There’s a sleek form factor for desktop computers known as an “all-in-one” that enrobes a computer in a monitor. While the convenience of having all your computing in a neat package has some nice benefits, it comes with an unfortunate downside. Someday the computer inside is going to be old and outdated in comparison to newer machines. While a new OS goes a long way towards breathing life into an old machine, [Thomas] has decided to take the path less travelled and converted an old iMac all-in-one into a discrete monitor.
The iMac in question is the 20″ iMac G5 iSight (A1145) with an LG-Philips LM201W01-STB2 LCD panel. Looking back, [Thomas] would recommend just ordering an LCD driver controller kit from your favourite auction house. But for this particular modification, he decided to do things a little bit more manually and we’re quite glad he did.
Luckily for [Thomas], the panel supports TMDS (which both DVI and HDMI are compatible with). So the next step was to figure out the signalling wires and proper voltages. After some trouble caused by a mislabeled power line on the iMac PCB silk-screen (12v instead of 3.3v), he had all the wires identified and a plan starting to form. The first step was a circuit to trick the inverter into turning on with the help of a relay. The female HDMI plug with a breakout board was added and sticks out through the old firewire port. The minuscule wires in the display ribbon cable to the monitor were separated and soldered onto with the help of [Thomas’] daughter’s microscope. Resistances were checked as HDMI relies on impedance matched pairs. To finish it off, an old tactile toggle switch offers a way to turn the monitor on and off with a solid thunk.
We love seeing old hardware being repurposed for new things. This project nicely complements the iMac G4 Reborn With Intel NUC Transplant we saw earlier this year, as they both try to preserve the form factor while allowing a new computer to drive the display.
For administering many computers at once, an IP KVM is an invaluable piece of equipment that makes it possible to get the job done over the network without having to haul a keyboard, monitor, and mouse around to each computer. The only downside is that they can get pricey, unless of course you can roll one out based on the Raspberry Pi and the PiKVM image for little more than the cost of the Pi itself.
The video linked below shows how to set all of this up, which involves flashing the image and then setting up the necessary hardware. The build shows an option for using HDMI over USB, but another option using the CSI bus would allow for control over options like video resolution and color that a USB HDMI dongle doesn’t allow for. It also makes it possible to restart the computer and do things like configure BIOS or boot from removable media, which is something that would be impossible with a remote desktop solution like VNC.
There is a certain warmth that seems to emanate from stereo receivers of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Despite their large footprint and considerable heft, the soft glow of the indicator lights and solid kerthunk of switches provide a sense of coziness. When [Tom] recently swapped his receiver for a 1970s Pioneer SX-950, he found himself getting up from the couch to adjust the volume when watching TV far too often for his liking. Resolving to do something about it, he added some magic in the form of a motorized volume knob. One of the coolest tricks for stereos was to have a small motor attached to the volume knob so that it could turn the volume up or down via a remote.
The first obstacle came when [Tom] had to forgo the center tap on the potentiometer to get a motorized one. This meant the volume compensation feature would be disabled, which is but a small price to pay for convenience. After scouring the internet, he finally had the part in hand only to discover some troublesome capacitors in the way. The new pot had a rather large motor hanging off the back that the previous one didn’t have. Fortunately, there was a good bit of space between the PCB and the bottom of the chassis, so Tom was able to just flip the capacitors to the underside of the board and bend them on their sides.
The next problem to solve was how to change the volume remotely. IR was considered as well as optical cable control signals. What [Tom] did instead was to implement HDMI CEC (consumer electronics control). CEC was well documented and seemed simple to implement on an ATTINY4313 with the help of a half-H driver. The CEC protocol implemented by [Tom’s] TV seemed to be very sensitive to timing, so an external crystal was used to get more precise timing and additional handshaking was implemented to get the TV to accept the microcontroller as valid. A few fail-safes were added to make sure the motor didn’t burn out if something went wrong with the CEC protocol and a nice enclosure wrapped up the build quite nicely.
Digital video has proceeded to the point at which we have near-broadcast-quality HD production capabilities in the palm of our hand, and often for a surprisingly affordable price. One area in which the benefits haven’t quite made it to our wallets though is in the field of small HD monitors of the type you might place on top of a camera for filming. It’s a problem noted by [Neon Airship], who has come up with a solution allowing the use of an Android mobile phone as an HDMI monitor. Since many of us will now have a perfectly capable older phone gathering dust, it’s an attractive proposition with the potential to cost very little.
