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Update: The (Former $250) NOW $120 DOS Tablet PC

Hp_usb_disk In May 2007, we published a project on Instructables that showed how to assemble a potentially useful tablet PC. Why was this project only a potential success? We couldn’t get the Fujitsu Stylistic 1000 to boot. All of that has changed and now we can boot the Tablet PC in DOS, Windows 95, and DSL Linux. The secret element that made this doorstop into a viable Tablet PC was a Windows tool called HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool V. 2.1.8. At the link, a Texan named Nox will supply all of the needed know-how for using this utility, as well as downloads for both HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool and a collection of boot files. Now don’t get too excited, these dated tablet PCs only worked really well when they were booted into DOS. So we converted ours into a dedicated DOS game machine. Skip the stylus and use an old salvaged PS/2 keyboard. Also, drop the battery and pick up a power supply. These two mods to our original project will shave about $135 off the project’s price tag. Not bad for around $120.—Dave Prochnow

Yes, But Can You Build It for Less Than 1M Yen?


Sure can; and PopSci sure did. Remember our All-Seeing Tank project (November 2007 issue)? Well, Sanyo has uniquely stumbled onto the same concept—remote-controlled home foundation inspection tanks. In our iteration, for less than two hundred bucks, we showed you how to convert an RC tank into a dirt-grubbing, IR-seeing, home-crawl-space runabout. Sanyo’s incarnation of a similar product features an IR camera, obstacle-avoidance software, and a custom mapping application for driving your tank through subterranean spaces, but sports a sobering price tag of ¥1,000,000 (roughly $8,736 USD). Sanyo calls their beast, “Yuka shita Inspection Robot.” Great minds must think alike. —Dave Prochnow

(Image: Sanyo)

Build It: Hack Your Doorbell


Ripped from the pages of Popular Science (December 2007)

Customize your dingdong with a “Dingtone”

It seems like everywhere you go, someone’s cell phone is playing a personalized ringtone. Whether annoying or clever, it’s your call, but inside your home, it’s still the domain of the boring “ding-dong.” Not for long, however. If you’ve got a spare MP3 player laying around your home, it’s time to hack your household doorbell system and create your own customized “dingtone.” Just like your cell phone’s ringtone, you can change your dingtone to match the season or your mood. Our seasonal dingtone selection? Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas;” natch.




(1) An MP3 player (e.g., Sandisk Sansa Express 1Gb Amazon.com #B000MD40N8;$38.72)
(1) MP3 player speaker (All Electronics #NGA-4; $4.35)
(1) 9V wall adapter (All Electronics #DCTX-960; $3.75)
(1) 78M05 Voltage Regulator (Digi-Key #LM78M05CTFS-ND; $0.55)
(1) 0.47mF 50V electrolytic capacitor (Digi-Key #493-1885-ND; $0.23)
(1) 0.1mF 50V electrolytic capacitor (Digi-Key #P925-ND; $0.18)

H2.WHOA! Make sure that the household power is disconnected from your doorbell system before you begin this project.

Load the song snippet onto the MP3 player. Disconnect the doorbell button from its low- voltage transformer, and connect the wires to the inside of the MP3 player’s Play button. Replace the transformer with the nine-volt DC wall adapter. Connect the five-volt voltage regulator’s input to the adapter, and attach its outputs to the USB female cable. Plug the MP3 player into the USB female cable, which will power and charge the player’s battery. Then attach another line from the wall adapter’s output to the MP3 speaker’s battery terminals.


Disassemble your doorbell. Take note of which wires are connected to the transformer (these notes will help you rebuild your doorbell, if you long for a dingdong, again). Remove the metal plates, electromagnetic coils, and movable plungers from the doorbell. Connect the MP3 speaker and squeeze both the MP3 player and speaker system into the doorbell housing.

Before you reconnect the household power, check all of your wiring with a multimeter. Restore power and program the MP3 player to play a song once (i.e., don’t repeat songs) and don’t power off (i.e., don’t power down or enter “sleep” mode). Run outside and press the doorbell button. Nah, go ahead, press it again and again. Your home now has a personality. It’s own dingtone.

Personalize Your Dingtones

If you’d like to try your hand at creating a unique dingtone for each regular visitor to your home, then this “mash-up” should get you started:


1. Replace your doorbell button with a Microsoft Fingerprint Reader Model No. 1033 and connect the reader to a dedicated PC (i.e., a PC that can remain “ON” for monitoring your fingerprint “doorbell”).

