Your NES Classic Mini Controller, On Your Desktop Computer

The NES Classic Mini was one of the earlier releases in what became a wider trend for tiny versions of classic retro consoles to be released. Everybody wanted one but numbers were limited, so only the lucky few gained this chance to relive their childhood through the medium of Donkey Kong or Mario Brothers on real Nintendo hardware. Evidently [Albert Gonzalez] was one of them, because he’s produced a USB adapter for the Mini controller to allow it to be used as a PC peripheral.

On the small protoboard is the Nintendo connector at one end, an ATtiny85 microcontroller, and a micro-USB connector at the other. The I2C interface from the controller is mapped to USB on the ATtiny through the magic of the V-USB library, appearing to the latter as a generic gamepad. It’s thought that the same interface is likely to also work with the later SNES Classic Mini controller. For the curious all the code and other resources can be found in a GitHub repository, so should you have been lucky enough to lay your hands on a NES Classic Mini then you too can join the PC fun.

The mini consoles were popular, but didn’t excite our community as much as could be expected. Our colleague Lewin Day tool a look at the phenomenon last summer.

Heavy Raspberry Pi User? Keep An HDMI-to-USB Capture Device Around

Here’s a simple tip from [Andy], whose Raspberry Pi projects often travel with him outside the workshop: he suggests adding a small HDMI-to-USB video capture device to one’s Raspberry Pi utility belt. As long as there is a computer around, it provides a simple and configuration-free way to view a Raspberry Pi’s display that doesn’t involve the local network, nor does it require carrying around a spare HDMI display and power supply.

Raspberry Pi’s display, viewed on a Mac as if it were a USB webcam. No configuration required.

The usual way to see a Pi’s screen is to either plug in an HDMI display or to connect remotely, but [Andy] found that he didn’t always have details about the network where he was working (assuming a network was even available) and configuring the Pi with a location’s network details was a hassle in any case. Carrying around an HMDI display and power supply was also something he felt he could do without. Throwing a small HDMI-to-USB adapter into his toolkit, on the other hand, has paid off for him big time.

The way it works is simple: the device turns an HDMI video source into something that acts just like a USB webcam’s video stream, which is trivial to view on just about any desktop or laptop. As long as [Andy] has access to some kind of computer, he can be viewing the Pi’s display in no time.

Many of his projects (like this automated cloud camera timelapse) use the Pi camera modules, so a quick way to see the screen is useful to check focus, preview video, and so on. Doing it this way hit a real sweet spot for him. We can’t help but think that one of these little boards could be a tempting thing to embed into a custom cyberdeck build.

Adding USB To A Keyboard The Way It Used To Be Done

The world of custom keyboards has over the years developed its work into an art form, as mechanical key switches meet USB-HID capable microcontrollers for a plethora of designs as individual as their creators. This was however not always the case, and from the days of 8-bit home computers onwards making a custom keyboard often meant taking a surplus one from elsewhere and adapting its matrix to suit whatever controller interface was at hand. [Julian Calaby]’s USB conversion of an Apple Extended keyboard may be unusual in this day and age and was probably a late example even 15 years ago when he made it, but it remains a glorious piece of bodge-wire hardware hacking at its finest.

The task at hand with this type of conversion is to cut the matrix PCB tracks and replace them with soldered wires to create the new matrix required. This can then be wired to the controller, which in [Julian]’s case came from a cheap USB keyboard. He added a small USB hub to allow for a pair of USB sockets where Apple had put an ADB socket, making for quite a decent older keyboard with an unexpected USB interface.

Now older and wiser, he has plans to revisit his old keyboard with a modern microcontroller board, and needs to revisit the matrix again and give the peripheral new life. We still like the original though, as it captures a moment in time when keyboard matrix hacking made sense, and reminds us of our own youthful hardware follies.

Paging through Hackaday past it’s a testament to the old-school nature of this board that all we can find are microcontroller-based conversions. That’s not to say that cutting up old ‘boards is out of the question though.

True Networked KVM Without Breaking The Bank

For administering many computers at once, an IP KVM is an invaluable piece of equipment that makes it possible to get the job done over the network without having to haul a keyboard, monitor, and mouse around to each computer. The only downside is that they can get pricey, unless of course you can roll one out based on the Raspberry Pi and the PiKVM image for little more than the cost of the Pi itself.

