Hackaday Podcast 069: Calculator Controversy, Socketing SOIC, Metal On The Moon, And Basking In Bench Tools

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams march to the beat of the hardware hacking drum as they recount the greatest hacks to hit the ‘net this week. First up: Casio stepped in it with a spurious DMCA takedown notice. There’s a finite matrix of resistors that form a glorious clock now on display at CERN. Will a patio paver solve your 3D printer noise problems? And if you ever build with copper clad, you can’t miss this speedrun of priceless prototyping protips.

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Nintendo Switch Gets A Stylish Dock In A Broken NES

The Switch is Nintendo’s latest home console, which has forever blurred the line between handhelds and consoles you plug in to your TV. It does both! Typically, hooking up to a screen is done through the dock, but that wasn’t quite cool enough for [sturm]. He took a NES and turned it into a tidy Switch dock instead!

The build starts with an original NES shell, which is gutted of its original hardware. The PCB from the original dock is installed, and a slot cut in the top of the NES to allow the Switch to be inserted. Naturally, there’s a spring flap reminiscent of the Super NES to keep the dock looking clean when not in use. When it is installed, a series of cables and bezels break out the USB ports to the original controller ports on the NES.

It’s a tidy build that brings a touch of nostalgia to the modern console. We’re sure an official version would sell like hotcakes, too. There’s plenty of similarly inspired builds for the Switch, with the Gamecube Joycons a particular highlight!

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Joy-Con Mod Gives Nintendo Switch Touchpad Control

While Valve’s Steam Controller ultimately ended up being a commercial flop, most users agreed its use of touch-sensitive pads in place of traditional analog joysticks or digital directional buttons was at least a concept worth exploring. Those same touchpad aficionados will likely be very interested in this modification by [Matteo Pisani], which replaces the analog joystick on a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con with a capacitive touch sensor.

As [Matteo] explains in his detailed write-up, the initial inspiration for this project was to create a permanent solution to joystick fatigue and drifting issues. He reasoned that if he removed the physical joystick completely, there would be no way for it to fail in the future. We’re not sure how many people would have taken the concept this far, but you can’t argue with the logic.

The original joystick is a fairly straightforward device, comprised of two analog potentiometers and a digital button. It’s connected to the Joy-Con’s main PCB with a 0.5 mm pitch flexible cable, so the first step for [Matteo] was to spin up a breakout for the cable in KiCad to make the development process a bit easier.

The board design eventually evolved to hold an Arduino Pro Mini, a digital potentiometer, and a connector for the circular touchpad. The Arduino communicates with both devices over I2C, and translates the high resolution digital output of the touch controller into an analog signal within the expected ranges of the original joystick. [Matteo] says he still has to implement the stick’s digital push button, but thanks to an impressive 63 levels of pressure sensitivity on the pad, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Now that he knows the concept works, the next step for [Matteo] is to clean it up a bit. He’s already working on a much smaller PCB that should be able to fit inside the Joy-Con, and we’re very interested in seeing the final product.

We’ve seen several interesting Joy-Con hacks since the Switch hit the market, including a somewhat less intense joystick swap. Between the Joy-Con and the legendary Wii Remote, Nintendo certainly seems to have a knack for creating input devices that catch the imagination of gamers and tinkerers alike.

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Nintendo Switch Laptop Isn’t As BASIC As It Looks

Remember the days when computers booted up straight into a BASIC screen, where theoretically you could program yourself a full game without any further software needed? Well, in reality most of us were amused enough making it print “butts” over and over again, but there are those who are adept in the dark arts of making impressive things with such a limited language. [Bugtaro] is one of those people, and to help with his game development in SmileBASIC 4 on the Nintendo Switch, he built himself a dock that turns it into a laptop with an integrated keyboard.

Details on the build are scarce as it’s only outlined in his Twitter account, but there’s enough to give us an idea about what it’s composed of. The Switch slides into the top just like the official dock it comes with, and the laptop shell takes advantage of those functions. Inside it is a 5000 mAh battery to extend the portable life of the whole ensemble, plus a USB hub which gives it its built-in keyboard and allows for a mouse to be plugged in as well. The laptop also gives the Switch its docked TV output mode and can hold the Joy-cons slotted on its sides.

This project would pass for any other case mod here at Hackaday if it weren’t for the fact that [Bugtaro] is in fact a programmer that has been releasing BASIC software on Japanese magazines since the 1980s and worked on several cult classic Mega Drive games with Wolf Team and NexTech during the 1990s. His latest game is GIVERS P3D, a game programmed in SmileBASIC using a 3D engine of his own design and one of the flagship games for the platform. It would be interesting to see if more SmileBASIC programmers end up coming up with their own solutions to aid their development experience following this project.

