Modifying an RC Controller to Play Forza Horizon

I’ve always been fascinated by RC cars. The dynamics, the engineering, the speed… all wrapped up in a package that you can hold in one hand. Almost more than the cars themselves I’ve always loved the remotes. Ever since I watched Back to the Future and saw that awesome modded Futaba remote I’ve been captivated by the possibilities contained in one of those mystical black boxes. I was playing a racing game the other day when the idea came to me: what if I could modify an RC controller to control a racing game?

And just like that, I decided to convert an RC controller into a gamepad to play Forza Horizon 4.


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.