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…

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…

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.

Nerf Hammershot McCree Controller

Using a Nerf Hammershot and an Arduino, I built my own custom video game controller for the character of McCree in Overwatch. Overview The Arduino inside of the Nerf gun acts as a mouse and keyboard, sending HID commands over USB to the computer. The trigger and hammer are wired to buttons, and the cylinder is wired to a rotary encoder. Pulling the trigger fires, sliding the hammer back “fans the hammer”, and spinning the cylinder reloads. The gun also includes an inertial measurement unit (IMU) with an accelerometer and a gyroscope. This allows me to track movement for aiming. McCree’s…

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.

Building Musical Floppy Drive Breakout Boards

With power taken care of, the next step is to connect the data lines (step, direction, and drive select) to the Arduino. The easy way to do this is to carefully count the pin numbers, attach a female header cable to each pin, connect the step / direction pins to the correct Arduino numbers, and join the grounded connections on a breadboard. That’s the quick and easy way. But it’s also: A.) Tedious to set up / take down B.) Possible to make a wiring mistake C.) Prone to disconnects How do we fix all three of these problems? We build a…