Smartboard Projector Project Abandoned

Back in August, Tom acquired several Smartboard-brand projectors and was interested in getting them to work as a normal projector would.  As you may recall from my original post on this project, these projectors will not display anything other than an error screen without their accompanying interactive whiteboards connected.

The original approach was to simply substitute my own video signal by swapping out some cables.  There is a dual-link DVI cable that attaches to the projector lamp assembly through the telescoping neck of the projector to its wall-mounted computer base, the Unifi 35.  I tried simply connecting a computer to the DVI connection on the lamp, but the lamp wouldn’t power on.  We eventually surmised that the lamp and the Unifi 35 were communicating somehow through the DVI cable and the lamp wouldn’t power on unless the computer detected that it was attached. Computers with DVI connections have the ability to detect when display devices are connected as well as instruct them to power on or off.

That led to trying to swap out individual pins in the cables.  I built three DVI breakout boards and set up a breadboard so I could mix and match pins from two sources and combine them to send on to the projector lamp.  I tried using the digital pins from my own source (a G5 Macintosh) and the analog pins from the Unifi 35.  After a lot of trial and error, it seemed the projector was communicating with the Unifi 35 somehow using either the analog pins on the DVI connection, the second digital link, or both.  Also, it seemed I could disconnect some pins after the projector was powered up, but I couldn’t start without them.  It looked something like this (table copied from Wikipedia):

Pin Description Purpose Required?
1 TMDS data 2− Digital red− (link 1) Required at all times
2 TMDS data 2+ Digital red+ (link 1) Required at all times
3 TMDS data 2/4 shield Required at all times?
4 TMDS data 4− Digital green− (link 2) Required at all times?
5 TMDS data 4+ Digital green+ (link 2) Required at all times?
6 DDC clock Required at startup only
7 DDC data Required at startup only
8 Analog vertical sync Required at startup only?
9 TMDS data 1− Digital green− (link 1) Required at all times
10 TMDS data 1+ Digital green+ (link 1) Required at all times
11 TMDS data 1/3 shield Required at all times?
12 TMDS data 3- Digital blue− (link 2) Required at all times?
13 TMDS data 3+ Digital blue+ (link 2) Required at all times?
14 +5 V Power for monitor when in standby Not required?
15 Ground Return for pin 14 and analog sync Not required?
16 Hot plug detect Not required?
17 TMDS data 0− Digital blue− (link 1) and digital sync Required at all times
18 TMDS data 0+ Digital blue+ (link 1) and digital sync Required at all times
19 TMDS data 0/5 shield Required at all times?
20 TMDS data 5− Digital red− (link 2) Required at all times?
21 TMDS data 5+ Digital red+ (link 2) Required at all times?
22 TMDS clock shield Required at all times?
23 TMDS clock+ Digital clock+ (links 1 and 2) Required at all times?
24 TMDS clock− Digital clock− (links 1 and 2) Required at all times?
C1 Analog red Required at startup only
C2 Analog green Required at startup only
C3 Analog blue Required at startup only
C4 Analog horizontal sync Required at startup only
C5 Analog ground Return for R, G, and B signals Required at startup only

After a lot of trial and error, I didn’t seem to be much closer to the goal of getting my own video source to display.  I also began to consider that the manufacturer may have switched around some pins between the Unifi 35 and the projector to prevent consumers from servicing the unit.  The DVI cable I was working with was internal to the machine after all.  There’s no reason any one would ever try to connect their computer’s DVI output to the lamp itself.  Signals leaving the Unifi 35 could be sent on a different pin than the DVI standard suggests and then rearranged back into the standard configuration at the lamp assembly.  I never really dismissed that possibility, but I also didn’t see much to support it.

