As I explained earlier, I got a new work-machine and bought a new set of headphones to enjoy music while I work. Being architect/lead engineer/technical consultant means that a lot of people drop by to ask me questions -- often, answering such questions takes only a minute. But when you're working with your headphones on, it's kind of a drag to have to focus Winamp, pause the music, and then take off your headphones. Especially when you're doing this about 20 times a day.
Some of you may say: "Oh, but why not simply take off your headphones and leave the music running? Well, I prefer to hear all of the music I'm listening to. Perhaps I'm weird that way, sue me.
So, when I came by a message on the "Gathering of Tweakers" which detailed the Winamp ComPort Control, I knew this was the tool to scratch this particular itch. I wanted at least 5 buttons: pause, volume up, volume down, previous track and next track.
So I bought a few handsome square buttons and a plastic housing. However, when I went to work on this project, I thought the box was kind of large for only having five buttons. In Groningen, we had bought two very small wooden boxes, and those seemed perfect for the job! A bit of drilling and filing created five holes large enough for the buttons, and another drilling-and-filing session yielded a hole large enough for a 9-pins serial connector.
The Winamp Comport Control comes in three variants: 4 buttons, 8 buttons (with one of the 4 buttons acting like a 'shift' button) and 15 buttons. I used the schematic for 15 buttons. Basically, you build a BCD keypad, using diodes to prevent accidental spilling of current from one line to the next. I needed only 2 diodes, the schematic is ridiculously simple.
The box as seen from the front. The left button is 'previous track', right button is 'next track'. Top button is 'volume 1/8th up', bottom button is 'volume 1/8th down'. The middle, red button is 'pause'. I didn't add buttons for the rest of the control, because when I select a playlist or something like that, I already have Winamp open and can configure it with the mouse.
View from the side.
View from the back. Note the hinges and the serial port connector.
View from the inside. There's not much room in the box, because the buttons are pretty tall. The circuit board is pressed against the floor of the case, but that's not too much of a problem.
And... it works! After a bit of configuring, I had Winamp obeying my every whim, without touching the mouse or keyboard! Good thing I got a few more serial cables in Groningen, too: now I can take one with me to work.
In more serious news: I've almost run out of soldering alloy. Need to get some more in the near future.