The Macro Keyboard Is On Deck

The idea of a reconfigurable macro keyboard is a concept that has been iterated on by many all the way from custom DIY keypads to the polarizing TouchBar on MacBooks. The continual rise of cheap powerful microcontrollers with Wi-Fi and 3D printers makes rolling your own macro keyboard easier every year. [Dustin Watts] has joined the proverbial club and built a beautiful macro pad called FreeTouchDeck.

We’ve seen macro keyboards that use rotary encoders to cycle through different mappings for the keys. FreeTouchDeck has taken the display approach and incorporates a touch screen to offer different buttons. [Dustin] was inspired by a similar project called FreeDeck, which offers six buttons each with a small screen. FreeTouchDeck is powered by an ESP32 and drives an ILI9488 touch screen with an XPT2046 touch controller. This means that FreeTouchDeck can offer six buttons with submenus and all sorts of bells and whistles. A connection to the computer is done by emulating a Bluetooth keyboard. By adding a configuration mode that starts a web server, FreeTouchDeck allows easy customization on the fly.

[Dustin] whipped up a quick PCB that makes it easy to solder the ESP32 and the TFT together, but a breadboard works just fine. Gerbers for that are available on GitHub. To wrap it all up, a nice 3D printed shell encloses the whole system in a clean, tidy way. The code, documentation, and case designs are all on his GitHub.

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Synthesizer Gets An External Touch Screen

Like other owners of the high-end Yamaha MODX, [sn00zerman] wasn’t happy with the synthesizer’s integrated touch screen. It’s a bit small, and not at a very good angle for viewing. So he made it his mission to find some way of adding a larger external touch screen without making any permanent modifications to the expensive instrument.

This might seem like a tall order, but he wasn’t starting from zero. It was already known that you could plug an external display into it if you used a USB to DVI/HDMI adapter; but without the touch overlay it wasn’t a particularly useful trick. He pondered adding an external connector for the device’s built-in touch screen overlay, but that broke his no modifications rule. Considering how much one of these things cost, we can’t blame him for not wanting to put a hole in the side.

Sometimes you just have to dig out the right parts.

So he started to look for a software solution to get him the rest of the way. Luckily the MODX runs Linux, and Yamaha has made good on their GPL responsibilities and released the source code for anyone who’s interested. While poking around, he figured out that the device uses tslib to talk to the touch screen, which [sn00zerman] had worked with on previous projects. He realized that the solution might be as simple as finding a USB touch screen controller that’s compatible with the version of tslib running on the MODX.

In the end, a trip through his parts bin uncovered a stand-alone touch screen controller that he knew from experience would work with the library. Sure enough, when plugged into the MODX, the OS accepted it as an input device. With the addition of a USB hub, he was able to combine this with an existing display and finally have a more comfortable user-interface for his synthesizer.

Now all he’s got to do is plug in a USB floppy drive, and he’ll have the ultimate Yamaha Beat Laboratory.

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Classic Macintosh Gets An IPad Infusion

We know the classic Mac fans in the audience won’t be happy about this one, but the final results are simply too clean to ignore. With a laser-cut adapter and a little custom wiring, [Travis DeRose] has come up with a repeatable way to modernize a Compact Macintosh (Plus, SE, etc) by swapping out all of its internals for an iPad mini.

He goes over the whole process in the video after the break, while being kind enough to spare our sensitive eyes from having to see the Mac’s enclosure stripped of its original electronics. We’ll just pretend hope that the computer was so damaged that repair simply wasn’t an option.

Anyway, with a hollow Mac in your possession, you can install the adapter that allows the iPad to get bolted in place of the original CRT monitor. You won’t be able to hit the Home button anymore, but otherwise it’s a very nice fit.

Those with some first hand iPad experience might be wondering how you wake the tablet up once the Mac is all buttoned back up. That’s an excellent question, and one that [Travis] wrestled with for awhile. In the end he came up with a very clever solution: he cuts into a charging cable and splices in a normally-closed momentary push button. Pushing the button essentially “unplugs” the iPad for a second, which just so happens to wake it up. It’s an elegant solution that keeps you from having to make any modifications to that expensive piece of Apple hardware.

If there’s one thing we’re not thrilled with, it’s the empty holes left behind where the ports, switches, and floppy drive were removed. As we’ve seen in the past, you can simply cut the ports off of a motherboard and glue them in place to make one of these conversions look a little more convincing. If you’re going to do it, might as well go all the way.

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A Raspberry Pi Terminal That’s Always Within Reach

Inspired by films such asĀ The Matrix, where hackers are surrounded by displays and keyboards on articulated arms, [Jay Doscher] created this cyberpunk “floating” terminal so your favorite Linux single board computer is always close at hand. Do you actually need such a thing mounted to the wall next to the workbench? Probably not. But when has that ever stopped a Hackaday reader?

[Jay] has come up with a modular design for the “A.R.M. Terminal” that allows the user to easily augment it with additional hardware. The 3D printed frame of the terminal has hardpoints to bolt on new modules, which thanks to threaded metal inserts, will have no problem surviving multiple configurations.

