You might think it’s a bit early for us to be running Halloween hacks, but don’t worry. While this microcontroller-equipped doll that mimics a USB keyboard to type out messages in the creepiest way possible might seem like a gag gift you’d get after attending somebody’s bone-chilling holiday bash, creator [Jonathan] actually put it together for a friend’s wedding. So not only is it an interesting piece of hacked together hardware, but it’s also a great reminder about the importance of having a wedding registry.
Even if this seems like a rather unusual wedding gift from an outsider’s perspective (for the record, pranks involving this “haunted doll” have been a running gag between them since their school days), we can’t help but be impressed with the way [Jonathan] implemented it. An ATtiny85-powered Digispark is hidden inside the doll, along with a simple USB 2.0 hub that supposedly eases some teething issues the diminutive development board has with newer USB 3.0 ports. Through the use of V-USB, this lets the baby type out messages once plugged into the recipient’s computer.
Now he could have just stopped there, but [Jonathan] wanted this to be an interactive experience. Specifically, he wanted the baby to present the newlyweds with a personally test of sorts, and that meant taking user input. He came up with the clever user interface demonstrated in the video below, which responds to changes in the system’s “Caps Lock” state.
This platform-agnostic solution lets the user navigate the doll’s menu system by tapping a single key, although the Chromebook users out there will have to break out the Alt key to play along. It’s a neat trick for getting two-way communication going between a MCU and a computer without any client-side software, and worth filing away mentally for future non-haunted projects. It’s also worth checking out the effort [Jonathan] put into optimizing everything to fit into the chip’s paltry 6012 bytes of flash.
Incidentally, this is a good a time as any to remind readers that our Halloween Hackfest contest is live right now and taking entries until October 11th. If you’ve got any cursed bar mitzvah gifts you’ve been putting the finishing touches on, we’d love to see them.
The much-maligned Caps Lock key has been causing problems for decades, and its continued existence is controversial enough that Google decided to drop it all together in their Chromebooks. Until the rest of the industry decides to follow their lead, they’ll likely be no shortage of awkward emails or overly aggressive comments that are the direct result of this treacherous key.
But [Glen Akins] thinks he has the solution. His creation is a tiny little USB notification device that has only one purpose: to make a terrible noise as long as the Caps Lock key is engaged. Think of it like the little indicator LED on your keyboard, but one that makes a terrible screeching noise that you simply can’t ignore. This is made possible by the fact that the Caps Lock status is handled at the OS level rather than the local input device.
The notifier is built around the PIC16F1459, as it allowed him to implement USB 2.0 while keeping the part count low. Beyond the PIC, the board uses a handful of passives and a transistor to drive the buzzer from a PWM signal. To avoid duplicated effort, everything was designed to fit inside the enclosure he already developed for his single-key keyboard that we covered last year. [Glen] and a fellow coworker from Keysight put together an excellent video on the creation and use of the buzzer that you can see after the break.
[Garrett] posted about ThinkGeek updating the Phantom Keystroker to support random capslocking. You may remember that [Garrett] built the Stealth USB CapsLocker for April Fool’s day. The tiny device would randomly turn on the victim’s Caps Lock. This update to the commercial product has inspired him to refresh his own design. He suggests few possible options: random inserts, erratic volume control, or random sleeps. He’s also planning on making it more accessible to hacking. What would you add?
As you can plainly see, we’re embracing International Caps Lock Day with full gusto. Go ahead, try it out in the comments. Caps lock is the cruise control for cool. Surprisingly, there are quite a few full time haters of the key running campaigns: CAPSoff and anticAPSLOCK actually united to form CAPSoff.org to further development of a caps lock free keyboard.
Once you’re tired of yelling at people online (like that’ll happen), you might attempt to do something useful with the key. In OSX, you can remap the caps lock key in System Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse > Modifier Keys. You can make it an extra Command, Control, Option, or select No Action. If you want to map it to another key entirely, try a program like fKeys. You could map it to Esc to make Vim—THE BEST TEXT EDITOR EVER—easy to use. In Windows, try this handy guide from TechRepublic for remapping your keys.
This is one of the most original April fools gags I’ve seen. [Garrett] sent in his USB caps locker. It’s built from an ATTiny45 and puts out an intermittent signal to set the caps lock key. Considering what day it is, it appears to be legit. After you’re done screwing with your co-worker for the day, you might be even more interested in the easylogger project that it’s based on.