Magic 8-Ball Gets A Modern Makeover

Back in 2012, [sjm4306] was surprised when his breadboard rendition of the classic “Magic 8-Ball” popped up on Hackaday. If he had known the project was going to be enshrined on these hallowed pages, he might have tidied things up a bit. Now with nearly a decade of additional electronics experience, he’s back and ready to show off a new and improved version of the project.

The 3D printed case helps sell the look.

Conceptually, not much has changed from the original version. Press a button, get a random response. But on the whole the project is more refined, and not just because it’s moved over to a custom PCB.

The original version used a PIC16F886 with a charge controller and experimental RTC, but this time around [sjm4306] has consolidated all the functionality into the ATmega328P and is powering the whole thing with a simple CR2032 coin cell. As you can see in the video after the break, assembly is about as quick and straight-forward as it gets.

As with the original, there’s no accelerometer onboard. If you want to see a new message from your mystic companion, you’ve got to hold the button to “shake” the ball. A timer counts how long the button is held down, which in turn seeds the pseudorandom number generator that picks the response. Since each person will naturally hold the button for a slightly different amount of time, this keeps things from getting repetitive.

We don’t often see creators revisit their projects from the olden days, but we’d certainly like to. Consider this an open invitation to any hacker who wants to show off how much they’ve refined their skills; do-overs are always welcome here at Hackaday.

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3D Print Your Way To A Modular MIDI Playset

Have you ever wanted to experiment with MIDI, but didn’t know where to start? Or perhaps you didn’t think you could afford to properly outfit your digital beat laboratory, especially given the average hacker’s penchant for blinkenlights? Well worry no more, as [Johan von Konow] has unveiled a collection of DIY MIDI devices that anyone with a 3D printer can build on the cheap.

The LEET modular synthesizer is made up of a keyboard, drum pad, chord keyboard, arpeggiator and a step sequencer that plug into your computer and interface with industry standard digital audio workstation (DAW) programs. The down side is that they don’t do anything on their own, but this simplification allowed [Johan] to really streamline the design and bring the cost of the build down to the bare minimum.

Integrated wire channels mean no PCB is required.

You don’t need to build all the components either, especially if you’re just testing the waters. The keyboard is a great starting point, and even if you have to buy all the components new from eBay, [Johan] says it shouldn’t cost you more than $10 USD to build. You just need an Arduino Pro Micro, some tact switches, and a section of WS2812 RGB LED strip. There’s an excellent chance you’ve already got some of that in the parts bin, which will make it even cheaper.

There is one missing element though: the PCB. But not because you have to source it yourself. Like his clever Arduboy clone we covered earlier in the year, the 3D printed bodies for all of the LEET devices have integrated wiring channels that serve as a stand-in for a traditional circuit board. Simply place all your components, push some stiff 0.3 mm diameter wire down into the channels, and solder the ends. It’s a very neat approach, and something we could see becoming more popular as desktop 3D printers become an increasingly common sight in the home workshop.

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Cluster Deck Packs Four Pis Into One Portable Package

Parallel computing is a fair complex subject, and something many of us only have limited hands-on experience with. But breaking up tasks into smaller chunks and shuffling them around between different processors, or even entirely different computers, is arguably the future of software development. Looking to get ahead of the game, many people put together their own affordable home clusters to help them learn the ropes.

As part of his work with decentralized cryptocurrency, [Jay Doscher] recently found himself in need of a small research cluster. He determined that the Raspberry Pi 4 would give him the best bang for his buck, so he started work on a small self-contained cluster that could handle four of the single board computers. As we’ve come to expect given his existing body of work, the final result is compact, elegant, and well documented for anyone wishing to follow in his footsteps.

The core unit would make a great desktop cluster.

Outwardly the cluster looks quite a bit like the Mil-Plastic that he developed a few months back, complete with the same ten inch Pimoroni IPS LCD. But the internal design of the 3D printed case has been adjusted to fit four Pis with a unique staggered mounting arrangement that makes a unit considerably more compact than others we’ve seen in the past. In fact, even if you didn’t want to build the whole Cluster Deck as [Jay] calls it, just printing out the “core” itself would be a great way to put together a tidy Pi cluster for your own experimentation.

Thanks to the Power over Ethernet HAT, [Jay] only needed to run a short Ethernet cable between each Pi and the TP-Link five port switch. This largely eliminates the tangle of wires we usually associate with these little Pi clusters, which not only looks a lot cleaner, but makes it easier for the dual Noctua 80 mm to get cool air circulated inside the enclosure. Ultimately, the final product doesn’t really look like a cluster of Raspberry Pis at all. But then, we imagine that was sort of the point.

Of course, a couple of Pis and a network switch is all you really need to play around with parallel computing on everyone’s favorite Linux board. How far you take the concept after that is entirely up to you.

Rolling Your Own TiVo WiFi Adapter

The only thing more surprising than finding out TiVo actually put out a new 4K set-top box recently is learning that somehow they didn’t bother to build WiFi into the thing. You’re forced to buy a special wireless adapter to the tune of $60 USD to add the feature. We’d make a joke about the company living in the past, but frankly, it would be too easy.

Having to buy just one of these expensive dongles in 2020 would be insulting enough, but TiVo superfan [xxbiohazrdxx] needed four of them. Rather than hand nearly $250 to the antennae-headed overlords, they decided to reverse engineer the adapter and produce their own low-cost version. While the final result might not be as slim and svelte as the original, it does come in at less than 1/4 the price.

