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Software Release Button

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Launching a ship is exciting! Maybe that ship is a rocket ship, or maybe it’s a traditional ship which floats in the water. When launching a ship there’s often a ceremony involving some champagne and pageantry and a party and it’s quite an event. (I’ve been to at least one boat launch, so I know what I’m talking about!)

When you launch a new version of your software, it’s not quite as exciting. I mean, it is, but in a different way. Sure, twenty years ago there was probably a lot of excitement around master discs and packaging and all that, but in 2019 with most software delivered as a service, it’s not much more than someone typing a few commands, clicking a mouse, and pressing the enter key. Not as exciting.

But! Some software company decided to make it exciting, and they asked me to help. They’ve now got a “Software Release Device” that they can connect to a computer, then turn the key to enable the device (which turns on a lamp letting them know it’s ready) and then they can switch between mouse and keyboard and hit the big read button to launch the latest version of their software to the world. Exciting!

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They made it pretty easy for me, as they specified most of the parts for the build. The lamp was meant to run on 24VDC but luckily it was just a matter of cutting open the housing, replacing some resistors, and gluing it all back together to get it to run on 3.3VDC, and it looks really nice.

If you’re interested in some sort of custom USB device, let me know… I’d love to build something for you.

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Soft Touch Controller & Joystick

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I recently built two custom controllers. The first was a joystick that sends key commands depending on the position. It was a simple electronic build, just incorporating a SparkFun Arcade Joystick into an enclosure.

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The person I built it for ask for the enclosure to be as small as possible, so the joystick is in there tight. I also painted the ball white and the screws holding things together black.

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The bottom piece of the enclosure does not use finger joints, as it’s held in place with screws. I ended up drilling holes for the screws later after I cut down some scrap wood into corner pieces that helped hold the enclosure together when gluing, and provided a place to screw the screws into.

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The other controller was create using Neoprene. I did not laser cut the Neoprene, but did cut a template from wood that I used to lay on top of the Neoprene and then carefully cut with an X-ACTO knife, which worked well enough.

There are two round laser cut pieces of plastic as well, that are covered with metallic tape, and then the two wires got taped down to the discs. The wires are attached to a Teensy LC on the other end, which has built-in capacitive touch capabilities.

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Some gaff tape holds together the sandwich of Neoprene to keep it all together. It’s pretty much impossible to pull it apart without destroying the Neoprene (I left that photo out) so hopefully it just works and no maintenance is ever needed.

This controller also sends keystrokes depending on which pad you touch. Oh, I also used a laser cut template to spray paint the two large white target areas. I wasn’t too pleased with the look of spray paint on Neoprene, but it’s the best I could do with a short timeline.