Hack This (Book!)

Hack This

Next time you’re out book shopping, consider grabbing Hack This: 24 Incredible Hackerspace Projects from the DIY Movement… and when you do, you can read about Milwaukee Makerspace!

Besides being a book that covers 25 incredible projects, it also looks at the people and spaces that created them, and gives a nice overview of hacker/makerspaces, and what you need to do to get one started in your area.

With the holidays coming up, you may want to add this to your wish list. (Personally, I couldn’t wait, so I ordered mine, got it already, and started reading it!)

Smartboard Projector Hacking

Several Smartboard projectors arrived at Tom’s warehouse recently sans the whiteboard parts. The devices consist of a “Smartboard Unifi 35” computer with various video/audio connections and a projector mounted on the end of a telescoping arm. The whole rig is mounted on the wall above a touch-sensitive whiteboard and the projector beams the image back at the board. Unfortunately, without the whiteboards, the projector won’t display anything more than a prompt telling us to connect the board.

I immediately took interest in this project as I’ve been using boards like these at work for a few years now.  So with the help of several other makers, we’ve managed to cobble together some ideas on how to make use of the projector portion.

The best strategy we’ve come up with so far is to substitute the video signal from the original computer with our own.  In order to do so, we’ve built three DVI breakout boards to pick individual pins from one device or another and feed them into the projector.

We’ve spent $0 and about 20 man-hours of labor so far.  It would be less but my DipTrace and PCB etching skills are rusty.  The boards took all day Saturday, 9/10 to design, etch, drill, solder, and test, but around midnight I got to check my first two hypotheses:

  1. Substitute the (6) data link 1 pins from our own source and connect all the rest from the Unifi 35
  2. Substitute the (6) data link 1 pins from our own source and TMDS shield/clock pins and connect all the rest from the Unifi 35

Sadly neither worked, but after some research on various protocols (see: EDID, DVI, TMDS, etc.), swapping additional pins may give us what we want.

If none of this pans out, we’ll probably look into faking the whiteboard signal.  I’d hate to think the projectors are useless without the whiteboards.  These things are just too cool to scrap.