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Tio is a Serial Terminal For Us

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With Linux and the serial port there is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that Linux has great support for serial hardware of all sorts and a host of tools for accessing the serial port. That’s important when you use a lot of serial-like devices like Arduinos with USB ports and the like. The bad news is that most of the terminal software is made to accommodate the days when a computer had real serial terminals and modems with people interacting with them. We bet that’s why [lundmar] developed tio, a serial device I/O tool for people like us.

Honestly, how many times have you needed Zmodem file transfers and recognition of the DCD signal to detect an incoming connection? Sure there are many other programs that will do the job, but tio brings a clean simplicity along with functionality that embedded developers need.

The software will support arbitrary devices, show statistics, and give you control of the RS232 lines. There’s support for delayed characters and lines, useful if you are dealing with a super simple device with no handshaking. There’s also hex support and many ways to log data and statistics. We especially like that it can automatically reconnect which is a great feature.

Of course, you want some terminal features and tio includes those. For example, you can elect to have local echo turned on or map characters so that, for example, a carriage return turns into a carriage return and a line feed. You can use command line options to set up most items including features like redirecting to a network socket. Other commands inside the program — by default, triggered by Control+T — let you do things like send a break, toggle handshaking lines, and more.

You might think the serial port is dead, but it really just transformed into a USB port.  Of course, like everything else these days, you can also get your terminal in the browser.

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brennen
134 days ago
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This looks useful.
Boulder, CO
jepler
139 days ago
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looks like tio has had some updates!
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm

Overwhelmed by Odd Inputs: The Contest Winners and More

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The Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals Contest wrapped up last week, and our judges have been hard at work sifting through their favorite projects. And this was no easy task – we had 75 entries and so many of them were cool in their own right that all we can say is go check them all out. Really.

But we had to pick winners, not the least because Digi-Key put up three $150 gift certificates. So without further ado, here are the top three projects and as many honorable mentions as you have fingers and toes – if you don’t count your thumbs.

The Prize Winners

Keybon should be a mainstream commercial product. It’s a macro keypad with an OLED screen per key. It talks to an application on your desktop that detects the program that you currently have focused, and adapts the keypress action and the OLED labels to match. It’s a super-slick 3D-printed design to boot. It’s the dream of the Optimus Maximus, but made both DIY and significantly more reasonable as a macro pad. It’s the coolest thing to have on your desk, and it’s a big winner!

On the ridiculous side of keyboards, meet the Cree-board. [Matt] says he got the idea of using beefy COB LEDs as keycaps from the bad pun in the name, but we love the effect when you press down on the otherwise blinding light – they’re so bright that they use your entire meaty finger as a diffuser. Plus, it really does look like a keypad of sunny-side up eggs. It’s wacky, unique, and what’s not to love about that in a macropad?

Finally, [Josh EJ] turned an exercise bike into a wireless gamepad, obliterating the choice between getting fit and getting high scores by enabling both at the same time. An ESP32-turned-Bluetooth-gamepad is the brains, and he documents in detail how he hooked up a homebrew cadence sensor, used the heart-rate pads as buttons, and even added some extra controls on top. Watching clips of him pedaling his heart out in order to push the virtual pedal to the metal in GRID Autosport, we only wish we were screaming “vroooom”.

Strange Topographies

If you type for a living, a bespoke keyboard personalizes the routine. Dichotomy takes the two standards of the desktop, mouse and keyboard, and fuses them together so that you don’t have to move your hand off to the side all the darn time. Nice. [Peter Lyons]’ Squeezebox is the further evolution of his ultra-low-travel design. If you didn’t see our coverage of a previous iteration, you’ve never seen anything like this before. And finally, we just have to tip our fedora to [Matthew Sparks] and his conversion of a museum-piece Morse code key into an HID-compliant USB keyboard. Dit-dah-dit!

Better Mouse(trap)

Pointers. If there’s one complaint we have about GUIs, it’s pointers. Always pointing and clicking. If only there were a way to make this more fun… Try the Magic Stick, which uses a similar IR camera to the Wii remote as a rodent substitute. Or [Maciej Witkowiak]’s Lightpen to HID that brings an older lightpen to his RetroPie setup. Or maybe there’s nothing wrong with the classic mouse after all, and what you really need is a custom-shaped wooden one? You’ll need to make your own, of course, but follow along with the Dwergmuis.

Press the Any Key

Custom peripherals are all about fitting a particular niche, and sometimes that niche is something small and simple. Like a single-button keypad? Or a gimbal joystick with a few keys? Check out [Yannick]’s collection of simple peripherals. [Sven]’s Tiny Mute Button has just one job, if you don’t count glowing, while [Rich T]’s 12-key pad with Encoder does a lot, with style. [Wing-Sum Law]’s keyboard looks suspiciously like an NES controller, but there’s no mistaking [John Loeffler]’s Vo-LUM Control for anything but a literally concrete volume knob. Or maybe you need to type math all day? [Magne]’s custom keypad has all the squiggly symbols.

Cyborg

Wearables take personal inputs to the next level, and [Peter Walsh]’s Wearable Haptic Sensor is a lovely entry. It’s an output rather than an input, and lets you feel what the computer is saying. [Nait]’s Glovraille braille keyboard glove is still in the early stages, but it’s a cool idea that’s worth watching.

