A Dungeon Master With A Thermal Printer

The thermal printer is ubiquitous in today’s world, mostly found whenever we have to get a receipt from somewhere. They’re cheap, fast, and easy to use. Not only that, though, but as [Daniel] found out, they’re also pretty straightforward to re-program and use for other things than a three-foot-long receipt from a drug store. He’s adapted them to serve as a key tool of the dungeon master in his D&D games.

While he has adapted the most common thermal printer standard, the Epson Standard Code, the real fun of this project is in the user interface. He’s made it possible to build templates and other D&D-oriented sheets quickly via HTML, so the dungeon master can print out character sheets, items from the game, maps, or anything else they might possibly need at the time. It’s all highly configurable to whatever needs arise, and the interface works on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

All of the project code is located on Daniel’s GitHub page for anyone looking to try this out. Most thermal printers use this standard too, so cheap ones can easily be found and put to use as long as a roll of thermal paper is available. If the feel of thermal paper is bringing up some childhood nostalgia, it could be because you had the Game Boy Printer as a youth and are looking for ways to recapture that thermal printer magic.

How To Restore A Musical Amiga

Despite the huge strides in computing power and functionality that have been achieved in the past few decades, there are still some things that older computers can do which are basically impossible on modern machines. This doesn’t just include the ability to use older hardware that’s now obsolete, either, although that is certainly a perk. In this two-part restoration of an Amiga 500, [Jeremy] shows us some of these features like the ability to directly modify the audio capabilities of this retro machine.

The restoration starts by fixing some damage and cleaning up the rest of the machine so it could be powered up for the first time in 30 years. Since it was in fairly good shape he then started on the fun part, which was working with this computer’s audio capabilities. It includes a number of amplifiers and filters in hardware that can be switched on or off, so he rebuilt these with new op-amps and added some new controls so that while he is using his MIDI software he can easily change how it sounds. He also restored the floppy disk drives and cleaned up the yellowing on the plastic parts to improve the overall appearance, as well as some other general improvements.

These old Amigas have a lot going for them, but since [Jeremy] is a musician he mostly focused on bringing back some of the musical functionality of his childhood computer, although he did build up a lot of extra features in this machine as well. These types of audio circuits are not something found in modern computers, though, so to get a similar sound without using original hardware you’ll need to build something like this NES audio processing unit programmed in Verilog.

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Beat Backing Box For Bassists

The soul of a rock band is its rhythm section, usually consisting of a drummer and bass player. If you don’t believe that, try listening to a band where these two can’t keep proper time. Bands can often get away with sloppy guitars and vocals (this is how punk became a genre), but without that foundation you’ll be hard pressed to score any gigs at all. Unfortunately drums are bulky and expensive, and good drummers hard to find, so if you’re an aspiring bassist looking to practice laying down a solid groove on your own check out this drum machine designed by [Duncan McIntyre].

The drum machine is designed to be as user-friendly as possible for someone who is actively playing another instrument, which means all tactile inputs and no touch screens. Several rows of buttons across the top select the drum sounds for the sequencer and each column corresponds to the various beats, allowing custom patterns to be selected and changed rapidly. There are several other controls for volume and tempo, and since it’s based on MIDI using the VS1053 chip and uses an STM32 microcontroller it’s easily configurable and can be quickly interfaced with other machines as well.

For anyone who wants to build their own, all of the circuit schematics and code are available on GitHub. If you have an aversion to digital equipment, though, take a look at this drum machine that produces its rhythms using circuits that are completely analog.

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Photography, The Stereo Way

Most consumer-grade audio equipment has been in stereo since at least the 1960s, allowing the listener to experience sounds with a three-dimensional perspective as if they were present when the sound was originally made. Stereo photography has lagged a little behind the stereo audio trend, though, with most of the technology existing as passing fads or requiring clumsy hardware to experience fully. Not so with the DIY stereoscopic cameras like this one produced by this group of 3D photography enthusiasts, who haveĀ also some methods to view the photos in 3D without any extra hardware.

