Software Shortcut Keyboard Registers Many Macros

[FabroLabs Technologies] is an industrial designer who uses several creative-type software programs in a given day. Unfortunately, they all have slightly different shortcut schemes, and trying to remember all the different modifiers is a waste of time better spent elsewhere.

This lovely little macro keyboard is every bit as useful as it is cool looking. Spinning the rotary encoder cycles through a menu of programs on the 16×2 LCD, and the key map just updates automatically for the chosen program. At the heart of this build is an Arduino Pro Micro and 20 of the loudest key switches ever made — Cherry MX blues. We like that it manages to look like toy cash register and a serious peripheral all at once — it probably has something to do with those way-cool circular keycaps that were made on a resin printer.

We’re glad that [FabroLabs] laid down such a comprehensive and open build guide during the process of making this macro keyboard. The average hacker can learn a lot from industrial designers who show their work. Remember the time [Eric Strebel] showed us all how to improve our foam board design game?

From The MacGyver Files: Using A Stepper Motor As An Encoder

It isn’t hard to imagine a scenario where you are stuck at home all day with nothing to do and certain items are in short supply. Sure, bathroom tissue gets all the press, but try buying some flour or a freezer and see how far you get. Plus online shopping has given up on next day delivery for the duration. Not hard to imagine at all. Now suppose your latest self-quarantine project needs a rotary shaft encoder. Not having one, what do you do? If you are [Tech Build] you go all MacGyver on an old printer and pull out a stepper motor.

How does a stepper motor turn into an encoder? Well, that’s the MacGyver part. We are not big fans of the physical circuit diagrams, but it looks like [Tech Build] borrowed (with credit) from an earlier post and that one has a proper schematic.

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Baby Keyboard Is Really Three Boards

Just when we think we’ve peeped all the cool baby keebs out there, another think comes along. This bad boy built by [andyclymer] can be configured three different ways, depending on what kind of control you’re after.

As designed, the PCB can be used as a six-switch macro keyboard, or a rotary encoder with two switches, or a pair of rotary encoders. It’s meant to be controlled with Trinket M0, which means it can be programmed with Arduino or CircuitPython.

This could really only be cooler if the key switch PCB holes had sockets for hot-swapping the switches, because then you could use this thing as a functional switch tester. But hey, you can always add those yourself.

If you’re in the market for purpose-built add-on input device, but either don’t have the purpose nailed down just yet, or aren’t sure you want to design the thing yourself, this board would be a great place to start. Usually, all it takes is using someone else’s design to get used to using such a thing, at which point it’s natural to start thinking of ways to customize it. [andyclymer] is selling these boards over on Tindie, or you can roll your own from the repo.

Need just a few more inputs? We’ve got you covered.

Sort The Rainbow With An Algorithm Machine

When you’re trying to learn how an algorithm works, it’s not always easy to visualize what’s going on. Well, except for maybe binary sort, thanks to the phone book. Professor [thatguyer] is a computer science teacher who wanted a way to help his students visualize the process of algorithms and at the same time, get a grasp on their resource cost.

The Algorithm Machine can demonstrate 8 different search and sort algorithms using two 100-count strips of RGB LEDs — one to represent an array of integers, and one to create indicators pointing to the integers under scrutiny.

This functional beauty is totally interactive, too. Once the user chooses the values and the algorithm and starts the process, they can speed it up or slow it down with the rotary encoder, or pause to discuss and start again with that slick triangular play button. We particularly like the control button wiring harness [thatguyer] created to keep everything neat and hot-swappable.

This iteration uses 3D printed face plates to give the LEDs shape, but in an early version, [thatguyer] cut and sanded a ton of circles out of brass tubing, and folded as many triangles cut from disposable baking pans. The world could use more teachers as committed as [thatguyer]. This really seems like a handy teaching aid for these concepts, and we wish we’d had one in class to play around with. Here’s your algorithm for watching the demo: click break, press play, enjoy.

If you’re still confused, there are other ways to understand algorithms through visualization. Failing all that, just watch these Hungarian folk dancers work out various algo-rhythms.

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Micro Macro Keyboard Makes A Major Difference

Media keyboards are nice in theory. But in practice they never have all the keys you want, and they almost always have a few you don’t. Sure, you could maybe reassign the ones you don’t use, but then the caps are wrong, and it’s a whole thing. So really, the only winning move is to make a micro macro keyboard as [littleSilvr] did to make all your shortcuts one-button accessible.

