IDA. By this point, AccessUSB could safely be assumed to be a service mode dongle. The TV didn’t quite start beeping in a different pattern as we’d expect in a sci-fi movie, but it did notify about a “new USB device” – and started asking for a 6-symbol service menu password instead of a 4-symbol one. Continue reading “What’s That AccessUSB Menu In My LG SmartTV?”
The sun is a great source of energy, delivering in the realm of 1000 watts per square meter on a nice clear day. [Jasper Sikken] has developed many projects that take advantage of this power over the years, and has just completed his latest solar harvesting module for powering microcontroller projects.
The concept is simple. A small solar panel is used to charge up a lithium ion capacitor (LIC), which can then be used to power other projects. We first saw this project last year, when it was one of the winners of Hackaday’s 2021 Earth Day contest. Back then, it was only capable of dishing out 80 mA at 2.2V.
However, the latest version ups the ante considerably, delivering up to 400 mA at 3.3V. This opens up new possibilities, allowing the module to power projects using technologies like Bluetooth, WiFi and LTE that require more current to operate. It relies on a giant 250 F capacitor to store energy, and a AEM10941 solar energy harvesting chip to get the most energy possible out of a panel using Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT).
It’s a useful thing to have for projects that you’d like to run off the sun, and you can score one off Tindie if you don’t want to build your own. We’ve seen [Jasper] pull off other neat solar-powered projects before, too. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize 2022: Solar Harvesting Is Better With Big Capacitors”
DYMO 550 series printer marketing blurb says “The DYMO® LabelWriter® 550 Turbo label printer comes with unique Automatic Label Recognition™”, which, once translated from marketing-ese, means “this printer has DRM in its goshdarn thermal stickers”. Yes, DRM in the stickers that you typically buy in generic rolls. [FREEPDK] didn’t like that, either, and documents a #FreeDMO device to rid us of yet another consumer freedom limitation, the true hacker way.
The generic BluePill board and two resistors are all you need, and a few extra cables make the install clean and reversible – you could definitely solder to the DYMO printer’s PCBs if you needed, too. Essentially, you intercept the RFID reader connections, where the BluePill acts as an I2C peripheral and a controller at the same time, forwarding the data from an RFID reader and modifying it – but it can also absolutely emulate a predetermined label and skip the reader altogether. If you can benefit from this project’s discoveries, you should also take a bit of your time and, with help of your Android NFC-enabled phone, share your cartridge data in a separate repository to make thwarting future DRM improvements easier for all of us. Continue reading “#FreeDMO Gets Rid Of DYMO Label Printer DRM”
Not too many people build their own microphones, and those who do usually build them out of materials like plastic and metal. [Frank Olson] not only loves to make microphones, but he’s also got a thing about making them from wood, with some pretty stunning results.
[Frank]’s latest build is a sorta-kinda replica of the RCA BK-5, a classic of mid-century design. Both the original and [Frank]’s homage are ribbon microphones, in which a thin strip of corrugated metal suspended between the poles of magnets acts as a transducer. But the similarities end there, as [Frank] uses stacked layers of walnut veneer as the frame of his ribbon motor. The wood pieces are cut with a vinyl cutter, stacked up, and glued into a monolithic structure using lots of cyanoacrylate glue. The video below makes it seem easy, but we can imagine getting everything stacked neatly and lined up correctly is a chore, especially when dealing with neodymium magnets. Cutting and corrugating the aluminum foil ribbon is no mean feat either, nor is properly tensioning it and making a solid electrical contact.
The ribbon motor is suspended in a case made of yet more wood, all of which contributes to a warm, rich sound. The voice-over for the whole video below was recorded on a pair of these mics, and we think it sounds just as good as [Frank]’s earlier wooden Model 44 build. He says he has more designs in the works, and we’re looking forward to hearing them, too. Continue reading “A New Wrinkle On Wooden Ribbon Microphones”
Most stories in the history of computing took place in one of a small number of places. The wartime code-breaking effort in Bletchley Park led to Colossus, the first programmable electronic computer. Various university campuses in Britain and the US were home to first-generation computers like ENIAC, EDVAC and the Manchester Baby in the late 1940s. Silicon Valley then stole the limelight with the home computer revolution in the 1970s. Naturally, all of these places have their museums celebrating their local achievements, but the world’s largest computer museum is not found in Silicon Valley or on the campus of a famous university. Instead, you have to travel to a small German town called Paderborn, which houses the Heinz Nixdorf Museumsforum, or HNF.
Heinz Nixdorf might not be a household name in America like Jack Tramiel or Steve Jobs, but he was one of Europe’s great computer pioneers. Starting with vacuum tube based machines in 1952, Nixdorf gradually expanded his company into one of the largest computer manufacturers of the 1970s. His products were especially popular among large businesses in the financial sector, such as banks and insurance companies. By the late 1980s however, sales went downhill and the company was eventually acquired by Siemens. Today, the Nixdorf name lives on as part of Diebold-Nixdorf, a major producer of ATMs and checkout machines, reflecting the original company’s focus on the financial industry.
The museum’s roots lie in Heinz Nixdorf’s personal collection of typewriters and other office equipment. Although he already envisioned starting a museum dedicated to computing, his sudden death in 1986 put a stop to that. A few of his employees kept the plan alive however, and in 1996 the HNF was opened in Paderborn. Today the museum is run by a non-profit foundation that aims to provide education in information and communication technology to a wide audience.
The collection is housed in the former worldwide headquarters of Nixdorf Computer AG, a rather imposing 1970s office building covered in gold-tinted windows. Inside,]] you’re reminded of its former life as an office building through its compact layout and low ceilings. It does give the museum a bit of a cosy feel, unlike, say, the cavernous halls of London’s Science Museum, but don’t let this fool you: at 6,000 m2, the main exhibition area is about twice as large as that of Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum. Continue reading “Visit The World’s Largest Computer Museum: The Heinz Nixdorf”
The simple wire-loop game is often built as a fun project to teach students about electronics. [W&M Levsha] built their own version, showing off their fine crafting and machining skills and branding it as a sobriety test with the playful name “Breathalyzer.”
The mechanics of the game are quite simple. The player must guide a metal ring around the puzzle without touching it. A buzzer and light is used to indicate to the player when they’ve failed, with the project powered from a small lithium-polymer pouch cell charged via a USB port.
Where this build really shines is in the presentation, with [W&M Levsha] showing they really have what it takes to do great work in brass. Rather than a simple bent wire, we’re instead treated to a delicately-formed beam of rectangular cross-section hewn out of a single piece of metal. It’s paired with a nicely-crafted wand with a knurled handle.
We’ve seen similar displays of their exquisite craft before, too – such as with a bespoke toothbrush and a powder-powered lighter. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Fancy Wire Loop Game Is A Beauty In Brass”