Chess Computer Retires To Play Jazz

Years ago, [Leo Neumann]’s girlfriend gave him a 1970s chess computer game that was missing almost everything but the super cool clicky keyboard. Noting the similarity of chess move labeling to chord notation, [Leo] decided to turn it into something even nerdier — a jazz chord game where you jam with the computer.

To play the game, you and the computer take turns entering jazz chords that progress musically from the last one played. The hardware is simple — a Raspberry Pi Zero and a WM8960 audio hat with amplifier in speakers. [Leo] also put in a slightly larger display than the original and printed a new bottom half for the case. We love the look of this build, especially the groovy custom line font [Leo] designed.

On the software side, [Leo] made a Python prototyping environment using PYO Module and Kivy UI. Not content with other approaches to tonal consonance, [Leo] played a couple thousand chords and rated them according to their progressive harmony. Shake out those jazz hands and check it out after the break.

Want to play chess with computers? Make Alexa your go-between.

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Adding Remote Control To The Elegoo Mars Pro

Recent price drops put entry level masked stereolithography (MSLA) resin 3D printers at around $200 USD, making them a very compelling tool for makers and hackers. But as you might expect, getting the price this low often involves cutting several corners. One of the ways manufacturers have made their machines so cheap is by simplifying the electronics and paring down the feature set to the absolute minimum.

So it was hardly a surprise for [Luiz Ribeiro] to find that his new Elegoo Mars Pro didn’t offer WiFi connectivity or a remote control interface. You’re supposed to just stick a USB flash drive into the printer and select the object you want to print from its menu system. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t hack the capability in himself.

Monitoring a print with Mariner.

If this were a traditional 3D printer, he might have installed OctoPrint and been done with it. But resin printers are a very different beast. In the end, [Luiz] had to develop his own remote control software that worked around the unique limitations of the printer’s electronics. His software runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero and uses Linux’s “USB Gadget” system to make it appear as a flash drive when plugged into the USB port on the Elegoo Mars Pro.

This allows sending object files to the printer over the network, but there was a missing piece to the puzzle. [Luiz] still needed to manually go over to the printer and select which file he wanted to load from the menu. Until he realized there was an exposed serial port on control board that allowed him to pass commands to the printer. Between the serial connection and faux USB Mass Storage device, his mariner software has full control over the Mars Pro and is able to trigger and monitor print jobs remotely.

It might not offer quite the flexibility of adding OctoPrint to your FDM 3D printer, but it’s certainly a start.

The Zero Terminal 3: A Pop-Out Keyboard Linux Computer In Your Pocket

The mobile phone revolution has delivered us attractively packaged and convenient computing in our pockets, but without the easy hackability we like in our community. Meanwhile the advent of single board computers has given us affordable super-powerful hardware that can run a very capable GNU/Linux operating system and fulfill all our hackable computing needs. Combine the two though? Plenty have tried, few have succeeded in making something as slick as the former with the open power of the latter. Fine if you like your portable devices to have a cyberdeck vibe, but maybe not something you’d take into the boardrooom. Never fear though, for [N-O-D-E] have the solution, in version 3 of the Zero Terminal. It’s the ultimate in Raspberry Pi based handheld computing, and it resembles a slightly chunky mobile phone.

At its heart is a Waveshare OLED 5.5″ touch screen, on the back owhich is mounted a PCB that carries a USB hub and power circuitry. A Pi Zero is mounted directly to this, and a cleverly designed HDMI adapter board interfaces it to the display. The power board is a generic one, the one designed for the PCB proved difficult to hand solder. There’s a very smartly designed case to give it that mobile phone feel, and on the back are a set of sockets with all the relevant Pi connections. This opens the possibility of some exciting add-ons, the first of which is a sliding keyboard similar to those on early Android phones. The ‘board is based on a [Bobricius] design, though sadly isn’t quite working yet.

As you can see in the video below the break, this is about as slick a mobile Pi as it’s possible to get. [N-O-D-E], we want one. Just take our money!

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Faux Vintage Radio Gets AirPlay Upgrade

There’s plenty of vintage-styled hardware out these days, with quality and functionality being mixed at best. [Huan] found such a device in the form of an attractively-styled Bluetooth speaker. Deciding he could improve on the capabilities while retaining a stock look, he got down to hacking.

The aim of the project was to keep the original volume knob, buttons and screen, while replacing the internals with something a bit more capable. A Raspberry Pi Zero was sourced as the brains of the operation, with the Google Voice AIY hardware used as the sound output after early attempts with a discrete amplifier faced hum issues. An Arduino Pro Micro was pressed into service to read the volume encoder along with the buttons and drive the charlieplexed LED screen. Shairport Sync was then installed on the Pi Zero to enable Airplay functionality.

It’s a basic hack that nonetheless gives [Huan] an attractive AirPlay speaker, along with plenty of useful experience working with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. We’ve seen similar hacks before, too. If you’re working on your own stereo resurrection at home, be sure to drop us a line!

Easy Internet For Retro Computers With The PiModem

Retro computers are great, but what really makes a computer special is how many other computers it can talk to. It’s all about the network! Often, getting these vintage rigs online requires a significant investment in dusty old network cards from eBay and hunting down long-corrupted driver discs to lace everything together. A more modern alternative is to use something like PiModem to do the job instead.

PiModem consists of using a Raspberry Pi Zero W to emulate a serial modem, providing older systems with a link to the outside world. This involves setting up the Pi to use its hardware serial port to communicate with the computer in question. A level shifter is usually required, as well as a small hack to enable hardware flow control where necessary. It’s then a simple matter of using tcpser¬†and¬†pppd so you can talk to telnet BBSs and the wider Internet at large.

It’s a tidy hack that makes getting an old machine online much cheaper and easier than using hardware of the era. We’ve seen similar work before, too!

Watchman Watches You Watching Him Watch You

At this point, society has had over three decades to get used to the Blue Man Group. Maybe that’s why we’re less disturbed by [Graham Jessup]’s face-tracking Watchman than we should be. Either that, or it’s because it reminds us of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Frankly, this is just way too cool to be dismissed out of hand as creepy.

The Watchman finds faces via video feed from a camera module positioned in his forehead as a third eye. The camera is connected to a Pi Zero that’s wearing a Google AIY vision bonnet. The Pi translates the face locations into servo positions and feeds them to an Arduino UNO located in the frontal lobe region to move the eyeballs and lids accordingly.

[Graham] had a bit of trouble with tracking accuracy at first, so he temporarily replaced the pupils with 5 mW lasers and calibrated them by tracking a printed stand-in of his head to avoid burning out his retinas.

This project builds on previous work by [Tjahzi] and the animatronic eye movements of [Will Cogley]. We can only imagine how awesome the Watchman would look with a pair of [Will]’s incredibly realistic eyeballs. Either way, we would totally trust the Watchman to defend our modest supply of toilet paper in the coming weeks. Check out a brief demo after the break, and a whole lot more clips on [Graham]’s site.

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Art Imitates DNA

It has recently been possible to pay a service a little bit of money and learn more about your own DNA. You might find out you really aren’t Italian after all or that you are more or less susceptible to some ailments. [Paul Klinger] had his DNA mapped and decided to make a sculpture representing his unique genetic code. The pictures are good, but the video below is even better.

The project requires a DNA sequencing, a 3D printer, and a Raspberry Pi Zero. Oh, you can probably guess you need a lot of RGB LEDs, too. Of course, the display doesn’t show the whole thing at one time — your DNA pattern scrolls across the double helix.

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