Lo-Fi Tchaikovsky

[Kevin] over at Simple DIY ElectroMusic Projects recently upgraded his Lo-Fi Orchestra. To celebrate his 400th blog post, he programmed it to play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Two Arduino Nanos, four Arduino Unos, four Raspberry Pi Picos, and one Raspberry Pi have joined the Lo-Fi Orchestra this year, conducted by a new Pico MIDI Splitter. Changes were made in every section of the orchestra except percussion. We are delighted that the Pringles tom and plastic tub bass drums remain, not to mention the usual assortment of cheap mixers, amps, and speakers.

Tchaikovsky’s score famously calls for some “instruments” not found in the typical orchestra — a battery of cannon and a carillon, for example. Therefore [Kevin] had to supplement the Lo-Fi Orchestra for this performance with extras — a JQ6500 MP3 module on clash cymbals, a bare metal MiniDexed Raspberry Pi playing the carillon, and a MCP4725 with a Lots-of-LEDs shield firing off cannon and fireworks, respectively.

Although slightly disappointed that the MCP4725 beat out Mr. Fireworks in the auditions, we do like the result. [Kevin] reports that the latest version is much more reliable and predictable, having eliminated various MIDI faults and electrical noise. It presents a stable platform for future musical presentations, a kind of on-demand Lo-Fi Orchestra jukebox, as he describes it. A detailed review of all the changes can be found in his explanatory blog post. Check out an earlier performance of Holst’s The Planets suite from our coverage back in 2021.

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An Amiga Mouse, The Modern Way

When we recently featured an Amiga upgrade project, [EmberHeavyIndustries ] was prompted to share one of their own, an adapter to allow a modern USB HID mouse to be used with the Commodore quadrature mouse port.

The first mice simply transferred the rotation of the ball through rollers to switches or optical sensors which passed pulse trains to the host computer. From the relative phase of these pulse trains the computer could work out what direction the mouse was going, as well as how far it had moved through counting the pulses. Since this was the simplest mouse interface, many of the 16-bit era machines used these signals. The PC meanwhile lacked such a port, so companies such as Microsoft had to place a microcontroller in the mouse to do the position sensing, and send the result over a serial interface. This evolved over time into the USB HID mouse interface you are probably using today.

Unfortunately for owners of quadrature mouse driven machines, real quadrature mice are a little thin on the ground these days, thus the adapter is a seriously useful device. At its heart is an STM32 microcontroller, and it’s been through a few updates and now supports mouse wheels. Your Amiga has been waiting for this!

There are quite a few other treats for Amiga enthusiasts in the EmberHeavyIndustries GitHub account, meanwhile here’s the video upgrade which caused us to receive the tip.

Laser Scanner Upgraded To Use PCB Motor

[Rik]’s Hexastorm laser scanner project originally used a discrete polygon mirror controller+motor module from Sharp to spin a prism. But the scanner head was a bit difficult to assemble and had a lot of messy wires. This has all been replaced by a single board featuring a PCB-printed motor, based on the work of [Carl Bugeja]. The results are promising so far — see video below the break.

Since the prism is not attached to anything, currently it will fall off if mounted in the intended vertical orientation. One of [Rik]’s next steps is to improve the mount’s design to constrain the spinning prism. The previous Sharp motor was specified to 21000 RPM, but was only driven to 2400 RPM in [Rik]’s first version. This new PCB motor spins at 2000 RPM in these tests, comparable to his previous experiments ( we’re not sure about the maximum RPM ).

See our original writeup from 2019 to review the goals of this project, and be sure to checkout details and documentation on the Hexastorm project page. To learn more about PCB motors, read our article about [Carl]’s first design and visit his Hackaday.io page. Thanks to [Jonathan Beri] for the tip.

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Digital Replica Of Antique Weather Monitoring Instrument

Computers and digital sensors have allowed for the collection and aggregation of data barely possible to imagine to anyone in the instrumentation scene even sixty years ago. Before that, things like weather stations, seismometers, level sensors, and basically any other way of gathering real data about the world would have been performed with an analog device recording the information on some sort of spool of paper. This was much more tedious but the one thing going for these types of devices was their aesthetic. [mircemk] is back to bring some of that design inspiration to a digital barometric display.

