Doh!

This was meant to be a one-off, lets just have some fun kind of project. I was once told if you don’t learn something new everyday it just wasn’t a day. And I did learn in my eagerness for some quick video gaming gratification. 

I had been trolling through my parts box and thinking of a fun project to work on. Then I remembered two things. First was the ATTiny85 video games. I always have ATTinys laying around so this would be great. I checked the BOM and I had everything save the PCB boards and they are available on OSHPark. I even had a spare OLED screen in my display box. COOL. And, and, a way back I had an online bump in with Drew of OSHPark and he had sent me a gift certificate for boards. Excellent. I quickly put in my order and it was under $4.00 so still plenty left on the coupon to get my first PCB designed board done. 

I placed the order and forgot about it for a while. After all of the slow boat from China orders I tend to forget about things once I order them, I can’t stand being obsessive over something that is just going to take its time. Anyhow, low and behold one day when I get home from work there is a little package from OSHPark. I quickly get into it and see the 3 pretty purple boards and my OSHPark sticker for the collection, just waiting for a quick trim with the Dremmel and then get populated. 

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When I wasn’t waiting for the boards I took the time to program a ATTiny85 and breadboard it up with the screen. I wanted to make sure the big parts were ready and working for when the boards showed up. I almost wired up buttons, but it was about 2:00am and it was time for some slumber. 

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I was giddy at work just itching to get home and put all of the parts together and play some Tetris. And to be honest it has been quite a while since I have played it. Alright already, all of the parts are laid out and the iron is hot. 

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There I go. It took about an hour to get it all soldered up. I was trying to be extra nice, and neat. While my soldering skills are markedly better than they were a year ago, practice makes perfect and I am still working towards that goal. Once it is done the big moment, time to slide in the battery. I rummage in the battery drawer and pull out a CR2032 and pop it in. And nothing. 

Really, nothing. Take it out and make sure I have positive facing up, yup. One more try and nothing. I pulled out my multimeter and check the battery 2.1V. Doesn’t that figure and I wait another day as it is again about 1:30am’ish (I work second shift so tend to have late hours in the studio). 

I grab a two pack early the next morning and try it again. NOTHING! Well shit and shoved in it Wilbur I am getting a little annoyed by this time. I pull out my meter again and start checking continuity and don’t find any issues. I put the battery back in and start checking my voltages. All the pins have power and reading at the correct levels. WTH?

I sit down and start doing a little web surfing while keeping a picture of the Pocket Tetris on my screen. What could be wrong? Well it is a funny little story about CAREFULLY checking what pins go where and which pins you have there after staring at one’s problem for a good long while. There was a dope slap and a DOH! involved when I saw it. 

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Now this simple, fun, quickie project will have to wait a little while longer. That was my only spare screen and I don’t have a solder sucker (yet). So while another slow boat makes its way here with new screens, with the CORRECT pinouts, and a solder sucker I have other projects to move onto. New high scores will have to wait for another day. 

Bluetooth Speaker – Update

Bluetooth Speaker Project

We need a bluetooth speaker for the outside by the pool and I have also wanted one to use inside the house as well. This one is 90% complete and since I have two speakers I am sure another one will follow. I still need to find what I am going to use for front and back grills. I may settle for some black material on a frame for the front and some aluminum grill for the back. In the meantime at least it is ready to go!

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My bluetooth speaker

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cutting up the sides

I had a long scrap of wood from another project, so with the power miter saw I made quick work of the sides. 

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With the sides and square inner pieces cut it was time for some gluing. I used a couple of brads to help hold it together while the glue dried. 

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A little sanding to smooth things out. I also had to use a little putty to fill in a couple of small gaps. 

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I used my rotary cutter to make the hole for the speaker. It needed a little help to get the speaker ears to fit in just right. I have no idea what that PVC pipe is up there for, save the fact that I was working on the pool at the time. 

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Here I have things wired up. I didn’t have any barrel power connectors or even screw down terminals, but I didn’t have the parts from an old Apple Airport to get 12V power to the amp/USB board. As for the bluetooth/amp board there is no outstanding reason for picking it. I did some research on them as there are quite a few out there. I need something that would obviously deal with Bluetooth, again all of them were pretty much about the same, but I expected that. This board had the TI TPA3110D2 as the amp chip. I dug up the data sheet on it and it seemed to fit the bill for what I was looking for, a good amp chip and being able to deal with up to 20W for the speaker. 

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With a few brass standoffs, I mounted power plug and the board to the back of the speaker. The parts do face out the back of the speaker. In my thinking it makes it easy to replace anything if it were to burn out or I wanted to replace it. And I didn’t want the magnet to interfere with the board. 

