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RTL Software Defined Radio
hardware : by Tommy - May 9th 2013, 10:56PM
hardware
Last week I got my newest toy in. It's a USB DVB RTL Receiver featuring the Realtek chipset beloved by radio enthusiasts. The chip functions by receiving radio signals and converting them to audio streams which the computer can decode/demodulate using software. The software tells the chip what frequency to tune to, and demodulates the signal. This concept is known as a Software Defined Radio or SDR for short.

The Realtek is cheap and agile enough to tune a wide range of frequencies (52 MHz-2200 MHz). Thanks to free (as in beer) software like SDRSharp, the "work" of setting up this complex sounding setup is almost trivial. (Especially if you use the install script in the downloads section of SDRSharp. Other websites can show you how to setup a trunking radio scanner for police/fire/EMS in your area. [So long as your local fire responders don't use a trunked P25 Phase II system])

If you're looking to get started, check out this USB DVB Dongle (any RTL2832U receiver should work). I would also recommend getting an antenna pigtail so you can use a bigger/better antenna for whatever frequencies you want to receive.

tags: radio sdr rtl

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

 
7400 Oscillator
hardware : by Tommy - January 21st 2013, 10:51PM
hardware
I recently came across a schematic that showed how to build an oscillator using the NAND gates inside a 7400 chip. After poking around online, looking for the 7400 (and not some variant) I learned the LeTourneau University College of Engineering has a parts supply closet with a whole stash of them for 5 each. (I've known about the parts closet for quite a number of years, but only recently discovered a tall filing cabinet full of most commonly used ICs. (No NE602 or 612s, I'm afraid, but that's another post for another time.)

So, with my 7400 in hand, I was able to breadboard an oscillator using the "colorburst" crystal at 3.579 MHz. The oscillator emits a square wave at the fundamental frequency, so harmonics abound. In fact, just through playing around with another receiver, the 3rd harmonic at ~28.632 MHz is considerably stronger than the others that fall in the ham bands. (All higher harmonics are just above the ham bands, though I may be able to pull them back down with a variable capacitor in series with the crystal.) I need to do some range testing on this to see just how far I can get on the various bands.
My next trick is to build a bandpass filter network to dampen the harmonics down to legal levels. Then, I'll have a bona fide transmitter, though very, very low power. Perhaps a final amplifier is on the drawing board next.

tags: electronics diy radio

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

 
Building a CPU
hardware : by Paul - February 24th 2010, 08:13AM
hardware
I've decided to take the plunge and start working on a project that has been sitting in the back of my head since college. I'm setting out to build a CPU from scratch.

I thought that the Neodux crew might want to follow along as I work on this insane project. But not too insane...I've already figured out how I'm going to do it. I just need to do it now.

Follow along and watch as I walk the thin line between avocation and insanity!

...And I know some of you guys are EEs -- maybe you can give me a hand when something eventually goes wrong...

tags: hardhack

( Comments : 3 | Full article )

 
TGIMBOEJ Received
hardware : by Tommy - November 18th 2009, 09:54PM
hardware
Well, today I received my first box from The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk. As predicted, there was a lot of random stuff inside. Several bags of discrete components (capacitors, LEDs, etc), some DC motors of varying sizes and ratings, some copper-clad PCBs for homemade etching (with transfer film - very tempting), a couple of pagers, some random gears and knobs, a nice pack of 7 segment LEDs, some project enclosures, some random PCBs, wire wrap supplies, a DIY 9-pin serial cable and connector, and a nice looking character LCD that was unfortunately cracked right in the center.

Quite a bit of stuff to choose from. I chose to take out a 9V battery clip, some 7-segment LEDs, and the 2 project enclosures. I plan to use the parts for a solar-powered arduino project I read about and have been wanting to try out.

I'll probably pick some unsuspecting geek and mail the box out to him in a couple days. That is, after I dig up some worthy additions to the box. Interested in joining the ranks? Sign up!

tags: electronics, kits, junk

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

 
TGIMBOEJ
hardware : by Tommy - November 10th 2009, 11:11PM
hardware
What a fun idea! The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronic Junk, TGIMBOEJ for "short", looks a like a neat prizefest for geeks all over. I know I'm all for it, I may even start a box of my own simply because I have so many extra electronic parts laying around! As the name implies it doesn't have to be just computer parts or just consumer electronics, it can be any electronic parts you happen to have. I have some leftover discrete components as well as PC parts I'm going to include should I receive a box soon. I've signed up on the wiki to put me in the pool of recipients. I'll, of course, let you know when/if I receive a box and what all I find useful in it. Sign up and send your old electronic parts to some random geek!

tags: electronics, kits, junk

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

 
New PC build
hardware : by Greg - November 9th 2009, 04:36AM
hardware
I'm looking at the quickly changing landscape of PC components in anticipation of building a new machine after the holidays. And yes I know I'm missing the MW2 launch, sigh. Ok so there's a couple issues I wanted to get advice on: 1. Processor - I'm thinking i7-920, but the i5 cores that came out are close in performance. So I'm looking for opinions on i7-920 vs i5-750 vs Phenom II X4 2. Graphics card- GeForce GTX 275 or Radeon 5850? OR get 2 Radeon 5750 cards in Crossfire? 3. HDs : get a fast SATA or SSD for OS drive? for mass storage I like WD at 1 or 1.5TB but whats the diff betwenn their black and green models, noticable?