I trudged on and hooked up an oscilloscope to monitor was was going on with the analog pins, C1 through C5, because they seemed to be critical to the lamp turning on, but not necessarily staying on. This is what I found:

Pin Description In Standby Mode Once Powered On
C1 Analog red 0v constant +3.3v constant:
C2 Analog green +5v constant +5v constant for 0.93 seconds every second then a brief flash for 0.07 seconds of this waveform:

+5v (58% of the time)
0v (42% of the time)
at ~1.2 kHz
C3 Analog blue +5v constant +5v constant for 0.93 seconds every second then a brief flash for 0.07 seconds of this waveform:

~0v and a more complex pattern (0.8 ms/3.5 ms)
+5v (0.8 ms/3.5 ms)
~0v and a more complex pattern (1.1 ms/3.5 ms)
+5v (0.8 ms/3.5 ms)
at ~285 Hz
C4 Analog horizontal sync 0v constant 0v constant for 0.93 seconds every second then a brief flash for 0.07 seconds of this waveform:
C5 Analog ground Reference for all Reference for all

Unsure of what these signals represented, I consulted with Royce, Tom, and a few others and worked up the courage to use a logic analyzer for the first time.  Most of the work was wiring the thing up and assigning names to the leads in the software.  My breakout boards turned out to be more fragile than I expected so I ended up resoldering a all of the flaky connections.  The Intronix 34-channel Logicport Analyzer is pretty slick and comes with some great software tutorials.  Once I got it going, it was fairly straight forward.  I can definitely see how this device can come in handy now that I’ve used it.

One of the first problems I ran into was the multitude of different voltages at work.  The Logicport software has a logic voltage threshold setting to help weed out logic from other signals, but I found myself dealing with signals less than 0v, as well as +3.3v, and +5.0v.  I eventually scanned the spectrum and sat, clicking the threshold up in small intervals of 0.05v, and watched to see if anything appeared on the screen.  It would seem that while in standby mode, some of the the TMDS data pins and the DDC clock and data pins are held above +2.0v.  Around 0.0v, some of the data shields show some variation between low and high during standby but as the projector is starting up, there are definite patterns on TMDS data shields 2/4, 0/5, and the clock shield.  TMDS link 1 shows some activity during startup in the +3.3v range and then shortly after link 2 does as well as the analog red pin.  Why a digital signal might appear on the analog pin is unclear.  I could be measuring it wrong also, but there does appear to be a signal there.  I also checked the analog pins during standby against what I saw with the oscilloscope and the numbers seem to agree except that the C4 horizontal analog sync pin showed voltage at or above +2.00v with the analyzer when the oscilloscope showed no voltage difference at all.

Since I was more interested in the control data than the video data, I focused my attention to the DDC clock and data pins to see if I could decipher how the projector and Unifi 35 were talking to each other.  PC monitors and projectors with DVI connections use a display data channel (DDC) and a standard called I2C (I squared C).  I found some great information on I2C and DDC protocols online here and here.  At +5.00v I read a portion of the communication between the Unifi 35 and the projector and tried to analyze it.  Unfortunately, the data doesn’t seem to follow what I’ve read on the I2C standard. The clock rises and falls unexpectedly, the start/stop commands don’t appear where I would expect them to, nothing resembles a 7-bit device address and there is seemingly no pattern to data.  The other logic analyzer screenshots can be found here.

We considered trying to spoof the USB connection to the whiteboard at one point, but that seemed to be problematic also.  I set up the logic analyzer and monitored the USB connection, but to no avail.  It’s possible that without the board to receive power from the USB port, there’s no way of telling how the board would communicate with the Unifi 35 and projector.  In a last ditch effort some weeks ago, I contacted Smart Technologies, makers of these products, and flat out asked them if the projectors could be used without the whiteboards.  The answer was, unfortunately, no.

I began to lose interest after this and once I got back to the project after the holidays, I decided to finally give up on it.  I would rather use my time on other projects.  It was by no means a waste as I gained more experience etching my own circuit boards, soldering annoying small connections, and I got comfortable with the logic analyzer; assuming I used it right.  I also became wary of computer cable vendors on Amazon.com.  During the project I needed some dual-link DVI cables, but when my order showed up, the second data link pins (the six in the middle of the connector) weren’t even wired.  I stuck a multimeter to them and found continuity on all but those six pins.  Needless to say, I left them some grumpy feedback and got a refund.  Thanks to everyone who helped and gave me advice.  As Shane said, “I doubt anyone else would have gone this far.”  I took that as a compliment.

December 6th Meeting Minutes

A total of 26 people attended the meeting; 2 via Google Hangout and 5 guests.

At least one of the guests had seen our poster at MSOE and others had found us through our website, the Make website, or Instructables.

The group discussed the progress of venting of the laser cutter.

There will be an Entrepreneur Meeting scheduled for this Sunday at 1 PM, hosted by David B to discuss business opportunities and ideas at the space.

