Giant D20 Is A Critical Hit in More Ways than One

[Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson] is a member of the NYC Resistor hackerspace and an avid fan of a D&D themed improv theatre called The Campaign. To show his appreciation, he decided to gift them a Christmas present: a giant D20. The original plan called for integrated LEDs to burst alight on a critical hit or miss, or let out pulses if it landed on another face. Cool, right? Well, easier said than done.

[Vejdemo-Johansson] figured a circle of 4 tilt sensors mounted on the one and twenty face would be enough to detect critical rolls. If any of the switches were tilted beyond 30 degrees, the switch would close. He mounted eight ball-tilt switches and glued in the LEDs. A hackerspace friend also helped him put together an astable multivibrator to generate the pulses for non-critical rolls.

This… did not work out so well. His tilt sensor array proved to be a veritable electronic cacophony and terribly sensitive to any movement. That and some other electronic troubles forced a shelving of any light shows on a critical hit or miss. [Vejdemo-Johansson] kept the pulsing LEDs which made for a cool effect when shining through the mirrored, red acrylic panes he used for the die faces. Foam caulk backer rods protect as the die’s structure to stop it from being shattered on its first use.

Before The Campaign’s next show, [Vejdemo-Johansson] managed to stealthily swap-out of the troupe’s original die with his gift, only for it to be immediately thrown in a way that would definitely void any electronic warranty. Check out the reveal after the break (warning, some NSFW language)!

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Unlock Your Demo Kindle Paperwhite

If you’ve been holding off on upgrading your kindle, this project might inspire you to finally bite the bullet. [WarriorRocker] recently saved quite a few dollars on his Kindle upgrade by using a demo unit. Of course, it’s not as simple as just finding a demo unit and booting it up. There’s some hacking involved.

[WarriorRocker] found his Kindle Paperwhite demo unit on an online auction site for just $20. Kindles are great for reading but also make popular displays for your own projects. This used display model was much less expensive than a new unit, which makes sense considering it had probably received its share of abuse from the consumers of some retail store. The problem with a demo unit is that the firmware that comes with it is very limited, and can’t be used to sync up with your Amazon account. That’s where the hacking comes in.

pwdu-01The first step was to crack open the case and locate the serial port. [WarriorRocker] soldered a small three pin header to the pads to make it easier to work on his device as needed. He then connected the Kindle to his PC using a small serial to USB adapter. Pulling up the command prompt was as simple as running Putty and connecting to the correct COM port. If the wires are hooked up correctly, then it just takes a press of the enter key to pull up the login prompt.

The next step requires root access. The root password for each unit is related to the unit’s serial number. [WarriorRocker] obtained the serial number by rebooting the Kindle while the Serial connection was still open. The boot sequence will spit out the number. This number can then be entered in to an online tool to generate possible root passwords. The tool is available on [WarriorRocker’s] project page linked above.

Next, the Kindle needs to be rebooted into diagnostic mode. This is because root logins are not allowed while the device is booted to the system partition. To enter diagnostic mode, [WarriorRocker] had to press enter over and over during the boot sequence in order to kill the automatic boot process. Then he checked some environment variables to locate the memory address where the diagnostic mode is stored. One more command tells the system to boot to that address and into diagnostic mode.

The last step of the process begins by mounting the Kindle as a USB storage device and copying over the stock Kindle firmware image. Next [WarriorRocker] had to exit the diagnostic menu and return to a root command prompt. Finally, he used the dd command to copy the image to the Kindle’s partition bit by bit. Fifteen minutes and one reboot later and the Kindle was working just as it should. [WarriorRocker] even notes that the 3G connection still works. Not bad for $20 and an hour or two of work.

Dice gauntlet joins cosplay with D&D gaming

If you needed a reason to dress up for your next Dungeons & Dragons adventure this is surely it. Not only will this attractive wrist adornment go right along with your medieval theme, but the gauntlet doubles as a multi-sided digital die.

Sparkfun whipped up this tutorial which details the build. Yep, they’re hawking their own goods but we must say this is one of the few projects using sewable electronics which we thoroughly enjoy. It calls for several Lilypad modules, including an Arduino board, accelerometer, and slide switches. The switches let you select the number of sides for the die you are about to roll. The accelerometer starts the fun when you shake your wrist back and forth (that’s what she said). The project is powered by a rechargeable battery, which we always like to see, and uses a four-digit seven segment display located where the face of a wristwatch is normally found.

Of course, you could get the shaking action and use no batteries at all if you wish.

DOSbox on Zipit

poolrad (Custom)

Who out there has a Zipit? Great, now out of the five of you, who really wants to run Dos on it? Well, for the one or two of you left reading, now you can. The directions can be found here. [Hunter] has worked out a way to get DosBox running on his Zipit. At 315 mhz his old DOS games, like AD&D shown above, are running quite snappily. You can download everything you need to get up and running from the site. If DOS isn’t your thing, you may want to check out the Linux how to as well.

[thanks Harold]

Digital Dice


There have been several attempts at bringing Dungeons & Dragons up to date with modern technology. Most attempts have been in the form of computer games that somehow fail to capture the essential experience. This attempt, however seems to add some techie flair to while keeping the game the same. [Itay] has built some digital dice. Simply choose how many sides you want your dice to have, then give it a shake.  OK, a random number generator isn’t that groundbreaking, but he did have to do some pretty intense soldering. The LED matrix is pretty cool, but we like looking at the back. You can see it in the video after the break.

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Install Windows 7 on your netbook


No one will ever accuse us of being Windows fanboys; we’re certainly fans of netbooks though (or anything cheap enough that we don’t care if we accidentally burn a hole through it). We’ve heard from quite a few friends that Windows 7 is actually an excellent operating system to run on a netbook and is a dream compared to XP. Gizmodo has compiled a guide to getting the release candidate on your lightweight machine. It’s available now and will work for free for a year. The image is 2.36GB which you need to dd onto a USB device. They recommend at least an 8GB drive, but anything smaller than 16GB and you’ll have to use Window’s compact utility to save space. Other than these space considerations, the install appears to be easy. Let us know about your experiences using Windows 7 on your netbook.