( Comments : 3 | Full article )

 
Arduino Microcontroller
hardware : by Tommy - May 25th 2009, 01:15AM
hardware
The Arduino microcontroller platform is probably one of the coolest things to happen to microcontroller hobbying in a long, long time. I'd seen them featured on Hack-A-Day performing various silly jobs for their programmer, I just had never taken the time to look into why people were using them or what made them unique. Last week (at the urging of Bre Pettis) I bought the Arduino Duemilanove. Wow.

First of all, the Arduino is an open, "free" (as in beer) platform running atop the plentiful (and cheap) Atmel AVR microcontroller line. The open nature of the platform allows each revision of the platform and IDE to improve. The current 2009 model is very easy to use. The documentation is pretty good and (imo, best of all) it uses the C programming language. This rounds off the learning curve quite a bit since I have more than a couple years working with C-style programming languages. Now I don't have to fool with BASIC or assembly. I really disliked the patty-cake approach that the BASIC Stamp provided (i hate BASIC), it's easy to get bogged down in assembly, and most C-compilers for microcontrollers are well over $200. The BASIC Stamp pales in comparison to the Arduino in just about every category. The Arduino is cheaper, faster, offers libraries and has a much wider audience than the Parallax BASIC Stamp. The PIC and standard AVRs have a relatively steep learning curve and is easy to get buried in the syntax.

The Arduino abstracts quite a bit for you, freeing you up to be creative and rapidly develop whatever interests you.

What's interested me lately is parsing the WWVB atomic clock signal from Ft. Collins, Colorado. Thanks to a C-Max CMMR-6P receiver chip that I got from DigiKey, I have a data stream going right into my Arduino.

Continue reading...

tags: arduino microcontroller Atmel electronics

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

 
The real cost of SMS.
hardware : by Corey - December 28th 2008, 10:26PM
hardware
Our good friend ltd posted a link to this story in The New York Times concerning how wireless carriers are essentially screwing over the consumer when it comes to the charge for text messages. While that point is more true than any carrier would like you to know, some of the details provided as a basis for this claim are incomplete.

But first, some nomenclature! The technical name for a text message is SMS (Short Message Service). It was designed and originally codified for use with GSM networks and devices during the 1980s. It consists of a short message, usually 160 total ASCII characters or less in length, transmitted between devices.

Another term thrown around is control channel. The control channel represents the very small piece of RF spectrum that is always active and serves as the, "always on" link between your device (usually a phone) and the network. All network information is transmitted over the control channel, including what RF channel to use and at which power setting to operate. Additionally, it is used to transmit paging messages, which is also why the control channel is often called the paging channel. Those page messages include alerts about incoming calls, outgoing calls from your device, incoming call waiting calls, network alerts, and other network/device communications. The other channel is called traffic channel, and is utilized when a call is made (either voice or data).

With that in mind, the central point of most of the articles published about this story is that SMS utilizes the control channel of the network, which does not require a traffic channel connection to be made that takes up valuable spectrum on a particular sector of a cell phone tower.

This point is flawed. Specifically, SMS messages are designed to roll over to the traffic channel any time the control channel is too busy to handle the additional traffic.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 5 | Full article )

 
USB CueCat
hardware : by Tommy - September 18th 2008, 10:51PM
hardware
Years and years ago, Radio Shack launched their CueCat scanner technology. I won't go into the history of this terrible business plan, but needless to say the idea took off like a lead balloon. You can get the brief history of the failed device on wikipedia. Sometime later, probably around 2002 or 2003 I purchased a PS/2 model of the fabled barcode scanner, a scanner that I still have. I never really used it though.

Recently I purchased a USB model of the CueCat. I had no idea USB models were ever available, but I found plenty of online sources selling them. I bought mine from mavin.com. I just got it in the mail this afternoon and was able to "declaw" the cuecat in about a minute. The process of declawing is simple enough and, in short, it allows the cuecat to output only the barcode information in plain text (versus an obfuscated and "proprietary" format). After declawing I can now use the cat to scan any barcode. I hope to use it for cataloging any books I own, as well as selling used textbooks online after each semester.

Grendel sez: Neat, but otherwise useless, I've learned that Google will take UPC numbers and link to various UPC databases to tell you about the item you just scanned. Interesting.

update: 10/30 - Apparently the patent for :Cuecat was still outstanding until recently.