The Electric Car Club will also be meeting Sunday.

Call for people’s projects to get added to the wiki: Projects

 

Laser Cutter Venting System Progress

The laser cutter is now connected to the new vacuum pump!  I’d still like to do some endurance testing on it to fully put it through it’s paces, and we need to finish the last leg of the vent pipes up in the loft, but otherwise you can use it to cut wood and such just as you did before.  I wouldn’t suggest cutting any plastic just yet as the vent pipe is just discharging over the hallway by the bathrooms.  There’s an instruction sheet on how to turn the vacuum pump on and off taped to the machine and my contact number if you run into problems.

You can see pictures here:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/milwaukeemakerspace/pool/with/6471649899/

November 29th Meeting Minutes

A total of 14 members were present and 2 guests attended the meeting.  We did not have Google Hangout up and running that night.

DIY CNC Day – December 4th

The CNC router has been repaired and Z-axis has been restored.  Come out and join us for the Third Monthly DIY CNC Day.  The event is loosely scheduled to begin noon however work will likely be going on all day Sunday.

Current Project Roundup

The meeting was fairly brief and concluded with members discussing various current projects.  Topics included larger than life winter yard decorations, curing the forge to begin using it, hammermills, electric truck suspension systems, DIY tongue & groove flooring, laser cutter projects, and the RFP for a Bay View Art Project.

November 1st Meeting Minutes

A total of 18 members were present, 3 joined via Google Hangout, and 5 guests attended the meeting.  At least three guests expressed interest in becoming a member that night.

Guest Introductions

After welcoming everyone, some guests went on a tour of the space while other members continued with the meeting.

Second DIY CNC Day – November 6th

Black Friday Hack-A-Thon – November 25th

Ideas for items to make were shared with the group.  Pete noted he has found some pieces to be made on the CNC router and Royce noted the tie-pin boards are on order.

Contacts and Promotion

Adam plans to drop some posters off with MSOE’s Studer Activities Office and Jason plans to speak with his contact at Marquette.  Royce mentioned he visited UWM’s Art and Technology Group last week.

Welding Equipment

Tom has some Hobart welders he plans to bring to the space and convert at least one to TIG welding for aluminum.

Space Clean-Up Day – Last Sunday of the Month

Kevin suggested we either move the day or schedule it later on Sunday to allow for more people to attend.  The group agreed and plans to meet next on November 27th at 1:00 PM.  Tom emphasized that the Clean-Up Day was always meant to be a Clean-Up and Cook-Out Day and we will plan to cook out next time.  Brant and Royce also plan to meet and salvage some of the lists and pages from the old website.  The Clean-Up Task List and Vendor List were among the most important.

New Video Ideas

David proposed doing a series of interviews with members and several people were interested.  Jason also mentioned that he would like to produce some quick “Meet the Maker” segments.

Storage

Ron and others pointed out that some pallets on the top of the pallet racks are difficult to reach safely with the forklift.  It was suggested that members with pallets on the lower racks or floor relocate their work or ensure the pallets are shelved as far back as they can be.

October 25th Meeting Minutes

A total of 12 members and 4 guests attended the meeting.

Guest Introductions

After we went around the room and spoke a bit about ourselves and what we do here, our three guests shared how they found our group.  The responses included Googling ‘electronics clubs,’ attending Electric Car Club Meetings at Tom’s House, finding us on Hackerspaces.org and meeting members at BarCampMilwaukee6.

Chill Out Space Proposed

Adam had suggested we consider building a “chill out space” for makers and guests to hang out, talk, and generally relax.  Our Lab and Library spaces are separated from the rest of the workshop, but still lack adequate space when others are present and working.  Other members agreed and enthusiastically brainstormed possible features of such a space including a couch, a TV, video game systems, a stereo, etc.  The Loft was proposed as likely the best location and immediately following the meeting, Adam, Kevin, Shane, and others walked through The Loft while continuing the discussion.

Skillshare

Earlier this week, Milwaukee was added to the number of cities with a Skillshare website.  The site connects teachers, instructors, and students together for classes and meetups as a sort of non-traditional learning community.  Our group is considering listing our Thursday Night Demos and other events on the site once more are scheduled.  See the website at: http://www.skillshare.com/learn?city=milwaukee

Future Demos

The list of possible demos people are interested in either hosting or attending continues to grow.  Demos and classes mentioned included welding, sweating copper pipes, an intro to AC/DC motors, Processing, Arduino, Blender, and OpenSCAD.

