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What Are Some Simple But Useful Technology Hacks?

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What Are Some Simple But Useful Technology Hacks?

Not exactly programming, but here are a couple of things I "hacked". In the foreground is what I've been referring to as the Electra-Sketch. Basically, it's an Etch-a-Sketch with all the mechanics replaced with the dismembered internals of an old-style ball mouse. The left and right dials "trick" the electronics to think the mouse ball is being rolled so t move the cursor left-right and up-down. Of the two buttons on the left, the lower one triggers a "left click", whilst the upper one locks down to provide a "pen down" function in drawing programs to replicate standard Etch-a-Sketch functionality. The right button is a simple right click. In the centre is the scroll wheel and middle mouse button. In the background is a Scalextric Lap Timer I made, hacked together from a USB keyboard and some infra-red photo-diodes. Cars crossing the finish line break the infra-red beams which causes a relay to trick the keyboard controller into thinking a "1" or "2" key has been pressed. The laptop is running a HTML5 application I wrote to provide nice pretty graphs and statistics of pseudo high precision (10,000th of second) lap times. (Alpha quality software is available at http.//laptimer.holisticsystems.co.uk) The Electra-Sketch is, of course, being used as a mouse replacement to control the laptop ;)

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The Selectric Lap Timer is being used as a data acquisition system to record lap times, as a way to track car distances driven and to test whether my algorithm is working optimally. My algorithms were implemented in C++ and compiled on the laptop myself. Please do contact me if you would like more information on the Electra-Sketch and the Selectric Lap Timer.