2. Install and configure Griaule Desktop Identity software.

3. Register Desktop Identity to play an MP3 “dingtone” for each unique fingerprint press. This effort could require some DOS batch programming outside the Desktop Identity application. —Dave Prochnow

Halloween Project: Put a Flying Bat in Your Belfry


Are you looking for a way to put some fright into your Halloween night? How about a flying bat circling around the heads of your guests? Armed with only a multimeter and couple of short lengths of wire, you can easily transform the WowWee FlyTech Dragonfly into a frightening dive-bombing bat—sans remote control. Yes, you can leave the radio control transmitter at home (except for recharging the bat’s internal LiPoly battery), because this bat takes to wing on its own terms.

Cost: $57.69
Time: 1 HOUR
Difficulty: EASY


WowWee FlyTech Dragonfly (RadioShack #60-167; $49.99)
(2) 1-inch lengths of wire (All Electronics #CCBL-10; $1.75)
Multimeter (All Electronics #AMM-241; $5.95)


Flat black paint
Scrap paper


Step 1. Carefully separate the Dragonfly’s two foam body halves. One blue “eye” LEDs has been glued into each one of these foam halves. You can elect to leave these LEDs intact, remove them, or swap them out with a pair of red LEDs. I elected to remove them—for conserving battery power.


Step 2. Use your multimeter to identify the main motor’s positive (+) and negative (-) connection points on the Dragonfly’s printed circuit board (PCB). These points should be labeled M+ and M- (or, M1+ and M1-), respectively. You might have to “unearth” the M- connection point from under a mound of glue gunk.


Step 3. Locate the ON positive (+) terminal and the ON negative (-) terminal on the Dragonfly’s power switch. Double-check that these terminals are in the ON position and not the OFF position on the switch.

Step 4. Solder a wire from the motor’s M+ connection point to the switch’s ON + terminal. Solder another wire from the motor’s M- connection point to the switch’s ON - terminal.

Step 5. Test the switch’s operation. When you flick it ON, you should receive full power wing flapping from the Dragonfly. Your bat is almost ready to take flight. You can switch the power OFF.


Step 6. Align the two foam body halves and glue them back together. Ensure that the gears and armatures move freely. Paint the foam body and tail flat black. Fashion two bat ears from the scrap paper and glue them into place.


Step 7. Switch the bat ON and launch it into flight. You should strive for a circular flight path. Try twisting the entire tail assembly to obtain the desired flight path.

Happy Halloween!


Lab Work: Piezoelectric Power

An explosive kit for exploring energy can be purchased from Educational Innovations. The Piezo Popper Kit (HS-2A; $7.50) is a simple fuel-powered engine that is triggered with a piezoelectric igniter.

Just fill the supplied film canister with two drops of a flammable liquid propellant, seal the canister, shake it (shaken, not stirred), and press the igniter. POP! The resulting explosion can catapult the film canister up to ten feet away from the startled scientist.

If the notion of juicing a film canister with a flammable liquid leaves you a little shaken, yourself, then consider this alternative testing technique:

What You’ll Need:

35mm Film Canister
Antacid Tablet


Antacid tablets like Alka-Seltzer® are potent rocket propellant systems. I kid you not. In addition to the antacid tablets, you will also need an empty 35mm film canister. These two items are your engine mount and propellant. Optionally, you can add a rolled paper tube that will snuggly and safely hold the engine (film canister). In my tests, I found that Fujifilm canisters are the best engines.

Now, rather than adding two drops of a flammable liquid, add measured amounts of the antacid tablet + measured volumes of water and record the mass of the canister and the height attained by the flying canister. You can apply these measurements to the same calculations used in the Piezo Popper Kit. Compare the results from a flammable canister’s flight versus an antacid-fueled voyage.

Just don’t expect NASA to begin replacing its booster rocket engines with antacid tablets anytime soon. —Dave Prochnow

Weekly Project: Drill-Powered Skateboard

Here's the first online-exclusive Weekly Project from regular How 2.0 contributor Dave Prochnow. Stay tuned for more as our favorite hacker cooks up something new each week. —Eds.

by PopScion Mar 7, 2007
Do you have a skateboard that is gathering dust in the corner of your garage? Breathe some new life into those wheels by zapping them with some volts. Specifically, attaching a battery-powered electric drill to the front of your skateboard will provide effortless nosegrinding and endless hours of fun.

Three factors will enhance your battery-powered skateboarding:

1. More Volts. Higher voltage battery-powered drills (at least 9.6V) will provide more minutes of skateboarding fun.

2. Greater Torque. Drills that can generate more torque will be able to move, ahem, heavier riders.

3. Big, Bad Rubber Wheel. The more rubber that meets the highway, the higher the performance.

Continue reading "Weekly Project: Drill-Powered Skateboard" »

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