Reverse Engineering Saves Weller With A Wonky LCD From The Trash Pile

There’s nothing more satisfying than finding a broken piece of gear in the trash and bringing it back to life. Satisfying, but also potentially more time-consuming — someone tossed it for a reason, after all. Figuring out what that reason is and finding a way to back it better is where the fun — and the peril — are.

Luckily, some pieces of equipment have a relatively short list of well-known failure modes, a fact that [Lauri Pirttiaho] relied on for this fix of an old Weller WD1 soldering station. The unit, sporting the familiar light blue Weller livery and more than a few scratches and dings, had an LCD that was DOA. Typically it’s the driver that’s the problem here, but [Lauri]’s diagnosis revealed it was the LCD module itself that was bad.

With OEM replacements being basically unobtainium at this point, the fix was to intercept the data heading from the driver to the old LCD and send it to a new, easily sourced 16×2 character LCD display. This began with an inspection of the display controller’s datasheet, and a bit of probing of the old display to find out which segments and backplanes map to which pins. A little bit of case modding allowed the new display to fit, the old controller chip was removed, and a PIC16 went into its place, in a tidy nest of Kapton tape and bodge wires. The PIC does the job of translating the original display, which had a fair number of custom icons and symbols, into sensible text-based equivalents and sending them to the 16×2 via I2C. The video below shows the hack in action; it honestly looks like it could have come from the factory like that.

The nice thing here is that [Lauri]’s fix applies to a whole range of Weller stations, so if you find one in the trash, you might be able to resuscitate it. Failing that, you could always roll your own Weller from (more-or-less) scratch.

Continue reading “Reverse Engineering Saves Weller With A Wonky LCD From The Trash Pile”

Laser Cut Clips Save A Lamp From The Trash

Ikea have been known for years as a purveyor of inexpensive  yet stylish homewares, but it’s fair to say that sometimes their affordability is reflected in their insubstantial construction. Such is the case with the Sjöpenna lamp, whose construction relies on rubber bands. On [Tony]’s lamp these bands degraded with age, causing it to fall apart. The solution? A set of cleverly-designed laser-cut clips to replace them.

The challenge to replacing a stretchy material with a rigid one is that it must have enough ability to bend without snapping as it is put in place. For this he selected PETG, with 0.04″ (about 1 mm thick) hitting the sweet spot. His photos demonstrate with some green tape added for visibility, how the clip bends backwards just far enough to fit over where the rubber band once located, and then flips back neatly to hold it all in place.

If you have a collapsing Ikea lamp then this will be just what you need, but this hack goes further than that. A frequent requirement for repairs is some kind of clip, because clips are always the first to break, This technique for laser cutting them is a handy one to remember, next time your design needs a springy bit of plastic.

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: December 25, 2022

Looks like it’s lights out on Mars for the InSight lander. The solar-powered lander’s last selfie, sent back in April, showed a thick layer of dust covering everything, including the large circular solar panels needed to power the craft. At the time, NASA warned that InSight would probably give up the ghost sometime before the end of the year, and it looks like InSight is sticking to that schedule. InSight sent back what might be its last picture recently, showing the SEIS seismic package deployed on the regolith alongside the failed HP3 “mole” experiment, which failed to burrow into the soil as planned. But one bad experiment does not a failed mission make — it was wildly successful at most everything it was sent there to do, including documenting the largest marsquake ever recorded. As it usually does, NASA has anthropomorphized InSight with bittersweet sentiments like “Don’t cry, I had a good life,” and we’re not quite sure how we feel about that. On the one hand, it kind of trivializes the engineering and scientific accomplishments of the mission, but then again, it seems to engage the public, so in the final rinse, it’s probably mostly harmless.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: December 25, 2022”

Not Can It Run DOOM, But Can DOOM Run It?

It’s the standard test for a hardware hack, half serious half in jest, “Can it run DOOM?”. The iconic early-90s shooter from id software has made an appearance on everything from toothbrushes to LEGO bricks, but nobody has yet posed the opposite question: Can DOOM run it?“. It’s one answered by [Danny Spencer], who has proved that it’s possible to perform computational tasks in the game by producing a working adding machine in a DOOM level.

