Jan 24

IPS LCD Upgrade for a GBA SP

Hey All,

Well this has been a week! Here’s to hoping President Biden can usher in some new progressive policies and finally have a government that takes the Coronavirus Pandemic seriously. All I want is my vaccination ASAP!

Tryign to take my mind off everythign I’ve been throwing myself into lots of projects that I KNOW I can complete. One of those was to upgrade one of my older GBA SP AGS-001 consoles with an awesome IPS LCD screen.

The difference between the original frontlit screen versus the new one is night and day!

This is a time-lapse of me refurbishing and upgrading a beat up original Japanese imported GameBoy Advance that used a front-lit screen.

I take it apart, clean it all out, then replace the screen with a back-lit IPS LCD and new casing for the screen.

The actual hardware swap took less than an hour including soldering the LCD brightness control wire and then me messing up and forgetting to put in the hinge locking screw the first time around.

The screen (and new cases) are easily found on eBay – https://www.ebay.com/itm/V2-IPS-GBA-SP-Backlight-Backlit-LCD-For-Game-Boy-Advance-SP-Pre-cut-Shell-Case/184107831403 – That’s the one I used!

I also found some awesome shiny “silk” green PLA filament and printed this giant Bulbasaur!

It came out so great!

Finally, the Raspberry Pi Foundation released a new board! The Rasberry Pi Pico! Their first microcontroller!

I haven’t had much need for advanced microcontrollers like these, a regular Arduino is plenty for the little hobby projects I work on, but for $5, I’m definitely going to see if I can swap these in at some point.

Have a great week all!

Jan 16

Happy Birthday To Me!

Hey All,

Sticking to my new years resolution. Another week, another post. This was kind of a rough week, as it’s the first week of classes. My team just released a new version of our software, on a new platform, with new automation tools, but there’s only so much testing you can do before you just have to hit that go button and see what happens. 6 months of hard work paid off. Proud of my team and our students.

On a more personal and awesome note, this week it’s my Birthday!

My wife made me an amazing birthday cake!

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So. Much. Frosting! I loved it!

My little guy also enjoyed it very much 😀

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I treated myself to two fun gifts. I saw my local retro game store advertising a complete in box Pokemon Trading Card Game for the GameBoy Color. Except it was the Japanese version! Now I have both 😀

I also picked up the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game physical release from Limited Run Games. I have fond memories playing this game on my Xbox 360. I can’t wait to get it in my hands!

Switch Limited Run #94: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game

In my downtime this week, I’m working on modding my GBA SP to have an IPS screen, but while I wait for the screen to arrive, I started doing a deep scrub and clean of the original parts. Nothing like 20 years of grime to make you realize kids are gross 😉

Anyways, after I finished cleaning I got an awesome candid of my son inspecting the device and turning it on and playing his first GBA game! Time to get him a Kirby game I think…

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Have a good week all! Missed y’all!

Jan 09

KANO Computing DIY Mouse and Webcam

Hey All,

I’ve been a big supporter of Kano Computing since they did their original Kickstarter for the build it yourself computer kit featuring the Raspberry Pi and awesome wireless keyboard (that I use on almost every project. That thing has been a lifesaver at every Maker Faire I’ve participated in!)

Amazon.com: Kano Computer Kit – A Computer Anyone Can Make: Toys & Games

One of the Christmas gifts my wife bought me this year was a Kano Computing webcam and build-it-yourself mouse!

I’m going to be brutally honest: There is no way I can use the Kano mouse as my daily driver. It is way too small for my normal sized hands. I can also see it being a tad too difficult for a kid to put together by themselves due to one step in the instructions.

You have to route the USB cable inside the case and around some plastic pegs, but the cable is just a tad too thick to make it a non-frustrating experience. Once it’s pushed down the rest of the process is pretty straight forward.

The idea to make the top shell magnetic is also super cool. I find myself pulling the top off just to hear the magnetic click over and over again.

All in all – An excellent first attempt. If I was a kid again I would be loving this mouse. I remember taking apart one my favorite mice years ago and switching out the LED to be blue so it would glow throughout. Having a DIY mouse kit brings a smile to my face. I hope the next version is made to grow with the users – hopefully with some hardware hacks available along the way!

The next piece of kit I got was the Kano Webcam! Who would’ve thought I would be excited by a webcam… but this is what 2020 has made of me lol. With the shortage of webcams last year, and both my wife and I working in the education sector, seeing an inexpensive and new take on the webcam made me quite happy.