Somewhere in here I stopped taking pictures, oops. In leu of pictures I will give you a quick wrap-up. I stained all of the parts with 2 coats. It didn’t come out as quite as dark as hoped, but it still looks good. Then I mounted the speaker on the front wood insert I made. I connected the wires to it and secured the back panel. 

It works well! It is not audiophile quality, but it has a nice sound all around. The Chinese lady’s voice they used to tell you it is on and connecting still makes me giggle a bit every time I use it. 

Bluetooth Speaker

Bluetooth Speaker Project

We need a bluetooth speaker for the outside by the pool and I have also wanted one to use inside the house as well. This one is 90% complete. I still need to find what I am going to use for front and back grills. I may settle for some black material on a frame for the front and some aluminum grill for the back. In the meantime at least it is ready to go!

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Raspberry Pi Arcade Project

Next on the project list is a Raspberry Pi arcade system. Once again we are starting small with as much stuff as we could from around the Studio. I already had a Pi 3, monitor, keyboard, no controllers (ordered those), and for kicks I got another of the Pi Zero Audio DACs for sound. I will have a speaker leftover from the pool-USB-Streaming-Audio project so it works out well. 

We loaded it up with RetroPie and I have to say I am quite impressed. The software works quite well and while it is easy to setup there are quite a few options to check out later on. Right now the most imperative thing to my son was getting it up and playing on the screen today. 

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Someone has donated some Xbox controllers for the system. We are still going to make some kind of case for it. At this point I am not sure if it will be an all-in-one or keep the console separate from the monitor. Once again I will have to let this one stew and see what comes of it. 

I want to start to put together a real arcade style box for the controls, joysticks and buttons for 2 players while keeping the USB controllers for other games. I doubt I will go the standup route, but I never know where projects take me after a while. My big must have for this phase of the project is a Tempest spinner controller. Tempest has to be one of my all time favorite games! And it really isn’t the same trying to play it with a keyboard or mouse, and most paddle are wheezy at best. I have started digging into them. 

So let me share with you the links and information I have found on making a spinner. I am looking forward to scrounging and finding the right pile of parts for this one. 

BREAKING NEWS – I just found this site today and it seems to have one great manual for making a spinner. 

There is one place I found where you can purchase one, theirs is called the SpinTrak, they are pricey. Maybe when I make my standalone Tempest game. 

I found this setup which is pretty cool. And making a controller was my original and still my preferred idea. 

Below are some of the other links I have found dealing with DIY spinners. 

Made from an old VCR head.

Another excellent example made from the what-the-lab-will-surrender category

A spinner made right inside the mouse. Pretty neat concept.

Divine Muse

I have been dragging around these chunks of cherry for more than I care to remember, but I have been keeping them for a project. I have bee stewing about a case for mi Pi Audio Streamer. 

I had the garage door open a few days ago and pulled these out and started to look at them. Huh, a cherry case would be nice, look classy, and with a custom volume knob and single power light. . . ideas started to flow. How thin to cut the sheets? Joint them? Glue them? 

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I ended up grabbing the skinner of the two. It has some interesting grain to it. 

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I cut three sections from the good end of the chunk. I still have the rest as there is some solid wood hidden in there and it might come in handy yet. Sorry the color is a little off but it was getting to be later in the afternoon. 

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I have my sections of wood and I have the inside of it drawn out. My plan is to hollow out a section for the Pi and knob, I will get the drawing posted up here soon, but until then. . . 

Vintage computing strikes again

I was talking with my parents a while back and my mom mentioned my old Atari 400 (http://www.oldcomputers.net/atari400.html for the low down on the specs). That 6502 at 1.8Mhz, geeeeeeshe Louise! And 16k of RAM to boot!

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We both wondered if it was still around Or had gone by the way side. Guess what? The computer that started my computing journey!!!

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Well, heavens to Betsy if a package didn’t arrive yesterday. And yes, that is the way the box was found, open and the lid wouldn’t close, but I was surprised at that it all survived. It even had the fancy keyboard, not the that awful plastic sheet of plastic with bubble switch keys. My friend Phil had the Atari 800 with floppy drives. Well, la’ dee da’! Another friend Nick had an 800 with all the bells and whistles and ran a local BBS from his. Every Saturday morning there was a group that hung out at the local computer shop trading tips, tricks, and software. 

And with most people from this era, we could send hours busily typing in programs from whatever magazine you could buy, find, trade, or borrow. And the magic of trying to save it and retrieve it from tape. I think I lost as much as was saved in the end. 

I remember when I got it, it was for Christmas. Of course being the young, excited lad I was, one afternoon when my parents were out, I pulled it from the closet, ever so carefully pealed back the tape, unboxed it, set it up, and had fun for a couple of hours. They were surprised at how quick I had it setup. I didn’t let them in on the secret until on so many, many moons later. 