This lovely input has an Arduino Pro Micro for a brain, and Gateron browns for brawn. That knob there is a rotary encoder, not a potentiometer, because endless volume knob twiddling is just so much nicer. In case you’re wondering, those shortcuts open Fusion 360 and Cura, but we’re still not sure what the hyphen does.

Can we talk about those keycaps, though? [littleSilvr] used [Make Anything]’s process of of printing in multi-color with a single extruder. The technique involves building a vector for each color, each of which gets its own STL file. Then you add retraction as you go up through the layers, slow the print speed, change filament colors while the nozzle and bed are still warm, and voila, a vibrant canvas of colors.

If you don’t have a printer and you don’t mind a bit of compromise on the number of inputs, try basing your build on an existing input, like an old rotary telephone dialer.

Via r/duino

Square Laser Harp Is Hip

You know, we hadn’t realized how tired we were of vertical laser harps until we saw [Jonathan Bumstead]’s entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize. It’s all well and good to imitate the design of the inspiring instrument. But the neat thing about synths is that they aren’t confined to the physics of the acoustic instruments they mimic. This project elevates the laser harp into functional sculpture territory. It’s a piece of art that produces art.

And this art harp is entirely self-contained, with built-in MIDI, amplifier, and speakers. The brains of this beauty are an Arduino Mega and an Adafruit music maker shield, which give it twenty different instrument voices. Each of the six layers has two lasers, two mirrors, and two photo-resistors mounted in the corners of the plywood skeleton. The lasers and photo-resistors are mounted back to back in opposite corners, with mirrors in the other two corners to complete the paths. [Jonathan] cleverly diffused the laser light with milky slivers of film canister plastic.

This isn’t [Jonathan]’s first optical rodeo. Previous experience taught him the importance of being able to readjust the lasers on the fly, because every time he moved it, the laser modules would go out of alignment. This time, he built kinematic mounts that let him reposition the lasers using four screws that each push a corner.

There are a lot of nice touches here, especially the instrument selector wheel. [Jonathan] explains it and the rest of the harp in a fantastic demo/build video that’s just burning a hole in the space after the break.

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Hackaday Links: May 19, 2019

Cheap nostalgia, that’s the name of the game. If you can somehow build and ship ‘cheap nostalgia’, you’re going to be raking in the bucks. For the ‘musicians’ in the crowd, the king of cheap nostalgia has something great. Behringer is cloning the Yamaha CS-80. and it was announced at this month’s Superbooth.

The Yamaha CS-80 is the synth in Blade Runner, and since Toto’s Africa is making a comeback on top-40 radio, it’s the instrument of our time. A Wonderful Christmas Time, it seems. Aaaannnyway, yes, there might be a huge and inexpensive version of one of the greatest synthesizers ever made real soon. The cheap 808s and 909s are making their way to stores soon, and the 101 needs a firmware update but you can buy it now. Cheap nostalgia. That’s how you do it.

The PiDP-11/70 is a project we’ve been neglecting for some time, which is an absolute shame. This is a miniature simulation of what is objectively the best-looking minicomputer of all time, the PDP-11/70. This version is smaller, though, and it runs on a Pi with the help of SimH. There are injection molded switches, everything is perfect, and now there are a whole bunch of instructional videos on how to get a PiDP-11/70 up and running. Check it out, you want this kit.

Considering you can put a phone screen in anything, and anyone can make a keyboard, it’s a wonder no one is making real, well-designed palmtop computers anymore. The Vaio P series of PCs would be great with WiFi, Bluetooth, and a slight upgrade in memory and storage. This was [NFM[‘s recent project. This palmtop gets an SSD. The object of modification is a decade-old Sony Vaio CPCP11 palmtop modified with a 256 GB SSD. The Vaio only supports PATA, and the SSD is mSATA, so this is really a project of many weird adapters that also have to be built on flex connectors.

Here’s something for the brain trust in the Hackaday comments. First, take a look at this picture. It’s the inside of a rotary encoder. On the top, you have a Gray code (or what have you) that tracks the absolute position of a shaft. On the bottom, you have some sort of optical detection device with 13 photodiodes (or something) that keeps track of each track in the Gray code. This is then translated to some output, hopefully an I2C bus. What is this device, circled in red? I know what it is — it’s an optical decoder, but that phrase is utterly ungooglable, unmouserable, and undigikeyable. If you were me, what would you use to build your own custom absolute rotary encoder and you only needed the sensor? I technically only need 10 tracks/sensors/resolution of 1024, but really I only need a name.

Lol, someone should apply to Y Combinator and pitch yourself as a B Corp.