Alien Inspired Cyberdeck Packs Vintage Atari 800XL

Sticking a Raspberry Pi in a Pelican-style case and calling it a cyberdeck has become something of a meme these days, and while we certainly don’t look down on such projects, we recognize they can get a bit repetitive. But we think this one is unique enough to get a pass. Sure [eizen6] mounted a Pi inside of a rugged waterproof case, but it’s simply serving as a display for the real star of the show: a vintage Atari 800XL computer.

The overall look of the build, from the stenciled Nostromo on the back to the self-destruct warning sticker over the display is a reference to Alien. Partly because both the film and the Atari 800 were released in 1979, but also because [eizen6] says this particular aesthetic is simply the way computers should look. The visual style is also meant to signify that the project embraces the old ways despite the sprinkling of modern technology.

A custom cable lets the 800XL run on USB power.

To that end, retro aficionados will be happy to hear that the Atari appears to be completely unmodified, with [eizen6] going as far as nestling the nearly 40 year old computer in foam rather than permanently mounting it to the case. The various cables for power, video, and data have all been terminated with the appropriate connectors as well, so everything can be easily unplugged should the 8-bit machine need to be returned to more pedestrian use.

In the top half of the case, [eizen6] has mounted the Raspberry Pi 3B+, a seven inch touch screen, a USB hub, and a SIO2SD that allows loading Atari disk images from an SD card. Using a USB capture device, video from the Atari can be shown on the Pi’s display with a simple VLC command. With a USB keyboard plugged into the hub, the Pi can be put to more advanced use should the need arise. It’s also worth noting that, thanks to a custom cable, the Atari is running off of a USB power bank. With a second USB power bank dedicated to running the Pi and its LCD display, this retro cyberdeck is fully mobile.

We’ve seen plenty of modern builds that try and recapture the look and feel of retro computers, but very few that actually integrate the genuine article. While the aesthetic might not be everyone’s cup of tea, we can all appreciate the respect shown for the original hardware in this build.

A Bootable Greeting For The Xenomorph In Your Life

When he needed a gift for his Alien superfan friend, [Stephen Brennan] decided the best way to put his unique set of skills to use would be to create a bootable Linux operating system that captures the sights and sounds of the Nostromo’s retro-futuristic computer systems. We could all use a friend like that.

Even if would never occur to you gift somebody a bootable flash drive, there’s a wealth of information in this blog post about Linux customization which could be useful for all sorts of projects. From creating a bootsplash image to automatically starting up a minimalistic windowing environment so a single graphical application takes center stage.

Whether you’re looking to tweak your desktop machine or build a Raspberry Pi kiosk, the commands and tips that [Stephen] shows off are sure to be interesting for anyone who’s not quite satisfied with how their Linux distribution of choice looks “out of the box”.

But there’s more to this project than a custom wallpaper and some retro fonts. [Stephen] actually took the time to create a facsimile of the “Personal Terminal” computer interface shown in the recent Alien: Isolation game in C using ncurses. The resulting program, aptly named “alien-console”, is released under the BSD license and is flexible enough that you could either use it as a base to build your own cyberpunk UI, or just load it up with custom text files and use it on your cyberdeck as-is.

Finally, to really sell the Alien feel, [Stephen] went through and ripped various audio clips from the film and wove them into the OS so it would make the movie-appropriate boops and beeps. He even included a track of the Nostromo’s ambient engine noise for proper immersion. But perhaps our favorite trick is the use of the sleep command to artificially slow down the terminal and give everything a bit more “weight”. After all, flying a pretend starship should feel like serious business.

Did We Just Get Buzzed By Alien Space Junk?

Perhaps you heard about Oumuamua (don’t ask us how to pronounce that). The cigar-shaped object is the first item found by astronomers that is known to have come from outside the solar system and is continuing to pass through, not being captured by the sun’s gravitational field. A recent paper from [Shmuel Bialy] and [Abraham Loeb] from Harvard suggests that the thing could be a discarded light sail from an alien spacecraft.

Of course, it is fun to speculate that anything in space we don’t understand could be alien. However, the paper is doing more than just speculating. The rotation rate of the object suggests it is fairly flat (pancake-like, was the exact phrase used). In addition, it appears to experience “non-gravitational” acceleration — that is, it is accelerating due to some force other than gravity.

Others have suggested that the acceleration is due to material boiling off as the sun warms it. However, there’s no indication of that happening and activity like that ought to also change the spin rate which does not appear to be happening. Solar wind pressure could explain the changes, though. You might think that proves nothing since the solar wind pushes on everything. However, it is just like the wind in the atmosphere — sure it pushes on your car, your house, and a sailboat, but only the sailboat moves appreciably from it.

