Archive for the 'Hardware Hacking' Category

Gmote on the MyTouch 3G and an Ubuntu 9.10 HTPC

Finally got a chance to play around with Gmote on my MyTouch 3G running Android 1.6. Installed the Android app a couple of months ago and then never set it up on any of my desktops. This afternoon I installed Gmote server on my custom HTPC hooked up to my Samsung HDTV. It’s running Ubuntu 9.10. I’m writing this post on the beautiful 1080p 42″ screen, as a matter of fact.

I downloaded the server tarball from the Gmote website and ran the shell script to start and setup the server. It didn’t run the first time. Ended up having to install the latest JRE – no big deal. Ran the script again and the server started up prompting for a password to be created and to tell the server where my media files were. The server uses VLC to access and play media files on the host machine. I’m less interested in that functionality. The thing I was interested in is the remote mouse access functionality. Essentially you make the phone touchscreen into a remote touchpad for the server. Sweet.

I turned on wifi on the MyTouch and fired up the Gmote client software. If you’re on the same network the software will go out and find the server on the default port number (8889). If you need to access it across the 3G network you can port forward that port from your router. I’ve already got another PC setup as a DMZ and I’m not doing any other port forwarding. The only downside for the wifi for me is the battery that the wifi radio eats on the phone. Pretty cool little piece of code. Now I can sit in my recliner and control the machine from 10 feet away, which is good, ’cause that’s where I left my Bushmills…

Frakencamera or Camera 2.0

Marc Levoy and his graduate students at Stanford are creating an open source camera platform for researchers in digtital photography and computational photography to write code on top of. Proprietary cameras make it difficult or impossible to write custom software to take advantages of new advances in fields like computational photography.

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Antikythera Model Completed

A couple years ago, I wrote about the world’s earliest known computer, the Antikythera, finally being decoded as a result of X-Ray Tomography. Now two years later, Michael Wright, a former curator at the Science Museum in London, has built a working model of the device. I absolutely love that the Antikythera was finally cracked by an interested “amateur” – though this is probably a misnomer. In any case, Wright is clearly an extraordinary hardware hacker, rather than a research scientist. And I really love that he was able to do what many others have not. Here’s the article on, which includes a video interview from New Scientist with Michael Wright.

Digital Projection, Spatial Augmented Reality, and Shape Grammar – SIGGRAPH 2008

It’s been an inspiring conference so far. The classes I’ve attended have been excellent. On Monday I attended the half-day course on projectors and spatial augmented reality for (I think) the 4th year running. Ramesh Raskar and Oliver Bimber were fantastic as usual. They were joined this year by Aditi Majumber who spoke about large-format displays and Hendrik Lensch who spoke on computational illumination for 3D scene modeling. One of the things I really get excited about in this class is what Raskar calls RFIG. In essence, this entails adding a photosensor to an RFID tag and then projecting structured light from a handheld projector on the photosensor in order to acquire a relative position for the tagged item. With the unique identifier and the relative position, we can query a database and then project useful information about the identified items directly on the items themselves using our handheld projector. All this is made possible by very small and relatively inexpensive handheld computers with wireless network access and attached projectors. You can check out their work, including the full-text of their book, Spatial Augmented Reality, on the supporting website: Great stuff.
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Multi-Touch Displays Redux

In an earlier post, I wrote about Microsoft’s Surface technology and work done at NYU on multi-touch display technology. Peter Hutterer at the University of South Australia’s Wearable Computer Lab has just demoed a new version of his MPX, Multi-Pointer X Server under Linux. There’s an article on his blog and a video of his multi-touch extension of MPX under Ubuntu. Here are the hardware details. Now I just need to get my hands on a compatible touch screen and try this out

Antikythera Decoded

Scientists using the latest X-Ray Tomography equipment have finally gotten a clear picture of the complex mechanism that represents the oldest known computer. The Antikythera was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece and dates from circa 200 BCE. The computer was used to track and predict moon cycles. Tony Freeth and Mike G. Edmunds from University of Cardiff, Wales, published their findings in the journal Nature. Here’s the NYT article.

Replacing an Apple iPod Mini Battery

So my mom and dad weren’t using an iPod Mini they had laying around and the battery wasn’t holding a charge for more than an hour, so they asked if I wanted it. My wife didn’t have one of her own, so I figured I could get a replacement battery and change it myself. How hard can it be?

Turns out, it ain’t that hard at all. Did some quick Google searches and found a nice howto on C-Net:

Tutorial with Video

Ordered a replacement battery from

iPod Mini Battery Kit

It’s a higher capacity battery, so battery life should be longer. Sure beats paying $100 or more for someone else to replace it. $14.99 including tools.

If you want to see the guts of our new iPod Mini, take a look:

iPod Guts Flash Slideshow

One word of advice: Use a hair dryer to loosen the glue on the plastic covers on the top and bottom of the iPod before you start trying to pry them off. Much easier when warmed up.

Re-Purposing That Stupid CueCat Optical Reader

Back in the early days of the Internet boom, a nasty little company created a piece of hardware and software called the CueCat. If you were a Wired or Forbes subscriber, or if you were a frequent RadioShack shopper, you may still have one of these little kitties laying around your home or office. I did.I had read some years ago that the little scanner had been reverse engineered allowing it’s use on a personal computer as a free barcode reader. If you are lucky enough to still have yours, all you need is bit of freely available software that decrypts the information read from the scanner and outputs it to any text entry area on the machine. More on why you might want that in a second. Read more »