Maker Nation

How To Reverse Engineer USB Devices and Influence People

Accelerometer Data

ladyada, hacker extraordinaire and sponsor of the Open Kinect bounty, has just posted an excellent article on reverse engineering USB devices. Using the Xbox Kinect motor and accelerometer as examples, she details every step of the process from identifying the device ID’s to building a driver and sending commands.

It’s written really well and makes a complex topic super accessible. It’s really an excellent read, and I’d recommend it even if you don’t have any USB devices you want to reverse (yet)!

Read “DIY Kinect Hacking” for step-by-step details!

Portal Pumpkin Sentry Gun

Pumpkin Turret

I love Halloween. I love Portal. So it goes without saying that I’m crazy about this awesome Portal Sentry Gun Pumpkin, complete with a home-brew Erector Set pan & tilt, made by Neil Fraser. Freakin’ awesome!

Read “Portal Pumpkin” for more details and pictures!

The Chipophone: An 8-Bit Chiptunes Electric Organ

Linus Åkesson is back with an amazing chiptune organ! I can’t decide what impresses me more: that he made it or that he can play it so well!

Linus came up with an ingenious design, wiring up all of the original keys, pedals and knobs to a microcontroller that generates midi notes which are then sent to a second micro that generates the sounds. It’s amazingly complete with multiple waveforms, independent modules, sound effects, an arpeggiator, and even a step sequencer! Seriously, I am just blown away at the awesomeness of this thing!

Check out Linus’ site for all the details.

Behold: The Dice-O-Matic

Let me disclaim that I’m a software guy, so I fully understand the deterministic nature of computer-generated random numbers. That said, bulding a “7 foot tall, 104 pound, dice-eating monster,” capable of generating 1.3 million random dice rolls per day is an extreme, to-the-max, over-the-top solution! In other words, exactly the kind of solution that sets a maker’s heart aflutter.

And while I may not understand what, exactly, correspondence gaming is all about, I’ve got nothing but respect for the maker of this beautiful behemoth!

Read “Dice-O-Matic hopper and elevator” for plenty of juicy details!

I’m Not Dead Yet (I’m Feeling Better!)

I'm not dead! I feel happy!

Just a quick post to let everyone know that, contrary to appearance, Maker Nation isn’t dying the slow death of a neglected blog… at least not anymore.  I’ve got some exciting plans in the works for The Nation, far exceeding a simple blog, that I hope to be releasing soon…

In the meantime, I’ll be bringing the blog back up to full speed.  There’s certainly no lack of cool projects being done… I’ve just been lazy.

Also, if anyone is interested in contributing to the blog, drop me a line.  I think it would benefit everyone get more perspectives represented than just mine!

Craft: Amazing Demo in 8.5k of Atmel Assembly

If you remember downloading the latest demoscene releases from back in the days of 2400 baud modems BBS’s, you know that demos were (are?) notorious for squeezing every last drop of performance from a processor with unbelievable realtime 3D graphics and wicked tunes. Seriously, a couple of those old Future Crew demos are still stuck in my head some 20 years later!

Well, Linus Åkesson managed to squeeze a very cool demo onto a 20 Mhz ATmega88 microcontroller with only 1K of RAM and 8.5K of Flash/EEPROM program space! It’s incredibly cool — a full-fledged demo with all the “classical” demo effects (3D shapes, plasma, starfields, fire, etc.)! Then when you consider that he’s doing all the timing of VGA signals in software and and still manages to generate waveforms for audio while the screen is blanking, it just boggles the mind (and says a lot about the ATmega88)!

Check out Linus’ site for build details, lots of explanation, and full source code!

How-To: Pop-Up Sprinkler Head Filter Cleaner

High-Pressure Sprinkler Head Filter Cleaner

I usually have to unclog a few sprinkler heads when I do my weekly system check, but I was in for a treat on Saturday when almost every single head was clogged! You see, the city did some work on the secondary water lines upstream from my house and, as a result, flooded my pipes with decades of sediment.

Always one to look for the bright side of any situation, I decided this was a good excuse to make a little sprinkler filter cleaner that’s been kickin’ around in my head for a while now. So if you have sprinkler heads with individual filters (like many RainBird, Orbit and Toro brand heads), read on after the break how to make one of these handy gadgets in about 5 minutes for under $12.

Read the rest of the article…

Five Dollar Laser Show

Frickin' Laser Can

I’ll admin it: I’m a sucker for lasers, especially when they’re synchronized with music! This little project, which reminds me of something I saw in high school physics, is a perfect solution for those times when you only have a few minutes to make your living room look like discotheque — and if you haven’t been in that predicament yet, trust me: you will.

I doubt there’s a better project you can make lasers, a tin can, zip ties, popsicle sticks, clothes pins and some balloons… and if there is, I’d like to see it!

Read “The Five Dollar Laser Show”, or
Watch the original “Amazing Laser Music Can”

DIY film: This is not a trivial undertaking.

Monster Film-Coating Machine

No build info on this one, but the pictures pretty much tell the whole story. It makes me wonder if the renaissance of film isn’t on its way, where you’ll buy boutique films from guys with big, homemade machines like this one in their garages.

Personally, I get goosebumps just knowing that someone built such behemoth because he wasn’t satisfied with the film you can buy nowadays. It’s the embodiment of the maker spirit!

Read “DIY film”

CD Changing Machine

Home built CD changer / duplicator

Every time I head over to Matthias Wandel’s homepage (or his woodworking site) to see what’s new, I end up spending hours looking through all the cool projects! Seriously, what an awesome maker!

I thought I’d share the project that originally drew me to his a site in 2003: a mechanical CD changer/duplicator made mostly from wood and controlled via parallel port under Linux. While I’ve seen a few other CD changer projects, I think it’s safe to say this one is the original (and was probably the inspiration for the rest).

I think that every tinkerer should build something like this just because it’s such an interesting problem domain with so many details to consider, yet not insurmountable. I may just have to start my own CD changing robot this weekend!

After you check it out, be sure to poke around his site a whileyou won’t be disappointed!

Read “Home built CD changer / duplicator”

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