Mickey’s Big Timer Makes Glider Competitions Better

There’s plenty of obscure sports in the world. Many of them could benefit from bespoke equipment like scoring displays, but are too obscure to support commercial efforts in this regard. Radio controlled glider competitions fit into just this category. This led a man named [Mickey] to develop what he calls Mickey’s Big Timer, to aid in the running of such events.

Glider events run outdoors in full sunlight, so the system uses big bright LED matrix displays to show its timing information. The system, built around the STM32 Discovery platform, uses several of the microcontroller boards to drive several displays as well as the main controller which handles timing. It also packs in an audio system for issuing instructions to competitors. It can also display pilot names as well as instructions such as when competitors should land at the end of a heat.

Some code is available on Github for those interested in how it all works. Word around the RC forums has it that [Mickey] built several systems, some of which ended up as far afield as New Zealand where they helped run many successful glider contests over the years.

We’ve seen plenty of scoreboard projects over the years; a little portable one could be useful for adding some spice to your pickup neighbourhood games. Video after the break.

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TV Ambient Lighting Built For Awesome Performance

[AndrewMohawk] had seen all kinds of ambient lighting systems for TVs come and go over the years, and the one thing they all had in common was that they didn’t live up to his high standards. Armed with the tools of the hacker trade, he set about building an Ambilight-type system of his own that truly delivered the goods.

The development process was one full of roadblocks and dead ends, but [Andrew] persevered. After solving annoying problems with HDCP and HDMI splitters, he was finally able to get a Raspberry Pi to capture video going to his TV and use OpenCV to determine the colors of segments around the screen. From there, it was simple enough to send out data to a string of addressable RGB LEDs behind the TV to create the desired effect.

For all the hard work, [Andrew] was rewarded with an ambient lighting system that runs at a healthy 20fps and works with any HDMI video feed plugged into the TV. It even autoscales to work with video content shot in different aspect ratios so the ambient display always picks up the edge of the video content.

With 270 LEDs fitted, the result is an incredibly smooth and fluid ambient display we’d love to have at home. You can build one too, since [Andrew] shared all the code on Github. As an added bonus, he also gave the system an audio visualiser, and tested it out with some Streetlight Manifesto, the greatest third-wave ska band ever to roam the Earth. The Fourth Wave still eludes us, but we hold out hope.

We’ve seen plenty of hacks in this vein before; one of the most impressive hacked a smart TV into doing the video processing itself. Video after the break.

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Recreating The Intercom From Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a pop culture classic, and remains one of the standout teen films of the era. Notably, titular character Ferris was somewhat of a hacker himself, with the movie showcasing several contraptions the teenager used to get out of a day of school. Among them was the intercom, which [Aaron] faithfully recreated with modern technology.

For those who haven’t seen the film, the intercom was hooked up to a cassette player to feign a believable response to anyone that visited the house while Ferris was away. Rather than do things the old fashioned way, [Aaron] built his replica using an ESP32 fitted with a sound chip instead. When visitors ring the intercom, it plays back sound clips from the movie, while also signalling another ESP microcontroller inside [Aaron]’s house to let him know he has visitors.

The build is a charming tribute to the classic film, and all the more fun for [Aaron’s] efforts to make it look the part as well, choosing to build it inside a period-correct intercom housing. To avoid confusion for those who haven’t seen the film, however, he’s been careful to place a sign up to clarify the intercom is not as it seems.

We’ve seen other movie replicas in the same vein before – like this great Star Trek build. Video after the break.

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Recycling A Laptop Screen Into A Portable Folding Monitor

There’s plenty of times we’ve seen a laptop fail, break, or just become too slow for purpose despite the fact that it’s still packing some useful components. With all the single-board computers and other experiments lurking about the average hacker workshop, it’s often useful to have a spare screen on hand, and an old laptop is a great way to get one. This recycled display build from [Gregory Sanders] is a great example of how to reuse old hardware.

