Tuesday 19 November 2013

Linksys (Cisco) WUSB600N and Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1

If you own a Linksys WUSB600N Wireless Adapter, I can suggest you to drop the "official" drivers and use the ones by the chipset's manufacturer, Ralink.

The V2, as we can see on WikiDev, is equipped with a Ralink RT3572.
You can get the drivers from MediaTek official site (they merged the 2 companies).

Sunday 1 September 2013

Nintendo NES as HTPC Case [THE END]

I'm back to post few images of the final version of the NES Style HTPC!

The final setup:

  • Intel Desktop Board D945GCLF2 - Atom 330 ~40€
  • 1GB RAM DDR II (included with the board)
  • HDD from my old laptop (60GB Hitachi 7200 rpm)
  • External PSU (included with the board)
  • NES Console case (15€ on ebay)
  • 2 small 30mm fans
  • ATA to mini-ATA adapter (8€)
  • Old Microsoft XP License from my dead laptop
  • A Dremel, sort of, bought at Carrefour (18€)
  • A Logitech K400 Keyboard (with touchpad)
The best would be to replace the HDD with a SATA to SD Card adapter (should be at 15€ on ebay) to reduce the internal heat and add 2 USB Nintendo controllers to be used for playing some emulated games.

Internal temperatures spread from 48 to 55 °C on heavy load.

At the moment, I opted for Windows XP, XMBC and Google Chrome. Furthermore, you can add a PSX and NeoGeo emulators to play with it.

Friday 19 July 2013

Nintendo NES as HTPC Case

Imagine you got an Atom Mini ITX Dual core board, power supply and RAM at a really cheap price... And a broken laptop with some components to reuse.
And a Nintendo NES !
Modding time!
It is not complete, few details are missing: the frontal USB ports and rear lock for the power supply cable!

Thursday 2 May 2013

Google Chrome App Launcher (last step before Now)

I think it is the last step before integrating Google Now on our desktops.
In any case, it is great to have all Chrome Apps available as "common" apps.
Google used their browser to deploy a part of Chrome OS on all desktops.
Exactly the opposite of Microsoft: Windows to deploy IE.

How to get it? I got prompted by Google Chrome itself when trying to install Keep.

Monday 22 April 2013

Build a (sort of) photocoupler using a photoresistor and a LED

Believe it or not... It is possible to build a resistive opto-isolator!
Parts to continue the Desktop Defender mod are on their way. We will use a IC contianing 4 opto-isolators... And we need 5 "digital switches"...
Why do not use a really low cost device to trigger the missile launch?
Necessary parts? A LED and a photoresistor.
The photoresistor I found in my box reaches 520Ω when the LED is glowing and acts as open circuit when the LED is off.
To be sure to not close the circuit with some environmental light, we have to isolate the led and the resistor using some isolating tape or some plasticine. The best is to put some aluminium foil, so that light will reflect and will redirect rays to the resistor.

Remember to put a marker to remember which is the side of the LED!

Sunday 14 April 2013

Adding Serial/Bluetooth support to Desktop Defender [Part I]

If you have got a spare Arduino board and/or a Bluetooth shield...
Why do not buy a Missile Launcher and mod it a little?

You can find "Desktop Defender" toy on ebay.

First of all, you will need to open the control pad. You'll find a 7 pin connector. My idea is to do not break the control pad. I want to add an extra input method to it. So... Let's solder them.

The control pad:
  • Closes the circuit between -3V and DO (Down), L (Left)
  • Closes the circuit between +3V and UP (Up), R (Right), PLA (Play)
We will need to replicate this on Arduino side.

The issue is... We cannot control a DC Motor directly via Arduino. In this particular case the +3V would be compatible with Arduino (Nano or Pro, for example). The current is the issue. The motors are protected by 2 limit switches for each direction, so they will not stall (the motors reach peak current draw when stalling), but as my "dumb" tester says... There are still 90mA when closing the circuit. Which is more than the maximum allowed for I/O Pins (e.g.: 40 mA).