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

 
New Motherboard Time
hardware : by Tommy - August 21st 2008, 11:29PM
hardware
BREAKING NEWS: My "slammin' setup" from 2 years ago has finally burned out the chipset fan on the motherboard. I gotta say, I've been extremely pleased with it since I bought it. Now, unexpectedly, it's time for an upgrade. Really, all I need is a new fan for the old motherboard, but a new motherboard and CPU wouldn't hurt.

Since I've been out of the hardware scene for a while, I'll open up discussion on what's hot now. Remember, I'm not a fan of "bleeding edge", I'm looking for best bang for the buck.

Update: Ok, so I didn't go the performance route, but I think I got a modest computer setup. Maintaining about the same performance before the motherboard went out. I found a deal on a dual-core AMD Athlon X2 Brisbane for $30 shipped, so I decided to bump up the CPU a tad. I went cheap on the motherboard because, frankly, I don't need a whole lot. I settled on the Asus M2N-MX. Because my old RAM wouldn't work on new boards, I got 2Gb of OCZ DDR1066. The machine is functioning again, all systems are go and I'm back online at my regularly scheduled times. Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'll prob be ready to upgrade this "value" setup in a year or so.
(total spent: ~$130)

( Comments : 9 | Full article )

 
Fonera Router
hardware : by Tommy - April 12th 2007, 11:20PM
hardware
A while back, in the Forums, I made a post about getting a free Fonera router from Fon. There's been considerable buzz about these little routers and how quite a few people have been able to hack them.

Normally, the Fonera will be hooked up to provide a private wireless network for the owner and an open, albeit throttled, free wireless connection for those on the Fon wireless network. (The idea is to blanket the world with wireless - good idea, in theory. More about Fon on wikipedia.)

Early on Fon was dishing out modified Linksys WRT54G routers, but it was overkill for their intended purpose. Then came the Fonera, which is a tiny little one-port, one antenna router. Its like a travel size router and the antenna is about half the height of my WRT54G. The router's software tells it to "phone home" once it's found an internet connection to update any software. It also registers itself as part of the active Fon network. After grabbing the newest flash it becomes a bit more tricky to mod. ...I made sure not to plug mine in.

I found quite a few HOW-TOs, but some seemed to be dated or aimed at older firmwares. I received a rev 4 model. The mods include adding another antenna to doubling the internal ram from 16Mb to 32Mb (too much work). Both were a bit more than I cared to bother with. Instead I chose to install DD-WRT on the little box to match my other WRT54G.

The first step was to enable SSH access. This was done by way of this HOWTO.
Next, I needed to grab the DD-WRT files compressed for the Fonera's slim 16Mb, as well as a forged bootloader signature.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

 
Cantenna w/ Funnel
hardware : by Tommy - April 4th 2007, 11:20PM
hardware
Finally. Yes, I finally got around to making a cantenna. Years ago I read about the now famous Pringles Cantenna which I've always thought was a cool concept and has been something I've wanted to do. Now it's a bit of use to me since I enjoy using my laptop on the move using NetStumbler to locate open access points.

I began with a bit of reading and looking up what all is needed to construct a Pringles cantenna, and before long I learned that the Pringles isn't really the best way to go. Nope, instead I found that the Pringles design was out performed by a Cantenna made from a can of beef stew! Not only does it perform better, it's way easier to make. In fact, after buying the ready-made 1.21" radiating element from jefatech.com, this construction was probably the easiest project I've attempted. I found out that a large can of Dinty Moore is the same size as the "Nally's Beef Stew", so guess what I had for dinner one night? I cleaned out the can, and went to the machine lab the next day to use a drill press to pop a 5/8" hole for the N-connector. Took it home and tried it out. Wow! I went from seeing 1 AP (mine) to 20, just in my front yard. Not bad for just a can with a connector on it. I then took a stroll to see what the neighborhood has to offer and found an open Netgear access point. After zeroing in on the source, I found that it was about 120yds from my original location and across a street! (...and that was being able to use it, I was able to detect at a further distance.)

Fine and dandy, but the can just wasn't good enough on its own.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 9 | Full article )

 
New Keyboard
hardware : by Tommy - November 10th 2006, 12:48PM
hardware
For the past 8 years or so, I've had a Digital (DEC) brand keyboard that I procured "off the tree" from PC Outlet when Skaven, Roboprobe and I all worked there. I think it was Roboprobe that got ahold of it for me. I've sincerely loved that little beige keyboard. It has been the one keyboard I've used with Windows 98 on my K6-2+, to my K6-2 400, leet linux-learning machine, on up to my current Athlon64. It's been around, and has nasty oil-spots to show for it. I've seen some grimey keyboards, and I've tried to keep this guy clean, but some nastiness just doesn't come out. It was the one old part of my computer that just didn't look good - at all.

