DIY SparkFun Pro Micro with USB-A Port

Lately I’ve been working on a project that will use an Arduino to translate signals from a wireless receiver into USB HID inputs for my computer. I had the perfect microcontroller picked out too: the SparkFun Pro Micro, which uses the Arduino-compatible ATmega32U4 and has enough I/O pins for my project and then some. There’s just one problem – the Pro Micro doesn’t have a USB-A port to plug directly into a computer! Instead it has a micro USB-B port, and requires a short cable to connect it to a PC.

Luckily for me the Pro Micro, like many of SparkFun’s designs, is open source and licensed under Creative Commons Share-alike. So I decided to dive in and modify the design to create my own version of the Pro Micro with a USB-A port!


Flashing the BIOS to Fix a “Bricked” Lenovo Laptop

A few months ago I was attempting to reformat my laptop as a dual-boot machine with both Ubuntu and Windows 10 and I was having issues getting the boot manager to properly detect both operating systems. Shortly after changing a setting in the BIOS related to SATA operation, the laptop suddenly stopped working after rebooting. Powering it on resulted only in a pure black screen where after approximately fifteen seconds it flashed “Lenovo Misto Ontario”, and then nothing. It was true and thoroughly “bricked”.

I tried everything I knew to fix it, including pulling the CMOS battery, reformatting the hard drive, and trying to ‘auto-flash’ the BIOS from a USB drive – nothing worked. I’ve had this little Lenovo S205 netbook for a few years and although it’s gotten slower it’s always served me well.  And since it was working perfectly fine up until it er, wasn’t… it seemed like a waste to just throw it out without trying my best to fix it.

I’m happy to say that I succeeded. The solution was to reflash the BIOS chip with a replacement BIOS I found online, using an open source program called ‘flashrom’ and an Arduino acting as an SPI flash programmer. Here’s how I fixed it.


DIY Media Key Footswitch for PC

I spend a fair amount of time down in my garage working on things, and while I’m doing that I like to listen to music. I set up an old computer that runs Spotify and sends the audio to a pair of bookshelf speakers. This setup works great, but it requires using a keyboard and mouse to control it. Often times my hands will be gloved and coated with something nasty: grease, epoxy resin, paint, you name it. So I wanted to come up with some sort of method to control my music when my hands were unavailable.

This is what I came up with: a two button footswitch controller that connects with USB and handles play / pause, next track, previous track, and volume.

DIY PC Footswitch Using a Sustain Pedal

A couple of years ago I picked up an inexpensive sustain pedal for an electric piano at a garage sale. The piano itself wasn’t much to look at, but the pedal intrigued me… it’s a basic on/off switch, but the pedal itself feels fairly robust and I thought it would be a handy switch to have around.

This past week I finally got around to doing something with it! I built a small box that converts the signal from the pedal into a keypress, allowing me to use this pedal as a foot-controlled hotkey for my PC.


Back to the Future Time Circuits

The goal of this project is to build my own personal replica of the DeLorean’s “Time Circuits”, as featured in the Back to the Future movie trilogy. I’ll need to build custom time circuit displays, a custom keypad for changing the date, and screen-accurate enclosures. To make everything function, I’ll need to design and program some embedded circuits to control it all.