DIY Wireless Serial Adapter Speaks (True) RS-232

There is a gotcha lurking in wait for hackers who look at a piece of equipment, see a port labeled “Serial / RS-232”, and start to get ideas. The issue is the fact that the older the equipment, the more likely it is to be a bit old-fashioned about how it expects to speak RS-232. Vintage electronics may expect the serial data to be at bipolar voltage levels that are higher than what the typical microcontroller is used to slinging, and that was the situation [g3gg0] faced with some vintage benchtop equipment. Rather than deal with cables and wired adapters, [g3gg0] decided to design a wireless adapter with WiFi and Bluetooth on one end, and true RS-232 on the other.

The adapter features an ESP32 and is attached to a DB-9 plug, so it’s nice and small. It uses the ST3232 chip to communicate at 3 V logic levels on the microcontroller side, supports bipolar logic up to +/-13 V on the vintage hardware side, and a rudimentary web interface allows setting hardware parameters like baud rate. The nice thing about the ST3232 transceiver is that it is not only small, but can work from a 3 V supply with only four 0.1 uF capacitors needed for the internal charge pumps.

As for actually using the adapter, [g3gg0] says that the adapter’s serial port is exposed over TCP on port 23 (Telnet) which is supported by some programs and hardware. Alternately, one can connect an ESP32 to one’s computer over USB, and run firmware that bridges any serial data directly to the adapter on the other end.

Design files including schematic, bill of materials, and PCB design are shared online, and you can see a brief tour of the adapter in the video, embedded below.

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Bluetooth PS3 Controllers Modernize The Nintendo GameCube

While the PlayStation 3 and Gamecube come from opposing sides of the aisle, and in fact aren’t even from the same generation of hardware, this DIY adapter built by [Jeannot] allows Nintendo’s console to use Sony’s Bluetooth controllers with surprisingly little fuss. This might seem unnecessary given the fact that Nintendo put out an official wireless controller for the system, but given how expensive they are on the second-hand market, you’d need to have pretty deep pockets for an untethered four-player session. Plus, there’s plenty of people who simply prefer the more traditional control layout offered by Sony’s pad.

The internals of the 3D printed adapter are actually quite straightforward, consisting of nothing more than an Arduino Nano wired to a MAX3421E USB host shield. A common USB Bluetooth adapter is plugged into the shield, and the enclosure has an opening so it can be swapped out easily; which is important since that’s what the PS3 controller is actually paired to.

A Gamecube controller extension cable must be sacrificed to source the male connector, though if you wanted to fully commit to using Bluetooth controllers, it seems like you could turn this into an internal modification fairly easily. That would let you solder right to the controller port’s pads on the PCB, cutting the bill of materials down ever further.

[Jeannot] says the firmware is the product of combining a few existing libraries with a fair amount of experimentation, but as demonstrated in the video below, it works well enough to navigate the console’s built-in menu system. Future enhancements include getting the stick sensitivity closer to the values for the Gamecube’s standard controller, and adapting the code to work with newer PS4 controllers.

We’ve seen a fair amount of projects dedicated to the Gamecube’s official wireless controller, the Wavebird. From reverse engineering its RF communications protocol to adapting it for use with Nintendo’s latest console. There’s little debate that the Wavebird is a fine piece of engineering, but with how cheap and plentiful PlayStation controllers are, they tend to be the one hackers reach for when they want a dual-stick interface for their latest creation.

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3D-Printed Adapter Keeps Your Guitar In Tune And In Style

If you like building or upgrading guitars, you may have already learned the valuable lesson that the devil absolutely is in the detail when it comes to to replacement parts. Maybe you became aware that there are two types of Telecaster bridges right after you drilled the holes through the body and noticed things just didn’t quite fit. Or maybe you liked the looks of those vintage locking tuners and the vibe you associate with them, only to realize later that the “vintage” part also refers to the headstock, and the holes in your modern one are too big.

The latter case recently happened to [Michael Könings], so he did what everyone with a 3D printer would: make an adapter. Sure, you can also buy them, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, the solution is as simple as it sounds. [Michael] modelled an adaptor to bridge the gap between the headstock holes and the tuner shaft, but unlike the commercial counterpart that are mounted only on one side, his fills up the entire hole and fits the entire construct tightly together. For even more overall stability, he added an interlocking mechanism on the back side that keeps all the adaptors in line, and also allows for some possible distance differences.

[Michael] initially considered using wood filament for cosmetic reasons, but due to lack of the material went with simple white PLA instead. In the end, it doesn’t matter too much, as most of it hides under the new tuners’ metal covers anyway — and the small parts that are visible will serve as a great reminder of this lesson in guitar variety. Speaking of 3D printing and guitar variety, now that we reached the headstock, and have seen bodies for a while already (including bass), only 3D-printed guitar necks are missing. Well, we’ve had them on violins though, even with 6 strings, but they also don’t have to deal with frets and have a bit less tension going on.