The build doesn’t simply package a laptop monitor in the same way as a regular desktop unit. Instead, [Gregory] designed a custom 3D printed frame with an arch design. The laptop screen is installed onto the frame using its original hinges, and [Gregory] designed in standoffs for an laptop LCD driver board to run the display as well as a generic frame where single-board computers can be installed.

The result is a portable monitor that can be folded up for easy transport, which is also self-supporting with its nice large base. It can also be used with other hardware, as it has a full complement of DVI, HDMI and VGA inputs on board. Of course, while you’re tinkering with laptop displays, you might also consider building yourself a dual-screen laptop as well.

12-Arduino Orchestra Plays Star Wars Fanfare

Back in the early days of the musical synthesizer, some designers who wished for polyphony in their instruments would simply build multiple tone-generators for as many notes as they wished to play. [Kevin] took that same approach with his Arduino orchestra, and set about having it play the closing number from Star Wars: A New Hope.

The build consists of twelve Arduino Nanos, each wired up to power, a speaker, and the same MIDI cable. The MIDI cable carries note data for each Arduino on a separate MIDI channel, allowing each to play its own role in the orchestra. [Kevin] then set about arranging the Star Wars music into a MIDI file suitable for the Arduinos, roughly setting six voices to high parts and six voices low. The Arduinos play the notes received using the simple tone() function. The result is a very chiptune rendition of the end of the fourth episode of the world’s most famous space opera.

It may not be neat, tidy, or efficient, but it certainly is fun. Twelve Arduinos bleeping away with their flashing LEDs and cute little speakers makes quite the conversation piece. It’s a similar approach to the Floppotron, which plays more notes by adding more floppy drives. We’ve also seen the same thing done with SEGA sound chips. Video after the break.
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A Dual Monitor Setup For The C64, And Yes, It’s VGA Compatible

Few in the 1980s were too fussed about their home computer only supporting a single monitor; indeed, most were satisfied enough by the brand new capabilities on offer at the time. That said, it’s many decades hence, and we really do deserve more. Fear not, for [Ryan Brooks] is here to help with his VG64 VGA Card for the Commodore 64.

The card sits in the cartridge slot of the Commodore 64, and packs a Xilinx CPLD which is responsible for generating the video output signals. It’s hooked up to an SRAM chip which acts as a frame buffer for the video output. Programs can then be loaded on the Commodore 64 which write to the frame buffer, that can then be sent out to an attached VGA monitor hooked up to the cartridge.

It’s not the most useful cart at the moment, as it’s only capable of working with software designed specifically for the hardware. Additionally, it could prove difficult to shift enough data to it to do any kind of fast animation or updates. With that said, it’s an awesome example of just what can be achieved in terms of expanding the Commodore 64, and we’d love to see how far work in this space can go. We’ve seen similar work before, too, albeit with a somewhat smaller 16×2 character LCD. Video after the break.

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A Self-Driving Bicycle Is Something To Marvel At

One of the most annoying things about bicycles is that they don’t stay up on their own, especially when they’re stationary. That’s why they come with stands, after all. That said, if you had plenty of advanced electronic and mechanical equipment fitted to one, you could do something about that, and that’s just what [稚晖君] did.

The video of the project comes without subtitles or any translation, but the gist of it is this. A reaction wheel is fitted to the seat tube, along with a motor which can turn the handlebars via a linkage attached to the head stem. There’s also a motor to drive the bicycle forward via a friction drive to the rear wheel. Combine these with an inertial measurement unit and suitable control system, and you have a bike that can balance while standing perfectly still.

The performance of the system is impressive, and is even able to hold the bike perfectly upright while balanced on a fence rail. Thanks to an onboard camera and LIDAR system, the bike can also drive itself around with no rider on board, which is quite a spooky image. Find a way to do the same while hiding the extra mechanics and you’d have one hell of a Halloween display.

Similar projects have been attempted in the past; we featured a self-balancing bike built as a university project back in the distant past of 2012. Video after the break.

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