Cash register keyboard

Custom Keyboard From A Cash Register

Having a high-quality mechanical keyboard is often a rite of passage in the computing world, with gamers and coders alike having strong opinions on the best devices. Even then, the standard keyboard layout can be substantially limiting, and often something a little extra and customizable is needed beyond even the highest-quality QWERTY keyboards. Reddit user [RonaldMcWhisky] was looking for a keyboard to use for macros, and discovered that it is possible to put cash register keyboards into service for any unique task.

Cash register keyboards have a number of advantages over a standard QWERTY design. They have big keys, the keys can be labeled, and the keys can be ordered in a way the user wants. The hardware is also cheap since cash registers are everywhere. Adapting one to work with a standard computer took a little bit of doing. Since this is /r/linuxhardware, you’re not going to find any Windows support here, but assuming you have the minimum system requirements of a Linux install to recognize the keyboard itself, a Python script can handle the events as the keys are pressed and interpret them in whatever way you want.

The actual hardware in this specific build was a Wincor Nixdorf TA85P — let us know in the comments if you’ve got one of those in your junk box. But the idea of using a cash register for a custom keyboard is interesting, and certainly a lot of work is already done for you if you don’t want to build your own custom keyboard from the ground up.

Casting Silicone Parts With 3D-Printed Inserts For Stiffness

Prolific maker [Jan Mrázek] shared his process for casting soft silicone parts that nevertheless have some added stiffness, which he accomplished by embedding porous, 3D-printed “ribs” into the pieces during the casting process. The 3D-printed inserts act as a sort of skeleton, and as a result, the parts have a soft silicone surface but gain structure and rigidity that simply wouldn’t be obtained if the part were cast entirely in silicone. The nice thing is that no new materials or tools were needed; [Jan] 3D printed both the molds for the parts as well as the structural inserts. It’s always nice when one can use the same tool and materials to accomplish different functions.

The parts [Jan] is making are interesting, as well. He observed that the process of swapping resin in his printer’s build tank was an unpleasant experience for a number of reasons, chief among them being that resin is sticky and messy, and the shape of the build tank doesn’t make pouring resin from it a clean job.

His solution was to design a pour spout that could be pressed onto the build tank, and some specially-designed squeegees to allow scraping the tank clean with ease. Silicone is the ideal material for the parts because it turns out that sticky resin beads nicely on silicone’s surface. Anywhere else, resin tends to spread out and form a sticky mess, but on silicone resin it forms tidy drops and is much easier to clean up.

It’s a technique worth keeping in mind, because one never knows when it could come in handy. Fabricating soft robots for example tends to involve silicone casting and clever techniques. See [Jan]’s parts in action in the video, embedded below.

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Building A Stump Grinder From The Ground Up

Felling a tree properly is a skill that takes some practice to master, especially without causing any injuries or property damage. Getting the tree cut down though is sometimes only half of the battle, as the stump and roots need to be addressed as well. Unless you have a few years to wait for them to naturally decompose you might want to employ a stump grinder, and unless you want to spend a chunk of money on a stump grinding service or buy your own, you might want to do what [Workshop from Scratch] did and build your own.

This stump grinder isn’t anything to scoff at, either, and might even fool some into thinking it’s a consumer grade tool from a big box store. Far from it though, as almost everything down to the frame is custom machined specifically for this build. The only thing that isn’t built from scratch, including the cutting wheel, is the beefy 15 horsepower motor. Once it gets going it is able to carve stumps down to the ground in no time thanks especially to some gear reductions in the drive line from the motor to the cutting head.

Before anyone mentions safety, it looks like [Workshop from Scratch] has made some upgrades since his last project which was a gas-powered metal cutting chainsaw. Since then it looks like he has upgraded the sheet metal to something a little thicker, even though a stump grinder has arguably lower risk due to the slower speed of the cutting wheel and also to the fact that the cutting medium is wood and not metal. There are also brakes and an emergency shutoff switch. It sure seems like a fine addition to his collection of completely custom tools.

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Hi-Fi Combines Best Of 60s And 90s Technology

The 90s were a dark time for audio equipment, literally and figuratively. Essentially the only redeeming quality from the decade of nondescript black plastic boxes was the low cost. Compared to the audio equipment of the 60s, largely produced in high-end enclosures with highly desirable tube amplifiers, the 90s did not offer much when it came to hi-fi stereo sound. However, those cheap black boxes from the 90s turn out to be surprisingly perfect for project enclosures for other amplifier builds, such as this 60s-era tube amp recreation.

