Quick Build – Bang & Olufsen Pi TV

At the same time as “needing” a new PI for my workbench I also ran out of space in what has become the Old Tech storage area. It was time for something bulky to either be used or go to the tip.

The bulkiest of them all was a Bang & Olufsen TV from 1987, a Beovision MX1500.  Not a truly iconic piece but a nice design for what it was, a 15″ CRT TV. I bought it over three years ago and it’s never worked, but I still didn’t have the heart to bin it. I thought I’d give it one last chance, deciding to dismantle it and see how easy it would be to convert it.

A straightforward teardown

The teardown went swimmingly, just literally a handful of screws and the whole thing came apart. With the CRT tube and the innards removed, all that was left was a perfectly-proportioned front section.

Just the front.

Now I needed to find a replacement screen. This part you literally couldn’t make up – I grabbed an old Dell monitor, held it in place for size and  realised it was an exact fit. Not just close mind, perfect to the point that the screen was in the right position and it was held securely in place just by its own friction, no glue or fixings needed.

The Bang & Olufsen wallpaper is a nice finishing touch

It only took minutes to connect up a tucked-away Pi and a wireless keyboard, and I was left stunned that somehow I had a fancy new appliance on my workbench less than an hour after taking the cumbersome TV apart.

Compact and clean, perfect for the workbench

It just goes to show that sometimes against all odds everything just slots into place! I’d been wilfully ignoring this TV for years but it’s now one of my favourite things. And best of all I’ve cleared space for more old junk, ready for whenever we make it back to the secondhand sales.

Half Hour Hack – ESP32 Weather Clock

I bought a cheap ESP32 board on a whim a few weeks back – it has WiFi and Bluetooth so I thought I’d better test it out by making some kind of IoT device!

Not rain again

After updating my Arduino IDE I to work with the ESP32 I looked for an appropriate example from the Adafruit IO library to start me off, choosing the Servo sketch . This sketch updates the position of a servo based on a value passed to an Adafruit IO feed – so for example if the feed is passed the value “90” then the servo will move to a mid-range point, the upper and lower limits being 0 and 180.

After connecting my servo to the board (VIN, GND and Pin 2) I poked it through the centre of an old clock and secured it with blu-tack, making a “pointer” by gluing a wooden drink stirrer to a servo arm.

Next I uploaded the sketch to the board, having added in my wifi details and specified the name of the “feed” that would do the controlling.

Small, cheap, powerful and accessible – what’s not to like?

Amazingly it worked first time, the pointer moved instantly when I edited the feed values on the Adafruit IO website. Next I popped over to IFTTT and set up three new Weather Underground “applets”…

…so that depending on the weather conditions at my location, either the value 0, 90 or 180 would be forwarded to the Adafruit feed.

Lastly I grabbed some vintage BBC weather icons and printed them out, sticking them on the clock to match the three pointer locations.

This was a great bit of fun and took just over half an hour, not including the icons. It really shows how accessible the ESP32 ecosystem can be, and the weather clock has been running reliably for several weeks now.

Quite often I’ll use a Raspberry Pi for a project and people will comment “you should have used an Arduino or ESP32” – I’m certainly guilty of sticking to what I’m comfortable with, but also practically I have a cupboard full of old Raspberry Pis (2s mostly) that I want to make use of! This was an enjoyable first outing into the world of ESP32 though, and I’m certain I’ll find the ideal project for one of these nifty little boards in the very near future.

 

 

 

 

Half Hour Hack – a Rabbit Ears @KodiTV case

I recently repaired the wall-mounted TV in my office (capacitors again), and decided it could do with an OSMC box, so that I’d be able to easily choose a movie or some music to have on in the background while working. The plain Raspberry Pi in a case didn’t really fit in with the rest of the decor, so I decided to give it a new/old home.

Rabbit Ears Kodi Box in action.