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Visual Futurist Syd Mead Will Keynote At Hackaday Superconference

What does the future actually look like? Chances are what you see in your mind when presented with that question is heavily influence by Syd Mead. He is an industrial designer, but his body of work — which includes some of the most iconic Sci-Fi movies ever filmed — built a much more interesting job title for him: Visual Futurist.

Meet Syd Mead as he presents a keynote talk at the 2017 Hackaday Superconference this November 11 and 12 in Pasadena, California.

Philip K. Dick wondered Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but when it came time to build those sheep and the world they live in, director Ridley Scott looked to Syd Mead to determine what the future in Blade Runner actually looked like. He invented a world, one that was actually built through the practical sets and props widely used in the days before computer graphics became the norm. Syd’s work is also seen in Star Trek: The Motion PictureAlien, and the iconic designs for the movie Tron. And his prolific work has continued to appear on the silver screen ever since, with Elysium and Tomorrowland as some of his more recent work.

How does one invent the future, even through decades of progress? That’s the role of hardware creators — to envision what we want and need tomorrow, not today or yesterday. Syd Mead is a hardware creator and his hardware has been built time and again to inspire all of us for where we’re going with technology. Take that ride along with Syd at the Hackaday Superconference. Get your tickets now.

[Main image credit: Blade Runner concept art by Syd Mead]

 

An Alien-Themed… Cuckoo Clock?

If you are a follower of the sci-fi horror film genre then it is likely that you will be familiar with the Alien series of movies. Images of Sigourney Weaver bearing a significant amount of firepower, or of John Hurt’s chest being rent asunder by an emerging creature will be brought to mind, it’s one of those franchises which seems to have entered the public consciousness.

With the release of another movie in the series fast approaching, [Keith Elliott] resolved to mark the occasion with his own Alien themed tribute. What, you might ponder, could he choose? Surely there must be plenty of iconic moments in the films that could provide fertile ground for a tribute project!

So  presumably after a significant period of reflection, he’s built an Alien themed cuckoo clock. Something of an off-the-wall choice, you might say, but he persevered with it. The main body of the clock is the torso and head of an unfortunate human crew member, the face of the clock is formed by an alien facehugger on his face, and the cuckoo is not a bird in the manner of the Alpine originals, but a chest-bursting alien that issues forth from the torso.

There is a video, which we’ve posted below. Perhaps the chestburster action needs a little more spontaneity and to be a little less rhythmic, but we’ll leave it to you to decide whether it is inspired or merely kitsch.

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“Giger Counter” Makes Radiation Detection Surreal

Here’s a quick question: are Geiger and Giger (as in H.R. Giger, designer of the Alien Xenomorph) pronounced the same? The answer is no. Nevertheless, the late artist has had his name mispronounced (for the record, it’s ghee-gur) by many over the years. [Steve DeGroof’s] friend posted a goofy tweet that gave him the inspiration to finally put a skeletal lid on the matter, the Giger Counter.

The innards are a Mightyohm Geiger Counter Kit. The external casing is where the true hack lies in this project, made from a 1:2 scale plastic skeleton model, flexible conduit, and dark metallic spray paint. Only the ribcage, some vertebrae, and part of the skull are used from the model. They are assembled in a delightfully inhuman fashion with some conduit wrapped around it and into the bottom of the ribcage for good measure. After some gluing and spray painting, the LED from the Geiger Counter kit is placed through a drilled hole in the skull while the board sits inside the ribcage. Getting the board in and out can be a little tricky, but it looks like the batteries can be changed without having to pull the whole board out.

Check out the video below to see the Giger Counter. If you want another hack inspired by H.R. Giger’s artistic vision, take a look at this Xenomorph suit we covered.  Or, if you can’t get enough Geiger counters, we’ve featured plenty of cool ones on this site.

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Walk Like A Xenomorph

[James Bruton] is busy working on his latest project, a “scrap metal sculpture”-inspired Alien Xenomorph suit.  However, he wanted to get a boost in height as well as a digitigrade stance. To that end, [James] 3D-printed a pair of customized stilts. Each stilt consisted of a lifter with several parts laminated together using acetone. He bolted an old pair of shoes onto the stilts, adding straps across the toes to keep the shoes from lifting up.

While the stilts worked very well, [James] wanted to add soles to them to give him some traction as he walked – falling while in a Xenomorph costume composed of sharp plastic sounds painful enough! He decided to hybrid print the soles using ABS and Ninjaflex. The ABS part of the sole was then acetone-welded to the bottom of the stilts.

[James] hopes to add some claws for effect, so long as they don’t impede his walking too much. He has already completed a good amount of the 3D-printed suit. We know the finished project is going to be amazing: [James] has created everything from Daleks to Iron Man!

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