Chess Clock 2.0 using an Adafruit MacroPad

by MACE

I built a better chess clock. It’s no surprise that my first attempt (see http://blog.workshop88.com/2021/07/30/making-a-chess-clock-with-a-circuit-playground-express-user-interface-decisions/), while functional, was difficult to use. The buttons are tiny, you need a lot of prior knowledge to use it, etc. My wife refused to use it.

Just in the nick of time, I received the Adabox 019. It contained a keyboard circuit, keys, keycaps, OLED display, rotary encoder, encoder knob and housing — some assembly required. Adafruit promotes this product as a way to send commands through a USB port to the foreground program running on a computer. There is also a MIDI use case.

The included demo code interprets key presses based on a menu of items that are specific to a given program. You can have multiple menus for multiple programs. You switch between menus using the rotary encoder. Each menu can set the neopixels under the keys to visually group keys by functionality. Here’s an example menu I did for Inkscape.

Inkscape-MacroPad-Menu

Key 1 (upper left) resizes the document to match the selection
Key 2 is for Trace Bitmap
Keys 4-8 are for manipulating layers

It worked, but this use case for the MacroPad wasn’t satisfying. For me, a keystroke on the pad isn’t any better than just using the shortcut keys on the full keyboard. I soon started to hunt for a bigger itch that needed a bigger scratch.

The first one I came up with was to use the example menu framework to simplify my use of various Linux terminal commands. The ls command, for example, has dozens of options. The combination of dashes, case sensitivity, non-mnemonic codes, etc. makes the command tedious to type — especially if you need to use many different options in various combinations. Not to mention that the meanings of the options are different depending of the flavor of Linux!

Here’s the menu I wrote for the terminal on MacOS. I took better care on this menu to color code the keys. The yellow keys are for formatting options, the green key is for recursion, Key4 isn’t enabled, the red keys are for sort order and the purple keys are groups of file extensions. Pushing the rotary key enters the “ls ” command itself.

With an open terminal window, the MacroPad connected and my custom menu selected, I can use the keys to easily form the command that lists “code” files with units, long dates, sorted by size, in reverse order:

<Rotary><Key1><Key2><Key5><Key7><Key12> #These are the key presses

ls -h -T -r -S *.py *.sh *.sed #This is what gets typed at the prompt
-rw-r--r-- 1 appleadmin staff 75B Jul 9 09:40:36 2021 mymoduletest.py
-rw-r--r-- 1 appleadmin staff 72B Oct 19 09:59:35 2020 timezones.py
-rw-r--r-- 1 appleadmin staff 59B Mar 30 16:17:28 2021 getSkyCharts.py
-rw-r--r-- 1 appleadmin staff 58B Apr 2 16:39:43 2021 mymod.py
-rwxr-xr-x 1 appleadmin staff 46B Mar 31 06:38:26 2020 rhi.sh*
-rw-r--r-- 1 appleadmin staff 24B Aug 2 21:47:36 2021 goPad.sh

It works well.

Finally, having just finished my 2-Player+ Chess Clock, I made version V2.0 using the MacroPad. This time, I have a display screen to properly prompt for input and display time remaining, a rotary encoder with an “ENTER” feature for numeric value input and a physical, color-coded button for each player to push.

Here’s the result in action.

Can I get a hand here?

by MACE

I’m a new maker. It started simply enough – Raspberry Pi Zero W, DHT22 temp sensor, SD card, power supply. But it was not long before my appetite for new projects and more components grew. I bought LEDs, resistors, jumpers, DIP switches, camera, heat shrink, POTs, PIR, servos, steppers, … ENOUGH! I had a monkey on my back. But, what to do?

I eventually got to a point that the project I was building required soldering. Let me think — I’ll need one hand for the left wire, one hand for the right wire, one hand for the iron, one hand for the solder. A quick inventory of appendages led me to conclude that I needed an extra hand (or two).

Amazon to the rescue.

Now you’re talking. Clearly, I gotta have at least one of these. Right? Well, maybe not! I had just been in our laundry room and noticed we still had a box of wooden clothes pins. They’re kinda like the alligator clips on the Helping Hands. Surely they could be used to hold onto stuff.

But I couldn’t just lay the pins on the workbench. So I rummaged for a bit longer and found a discarded hinge from an old door. When opened to its fullest, the plate stands at a 50 degree angle. A little hot glue and I had all the helping hands I needed — for next to nothing.

How about that! I made, not bought, something to help me make something else.

Here’s the bottom line. Do I need a Helping Hands? No, not right now. Am I going to buy one? HECK YEAH — that thing is awesome looking.

Stuff for making stuff: a power supply

Tektronix PS280 DC Power Supply

There is something that every maker who dabbles in electronics eventually needs – a bench top power supply.

Sure, you can get power from all sorts of source – a battery, an arduino, or a raspberry pi will all work sufficiently for many quick or small projects. But there are good reasons for having a power supply as one of your tools used for developing electronics.

