Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It’s no secret, I’m a big computer nerd. Even though I’m a computer programmer by day, my degree and heart still lie in computer engineering. It’s why I built my own arcade cabinet and it’s why I dabble around in computer hardware. My latest and favorite thing to do is to power devices via USB ports on a PC. USB devices require a regulated 5 volts that comes directly from the PC. A lot of USB devices (i.e. web cams, mice, keyboards) don’t even need to be plugged into an AC outlet because they get all the power they need right from the USB port itself. The nice thing is a lot of stuff you use everyday require only 5 volts to operate. Take anything you put 2 alkaline batteries into. Despite it needing only 3 volts, it can work perfectly off of 5 and without the assistance of batteries. What better way than to steel the power right off your computer!

It’s easy to do. Go out and by a USB cord extender for 5 bucks, chop off the female end (some bad irony there but it can be done), and splice apart your wires. Once you get past the shield (wire mesh surrounding more wires) you’ll find a happy little red and black wires (they might even be twisted together). You have now just located your 5 volts! Depending on how much voltage you need, you may need to throw a resistor in series with your device. If you want to dazzle your friends, go out and buy yourself a small 5V LED, and a small 1K Ohm (smaller if you want a brighter light) resistor, attach them in series, and then to the red and black wires of the USB cord, plug ‘er in and voila! You have a very nice homemade, battery-less lamp to light up your keyboard and mouse in the dead of night.

Go on! Give it a go! The worst thing you could is touch the black and red wires together while your USB cable is plugged into your PC and your PC is powered on. And even then all that will happen is catastrophic explosions and destruction! Don’t you wish! You’ll merely short out your PC and shut it down. Just pull out the USB cord and turn ‘er back on again and it’s like you never missed a beat! Get creative and use some clear rubber tubing and super bright LEDs and make yourself some real neat stuff! Have fun! And don’t forget to give me all the credit!

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