To match my sleek new monitor, I had to get a sleek, new keyboard. I wanted a black keyboard and I've always like the minimalist look of the Dell slim-line keyboards.

I looked on ebay for a Dell SK-8115 and found several. I found some were selling for $3 + s/h. In the end, it all worked out to about $10 for a cool, simple, new keyboard. I know, not everyone likes them, but I really like the way the keys feel as you type, it also has very quiet keys and looks nice too. So far so good.

Here's what the keyboard looks like.

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

 
Grendel Goes Widescreen
hardware : by Tommy - October 31st 2006, 02:34PM
hardware
Well, after many years of faithful service, my trusty (crusty?) old 21" CRT gave up the ghost. I bought it several years ago from xulphlux.com" target="_blank">Valt, who found a business selling their used monitors on the cheap. (A 21" for $50?! How could I pass that up?)

It served me well. My games were large, easy to see and I loved it. Writing programs with that much "real estate" was a breeze. At high resolutions, you can really open a bunch of windows and read them all.

So, yesterday afternoon while watching "How It's Made" on Discovery Science Channel, my monitor made a quick popping noise like a racheting socket wrench does. The tube went dark and all was lost. I was relieved it was just the monitor, because from the sound of it, I thought my case fan had come loose and hit the motherboard somehow, shorting something out. So when I saw the system was fine, and the tube had gone out, I wasn't too peeved. (Besides the fact that I have a 17" CRT in the attic as a backup)

So my monitor is out - what to do... I first got on my laptop and looked at Newegg. They had a sale on a Hanns-G, which Notorious had told me was nice. I was about to purchase that very monitor when I decided I should also see what deals were to be had at the local retailers. We first went to Best Buy, nothing to exciting there, but I did feel that 19" was just in my budget and I liked the size of it. We then went to Office Depot, again, nothing too exciting. Just as we were about to leave, I saw a Hanns-G that was on sale. It was the same 19" widescreen that I saw on Newegg for $190, and here it was in the store for $30 less (sans tax).

Continue reading...

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

 
m0n0wall And You: Die Harder
hardware : by Corey - October 24th 2006, 12:11PM
hardware
Recently, the router at the gym where I work out has been going on the fritz. It's a D-Link DI-524 so it stands to reason. As the local technology consultant for the gym, I convinced them to allow me to build a m0n0wall box for them.

The issue is that the gym is a small private studio and they are trying very hard to make it look chic and fashionable. To me, this means that they'd rather not have a honking Dell Optiplex G1 like the unit I built a few months ago. I found a solution over in SA's SH/SC forum: The IBM NetVista N2800 8364 Thin Client.

In the thread, a guy from England discussed how he made his unit work. His site has a good write-up on how to accomplish it, including this image where he outlines what is what inside the case. I picked up an 8364 off eBay for $55 shipped.

Dealing with the two BIOS flavors can be a bit daunting if you're not experienced in editing BIOS settings so if you attempt to do this, please make sure you're not dumb. But even if you are, there is a PWD_RST jumper that will restore everything back to the land of lollypops and bikinis.

The issue I'm having at the moment is one that apparently plagues the Ethernet models of the 8364. During the Linux boot process, the screen becomes garbled and the machine eventually locks. As recommended on the aforementioned page, enabling the on-board Ethernet controller seems to solve this problem.

While that was well and fine, a new problem that is undocumented as far as I can tell has emerged. The keyboard I am using to assign interfaces as well as the LAN IP address is not functioning correctly when attached to the thin client.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 8 | Full article )

 
New Computer Time
hardware : by Tommy - March 24th 2006, 09:32AM
hardware
Well, it's that time again. That time when I've been wanting to upgrade, but was putting it off until I both needed and absolutely had to, and until I had the money to go for an all-out new system. (Something I haven't done in years.)

With the Athlon64s on the market at very reasonable prices, I'm pretty sure I'm going to go that route, this will require a new motherboard and RAM - and probably a power supply as well. Heck, might as well throw in a new video card and case while I'm at it. A new HD wouldn't hurt (I'm only on 80Gb right now - and the campus network has plenty more goods that I want).

Why do I have to upgrade? Well, my power supply is the culprit. I've been having issues playing any game for the past month or so. The system seems to "hiccup" (the fans slow then speed back up) and the system never recovers. I believe this is the system requiring more power than the PS can provide. It could be just a single back component drawing too much current, but I've swapped processors, RAM and video cards.
I haven't swapped motherboard or power supplies, simply because I haven't had a spare...

I recently found this price guide from digg, and it really got me thinking about a new system. Then last night the machine hiccuped again, but I wasn't in game. My birthday is in a few weeks, tax return should be in by that time, and I think it's about time* I got a new system. (*Nothing's changed in this system in almost 2 years - and that was because I worked at AMD!)

Any specific hardware suggestions or packaged deals you know of?