The barometer is based around an Arduino Arduino Nano and a relatively large I2C display to display the captured data. It also uses a BME 280 pressure sensor board, but the technical details of this project are not the focal point here. Instead, [mircemk] has put his effort in recreating the old analog barographs, which display barometric data on a spool of paper over time, on the I2C display. As the device measures atmospheric pressure, it adds a bar to the graph, displaying the data over time much as the old analog device would have.

We’ve discussed plenty of times around here that old analog meters and instrumentation like this recreation of a VU meter are an excellent way of getting a more antique aesthetic than is typically offered by digital replacements. Adding in a little bit of style to a project like this can go a long way, or you can simply restore the original antique instead.

Drawing Knots On An Oscilloscope Using Analog Means

Generating interesting imagery on an analog oscilloscope is a fun activity enjoyed by many, with an excellent demonstration by [Henry Segerman] provided in a recent video which covers [Matthias Goerner]’s demonstration. Using the electron beam, shapes can be drawn onto the phosphor of the oscilloscope’s CRT — all without touching any digital circuitry. At the core are analog components like an operational amplifier integrator, multipliers and other elements.

With just a number of these simple components in a circuit, it’s possible to draw a wide variety of shapes, all by applying the appropriate trigonometric parameters. In addition to the drawing of shapes, it is also demonstrated how these analog signals can be used for an analog audio synthesizer, and finally the image displayed on the oscilloscope is captured on Kodak (Polaroid) instant film, making the entire generating, processing and capturing chain fully analog.

While we’d be the last to campaign against digital electronics, it is fascinating to consider just how much can be done with analog electronics and a bit of mathematics. We assume that everyone did pay attention during math classes, making this a perfect chance to use all that knowledge of trigonometry.

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Linux Fu: Sharing Your Single WiFi

If you are trying to build a router or access point, you’ll need to dig into some of the details of networking that are normally hidden from you. But, for a normal WiFi connection, things mostly just work, even though that hasn’t always been the case. However, I ran into a special case the other day where I needed a little custom networking, and then I found a great answer to automate the whole process. It all comes down to hotel WiFi. How can you make your Linux laptop connect to a public WiFi spot and then rebroadcast it as a private WiFI network? In particular, I wanted to connect an older Chromecast to the network.

Hotel WiFi used to be expensive, but now, generally, it is free. There was a time when I carried a dedicated little box that could take a wired or wireless network and broadcast its own WiFi signal. These were actually fairly common, but you had to be careful as some would only broadcast a wired network connection. It was more difficult to make the wireless network share as a new wireless network, but some little travel routers could do it. Alternatively, you could install one of the open router firmware systems and set it up. But lately, I haven’t been carrying anything like that. With free WiFi, you can just connect your different devices directly to the network. But then there’s the Chromecast and the dreaded hotel login.

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IBM Wants You To Learn Tech

IBM — no stranger to anyone who works in the computing field — has launched a series of training modules on a site called skillsbuild.org. The site targets high school students, college students, and adult learners and offers tracks for jobs like cybersecurity analyst, IT support technician, Web developer, and data science. Several other companies are participating, such as Red Hat and Fortinet. The cost? The courses are free and you can earn digital credentials to show you’ve completed certain classes.

Even more interesting is that they have resources for schools and other organizations that want to leverage the material for students. There is even software that educators can download at no charge for classroom use. The material is available in a variety of languages, too. For more advanced topics, there’s also Cognitive class from IBM, also free and which also provides the same sort of credentials.

Apparently, the digital credentials are far more than just an electronic diploma. Employers you select can examine the credentials and see things like exams and results along with other information to help them understand your skill level.

Even though you’re reading Hackaday and probably already have a good roster of tech skills, this could be a nice way to get some documentation of what you know. If you work with kids or even adults that need tech skills, or you just want to add some to your resume, you can’t beat the cost. If you aren’t sure, there are some sample guest classes you can try without even registering.

We live in an amazing time when you can build your own college-level education. You can even “study” at MIT and other big institutions inexpensively or for free.