This WiFi Signal Strength Meter Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts

The original Ghostbusters movie is a classic that’s still delivering nearly 40 years after its release — just let that sink in for a minute. Almost every aspect of the film, from hand props to quotes, is instantly recognizable, even to people who haven’t based their lives on the teachings of [Venkman], [Stantz], and [Spengler]. To wit, we present this PKE meter-style WiFi scanner.

Of course, [Kevin McAleer]’s project is strictly in the “Just for Fun” category. But that doesn’t mean it’s not at least somewhat useful. The design is pretty close to the original PKE meter, with a little bit of creative license taken to make it easier to build. Guts include a Raspberry Pi Pico W and a generous 320×240 LCD display. The body of the meter is entirely 3D printed; design files are of course available. The meter’s arms are geared together to move with a single hobby servo.

On the software side, [Kevin]’s GUI lets users see a list of WiFi hotspots in the area and select one from the list. From there, the position of the arms is determined by the RSSI for the hotspot, similar to how the prop was supposed to indicate the proximity to a spook, specter, or ghost. There’s perhaps a bit of a missed opportunity by not adding LEDs to the arms, but we’ll let that slide.

The video below has full design and build details, but fair warning that it’s a bit on the long side. That’s probably just a reflection of how much work [Kevin] put into this, though. Of course, you may rather build a PKE meter that “actually” detects ghosts, in which case we’ve got you covered.

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A Timepiece Straight Out Of Back To The Future

[Stephen Holdaway] needed a desk clock, and decided to whip something up from scratch. The result is a beautiful tribute to the DeLorean’s time circuits from legendary 1985 film Back to the Future.

We say it’s a tribute rather than an exact replica, as it only implements the “present time” section of the time circuits. However, for those of us without time machines, that’s more than enough. In any case, the build is a very faithful recreation. It uses a lovely sheet metal enclosure complete with era-appropriate sticky labels.

Naturally, the numerals are all shown on green segment displays, though [Stephen] used 16-segment devices instead of the more typical 7-segment parts. What really helps add to the look is the shaded acrylic windows, which adds a very nice effect.

It’s a nice tribute piece that any fan would instantly recognize. We’ve seen some other great builds, too, like this replica of the RC controller that first gets the DeLorean up to 88 mph. If you’ve been whipping up your own neat prop project, don’t hesitate to hit us up on the tipsline!

Great Computer Hacks Make Hackers Hacker Computers

In the year 1995, computers were, well… boring. The future wasn’t here yet, and computers were drab, chunky beige boxes. Sure, there were some cool-ish computers being sold, but the landscape was still relatively barren. But as you’ll see in the video below the break, it doesn’t have to be that way, and the [Hackers Curator] shows us the way by recreating Johnny Lee Miller’s computer from the 1995 movie Hackers.

Hackers wasn’t popular when it came out, but over the years it has gained quite a following. It portrayed computers and the people who loved them in completely new ways, representing a culture that has never existed. Even so, it inspired so many young hacker types. Among those inspired is the crew over at [Hackers Curator] and they have taken it upon themselves to, uh… curate… the props, costumes, and stories surrounding the movie.

Recreating Dade’s iconic camo “luggable” computer came with quite a lot of difficulty. It turns out that the original movie props were working custom computers that used hacked together customized cases and Mac Powerbook 180c internals. Dade’s (aka Zer0 Cool and Crash Override) was mashup of the a Compaq Portable 486c and the aforementioned Mac. [HackersCurator] have lovingly recreated this prop from two broken computers, but chose to run the internals with a Raspberry Pi.

The techniques used in the creation of this beastly cyberdeck are ones that can be used in building so many other projects, even if you’re not a Hackers hacker. Customizing the plastics and placing a trackball in the most awkward of spots was expertly done, and we’ll be referring to it in the future for guidance when doing similar projects.

Are movie replica hacks your thing? You’re in luck! It turns out that this isn’t [Hackers Curator]’s first build. In 2019 they tackled Lord Nikon’s laptop, and of course, we covered that one too!

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DIY B-Movie Robot Is A-OK

While we certainly agree that “Devil Girl From Mars” is an attractive movie title, we have yet to see this apparent British B-movie delight for ourselves. If [Cory Collins]’ fantastic build of Chani, the lumbering, terrifying robot that accompanies the vinyl-clad and caped Devil Girl in question is any indication, we bet it’s delightfully bad.

[Cory] was able to faithfully reproduce Chani — lights, lumbering and all — for less than $50. This price tag does not include the vacuum former required to make the domed head, but hey, it’s an investment into future projects.