Grendel sez: Besides, now that I know what newegg looks like on the inside, I can envision my parts coming down the conveyor belt and getting the peanut gun treatment.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 13 | Full article )

 
m0n0wall and you - part tres!
hardware : by Corey - February 12th 2006, 10:32AM
hardware
So the system hardware is configured and ready to go. It's now time to install the m0n0wall image onto the CF card. Because my main machine is Windows, I used PhyDiskWrite 0.5.1 to unpack the image and write it to the card. It's a handy command line utility written specifically for Windows users who need to write the m0n0wall generic PC image to a CF card. Do be aware of what disk interface you select to write to when running this application; it displays all logical drives on your system so you could potentially write the image to one of your hard drives. That would be bad, m'kay?

Once the image is written, simply plug the card into the adapter and boot the machine. Upon booting the G1, I noticed that the BIOS revision was A06 and having looked at the Dell site I knew A10 was available. Having already removed the floppy drive from the machine, I was not apt to update it unless it was necessary. As it turns out, it was not.

Fire it up and pray you did everything correctly. Prior to installing the CF to IDE adapter and card I did boot the machine and make BIOS edits. I turned off all interfaces not required for operation and ensured that nothing else was amiss. During the initial boot, you will need to connect the machine to a monitor and have a keyboard connected. If you're running it on a virtual machine or have a serial port you can use HyperTerminal through a console. For me, that was a lot more trouble that in it was worth considering that the G1 has a video card built in.

After the boot process completes, m0n0wall is up and running. You're greeted with a list of options that looks much like this.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

 
m0n0wall and you - part deaux!
hardware : by Corey - February 12th 2006, 09:35AM
hardware
After some rather interesting deals with FedEx, I finally received all the parts required to build my m0n0wall system. It should be noted that this was among the easiest projects I've ever undertaken which is remarkable given that m0n0wall requires some intermediate level of networking skill and my last experience with *NIX operating systems left me with nothing other than feelings of general hostility.

I was in a quandary as to what type of system to base the firewall off of. Tommy has a lovely MiniITX board that runs completely solid state when booting off the CF card. The only problem is that those all-in-one systems can run upwards of $180 before memory. The embedded PCs that m0n0wall was designed to operate on also suffer from the same types of cost. I'm in agreement with Tommy that most of it is due to lack of demand. I decided that it would be more cost effective as an enterprising young lad living in one of the most expensive places on earth to acquire some old PC; something on the order of 400MHz of processing power and 128MB of RAM or so (the m0n0wall minimum is 64 for swap space).

I ordered a Dell Optiplex G1 from RetroBox.Com. They specialize in reselling old gear that is surpluses by corporations when they upgrade their technology. For $48 shipped I received a 400MHz slot Celeron with 192MB of PC133 RAM. It was nearly perfect for what I'm trying to do. When I received the unit, I promptly stripped out the 4GB hard drive, generic CD-ROM, floppy drive, and PCI sound card. See pics here.

After cleaning everything out, it was time to install the CF to IDE Adapter I purchased. It takes a standard 40-pin IDE cable but with one exception; it has a pin for the dead pin spot just above the center notch.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

 
m0n0wall and you - part uno!
hardware : by Corey - January 28th 2006, 08:28AM
hardware
Consumer networking equipment quality has taken a nosedive in the last 18 to 24 months. Having been working very closely with one consumer networking equipment manufacturer over the last six months, I can honestly say that I don't think I will ever buy a consumer-grade piece of networking gear ever again.

The problems here are two fold and quite obvious; hardware design/quality and software quality. In the hardware realm, quality problems are not a new idea. Part qualification standards are, as far as I can see, non-existent. For example, the KR1 Mobile Router I've been working on had a CMOS battery in it. The battery was reportedly there to keep the time on the router while it was unplugged as this is a mobile product. In testing, I showed that the battery was completely non-functional. As it turns out, it was never designed to operate on a battery so they took it off. Why was the battery placed on the PCB in the first place?

Moreover, software quality and standards have really degraded. In my observation, it is now standard practice to write code, compile it, ensure that the product actually boots up, and ship it. There is no black box testing by a quality organization and no verification that all features are functional. The product is released to the public and then the support complaints roll in. Based on these customer reported issues, firmware fixes are rolled in and a new upgrade build is spun and put up on support sites for users to upgrade themselves. In effect, the customer is the tester. This is quite cost effective because the company doesn't need to pay testers or spend any extra time before getting the product to market. People almost must have some form of networking equipment in this day and age and they continue to purchase it.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 5 | Full article )

 
Christmas Loot
hardware : by Tommy - January 1st 2006, 06:20PM
hardware
It's that time of year, time for exchanges and stuffing ornaments and lights in storage boxes. It's also time to show off your new goods, those treasured gifts you received for Christmas.