This mesh of the best of two distinct decades comes from [Alvenh] and begins by preparing the old enclosure for its new purpose. This means a lot of work fabricating a custom metal face plate for the new amplifier and significantly modifying the remaining case. After the box is complete, the amplifier build began. It uses a tube-based preamp and a solid-state power amplifier since [Alvenh]’s experience suggested that the warm tube sound was generated mostly in the preamp. This means that his design is a hybrid but still preserves the essential qualities of a full tube build.

The build also includes a radio module that has the ability to cover the 2m and 70cm bands popular in ham radio. This module also has been found to have much better audio quality than the standard AM/FM receiver typically used in projects like this. With the radio module added to the custom enclosure, as well as a phono amp and a power supply, [Alvenh] has an excellent audio amplifier in an inexpensive case which preserves the tube sound from the true hi-fi eras of decades past.

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DOS Gaming PC Gets Necessary Updates

PC-104 is a standard computer form factor that most people outside of industrial settings probably haven’t seen before. It’s essentially an Intel 486 processor with lots of support for standards that have long since disappeared from most computers, but this makes it great for two things: controlling old industrial equipment and running classic DOS games on native hardware. For the latter, we turn once again to [The Rasteri] who is improving on his previous build with an even smaller DOS gaming rig, this time based on a platform even more diminutive than PC-104.

The key of a build like this is that it needs native support for the long-obsolete ISA bus to be able to interface with a SoundBlaster card, a gold standard for video games of the era. This smaller computer still has this functionality in a smaller package, but with some major improvements. First, it has a floating point unit so it can run games like Quake. It’s also much faster than the PC-104 system and uses less power. Finally, it fits in an even smaller case.

The build goes well beyond simply running software on a SoM computer. [The Rasteri] also custom built an interface board for this project, complete with all of the necessary ports and an ISA sound chip, all while keeping size down to a minimum. The new build also lets him give the build a better name than the old one (although he phrases this upgrade slightly differently), and will also let him expand some features in the future as well. Be sure to check out that first build if you’re new to this saga, too.

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Custom Dummy Load With Data Logging

While it might seem counterintuitive on the surface, there are a number of cases where dumping a large amount of energy into a resistor simply to turn it into heat is necessary to the operation of a circuit. Most of these cases involve testing electronic equipment such as power supplies or radio transmitters and while a simple resistor bank can be used in some situations, this active dummy load is comprised of different internals has some extra features to boot.

The load bank built by [Debraj] is actually an electronic load, which opens it up for a wider set of use cases than a simple passive dummy load like a resistor bank. It’s specifically designed for DC and also includes voltage measurement, current control, and temperature measurement and speed control of the fans on the heat sinks. It also includes a Bluetooth module that allows it to communicate to a computer using python via a custom protocol and GUI.

While this one does use a case and some other parts from another product and was specifically built to use them, the PCB schematics and code are all available to build your own or expand on this design. It’s intended for DC applications, but there are other dummy loads available for things such radio antenna design, and it turns out that you can learn a lot from them too.

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Solid Oak Arcade Cabinet: When Particle Board Won’t Do

Having an arcade cabinet of one’s own is a common dream among those who grew up during the video game arcade heyday of the 80s and early 90s. It’s a fairly common build that doesn’t take too much specialized knowledge to build. This cabinet, on the other hand, pulled out all of the stops for the cabinet itself, demonstrating an impressive level of woodworking expertise.

The cabinet enclosure is made with red oak boards, which the creator [Obstreperuss] sawed and planed and then glued together to create the various panels (more details are available on his Imgur album). The Mario artwork on the sides and front aren’t just vinyl stickers, either. He used various hardwoods cut into small squares to create pixel art inlays in the oak faces. After the fancy woodwork was completed, the build was finished out with some USB arcade controllers, a flat-panel screen, and a Raspberry Pi to run the games.

While the internals are pretty standard, we have to commend the incredible quality of the woodworking. It’s an impressive homage to classic arcade machines and we wouldn’t mind a similar one in our own homes. If you’re lacking the woodworking equipment, though, it’s possible to get a refined (yet smaller) arcade cabinet for yourself with a 3D printer instead.

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