Category Archives: Hackspace projects

Spacehack upgrades, Just in time!

You may have spotted a little while ago that we got a place at Maker Faire UK for the fourth year in a row.

For the past few years, setting up Spacehack hasn’t been a simple job, mainly because of how the server box (the gold pyramid) was a flimsy cardboard box with various things taped to it. We also had issues with the four consoles. Many LCDs were failing, pots not rotating correctly, switches not working or missing. So we had to do some upgrades.

One of the most ambitious upgrades was the server box upgrade. We wanted to get this one done before the Maker Faire this weekend, to make setup easier. I’m pleased to say that we have completed it on time! You can look forward to seeing the new server box this weekend.

The upgrades have enabled us to make the server more rugged and much more compact. We’ve eliminated the need for three of the five power supplies by making everything run on 5v. We even have a touch-screen GUI for managing the game. The GUI’s written in pascal, of course. 🙂

Just to be clear about why this needed doing; see this picture of the guts of the original server box. Yuk!

The Long-Awaited Low-Temperature Tuck Shop.

After having this lovely glass-sided fridge in the hackspace for many weeks, we’ve finally got it to a working state.

We got the fridge for free, in mostly working condition. It really needed a clean and the fan motor was very noisy. It also had a fluorescent light bulb in the top, which wasn’t working. We tried fixing the fan, but couldn’t get it quiet-enough to prevent it being a nuisance to people working in the hackspace. In the end we decided to replace the fan with an old PC cooling fan that was much quieter.

While we had the thing open, we decided to do something about the lighting. We removed the old light bulb and instead fitted some much lower power LED strips inside the fridge. Nick did a great job of wiring these up to the switch for the old light and even added a little microswitch to detect the door opening and turn on the white lights to make it a little easier to see. (As pretty as the blue and red lights are, they’re not ideal for reading labels on things.)

Let us know what we should stock!


It’s good to have places to put things

After much discussion, we finally decided what we needed to do to make better use of the space we have. We haven’t quite got it all done, but we’re most of the way there, so we decided to share some photos of how it’s going.

What we wanted was a shelf above the electronics workbench so that we could put all of the test equipment on the shelf so that it leaves the workspace below free. Most of the wood we used came from old pallets, the shelf is one large plywood sheet that was otherwise going to end up in a skip. In addition to the large shelf, we have most of what we need to in place for some extra smaller shelves above.

Of course this shelf is going to cast a shadow onto the desk, but with an abundance of white LED strips in the hackspace, it’s just a matter of time before somebody sticks one to the bottom of the shelf.

We’ve also addressed the issue of the overflowing bookshelf and cupboard. They now have a friend in the form of a black plastic shelf unit.

Who’s been labelling things in the space?

It’s very nearly Christmas, but there’s time for us to share one more hack.

Lots of printing, some of it good.

Lots of test prints, one good badge.

A little while ago, John brought an old till receipt printer to the hackspace to be hacked. Recently the temptation to do something with it got the better of me. You may [or may not] remember from the post about all the retro computer projects in the space, that I have a ZX spectrum that I’ve been playing around with lately. It’s a 48k Spectrum and I’ve got a Kempston Centronics E Interface for it. The centronics interface lets it talk to any printer with a centronics connection. John’s printer is actually fairly modern. It certainly wasn’t around in the eighties when the spectrum was. I think it’s probably mid-noughties era. It’s an Epson TM-T88ii. Nevertheless, it’s fairly easy to get the spectrum to drive this modern printer.

After a little bit of trial and error to get all the right escape sequences for text size, boldness, justification and cutting the paper after a print, I was able to get the spectrum to print name badges. I wrote a program that asks for your name and prints a “Hi, my name is…” badge on receipt paper.

If you have a spectrum with a centronics interface and a suitable printer, you can give the program a try! The code is on github in the form of a wav file recorded direct from the spectrum used here.

A word of caution if you do though, you might get carried away with yourself. When it’s as easy as just typing in a string and pressing enter, you’ll print lots of badges. I will leave you with these photos of the many badges I left around the space.

Have a great Christmas.


A multimedia system fit for a hackspace

Being able to leave equipment permanently in place and attached to the walls or ceiling is a luxury we gained when we moved in to our new space. So naturally enough, when we had a projector and an amplifier system lying around doing nothing, it only made sense to give the space a proper multimedia setup.

Projector showing demo image

We put the projector on the ceiling a little while ago, but hadn’t really connected it up until we got the amp and speakers.

With a little bit of planning followed by shopping for the right cables, we now have a setup that should cater for most circumstances. Our projector can now take HDMI, VGA or Mini Displayport (or anything else you can convert to HDMI) with sound provided via a Cambridge audio A1 mk3 Stereo amplifier.

Cambridge audio amplifier and speakers

We can also cast audio to a Raspberry Pi using DLNA. The Pi is connected directly to the amp at the moment and so only does audio, but we plan to get an HDMI switch that will allow us to use the Pi for casting video to the projector without having to sacrifice the wired option.

Raspberry Pi in case, connected to amp

This solution makes it easy to connect almost any device we need to the system. The long HDMI cable ends at a desk on the other side of the room that is convenient for placing a laptop for showing a video or presentation. As the HDMI cable carries both audio and video, this is the only cable we need going to the projector setup, where a converter box splits the HDMI out to VGA and a pair or RCA connectors for audio. Unfortunately the projector doesn’t have any digital inputs, so we had to go for VGA. The other input options are provided by a kit of converters.

HDMI converter boxVideo format converters

We still need to get the speakers mounted on the wall for a proper cinema experience.

The software for the DLNA was a little awkward, but we got it working in the end. The Pi is running GMediaRenderer, a DLNA renderer for GStreamer. This had to be compiled from source and took some fiddling before it worked how we wanted it. This was worth doing though as we were then able to customise how it looked in the client app. Our logo is on it! We can already cast sound from laptops too, pulseaudio-dlna can cast sound from your linux PC to any DLNA device on the network and it works great.