  1. They are reliable. A battery is only going to provide you with a known voltage for so long before it starts to drain.
  2. They are adjustable. Maybe you think you are only going to be constructing circuits powered by 5V, and therefore you figure you can always either use an arduino or a 5V regulator and be perfectly happy. But eventually you will need to use different voltages, and the power supply is the way to go.
  3. They are configurable. A decent bench-top power supply has the ability to work in either Constant Voltage (CV) mode or in Constant Current (CC) mode. The way it usually works is that you set a maximum current that you would like the power supply to give to your circuit. If your circuit draws less than the maximum current that you have set the power supply will work in CV mode and will provide whatever voltage you have set. If, however, the circuit draws the maximum current that you have set, then it switches to CC mode and will reduce the voltage to maintain that maximum current. This helps you to test circuits without risking damage to components.
  4. They are affordable. Like practically any tool, the sky is the limit in terms of what you could spend. But, switching power supplies are relatively low-cost and a great option for most electronics hobbyist. Below is a link (affiliate link – thank you for supporting Workshop 88) to a power supply that at least one of Workshop 88’s members uses for projects at home.

AFFILIATE LINK BELOW – CLICKING THROUGH SUPPORTS WORKSHOP 88

END AFFILIATE LINK HERE – IF YOU DON”T SEE ANYTHING, TRY DISABLING ADBLOCKER


Workshop 88 Open House

May 16, 2019

Workshop 88 has an open house every Thursday from 7:00pm – 9:00pm where we welcome visitors and give shop tours. If you would like to see what’s available and what’s going on at your local makerspace or if you’d like to talk about a project you have in mind, come check us out!

As a result, Thursdays also are typically our most social night too. This week we had members working on many interesting projects including metal casting preparation, 3D printing, CNC milling, electronics, and more.

Here’s a look…

More projector fun! (see previous blog post for more details)

3D printing a space ship model to create a mold for a bronze casting

Bronze casting from the PLA model.

Meanwhile GailJo was 3D printing weatherproof sign components for illuminated Workshop 88 signs. The signs were so effective someone stopped by to check us out within 2 hours of them being placed!

I love when we have two or more 3D printers working at the same time. If you’re curious about 3D printing check out our step by step tutorial here.

Cutting up bronze casting scraps so they fit in the crucible for another casting. We used the band saw, bolt cutters, a ball peen hammer, and a vise. Copper is soft, tin is soft, mix them together you get bronze. Bronze is hard… really hard.

Jim is working on stepper motor driver electronics for a kinetic sculpture.

CNC’ing a cubic hole in a graphite block to be a mold for a future silver cube casting.

(Actually hybrid manual/CNC control in this case.)

All are welcome, we hope to see you one of these Thursday nights!

Hack-A-Thon II 02/06/2010

We’ll be holding a second hackathon 2:00pm-9:00pm Saturday February 6th. A couple projects we’ll be working on are our big near space balloon event and some beer brewing and bottling. As always bring your projects, bring your Arduinos, and bring your excitement!

We’ll be holding it at Jay’s house again, if you’re interested in attending and did not come last time, please contact info@workshop88.com for the address.

Let us know if you’re coming and discuss potential projects on the forum post.

Our first Hack-A-Thon!

We’re going to be holding a Hack-a-Thon on Sunday January 17th at 2pm. Many of us will be converting PC power supplies to bench supplies, either to donate to the eventual Workshop 88 space, or for ourselves.

You DO NOT have to be a member to participate in the project or come to the Hack-a-thon. So please, tell your friends! The cost of the parts for each power supply ($11) you’d like to convert will be due to our treasurer at our next public meeting 01/04/2010. You are responsible for bringing your own power supply to the Hack-A-Thon to convert.

And as mentioned at the meeting if you want to bring another project to work on that’s great, just keep in mind Jay graciously volunteered his house, so let’s keep it reasonable. Those interested in attending will be given an address and directions at our next meeting (or upon request if you cannot make it).

Please stop by the forum thread for more details and let us know if you’ll be attending.

Here Inside: Hack-brush

Hi, my name is Kevin, but you can call me Roofus, and I’m a member of Workshop 88. Right now I work as a Service Technician in a tool rental business. I often find my self peeking at the insides of tools the average person wouldn’t venture into. My job has given me a firm belief that the only thing keeping everyone else from fixing what breaks is the fear that you’ll make it worse! So I’m doing this series Here Inside, to show people, that it’s okay to peek inside, and you never know if you can fix it, until you try.

I own an old Braun Oral B electric toothbrush.  It was a gift, and I consider it a luxury I wouldn’t own otherwise, but I have grown accustomed to it.  Recently it’s decided to show it’s age by slowly charging less and less.  So, like any good maker who doesn’t like buy new things, I found the seal at the bottom and cracked it open.

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Scanner Challenge, Part 1

CutHere

As part of our first public meeting this Monday, we handed out a bunch of :CueCats to everyone who attended, along with a challenge: tinker with them, see if you can get them to do something fun, and share it with everybody at the next meeting.

I’m planning on using mine to build a handheld barcode scanner based on an Arduino and the touch screen from a Nintendo DS that stopped working a while back.  It may be a bit ambitious, so I’ll probably need help along the way.  I thought it might be helpful for others to see what I’m doing in case they get stuck in their own projects.  The Arduino is in the mail, but while I wait on that, here’s the progress so far.

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