Looking inside without opening

One of the first steps while hacking any electronics is opening up the case and study the components used in the circuit board. If you are lazy or do want want to risk opening the case for whatever reason, there is a quick way to get a glimpse of the components inside the case, if the object you are hacking is FCC certified. I learned recently that you can get a considerable amount of information from FCC’s database, if you know the ID of the product or manufacturer. To test it out, I checked the remote for my tiny quad-copter for the FCC ID.

Proto-X Quad-copter remote
Proto-X Quad-copter remote

I went to FCC’s ID search form located at http://transition.fcc.gov/oet/ea/fccid/ and searched with the ID I found on the remote. As expected, the records showed up:

FCC Records
FCC Records

And one of the entries was “Internal Photo”. Clicking on it opened up a PDF with pictures of the circuit board inside the case:

Proto- X Remote Interiors
Proto- X Remote Interiors

If you poke around further, you might find some cool information. Have fun!

When work is play, literally – PS3 Sixaxis controlling Altium Designer

I do most of my design work in Altium Designer. I got tired of scrolling with my mouse, so wanted to spice things up. I found a PS3 Sixaxis controller lying around and thought it would make a cool controller.

Altium controlled with PS3 Sixaxis controller
Altium controlled with PS3 Sixaxis controller

I found drivers for the controller developed by MotioninJoy, which are available for free download. They also have a well written wiki and an active support forum. Here is how you bake the bun:

  1. Get the latest stable version of the driver (choose 32 bit or 64 bit carefully) and follow the installation instructions given here.
  2. Connect the controller. I do not have a bluetooth receiver, so I connected using a USB cable (you will need a mini-usb to usb cable).
  3. After making sure that the controller is properly recognized and listed, click on “Profiles”. Select the “Custom” profile and click on “==>Create”.
  4. You ‘ll see a window where you can configure each controller input. See picture below:
    MotioninJoy profile editor
    MotioninJoy profile editor

    Edit the profile to match your usage. I configured one joystick for moving the cursor and another joystick for scrolling. Right buttons for mouse buttons and Esc key and few other buttons as different keystrokes for using keyboard shortcuts in Altium (e.g. P->V for placing a Via).

  5. Once done editing, click on “Enable”. There you go. The coolest controller for laying out PCBs!

This is just one usage example. You can customize the controller profile for any application you use. You can also Import/Export profiles, so that you need not configure it each time.

Imagine inserting a local pattern in Solidworks with press of a single button! Have fun!