The Open Makers Cube: Have Hack, Will Travel

Don’t bother denying it, we know your workbench is a mess. A tangled pile of wires, tools, and half-completed projects is standard decor for any hardware hacker. In fact, if you’ve got a spotless work area, we might even be a bit skeptical about your credentials in this field. But that’s not to say we wouldn’t be interested in some way of keeping the electronic detritus in check, perhaps something like the Open Makers Cube created by [technoez].

This all-in-one hardware hacking station uses DIN rails and 3D-printed mounting hardware to allow the user to attach a wide array of tools, gadgets, and boards to the outside surface where they’re easily accessible. The OpenSCAD design includes mounts for the usual suspects like the Raspberry Pi, Arduino Uno, and general purpose breadboards. Of course, your own custom mounts are just a few lines of code away.

The Cube also includes a lighted magnifying glass on a flexible arm so you can zoom in on what you’re working on, a simple “helping hands” attachment, and provisions for internal USB power. It even features angled feet so the front side of the cube is held at a more comfortable viewing angle. All of which is held together by a lightweight and portable frame built from square aluminum tubing.

We can understand if you’ve got some doubts about the idea of mounting all of your tools and projects to the side of a jaunty little cube. But even if the jury is still out on the mobile workspace concept, one thing is for sure: the Open Makers Cube is easily one of the best documented projects we’ve seen in recent memory. Thanks to NopSCADlib, [technoez] was able to generate an exploded view and Bill of Materials for each sub-assembly of the project. If you’ve ever needed proof that NopSCADlib was worth checking out, this is it.

A Mobile Terminal For The End Of The World

If civilization goes sideways and you need to survive, what are the bare essentials that should go in your bunker? Food and fresh water, sure. Maybe something to barter with in case things go full on The Postman. That’s all sensible enough, but how’s that stuff going to help you get a LAN party going? If you’re anything like [Jay Doscher], you’ll make sure there’s a ruggedized Raspberry Pi system with a self-contained network with you when the bombs drop.

Or at least, it certainly looks the part. He’s managed to design the entire project so it doesn’t require drilling holes through the Pelican case that serves as the enclosure, meaning it’s about as well sealed up as a piece of electronics can possibly be. The whole system could be fully submerged in water and come out bone dry on the inside, and with no internal moving parts, it should be largely immune to drops and shocks.

But we imagine [Jay] won’t actually need to wait for nuclear winter before he gets some use out of this gorgeous mobile setup. With the Pi’s GPIO broken out to dual military-style panel mount connectors on the front, a real mechanical keyboard, and an integrated five port Ethernet switch, you won’t have any trouble getting legitimate work done with this machine; even if the closest you ever get to a post-apocalyptic hellscape is the garage with the heat off. We especially like the 3D printed front panel with integrated labels, which is a great tip that frankly we don’t see nearly enough of.

This is actually an evolved version of the Raspberry Pi Field Unit (RPFU) that [Jay] built back in 2015. He tells us that he wanted to update the design to demonstrate his personal growth as a hacker and maker over the last few years, and judging by the final product, we think it’s safe to say he’s on the right path.

Magnets Make This Panda Move

A single board computer on a desk is fine for quick demos but for taking it into the wild (or even the rest of the house) you’re going to want a little more safety from debris, ESD, and drops. As SBCs get more useful this becomes an increasingly relevant problem to solve, plus a slick enclosure can be the difference between a nice benchtop hack and something that looks ready to sell as a product. [Chris] (as ProjectSBC) has been working on a series of adaptable cases called the MagClick Case System for the LattePanda Alpha SBC which are definitely worth a look.

The LattePanda Alpha isn’t a run-of-the-mill SBC; it’s essentially the mainboard from a low power ultrabook and contains up to an Intel Core M series processor, 8GB RAM, and 64GB of eMMC. Not to mention an onboard Atmega32u4, WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet, and more. It has more than enough horsepower to be used as an everyday desktop computer or even a light gaming system if you break PCIe out of one the m.2 card slots. But [Chris] realized that such adaptability was becoming a pain as he had to move it from case-to-case as his use needs changed. Thus the MagClick Case System was born.

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3D Printed VirtuScope Is A Raspberry Pi 4 Cyberdeck With A Purpose

William Gibson might have come up with the idea for the cyberdeck in 1984, but it’s only recently that technology like desktop 3D printing and powerful single board computers have enabled hackers and makers to assemble their own functional versions of these classic cyberpunk devices. Often the final product is little more than a cosplay prop, but when [Joe D] (better known on the tubes as [bootdsc]) started designing his VirtuScope, he wanted to create something that was actually practical enough to use. So far, it looks like he’s managed to pull it off.

Many of the cyberdeck builds we see are based around the carcass of a era-appropriate vintage computer, which looks great and really helps sell the whole retro-future vibe. Unfortunately, this can make the projects difficult and expensive to replicate. Plus there’s plenty of people who take offense to gutting a 30+ year old piece of hardware just so you can wear it around your neck at DEF CON.

