True Networked KVM Without Breaking The Bank

For administering many computers at once, an IP KVM is an invaluable piece of equipment that makes it possible to get the job done over the network without having to haul a keyboard, monitor, and mouse around to each computer. The only downside is that they can get pricey, unless of course you can roll one out based on the Raspberry Pi and the PiKVM image for little more than the cost of the Pi itself.

The video linked below shows how to set all of this up, which involves flashing the image and then setting up the necessary hardware. The build shows an option for using HDMI over USB, but another option using the CSI bus would allow for control over options like video resolution and color that a USB HDMI dongle doesn’t allow for. It also makes it possible to restart the computer and do things like configure BIOS or boot from removable media, which is something that would be impossible with a remote desktop solution like VNC.

The creator of PiKVM was mentioned in a previous post about the creation of the CSI bus capture card, and a Pi hat based on this build will be available soon which would include options for ATX controls as well. Right now, though, it’s possible to build all of this on your own without the hat, and is part of what makes the Pi-KVM impressive, as well as its very low cost.

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Small Spotify Remote Broadens Musical Horizons

When was the last time you tried listening to a new genre of music, or even explored a sub-genre of something you already like? That’s what we thought. It’s good to listen to other stuff once in a while and remind ourselves that there’s a whole lot of music out there, and our tastes are probably not all that diverse. As a reminder, [sorghum] made a spiffy little Spotify remote that can cruise through the musical taxonomy that is Every Noise at Once and control any Spotify-enabled device.

There’s a lot to like about this little remote, which is based upon a LilyGo TTGO ESP32 board with on-board display. The circuitry is basically that and a rotary encoder plus a tiny LiPo battery. Can we talk about the finish on those prints? Yes, those are both printed enclosures. Getting that buttery smooth finish took two grits of wet/dry sandpaper plus nine grits of polishing cloths.

As you can see in the brief demo after the break, there are several ways to discover new music. [sorghum] can surf through all kinds of Japanese music for example, or surf by the genre’s ending word and listen to metalcore, deathcore, and grindcore from all over the globe. For extra fun, there’s a genre-ending randomizer so you can discover just how many forms of *core there are.

Want everyone in the room to know what you’re listening to? Behold the Spotify split-flap display.

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Building A YouTube Remote Control Worthy Of 2020

Back in 2018, [Gryo] built a remote control specifically for watching YouTube videos on his computer. It worked perfectly, but it didn’t quite fit the expectation one has for a modern media remote — it was a bit chunky, the buttons weren’t very responsive, and it didn’t feel as nice as the remotes that ship with consumer streaming devices. Looking to improve on things, he’s recently unveiled a far more svelte version of his scratch built media streaming remote includes a scrollwheel, color feedback, and a UI for customizing how it works.

It might not look the part, but technically [Gyro] categorizes his creation as a wireless keyboard since that’s what the operating system sees it as. This makes it easy to use with whatever media playback software or service might be running on the computer, as button presses on the remote are picked up as standard keyboard events. And the software easily sets which key each button on the remote will be associated with.

Inside the 3D printed case there’s a custom PCB that pulls together the ATmega328P, NRF24L01 radio, and TP4056 charger that tops off the 500 mAh Li-Po battery via USB-C. The receiver is also a custom creation, using a second NRF24L01 chip but swapping out the microcontroller for the ATmega32U4.

[Gyro] has done a fantastic job documenting this build in the write-up, and provides everything you need should you want to spin up your own copy. As much as we liked the unique approach used in the first version of the remote, we’ve got to admit this iteration is much more likely to end up sitting on our living room table.

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Hackaday Links: May 24, 2020

We’re saddened to learn of the passing of Gershon Kingsley in December 2019 at the age of 97. The composer and electronic music pioneer was not exactly a household name, but the things he did with the Moog synthesizer, especially the surprise hit “Pop Corn”, which he wrote in 1969, are sure to be familiar. The song has been covered dozens of times, in the process of which the spelling of the name changed to “Popcorn.” We’re most familiar with the 1972 cover by Hot Butter, an earworm from our youth that doesn’t hide the Moog as deeply in the backing instruments as Kingsley did in the original. Or, perhaps you prefer the cover done by a robotic glockenspiel, because robotic glockenspiel.

A few months back, we covered the audacious plan to recover the radio gear from the Titanic. At the time, the potential salvors, Atlanta-based RMS Titanic, Inc., were seeking permission to cut into the submerged remains of the Titanic‘s Marconi room to remove as much of the wireless gear as possible. A federal judge granted permission for the salvage operation last Friday, giving the company the green light to prepare an expedition for this summer. The US government, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service, argued strenuously to leave the wreck be and treat it as a tomb for the 1,527 victims. For our part, we had a great discussion about the merits in the comments section of the previous article. Now that it’s a done deal, we’d love to hear what you have to say about this again.

Although life appears to be slowly returning to what passes for normal, that doesn’t mean you might not still have some cycles to spare, especially when the time spent can bolster your skillset. And so if you’re looking to adding FPGAs to your resume, check out this remote lab on FPGA vision systems offered by Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University. The setup allows you to watch lectures, download code examples, and build them on your local computer, and then upload the resulting binaries to real hardware running on the lab’s servers in Germany. It sounds like a great way to get access to FPGA hardware that you’d otherwise have a hard time laying hands on. Or, you know, you could have just come to the 2019 Hackaday Superconference.

