Maker Nation

Archive for the 'How-To' Category

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!

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.

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 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”

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”

How do you do soldering? Let’s answer this question together with Hikaru.

Hikaru's diary on learning to solder

Hikaru’s diary on learning to solder is a truly excellent (and unintentionally hilarious) tutorial on soldering. The lessons are spread across 10 “stories” that cover topics such as the history of soldering, iron selection (including how various types of irons work), soldering theory, as well as through-hole and reflow soldering — all with the comedic precision that only precisely translated Japanese cartoons can convey.

This tutorial is straight from Hakko, maker of some of the best soldering irons you can buy, so you know the information is good (if a little biased). It’s easily worth the 10 or 15 minutes it takes to read through, even if you’re already a pro.

Read “Hikaru’s diary on learning to solder”

Dissection of an Uninterruptible Power Supply

UPS Guts

There’s nothing I enjoy quite like tearing into an old printer or VCR to find some new crap for my parts box. Harvesting stepper motors, gears, belts and other mechanical bits is easy (and fun), but I’ve never really considered going after the electronics.

The folks over at uC Hobby have a cool writeup of all the parts they scrounged from an old UPS unit. I was surprised at how many nice parts they found, including a couple of lead-acid gel cells and a serious transformer that could be really useful in your next alternative energy project. And since they’re from a device that’s meant to handle lots of power, the parts are all pretty beefy.

Read “Scrounging a UPS”