This Christmas, I got the following:
  • a new Sanyo 27" TV
  • a new HP ze2308 laptop (which we got a great deal on...)
  • VR3 MP3 Player for the car
  • a "Hovercopter"
  • Call of Duty 2 (for PC)
  • Mark Farina - Mushroom Jazz Vol.5 (CD)
  • Wireless Hacks by O'Reilly
  • an Atmel microcontroller project board
  • and an HO-scale electric train set

  • ...just to name a few. Probably one of the best list of Christmas gifts I've had in a while.

    What all did you get?

    ( Comments : 6 | Full article )

     
    Simple HD44780
    hardware : by Nate - November 7th 2005, 09:56AM
    hardware
    Tommy gave me a parallel character LCD that he's had stashed away for a long time. He was on the right track, just never finished it. I looked at what he'd made, based on the original schematic. I hooked the LCD to a DB25 connector that was already soldered to a ribbon cable, hooked it up and it worked.

    I noticed that the brightness and contrast knobs were set and didn't need to be adjusted. One pot was even set to 0! After a few minutes I was able to boil down the circuit to just use one 50-ohm resistor.
    Here is the final "simple" schematic:
    simple HD44780


    This schematic should work on any Hiatchi HD44780-based character LCD, so long as it only has a single 8-bit connection, like the Seiko L2014.

    update: You may also use this LCD screen test app to check your LCD: http://www.neodux.com/projects/lcd/LCDsetup.zip

    Grendel sez: You da man, sir. Thanks. Here is a picture of the LCD in action. Videos are here (2.5Mb, avi) and here (6.9,avi).

    update: I (grendel) just got the LCD working under linux using lcdproc/LCDd. Now, if only I could figure out how to get lcdvc to work with it, I'll be even more pleased.

    ( Comments : 6 | Full article )

     
    Xbox Media Center 1.1.0
    hardware : by Tommy - August 8th 2005, 09:04PM
    hardware
    This afternoon I updated the version of Xbox Media Center that was installed on my hacked Xbox. If you recall, I installed most everything using Slayer's AutoInstaller, which works great for getting you up and going quickly.
    Xbox Media Center allows you to access all of your MP3 and WMA files on your Xbox HD as well as your Windows Network. You can also play music from iTunes and Shoutcast servers. Not only music is available on XBMC, you can also use it for slideshows (which I've done with our honeymoon pics) and for playing movies (DVDs and video files like .mpg, .avi and .wmv). The older version had all of these features, but one of the new features is the ability to change RSS feeds to receive the latest news headlines. Slashdot and Yahoo news headlines can be accessed like this.

    The kicker for me was the ability to have Milkdrop for visualizations for the music. The default visualizations for MP3s and the like was your average run-of-the-mill blurred oscilliscopes and spectrum analyzers. Milkdrop adds a virtually limitless array of plugins to allow for any mix of visualization plugins. The new version also features an improved web-interface to control music/video playback on the Xbox. Couple all these new features with the Xbox remote control and the enhanced audio adapter to allow for Dolby/DTS output and you've got a setup that rivals most any homebrew home theater PC setup.

    update: After installing XBMC I found a few additional scripts that are very handy. My favorites that I have installed are XMovieGuide, which shows movie times at area theaters; XRadar, shows local area weather radar; and the 'PBS Frontline script', to view the streaming video archives of the television show "Frontline" on the Xbox.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

     
    JuiceBox Mod
    hardware : by Tommy - June 2nd 2005, 08:36PM
    hardware
    I just got back from the local Target where I picked up a JuiceBox. (warning: annoying Flash on that site!)
    What the crap is a JuiceBox? It's a kid's portable media player that Mattel released for Christmas '04. They didn't sell very well at their retail price of $50, so stores like Target and Walmart cleared them out at huge discounts. Walmart cleared them out months ago, and according to one source, was selling them for as cheap as $6!
    Target, just this week, dropped their in store prices from the already discounted $24 to $12.

    "Okay, so why did you buy an unwanted toy?"
    Recently, Slashdot ran an article about hacking your JuiceBox into a picture frame. This is my current goal, as it is for several others. The key to the mods surrounding this little gadget is that it runs a version of uclinux. We'll see how this goes.

    update: Pfft, well that was cake - no real "mod" involved. The "MP3 Starter Kit" that I bought for $11 at Target includes a CD that converts pictures to a proprietary format (.jbp), compressing each image down to 57k. You can tell the image quality has been lost, but on a screen this small, you don't really care that much. I'm sure as the hacking community grows, there will be more options available. For those interested, if you have an SD card and USB adapter for your computer, you can play MP3s right out of the box. The software kit gives you the image conversion software, as well as an adapter to allow the SD card to be plugged into the media card slot on the JuiceBox unit. (I believe a few people have tried to make their own adapters.) Aside from the JuiceBox card adapter, the kit doesn't actually do anything to the Juicebox.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

     
    CDMA, ya heard?
    hardware : by Corey - February 9th 2005, 03:55AM
    hardware
    Due to the extended conversation in the shoutbox, I though I'd give you guys some basic info on wireless phones and the technology they use. For the purposes of this discussion, I will cover national carriers only. If someone wants information on a regional or international carrier, I'll provide you with whatever I have.