Two cool features of the webcam include a “macro lens” (really just a magnifying glass) and a flexible but fixable position cord. You can position the webcam in any direction and it will just stay there!

Now, to be perfectly realistic, this is a 2.1mp fixed focus lens and only costs $29.99. I am not expecting the picture quality to be impressive. It is 100% adequate for Zoom use, whether it’s in a classroom or a meeting.

The feature that does make it shine is it’s “macro mode” though. Simply move the lens cover over and you are ready to take close ups.

I am going to really enjoy the macro mode for my electronics projects, and the flexible cord for my Octoprint 3D printer time-lapse videos.

That’s it for this week! Happy New Year! Hope it’s treated everyone great so far!

Jan 01

Happy New Year! Hi 2021! Go Away 2020…

Hey all.

Happy New Year!

This year I resolve to blog once a week again. Every Friday I will post what I’m working on. I’ve become creative again (I think…) and I want to put out to the world what I’m working on.

Raspberry Pi StepMania Dance Pad

Right now I’m working on a CNC’d StepMania dance pad for the Raspberry Pi. I can’t wait to get it complete but so far we have the FSR’s working with the Arduino connected to the Pi.

LEGO

I’ve been building a few LEGO sets with my toddler these past few months. Mainly I build them and he does QA I should say 🙂 It’s so much fun watching him get better and better at putting stuff together. I love it!

3D Printing

Last print of 2020 was of course a Bulbasaur. My favorite starter Pokémon!

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I backed Naomi Wu’s 3D PrintMill “infinite Z” printer on Kickstarter which should hopefully arrive in a few months. I know how many 3D printers have failed on Kickstarter before, but this is a collaboration between Naomi and Creality, and they already have the printer built, this is more of a way to how many they need to make for their factory. And I get that. It’s a great use of Kickstarter. I’m excited to buy vast amounts of filament for this thing!

Conveyor Belt 3D Printers : Creality CR-30 3DPrintMill

That’s it from me for this week. Here’s to an amazing 2021!

See ya next Friday!

Nov 17

StepMania on the Raspberry Pi 4!

For anyone that knows me, Dance Dance Revolution and StepMania were a large part of my life years ago. It’s how I lost a ton of weight.

6 years ago was my first attempt to get StepMania running on a Raspberry Pi…and it was a horrible experience.

Today I’m proud to say that StepMania runs GREAT on the Raspberry Pi 4!

I’ve hosted the shell script / step by step instructions on how to compile and run StepMania on your own Pi4 as a GitHub Gist:

Just run these commands in a terminal on the Desktop GUI version of Raspberry Pi OS and you will be up and playing StepMania in about an hour.

Enjoy!

-Shea

Nov 16

Things I did in 2020

So, like my last post stated, I did some things while stuck at home.

My absolute favorite project was this:

I followed this guide (https://github.com/geaz/simplyRetro-D8) and built this awesome 3D printable desktop arcade cabinet. It of course uses a Raspberry Pi running RetroPi and uses an awesome readily available 4 x 3 LCD screen!

And of course my little guy helping me build and test it 😀

I got a small CNC machine in January and hadn’t had time to use it until recently but I have been having fun making some videos of it in action.

That’s a 3040T CNC Machine. You can find a lot of them on eBay and various other importing sites. More fun hobbies that involve turning one thing into another thing 🙂

On that note, I repurposed my 4k LED display for a lot of statements this year!

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My house got egged for one of those statements. Worth it.

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I edited and 3D Printed a mini Dreamcast case for the Raspberry Pi! Did you know you can play Dreamcast games at 60FPS on the Pi4 now? No? WELL YOU CAN! Using Redream it’s totally possible! You can download the case files here https://thingiverse.com/thing:4539273.

And we got a new kitten!

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Say hi to Dash. Our Manx kitty. He’s kinda awesome.

If you’ve gotten to this part of the post, all I can say is thank you! It’s been a year. Please stay safe out there. Wear a mask. Keep on making. I’ve missed y’all!

-Shea

Nov 16

I feel creative again!

Hey all,

It’s been a long 4 years. I’m so glad Biden won. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. That I’m not just trying to survive the next news cycle, but also prospering and looking forward to the future.

It had taken its toll when every day you expect the worst and you are spending all your energy just getting through the day.