I started by taking apart an old “rabbit ears” TV aerial, stripping out the minimal internals (I’m sure decorative aerials were and continue to be the snake-oil of TV accessories). From here I drilled some holes to secure the Raspberry Pi board…

Bolting the Pi in place

… then used a Dremel cutting disc to chop out the rear of the case, allowing the Pi to peep out.

Holes are a bit untidy, good thing that’s the back!

I also chopped out a couple of holes for the Pi’s HDMI and power cables, so that all of the leads would emerge tidily out of the rear of the case. Although the OSMC menu is controlled with an infrared remote I didn’t need to add an IR diode to this box as I’m using a USB receiver, an old Microsoft Media Center unit.

Cables are kept tucked away

I’m really pleased with the end result, and the transformation from a Pi and cables to something much more decorative took literally half an hour.

New Project! 1963 Tele-LED Comfort Break Reminder

This old and unusual dial-less telephone now helps well-being and productivity to co-exist in the home office! Beneath its vintage grille a neopixel ring lights up 24 LEDs in sequence over an hour, switching to an eye-catching rainbow display when it’s time to take a break.

Ignore the rainbow and the LED ring starts flashing red, accompanied by a subtle but un-ignorable beep from the phone’s original buzzer unit.

That’s about 35 minutes.

To cancel the beeping or reset the timer at any time I just need to either press the button on the phone or momentarily lift the handset – both of which force me to get up and walk across the room.

Almost break time…

This project was nice & quick, just a bit of fun really, challenging myself to build something nice for the Instructables “Work from Home Speed Challenge” – but without buying anything new. I managed to re-use an old Zip Halo and Pi 2, learned a lot about controlling RGB LEDs, and ended up with a break reminder that I actually use daily.

The write-ups are available on Instructables and Hackster as usual, and the YouTube video should be embedded above.

 

A Case of Zero Security

I picked up an official Pi Zero case at the Pi Store last week and only opened it yesterday – I’m notoriously easily pleased but was thrilled to find there were three different case tops included! Plus, as icing on the cake, a tiny cable to connect a Pi camera module tidily inside one of the lids.

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As luck would have it I already had a Pi Zero W handy and set up with MotionEye so it took minutes to clip the whole thing into place. I’ve been looking for a nice security camera case for a while and this ticked all of the boxes at once.

I tried it on the dining room wall but the field of vision didn’t cover the whole room – something that was rectified by a £5 set of smartphone lenses from Tiger  – the set came with a fisheye and “diamond” lens but the Wide Angle one was perfect for the job. While there I also picked up a 3 metre white USB cable for £3, which let me mount the camera high up in the room.

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Cheap wide angle lens superglued to the case.

The lens was easily superglued to the case, and I made a bracket out of Lego to hold it at just the right angle near the slope of the ceiling. The case was fixed to the bracket using 3m self-adhesive velcro pads (on special this week at Lidl)

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Fixed to the wall with sticky velcro pads

To finish the job I tidied the cable with some thin self-adhesive conduit, which is mostly tucked away behind a curtain. I’m so pleased with the end result, it only took about a half-hour to put everything together and it looks really clean and subtle on the wall. Now I can keep an eye on the cats without needing them to wander right in front of the camera!

This was also a great first experiment with camera lenses – my next big Pi project is camera “focussed” and we’ll be using the wide angle lens again as part of the build. Maybe not a pink one this time though.

Portable @Raspberry_Pi Scratch / Prototyping Station

This old Dell monitor has been given a new life as a portable Scratch / Development station for Raspberry Pi projects – it has an integrated Pi 3 A+, fixed breadboard and Lego tape on either side for holding components in place.

A portable Pi workstation for Scratch and Prototyping

I put it together mainly to make it easier to dip in & out of Scratch projects with the kids – with the Pi and breadboard attached to the monitor it takes seconds to set up, and with the Lego tape either side the kids can build structures to hold LEDs and other components in place while building code.

It’s also really useful for me when I’m developing code for projects, having everything in one place makes it harder (but not impossible!) to get sidetracked by trailing wires and loose connections.

