Upgraded Toy Guitar Plays Music

Getting the finishing details on a Halloween costume completed is the key to impressing friends and strangers alike on the trick-or-treat rounds. Especially when it comes to things like props, these details can push a good Halloween costume to great with the right touches. [Jonathan]’s friend’s daughter will be well ahead of the game thanks to these additions to a toy guitar which is part of her costume this year.

The toy guitar as it was when it arrived had the capability to play a few lackluster sound effects. The goal here was to get it to play a much more impressive set of songs instead, and to make a couple upgrades along the way as well. To that end, [Jonathan] started by dismantling the toy and investigating the PCBs for potential reuse. He decided to keep the buttons in the neck of the guitar despite their non-standard wiring configuration, but toss out the main board in favor of an ESP32. The ESP32 is tasked with reading the buttons, playing a corresponding song loaded on an SD card, and handling the digital to analog conversion when sending it out to be played on the speaker.

The project doesn’t stop there, though. [Jonathan] also did some custom mixing for the songs to account for the lack of stereo sound and a working volume knob, plus he used the ESP32’s wireless capabilities to set the guitar up as a local file server so that songs can be sent to and from the device without any wires. He also released the source code on the project’s GitHub page for anyone looking to use any parts of this project. Don’t forget there’s a Halloween contest going on right now, so be sure to submit the final version of projects like these there!

Continue reading “Upgraded Toy Guitar Plays Music”

Remote Water Quality Monitoring

While it can be straightforward to distill water to high purity, this is rarely the best method for producing water for useful purposes. Even drinking water typically needs certain minerals in it, plants may need a certain pH, and wastewater systems have a whole host of other qualities that need to be measured. Measuring water quality is a surprisingly complex endeavor as a result and often involves a wide array of sensors, much like this water quality meter from [RowlesGroupResearch].

The water quality meters that they are putting to use are typically set up in remote locations, without power, and are targeting natural bodies of water and also wastewater treatment plants. Temperature and pH are simple enough to measure and grasp, but this device also includes sensors for total dissolved solids (TDS) and turbidity which are both methods for measuring various amounts and types of particles suspended in the water. The build is based around an Arduino so that it is easy for others to replicate, and is housed in a waterproof box with a large battery, and includes data logging to an SD card in order to make it easy to deploy in remote, outdoor settings and to gather the data at a later time.

The build log for this device also goes into detail about all of the steps needed to set this up from scratch, as well as a comprehensive bill of materials. This could be useful in plenty of professional settings such as community wastewater treatment facilities but also in situations where it’s believed that industrial activity may be impacting a natural body of water. For a water quality meter more focused on drinking water, though, we’d recommend this build that is trained on its own neural network.

Dumping An EMMC Chip With Many Bodge Wires

Sometimes, you know where the data you need is stored, you just don’t have a way to access it. In this case, [GetHypoxic] needed to rip data off an eMMC chip, salvaged out of a camera. With no desire to wait for an adapter to show up, it was time to bust out the bodge!

Once removed from the PCB, bodge wires were attached to the ball-grid array contacts on the bottom of the chip. Incredibly fine soldering was the order of the day to get these hooked up to the tiny pads, and we count 11 or 12 bodge wires in total. 1.8 volts was manually supplied to the eMMC chip, and it was directly wired up to the contacts of a built-in card reader out of an old laptop for reading.

Despite the rats-nest look of it all, and the yellow polyimide tape holding it together, [GetHypoxic] reported that it mounted successfully and got the job done. We’ve seen similar hacks before, too, wiring eMMC chips up to SD card adapters. It might look messy, but hey – it sure beats waiting for shipping!

The SDWire board plugged into some SoM's breakout board's MicroSD socket

Automated MicroSD Card Swapping Helps In Embedded Shenanigans

[Saulius Lukse] has been working on some single board computer, seemingly, running Linux. Naturally, that boots from a microSD card – and as development goes on, that card has to be reimaged all the time. Sick of constantly plugging and unplugging the microSD card between the SBC and an SD card reader, [Saulius] started looking for a more automated solution – and it wasn’t long before he found out about the SDWire project, a hardware tool that lets you swap a card between a DUT (Device Under Test) and your personal computer with no moving parts involved.