The secret isn’t the most elite of hacks in that it uses all off-the-shelf hardware, but sometimes that isn’t the only reason to be interested in a project such as this one. [Neon] is using an HDMI-to-USB capture card of the type that has recently become available from the usual sources for an astoundingly small sum. When paired with a suitable USB OTG cable, the adapter can be seen by the phone as just another webcam.
We see him try a few webcam viewer apps including one that rather worryingly demands a direct APK download, and the result is a very good quality HDMI monitor atop his camera that really didn’t break the bank. Sometimes the simplest of solutions deliver the most useful of results.
Having been endlessly regaled with tales of side-channel attacks and remote exploits, most of us by now realize that almost every piece of gear leaks data like a sieve. Everything from routers to TVs to the power supplies and cooling fans of computers can be made to give up their secrets. It’s scary stuff, but it also sounds like a heck of a lot of fun, and with an SDR and a little software, you too can get in on the side-channel action.
Coming to us via software-defined radio buff [Tech Minds], the video below gives a quick tour of how to snoop in on what’s being displayed on a monitor for almost no effort or expense. The software that makes it possible is TempestSDR, which was designed specifically for the job. With nothing but an AirSpy Mini and a rubber duck antenna, [Tech Minds] was able to reconstruct a readable black and white image of his screen at a range of a few inches; a better antenna and some fiddling might improve that range to several meters. He also shares a trick for getting TempestSDR set up for all the popular SDRs, including SPRplay, HackRF, and RTL-SDR.
With some clever hacks and fast IO work, it’s possible to get your average garden-variety microcontroller to output some form of video. Old analog standards like composite and VGA are just slow enough that it’s possible to bitbash one’s way to success. If you’re serious about video work, however, you’ll want something more capable. For those use cases, [purisame]’s got what you need – an open source HDMI implementation for FPGAs.
Unlike other free and open source projects in this space, [purisame] has eschewed simply outputting compatible DVI signals on the port. This implementation is pure HDMI 1.4b, enabling the extended capabilities this brings, like combined video and audio streams. Thus far, it’s been tested on Xilinx and Altera platforms, though it may be compatible with Lattice, too.
In addition to the code, [purisame] breaks down options for those looking at going into production with an HDMI device. Licencing the technology for sale can be a fraught area, so a lawyer is recommended if you’re heading to market. Oh, and funnily enough, if your really do want to do HDMI on an Arduino, there’s a shield for that, too. Natch!
According to [Mike Walters], the Elgato Cam Link 4K is a great choice if you’re looking for a HDMI capture device that works under Linux. But the bad news is, it wouldn’t work with any of the video conferencing software he tried to use it with because they expect the video stream to be in a different pixel format. For most people, that would probably have been the end of the story. But you’re reading this on Hackaday, so obviously he didn’t give up without a fight.
Early on, [Mike] found there was a software workaround for this exact issue. The problem isn’t that the Elgato can’t generate the desired format, it’s that the video conferencing programs just don’t know how to ask it to switch modes. The software fix is to create a dummy Video4Linux device and use that to change the format in real-time using ffmpeg. It’s a clever trick if you’ve got a conference call coming up in a few minutes, but it does waste CPU resources and adds some unnecessary hoop jumping.
Inspired by the software fix, [Mike] wondered if there was a way he could simply force the Elgato to output video in the desire format by default. He found a firmware dump for the device online, and found where the pixel formats were referenced by searching for their names in ASCII with hexdump. Looking through the source for the Linux USB Video Class (UVC) driver, he was then able to determine what the full 16 byte sequence should be for each video mode was so he could zero out the unwanted ones. Then it was just a matter of flashing his modified firmware back to the hardware.
But there was a problem: with the modified firmware installed, the device stopped working. After investigating the obvious culprits, [Mike] broke out the oscilloscope and hooked it up to the Elgato’s flash chip. It turns out that due to a bug in the program he was using, the SPI erase commands weren’t getting sent during the flash. This lead to corrupted firmware which was keeping the Elgato from booting. After making a pull request with his fixes, the firmware flashed without incident and the capture device now does double-duty as a webcam when necessary.
We could certainly think of easier and quicker was to roll your own webcam, but we’re glad that [Mike] took the time to modify his Elgato Cam Link 4K and document it. It’s a fantastic example of practical firmware hacking, even if you’re not in the market for a new high-definition video conferencing rig.