Stomp Switches Let You Skip Tracks Hands-Free

You’ve (probably) got four limbs, so why are you only using half of them when you’re working on the computer? Just because your toes don’t have the dexterity to type (again, probably) doesn’t mean your feet should get to just sit there doing nothing all day. In a recent project, [MacCraiger] shows you just how easy it can be to put some functionality under foot by building a pair of media control stomp switches.

Crimp pin connectors grant +50 professionalism.

If the devices pictured above look a lot like guitar effects, that’s because they share a lot of parts. [MacCraiger] used the same sort of switch and aluminum case that you might see on a pedal board, as he figured they’d be better suited to a lifetime of being stepped on than something he 3D printed.

Up on the desk, and this time in a printed case, is the Arduino Leonardo that they connect to. The wiring for this project is very straightforward, with the switches connected directly to the GPIO pins. From there, the Arduino firmware emulates a USB Human Interface Device and fires off the appropriate media control keystrokes to skip to the next track or pause playback depending on which switch has been engaged.

This hardware isn’t exactly breaking any new ground here, but we did like how [MacCraiger] used standard 3.5 mm audio cable and the associated jacks to connect everything up. It’s obviously on-theme for what’s essentially a music project, but more importantly, gives the whole thing a very professional look. Definitely a tip to mentally file away for the future.

For the more accomplished toe-tapper, our very own [Kristina Panos] recently recently took us through the construction of her macro slinging footstool. Between these two examples of bespoke peripherals, you should have everything you need to create your own custom input devices. We suppose you could even make one that’s hand operated if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Up Your Game With DIY Headset Motion Tracking

While there’s been a lot of advancements in VR gaming over the last couple of years, plenty of folks are still happy enough to just stare at their monitor. But that’s not to say some of those fancy head-tracking tricks wouldn’t be a welcome addition to their repertoire. For players who are literally looking to get their head in the game, [Adrian Schwizgebel] has created qeMotion.

The idea here is simple enough: attach a motion sensor to a standard gaming headset (here a MPU-6050 IMU), and use the data from it to virtually “press” keys through USB HID emulation. Many first person shooter games offer the ability to lean left or right by pressing Q or E respectively, so all [Adrian] had to do was map the appropriate accelerometer readings to those keys for it to work seamlessly with popular titles such as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege and Insurgency.

The concept might be basic, but the execution is anything but. Rather than just duct taping an Arduino to his headset, [Adrian] designed a very slick 3D printed enclosure for the electronics that sits on his desk. While they haven’t all been implemented yet, the devices features indicator lights and buttons to switch through various modes. The sensor on the headset has similarly been encased in a very professional looking 3D printed box, complete with a nice braided cable to link it to the desk unit.

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a head tracking project, and most of those utilized something like the Wii Remote. Adding sensors to a person’s head normally wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but if you’re going to be wearing the headset anyway to listen to the game and chat, it’s not really a problem. If your hair is too nice for the qeMotion, you could always try doing something similar with computer vision.

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A Retro Touch Pad You Can Use On Modern Computers

As [Jan Derogee] explains in the faux-retro video after the break, drawing on classic 8-bit computers was something of a pain. The rudimentary light pens and joysticks of the 1980s allowed for free-form input, but were clumsy and awkward to use. Which is why he set out to create an ideal drawing device for the C64 using modern electronics. For the sake of completion, he also gave it a USB HID mode so it would work on somewhat more modern computers.

His device, which he’s calling the Commo Pad, looks like it could have been transported here directly from the 1980s, but it’s built from entirely new hardware. The case is actually made of wood that [Jan] sanded and painted to give it that chunky plastic aesthetic that we all know and love, and the retro artwork on the touch panel really goes a long way to sell the vintage vibe.

Speaking of which, the touch panel is perhaps the most interesting component of the entire build. It’s actually a resistive panel that was meant for mounting to an LCD that [Jan] has connected to an Arduino. All he had to do was provide a stable frame for it and print out some art work to slide in behind it.

The Arduino and associated electronics allow the Commo Pad to be picked up by the C64 as either a joystick or mouse, which means it doesn’t need any custom software on the computer side to function. Similarly, it can also mimic a USB mouse if you want to plug it into something made a bit later than 1982. Should you be so inclined to make it wireless, the addition of a Bluetooth seems like it would be relatively trivial.

If the Commo Pad doesn’t have enough of a retro-futuristic vibe for your tastes, we recently covered a custom optical touch panel that looked like it could double as a prop from Blade Runner which might do the trick.

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Software Defined Radio Gets Physical Control

Software Defined Radio (SDR) is a great technology, but there’s something so satisfying about spinning a physical knob to cruise the airwaves. Wanting to restore that tactile experience, [Tysonpower] purchased a cheap USB volume knob and set out to get it working with his software. Unfortunately, getting it up and running took a lot more work than you’re probably expecting.

Programming the knob’s STM32

After verifying that the knob worked for volume control on his computer, [Tysonpower] decided to try and pull the firmware from the device’s STM32 microcontroller. Unfortunately, this is where things got tricky. It turned out the chip had Code Protection enabled, so when it was wired up to a programmer and put into DFU mode, the firmware got wiped. Oops.

That left [Tysonpower] with no choice but to write a new firmware from scratch, which naturally required reverse engineering the device’s hardware. Step one was reading up on STM32 development and getting the toolchain working, which paved the way to getting the knob’s LED to blink. A couple more hours worth of work and some multimeter poking later, and he was able to read the knob’s movement. He describes getting USB HID working as a nightmare due to lack of documentation, but eventually he got that sorted out as well.

