A Practical Portable Wii Emerges from the Memes

A few months ago, [Shank] built what will almost certainly go down in history as the world’s smallest portable Nintendo Wii. As it turns out, the Wii motherboard is home to a lot of unnecessary hardware, and with a careful hand and an eye for detail, it’s possible to physically cut it down to a much smaller unit; allowing this particularly tenacious hacker to put an actual Wii, along with everything else required to make it portable, into an Altoids tin.

As you might expect, between the cramped controls, comically short battery life, and the fact that the whole thing got hot to the touch during use, it was a miserable excuse for a portable console. But the incredible response the project received inspired [Shank] to dust off an earlier project: a far more practical portable Wii that he calls PiiWii. This time around the handheld is a more reasonable size, a useful battery life, and proper controls. It even has an integrated “Sensor Bar” so you can use real Wii Remotes with it. It might not be the prettiest portable console conversion we’ve ever seen, but it certainly ranks up there as one of the most complete.

[Shank] actually “finished” the PiiWii some time ago, but in his rush to complete the project he got a little overzealous with the hot glue and ended up with a device that was difficult to diagnose and fix when things started to go wrong. He shelved the project and moved on to his Altoids tin build, which helped him refine his Wii shrinking skills. With a clearer head and some more practical experience under his belt, the PiiWii was revamped and is clearly all the better for it.

Unlike previous Wii portables we’ve seen, there’s no attempt at adding GameCube controller ports or video out capability. It’s built to be a purely handheld system, and that focus has delivered a system that’s roughly the size of the original Game Boy Advance. Beyond the cleverly sliced Wii motherboard, the inside of the PiiWii features a 3.5 inch display, a custom designed audio amplifier PCB, four 3400 mAh cells which deliver a run time of around four hours, a 3DS “slider” analog stick, and a generous helping of Kapton tape in place of hot glue.

If there’s any criticism of the PiiWii, it’s likely going to be about the system’s boxy exterior. But as [Shank] explains, there’s an excellent reason for that: it’s literally built into a project box. He simply took a commercially available ABS project box, the Polycase SL 57, and made all his openings on the front with a laser cutter. Other than the fact taking a laser to ABS releases hydrogen cyanide, he found it a good way to quickly knock out a custom enclosure.

Last year we took a look his ridiculously small Altoids tin Wii, and while that was an impressive project to be sure, we’re glad he revisited the PiiWii and showed that a portable Wii can be more than just a novelty. Compared to other systems, the Wii doesn’t seem to get the portable treatment that often, so we’re always glad to see somebody come in and do the concept justice.

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A Scratch Instrument For Ants

If you think that this scratch instrument looks as though it should be at least… three times larger in order to be useful, you’d be wrong. This mighty pocket-sized instrument can really get the club hopping despite its diminuitive size. Despite that, the quality of the build as well as its use of off-the-shelf components for almost every part means that if you need a small, portable turntable there’s finally one you can build on your own.

[rasteri] built the SC1000 digital scratch instrument as a member of the portabilist scene, focusing on downsizing the equipment needed for a proper DJ setup. This instrument uses as Olimex A13-SOM-256 system-on-module, an ARM microprocessor, and can use a USB stick in order to load beats to the system. The scratch wheel itself uses a magnetic rotary encoder to sense position, and the slider is miniaturized as well.

If you want to learn to scratch good and learn to do other things good too, there’s a demo below showing a demonstration of the instrument, as well as a how-to video on the project page. All of the build files and software are open-source, so it won’t be too difficult to get one for yourself as long as you have some experience printing PCBs. If you need the rest of the equipment for a DJ booth, of course that’s also something you can build.

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Building Portable Linux Devices: Never Been Easier, But Still Hard

We live in a Golden Age of single-board computers. There was a time when a portable computer that was any good was a relatively rare and expensive device, certainly not something you could expect to replicate for yourself. A Psion, or later a Palm or perhaps a WinCE device would have been a lot more than an impulse purchase, and could not easily have been replicated using the components then available to the experimenter.

Thanks to spin-offs from technology developed for set-top boxes and mobile phones we can now buy any one of a pile of different boards that have almost equivalent power to a desktop computer. The experimenter can leverage that computing power to create their own small portables. Zerophone creator Arsenijs Picugins spoke about the tricky parts of designing a LInux portable at the recent Hackaday Superconference. You’ll find his talk below the break, which makes for a fascinating primer for those tempted to walk in his footsteps.

Zerophone – a Raspberry Pi Smartphone

Minor Details of Portables are the Majority of the Build

In theory, it’s pretty easy to use one of these boards to make a portable computer. Take one of the smaller members of the Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone families, add a battery and a display, and away you go. But as always the devil is in the detail, and for a truly successful build there are a wealth of variables to attend to.

In his talk, Arsenijs takes us through the challenges of power supplies, connectors, and interfaces. In particular there is considerable challenge to running an SBC from a battery small enough to be portable, as efficiency concerns and the ability to easily recharge make for a critical set of choices. Then we learn of another pitfall, that of using USB as a default interface. Power loss in converting 5V to 3.3V that is inconsequential for a desktop computer is a battery-killer in a small device, so we’re pointed at the array of alternatives.

Zerophone screen menu [via @ZeroPhoneOSHW]

Screen Size is a Tricky Spec to Settle

If you’ve been tempted by one of those cheap Raspberry Pi touch screens, you’ll certainly understand that while a full desktop on a screen the size of a playing card looks cool, the reality is almost unusable. Your device will require a user interface that fits its form factor, which from his experience, Arsenijs suggests is best achieved through the medium of buttons rather than a touchscreen on smaller screens. There are a variety of UI and display libraries he introduces us to which make the whole process significantly easier.

