Making A Kid-Friendly Computer As A Present: Or How To Be The Cool Aunt At Christmas

This article was meant to be finished up before Christmas, so it’ll be a little late whenever you’re reading it to go and prepare this for the holiday. Regardless, if, like me, should you ever be on the lookout for something to give a toddler nephew or relative, it could be worth it to look into your neglected old parts shelves. In my case, what caught my eye was a 9-year-old AMD laptop catching dust that could be better repurposed in the tiny hands of a kid eager to play video games.

The main issues here are finding a decent selection of appropriate games and streamling the whole experience so that it’s easy to use for a not-yet-hacker, all the while keeping the system secure and child-friendly. And doing it all on a budget.

This is a tall order, and requirements will be as individual as children are, of course, but I hope that my experience and considerations will help guide you if you’re in a similar boat.

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Pringles Can Turned Vaporwave Lamp

We play host to a lot of incredibly complex projects here at Hackaday; take a look at some of the entries in the Hackaday Prize for some real world-class engineering. But the hacks you can knock out in an afternoon are often just as compelling as the flagship projects. After all, not everyone is looking to devote years of their lives into building some complex machine.

Case in point, this very slick lamp built by [mytzusky]. Made of nothing more exotic than an old Pringles can and an RGB LED strip, this is something that can potentially be built with what you have laying around right now. All you need to provide is a bit of geometry, a steady hand, and a love for anything that looks like it could pass as a prop in a TRON fan film.

The first step is getting the Pringles can: either find one in the trash or treat yourself to a stack of weird hard potato chip sorta things. Once you’ve got the can, you need to cut out your design. You could print out the template provided by [mytzusky] if you want, but you could put your own spin on it instead. Just remember that the design needs to make sense when you wrap it around the can.

With the lines cut out of the can, the whole thing gets wrapped with a few sheets of standard white paper. This will not only cover the original label but diffuse the light coming from the cuts you’ve just made. [Mytzusky] doesn’t mention it, but some kind of sealer applied to the paper might be a good idea if you’re looking to keep this thing around for the long haul.

Finally, an RGB LED strip goes inside the can. Make sure to flip the can upside down for this part, with the solid end on the top and the clear lid on the bottom. Not only does this let you run the wire out of the bottom, but provides a very cool ring of diffuse light at the bottom of the lamp.

This is another excellent example of an “upcycled” project which uses literal trash as a building material. It might take a little outside the box thinking, but the results can be very impressive.

Fix Everything And Get Your Own Flailing Arms Tube Man

The staple of used car dealerships that prompted Houston to ban all ‘attention getting devices’ is called an ‘air dancer’ and was invented in 1996. And now you can build your own, even if until now the space requirements kept you from doing so.

[dina Amin] shows how to make one from a bunch of discarded hair dryers and stuff everybody is likely to find in his or her workshop. While the build as such is rather basic — these things are really simple devices after all — [dina Amin]’s project video takes us through the interesting detours that turn a build into a project. It touches on the topics of painting plastics, hardware repairs, diagnosing and fixing DC motors, and how hair dryers actually work. As an added bonus we get a good-looking solution for fixing that enclosure with the worn out threads. All that in five minutes flat.

And while you might not know if you need one, [dina Amin]’s wacky waving inflatable arm flailing arm tube man is pretty much guaranteed to work. Unlike this one.

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Swap-O-Matic: An Automat With Recycling In Mind

The Swap-O-Matic is vending machine built for recycling, not consuming. Instead of feeding money into the machine, you can get an item out of the machine by swapping it for something you don’t need anymore. It’s a great concept with a great retro design, probably influenced by the age of the automat.

[Lina Fenequito] and [Rick Cassidy] built the Swap-O-Matic around the time [Lina] was getting her MFA. The build was in Wired in 2005, but the project has been updated since then and has a new home at LaunchPad in Brooklyn, NY. The first version used a separate computer next to the machine that gave out combinations to locks on the doors. It looks like the new version has been improved with an integrated touchscreen and computer-activated locks leaving [Lina] and [Rick] with a very clean build.

It’s a great idea if you have a relatively homogeneous population with similar interests, so we expect to see some of these popping up at a few hackerspaces. Check out the Swap-O-Matic promo video after the break.

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