SDWire is an offshoot from the Tizen project, evidently, designed to be of help in device development, be it single-board computers or smartphones. The idea is simple – you plug your MicroSD card into the SDWire board, plug the SDWire into a MicroSD slot of your embedded device, and then connect a USB cable from the SDWire to your development computer. This way, if you need to reflash the firmware on the SBC you’re tinkering with, you only need to issue a command to the SDWire board over the USB cable, and the MicroSD card appears as a storage drive on your computer. SDWire is a fully open source project, both in hardware and in software, and you can also buy preassembled boards online.

Such shortening of development time helps in things like automated testing, but it also speeds your development up quite a bit, saving you time between iterations, freeing you from all the tiny SD card fiddling, and letting you have more fun as you hack. There’s a clear need for a project like SDWire, as we’ve already seen a hacker assemble such a device using breakouts.

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: August 7, 2022

If you ever needed proof that class-action lawsuits are a good deal only for the lawyers, look no further than the news that Tim Hortons will settle a data-tracking suit with a doughnut and a coffee. For those of you who are not in Canada or Canada-adjacent, “Timmy’s” is a chain of restaurants that are kind of the love child of a McDonald’s and a Dunkin Donut shop. An investigation into the chain’s app a couple of years ago revealed that customer location data was being logged silently, even when they were not using the app, and even far, far away from the nearest Tim Hortons. The chain is proposing to settle with class members to the tune of a coupon good for one free hot beverage and one baked good, in total valuing a whopping $8.68. The lawyers, on the other hand, will be pulling in $1.5 million plus taxes. There’s no word if they are taking that in cash or as 172,811 coffees and doughnuts, but we think we can guess.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: August 7, 2022”

Console Macropad Uses SD Cards For Stylin’ And Profilin’

Macropads are great to have around for hotkey input, but things can get out of hand pretty quickly when you realize just how many shortcuts are in your life. To avoid ending up with another keyboard-sized keyboard, some hackers will use a handful of switches and a lot of layers to turn a few keys into many. And instead of worrying about legends, they use blank keys and leave the labels to be displayed on some kind of screen.

Among them is [QCJ3], who built this nifty little console-style macropad. Uninterested in managing microcontroller memory, [QCJ3] went the tangible route and loaded various profiles onto a micro SD card. Each text file on a given card holds a label, a color for the keyswitch LED, and of course, the keystrokes that make up the macro itself.

There are myriad ways to build a macro pad, from designing with bare chips (if you can get them) to programming a pre-built key matrix.  Grab the files if you like the console look and call it a day, or build a completely new enclosure that fits your hand exactly. Whatever you build, consider entering it in our brand spankin’ new Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals Contest, which runs now through July 4th. If you need more inspiration, just peep the projects under macropad tag, or peruse the much heftier keyboard tag.


Raspberry Pi And The Story Of SD Card Corruption

Tales of Raspberry Pi SD card corruption are available online by the fistful, and are definitely a constant in Pi-adjacent communities. It’s apparent that some kind of problems tend to arise when a Raspberry Pi meets an SD card – which sounds quite ironic, since an SD card is the official and recommended way of booting a Pi. What is up with all of that?

I can start with a history lesson. Back when Raspberry Pi launched in 2012 – which is now 10 years ago – there were SD card controller driver problems, which makes sense given the wide variety of SD cards available out there. They were verifiably fixed one by one at some point in time, as debugging goes, their impact decreased and bugs with individual cards got smoothed over. This is how the “Pi SD card corruption” meme was originally born; however, if the problems were to end there, so would the meme. Yet, tales of broken SD cards plague us to this day – way less severe than they were in the beginning, but pronounced enough that you’ll see people encounter them every now and then.

Over the years, a devoted base of Pi SD card haters has grown. Their demand has been simple – Raspberry Pi has to get an ability to boot from something else, in large part because of corruption reasons, but also undeniably because of speed and capacity/cost limitations of SD cards. Thanks to their demands and work, we’ve seen a series of projects grow from unofficial efforts and hacks into officially supported Raspberry Pi abilities – USB boot being initially more of a workaround but now something you can enable out of the box, SSD-equipped Pi enclosures becoming more of a norm, and now, NVMe boot appearing on the horizon. Every few years, we get a new way to boot a Pi. Continue reading “Raspberry Pi And The Story Of SD Card Corruption”