But now…

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel (and it’s NOT the headlights of the oncoming train).

This past year while we have all been quarantining I have been building and making things to pass the time. Nothing big enough to warrant it’s own post, but enough that I can update this blog, and hopefully again more and more for 2021.

I missed y’all. Heres to the next 4 years.

Jan 19

PCBArt

Authors Note: While PCBWay has offered to sponsor a run of the boards, everything purchased for this post was paid for out of pocket and without their knowledge. I wanted to make sure they were good on my own.

Hey All,

I’m a collector. I like to collect things. Video games, Raspberry Pis, Pokemon cards, and Pins. I don’t have many pins, but they really appeal to me. It’s like pixel art. Making awesome designs with limited colors on a small canvas.

The department I work for has always made our own logos for our teams and projects. We usually print stickers and give them out at conferences, or to our students when they hit certain milestones (like their first commit).

Techrangers Logo

A eureka moment hit when PCBWay contacted me this month asking if they could sponsor my next PCB board. I’m not ready to make another PiPlay run of boards (we are slowly working on version 2), but I loved the silkscreen art I was able to put on our original run.

What if I could turn our teams logo into a PCB?

I quickly started investigating and found an awesome plugin for Inkscape called SVG2Shenzen!

I use Inkscape for a lot of things, mostly for setting up projects on the Lasercutter at FamiLAB, but I never thought of using it to create PCBs! The boards came out amazing!

PCBWay

Pros:

  • The boards I received from PCBWay.com blew me away.
  • I was not expecting much for $5 (+ $15 shipping from China).
    • I ordered the boards on Saturday, they shipped them out on Wednesday, and they were in my hands by Friday.
  • The production speed is incredible.
  • They audit every board before you pay and begin production.

Cons:

  • The ordering experience was a little clunky.
    • I had to input my dimensions and order details BEFORE uploading my Gerber files. Other PCB manufacturers usually get order details from the Gerbers.
  • Because I was making pins, I didn’t need anything drilled. This caused the audit to fail, and due to the timezome difference, their message to me and my reply caused a 20 hour delay in production. edit: Adding a note to ignore the drill file for my second order caused it to pass the audit test without delay.

The Pros HEAVILY outweigh the very minor Cons I experienced. I will have zero problem using them from now on for my board needs!

Using SVG2Shenzen

https://github.com/badgeek/svg2shenzhen

Once the plugin is installed, you goto Extensions->Prepare Document and click on Apply.

This will generate a new vector document with layers for each layer of the board. Each layer represents a portion of the boards manufacturing. They are:

  • Drill
    • Parts of the board to be drilled out
    • Example: Holes for a key-chain, or for through hole parts like a resistor or LED
  • F. Silk
    • Front of the board’s silkscreen
  • F.Mask
    • Front of the board mask – I have found that the Mask and Copper should be the same design
  • F. Cu
    • Front of the board copper
  • B. Silk
    • Back of board silkscreen
  • B. Mask
    • Back of board mask – Again I have found that the Mask and Copper should be the same design
  • B. Cu
    • Back of board copper
  • Edge.Cuts
    • This is the shape of your board that will be cutout.

When you are happy with your layout, click on Extensions -> Export Kicad, and click apply.

You will now need to open the generated *.kicad_pcb file in Kicad’s pcb tool pcbnew.

You can check a render of your finished board by going to View->3D Viewer. You can change all the colors and see what your finished board will probably look like. If its good, it’s time for the most important step! Generating your gerbers!

Click on File-> Plot to open up the plotter dialog. Select your output directory, and leave the settings as default for now. Click on Plot and a bunch of files will be generated in that directory. These are the files you send to your manufacturer to generate a PCB for you!

Congrats, you made a board!

Happy Birthday To Me!

On another note… I turned 35 this month. Happy Birthday to Me! I couldn’t have had a happier birthday. Spending a nice day with my Wife and Son, watching the little dude play on a swing-set his Grandpa’s built in our backyard.

Have a good one all! – Shea

Dec 31

2018

Hey All,

I almost didn’t blog for the whole year. To be truthful, it’s been hard to write this past year. Lots of amazing wonderful things have happened to me in 2018, but I’m exhausted. And this blog was easy to overlook. I want to write again, but at my own pace. I’m going to try to start again.

That said…. BEING A FATHER IS AWESOME! I have an amazing little mini me who is 20 months old and is just so much fun. He has made me grow in ways I never even knew imaginable.

