A.D.D. has kicked in

I have been busy with 4 different projects, one done and the rest coming along. I seem to bounce back and forth as I ponder over some design flaws and possible solutions. Which usually leads to a “hey let’s do this too” moment, I like to call it my Shiny Penny Syndrome. It works for me. 

Click on the project title to to the that projects link if you wish. 

Bluetooth Speaker

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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Volumio Case

While the Volumio is up and working in the family room downstairs, I am still working on the case for the setup. I have the idea firmly in my head. I have the case hollowed out. I need to find a way to get down to the bottom and clean and smooth the bottom. it is too small to work it with any chisel I have. I was thinking of upping the RPMs on my drill press and using the drill bit to clean it out. We’ll see, I still have a little research to do on this one. 

  

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Arduino CNC experiment

My goal here is to have a larger CNC mill, a real one, that can handle wood and soft metal like Al and brass. While I usually like to jump into a project with both feet, I have learned and bit by over enthusiasm in the past. I have read quite a few builds using old DVD drives, the LM293, and an Arduino to make a simple X / Y potter (the Z axis raises and lowers the pencil). I have the X axis works, the Z axis servo works when it feels like it (so much for the cheap micro servos in the intro kit. Time to scavenge from an old RC car tonight). The Y axis just grinds at me, so I need to dig into it here tonight and get it moving, literally. 

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RetroPie

This is one that was downloaded, installed, configured, setup with 2 controllers, an old LCD monitor, and it has been hard to find to time to play with it myself. That is OK it is being well used. I have an audio DAC for the Pi 3 some old monitor speaks to mate with it. I have been searching for a case idea. The cases one can purchase are well – so so, do in a pinch, rather not spend money on one, will the HAT fit? As I pondered and searched, I stumbled upon an old Game Cube for sale on eBay (9 bucks right now, don’t bid on it please) and it looks like it will do the trick quite nicely. Integrated power supply, spaces for controllers / USB ports, and about the right size. I hesitated when I click on bidding for it, but as time goes and I read some, it should work quite nicely. Stay tuned for where this one ends up. 

Tempest Spinner

Since the RetroPie is up and going, I have been playing some Tempest, my ALL time favorite arcade game; but it just isn’t right playing it with a controller, keyboard, or mouse. One really must have a spinner for the real experience. I have looked for them online, but they are rather pricey (upwards of $70.00) so I have been looking into making my own. I have the box of parts and my notes in line. I will find some time one night when nothing else interests me 😉 I guess you will just have to check back on this one to see how it goes. 

 

 

 

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. . . 

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. 

Raspberry Pi

Yes, another platform, another project. My Raspberry Pi has been floating around for a couple, three months now. I have been playing around with it, futzing with the OS installing and uninstalling things, all while trying to find a home for it. At first I thought I would use it with Domtiz and monitor various things around the house. After jotting some ideas down on paper the idea just kind of died on the vine. 

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There are a couple of retro gaming distros out there. They look fun, but not sure I want to dedicate this board to another console/computer/gaming system in the house. I downloaded xxx and have it on a SD card so I can pull it out and have some fun, but was still looking for its home, its purpose. 

Recently we got cable back. We had tossed Time Warner save the internet connection and didn’t look back at not having cable. Between not watching as much and Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon there wasn’t much reason to have it back. Then Spectrum bought TW and gave us a deal we couldn’t much pass up. In the process we have a new cable box and a Tivo that won’t much work with it anymore. Oh well. Then I had a spark of an idea, why not use it for a media center! That’s the ticket. 

I went out and started to do my homework on which distro will be best suited for my needs. I figured there has to be more than one of them out there with the popularity for the Raspberry; and there is. After a couple of days of reading and checking them out, I have decided on OSMC. It seems one of the easier ones to setup and use. So I have downloaded it and have it ready on a card. 

During this process, I have given up (temporarily) on getting the Sain Smart 7” LCD on working with the Pi. It is a sharp screen, it worked for a few minutes once, then I changed a setting, nutz! I broke down and bought a cheap, $3.99 HDMI to VGA convertors. It will work as I setup the rig and test it out. Once done I will move it out to the family room with the big screen. 

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For now the convertor works wonderful with my $2.00 monitor find. It might be a bit old and 4:3 not 16:9, but it is clear and works nicely. I am glad to have a spare monitor for the bench. To test it out I made it a third monitor on my Mac. How many do I really need? 

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This is a project that is going to blow out in scope as well. I have the goal of finishing up the audio amp I have on my bench and hooking it up to 2 bookshelf speakers that have been laying around for a while. It should make a nice little media center for the basement family room. 

Side Project – MacPi Plus

Raspberry Pi Model 3 into a Mac Plus case 

My Raspberry Pi has been sitting on my bench in a little plastic box. It seems so naked and bare; it needed something to spice things up. And I needed another project on my list, like I am not sure what, but it has ended up on my list.

I have had an old Mac Plus case laying around for years. It has served as a desktop bookcase to recently a collecting bin for cables. The face plate was made into a cheesy, but geeky picture frame. It took some time to clean it up a bit. I didn’t go through all of the trouble to really scrub it down. I like a little of the aged, plastic, patina, look to it, but it does look scads better than it did.

My first goal for this project is to see how much I can use that I have laying around. I have rounded up most of the parts I need.

  • Mac Plus Case
  • Raspberry Pi – bought
  • SainSmart 7″ TFT LCD – bought
  • USB hub, powered
  • SD card slot extender
  • Ethernet cable extender

I am sure I will need some more bits and parts as time wears on, but for now this will get me started.

While working on getting the screen working with the Pi (what a pain, but this will be another post later) I have been laying to how to put things together. The first order of business was the screen. I was trying to find a 4:3 aspect monitor, but didn’t like what I found. I started looking at the Raspberry Pi “compatible” screens. I originally wanted to get the larger 8″ screen, but after measuring a couple of times, I was sure it wouldn’t fit. So I decided on the 7″ screen.

I need a way to mount the screen to the inside of the face plate. What to use? It took me a day or so of rummaging around to find something that seemed appropriate to use. Somewhere in my travels I had a rather large pass-through card, but the right size for holding the screen and with a little Dremel work on the connectors it fits in the face plate.

I took a piece of cardboard and traced the outline of the screen opening on the faceplate. I then added another piece of paper representing the screen to help figure out the placement of it and the screws.

I have to drill the holes in the plate to attach it to the face plate as well as 4 more holes to mount the screen.

 

Well, that is it for now. Check back as I will be updating as I keeping plugging along on this one. Like I said it is a side-project. While not pretty, the bare Pi and VNC work fairly well for the work it currently does, but it deserves a nice Macinficantion.