I just have one question for you! LAAAASERS?!?!

If you have cats, like I do, lasers are probably on their brain most of the time. My cat, Skeletor, has a severe addiction to lasers and is demanding of them every day. Recently, when my wife and I were going to be on vacation for a week, she joked that she wished there was something that would automatically move a laser pointer around a room and automatically turn on every few hours.

The first part was easy and I quickly found the FroliCat BOLT. But the second part was a bit harder; everything I could find turned off automatically but not on. Challenge Accepted!

Read on for instructions on how to hack a FroliCat BOLT to automatically turn itself on.

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For nearly as long as the three of us have known each other, we have talked about the things we would make when “we had our own company”. The seriousness of that statement grew and waned over time and many of the ideas, while still on our very long list, were probably more crazy than not. But then, early this year, a friend who was just getting into working with the Arduino platform built an 8-bit binary counter and an idea was born; why not make a bigger counter? Why not make it a clock?

We have been fans of unique and often barely readable timepieces for a long time and this immediately seemed like a perfect fit for a first project. So we built the Binary Epoch Clock Kit, which we are announcing for sale, in our store, today!

From the view point of a computer geek, this clock is the simplest possible way of showing time. It displays the time as a 32-bit binary representation of Unix Epoch time. One might ask if this is even human readable? Well, the answer to that depends on how quick you are at reading binary, converting it to decimal and then converting that number of seconds since 1/1/1970 to a normal date and time. So, obviously, around Maniacal Labs HQ we use it for our go-to clock.

This kit only requires beginner to moderate soldering skills and can be assembled in about an hour. Once complete, it can be powered from any USB port or USB power adapter using the included Mini-USB cable.

The clock can bet set manually or via any 5V FTDI cable (not included) and our handy ‘sync_time’ script which is included in the code repository. See the assembly and usage guide for instructions and a handy video detailing the manual setting procedure for the clock.

We are also happy to announce that our first product and all of our future products will be fully open source. Not just the firmware, but all of the hardware designs as well. We couldn’t be doing this without the amazing work coming from all of the other open source projects out there and we want to give back to that great community. We’ll be making everything available for download on our GitHub repository.

It has been a long road to get where we are today and we have learned a great deal along the way. We’ve got a long list of products we’re working on so stay tuned for what’s coming next!

I had occasion to be out and about last night at one of Durham, NC’s fine local breweries, Fullsteam. While there, I was impressed by 3 things. First, how oppressively hot it was for late evening. This led to the next thing that impressed me, the big-ass fan they had set up to try and cool the place. I’m serious, it was a Big Ass Fan. It was huge (8′ diameter). Cranked to the max, I’m sure it could have easily blown down all three of the Little Pig’s houses. But these things were ancillary to the thing that most impressed me while there: The Bullitron.

The Bullitron is a Winitron arcade cabinet constructed by members of the local Durham hackerspace Splat Space. The Winitron arcade network is made up of what amount to MAME cabinets running a custom launcher that connects players to a network of free Indie arcade games. The founders of the Winitron network have mandated that in order to receive access to the software and the network, you are required to build your own cabinet and set it up in a place where as many people as possible can play (for free, of course). Obviously, next to a handful of pinball machines at a bar would be a perfect place for such a device. After a few minutes of playing Nidhogg, a two-player “fencing” game, and another Galaga-esque title, I was hooked on the idea.

There are a number of things that are really cool about this, but two in particular capture the experience pretty well. First, MAME cabinets are cool. I want one. I will build one at some point. Arcade machines are a huge nostalgia trip for me. I used to love going to arcades when I was a kid, and being able to build your own multi-function arcade machine is, to me, a pretty neat concept. The DIY nature of this is the second bit of awesome. And the Winitron concept is very much in keeping with the Maker spirit of “make cool stuff and share it.” The mechanics are pretty simple, just a few buttons and a joystick interfaced to a PC running some custom software. But throw it together in a stylish package and with very little effort, you can be whuppin’ on your friends in any one of a number of classic and modern arcade icons.

There’s a popular saying among the three of us: “When Maniacal Labs has an office…” Part optimism, part wishful thinking, and often met with a chuckle (for now at least). We’ll see. Who knows what’s in the cards for our little operation. But when Maniacal Labs has an office, there will be some manner of arcade machine therein.

-dan

*Maniacal Labs is not associated with, nor shills for, any of the above-mentioned entities. But hackerspaces are cool, so ‘what up’ to Splat Space!