The end result is a firmware allows the volume knob to mimic a mouse scroll wheel, which can be used for tuning in many SDR packages. But we think the real success story is the experience [Tysonpower] gained with reverse engineering and working with the STM32 platform. After all, sometimes the journey is just as important as the end result. Continue reading “Software Defined Radio Gets Physical Control”

Steel Battalion Controller Grows Up And Gets A Job

We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that the controller for Steel Battalion on the original Xbox is the most impressive video game peripheral ever made. Designed to make players feel like they were really in the cockpit of a “Vertical Tank”, the controller features dual control sticks, three pedals, a gear selector, and dozens of buttons, switches, and knobs. Unfortunately, outside of playing Steel Battalion and its sequel, there’s not a whole lot you can do with the monstrous control deck.

HID Report Descriptor

But now, nearly 20 years after the game released, [Oscar Sebio Cajaraville] has not only developed an open source driver that will allow you to use the infamous mech controller on a modern Windows machine, but he’s part of the team developing a new game that can actually be played with it. Though gamers who are imagining piloting a futuristic combat robot in glorious 4K might be somewhat disappointed to find that this time around, the Steel Battalion controller is being used to operate a piece of construction equipment.

In his blog post, [Oscar] focuses on what it took to develop a modern Windows driver for a decades old controller. It helps that the original Xbox used what was essentially just a rewiring of USB 1.0 for its controllers, so connecting it up didn’t require any special hardware. Unfortunately, while the controller used USB to communicate with the console, it was not USB-HID compliant.

As it turns out, Microsoft actually provides an open source example driver that’s specifically designed to adapt non-HID USB devices into a proper game controller the system will recognize. This gave [Oscar] a perfect starting point, but he still needed to explore the controller’s endpoints and decode the data it was sending over the wire. This involved creating a HID Report Descriptor for the controller, a neat trick to file away mentally if you’ve ever got to talk to an oddball USB device.

In the end, [Oscar] created a driver that allows players to use the Steel Battalion controller in his game, BH Trials. Unfortunately there’s something of a catch, as drivers need to be signed by a trusted certification authority before Windows 10 will install them. As he can’t quite justify the expense of this step, he’s written a second post that details what’s required to turn driver signing off so you can get the device working.

Earlier this year we saw an incredible simulator built around the Steel Battalion controller, were an external “coach” could watch you play and give you tips on surviving the virtual battlefield. But even that project still used the original game; hopefully an open source driver that will get this peripheral working on Microsoft’s latest OS will help spur the development of even more impressive hacks.

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Laser Trip Wire Hides What You’re (Not) Working On

We assume your office policy allows for reading Hackaday during work hours. But what about cruising reddit, or playing Universal Paperclips? There’s a special kind of stress experienced when attempting to keep one eye on your display and the other on the doorway; all the while convinced the boss is about to waltz into the room and be utterly disappointed in you.

But fear not, for [dekuNukem] has found the solution with Daytripper. This wireless laser tripwire communicates back to your computer using NRF24 (2.4 Ghz on the ISM band) and can be used to invisibly cordon off a door or hallway and fire a scripted action on your computer if its beam has been broken. Nominally this is used to send the keyboard command that hides all open windows, but we’re sure the imaginative readers of Hackaday could come up with all sorts of alternate uses for this capability.

The Daytripper transmitter uses a laser time-of-flight sensor, in this case the very small VL53L0X by STMicroelectronics. It’s best situated so the laser will be bounced straight back at it. It has a range of about four feet, which is perfect for covering a door, though a wide hallway could give it some trouble. [dekuNukem] admits that the 5 Hz scan rate means a sufficiently fast moving adversary might slip past the sensor, but if they’re trying that hard to see what’s on your monitor, they probably deserve a peek.

On the receiver side, there’s a small board that plugs into your computer and mimics a USB keyboard. It has a selector switch on the side that allows the user to set what key sequence will be “typed” once the system has been tripped. It has built-in support for minimizing all windows or locking the computer, or you can set it to send ALT + Pause, which you can listen for and act on however you see fit.

If you want to build your own Daytripper, the firmware and hardware are both available on GitHub under an MIT license. For those who prefer instant gratification, [dekuNukem] is doing a small production run and offering them up on Tindie.

An Open Hardware Rubber Ducky

No it’s not an open source version of Bert’s favorite bathtime toy (though seriously, let us know if you see one), the PocketAdmin by [Radik Bechmetov] is intended to be an alternative to the well-known “USB Rubber Ducky” penetration testing tool from Hak5. It might look like a standard USB flash drive, but underneath that black plastic enclosure is a whole lot of digital mischief waiting to spill out.

The general idea is that the PocketAdmin appears to the host computer as either a USB Human Interface Device (keyboard, mouse, etc) or a USB Mass Storage Device. In either event, the user has the ability to craft custom payloads which can exploit the operating system’s inherent trust in locally connected devices. The most common example is mimicking a USB keyboard that starts “typing” once connected to the computer.

You can even configure what vendor and product IDs the PocketAdmin advertises, allowing you to more accurately spoof various devices. [Radik] has included some other interesting features, such as the ability to launch different payloads depending on the detected operating system. That way it won’t waste time trying to bang out Windows commands when it’s connected to a Linux box.

The hardware is designed to be as easy and cheap to replicate as possible. The heavy lifting is done by a STM32F072C8T6 microcontroller, coupled with a W25Q256FVFG 32MiB flash chip to store the payloads. Beyond that, the BOM consists mainly of passives and a few obvious bits like the male USB connector. [Radik] has even provided a link to where you can buy the convincing looking USB “flash drive” enclosure.

We’ve seen low-cost DIY versions of the USB Rubber Ducky in the past, but PocketAdmin is interesting in that it seems like [Radik] is looking to break new ground with this project rather than just copy what’s already been done. This will definitely be one to watch as the 2019 Hackaday Prize heats up.