Monitor Not VESA-Compliant? It Is Now!

Some monitors lack the holes on the back that make them VESA-compliant, so mounting them on a monitor arm can be a non-starter. To handle this, [Patrick Hallek] designed and 3D printed these adapter arms to make flat monitors mount to VESA hardware whether they want to or not.

How does it work? When a monitor can’t attach directly to a VESA mount, this assembly attaches to the mount instead. The three arms extend around the edge of the monitor to grip it from the bottom and top. Some hex-head M5 bolts and nuts are all that are required to assemble the parts, and the top arm is adjustable to accommodate different sizes of monitor. As long as the screen size is between 17 and 27 inches diagonal, and the monitor thickness falls between 30 mm and 75 mm, it should fit.

It’s a smart design that leverages one of the strengths of 3D printing: that of creating specialized adapters or fixtures that would be troublesome to make by hand. That is not to say that there’s no other way to make exactly what one wants when it comes to mounting monitors: check out this triple-monitor setup using some common metal struts, no welding required.

[via reddit]

X-Ray Sleuthing Unveils The Fake In Your Adaptors

Lets face it, the knock-off variety of our favourite adaptors, cables and accessories are becoming increasingly challenging to spot. We would be the first to admit, to have at some point, been stooped by a carefully crafted counterfeit by failing to spot the tell-tale yet elusive indicators such as the misplaced font face, the strategically misspelled logo or perhaps the less polished than expected plastic moulding and packaging. When you finally come around to using it, if you are lucky the item is still more or less functionally adequate, otherwise by now the inferior performance (if not the initial cost!) would have made it pretty obvious that what you have is infact a counterfeit.

[Oliver] recently found himself in a similar situation, after acquiring a seemingly original Lightning to Headphone Adaptor. Rather than dismay, [Oliver] decided to channel this energy into an excellent forensic investigation to uncover just what exactly made this imitation so deceptive. He began by comparing the packaging, printed typeface and the plastic moulding, all of which gave very little away. [Oliver] concluded that atleast superficially, the clone was rather good and the only way to settle this was to bring out the X-ray, of course!  

The resulting images of the innards make it blatantly obvious as to why the adaptor is indeed very fake. For a start, compared to the original adaptor, the clone hosts a far more thin BOM count! If you are really serious in getting some training to better spot counterfeits, check out a post we featured earlier on the subject!

Hacking A ThinkPad USB-C Adapter

USB-C has brought the world much more powerful charging options in a slimline connector. With laptop chargers and portable battery packs using the standard, many with older hardware are converting their devices over to work with USB-C. [victorc] was trying to do just that, purchasing an adapter cable to charge a ThinkPad. Things didn’t quite work out of the box, so some hacking was required.

The problem was the power rating of the adapter cable, versus the battery pack [victorc] was trying to use. In order to allow the fastest charging rates, the adapter cable features a resistor value which tells the attached Lenovo laptop it can draw up to 90 W. The battery pack in question could only deliver 45 W, so it would quickly shut down when the laptop tried to draw above this limit.

To rectify this, [victorc] looked up the standard, finding the correct resistor value to set the limit lower. Then, hacking open the cable, the original resistor on the Lenovo connector was removed, and replaced with the correct value. With this done, the cable works perfectly, and [victorc] is able to charge their laptop on the go.

For all the benefits USB-C has brought, there’s been plenty of consternation, too. Whether this clears up, only time will tell!

Mobile Power From Cordless Tool Batteries

For years, [Michael Davis] has been using a large lead-acid battery to power the electronic components of his custom Dobsonian telescope; but that doesn’t mean he particularly enjoyed it. The battery was heavy, and you always had to be mindful of the wires connecting it to the scope. Looking to improve on the situation somewhat, he decided to build an adapter for Ryobi cordless tool batteries.

[Michael] had already seen similar 3D printed adapters, but decided to make his the traditional way. Well, sort of. He used a CNC router to cut out the distinctive shape required to accept the 18 V lithium-ion battery pack, but the rest was assembled from hardware store parts.

Bent mending plates with nuts and bolts were used to create adjustable contacts, and a spring added to the top ensures that there’s always a bit of tension in the system so it makes a good electrical contact. This setup makes for a very robust connector, and as [Michael] points out, the bolts make a convenient place to attach your wires.

With the logistics of physically connecting to the Ryobi batteries sorted out, the next step was turning that into useful power for the telescope. A stable 12 V is produced by way of a compact DC-DC converter, and a toggle switch and fuse connect it to a pair of automotive-style power sockets. Everything is held inside of a wooden box that’s far smaller and lighter than the lead-acid monster it replaced, meaning it can get mounted directly to the telescope rather than laying on the ground.

If you want to build a similar adapter, the 3D printing route will potentially save you some time and effort. But we have to admit that the heavy-duty connection [Michael] has rigged up here looks quite stout. If you’ve got an application where the battery could be knocked around or vibrated lose, this may be the way to go.