The Evil Projector Project

A couple of months ago the thriftshop gods sent me an old carousel slide projector, but the slides that came with it pretty much sucked. Apparently people used to buy prefab slides of mountainscapes and rivers, which might have been coolio in 1962, but they're pretty boring to look at now. Then on Sunday (May 4 2008) the thriftshop gods sent me a box of slides of old ladies...

Obviously something needed to be done... The more I looked at them the more I thought it'd be some form of hilarious to show these pictures over a soundscape of Craigslist Casual Encounters ads being read by a robot, so I repurposed a program I wrote to read through Craigslist casual encounters posts and control the projector. It reads an ad, then advances to the next slide, then reads an ad, etc. For good measure it plays SomaFM's Drone Zone in the background. It can be very surreal when the pictures of gussied up old ladies from 1962 and the Craigslist lust align just so. To me it always sounds a bit like a Joe Frank episode.

Here's an hour of what it sounds like, streamable or downloadable in 128k MP3.

And here's approximately what it looks like. You can't really see the pictures in this video since it was shot with a digital stills camera, and is backlit, but it gets the general idea across. Note that I don't have all that many good slides and my carousel holds 140 so there's lots of filler in there, but hopefully I'm about to win an ebay auction of a bunch of family vacations so we're all doomed.

Whoops, you need Flash 9 to see this movie. It's free and easy to install if you follow that link.


Some notes on how its put together:

To control the projector from the computer, I hacked open the projector's remote control and routed the "next slide" connectors to a relay board. For the relay board, I had an old USB relay board lying around, but of course I'd long ago lost the drivers CD, and lo and behold the manufacturer didn't have them posted on their website... Getting the drivers was a bizarre adventure, with the "tech support" person at Softmark offering to snail mail me the CD from Australia. That's a nice enough offer, but I needed the drivers ASAP, so I had the odd experience of teaching this supposed techie how to FTP me the files. Sheesh.

I didn't want the laptop near the projector spoiling the look, so I made the connection betweeen the relay board and the projector wireless by using a garage door opener. So my program controlls the relay board, which triggers the button on the garage door opener, and the garage door opener's receiver is wired into the projector's "next slide" button, which loads the next slide. Works spectacularly well, every slide projector should come with a garage door opener. Here's a shitty pic of the garage door opener patched into the slide projector's stripped down remote:

So far the projector is working very well. It took a bit of work, but it moves to the next slide smoothly and (knock on keyboard) has yet to jam in automatic operation. But for the love of god don't ever press the "previous slide" button since it means I have to futz for like 20 minutes to unjam the thing, with slides falling everywhere and the world falling apart. But for now all is well in the world, and as I type its been happily debauching these nice old ladies for a few hours without a hitch.


Next steps:

- better slides, more slides of people. I have a couple of ebay auctions I'm bidding on, but so far I've found there's a bizarre amount of competition for old slides. I refuse to pay $75 for a bunch of old slides, trying to keep things in the thriftshop range of like $15, but so far other people keep out-bidding me. What the hell are they doing with all those slides?

- once its spiffed up, I'd like to mount the system in my hallway, since it's pitch black there. Could wire the projector into a relay too, and make the system motion sensitive, so when someone walks up the stairs it reads them a Craigslist ad while showing them a slide and then stops until the next motion is detected.

- take some pictures of the projector itself and maybe make a better video.


Parallel Projects

The theme of the week has been RF wireless hacking. Here's a couple of shitty pictures of a project Maxime and I made this weekend where we turned an old toy into a remote control for iTunes.

I installed a network harddrive with lots of music at her house, and she cooks a lot so I wanted to give her a way to skip to the next song and control volume without having to touch her computer. I picked up a Griffin Airclick RF remote control on ebay for like $12 shipped, which does a good job of controlling iTunes, but its tiny and not very food safe. I figured what could be more food safe than a kid's toy? We found this at the thriftshop for $1:

I'll update that picture later, but the gist is that it, like the Griffin Airclik, has 5 buttons: the center of the wheel and the 4 buttons around it. Perfect for volume up/down and next/prev and play.

Here it is opened up, with the Airclick wired into the buttons:

Unfortunately this was the best picture I got while it was apart. I used stripped ethernet cable for the wire. The flat board with all the wires soldered to it is the dissected Griffin Airclick, which comes apart very easily and is pretty simple to work with.

The toy went back together begrudgingly, but now everything is working great. Since its RF it works from the other side of the house, and no need to point it at anything. If I had a complaint its that the Griffin software is very limited, for example it doesn't support VLC or Zoom Player. Why on earth don't they release an SDK so people can write their own programs for it? But I found a page with a plugin someone reverse engineered for Zoom Player, if you need it let me know and I'll send it over.

Another wireless project this week (as I said, this is the week of wireless projects for me) was a wireless controller I made for my camera from a wireless doorbell. I've always wanted to figure out how to make wireless doorbells control a relay, since they're super cheap and have fantastic range. And with the CHDK firmware for Canon cameras you can make external buttons do some really amazing things. So here's my posting on the CHDK forum about my button and what you can do with it.

-Wrybread (5/5/08)