Toy Gaming Controller Makes The Big Leagues

Some of the off-brand video game consoles and even accessories for the major brands can leave a lot to be desired. Whether it’s poor build quality or a general lack of support or updates, there are quite a few things on the market not worth anyone’s time or money. [Jonathan] was recently handed just such a peripheral, a toy game controller originally meant for a small child, but upon further inspection it turned into a surprisingly hackable platform, capable of plenty of IoT-type tasks.

The controller itself was easily disassembled, and the functional buttons within were wired to a Wemos D1 Mini instead of the originally-planned ESP32 because of some wiring irregularities and the fact that the Wemos D1 Mini having the required amount of I/O. It’s still small enough to be sealed back inside the controller as well, powered by the batteries that would have powered the original controller.

For the software, [Jonathan] is using MQTT to register button presses with everything easily accessible over Wi-Fi, also making it possible to update the software wirelessly. He was able to use it to do a few things as proof-of-concept, including playing a game in PyGame and controlling a Sonos speaker, but for now he’s using it to control an LED sculpture. With something this easily modified, though, it would be pretty straightforward to use it instead for a home automation remote control, especially since it is already set up to use MQTT.

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Raspberry Pi OS In-Place Upgrades, Not For The Faint Hearted

The Raspberry Pi series of boards are noted for their good software support, with a continuous flow of operating system upgrades such that an original Pi from 2012 will still boot the latest Pi OS. But these upgrades are best done by writing a fresh SD card, so oddly, the Pi remains surprisingly difficult in many cases to upgrade in place. [Iustin Pop] has taken a look at the problem, and finds that though it’s not always easy it remains possible with a bit or work.

An upgrade in place of a Raspberry Pi OS install that’s running on a headless device is probably the simplest of the lot, with a relatively small set of issues. Do it on a machine using the GUI though, and the switch from to Wayland makes for a whole world of pain.

Perhaps most interesting for the insight it gives us into the way Raspberry Pi OS is derived from Debian, is the crossgrade process from the ARMhf build for earlier machines to the ARM64 one for the more recent ones. Here aside from a headache of differing paths and versions, he encounters the Pi-specific compilation tweaks put in place by the developers of Raspberry Pi OS, leading to the ARMhf version being a different branch from the original Debian than the ARM64 one.

Having read his examination of in-place upgrades we have to say that simply writing a new SD card remains the most attractive option. But sometimes along comes a remote system where that’s simply not possible, and this guide might just be very useful sometime.

2023 Halloween Hackfest: Spooky Noise Maker Is Self-Contained

We just love it when y’all build off of each other’s projects. This spooky Halloween noise maker from [C.M. Herron] is no exception. But while the projects we’ve seen lately rely on external computers and/or guitar pedals to create the effects part of the build, this one has everything running on a Raspberry Pi that sits inside the box.

Readers of a certain vintage will recognize this as an 8-track storage box, on top of which are several noise-making objects that creak and ting and reverberate nicely. A USB microphone picks up the sounds, and by using a regular microphone instead of a piezo, [C.M.] can introduce varying levels of feedback to make the sounds even spookier.

So, how did [C.M.] make this work on a Pi 4? To put it simply, they’ve got the Reaper DAW and Windows Valhalla plugins running on top of WINE, which running on top of Box64, which is running on top of the Bullseye Pi OS. [C.M.] sure learned a lot from this build, and hopes to inspire others to build their own spooky noise boxen. Plus, they’ve already thought of ways to improve it for next year. Be sure to check it out in action after the break.

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This OSHW Trackball Is Ready To Be Customized

Oh sure, Amazon can deliver any number of Logitech peripherals to your door in 48 hours, but where’s the fun in that? With open source hardware (OSHW) input devices like the Ploopy Adept Trackball, you not only get to say you built the thing yourself, but there’s also an opportunity to tune the gadget to your exacting specifications — even if that just means packing it full of RGB LEDs.

The trackball is powered by the Raspberry Pi Pico running QMK, features a high-accuracy PMW3360 sensor that can be found in commercial gaming mice, and uses a snooker ball for the business end. All the hardware is wrapped up in a 3D printed enclosure, and thanks to the VIA project, configuring the device can be done right in the browser through a web app.

Like the other devices in the (somewhat unfortunately named) Ploopy family, all of the design files for the Adept Trackball are released under the CERN license, which combined with the project’s fantastic documentation means you’ve got everything you need to build it from scratch. There are official parts kits if you don’t want to source or print all the components yourself, but as of this writing, the Ploopy Shop will only let you preorder them.

Digital Photography Comes To The Apple II

Back in the very early days of consumer digital photography, one of the first stars of the new medium came from Apple. The QuickTake 100 used a novel flat form factor and at its highest resolution could only shoot 640×480 images, but at the time it was a genuine object of desire. It came in Windows and Apple versions, and to use the Apple variant required a Mac of the day with appropriate software.

The interface was an Apple serial connector though, so it was quite reasonable for [Colin Leroy-Mira] to wonder whether it could work with Apple’s 8-bit machines. The result is QuickTake for the Apple IIc, the product that perhaps Apple should have brought us in an alternative 1994.

Fortunately the protocol has already been reverse engineered and forms part of the dcraw package, however the process of extracting the code wasn’t easy. The full resolution and colour of the original pictures has to be sacrificed, and of course once the custom serial cable has been made it’s a painfully slow process transferring the pictures. But to get anything running in this way on such elderly hardware which was never intended to  perform this task is an extremely impressive feat. We would have given anything for this, back in the 8-bit days.

If you have a QuickTake and want to use a more modern machine, we’ve got you covered there, too.

Fancy Gyroscopes Are Key To Radio-Free Navigation

Back in the old days, finding out your location on Earth was a pretty involved endeavor. You had to look at stars, use fancy gimballed equipment to track your motion, or simply be able to track your steps really really well. Eventually, GPS would come along and make all that a bit redundant for a lot of use cases. That was all well and good, until it started getting jammed all over the place to frustrate militaries using super-accurate satellite-guided weapons.

Today, there’s a great desire for more accurate navigational methods that don’t require outside communications that can easily be jammed. High-tech gyroscopes have long been a big part of that effort, allowing the construction of inertial navigation systems with greater accuracy than ever before.

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Only One Hacker At The Keyboard? Amateurs!

We imagine many of you have seen the ridiculous scene from the TV series NCIS in which a network intrusion is combated by two people working at the same keyboard at once. It’s become a meme in our community, and it’s certainly quite funny.  But could there be a little truth behind the unintentional joke? [Tedu] presents some possibilities, and they’re not all either far-fetched or without application.

The first is called Duelmon, and it’s a split-screen process and network monitor worthy of two players, while the second is Mirrorkeys, a keyboard splitter which uses the Windows keys as modifiers to supply the missing half. As they say, the ability to use both at once would be the mark of the truly 1337.

Meanwhile here at Hackaday we’re evidently closer to 1336.5, as our pieces are written by single writers alone at the keyboard. We would be fascinated to see whether readers could name any other potential weapons in the dual-hacker arsenal though, and we’d like to remind you that as always, the comments are open below.

The intense hacking scene from NCIS can be found below the break. Be warned though, it contains the trauma of seeing a computer unplugged without shutting down first.

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