Speaking of skill-builders, oscilloscope owners who want to sharpen their skills could do worse than to listen to the advice of a real scope jockey like Allen Wolke. He recently posted a helpful video listing the five most common reasons for your scope giving “wrong” voltage readings. Spoiler alert: the instrument is probably doing exactly what you told it to do. As a scope newbie, we found the insights very helpful, and we can imagine even seasoned users could make simple mistakes like using the wrong probe attenuation or forgetting that scope response isn’t flat across its bandwidth.

Safety tip for the gearheads among us: your jack stands might be unsafe to use. Harbor Freight, the stalwart purveyor of cheap tools, has issued a recall of two different models of its jack stands. It seems that the pawls can kick out under the right conditions, sending the supported load crashing to the ground. This qualifies as a Very Bad Day for anyone unlucky enough to be working underneath when it happens. Defective jack stands can be returned to Harbor Freight for store credit, so check your garage and be safe out there in the shop.

And finally, because everyone loves a good flame war, Ars Technica has come up with a pronunciation guide for common tech terms. We have to admit that most of these are not surprising; few among the technology literate would mispronounce “Linux” or “sudo”. We will admit to a non-fanboy level of ignorance on whether the “X” in “iOS X” was a Roman numeral or not, but learning that the “iOS” part is correctly pronounced as three syllables, not two was a bit shocking. It’s all an exercise in pedantry that reminds us of a mildly heated discussion we had around the secret Hackaday writers’ bunker and whether “a LED” or “an LED” is the correct style. If the Internet was made for anything, it was stuff like this.

A Wireless Controller For The Mostly Printed CNC

The Mostly Printed CNC (MPCNC) is an impressive project in its own right, allowing anyone with a 3D printer and some electrical conduit to build their own fairly heavy-duty CNC platform perfect for routing. Customization is the name of the game with the MPCNC, and few machines will look the same when they’re done. But even fewer will feature a control interface nearly as slick as the wireless handset that [Steve Croot] has put together for his.

On the hardware side, the project is fairly straightforward. Inside the 3D printed enclosure is a 4.3″ Nextion touchscreen, a Mega 2560 PRO microcontroller, a nRF24L01 2.4 GHz transceiver, and a 4000 mAh 3.7 V LiPo battery with appropriate charging circuit. Besides the physical toggle switch to turn the handheld on and off, all of the device’s functions are touch controlled. For the receiver side, [Steve] is using another nRF24L01 radio and microcontroller pair to toggle relays and shuffle the appropriate G-code commands around.

But what really makes this project shine is the software. As you can see in the video after the break, [Steve] has done an absolutely phenomenal job with the user interface on this controller. The themed boot screen and concise iconography give the controller a very professional look, and the ability to jog the machine around using taps on a virtual workspace helps keep the touch interface from being a gimmick.

We’ve seen some impressive custom-built CNC controllers over the years, but between the mostly off-the-shelf hardware used and impressive UI, we think [Steve] has created something unique. It looks like he’s keeping the source code to himself for the time being, but hopefully he sees fit to release it in the future; a project of this caliber deserves to become more than a one-off creation.

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Handheld MQTT Remote For Home Automation

If you’re working on a home automation project, you’re probably knee-deep into MQTT by now. If not, you should be. The lightweight messaging protocol is an ideal choice for getting your “Things” on the Internet, and controlling them all can be done easily through a simple web interface or an application on your mobile device. Or if you’re [serverframework], you make yourself a handsome little all-in-one MQTT remote.

The hardware here is pretty simple; inside there’s just a NodeMCU ESP8266 development board, some buttons, an RGB LED to give feedback, and a 3.7v 1200mAh LiPo battery with associated charging module. Everything is held inside a nice little wooden box that looks like it would fit right in with the living room decor. We’d like to see some kind of a cover over the exposed perfboard the circuit is assembled on, but that’s arguably a personal preference kind of thing.

Most of the magic in this project is actually happening on the software side. Not only does the provided source code handle all the MQTT communications with Home Assistant, but it provides a clever user interface that allows [serverframework] to perform 25 functions with just five buttons. No, you aren’t seeing things. There are actually six buttons on the device, but one of them is a dedicated “power” button that wakes the remote out of deep sleep.

If you’d like to learn more about getting this protocol working for you, our resident MQTT guru [Elliot Williams] has plenty of thoughts on the subject. From his talk at the 2017 Hackaday Supercon to his home automation tutorial series, there’s plenty of information to get you started.

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Cloned Gate Remote Does It (Slightly) Better

Ever make something just to see if you could? Yeah, we thought so. [serverframework] wanted to see if he could clone the remote that opens his neighborhood gate, inspired by the long distance ding-dong-ditch efforts of [Samy Kamkar].

This clone uses an ATtiny85 and an RF module to emulate and send the frequency that the gate is waiting for. To accomplish that, [serverframework] had to figure out both the operating frequency and the timing used by the remote. The crystal inside seemed to indicate 295 MHz, and a quick check of the device’s FCC registration confirmed it. Then he used an SDR dongle to watch the data coming across when he pressed the button, and ran it through Audacity to figure out the timing.

Unfortunately, the 295 MHz crystal is a rare beast, so [serverframework] had to transplant the original to the donor RF module. Then it was just a matter of programming the ATtiny85 to send the frequency with the right timing. It actually does a better job since the original has no timing crystal, and the ‘tiny is clocked with a standard 16 kHz oscillator. The code is available within [serverframework]’s excellent write-up, and you can see a tiny demo after the break.

There’s more than one way to clone a gate remote. This one leverages MQTT to turn friends’ phones into remotes.

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