HDMI For The Original Xbox

The original Xbox was a console based on PC architecture that launched back in 2001. That was long before HDMI became a defacto standard for home AV systems. However, it’s possible to mod the Xbox to output lovely crisp digital video over HDMI for use with modern screens, as covered by [Modern Vintage Gamer].

The mod, originally known as XboxHDMI and later XboxHD+, is a pure digital output mod, and was developed by [Dustin Holden]. Unlike other solutions, it doesn’t work by converting the console’s existing analog output. Instead, it captures pixel data straight out of the GPU and pumps it out over HDMI, along with 5.1 surround sound, too.

Mods like these have become popular in recent years for multiple reasons. Original HD output cables for older consoles are often hard to come by, and many used analog outputs that are no longer suitable for using with modern screens. For those that don’t want to keep older CRTs and flat screens going for older consoles, digital video output kits are a great way to keep using your old consoles well into the future. Video after the break.

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Retro Computing Coding Competition Still Open

There’s still time to enter Octojam 10, a competition to write a new program for a rather old (and virtual) machine: the CHIP-8. This interpreted language on a virtual machine was used in the 1970s and 1980s to write games that could run on several consoles, such as the COSMAC VIP. Since then, a community of tinkerers has grown up around CHIP-8 and figuring out how to get the most out of the minimal resources the machine gives you.

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Flaming Skull Hood Ornament Is Not Suitable For Use In Traffic

It’s one thing to mount a big skull—human or animal—to the front of your car. Really, though, a good hood skull should breathe fire to truly inspire enmity or awe. Thankfully, when [Anthony] went about modifying his ex-school bus, he was sure to equip it with suitably flaming equipment. It’s dangerous, so don’t try this one at home and melt your car, you hear?

The build started with an off-the-shelf replica cow skull, in lovely flame-resistant metal. It was then plumbed with a propane feed that could be triggered by a 12-volt solenoid. This was combined with a high-voltage coil driving a grill igniter to provide the necessary initiating spark.

To go forth with flames, first, a missile switch must be flipped up and engaged to arm the system. Then, hitting the skull-and-crossbones button will send fire surging forth from the front of the vehicle. Alternatively, a wireless keyfob can be used, which bypasses the arming system—so leaving the remote in a pocket is ill-advised.

Amazingly, a former project posted on Hackaday served as an inspiration for this build. Video after the break.

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Driving An OLED Screen With A 6502 Single-Board Computer

Twenty years ago, if you wanted an LCD for a project, you’d probably end up with something salvaged from a mobile phone or an HD44780 character display. These days, little OLEDs can be had for a few bucks and they’ve taken the maker world by storm. [Anders Nielsen] has recently been experimenting with driving these displays from the vintage 6502 CPU, and he’s even got scrolling operation down pat.

The best part is that [Nielsen] is doing all this on a single-board computer running his own assembly code. That’s right – there’s no compilers here. It’s bare metal coding at it’s best. The build uses a 6507 chip running at 1 MHz, paired with a 6532 RIOT and just 128 bytes of RAM—a similar setup to the Atari 2600.

The video explains how the code stacks up and drives the display, achieving the scrolling effect. It makes a huge difference to usability, especially compared to chunking pages at a time to the postage stamp-sized screen. He demonstrates a legitimate usage case too, using the setup as a serial terminal for a Raspberry Pi.

The 6502 architecture still looms large in the collective consciousness; we’ve been talking about programming it in assembly for years. Video after the break.

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High Voltage Turns Welder Into Plasma Cutter

For doing basic steel welding, most of us will reach for a MIG welder. It might not be the best tool for every welding job, but it’s definitely the most accessible since they tend to use only basic parts, easy-to-find gas, and can run from a standard electrical outlet. A plasma cutter isn’t as common, and while they’re certainly useful, [Rulof] wanted to forgo the expense of buying one off the shelf. Instead, he used parts of an old welder and a few other odds and ends to build his own plasma cutter.

The welder he’s working from in this project uses low-voltage alternating current to drive the welding process, but since a plasma cutter ionizes gas it needs high-voltage direct current. A 200 A bridge rectifier with some heat sinks from a Mac and an old stereo get this job done, but that’s not the only step in the process. A driver board and flyback transformer is used to generate the high voltage needed for the cutting head. There are some DIY circuit protection and safety features built in as well, including a spark gap using two nails, galvanic isolation from a transformer built from copper pipe, and some filtering coils made from old copper wire and iron bars.

With everything connected to the old welding machine and some pressurized air inside to push out the plasma, [Rulof] has a functional plasma cutter that can make short work out of a variety of metals at a fraction of the cost of a commercial tool. With the cutting tool finished, we’d recommend mounting it to a home-built CNC machine next.

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Linux Fu: Customizing Printf

When it comes to programming in C and, sometimes, C++, the printf function is a jack-of-all-trades. It does a nice job of quickly writing output, but it can also do surprisingly intricate formatting. For debugging, it is a quick way to dump some data. But what if you have data that printf can’t format? Sure, you can just write a function to pick things apart into things printf knows about. But if you are using the GNU C library, you can also extend printf to use custom specifications. It isn’t that hard, and it makes using custom data types easier.

An Example

Suppose you are writing a program that studies coin flips. Even numbers are considered tails, and odd numbers are heads. Of course, you could just print out the number or even mask off the least significant bit and print that. But what fun is that?

Here’s a very simple example of using our new printf specifier “%H”:

printf("%H %H %H %H\n",1,2,3,4);
printf("%1H %1H\n",0,1);

When you have a width specification of 1 (like you do in the second line) the output will be H or T. If you have anything else, the output will be HEADS or TAILS.

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Using Industrial CT To Examine A $129 USB Cable

What in the world could possibly justify charging $129 for a USB cable? And is such a cable any better than a $10 Amazon Basics cable?

To answer that question, [Jon Bruner] fired up an industrial CT scanner to look inside various cables (Nitter), with interesting results. It perhaps comes as little surprise that the premium cable is an Apple Thunderbolt 4 Pro USB-C cable, which sports 40 Gb/s transfer rates and can deliver 100 Watts of power to a device. And it turns out there’s a lot going on with this cable from an engineering and industrial design perspective. The connector shell has a very compact and extremely complex PCB assembly inside it, with a ton of SMD components and at least one BGA chip. The PCB itself is a marvel, with nine layers, a maze of blind and buried vias, and wiggle traces to balance propagation delays. The cable itself contains 20 wires, ten of which are shielded coax, and everything is firmly anchored to a stainless steel shell inside the plastic connector body.

By way of comparison, [Jon] also looked under the hood at more affordable alternatives. None were close to the same level of engineering as the Apple cable, ranging as they did from a tenth to a mere 1/32nd of the price. While none of the cables contained such a complex PCB, the Amazon Basics cable seemed the best of the bunch, with twelve wires, decent shielding, and a sturdy crimped strain relief. The other cables — well, when you’re buying a $3 cable, you get what you pay for. But does that make the Apple cable worth the expense? That’s for the buyer to decide, but at least now we know there’s something in there aside from Apple’s marketing hype.

We’ve seen these industrial CT scanners used by none other than [Ken Shirriff] and [Curious Marc] to reverse engineer Apollo-era artifacts. If you want a closer look at the instrument itself, check out the video below

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