Macros For A Mazda

[Arik Yavilevich] recently upgraded his second-gen Mazda’s control console, going from the stock busy box to an Android head unit that does it all on a nice big touchscreen. It can also take input from the handy steering wheel buttons — these are a great option for keeping your eyes on the road and occasionally startling your unsuspecting passengers when the radio station suddenly changes.

The only problem is that [Arik]’s stock steering wheel doesn’t have any media-specific buttons on it. After a short trip to the junkyard, [Arik] had a fancier wheel to go along with the new head unit.

[Arik] doesn’t use cruise control, and those particular buttons can’t be hooked up with reprogramming the car’s computer, so he made them into macro buttons that control the head unit over Bluetooth, using an STM32 black pill board stashed in the glove box.

[Arik] found out that the cruise control buttons don’t ride the CAN bus — they use a resistor ladder/voltage divider and go directly into the ECU. After that it was mostly a matter of finding the right wires and then cutting and re-routing them to make the buttons work on the ACC setting as well as ON. A brief demo video is idling after the break.

Have an old smart phone lying around? Of course you do. Why not make your own head unit?

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Build The Baddest Keypad On The Block With LEGO

Like so many of us, [EducatedAce] has been quelling the quarantine blues by resurrecting old projects and finding new challenges to fill the days. He’s just finished building this blocky macro keypad to hold a bunch of shortcuts for Photoshop, thus continuing and compounding the creative spree.

[EducatedAce] already had everything on hand except the Arduino Micro. Instead of standard key switches, this macro block uses 16 of the loudest, crunchiest tactile buttons out there — those big ones with the yellow stems that sound like small staplers.

And don’t worry — no LEGO or LEGO accessories were harmed in the making of this macro pad — the base plate and switch plate are 3D printed. [EducatedAce] has the STL files posted along with great build instructions if you want to wire one up for yourself.

This is a great project because it’s sturdy, it gets the job done without a lot of expense, and still looks like something you’d want on your desk. [EducatedAce] plans to rebuild it with uniformly colored bricks, but we think it looks great as-is, especially with those vented 1×2 pieces. If it were ours, we might use a different color for each row or column to help keep the shortcuts straight.

What? You’ve never printed your own interlocking building blocks before? Well, don’t limit yourself to 1:1 scale, otherwise the minifigs have won. Build a go-kart big enough for humans!

Custom Reddit Keyboard Only Needs One Hand

Sometimes you might want to browse your favorite social media site while eating a sandwich, or throwing darts, or fending off an attacker with a sword. You know, normal things that might occupy only one of your hands. If you’ve ever found yourself in such a situation, then this custom Reddit keyboard could be for you.

Built by [jangxx], this little board is about as simple as it gets. Even if you aren’t looking for a way to browse /r/cooking while practicing your single-handed egg cracking technique, the same principles could be used to quickly throw together a macro keyboard for whatever your particular needs might be.

Inside the 3D printed enclosure is nothing more exotic than an Arduino Pro Micro and five Cherry MX Red switches. The switches have been wired directly to the GPIO pins on the Arduino, and a simple Sketch takes care of the rest. [jangxx] has written the code in such a way that you can easily define the mapping of USB HID keys to physical switches right at the top of the file, making it easy to reuse for your own purposes.

As simple as this project is, we really like the trouble that [jangxx] went through on the 3D printed key caps. The white up and down arrows allow you to navigate through the posts, and the center key selects the one you want to view. Since it’s for Reddit, naturally the red and blue buttons for rapid voting. When you want to go back to the list of posts, just hit the center button again.

Back in 2011 we saw a dedicated Reddit voting peripheral, but we think the addition of simple navigation keys makes this project a bit more compelling. Incidentally, if you can think of any other reason you might want a one-handed keyboard for browsing Reddit…we definitely don’t want to hear about it.

Focus Stacking For Tiny Subjects

Focus stacking is a photographic technique in which multiple exposures are taken of a subject, with the focus distance set to different lengths. These images are then composited together to create a final image with a greater depth of field than is possible with a single exposure. [Peter Lin] built a rig for accurate focus stacking with very small subjects.

