Okay, I’ll confess: I’ve spent a bit too long playing Minecraft, both on a shared server, and even by myself in single player. I find it kind of soothing to create models, rather like playing with blocks or legos. But Eric Haines (a long time friend, and one of the people who was most influential in getting me started in computer graphics) has done one better: he’s written a program that allows you to export portions of your Minecraft world, and get them printed as a 3D model. He calls the resulting program Mineways. Check it out:

A cool little computer: FIGnition

I keep looking for cool projects where people build small computer and microcontrollers, more or less from scratch. Today, I ran across FIGnition:

FIGnition is a £20 educational DIY computer which works like an 8-bit home Micro: outputting to composite video and ready to be interactively programmed from the moment you switch it on. It has  8Kb of RAM; 384Kb of storage; an 8-key keypad and runs a variant of FIG-Forth. It uses USB for power; firmware upgrades and program downloads.
via fignition – Libby8dev

Very cool little Forth-based computer, using at ATmega168, a small 8K serial RAM and an SPI flash memory chip. You can either buy a PCB board, or you can assemble it on strip board. Lots of good ideas!

Yawcam – Yet Another Webcam Software

At various times, I’ve wanted to set up a little webcam server, but hadn’t really found a program which combines ease of use with versatility. But today, I found a mention for the program “Yawcam”, a Windows only webcam software written in Java, and decided to give it a try. Bingo! It works pretty well! It’s free, it provides a wide variety of capabilities (including image snaps, video streaming, and a built in webserver). The only real downside is I wish it wasn’t on Windows. It’s “donationware”, check it out if you are in need of something like that.

Yawcam – Yet Another Webcam Software.

Addendum: Here’s a picture of Scrappy!

Another retro computer website…

While researching some information on the old CP/M operating system (don’t ask) I found Herb Johnson’s excellent retrotechnology.{com,net} website. It’s chock full of good information on old Apple Macintosh systems, S-100 systems, and cool virtual exhibit on the PDP-11. Bookmarked for later consumption: tons of good information.

http://www.retrotechnology.com, .net/.

Addendum: It’s amazing how often I find people with odd interests have other odd interests that coincide with mine. Herb has also ground and polished his own telescope mirror. Awesome.

Raspberry Pi $25 PC goes into alpha production

I’m interested in low cost computing. Like the kind of computing that costs what a Blu Ray disk costs. For a while, that’s been something like the Arduino, which has a 16Mhz 8 bit processor. But the Raspberry Pi is something else: a proposed computer which plugs into an HDMI port for display, uses USB for peripherals, and runs Linux. Best of all, the target price is $25. I hadn’t heard much about this project lately, but apparently some of the first alpha prototypes are being produced. I’m sure to get some of these when they finally go into production: I’ve got a couple of projects that could make good use of such an inexpensive computing platform. I’m keeping my eyes open on this one.

Raspberry Pi $25 PC goes into alpha production – Computer Chips & Hardware Technology | Geek.com.

PDP-10/X on an FPGA

I think I saw this a couple of years ago, but Doug Conroy seems to have made some progress on his implementation of a PDP-10 on an FPGA. It now can apparently boot ITS. I’m more interested in the prospect of running TOPS-10 so I can relive my early days, but booting ITS is pretty awesome. Bookmarked for later retro-geek-hacking-envy:


Bit banger

Anyone who has seen my projects on the Atari 2600 might reasonably conclude that I have a thing for retro computing. The saying goes “it is no virtue to do with more, what can be done with less” and I can’t think of someone whose projects have embodied that more than demo coder Linus Akesson (lft). His latest demo runs on the tiniest of tiny Atmel processors, the ATTINY15. It has just 32 bytes of memory (just the registers, really) and room for 512 instructions. Yet, lft made a cool demo that runs on it, generating both video and sound. Oh, and he’s only running it at 1.6 Mhz (yes, 1.6 Megahertz). Very cool!

More details about Bit banger, and how he did it..

Andrew Holme’s projects

Most of the websites that I link to are related to specific topics or projects. But every once in a while, you find one that has a bunch of good stuff that matches some of your esoteric interests, and you wonder how one person could do it all. Inspired by Jeri Ellsworth’s latest video showing her Spartan 6 FPGA board which reconfigures itself to generate the VFO, I thought I’d try to figure out what magic that entailed, with the idea of maybe doing something similar with my (as yet sorely underutilized) BASYS-2 board. That sent me to Andrew Holme’s project page:

Andrew Holme’s projects

He’s got some projects on Fractional-N frequency synthesizers, which I don’t think are exactly what we want, but what a treasure trove of cool projects. An experiment using core memory, a microcoded FORTH machine built from discrete logic, a homebrew spectrum analyzer, and an experimental GPS receiver! Too cool. Lots of good stuff.

A foxhole radio…

IRC and Minecraft buddies Atdiy and whisk0r have been doing some cool videos on making cigar box guitars, some kind of neural network stuff, and more recently: some introductory electronics videos. After winding inductors and making their own capacitors in previous episodes, they get around to making their own foxhole radio just using a blued razor blade as the detector:

Pretty neat! If you like this kind of stuff, subscribe to their YouTube feed.

Cool Hack O’ Day: real pixel coding

The problem with working some place with lots of intelligent people is that it is increasingly hard to maintain one’s sense of superiority. Today, I tip my hat to Inigo. He has a very cool demo here, where he creates a program by creating and editing a small image in photoshop, saving it as a raw image file, and then renaming it to a .COM file and running it. It’s a testament to how clever, sneaky, and small programs can be.

Thanks to Jeri reposting this link on twitter, I’m getting lots of hits. Thanks Jeri. But be sure to visit Inigo’s original post to read more about this cool hack:
el trastero » Blog Archive » real pixel coding.

Pixels Past Circuit Boards

I’ve done a couple of Atari 2600 projects in the past: my Pong clock and my Enigma Machine simulator. To make physical realizations of these projects, I relied on some boards that I bought a few years ago from AtariAge, but when I checked a few months ago, it appeared that they had stopped selling them in their store. It wasn’t a big deal, but I did consider the fact that at some point I might want to have some more PCBs for future projects.

Luckily, the guys at Grand Idea Studio did all the heavy lifting, and have PCBs not just for the Atari 2600, but also many other classic video games systems, including schematics and Gerber plot files. Archived for a future project.

Pixels Past Circuit Boards | Grand Idea Studio.