Bring Out The Fine Detail In Small Objects With This Coaxial Lighting Rig

All things considered, modern photography is pretty easy. It’s really just a matter of pointing the camera at the thing you want to take a picture of and letting the camera do the rest. But that doesn’t mean good photographs are easy to make, especially when fine detail is required. And that’s the reason this 3D printed coaxial lighting setup was built — to make quality photographs of small objects a snap.

The objects of [Peter Lin]’s photographic desire are coins, no doubt of the collectible variety. Since the condition of a coin is essential to determining its value, numismatic photographers really need to be meticulous about the quality of their work. The idea here is to keep the incoming light parallel to the optical axis of the camera, for which purpose ring lights around the camera lens are often used. But they can result in lighting artifacts, and can be awkward to use for such smaller subjects.

So for this setup, [Peter] essentially built a beam-splitter. The body is a printed block that’s painted matte black to keep reflections down; a little self-adhesive flocking paper helps with that too. The round aperture on the top is for the camera lens, with the square window on the side admitting light. The secret is a slot oriented at 45 degrees to both of those openings, into which the glass element from a cheap UV filter is inserted. The filter acts like a beam splitter which reflects light down onto the coin on the bottom of the block and lets it pass up into the camera lens directly above the coin, parallel to the optical axis. Genius!

The video below shows it in use with both DSLR and smartphone cameras, and the image quality is amazing. While most of us probably aren’t photographing coins, we do enough high-resolution photography of small objects that this seems applicable. In a way, it reminds us of [Big Clive]’s “TupperCam” method of high-res PCB photography (final item).

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A Customizable Macropad To Make Anyone’s Tail Wag

[Gili Yankovitch] has always wanted some kind of macro keypad for all those boss-slaying combos he keeps up the sleeve of his wizard robe while playing WoW. Seventeen years later, he finally threw down the gauntlet and built one. But really, this is an understatement, because Paws is kind of the customizable macropad to end all customizable macropads.

This thing is completely bespoke, and yet cookie cutter at the same time — but we mean that in the best possible way. Paws can be made in any shape or form, and quite easily. How is this even possible, you ask? Well, every single key has its own microcontroller.

Yep, each key has an ATtiny85 and a cute little ribbon cable, and these form a token ring network that talks to an Arduino, which provides the keyboard interface to the computer. To make things even easier, [Gili] built a simple programming UI that automatically recognizes the configuration and number of keys, and lets the user choose the most important bit of all — the color of the LED.

[Gili] wanted to combine all the skills he’s learned since the worst timeline started in early 2020 — embedded software, CAD, electronics, and PCB design. We’d like to add networking to that list, especially since he figured out a nice workaround for the slowness of I²C and the limitations of communication between the ‘tiny85s and the Arduino. Though [Gili] may have started out with a tall order, he definitely filled it. Want to get your paws on the design files? Just claw your way over to GitHub.

If your customization interests lie more toward what program is in focus, be sure to check out Keybon, which was one of the many awesome winners of our Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals contest.

Homebrew Stream Deck Pedal Emulates The Real Thing

Pedals are a great way to control functions on your computer. You’re rarely using your feet for anything else, so they can handle some tasks, freeing up your hands. This Elgato Stream Deck controller from [DDRBoxman] does just that.

[DDRBoxman] wanted to control Elgato Stream Deck much like the offical pedal sold by the company. Thus, some hacking was in order. Using Wireshark with the Elgato pedal helped to determine the communication method of the real hardware.

Once the protocol was figured out, it was just a task of getting the Raspberry Pi Pico to replicate the same functionality. With the help of the tinyusb library, [DDRBoxman] was able to emulate the real Elgato device successfully. Paired with a 3D-printed footswitch design from Adafruit, and the project was functional and complete.

We’ve seen great foot pedal devices over the years, from a simple macro device to a super-useful page turner for sheet music. If you’ve been hacking away at your own nifty input devices, be sure to drop us a line!

Astrophotography On The Game Boy Camera

The Game Boy Camera was the first digital camera that many of us ever interacted with. At the time it was fairly groundbreaking to take pictures without film, even though the resolution was extremely low by modern standards, and it could only shoot two-bit color. It’s been long enough since its release that it’s starting to become a popular classic with all kinds of hacks and modifications, like this one which adds modern SLR camera lenses which lets it take pictures of the Moon.

The limitations of the camera make for a fairly challenging build. Settings like exposure are automatic on the Game Boy Camera and can’t be changed, and the system only allows the user to change contrast and brightness. But the small sensor size means that astrophotography can be done with a lens that is also much smaller than a photographer would need with a modern DSLR. Once a mount was 3D printed to allow the lenses to be changed and a tripod mount was built, it was time to take some pictures of the moon.

Thanks to the interchangeability of the lenses with this build, the camera can also capture macro images as well. The build went into great detail on how to set all of this up, even going as far as giving tips for how to better 3D print interlocking threads, so it’s well worth a view. And, for other Game Boy Camera builds, take a look at this one which allows the platform to send its pictures over WiFi.

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Custom Macro Keyboard With Sweet Backlighting

From the smallest 60% keyboards for those with no desk space to keyboards with number pads for those doing data entry all day, there’s a keyboard size and shape for just about everyone. The only problem, even with the largest keyboards, is that they’re still fairly limited in what they can do. If you find yourself wishing for even more functionality, you might want to build something like this custom macro keyboard with built-in LED backlighting.

Rather than go with a standard mechanical keyboard switch like a Cherry MX, this build is based around TS26-2 pushbuttons with built-in LED lighting. [atkaper] only really needed one button for managing the mute button on MS Teams, but still built a total of eight switches into this keyboard which can all be individually programmed with different functions. The controller is an Arduino Leonardo and the enclosure was 3D printed.

Paired with the classic IBM Model M keyboard, this new macro keyboard adds plenty of functionality while also having control over LED backlighting. Macro keyboards are incredibly useful, especially with their ability to easily change function with control over the software that runs on them. The key to most builds is the 32U4 chip found in some Atmel microcontrollers which allows it to easily pass keyboard (and mouse) functionality to any computer its plugged in to.

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.

Adaptive Macro-Pad Uses Tiny OLED Screens As Keycaps

When we first laid eyes on Keybon, the adaptive macro keyboard, we sort of wondered what the big deal was. It honestly looked like any other USB macro keyboard, with big icons for various common tasks on the chunky keys. But looks can be deceiving, and [Max Kern] worked a couple of surprises into Keybon.

First of all, each one of Keybon’s buttons is actually a tiny OLED display, making the keycaps customizable through software. Each of the nine 0.66″ displays has a resolution of 64 x 48 pixels, which is plenty for all kinds of icons, and each is mounted over an SMD pushbutton switch. He had to deal with the problem of the keycaps just wobbling around atop the switch button without depressing it; this was solved with a 3D-printed cantilever frame that forced the keycaps to pivot only in one axis, resulting in clean, satisfyingly clicky keypresses.

The other trick that Keybon has is interactivity. By itself, it boots up with a standard set of icons and sends the corresponding keystrokes over USB. But when used with its companion Windows application, the entire macro set can be switched out to accommodate whatever application is being used. This gives the users access to custom macros for a web browser, EDA suite, CAD applications, or an IDE. The app supports up to eight macro sets and can be seen in action in the video below.

We love the look and the functionality [Max.K] has built into Keybon, but we wonder if e-ink displays would be a good choice for the keycaps too. They’re available for a song as decommissioned store shelf price tags now, and they might be nice since the icon would persist without power.

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