There are different options for driving DC Motors safely:

  • PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)
    • But we do not need to drive speed of the motor... Overkill.
  • DC Motor controller (H-Bridge)
    • Same as above
    • Details here
    • Products: L293D IC or Pololu shields
  • MOSFET, Transistor + Diode (To protect for spikes at on/off time)
    • Good solution, cheap... But we must size the Transistor, Resistance correctly
    • Good explaination here and here
  • Optoisolators
    • Details here
    • I just discovered them... Amazing! In few words... It allows to drive the current on another circuit using a LED and... A phototransistor on the other side. We can call them also photocouplers.
    • Each product has its own maximum voltage and current.
    • It is a good choice, cheap, reusable. Available products: optoisolators, opto-isolator shield, etc...
  • Relay (and solid state Relay)
    • A low current driven mechanical switch. It is a good choice, cheap, reusable.
    • In the case of solid state... It is not mechanical... Extended lifetime and faster than common relays.
    • Each product has its own max voltage and current.
    • Good choice as above. Available products: Solid State Relay, Relay Shield for Grove, etc...
My choices are optoisolators, relays (I found a L293DNE on my magic box, hurray... But I am unable to use it, except if I completely remove original control pad).
Since I will wait for parts to be shipped, see you in few days/weeks!

Ok people... SainSmart come in my help!

I just tested using a single Relay and my Bluetooth Silver Mate.
It works! Here you are the code... I'll deploy everything on github (both Arduino and Android code).

A video and photos in next days...

Monday 8 April 2013

Google Chrome chrome:// Urls

Useful chrome://about page gives info about Chrome internals

  • chrome://gpu (information about video card and hw support to Chrome features)
  • chrome://performance (information about Chrome events and performances)
  • chrome://sync (information about Chrome account data syncronization processes)
  • chrome://predictors (map of "string" to "url" to be used as local predictions)
  • chrome://dns (dns prefetch)
I suggest you a really nice read about Chrome fast networking.

Monday 18 March 2013

Google Reader is (going to be) dead. Long live the (RSS) Feed!

Google Official Blog, Wednesday 13th March 2013 a "spring cleaning post" suddenly appears...
We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

I doubt Google will reconsider this (even via petition or rage), so we must be prepared to the switch off.
I am listing some alternatives there. The only real alternative is Feedly (free, available both via web and mobile with dedicated app, plus a good API). I excluded some "basic RSS reader apps" like gReader... Or social aggregators like netvibes).

  • Feedly (my choice, today)
    • Seems promising and fully fledged
    • A lot of sharing options (Fb, Twitter, Instapaper, etc...)
    • Features "read it later" aka "star"
    • Google Account login
    • Fast UI
    • Free (at the moment)
    • Keyboard shortcuts
    • Runs on Google App Engine
    • Developers try to clone an open source Google Reader API (named Normandy)
    • Chrome Extension
    • Web access
  • NewsBlur
    • Paid "service" for unlimited feeds: 24$/year
    • Open source on github
  • Fever
    • Paid "package": 30$/year
    • You need a webserver to run it (PHP + MySQL)
    • No mobile client (probably only HTML5 based) 
    • Web access only
  • Press
    • Mobile only (Android)
    • Paid App: 2,25€
    • Good design and typography
  • Current
    • Google based
    • Good design and typography
    • Mobile only (Android)
  • The Old Reader
    • Still not mature
    • A lot of sharing options
    • No mobile App
    • Chrome, Mozilla, Safari Extensions
  • Pulse
    • Google Current "copied" it
    • Web access
    • Mobile (Android and iOS)
    • Well established
  • Flipboard
    • Came after Google Current and Pulse
    • Mobile only (Android and iOS)
    • Good UI and design
  • Taptu
    • Web
    • Mobile (Android, Blackberry, iOS)
    • (to me) not really clean
The other option could be migrate completely to Google+ or Twitter (following the respective accounts of the websites producing the feeds... Or write your own reader...

Feel free to notify me in case of errors or add some other platform/service.

In case of panic, liberate your Google Reader data using Google Takeout.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Android 4.1+ Tricks - Test OS without 3rd party apps

If you want to do a test run without third party apps but avoid factory reset, you can reboot your device into "safe mode".
This will turn off all third party apps for the next boot and then on the next reboot all apps will be back again. This is good to check battery life or any weirdness that you are not sure if it caused by any of the third party apps.
To do so, at the power off dialog, click and hold "Power off" item until the dialog pops up.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Google Nexus 4 and Epic Citadel DEMO

Today EPIC Games released the Citadel Demo of Unreal Engine 3 for Android on Google Play.

I managed to install the "quite" heavy APK (130MB) and run it....
Looks awesome... Not so many dynamic lights (so maybe we will have to wait for real case scenarios)... Also no objects in movement... Nice reflections and good clipping.

Results are impacted by the number of screenshots I took during the Benchmark and some App updating as well in the meanwhile. FPS are limited by VSync (60Hz).

It is possible to move in the scenario and perform some benchmark.

On the Nexus 4, I ran the benchmark setting High Quality and Force AA 4x on Android Settings.
Good job Epic Games!