Arsenijs’ Zerophone Raspberry Pi smartphone was a finalist in the 2017 Hackaday Prize, and remains an exemplary portable project from which many others can gain inspiration. We are privileged that he was able to bring his experience to speak at the Superconference, and his talk makes for a fascinating watch.

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World’s Smallest Wii is Also World’s Worst

As far as game consoles go, the Nintendo Wii was relatively small. Probably owing at least somewhat to the fact that it wasn’t a whole lot more than a slightly improved GameCube in a new case, but that’s another story entirely. So it’s not much of a surprise that people have modded Nintendo’s infamous money printing machine into handheld versions. But this…this is just something else.

We’re going to go out on a limb and say that this absolutely preposterous build by [Shank] which puts a fully functional Nintendo Wii into an Altoids tin wins the title of “World’s Smallest Wii”. We’re also going to put money on the fact that this record doesn’t get beaten because…well, come on. There’s a reason he’s named his diminutive creation the “Kill Mii”.

You’re probably wondering how this is possible. That’s an excellent question. As it turns out, hackers have discovered that you can cut off the majority of the Wii’s motherboard and still have a functioning system, albeit missing non-essential functions like the GameCube controller ports and SD card slot. From there, you just need to install a new firmware on the now heavily trimmed down Wii that tells it to ignore the fact it has no disc drive and load games as ISOs from an attached USB flash drive. That’s the high level summary anyway, the reality is that this a mod of crushing difficulty and should only be attempted by true masochists.

As for this particular build, [Shank] went all in and even relocated the Wii’s NAND chip to make everything fit inside the tin. There’s also custom PCBs which interface the Wii’s motherboard with the Nintendo 3DS sliders he’s using for control sticks. Underneath everything there’s a battery that can run the whole device for a grand total of about 10 minutes, but given the general shape of the “Kill Mii” and the fact that most of the buttons are tactile switches, that’s probably about as long as you’d want to play the thing anyway.

Yes, this is the worst Wii ever made. But that was also the point. In the words of the creator himself “This portable is not logical, comfortable, or practical. But it must be done… for the memes.” Truly an inspiration to us all.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first “trimmed” Wii portable we’ve seen; though that one was considerably more forgiving internally, and just a bit more practical.

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PiPod: A Raspberry Pi Zero Portable Music Player

[Bram] wasn’t satisfied with the portable music playback devices that were currently available. He craved an offline music player that had a large storage capacity but found that this was only available in high-end, off-the-shelf options, which were far too expensive. [Bram] decided to make his own, powered by a Raspberry Pi zero. After building an initial prototype, the design was iterated a few times, with the latest version featuring a BOM cost of roughly €80.

The whole project is open source, with hardware and software files available on the project GitHub. A 2.2″ TFT displays the UI, which is of course completely customisable. Everything is squashed into a 3D printed case, which has the smallest form factor possible whilst retaining a decent amount of battery life. The electronics are what you’d expect: a boost converter to produce 5 V for the Pi from the 3.7V battery, a charge controller and a battery protection circuit. As a bonus, the battery voltage is monitored with a 12-bit ADC which reports to the Pi, enabling it to do a safe shutdown at low voltage, and display battery level on the UI.

Since the whole purpose of the device is to play audio, onboard filtered PWM wasn’t going to cut it, so instead a 24-bit DAC talks to the Pi via I2S. The audio player backend is VLC, so there’s support for plenty of different file types. A disc image of the whole system is available with everything pre-configured, and you can even buy the assembled PCB from Tindie.

Want to keep the look and feel of your old iPod? We covered an impressive restoration of a 6th gen model, upgrading the storage and battery significantly.

Open Source DIY Printers are Alive and Well: What We Saw At ERRF 18

If you follow the desktop 3D printer market, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that nearly every 3D printer on display at the inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) was made in China. Even Printrbot CEO Brook Drumm had to admit that this was the year his company may finally bite the bullet and begin selling a branded and customized printer built overseas.

When you can get a decent (but let’s be clear, not great) 3D printer for $200 USD, it’s no surprise that American and European manufacturers are having a hard time staying competitive. But not everyone is seduced by low-cost printers. They know they could buy a decent printer for a couple hundred bucks, but for them that’s not the point. Some hackers are just as (if not more) interested in designing and building the machines than they are churning out little plastic boats with the finished product.

Luckily for us, these are also the type of folks who document their builds and make all their collected information and design files available for others under an open source license. Such builders exemplify the true spirit of the RepRap movement, and we’re happy to report that in a sea of imported printers, there were several interesting home built open source printers.

Whether you want to build your own copy of one of these machines, or simply get inspired by some of the ideas their creators had, these machines are physical proof that just because you can order a cheap 3D printer on eBay right now doesn’t mean you have to.

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Beats an Extension Cord

What does your benchtop power supply have that [Pete Marchetto]’s does not? Answer: an extension cord draped across the floor. How often have you said to yourself, “I just need to energize this doodad for a couple seconds,” then you start daisy chaining every battery in the junk drawer to reach the necessary voltage? It is not uncommon to see battery packs with a single voltage output, but [Pete] could not find an adjustable one, so he built his own and put it on Tindie.

Presumably, the internals are not going to surprise anyone: an 18650 battery, charging circuit, a voltage converter, display, adjustment knob, and a dedicated USB charging port. The complexity is not what intrigues us, it is the fact that we do not see more of them and still wind up taping nine-volt batteries together. [Editor’s note: we use one made from an old laptop battery.]

This should not replace your benchtop power supply, it does not have the bells and whistles, like current regulation, but a mobile source of arbitrary voltage does most of the job most of the time. And it’s what this build hasn’t got (a cord) that makes it most useful.