I am playing around with a new gallery plugin, so check out the pictures of the unveiling. Much like the NeXT Cube, I am going to see if I can get this one up and running as well. I was really hoping that Xaxon was going to be in the cassette player, but I wasn’t lucky on that note. I am going to have to track down some pieces and parts to get it displaying something once I get it put back together again. Westley was poking around the box and getting curious, so maybe I can get him to help me with this let-me-put-it-in-the-queue project list – LOL. 

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And there was a bonus!! All of the screws for the case were still in the box. They are laying inside the bottom of the case. 

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Pi Update

Hold the presses! There has been a change of plans. After playing around with OSMC and some more thinking and drawing, I am going to change course with my Raspberry Pi project. Instead of a fancy pants media center, I am working towards a very nice audio system for the basement living room. My last real stereo was too many years too count and was a very nice Yahmaha system. Tuner, amp, CD, and booming speakers. It has long since gone and have been stuck with my laptop or iPhone with headphones to listen. 

So I have moved in that direction. While working with OSMC I found an inexpensive audio DAC (Digital Audio Converter) HAT, (pizereoaudio.com) for the RPi. 

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When it showed up I heated up the iron and with help of a little hot glue to hold the headers in place was able to solder it in place. 

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Don’t be harsh on some of the joints. While above beginner I am still in amateur phase. 

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I downloaded Volumio2 as the streaming distro. After doing some reading and comparing it seemed like a good package to do with. It supports audio streaming (of course) from local media and network devices. It also supports AirPlay but my first couple of attempts with it haven’t really gone so well. 

The DAC setup was quite easy. In Volumio2, under the menu is the Playback options menu. In there it was as easy as selecting the HiFiBerry DAC. And before I knew it my RPi was singing to me. The Pi Zero Audio DAC is based on the NXP 1334A. A low-power, low-priced DAC. The card was cheap compared to some of the other HATs out there. There is only line out installed on the card, but there are pads on the board is one is so inclined to add RCA jacks. Their documentation is sparse to proceed with caution if take this route. 

Since the pieces and parts are hanging together I whipped up a quick stand for it. 

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It is a piece of sheet metal from something and I superglued 4 standoffs to it. Simple and works for its purpose.

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Here is my proof-of-concept for my streaming player. I tossed on an old set of Altec speakers I had in the Studio. I have to say it really doesn’t sound hateful. Nothing high-end, but working well for what it is. 

Now that I am moving in this direction, I am starting to pick up some parts for the goal of this project, something which has gelled up nicely over the past few days. The end product is to be a single speaker streaming device. The pictures will work better than my words. I will share the drafts of how I want the case for it to look. 

I order the Pi Zero W that will be used for the end product. It came it quickly and I was pretty jazzed to get the headers soldered on and start to set it up as the main streamer.

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Pretty cool huh? And hands to Adafruit for getting it here so quickly. Help me here though, what is wrong with my picture? Where are the headers you ask? Someone forgot to order them. I remember the mini HDMI connector, and the rotary encoder I am going to use for the volume knob, but no headers! DOH! Well, off to eBay and now I am waiting for them to show up. Which is fine, I am still working the my Volumio installation. Songs needs sorted in various directories and playlists, AirPlay needs to be debugged, and I am learning how to add streams for my local radio stations. 

I have found a couple of nice speakers on Amazon from Viston and Dayton. I need to check them out a little more and pick one of them. From Adafruit I have my eye on the 20W amp for the speaker. I am still working on how I want/will power it all. I still have some time for thinking on that one. 

Stay tuned, I will be back to write up on what I have found about the DAC scene for the RPi and a little more about Volumio2. 

OSMC part 2

During my downtime I have been reading up on the OSMC (Open Source Media Center) package for my media center project. It seems to be a nice, well put together, distro that does/is what its’ name says. I checked out some reviews online and this was the version pointed to if you wanted a clean, easy to use, well-supported solution. Checking out their web site definitely gives you the feeling they may have something going on. 

Installation was really easy, I must say the easiest of all distros (about 3) I have dealt with so far. When you head to their downloads page, you click on your OS and it downloads an installer package.

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Have your SD card ready for the next part. 

Note I was using a SD card that had Raspbian on it. I used SD formatter to format the card before trying to use the OSMC installer. Don’t use SD Formatter. In my case, it would not mount the card properly. I had to use Disk Utility to format the card using FAT. 

Double-click on the installer. You can see the installer icon to the left of the Welcome to OSMC screen. 

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Pick your language and hardware platform. Once you click on the next arrow it will guide you through a couple of other steps such as if you want to configure networking. Both wired and wireless are supported. It will then ask you if you want to use a local repo or download a copy from the net. Since I didn’t download it yet, I let the app do the work for me. 

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The speeds finally did increase as I was tempted to head upstairs and grab a snack if it was going to take this long. 

