Cosmic Ray (Muon) 81 (9×9) Pixel Hodoscope |

Source: Cosmic Ray (Muon) 81 (9×9) Pixel Hodoscope |

The music in this video is generated by creating a grid of Geiger counter tubes and setting them up to detect cosmic radiation. The grid is converted into midi notes and LED flashes or as parameters for computer generated art work.

Looks like an awesome but fairly expensive project. The tubes alone will run around $200 to $300 on eBay. They are old Russian military units and the international shipping adds a lot to the price. The rest of the parts would be under $50 if you forego the fancy metal enclosure and printed PCB.

The link has all of the information but the device uses 18 Geiger counter tubes arranged in an X,Y formation. The PCB cards change the varied output of the tubes to sharp peaks that can be fed into the arduino’s input. An arduino mega was used in order to handle the 18 inputs from the tubes but a standard arduino could be used if you feel like building an I/O expander. A raspberry pi would also be a great candidate for use in this project, I can imagine saving sequences over a certain density and being able to play them back or adding a web interface with charts and graphs.

This does use a 9×9 LED panel for the lights but a larger panel like the 32×32 or 64×64 panels used in LED billboards. I think it would be interesting to use an RGB panel and map the color to the frequency of hits that the detector receives.

How To Find, Buy, And Renovate A Titan II Missile Silo


Source: How To Find, Buy, And Renovate A Titan II Missile Silo

I started watching this video series about finding, buying, and renovating a missile silo. Each video was another nail in the coffin of my childhood dream of doing exactly what these videos show. What I didn’t know is that part of the decommissioning of these structures is filling them with concrete, rocks, gravel, dirt, and whatever else is laying around. After they are filled they are left to rot and slowly fill with water and nasty gases. I will say that the dream is not dead but it is not going to be possible without some great influx of unexpected cash.

AlexaPi (Raspberry Pi powered Amazon Echo clone)

I did a little bit of reading this weekend and found out that Amazon lets you use the Alexa voice services on devices. I also found that someone had written a python script for the C.H.I.P. that turns it into an echo clone. He also made a few adjustments and released the code for the raspberry pi so this weekend I made myself an Echo out of my Pi A+.
Video of it in action:

This is a pretty easy project and I only needed a few things that I did not already have. Continue reading “AlexaPi (Raspberry Pi powered Amazon Echo clone)”

My adventure with a replacing a wifi card

So how hard can it be to change out a WiFi card? Last week I found out that it can actually be a pretty challenging project on the right computer. The computer in question is a Lenovo X61S, The x61s was released in 2007 as an ultra portable laptop. It has a 12 inch screen and does a good job of being very lite and slimmed down. Performance on the laptop is still pretty good today, I use it for office apps and web browsing and occasionally streaming games from my main PC.

The problem came from the WiFi card that came with the laptop. I found myself in possession of an extra windows 8 key so I decided to see how windows 10 worked on the old laptop. The install went smoothly as did the upgrade to windows 10 but after a few hours of use I would get a blue screen error caused by the driver for the WiFi card. The WiFi card was an Intel 3945 and after a few minutes of research I found that support and development for this card has stopped in 2007 which means that there was no driver for windows 8 or 10. The driver that Microsoft keeps in the windows update repository was made for windows 7 and causes blue screen errors on windows 8 and 10.

OK, so that is not a problem, I will just pull it out and use a USB wifi adapter. This worked just fine but the X61S only has 3 USB ports when it is off the dock and I would like to be able to use them so I decided to order a new WiFi card from amazon. I found a very reasonably priced Atheros AC card with Bluetooth 4. It was a half size card so I ordered an extender to make it fit in the slot. What I ignored however was the warning on the page that said not to use this card with Lenovo laptops. Why wouldn’t a laptop WiFi card work with a laptop?

White listing is why. It turns out that Lenovo has a hardware white list embedded in the BIOS that prevents the computer from booting if it detects hardware that is not on the list. So that is a problem, I have this shiny new WiFi card that I cant use… Or can I? After a bit of digging I found that this white list is a common complaint. So common, in fact, that someone went and modified the BIOS for a lot of Lenovo models to remove it.