The video linked below shows how to set all of this up, which involves flashing the image and then setting up the necessary hardware. The build shows an option for using HDMI over USB, but another option using the CSI bus would allow for control over options like video resolution and color that a USB HDMI dongle doesn’t allow for. It also makes it possible to restart the computer and do things like configure BIOS or boot from removable media, which is something that would be impossible with a remote desktop solution like VNC.

The creator of PiKVM was mentioned in a previous post about the creation of the CSI bus capture card, and a Pi hat based on this build will be available soon which would include options for ATX controls as well. Right now, though, it’s possible to build all of this on your own without the hat, and is part of what makes the Pi-KVM impressive, as well as its very low cost.

Continue reading “True Networked KVM Without Breaking The Bank”

Proprietary Lenses Are No Problem With This USB Adaptor

There was a time when a camera lens was simply a set of shaped pieces of glass in a tube, with a mount and an aperture. But as cameras have embraced electronics ever more, technology has found its way past the lens mount to the extent that all features of a modern lens are electronically controllable. Can they be used outside the confines of the camera they were designed for? If the user is [Jan Henrik] then certainly, because he’s created a nifty USB adapter and mount for Canon lenses for use with his custom streaming camera.

The hardware is a 3D printed lens mount with a PCB that mates with the pins on the lens. An STM32 does the hard work and talks to the outside world through a USB interface, however it’s in the software that the real effort lies. The Canon lens protocol has been extended since the 1980s, and the commands for different generations of lenses can be convoluted. All the information is in a GitHub repository, so the curious hacker can roll their own.

There are a wealth of camera projects to be found for those that don’t mind tearing apart some of their more valuable possessions, and this isn’t the first we’ve seen involving the hacking of the Canon protocol.

ISASTM Runs Vintage Cards Over USB

The ISA bus is a relic of the distant past, and no longer supported by the PC mainstream. Outside of retro fanatics and likely some long-term industrial users, it’s all but forgotten. That hasn’t stopped [Manawyrm] from hacking away, however, and he’s developed a nifty adapter for the modern era.

Still in its early stages of development, the ISASTM is a ISA-over-USB adapter that allows a modern computer to work with older expansion cards. Running on an STM32H743, and using the microcontroller’s native USB1 interface, the ISASTM card is able to be slotted into a backplane in order to address multiple cards with one adapter. [Manawyrm] demonstrates the hardware by running Monkey Island 1 in the PCem emulator, with sound provided by an AdLib ISA soundcard.

There are some throughput issues, which [Manawyrm] aims to solve by switching to USB2 and making some tweaks and improvements to the code. Regardless, it’s an impressive tool that we imagine could have some use in keeping some legacy hardware alive, too. Incidentally, it’s been a long while since we’ve seen a solid ISA hack around these parts. Video after the break.

Continue reading “ISASTM Runs Vintage Cards Over USB”

USB Adaptor Isolates Multiple Serial Interfaces

You need a Swiss Army knife of serial communications? Ollie is a compact isolated USB adaptor that provides USB, CAN bus, and two UARTs at logic, RS-232, and RS-485 signaling levels, as well as an isolated power supply.  [Slimelec] has managed to squeeze all this into a package the size of a harmonica.  We like the technique of making the enclosure from PCB material, complete with clearly labeled switch, LED and connector pinout names.

So far, only the compiled firmware is available for this project, but hardware files, and presumably the source code and documentation, are coming soon.

The central themes here are  isolation and flexibility. We can’t find the isolation voltage in the project specifications, but the CANable project on which this adaptor is based provides 2.5 kV galvanic isolation.  A single isolated USB interface is also provided over a standard Type A connector. The four-wire logic-level UART signals are available on a 2 x 7 box header, and are voltage selectable.  The RS-232, RS-485, and CAN signals are on an 8-pin pluggable screw terminal block, or you can use a DB9 connector with a pluggable adaptor board.

Whether you need a troubleshooting aid for field testing, are using CAN bus on your projects, or just want to isolate your expensive computer from sketchy prototype hardware, have a look at this project.