VR

Gaming is better with better peripherals, and we saw two stellar cockpit builds: KSP Gegi for Kerbal Space Program (of course) and Mechwarrior 4 Simulator Cockpit Panel for, well you know that already. What we didn’t expect were two (2!) custom Arkanoid controllers. One uses a slidepot to better physically match the game, and the other a more traditional knob, but both support the MSX computer architecture, which we suppose has the best Arkanoid version?

And these were just the choices that our judges could agree on. There are many more projects that tickled exactly one judge’s fancy, which is kinda what you expect with ultra-personal hacks like these. So check them all out, and let us know which additional projects you wish made the list!

And thanks again to Digi-Key for sponsoring the contest.

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GaryBIshop
139 days ago
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Keybon is really cool. I'd like one of those.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Obsession

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Panel 3 became weirdly stalinesque somehow.


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Meet the RouterPi, a Compute Module 4 Based GbE Router

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[Zak Kemble] likes to build things, and for several years has been pining over various Raspberry Pi products with an eye on putting them into service as a router. Sadly, none of them so far provided what he was looking for with regard to the raw throughput of the Gigabit Ethernet ports. His hopes were renewed when the Compute Module 4 came on scene, and [Zak] set out to turn the CM4 module into a full Gigabit Ethernet router. The project is documented on his excellent website, and sources are provided via a link to GitHub.

A view underneath shows off the RTC, power supply, and more.

Of course the Compute Module 4 is just a module- it’s designed to be built into another product, and this is one of the many things differentiating it from a traditional Raspberry Pi. [Zak] designed a simple two layer PCB that breaks out the CM4’s main features. But a router with just one Ethernet port, even if it’s GbE, isn’t really a router. [Zak] added a Realtek RTL8111HS GbE controller to the PCIe bus, ensuring that he’d be able to get the full bandwidth of the device.

The list of fancy addons is fairly long, but it includes such neat hacks as the ability to power other network devices by passing through the 12 V power supply, having a poweroff button and a hard reset button, and even including an environmental sensor (although he doesn’t go into why… but why not, right?).

Testing the RouterPi uncovered some performance bottlenecks that were solved with some clever tweaks to the software that assigned different ports an tasks to different CPU cores. Overall, it’s a great looking device and has been successfully server [Zak] as a router, a DNS resolver, and more- what more can you ask for from an experimental project?

This CM4 based project is a wonderful contrast to Cisco’s first network product, which in itself was innovative at the the time, but definitely didn’t have Gigabit Ethernet. Thanks to [Adrian] for the tip!

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‘Desk Accessory’ Pays Homage To Macintosh

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A Macintosh-inspired desk ornament, next to a sceenshot of a classic Macintosh computer desktop

The retrocomputing community are experts at keeping vintage Apple iron running, but if you’re looking for a simpler way to pay homage to the original Mac, check out this Raspberry Pi powered ‘desk accessory’ by [John Calhoun], fittingly called ‘SystemSix’.

Housed inside a delightfully Mac-shaped piece of laser-cut acrylic, SystemSix is powered by as Raspberry Pi 3, with the graphics displayed on a sizeable 5.83″ e-ink panel. While it resembles a kind of retro-futuristic take on the ‘classic’ Macintosh, SystemSix is the illusion of a fully interactive computer. While non-interactive, the fake desktop is every bit as charming as a real Macintosh display, albeit scaled down. The desktop updates automatically with new information, and presently includes a calendar, dithered lunar phase graphic, and a local weather report.

Clearly calling it a ‘desk accessory’ is a neat play on words. The original Macintosh implemented simple desk accessory programs, such as the calculator and alarm clock, that could run alongside the main application in memory. This was the only way to run more than one application on the Macintosh, before MultiFinder added rudimentary cooperative multitasking in 1987. As such, SystemSix is a functional, stylish and quite literal ‘desk accessory’.

[John] has the full project write-up over on GitHub, and goes into great detail about maintaining the Macintosh aesthetic. For example, the lunar phase graphic uses ‘Atkinson’ dithering. This technique was pioneered by Apple programmer Bill Atkinson, the author of MacPaint and the QuickDraw toolbox on the original Macintosh (and later, Hypercard).

And in case you were wondering – yes, this is the [John Calhoun], who programmed Glider for Macintosh. Now recently retired from Apple, we’re really excited to see what other Macintosh-inspired creations he comes up with. Maybe he will come back around to his Mac-powered MAME cabinets that we covered all the way back in 2005. Or perhaps a sleeper battlestation, like the iMac G4 lampshade that was upgraded with an M1 processor.

 

 

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The Private London Underground Line Used Only By Mailbags

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From: The Tim Traveller
Duration: 08:00

For 76 years, a private underground line ran under the streets of London, completely separate from the Tube. But most Londoners have never seen or even heard of it - because you could only ride it if you were a mailbag. I went to find out more about the story of the Post Office Railway...

INSTA - https://www.instagram.com/the.tim.traveller
TWIT - https://twitter.com/TheTimTraveller
FACE - https://www.facebook.com/TheTimTraveller/

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