Operating under the assumption that the TiVo would only talk to a WiFi adapter based on the same Broadcom BCM43569 chipset used in the official one, [xxbiohazrdxx] started by trying to find a standard USB dongle that might be a drop-in replacement. Unfortunately, it looks like this particular chip was almost exclusively used in proprietary applications, most commonly as a WiFi board inside of smart TVs. But as it turns out, that wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker.

After some searching, [xxbiohazrdxx] eventually found the promising CyberTAN NU361-HS board. Not only was it based on the right chipset and ran from 5 volts, but its FCC ID entry had a complete pinout for the connector. This particular WiFi module is used in a number of budget TVs and is widely available as a spare part for less than $10. By combing the board and a USB breakout PCB inside of a 3D printed case, you’ve got a plug-and-play WiFi adapter that the TiVo thinks is the real deal.

There was a time when Hackaday was flooded with TiVo hacks, but it’s now been more than a decade since cheap carrier-provided DVRs ate the company’s lunch. Realistically, there’s an excellent chance that this post will be the only time a mention of the once-mighty DVR graces the front page in 2020. While the reign of the TiVo might be at its end, the impact it had as one of the first Linux-powered consumer devices will be etched in hacker history forever.

Designing And Building A Custom Optical Fuel Sensor

At some time or another, we’ve all had an idea we thought was so clever that we jumped on the Internet to see if somebody else had already come up with it. Most of the time, they have. But on the off chance that you can’t find any signs of it online, you’re left with basically two possible conclusions. Either you’re about to enter uncharted territory, or your idea is so bad that everyone has collectively dismissed it already.

Which is precisely where [James Stanley] recently found himself. He had an idea for an non-contact optical sensor which would detect when his racing mower was about to run out of gas by analyzing light passed through a clear section of fuel hose. He couldn’t find any previous DIY examples of such a device, nor did there appear to be a commercial version. But did that mean it wouldn’t work, or that nobody had ever tried before?

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HALWOP Recreates Retro Style With The Raspberry Pi

Modern computers are incredible feats of engineering, but there are many that still yearn for the simpler times. When keyboards clacked and a desktop computer quite literally dominated the top of your desk. There’s a whole community of folks who scratch that itch by restoring vintage computers, but not everyone has the time, money, or skill for such pursuits. Plus, even the most lovingly cared for Apple II isn’t going to help you watch YouTube.

Those who wish to recreate the look and feel of a vintage computer with modern internals will certainly be interested in the HALWOP by [Maz_Baz]. While its 3D printed case isn’t a replica of any one computer, it does draw inspiration from iconic machines like the Apple Lisa and IBM XT. It’s an amalgamation of design ideas that seemed like a good idea circa 1982 or so, with plenty of 90° angles and air vents to go around.

Considering the size of the Raspberry Pi 4 that powers the HALWOP, most of the case is just hollow plastic. But of course, the whole idea depends on it being almost comically large. On the plus side, [Maz_Baz] says you can use one of those empty compartments to hold a Anker PowerCore 26800 battery pack. At least in theory that makes it a “luggable” computer, though good luck trying to move it around.

In addition to the Pi 4 and battery pack, the HALWOP also uses a seven-inch touch LCD and Keychron K2 Bluetooth mechanical keyboard. Since everything is so modular, assembly is about as simple as it gets. Outside of the USB cables that power everything, you just need a long enough ribbon cable to connect the LCD to the Pi.

We know the purists don’t like the idea of a “retro” computer based on the Raspberry Pi, but of course, such projects aren’t about maintaining historical accuracy. They are a way to bridge the gap between modern technology and the unique aesthetics of a bygone era. Designs like the HALWOP allow a new generation to experience a taste of what computing was like in the early days, without giving up the ground that’s been gained in the intervening years.

3D Printed Mini MacBook With A Raspberry Pi Heart

Do you like the sleek look of Apple’s laptops? Are you a fan of the Raspberry Pi? Have a particular affinity for hot glue and 3D printed plastic? Then you’re in luck, because this tiny “MacBook” built by serial miniaturizer [Michael Pick] features all of the above (and a good bit more) in one palm-sized package. (Video link, embedded below.)

Getting the LCD panel and Raspberry Pi 4 to fit into the slim 3D printed case took considerable coaxing. In the video after the break, you can see [Michael] strip off any unnecessary components that would stand in his way. The LCD panel had to lose its speakers and buttons, and the Pi has had its Ethernet and USB ports removed. While space was limited, he did manage to squeeze an illuminated resin-printed Apple logo into the lid of the laptop to help sell the overall look.

The bottom half of the machine has a number of really nice details, like the fan grill cut from metal hardware cloth and a functional “MagSafe” connector made from a magnetic USB cable. The keyboard PCB and membrane was liberated from a commercially available unit, all [Michael] needed to do was model in the openings for the keys. Since the keyboard already came with its own little trackpad, the lower one is just there for looks.

Speaking of which, to really drive home the Apple aesthetic, [Michael] made the bold move of covering up all the screws with body filler after assembly. It’s not a technique we’d necessarily recommend, but gluing it shut would probably have made it even harder to get back into down the line.

We’ve previously seen [Michael] create a miniature rendition of the iMac and an RGB LED equipped “gaming” computer using many of the same parts and techniques. He’ll have to start branching off into less common machines to replicate soon, which reminds us that we’re about due for another tiny Cray X-MP.

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