[bootdsc] deftly avoided this common pitfall by 3D printing the entire enclosure for the VirtuScope, and since he’s shared all of the STLs, he’s even made it so anyone can run off their own copy. The majority of the parts can be done on any FDM printer with a 20 x 20 x 10cm build area, though there are a few detail pieces that need the resolution of an SLA machine.

Under the hood the VirtuScope is using the Raspberry Pi 4, which [bootdsc] says is key to the build’s usability as the latest version of the diminutive Linux SBC finally has enough computational muscle to make it a viable for daily computing. Granted the seven inch LCD might be a tad small for marathon hacking sessions, but you could always plug in an external display when you don’t need to be mobile. For your wireless hacking needs, the VirtuScope features an internal NooElec SDR (with HF upconverter) and a AWUS036AC long-range WiFi adapter; though there’s plenty of room to outfit it with whatever kind of payload you’d find useful while on the go.

Documentation for this project is still in the early stages, but [bootdsc] has already provided more than enough to get you started. He tells us that there are at least two more posts coming that will not only flesh out how he built the VirtuScope, but explain why it’s now become his portable SDR rig of choice. We’re excited to see more details about this build, and hope somebody out there is willing to take on the challenge of building their own variant.

In the past we’ve seen partially 3D printed cyberdecks, and at least one that also went the fully-printed route, but none of them have been quite as accessible as the VirtuScope. By keeping the geometry of the printed parts simple and utilizing commonly available components, [bootdsc] may well have laid the groundwork for hackerdom’s first “mass produced” cyberdeck.

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Trimmed Dreamcast Board Makes For Perfect Portable

In the last year or so we’ve been seeing an array of portable game system builds based around “trimmed” Wii motherboards which have literally been cut down to a fraction of their original size. It turns out that most of the board is dedicated to non-essential functions, with the core Wii system contained within one specific area that can be isolated with a steady hand. But as [Gman] shows in his latest build, the same concept can also be applied to the Sega Dreamcast.

But of course, there’s a bit more to it than just taking a hacksaw to a Dreamcast motherboard. [Gman] had to supplement the trimmed system with quite a bit of additional hardware, such as a power management board he originally designed for portable Wii projects.

Other components were specifically built for this project. For example there’s a custom PCB that handles emulating the Dreamcast controller using a PIC32MZ microcontroller. He’s also using a LM49450 to pull digital audio from the motherboard over I2S, completely bypassing the analog output.

While not currently functioning, [Gman] also included an SPI OLED display and the hardware necessary to emulate basic functionality of the system’s unique Visual Memory Unit (VMU) right in the front of the system. We’re looking forward to seeing him revisit this feature in the future when he’s got the software side of things worked out.

The Nintendo 2DS inspired enclosure is completely 3D printed. A Prusa i3 with textured PEI bed was used to achieve the gorgeous dappled look on the system’s front panel, while the buttons were done on a Form 2 SLA printer. With a mold made from the printed buttons, [Gman] was able to cast the final pieces using a variety of colors until he found a combination he was happy with.

If you’re not Team Sega and would rather hack up your own tiny versions of Nintendo’s hardware, look no further than this fully functional trimmed Wii built into an Altoids tin.

A Wii Playing The GameCube, Disguised As A Game Boy SP

It may be hard to believe, but thanks to the expert work of Nintendo aficionado [Bill Paxton], the Game Boy Advance SP and GameCube lovechild that you see before you started its life as a Wii. That means not only can it play commercial GameCube and Wii games, but also has access to the wide library of homebrew games and emulators available for those systems.

To create this marvel, [Bill] first had to expertly cut away extraneous components from the Wii’s motherboard. He then mated the “trimmed” PCB to a new board that holds the controls as well as some other ancillary components such as the audio amplifier and USB port. He even managed to squeeze a battery in there, as demonstrated in the video after the break.

Finally, he designed a 3D printed enclosure that incorporates GameCube-style controls (complete with printed buttons) into the classic clamshell Game Boy SP shape. Because of the complexity of the design, [Bill] decided to have it professionally printed at Shapeways rather than trying to run it off of his home printer, which he says helps sells the professional look. It did take him some trial and error before he got the hang of painting the printed material to his satisfaction, but we think the end result was certainly worth the effort.

It probably won’t come as a huge surprise to find that this isn’t the first time [Bill] has pulled off a stunt like this. A few years back he created a very similar “GameCube SP”, but by the looks of it, this revised attempt improves on the original version in every way possible.

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Testing A Battery-Powered Mini Spot Welder

Did you ever see a thin metal tab bonded to a battery terminal with little pock marks? That’s the work of a spot welder. Spot welding is one of those processes that doesn’t offer much in the way of alternatives; either one uses a spot welder to do the job right, or one simply does without. That need is what led [Erwin Ried] to purchase a small, battery-powered spot welder from a maker in Korea and test it out on nickel strips.

The spot welder [Erwin] used is the work of a user by the name of [aulakiria] (link is Korean, machine translation here) and is designed to be portable and powered by batteries commonly used for RC. [Erwin] is delighted with the results, and demonstrates the device in the video embedded below.

Spot welder projects see a lot of DIY, some of which are successful while others are less so. Our own [Sean Boyce] even gave making a solar-powered spot welder a shot, the results of which he described as “nearly practical!”

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