If you’re familiar with the folks who build working computers within Minecraft, this is in a similar vein. Game elements are used to create logic elements, and from there more complex systems can be assembled. DOOM doesn’t have the in-game logic that Minecraft has, but by clever combination of monster behaviour with in-game actions involving rooms, buttons, and doors, it’s possible to create the simplest of building blocks, the NAND gate.

The video below the break shows the adder in action, first in operation (we like the monster-driven display!), and then a tour of the logic area with its rooms full of computational monsters. It’s important to note that this isn’t a computer, he hasn’t proved it as Turing complete, and that the maximum size of a DOOM level whatever it is will impose an upper limit on what can be done. But it does show that in theory at least a computer can be made in DOOM, and we’re sure people will continue this work.

Continue reading “Not Can It Run DOOM, But Can DOOM Run It?”

Self-Propelled Chainsaw Reduces Injuries

[Advoko] is an expert at milling logs into various sizes of boards. He typically uses nothing but a chainsaw to enable him to mill on-site without needing to bring any large or expensive equipment. The only problem is that sometimes he gets a little carried away running his mill non-stop until he has enough lumber for whatever project he is building, which has led to some repetitive strain injuries. To enable him to continue to run his mill, he’s created this self-propelled chainsaw jig.

The creation of the self-propelled chainsaw was a little serendipitous. [Advoko] needed to mill a tree which had fallen on a slope, and he couldn’t move the large trunk before starting to mill. To avoid fatigue while pulling his chainsaw upwards, he devised a system of rubber belts that would help pull the weight of the chainsaw up the hill. Noticing that if the chainsaw could have been operated downhill, it would essentially pull itself along the cut, he set about building a carriage for the mill to hold the chainsaw in place while it semi-autonomously milled lumber for him.

The chainsaw jig isn’t fully autonomous; [Advoko] still needs to start and stop the chainsaw and set up the jig. It does have a number of safety features to prevent damage to the jig, the chainsaw, and himself too, and over a number of iterations of this device he has perfected it to the point where he can start it on a cut and then do other tasks such as move boards or set up other logs for cutting while it is running, saving him both time and reducing his risk of other repetitive strain injuries. If you don’t fully trust the automatic chainsaw jig, take a look at this one which requires a little more human effort but still significantly reduces the strain of milling a large log.

Continue reading “Self-Propelled Chainsaw Reduces Injuries”

Virtualizing IPhoneOS 1.0

Virtualizing computers is nothing new. However, Apple devices always present challenges. Just ask anyone who has built a Hackintosh. At least computer hardware is usually exposed, but on phones, the challenge is even harder due to mysterious devices. [Martijn] managed to reverse engineer the iPod Touch 1G enough to run iPhoneOS 1.0 on it and has several blog posts explaining how he did it.

The emulator is the ubiquitous QEMU. He has emulation for the critical hardware, including the cryptographic modules, the hardware clock, and the timer, along with memory and display and interface hardware. However, Wifi, some USB, audio, the light sensor, and some graphics hardware are still absent. That doesn’t stop the OS from booting, however.

Continue reading “Virtualizing IPhoneOS 1.0”

Encoding NTSC With Your Hands Tied

Generally, when trying to implement some protocol, you are constrained by your hardware and time. But for someone like [EMMIR], that’s not enough. For example, NTSC-CRT is a video signal encoding/decoding simulator with no hardware acceleration, floating point math, or third-party libraries. Just basic C.

While NTSC has officially gone dark in America, people still make their own ATTiny-powered transmitters. NTSC is a bit of a strange standard and is sometimes referred to as never-twice-the-same color, but it does produce a distinct look.

That look is what [EMMIR] was going for. It encodes a message in a ppm format into NTSC and then back in ppm with some configurable noise. It can do this in real-time as an effect in [EMMIR’s] engine or on a rendered image via a CLI. It looks incredible, and there’s something very satisfying. There’s a video after the break showing off the effect. The code is pretty short and easy to read.

Continue reading “Encoding NTSC With Your Hands Tied”