Middleton’s BIOS not only removes the hardware white list but also lets you set the boot up image and unlocks SATA 2 and doubles the speed of the data transfer available to the hard drive! I had put an old SSD drive in so this was a huge boost in performance for that. There was just one problem, the BIOS updater needed to be run in a 32 bit OS and I was running 64 bit. At first I was able to just burn one of the included ISO files to a disk and flash the BIOS which solved most of the problems. I was able to use the WiFi card and the hard drive was faster but I couldn’t change the boot image that way which I now really wanted to do.

Here is how I tried to do it. The download of Middleton’s includes all the files you need to create the image and flash it to the BIOS but not enough in the way of instruction. My first try was to spin up a 32 Windows VM and use the converter to convert a BMP to a MOD file, then inject that file into the boot CD and flash the BIOS. The boot image did not change. What I needed was 32 bit Windows installed on the computer to run the GUI BIOS flash after converting the image. I didn’t want to replace Windows 10 on my SSD just to install it again so I grabbed a spare hard drive, popped it into the laptop, installed Windows 7, and ran the BIOS updater. This time I got a popup asking if I wanted to update the boot image. I clicked the yes button as emphatically as I could and let it do its thing. A few minutes later I rebooted and saw my custom image on the BIOS screen and all was well with the world.

After that whole ordeal the laptop is running perfectly, the WiFi is faster, the hard drive is faster, and anyone who sees the computer turn on knows that it has been modified on a level beyond the comfort and knowledge of most users.


Razer Forge TV

Razer had an amazing CES appreciation event where most items in their store were 50% off if you joined their community and got a coupon code. I had planned to get an Orbweaver Chroma which retails for about $130 so half off would have been $65 but they almost immediately sold out of every mechanical keyboard that they had in stock. So I looked around the store and spotted something that I had recently seen at CES, it was a new product and the result of their acquisition of OUYA, the Forge TV bundled with a Serval bluetooth controller.

The Forge includes great hardware, everything about it makes it one of the best set top boxes you can get if you only look at hardware. What really hurts the Forge TV is the software, Google TV is one of the weaker contenders in the streaming media player space so the apps and games available are very limited even after being on the market for several years and tied into the play store the support just isn’t there. Netflix is not available for the Forge from the Google Play store which is a huge downfall for the device. One of the biggest problems I have is that I need to use a combination of the controller and my phone to get anything done, there is no onscreen keyboard that can pop up to let you type stuff in, it has to go through a separate keyboard, either bluetooth or phone. The Forge TV app connects your phone to the Forge TV via bluetooth and emulates a keyboard, typing can be a chore when I tried to buy something from the Cortex store I entered my information 4 times and had to delete a string of numbers in each field that either my phone or the Forge felt needed to be autofilled no matter what I started typing.

The Serval controller is a great bluetooth controller, however it is priced at 3 times the price of similar controllers so I would have felt bad paying full price for it. I have had minor issues using it in menus, it seems to forget that the left stick is a directional control and I need to switch to using the d-pad to get around for a little while. I don’t know if that is the controller or the Forge or the software but it has happened in most of the games and apps i have tried.

Razer Cortex is Razer’s update to the OUYA store and unfortunately there is very little available there that is not available in the regular play store. The interface is very responsive and has Razer’s signature green and grey/black color scheme and is pretty easy to get around in but it appears as an app in the main Google TV menu so there may be a little bit of confusion when the device is first set up and you are presented with the Google TV interface.

Google TV… Google needs to do a lot of work on TV if they want to make it a contender in the market. Every other streaming media player I have used has been better, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and a few others have all been much easier to use.

Bottom line: I paid half price for the bundle ($75) and I don’t think I will get my money’s worth. I love Razer’s products and I don’t think the failings of this device have much to do with the brand but everything to do with the fact that it runs google TV and there is very little developer support for google TV apps. At this point I doubt that Google TV will ever get off the ground so I am going to see if I can sideload the netflix app onto it and failing that see if I can get linux on the device, at least then I will get some use from it.