[Cory] started by dissecting an R/C stunt car from Harbor Freight and stringing the innards up to a 3D-printed walking mechanism that’s been modified to use gear-reduced motors so it walks more slowly. While Chani is stomping around on TPU treads, the LEDs from the R/C car’s headlights shine inside of its dome. Chani’s boxy body is a big paper sculpture that looks spot-on to us when compared to the movie’s trailer.

We love the way that Chani walks — it sort of dips and glides along in a forward-facing Moonwalk fashion. As you can see in the video below, [Cory] totally nailed the robot’s gait, and it’s hilarious to watch Chani’s little coolant hose-looking arms dangle and shake as he makes his slow and menacing way across the table. Stick around for some scary nighttime footage of Chani against a thunderstorm.

Want your robots to move more like movie robots? All you gotta do is use the right tools.

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Producing A Prop Gun That Actually Ejects Cases

With the movie Man of War shooting in Cyprus, there was a problem. They needed prop guns that looked realistic and ejected cases when fired, but that were also allowed under the country’s firearm laws. The task fell on [Paradym’s] shoulders, and he set to work producing a prop capable of doing the job.

With the laws in Cyprus, using anything off-the-shelf like an Airsoft pistol was simply not allowed. Instead, he had to start from scratch, creating a design outwardly similar to the Colt 1911 to suit the era of the film. Using green gas canisters for power, the first focus was on getting a realistic semi-automatic firing cycle happening. With that done, the next goal was to get the cases to eject from the weapon on each shot. To achieve this, a lever was used, actuated by the slide moving back after a shot, pushing the “spent” cartridge out of the port.

[Paradym] goes into great deal, covering the design of the 3D printed parts, the machining of springs, as well as the final assembly of the prop. We’ve seen other prop gun builds before, too. Video after the break.

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Replica Proton Pack Is A Great Halloween Build

Way back in 1984, the Ghostbusters defended New York City from an onslaught of supernatural phenomena. In their honor, [BALES] created this costume for Halloween, replete with an amazing replica proton pack.

(We know, this is a little late for Halloween 2019, but just think about how early you’re going to be for Halloween 2020!)

While not actually capable of trapping and harnessing entities from the spirit realm, the replica pack nonetheless is impressive. Constructed primarily from EVA foam and PVC pipe, it’s built on a custom built Alice pack frame to make it easy to carry. The cyclotron scores some LEDs, and EL wire completes the neutrino wand. A rough-and-ready paintjob make the gear look well used, and the laser-printed labels go a long way to completing the look.

[BALES] didn’t skimp on the clothing side either. The olive drab overalls, an embroidered patch, and belt were sourced from Amazon, and a custom name badge was produced to complete the ensemble. We’re sure the costume was an absolute hit at Halloween, and gives us plenty ideas of our own. It would pair well with this PKE meter that actually detects radiation, too!

Recreating Lord Nikon’s Laptop From Hackers

The outlandish computers from 1995’s Hackers are easily one of the most memorable elements of the iconic cult classic. In the film, each machine is customized to reflect the individual hacker that operates it, and feature everything from spray painted camouflage paint schemes to themed boot animations based on the owner’s personal iconography. But what might not be so obvious is that the real-life props took a considerable amount of hardware hacking before they were ready for their big-screen debut.

A group of dedicated Hackers fans have created a website to document, and ideally recreate, all the custom work that went into the various pieces of tech featured in the film. As explained by [Nandemoguy], the group’s latest triumph is a screen-accurate build of Lord Nikon’s laptop. The final product not only looks just like the machine used in the film, but thanks to the internal Raspberry Pi, is far more powerful than the original computer would have been.

Unless you’re on the team over at HackersCurator.com, you might not know that the laptops in the film were handmade chimeras that combined the external cases of various PCs with (usually) the internals of an Apple Powerbook 180c. Why the prop masters of the film would have gone through so much trouble to create the character’s computers is not immediately clear, but if we had to guess, presumably it was due to the requirements of the over-the-top graphical interfaces that are featured so heavily in the film.

At any rate, the replica created by [Nandemoguy] is built in much the same way. At least for the parts you can see on the outside, anyway. He goes through the considerable case modifications required to replace the original keyboard on the Toshiba Satellite T1850 with a Powerbook keyboard, which as you might have guessed, has been converted into a USB HID device with a Teensy microcontroller. He even cuts the ports off the back of the Mac’s motherboard and glues them in place around the backside of the machine. But everything else, including the LCD, is all new hardware. After all, who really wants to go through all that trouble just to have a fancy Powerbook 180c in 2019?

Even if you weren’t a fan of Hackers, the level of detail and effort put into this build it absolutely phenomenal. It’s interesting to see the parallels between this replica and the burgeoning cyberdeck scene; it seems like with a Teensy, a Raspberry Pi, and enough Bondo, anything can be turned into a functional computer.

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