Housekeeping Items

Jason asked to begin considering online financial services for group business and invoicing since our current accounting software is somewhat lacking.  The group proposed that instead of paying for access to an online accounting service, we first check retailers and bookstores for discounted software.  Jason also mentioned that integrating the access control system with our accounting software would be a great item for our Space Wish List.

Matt N. mentioned that he visited a rapid fabrication workshop at MSOE earlier in the week and in his opinion powder systems are too messy and expensive and the parts they make are too fragile.  He recommended that if we want to add a rapid prototyping machine to our Wish List, we should consider the Ultimaker.

Matt N. also asked if the current CCTV system could be make to broadcast to the web so members and visitors could keep an eye on the space when not around.  He offered a $100 prize for anyone who manages to do so.  Obstacles to setting up such a webcam have included our bandwidth and ISP connection, software issues, and firewalls.

Adam noted he spoke with some people at MSOE regarding hanging up posters or distributing flyers and Brant said he would talk to Tom about seeing what it takes to underwrite an ad on WMSE.

 

 

First DIY CNC Club Meeting

Today marked the first monthly meeting of The DIY CNC Club at Milwaukee Makerspace.  Ron Bean and Tom Gondek, the creators of the router, guided members and guests through the use of CamBam CAD software to generate G-code and Mach3 software to operate and control the router.  The day before, Tom and Mike tested the machine’s ability to cut aluminum.  On Sunday, Rich created a decorative wooden sign and Brant began making plastic shapes for a project enclosure. As Ron pointed out, in less than 24 hours we had worked in three different materials: wood, metal, and plastic.

Several items were also crossed off our wish list.  Two emergency stop buttons were added to the front of the machine and wired together in series.  Hitting either one stops all motion in the X, Y, and Z planes and pauses the program.  We also built a relay-controlled receptacle box that when wired into the CNC computer, will be able to stop the spindle so hitting the E-stop will kill all motion in all axes and the router.  For some reason the pins we’re using on the parallel port are only producing 1.6 volts instead of the 3 or 5 we expected and the relays won’t turn on.  All in all, a very productive weekend.

October 18th Meeting Minutes

A total of 13 members and 1 guest attended the meeting.

“State of the Space” Presentation

Jason presented a series of charts and graphs that described various aspects of our group. Membership increased over the last few months with most gains happening after the Grand Opening in April.  Our peak number of members was 26; we had more but not all at the same time.  Some past members have moved away or left the group.  Jason noted that adding different classes of membership for students and part-timers has helped us grow.  Our financial situation is currently sustainable, however attracting new members would help support new projects and provide more of a cushion.  The conversation turned to attracting new members which led into the other discussions mentioned below.

Marketing and Promotion

Royce mentioned that someone from an UWM Arts & Technology group contacted him recently.  They were interested in our group and said we might be interested in theirs.  Royce asked if anyone would be willing to go to UWM in the future and see their group and space.  Matt, Brant, and Rich were interested.  Some other organizations and schools in the area that we would like to reach out to include MATC, WCTC, Marquette, MSOE, MIAD, and Alverno.  Brant and Tom also agreed to work on a potential radio ad or show.  The idea of a membership drive was also discussed.

Class Ideas

Past classes have been successful, however no new ones are currently scheduled.   Ideas discussed included Electric Motors by Brant, Processing by Pete and Jason, Arduino by Royce, Welding and/or Sweating Copper Pipes by Rich.  The group agreed that classes could be organized and scheduled to begin January or February 2012.

Guest Introductions

Housekeeping Items

A toilet in the Ladies’ Restroom was clogged and the floor is dirty from when the drain in the Janitor’s Closet was backflushed recently.  Tom noted that the lack of toilet paper supplies lately could mean others that use that restroom are using paper towels instead and that could more easily clog the drains.  Signs will be posted to dissuade any men from using the Ladies’ Room and any one from leaving a mess.  (On Thursday, Elizabeth posted signs, cleaned the bathroom, and bought a plunger.)

Royce, Tom, and Rich reminded everyone that broken drill bits can be recycled and are usually worth money.  A container will be provided by the drill presses to collect them in the future.