Archive for the ‘ hack ’ Category

DIY programming rig

Its been a long time since I have posted here. Life has been hectic for the past one year. Work and personal life has kept me busy. As a result I haven’t done much on the hack/tinker scene. So the first project i picked up was to create a programmer’s rig using a bunch of electronic gizmos that I had lying around. I have a collection of electronic gadgets that I have bought in the recent years and many of them have been lying around without being used much. So I decided to come up with a contraption that will try to get all of them working together to do something interesting. Lo and behold… the DIY programming rig.
What you see in the picture below is basically a Linksys NSLU server (third from the left), connected to a set of other devices – DLink wired-WiFi bridge, a powered USB hub and a Creative Audigy 2 NX USB soundcard. All the pieces are glued to each other using some double-sided tape. The idea here was to create something that can be put over the network and can work as my personal server. One immediate problem I faced was that this contraption leads to a lot of wires making the whole thing look messy. Things get more difficult to manage especially when you have a wife around who wants everything spic and span!
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So the first step was to trim out the excess length to make them more manageable. All the data cables – network, USB, etc., were the first to get trimmed.
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Even after this I was still left with four adapters supplying power to the devices. I had to make sure that this clutter is reduced as much as possible. The solution was to rip apart all the adapters and make a single power block out of it.

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The block was made using a old iPhone packaging box. This is a pretty sturdy one given that its made of cardboard. So all the stripped power adapters went into this box. I had to use some electrical and double-sided taping to make sure that they don’t move around inside the box. The finished power block looked pretty neat and portable.
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While my initial plan was to keep the block and the devices separate, I found that it would still looked cluttered because of the wires connecting the block and the devices. So I decided to use the block as a base and mount the devices on top of it. The end result is what you see below

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Now the obvious question is, what is this good for. I have few uses in mind on which I’ll start working on soon.
– A code repository: GIT, SVN, etc.
– A compile server: Using with the repository the server will automatically compile a project as and when a part of the code-base gets updated.
– I run a local electronics and software club (http://groups.google.com/group/computerclubin/) along with my friends. We teach how to create micro-controller circuits using Atmel’s ATMega series chips and how to program them. As a part of that, I want to use this rig for autocompiling and flashing the binary into the micro-controller.
– A media streaming server (done) – Serve audio and video over the network to iDevices (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, etc.).
– A audio player – This is a vanity feature just to make use of the sound card.
– Digital assistant: A interactive application, something like ‘Jarvis’ from the Iron Man series. I haven’t exactly figured out how to do it, but I’ll crack the problem sooner or later.

As and when I get more use-cases, I’ll update this list.

For now, this is my alpha version. There are still a few problems with this contraption. I am already facing problems with heating of the power supply circuits. The box in which they are housed doesn’t have proper ventilation. So running it for extended periods of time may lead to problems. Another issue is that even the devices get heated up and as a result the double-sided tape holding them together is starting to peel off. I have to either use some permanent adhesive or change the way these pieces are put together. But till then, this contraption will be my experimentation platform.

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