If you’re interested in the possibilities of custom-made Switch docks like these but don’t fancy giving it a keyboard, how about this one that wraps a Gamecube controller around the screen? And if you don’t have a Switch yet and are looking for a bigger challenge, well, you can make your own from scratch.

[Via GoNintendo]

Slide Your Switch Into A Gamecube Controller

The Gamecube was certainly a divisive design when it was released back in 2001, but the fact that people are still happily hacking away at its controller nearly 20 years later proves that Nintendo must have gotten something right. The latest project from Nintendo wizard [Bill Paxton] turns the unique Gamecube controller into an even more unique mobile dock for the Switch.

To build this “Gamecube Grip”, [Bill] literally cut an original controller and its PCB in half so they could be relocated on either end of the 3D printed central frame. Internally, the controller PCB is wired up to a GC+ board, which is an open hardware project that uses a PIC18F25K22 microcontroller to bring enhanced features to the classic peripheral such as adjustable stick dead zones and rumble intensity. From there, it’s connected to the switch with a GBros adapter from 8bitdo.

The grip also includes an Anker PowerCore 20,100 mAh battery that should keep the system going for hours, and some components liberated from a third party Switch dock. Everything has been finished off with the attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from [Bill] and his projects, including the seemingly flawless glossy paint job that’s something of hallmark for his custom gaming creations.

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Nintendo Switch Built Completely From Replacement Parts

It seems that everybody around us is playing Animal Crossing New Horizons, and we’re not alone in this. But a new Nintendo Switch can’t be had for love nor money, and second hand ones have fallen victim to price gouging. It seems if you’re not playing the game, you’re out of luck, or are you?

What’s to be done? [Sarbaaz37] found the hardware hacker’s solution to that question: Build a Nintendo Switch entirely from spare parts, of course! It took a month to source the parts and it’s not a project for the fainthearted, but it provides us with a look at all the parts they pack into the handheld. All told, there’s about 22 part numbers in the bill of materials.

Anyone who has peeked inside a laptop recently will be familiar with the arrangement of this type of device. An array of extremely snug-fitting and fragile electronics laid out like a TV dinner has to be carefully assembled in a specific order and this is no different. Along the way [Sarbaaz37] has some pro tips, like cleaning off the stock thermal compound and using a higher quality. The eventual result is a working Switch, which for $200 is not a bad deal, though they do note that the pandemic has since led to a price rise in Nintendo parts as well as consoles.

This is, we think, the first home-made Switch we’ve seen, but it’s not the first desirable piece of consumer electronics made from grey market parts we’ve seen. Who could forget the Shenzhen electronics markets adventure of sourcing all the parts that go into an iPhone?

Thanks [Roel] for the tip.

Dad Makes Xbox And Nintendo Work Together To Bridge The Accessibility Gap

In the last few years, console and controller manufacturers have been making great strides in accessibility engineering in order to improve the inclusiveness of people with different motor disabilities into the gaming world. One such example is the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which [Rory Steel] has used to build his daughter a fully customized controller to allow her to play Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch.

His build plan is outlined in just a few Twitter videos, and sadly we don’t have a detailed walkthrough on how to build our own just yet, though he mentions plans on making such guide in the future. In the mean time, it’s not too hard to speculate on some specifics. The Adaptive Controller can use USB-C for communication, as the Switch also does with its Pro controller in wired mode. Interfacing the two is as simple as using an adapter to bridge the gap between the two vendors.

The joysticks are each wired into generic gamepads which act as the left and right sticks, each one being a separate USB input into the Adaptive Controller, while each one of the button inputs is broken out to 3.5mm jacks on its back, making them dead simple to wire to the sixteen arcade buttons surrounding the sticks. The layout might look unconventional to us, and [Rory] mentions this is simply a prototype that will be improved upon in the future after real-world testing. The size of his daughter’s smile tells us this is already a success in her eyes.

This is not the first time we’ve seen a build with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and it’s nice to see just how well it enables parents to build their kids controllers they can use more easily, seeing as how before its introduction these kinds of controllers usually required the expertise for tearing expensive official controllers apart in ways the manufacturers never expected. We can only hope that going forward, this sort of accessibility becomes more the norm and less the exception.

[via Kotaku, thanks Itay for the tip!]