Once it was complete I ejected the card from my MacBook and popped it in the Pi. Once the Pi gets booted up and begins the real installation of OSMC to the card. 

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This doesn’t take long, about 5 minutes. 

When it reboots it comes up with the OSMC interface and it is ready for configuring. At this point it is 1:30am and time for a little rest. Tomorrow night will come with AirPlay test. This is one feature I am really looking for. Not so much for the video but most defiantly for the audio. I am also on the hunt for the available options for listening to radio. We don’t have a home stereo any more. After years, moves, and kids, parts were either worn down, lost, or broken. Part of this project is to try and create an updated home media/audio center. I miss just turning something on and having it play int he background or for active listening. 

So if you are interested, stay tuned and I will keep posting about progress, pitfalls, and ideas. 

ESP8266 + OLED + graphics = frustration

I have decided to make a clock; a simple one to begin with. I started with an ESP-01, an OLED, and some base code. It was fairly easy but did the job quite well. It would go out and fetch the time from a NTP (Network Time Protocol) server and display it on an OLED screen 128×64. These screens are cheap on the market and serve well for displaying a few lines of text, sensor readings, and/or graphics. One has to enter in a username and password for the wireless and the display text for the time was static on the screen, something these little displays don’t like. After a few days or couple of weeks there is bound to the burn in on the screen. I thought a poor man’s screen saver is in order.

I don’t have a picture of the ESP-01 all wired up and working, my apologies. It was getting to be a pain programming it overtime I made changes. So for development purposes I moved over to an Aamica NodeMCU dev board. This makes debugging and programming changes much easier (IMHO). And when the project is done I am able to move it over to the ESP-01. The ESP8266 is such a wonderful family of chips to work with.

To deal with wireless I downloaded and added WiFiManager to the sketch. This allows me to bring a wireless device, in this case my clock, to any wireless network and set it up for it. For example, if I bring my clock into work it won’t know which or how to access the network. Not a problem, power up the device, connect to its own AP, open a browser and give it the proper credentials. It is a very nice library to use! I thought when/if I give away a clock it will be easy for the recipient to setup and use in their own space without having to dink with changing code and uploading it.

Now the screen saver. This is straight forward (FAMOUS last words) or at least I thought it would be. After a set amount of time, blank the screen, and draw a graphic, blank the screen and bring up the time. In theory I have it working. My problem is with the graphics. I do know that graphics work and display as seen with my known eyes in the demo, but I wanted something different than a WiFi logo. I thought the Hackaday logo would do nicely.

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The story on the web is to head over and use either LCD Assistant or BMC-LCD to convert an image into the HEX code that is required. I kid you not when I tell you that I have tried over 26 iterations of file types, sizes, bits, etc. and all of them come up bubkiss.

The best I have been able to achieve is with a crossed line, which still shows some defects.

SIGH – I will not be deterred. Tonight I am off to the forums to see if I can scare up and help from there. I will be sure and update the site if I find out what the magic incantation is or what silly mistake I made.

NeXTStep(s)

And then it freezes up. . .

It fired up once, so I figured why not one more time and try and break into it.  I had some limited success. I will be posting a video of it, but I need to edit it before I can upload it. During the process I found some great resources for the NeXT geeks out there. The best resource I have found is over at http://www.nextcomputers.org.

Command + ~ dumped me into the ROM monitor. From here I was expecting to be dropped into single-user mode and reset the password for it. I was able to get into the monitor, but as you can see from the shot, it never went beyond that. I tried more than a couple of times and different methods, but always came up with a crash.

A sidenote, the keyboard is a joy to use. I am not sure what it is about some of the old school keyboards, but they have a feel to them that one just doesn’t find very often. The mouse is built to last and does have some heft to it. Which is fine by me as I get frustrated with those mice that feel so light that they might blow away.

I kind of expected it in a way. The hardware is old and the system hasn’t been fired up in over 15 years. I won’t give up yet. It is just time to re-evaluate the project. In my research travels I have found a couple of place that seem to sell hardware. The hard disk replacement will be on my research list next. While this one is spinning up, it is a bit of a noise maker.

I still do have a copy of 3.3 on disc, but didn’t have the boot floppies around. I had sold them a ways back, they were part of my Mac OS collection I had. Anyhow, I was able to find them and download images of them. I figured if I couldn’t get the hardware up a going then get it going on a VM; Parallels by choice. I have started the process of trying to get it going. I have found a couple of guides that have some good information. Once I have it going I will post it here and hopefully over at nextcomputer.org too.

I enjoy keeping around an older OS. Pretty much just to keep it around, but also there are a couple of games I still like to play on the older OSes like the original Dark Castle. And HyperCard is fun to mess around with every now and again. I need to search for my link where I got this one from and share it when I do.