This initial version features a panel on the left side that holds various buttons and switches attached to the Pi’s GPIO pins. With a bit of code, it’s easy to pick up the status of these controls and use them to fire off whatever tasks your imagination can come up with. On the bottom [Jay] has mounted a stand-alone VFD audio spectrum display that’s hooked up to the Pi’s 3.5 mm jack. It’s totally unnecessary and costs as much as the Raspberry Pi itself, but it sure is pretty.

If there’s a downside to the design, it’s that the only display currently supported is the official Raspberry Pi touchscreen which is only 800×480 and a bit pricey compared to more modern panels. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for the standardized bolt pattern on the back of the official screen; so if you want to use a higher resolution display, be prepared to design your own mounting bracket. Extra points if you share your changes with the rest of the class.

For anyone who likes the look of the A.R.M. Terminal but isn’t too keen on being tethered to the wall, you’re in luck. [Jay] previously created the Raspberry Pi Recovery Kit which shares many of the same design principles but puts them into a ruggedized case that’s ready for life in the field.

A Luggable Computer For The Raspberry Pi Era

Today, computers are separated into basically two categories: desktops and laptops. But back in the early 1980s, when this ideological line in the sand was still a bit blurry, consumer’s had a third choice. Known as “portable computers” at the time, and often lovingly referred to as luggables by modern collectors, these machines were technically small enough to take with you on a plane or in the car.

Improvements in miniaturization ultimately made the portable computer obsolete, but that doesn’t mean some people still don’t want one. [Dave Estes] has been working on his own modern take on idea that he calls Reviiser, and so far it looks like it checks off all the boxes. With the addition of a rather hefty battery pack, it even manages to be more practical than the vintage beasts that inspired it.

In the video after the break, [Dave] walks us through some of the highlights of his luggable build, such as the fold-down mechanical keyboard, gloriously clunky mechanical power switches, and the integrated touch screen. We also really like the side-mounted touch pad, which actually looks perfectly usable given the largely keyboard driven software environment [Dave] has going on the internal Raspberry Pi 4. With a removable 30,000 mAh battery pack slotted into the back of the machine, he’ll have plenty of juice for his faux-retro adventures.

[Dave] mentions that eventually he’s looking to add support for “cartridges” which will allow the user to easily slot in new hardware that connects to the Pi’s GPIO pins. This would allow for a lot of interesting expansion possibilities, and fits in perfectly with the Reviiser’s vintage aesthetic. It would also go a long way towards justifying the considerable bulk of the machine; perhaps even ushering in a revival of sorts for the luggable computer thanks to hardware hackers who want a mobile workstation with all the bells and whistles.

Right now there isn’t a lot of detail on how you can build your own Reviiser, but [Dave] says more info will be added to his site soon. In the meantime, you can check out some of the similar projects we’ve seen recently to get some inspiration for your own Luggable Pi.

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2D-Platform Seeks Balance With A Touch Screen

It’s the [Bruce Land]-iest season of all, when the Cornell professor submits the projects his microcontroller class students have been working on all semester. Imagination does not seem to be in short supply with these students, and we always look forward to these tips this time of year.

[Greg] and [Sam]’s touch-screen two-dimensional ball balancer is a good example of what [Land]’s students turn out. The resistive touch screen is supported by a 3D-printed gimballed platform and tilted in two axes by hobby servos. [Greg] and [Sam] chose to read the voltage outputs from the touch screen directly using the ADC on a PIC32, toggling between the two axes at 2 kHz. Two PID control loops were implemented to keep the ball as centered as possible on the platform, and the video below shows that there’s still some loop tuning to do. But given the positional inaccuracies of hobby servos and the compliance in the gimbal, we’re impressed that they were able to keep the system under control at all.

Of course we’ve seen ball-balancers before, but most of them have closed the loop using either cameras or microphones. Seeing direct sensing on the platform like this is a nice change of pace. Continue reading “2D-Platform Seeks Balance With A Touch Screen”

Homebrew Laptop Makes A Statement With A Steampunk Theme

Some may argue, but your choice of computing hardware says exactly zero about you, at least when you buy off the shelf. Your laptop or PC is only one of millions, and the chances of seeing someone with the exact same machine are pretty good. If you want to be different, you really need to build something yourself.

This homebrew steampunk laptop does a great job at standing out from the crowd. [Starhawk]’s build is an homage to the Steampunk genre, in a wooden case with brass bits and bobs adorning. The guts are based on an Intel motherboard, a bit dated but serviceable enough for the job. There’s a touch-capable LCD in the lid, and we absolutely love the look of the keyboard with its retro-style chrome and phenolic keycaps. Exposed USB cables run to and fro, and the braided jackets contribute to the old-timey look. The copier roller as a lid hinge is a nice touch too.

[Starhawk]’s build log is long and detailed, and covers the entire build. We’ve seen interesting builds from him before, like this junk-bin PC build for a friend in need. Looks like this one is for personal use, though, and we can’t blame him.