The heart of the rig is a motion platform consisting of a tiny stepper motor fitted with a linear slide screw. This is connected to an Arduino or PIC with a basic stepper driver board. While the motor does not respond well to microstepping or other advanced techniques, simply driving it properly can give a resolution of 15 μm per step.

The motor/slide combination is not particularly powerful, and thus cannot readily be used to move the camera or optics. Instead, the rig is designed for photography of very small objects, in which the rail will move the subject itself.

It’s a tidy build that would serve well for anyone regularly doing macro focus stack photography. If you’ve been trying to better photograph your insect collection, this one is for you. It’s a valuable technique and one that applies to microscopy too. Video after the break.

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Macro Foot Stool Helps Me Get A Leg Up On Work

Macros are meant to make our lives easier, but they live up to this promise with mixed results. Generally speaking, a macro is a special combination of keys on the keyboard that execute a custom task — their goal is to speed up your productivity by getting away from mousing through menus. But once a macro requires more than two keys, they can get a bit cumbersome to input. I have personally found that repeated use of macros that require ctrl+shift can potentially cause problems. I don’t know about you (and your repetitive stress mileage may vary), but personal injury is the polar opposite of what I want from something that’s supposed to be convenient.

The more I thought about how nice it would be to have a field of dedicated one-punch macro keys, the more incomplete my life seemed without it. Every uncomfortable three-key shortcut I chorded was more motivational than the last.

I love keyboard shortcuts, and not just because I prefer keyboard navigation in general. A lot of little things about writing for the web can be streamlined with shortcuts, like writing html tags and doing image manipulation. And I’m always looking for a better workflow to pin down my fleeting mental fragments, at least until that dark day that I can turn on Dropbox Thoughts™ and burn my brainwaves directly to disk.

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3D-Printed Extension For Extreme Macro Photography Includes Lens Electronic Control

Macro photography — the art of taking pictures of tiny things — can be an expensive pastime. Good lenses aren’t cheap, and greater magnification inflates the price even further. One way to release a bit more performance from your optics comes in the form of an extension tube, which mounts your lens further from the camera to zoom in a little on the image. Back in the day with a film SLR you could make a rough and ready tube with cardboard and tape, but in the age of the digital camera the lens has become as much a computer peripheral as an optical device. [Nicholas Sherlock] has solved this problem by creating a 3D-printed extension tube for his Canon that preserves connections between camera and lens.

More details of this 300mm monster’s construction go so far beyond a plastic tub formed of two threaded sections with adapter plates at the ends. He’s using off-the-shelf metal rings to fit camera and lens just right, but making the electronic contacts is where it gets interesting. On end uses pogo pins, the other provides a contact block made of nail heads. In both cases the 3D-printed parts are designed to provide mounting points for the pins and nails. The assembly technique is worth a look both because of the design and as an example of how to document all the juicy details we’re constantly looking for in a great hack.

The results speak for themselves, in that the photography provides an impressive level of close-up detail. If you would like to build your own tube, it is available on Thingiverse.

Macro extensions seem far between here, but we’ve brought you a few lens repairs in our time.

[via /r/photography]

A Soap Film Photography How-To

Blowing bubbles is a pastime enjoyed by young and old alike. The pleasant motion and swirling colors of the bubbles can be remarkably relaxing. With the right tools and techniques, it’s possible to take striking photos of these soap film phenomena, and that’s exactly what [Eric] and [Travis] did.

Adding sugar to the soap solution increases the resilience of the film significantly. With enough added, the film no longer pops, but instead breaks and fails in interesting ways.

After beginning with a robotic arm and a computer fan blowing bubbles, the project moved towards a simple stepper motor setup. A thin frame is lowered into a solution of soapy water, then brought back up by the stepper motor. The resulting soap film is held in front of a black background and carefully lit with a softbox light.

Lens selection is critical for this sort of work – in this case, a TS-E 50mm Macro f/2.8 lens was the order of the day. [Eric] shares other tips for taking great shots, such as adding sugar to the solution to make the soap film last longer, and using a modified speaker to help “paint” the surface of the films.

The resulting images are beautiful examples of the art, showing vibrant colors from the interference patterns created by the light. [Eric] has done a great job of clearly documenting the development process and the final results, making it possible for others to recreate the project elsewhere.

We’ve seen other soapy projects before, like this automatic bubble blowing machine. Video after the break.

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