Maker Faire Orlando 2018

My friend Jacob and I worked on an awesome project for Maker Faire Orlando this year, and I am so proud to say we won Maker of Merit! It is a deep honor to me to win that award. And of course it’s Raspberry Pi related 😀

We made a 4096 LED pixel framebuffer display powered by the Raspberry Pi!

LED Display playing a clone of Snake
Prototype at the Orlando Science Center

How it works?

We are using P10 LED panels as the basis for the screen. P10 means a 10mm dot pitch, so 10mm between each LED. They range from 3 – 10mm. The panels also usually come in a size of 16 x 32, but luckily they are daisy chainable!

The Raspberry Pi can even handle upto 32 of them in 3 chains! For our purposes we only used 8 16×32 panels in one chain.

8 P10 Panels, daisychained to an Adafruit LED matrix bonnet, connected to a Raspberry Pi 3b+, with power distributed via a CFOL Distro 8 board.

The above picture may look complicated, but it’s not that bad.

8 P10 panels are daisy chained together using a standard HUB75 cable (it’s like an smaller IDE cable).

The panels are mounted together with the orange and red 3D printed brackets.

The first panel is connected to a Raspberry Pi 3B+ via an Adafruit LED matrix bonnet.

The power for the panels and the Pi comes from a 10amp DC supply, which plugs into the bonnet. The bonnet powers the Pi, and has two screw terminals for the voltage output. The +/- screw terminals connect to a CFOL Distro 8 PCB (in the center of the board) which takes the input and breaks it out to 8 screw terminals. We only need 4 since each cable powers two panels, but it gives us room to expand.

After that we use https://github.com/adafruit/rpi-fb-matrix to copy whats on the HDMI framebuffer out onto the LED matrix!

and Voila! You now have a giant low resolution display!

Many thanks to Adafruit for making such a great beginner tutorial that we could jump from, and building a great bonnet for the Pi!

Happy Making and a Happy New Year! Here’s to a wonderful 2019 everyone!

-Shea

Sep 02

Monoprice Maker Ultimate or how 3 point leveling made 3D printing fun again

Hey All,

TL;DR: IMHO 3 point bed leveling is so much better than 4 point bed leveling and auto bed leveling.

So the PiPlay Portable Kickstarter has ended, and we have been doing tons of fulfillment these past few weeks.  One of the add-ons was originally a laser cut case, but realistically, it didn’t work well.

My friend Nick from P3DCreations was able to design us an awesome 3D printable case at the last minute, and the demand for it was high.  Higher than I could reasonably print on my current printers.  3D printing is a lot slower than laser cutting, so I needed to add a new printer to my “print farm”.

Enter the Monoprice Maker Ultimate

The Monoprice Maker Ultimate is a rebrand of the Wanhao D6 (or Duplicator 6) which itself is a mix of an Ultimaker and a Zortrax M200.  I have been printing with it non stop for the past 2 weeks and it has been a workhorse.  I love this printer.  It has made 3D printing fun for me again.  Pro Tip: Wait for it to go on sale, as I got mine for $550 shipped.

Leveling Up

The difference comes from how you level the bed.  The most common bed is a piece of aluminum with 4 screws attached at each corner.  As you screw down each corner, you are bending the bed, trying to make it flat enough for your print to adhere correctly at all points.  Realistically you end up warping the bed.  Every time you get one point leveled, you’ve just unleveled the opposite point.

Auto bed leveling uses a probe and triggers when it detects the bed.  It does this at multiple points on the bed at the beginning of each print to determine the shape and warpness of the bed, and then tries to correct the skew as it prints.  When it works it’s amazing, but if it doesn’t you risk damaging your bed, hotend, and printer components.  Also, depending on the controller board and software determines how well the software can compensate.

On the Maker Ultimate (and numerous other printers) the bed is leveled by 3 screws.  One in the front and 2 in the back.  Doing this makes a plane and makes leveling a quick affair that just works and tends to stay in place for longer.

I also like that the bed is stationary and just moves on the Z axis, rather than i3 type 3d printers that moves the bed on the Y axis.  I’m not a fan of how much motion is generated when moving the bed like that.  I’ve had failures due to the wobble of the bed causing a print to fall off.

There are many great i3 printers, and a well tuned printer will make good prints on any machine, but man, I’m so pleased with this Monoprice Maker Ultimate.

It’s made 3D printing fun again.