It works look!

My favourite part though is the Pibow Coupe Tangerine case (hotglued to the monitor) – I bought it because it looks great, but on assembly I noticed it has all of the GPIO pin numbers on it – this makes coding so much easier. I had originally planned to print & stick a GPIO guide on one side of the monitor but this saves all of the squinting and pin-counting.

Developing code is much more convenient now, but obviously not all frustrations and distractions can be removed.

Around the back the leads are all neatly cable-tied in place, with the Pi connected to the ol’ Dell with an HDMI > DVI adaptor. For power a single trailing extension lead connects it to the mains, with a plug-through USB adaptor fixed behind the monitor powering the screen and providing 2x 2.1a USB supplies for the Pi and accessories.

Nice jumper bandolier you have there!

It was great fun to put together, and the monitor only cost £5 at a charity shop, PAT tested with a fully tiltable base. It’s especially useful in the winter months when the workshop is icy cold but we still want to get hands-on with the Raspberry Pi.

Mickey the (USB Power) Bricky

A quick hack to bring some retro gaming cheer to a USB power bank!

I’m working on a Retropie project at the moment, and want the end result to be as portable as possible, so that only an HDMI cable is needed to connect it to a TV. I needed a power source with enough stamina to run the Pi through a gaming session, but without interfering with the analogue style and portability.

The solution – embed an unused 2500 mah power bank into an old gaming cassette box!

This Guji power bank came free with my phone and was the perfect solution – it’s almost exactly the same size as a cassette box.

 

 

 

 

A few trims with the Dremel and the box was easily modified to snugly hold the power bank, leaving a good air gap around it.

It’s a nice little solution and only took a few minutes, but the power bank is now much more tactile and will hopefully fit nicely with the finished project.

New Project: Retro-Fit a Google Home Mini

Bring some analogue style to your digital assistant by Retro-fitting it into an old cassette player or radio!

This simple and fun project only took an hour or so but brought a great-looking smart speaker to the wall of the workshop. I’ve covered the whole build from start to finish on YouTube…

… and the full build instructions are on Instructables and Hackster .

This is a great way to make practical use of an old or broken cassette player,  securely wall-mounting your Google Home Mini into the bargain.

I had the Home Mini kicking around the workshop in its box for almost a year before getting round to building this, and now I use it literally every day. It’s especially handy when you’re up to your elbows in solder and components and need to change the music or podcast.

Prep for #RaspberryFields

It’s less than a month to Raspberry Fields and we’re trying to get organised early to save a last minute panic!

After picking up an old TV turntable at the car boot at the weekend the Pi VCR is ready for show-and-tell time, but will it still work 3 years on?

Cards and stickers have also arrived, the kids are very excited about dishing these out, not sure we’ll have enough so come and get one early if you want one!

Showing the Google Pi Intercom and ’75 Info-TV is challenging as they’re both wall-mounted, so I’ve slung together a display stand out of scrap wood, including an illuminated Old Tech New Spec sign (currently taking up lounge space).

We’re super-excited to be a small part of this event and hope to see you there.

A Historical Pointer

Just imagine – It’s the 1970s, you’ve just returned from your first package holiday and the neighbours are assembled in your front parlour to sit through your slide show. The fondue is flowing. But how are you going to point out your hotel room or that dog in the background that stole your calamari? Use a bamboo cane like an animal?

Thankfully Boots has you covered, with their “brilliant light arrow” projecting Screen Pointer!

Another find from Beccles antique market, this piece of 70s culture set me back a modest £1.50. It’s basically just a torch with an arrow filter and a focus mechanism. I’m not sure how well or even if it works as the connections are corroded and the bulb long blown, but it could make a really interesting and practical conversion.

Using AA or coin cells instead of the original SP11 (C Cell) batteries would leave lots of room to manoeuvre inside, and the bulb could be replaced with a super-bright LED, a COB (Chip on Board) LED from a modern torch or even a laser, using the original switch to power it on.