    We'll start with a technology near and dear to my heart. It's called CDMA which is an acronym for Code Division Multiple Access. It is a method of stacking calls on a cell tower wherein each call is assigned a specific and unique code. In so doing, the tower can handle somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 calls per megahertz. It was developed exclusively by Qualcomm in a lovely building that is next door to my office.

    Verizon Wireless and Sprint PCS, ranked second and third respectively in terms of market share, are the two national carriers that employ CDMA currently. Most of their networks are CDMAOne, or 2G services with slower QNC data speeds. Verizon has rolled out a 2.5G network with EV-DO (Evolution, Data Only), sometimes referred to as 1X, that boasts theoretical data speeds of 300 to 500kbps.

    In terms of coverage, Verizon's network is currently the largest in the United States. Their plans, however, are somewhat more expensive than other carriers. This is due to the money they spend on their network making it one of the best in the nation. Sprint, on the other hand, ain't too shabby either. Their network is good, but not as good as Verizon. In many areas where Verizon has a strong foothold, such as the northeast and here in Southern California, Sprint's network is a tad shoddy because they have no incentive to upgrade.

    And now, we move to a second post for GSM.

    ( Comments : 23 | Full article )

     
    GSM, holla back!
    hardware : by Corey - February 9th 2005, 03:54AM
    hardware
    GSM, you ignorant goof tard. Not really, but I don't care for it much. GSM is an acronym for Global System for Mobile Communication. GSM works off of the older TDMA systems in using timestamps to stack calls on the tower. GSM can stack seven to ten calls per megahertz versus upwards of 30 for CDMA.

    GSM is used almost exclusively in Europe making it more of the, "world standard" than CDMA. Many carriers sell, "World Phones" that are tri-band and capable of using the networks here in the States and in Europe. Data speeds on GSM are significantly slower than CDMA, and while new technologies are being developed to bring up the transfer rates, it will never really catch up with CDMA, much less overtake it.

    For coverage we look to the number one wireless phone carrier in the United States, Cingular. Cingular recently acquired AT&T, and as their new marketing campaign is screaming, they now have the largest network. What they aren't telling you is that most of AT&T's network is TDMA and does not support GSM. AT&T was starting upgrades but never finished. Their coverage is very, very good. For coverage, their only competition is Verizon. However, CDMA penetrates (lol) buildings much better than GSM.

    T-mobile is also a player. Instead of having a zomg huge network, they offer fantastic values in phones and service plans. T-mobile is great if you're in a metropolitan area and never leave.

    Just incase anyone is wondering, all of the carriers have coverage maps on their respective websites. Additionally, tons more information about both CDMA and GSM are available from our friends and Google. Feel free to post questions in the shoutbox or in comments and I'll do what I can to answer them. And now I'm going to bed. Mmm. Bed.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

     
    Intel releases BTX form factor
    hardware : by Tommy - November 15th 2004, 12:11PM
    hardware
    I read on Slashdot earlier about Intel releasing their new BTX form factor.
    Anandtech.com has the full story (and pics). In short, the new BTX form factor allows for more efficient cooling of a computer's components. Whether or not this form factor will catch on remains to be seen. Of course, it's not up to you and I, the end user; it's more aimed at component designers and motherboard manufacturers. And with Intel's market-might, it almost goes without saying that the new standard will be accepted by board design teams.

    The components that run most hot are situated in-line with the CPU cooling fan airflow, in order to take advantage of the air being moved. This is an interesting step which will cut down on the number of case fans needed in newer systems.

    This is just a form factor, mind you, and not a chipset release, don't be looking for any new features or faster speeds. Those follow new chipset designs. BTX will merely allow for designers to build in a new way.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

     
    I r t3h 133cH!!~!
    hardware : by Tommy - September 1st 2004, 04:30PM
    hardware
    So yesterday, SirMackieman (corey) came to stay with me on his way out to Kyocera Wireless in California. In the middle of the day, while I was at work RoadRunner came to shut off the cable connection that was in Skaven's name, then to hook up my cable.
    This didn't happen.

    Instead, he shut off my cable and told Corey that he didn't have a work-order to turn me back on. So we were up a certain creek without the proverbial paddle.

    Poor Corey sat in my apartment without intarweb access until I got home. After quite a while of agonizing and ranting about TimeWarner and what pricks they are, it dawned on me. Corey was on his laptop. He had wireless. "Fire up your 802.11 card, man!"
    Boom. There's a neighbor with a Linksys router wide open, zero security, just asking us to use his connection. So we did.