The camera uses two imaging sensors to produce a stereo image. One sensor is fixed, and the other is on a slider which allows the user to adjust the “amount” of 3D effect needed for any particular photo. [Jim] is using this camera mostly for macro photography, which means that he only needs a few millimeters of separation between the two sensors to achieve the desired effect, but for more distant objects more separation can be used. The camera uses dual Raspberry Pi processors, a lithium battery, and a touch screen interface. It includes a ton of features as well including things like focus stacking, but to get a more full experience of this build we’d highly recommend checking out the video after the break.

As for viewing the photographs, these stereoscopic 3D images require nothing more than a little practice to view them. This guide is available with some simple examples to get started, and while it does at first feel like a Magic Eye puzzle from the late 90s, it quickly becomes intuitive. Another guide has some more intricate 3D maps at the end to practice on as well. This is quite the step up from needing to use special glasses or a wearable 3D viewer of some sort. There are also some methods available to create 3D images from those taken with a regular 2D camera as well.

Thanks to [Bill] for the tip and the additional links to the guides for viewing these images!

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BBC Micro:Bit As Handheld Synthesizer

The BBC Micro:bit, while not quite as popular in our community as other microcontroller development boards, has a few quirks that can make it a much more interesting piece of hardware to build a project around than an Arduino. [Turi] took note of these unique features and decided that it was the perfect platform to build a synthesizer on.

The Micro:bit includes two important elements that make this project work: the LED matrix and a gyro sensor. [Turi] built a 5×5 button matrix for inputs and paired each to one of the diodes, which eliminates the problem of false inputs. The gyro sensor is used for detuning, which varies the pitch of any generated sound by a set amount according to the orientation of the device. It also includes a passive low-pass filter to make the sound more pleasant to the ear, especially for younger players of the machine. He’s released the source code on his GitHub page for anyone interested in recreating it.

While this was a one-off project for [Turi], he notes that using MicroPython to program it instead of C led to a lot of unnecessary complications, and the greater control allowed by C would enable some extra features with less hassle. Still, it’s a fun project that really showcases the unique features of this board, much like this tiny Sumo robot we covered over the summer.

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Kids’ Jukebox Based On Arduino With RFID

Consumer electronics aimed at young children tend to be quite janky and cheap-looking, and they often have to be to survive the extreme stress-testing normal use in this situation. You could buy a higher quality item intended for normal use, but this carries the risk of burning a hole in the pockets of the parents. To thread the needle on this dilemma for a child’s audiobook player, [Turi] built the Grimmboy for a relative of his.

Taking its name from the Brothers Grimm, the player is able of playing a number of children’s stories and fables in multiple languages, with each physically represented by a small cassette tape likeness with an RFID tag hidden in each one. A tape can be selected and placed in the player, and the Arduino at the center of it will recognize the tag and play the corresponding MP3 file stored locally on an SD card. There are simple controls and all the circuitry to support its lithium battery as well. All of the source code that [Turi] used to build this is available on the project’s GitHub page.

This was also featured at the Arudino blog as well, and we actually featured a similar project a while ago with a slightly different spin. Both are based on ideas from Tonuino, an open source project aimed at turning Arduinos into MP3 players. If you’re looking to build something with a few more features, though, take a look at this custom build based on the RP2040 microcontroller instead.

Antenna Mount Designed For On-The-Go SDR

Software-defined radio is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It eliminates or drastically reduces the amount of otherwise pricey equipment needed to transmit or even just receive, and can pack many more features than most affordable radio setups otherwise would have. It also makes it possible to go mobile much more easily. [Rostislav Persion] uses a laptop for on-the-go SDR activities, and designed this 3D printed antenna mount to make his radio adventures much easier.

The antenna mount is a small 3D printed enclosure for his NESDR Smart Dongle with a wide base to attach to the back of his laptop lid with Velcro so it can easily be removed or attached. This allows him to run a single USB cable to the dongle and have it oriented properly for maximum antenna effectiveness without something cumbersome like a dedicated antenna stand. [Rostislav] even modeled the entire assembly so that he could run a stress analysis on it, and from that data ended up filling it with epoxy to ensure maximum lifespan with minimal wear on the components.

We definitely appreciate the simple and clean build which allows easy access to HF and higher frequencies while mobile, especially since the 3D modeling takes it a step beyond simply printing a 3D accessory and hoping for the best. There’s even an improved version on his site here. To go even one step further, though, we’ve seen the antennas themselves get designed and then 3D printed directly.