Resolving a Synchro Shaft Angle Using Modern Hardware

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Can this hardware determine the angle of the fine altitude’s synchro resolver accurately? Read on to find out!

This project uses modern data acquisition hardware to track the shaft angle of a synchro transmitter as the shaft is turned through various angles. How difficult could it be to get the absolute angle of a position sensor from the 1980’s that was originally developed during the WWII era into a modern computer? Turns out, it’s more difficult than it seems, and for most hobbyist applications, more difficult than it’s worth. Read on to find out more.

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Converting a WW2-era Landing Gear and Flaps Indicator into a USB Peripheral

The landing gear and flaps indicator, control board stack, and C# .NET Windows Forms app running on the Surface in the background. Everything set for smooth and level flight!

The landing gear and flaps indicator, control board stack, and C# .NET Windows Forms app running on the Surface in the background. Everything set for smooth and level flight!

In this project, I convert a WW2-era landing gear and flaps indicator into a USB peripheral using a Raspberry Pi Pico development board and eight channels of programmable current sources. This project is similar to my WW2-era engine cowl flaps indicator project but the gear and flaps indicator requires a different control strategy.

This post starts with a look at the gear and flaps indicator, its theory of operation including its differences from the engine cowl flaps indicator, and some ideas to control it with modern electronics. The post then covers the design of the boards, the software for the Pico dev board, and a Visual Studio C# .NET Windows Forms app for controlling the indicators from a PC.

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Converting a WW2-era Engine Cowl Flaps Indicator into a USB Peripheral

General Electric 8DJ4xxx quad engine cowling indicator with PIC16F1459 and MCP41HV31-502 board to its right. Microsoft surface controlling the indicators via USB in the background.

General Electric 8DJ4PBV quad engine cowling indicator with PIC16F1459 and MCP41HV31-502 board to its right. A Microsoft Surface in the background is controlling the indicators via USB.

In this project, I convert a WW2-era engine cowl flaps indicator into a USB peripheral using a Microchip PIC16F1459 microcontroller and four Microchip MCP41HV31-502 digital potentiometers. This project is reminiscent of my USB analog panel meters project but the drive circuitry is significantly less complex. This post starts with a look at the engine cowl indicator, it’s theory of operation, and some ideas to control it using modern electronics. The post then covers the design of the board, the software for the microcontroller, and a Visual Studio C# .NET Windows Forms app for controlling the indicators from a PC.

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Building a DIP Switch USB Stick Using the Microchip PIC16F1459

The complete DIP switch USB stick plugged into my Surface Pro tablet.

The complete DIP switch USB stick plugged into my Surface Pro tablet.

Tired of editing XML and JSON files to store configuration settings for your hardware or software? What if we could go back to using DIP switches for configuration settings? Well, with the DIP switch USB stick, you can! No more telling relatives how to fire up vim or emacs and edit a file during those late-night family tech support calls. Yeah, just flip the red switch!

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The Scramblepad Hardware and Protocol

I first saw a Scramblepad on the door of an office building I worked at while in high school in the late ’80s. I always wanted to own one or to make my own based on seven-segment LED displays but had trouble finding a suitable, transparent touchpad I could use for the buttons. I eventually gave up on building my own.

Luckily I found a few Scramblepads up for sale recently and decided to buy one to see if I could do anything useful with it. With a bit of work, I reverse engineered the communication protocol and can now use my Scramblepad with my own simplified homebrew door controller. Read on to learn more about the hardware, the communications protocol, and building a homebrew Scramblepad compatible door controller.

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Building a Simple RFID Door Access Controller

In this project, I build what is quite possibly the world’s simplest (and least intelligent) door access controller to let me open and close my garage door using my mountain bike helmet. We’ll take a look at my motivation for the project, review some available RFID readers, pick a reader, then design and program the simple access controller. The simple access controller will receive the card ID from the RFID reader, compare the ID against a list of authorized cards, and make the decision to activate the garage door opener or not. Afterwards, we’ll briefly talk about the security of the system and include some ideas on how to improve the project.

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USB Knob Box Doubles as a Blackmagic Designs Camera Remote

The finished USB Knob Box.

The finished USB Knob Box.

I have a Blackmagic Designs Micro Studio Camera I wanted to use as a webcam for video conferences. Even with a 16mm sensor, it has better quality than any small sensor webcam. The only issue is all the exposure and focus controls are manual. When connected to one of their ATEM video switchers, this isn’t a problem as the ATEM provides control of all connected cameras using data sent back to the camera embedded in  the HD-SDI return video feed.

If you want to use the camera without an ATEM swtich, however, there’s no way to control the exposure without using the small awkward buttons on the front of the camera and no way to control the focus without reaching up and turning the lens’s focus ring. Being an engineer, hacker, and maker, there had to be a better way! And there was. Read on to find out more about my solution for controlling the camera. Also, it’s 100% open source and licensed under the permissive MIT license if you want to build your own.

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The Interesting Multiplexing Scheme of the Grass Valley Series 300 Crosspoint Switch Panel

An animated GIF of the front panel lamps chasing each other across the panel.

An animated GIF of the front panel lamps chasing each other across the panel.

After reverse engineering parts of a Grass Valley Kalypso video switcher control panel and after making a YouTube video describing how I modified a Grass Valley Series 300 transition logic panel to be a USB peripheral, it was time to reverse engineer a Grass Valley Series 300 crosspoint bus switch panel. This panel is about 20 years older than the equivalent Kalypso crosspoint bus switch panel I reverse engineered in the earlier blog post. It’s also quite a bit simpler and uses 100% off-the-shelf logic ICs with no micros or FPGAs. Read on to find out more.

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USB Panel Meters Enclosure and Windows 10 App

The USB analog panel meters controlled by a Windows 10 C# .NET app developed in Visual Studio 2019.

The USB analog panel meters controlled by a Windows 10 C# .NET app developed in Visual Studio 2019.

In the first part of this project, I acquired four round HUA SO-45 10 mA analog panel meters and built a board to control them over USB as a vendor-defined USB HID device. The next steps in this project are to build an enclosure for the meters and to develop a C# .NET graphical user interface to control them. Let’s take a look at designing the enclosure then we’ll take a look at building a simple Windows GUI to control them.

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Converting More Vintage Grass Valley Hardware to USB

A Grass Valley Kalypso machine control panel (bottom) and crosspoint switch panel (upper right) converted to USB using a Silicon Labs EFM8UB2 USB microcontroller.

A Grass Valley Kalypso video switcher machine control panel (bottom) and crosspoint switch panel (upper right) after converting them into USB human interface devices using Silicon Labs EFM8UB2 USB microcontrollers.

In this project, I convert two panels from a vintage Grass Valley video switcher into general-purpose USB input and output devices without modifying the original panels. This project required both reverse engineering the hardware and deciphering the software protocols used to communicate with the panels. Because these panels required learning how to communicate with a microcontroller and a small FPGA, this project was significantly more challenging than the previous project where I converted a matrix button panel from the same mixer into a USB device.

In this write up, we’ll examine the two panels in detail and determine the hardware interface to the panels. Once the hardware interface is determined, we’ll build some boards to use to help decipher the protocols used to control the boards. Once the protocols are understood, we’ll build a second set of boards to control the panels using USB then develop the USB software and an example Linux application that controls the panels over USB. This project took about four months from start to completion.

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