    After dinner, we went to BestBuy, Eric fronted some cash to procure a cheap D-Link PCI wifi card for my PC. (i'll hit ya back e)
    I popped in the NIC, after some configuration, we are back online. At least, until the neighbor dude wises up (not likely) or TimeWarner gets on the ball and installs my friggin cable modem.
    Fittingly, the day before, Eric and I went driving around and he snapped a couple of cool pics of this marquee on an old theater not far from here. It got pwn3d, much as our neighbor has. (and is!)

    Mackieman sez: I can't believe I didn't think of that before you got home. I was like, "doh!"

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

     
    AMD64 Linux/Windows Review
    hardware : by Tommy - July 14th 2004, 02:48AM
    hardware
    AnandTech has posted one of their newest reviews of the 64-bit arena. In this review, they take an Athlon64 3500+ (2.2GHz), 1Gb of PC3500, snap in a GeForceFX video card on the newest nForce3 motherboard and give SuSE, RedHat and WindowsXP-64 a whirl.
    Surprise, surprise, Linux comes out on top. However, you should check out the individual results of each test to see the quirks and see which of the 2 linux distos comes out on top. Also interesting to note is the hardware intricacies involved in the setup.

    append: and if that's not geek enuf for ya, how about a history lesson? ArsTechnica has a nice write-up on the history of the intel Pentium series, and the short-comings and hurdles along the way for the x86-Pentium processor. Good read, you'll learn a little too.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

     
    802.11 Time
    hardware : by Tommy - May 11th 2004, 02:40AM
    hardware
    James, N5VOO, hooked me up with a D-Link 802.11 card for my linux laptop, trying to get me up to speed on the whole wireless thing. I'm really diggin' it. I know there are quite a number of wifi access points around town since it is a college town.

    Mackieman has had an 802.11 network in his apartment on campus, but I haven't had a card or access point of my own. But, thanks to James, I was surprised with a free D-Link card and an access point to borrow so I can use it at home. I'm quite excited. Expect to see more 802.11 goodness posted on Neodux now. Wireless access will be much more fun now that I'm licensed radio operator and can use this to bump up the power output and get a long range 802.11 network.

    Mackieman editz^2: I pitty da fool who edits my edits. Grendel editz: Mackieman sez: My groin tingles with anticipation. ^_^ ew, TMI.

    Havoc sez: Good Place for WEP encryption key generation.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

     
    BIOS tweaks for AMD systems
    hardware : by Tommy - November 1st 2003, 03:19PM
    hardware
    For those of you blessed with AMD-based computers, a new BIOS-tweaking HOW-TO has been posted. I originally found the link off of Slashdot.
    I'll time the boot process before and after the changes to show if there is any change.

    To read the how-to, and find out how to optimally set your system's BIOS, click here.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

     
    Video Card
    hardware : by Tommy - October 17th 2003, 01:29AM
    hardware
    Last January or February I purchased a PNY Verto GeForce4 Ti4600. Very nice card. I was very happy with it. ---up until about a month ago. It started crapping out on me for some reason. It started showing a repeating pattern of green, pink, and yellow dots.

    So I called PNY's tech-support (that was a story in itself!). After a couple of days I got an RMA number for me to return the video card back to them. The catch was I had to enclose a copy of the original receipt. Something I didn't have. I informed Havoc of my plight, he told me he had a receipt from NewEgg.com that I could probably pass off as the original receipt. Good idea!
    So I edited the information to fit my situation, edited the price to make it fit, and made up a neat, official-sounding order number. Put that in a box, shipped it off and crossed my fingers.
    About 3 days later I got an email telling me the package was received and they were sending me a new card to replace the bad one.

    So the package finally gets here. I open the box to find it's not a Ge4-4600 like I had sent to them. Instead its a GeForce FX 5900! A faster and better card. Bonus! Not to mention it has S-Video, DVI and a copy of Splinter Cell to boot!

    The card rules. I've maxed out BF1942's graphics settings and still no lag. Only when I turned on 8x FSAA did any lag show up (and it was quite noticeable!) --- this whole time I had 8x Ansiotropic Filtering on too!

    All this to say, I'm happy with PNY's return policy, lifetime warranty deal, and feel lucky that they don't check order numbers on forged online receipts.
    And GeFX cards rock.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

     
    Silent Computing
    hardware : by Tommy - August 26th 2003, 11:39AM
    hardware
    Any of you that know me, know I have been working on my silent server. Trying to get Neodux to run from a small solid-state x86 computer. Although I do have it running (see previous post), I wonder about how feasible/practical it would be to silence my desktop computer.
    The hard-drive would stay in my desktop system, since I gotta have more space than just 256Mb. But, how much would it cost to silence my CPU cooler? How about my power supply?

    For CPU-cooling, the most efficient and silent way to dissipate heat is using water-cooling, and with some of the latest advances in water-pumps, it sounds as if you can totally eliminate all moving parts from your water-pump.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

     

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