Archive for the 'General Bulletin' Category

Typing Tweets

Woo! Prettified tweets!

Woo! Prettified tweets!

It’s great to tweet, and it’s great that people tweet. But the timeline of your and your follower’s tweets gets big fast. It’s always been my opinion that Twitter should be as real-time as possible. I loved the text-message model of the Twitter days of yore, though didn’t love constantly checking my phone. I found that what I actually crave is knowing there are tweets waiting for me to read, not necessarily reading the tweets themselves.

In the past, I’ve connected my doorbell to Twitter. This was great, but I still had to go to Twitter to see the tweets. Talk about #firstworldproblems.

In the past, I’ve also seriously modified a Smith Corona typewriter. This clearly is a match made in heaven, why didn’t I combine the two earlier? In fact, I remember seeing an article about another bunch of people doing the same. It had to be done. This would give me the best of both worlds. I can hear the typewriter doing its thing when I’m doing my thing, and when I eventually walk past it I can catch up on the haps.

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Project: USB Apple Extended Keyboard II

Woo! It works great with my MacBook Air. One hiccup, for the number pad to work, you must hold "num lock" when connecting the keyboard. The "num lock" key and light don't seem to work as they should. Small price to pay.

Woo! It works great with my MacBook Air. One hiccup, for the number pad to work, you must hold “num lock” when connecting the keyboard. The “num lock” key and light don’t seem to work as they should. Small price to pay.

I’m lucky enough to have a fab Apple Extended Keyboard II that belongs to my Macintosh SE. Unfortunately, it wasn’t doing much good connected to my rarely-used SE, so I figured a better home for it would be on my desk at work, where I spend the day pounding away on a crummy keyboard anyway.

This keyboard is a dream to type on because it uses mechanical switches. And I lucked out: Apple made a lot of revisions of this keyboard with cheap switches, but it turns out that I got one of the good ones. Mine is a USA model with authentic Alps Cream key switches. Lovely!

The biggest stumbling block is the interface to the computer. The Apple Extended Keyboard II is from the days of ADB, Apple Desktop Bus. The internet revealed two solutions: An expensive and sometimes-hard-to-find adapter by Griffin, or a $16 microcontroller and some DIY elbow grease. Naturally I chose the latter.

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Web Browsing on the Macintosh SE

Excuse the poor quality.

Excuse the poor quality.

Well, I decided to drag my SE home from my parent’s house when I came back from winter break. It sat in the laundry room for a couple weeks, but I was bored today so I decided to stretch its legs. I had also recently been reminded of the Hack A Day retro challenge and so I thought it might be the perfect way to spend my afternoon.

Back when I first got the SE, I was eager to connect it to anything that I could, so I had a ziplock bag full of all sorts of vintage-Mac cables. AppleTalk adapters, serial cables, etc. A quick dig through the bag netted me a mini DIN-8 to DB9 cable. I dug around another box and found a null modem cable and a USB-serial adapter. By connecting these three cables together and plugging the USB side into my MacBook Air and the mini-DIN into the SE’s modem port, I was able to quickly establish a serial connection with Zterm.

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The first 100% successful string printed.

The first 100% successful string printed.

Typewriter hacking! Ahh!

Typewriters are pretty cool little devices. They’re keyboards directly interfaced with daisy-wheel printers. In our venture towards converting a typewriter into an old-school teleterminal, I’ve first dedicated myself to getting the thing to print autonomously. And I’ve succeeded!

This project is actually really exciting to me purely because of its novelty. I think it’s so super cool. Donny, my roommate, suggested building a web form that would allow people to send messages to it. Perhaps we would put a webcam on so you could watch your message get hammered out in real time.

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Ding dong!

Deaf, Dumb, and Mute… Until now!

So, most homes have doorbells. Do people really use them anymore? At our home, not only do we never have visitors, but the doorbell button is out of reach. It sits idle, its transformer slowly syphoning power.

Wouldn’t it be great to repurpose the doorbell into something that’s useful? I thought so. Some torrent clients have the nifty capability of running a command when a torrent downloads — so why not ring the doorbell? Not being that avid of a torrenter, I instead chose to give it a Twitter account and alert the house whenever my roommate or I tweet.

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So, one of my favorite projects that I’ve seen online in the past year involve automating the electric typewriter. I guess if you were to compare it to the “player piano” it would be called a “typist typewriter” – a typewriter that hammers away at itself.

I’ve found two such projects. One’s a twitter monitor that types out tweets with a certain tag. It’s not interactive, it just prints. The other is a teleprinter that passes keypresses over serial, and prints out any characters received over serial. This was more the direction I wanted to go. My roommate was very excited about the concept of having a teleterminal, that is having a Linux console available on the typewriter. I thought, and continue to think that this is a reasonable goal to work towards. How many people can say they have a teleprinter? How many people can say that they built it themselves?

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A Surplus, Passworded Sunfire V100

So I bought a SunFire V100 the other day from HSC (halted). Brought it home, soldered up a console cable, and fired it up. Turns out, LOMlite is password protected, as is the firmware. Nooo!! Here’s my solution to get a non-bootable machine working.

This is the compilation of so much research and lots of help from the nice people of Reddit, and a few unhelpful comments from Experts-Exchange. The reddit thread is here.

Read on for the meat and potatoes.

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Raspberry Pi Antics (Garage Door Opener)

So, not long ago I received a Raspberry Pi in the mail. Yep, that’s the ultra-coveted, ultra-backordered, ultra-low power, ultra-small, ultra-awesome single-board-computer that only costs $35 (give or take). I had it kicking around for a few weeks running Debian before I really had a solid idea of what I should do with it, which turned into an exercise in home automation. I plan to design a home automation system with my electrical-engineering-major roommate come September.

Essentially, this exercise serves as a proof of concept which demonstrates the reliability of the Arduino-Server communication as well as the viability of the Raspberry Pi as a platform for running the home automation software.

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Printing ALL the things!

So, I’ve been planning to embark on a series of projects over the next few weeks/months/time units of my life. It’s midterm season, so instead of studying (what is studying?) I found myself working on these potentially-useless-but-novel projects. In this case, a receipt printer that prints out tweets by the minute. It’s my own version of an occasionally done project, and an idea that I had (but never really pursued) several years ago. My roommate found a post about a similar project on Engadget that was made using an Arduino, and it re-kindled my desire to do it.

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