Introduction: Put the Internet on Your TV!

Picture of Put the Internet on Your TV!

A couple of weeks ago, Christy ( Canida ) handed me a silvery antistatic bag of goodness that can contain only one thing: Electronic fun! It was a kit from Adafruit Industries, and I was tasked with building it and using it, followed by making it into an Instructable. That would be this Instructable. Onward!

-Bradley Powers

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need

1 YBox 2 Kit from Adafruit
1 Soldering Iron (I'd recommend an adjustable temp. iron set to 700° F)
1 Roll of Solder (preferably lead free, with rosin)
5 Electricity (for the soldering iron, later for the Ybox itself)
1 Computer (You don't need it, unless you want to configure anything on the Ybox. I strongly recommend a computer, as you might not care what the weather in Campbell, CA is like)
2 Internet (For the Ybox, and for the computer)
1 9V power supply from Adafruit
1 RCA Cable
1 Ethernet Cable
1 PCB Vise (recommended, you don't burn yourself as much. Unless you like that)
Some Love (All electronics projects require this)

Step 2: Check the Parts List.

Picture of Check the Parts List.

So, the very first thing that you should do with any kit is to verify that you have everything. Sometimes, parts go missing (they're rather small, and sneaky. Very sneaky.) and have a tendency to hide from anti-static bags. With that said, you should dump the kit out on your table, (desk, bed, floor) and check the list to verify that you have all of your parts. If not, contact Ladyada She'll take care of you. If so, let's move on.

Step 3: Solder

Picture of Solder

There is a set of instructions here which are well written and easy to follow. Basically, you are taking all of the parts from the kit, and putting them together using solder and love. Be careful that your soldering job is done well, you can always remove a part and try again. Clip the leads on each part if they are long. I used some miniature Diagonal Cutters.

Step 4: Plug It In!

Picture of Plug It In!

Ok, now that you have a YBox that is ready to go, plug in the Ethernet, RCA and power. You should see the bootloader screen for the YBox.

Step 5: Visit the YBox Online

Picture of Visit the YBox Online

That's right, your YBox is running its very own little webserver. Yaaay. Open up a web browser, and go to the IP address listed on the screen (Make sure you are connected to the same network as the Ybox). From here, you can configure the YBox to do your bidding.

Step 6: Upload New Programs

Picture of Upload New Programs

So, there are various programs for the YBox available here. You download these as precompiled binaries which you can then upload to the YBox. These include a Twitter Widget, an Alarm Clock widget, and others. You can also create your own widgets, but it is an involved process, and requires learning Spin (the Parallax Propellor's proprietary language) which is not in the scope of this Instructable.

This is how you upload programs from a Mac (Sadly (?) I do not know the specifics of this process on a PC, but you use curl from the command line there too). First, you open a terminal. This is located in /Applications/Utilities and is appropriately named Terminal. If you have never used terminal before, that's OK. Next, you need to change directory so that you can access the precompiled binary for the widget you want to use. I recommend you move that binary, which will be a .binary file, to your desktop. Then, in the terminal, you can type in:

cd Desktop

Then, to confirm that the command worked, type in:


Which should list all of the items on your desktop. If so, congrats! If not, try again.

Then, type in:

curl http://thingnumber1/stage2.eeprom -T thingnumber2.binary

Where thingnumber1 is the IP address of your Ybox, and thingnumber2.binary is the filename of the widget you wish to upload. Some lights should blink, and some dots should flash on your screen, and then your terminal will say 'Done' and some other junk. This means that the Ybox now has your widget.

Step 7: Restart Your YBox

Picture of Restart Your YBox

By unplugging and plugging in your YBox. Then, bask in the glory of the program you uploaded!

Step 8: Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

Picture of Rinse.  Lather.  Repeat.

Do cool stuff, learn spin, you can even put your Ybox in an Altoids tin. That was not supposed to rhyme. Ever.

Visit Adafruit Industries for more info, and more cool kits.


DJ Radio (author)2008-07-25

it's pretty good, but here's a much faster way....

Plug the TV to the computer as a monitor, and then use the internet!

LOL that was a joke....

adeii (author)DJ Radio2012-02-28

I've used Amiga 1200 and TV (as monitor) and surf internet in 1994!

Bor (author)2008-07-24

Hmm, I like my C64 better...

ReCreate (author)Bor2009-01-29


DavidRobertson (author)ReCreate2009-07-22

Commodore 64

ReCreate (author)DavidRobertson2009-07-22

Oh i get it! WOO Commodore 64! (Also, How could you get internet on a commodore?)

adeii (author)ReCreate2012-02-28

Well, YES!
We need serial (RS232 port) dial-up modem or TFE (The Final Ethernet) C64 Ethernet Cartridge.
And we got even 3 web-browsers for surfing: Hyperlink 2.5e, Contiki and Singular Browser 0.1!

Saturn V (author)ReCreate2010-09-07

I prefer C4 myself. Nothing's better for entertainment than making things go BOOM!

Dark Magis (author)2010-08-03

I am creating a little workshop in my basement (just starting out in electrical engineering), and I was wondering if by any chance you know what the best LCD (preferably from Adafruit, as they were the only place where I found the size I wanted) to hook up in a small space (not one of those small, 10 character two row things). By the way, wicked instructable. Thanks for posting it.

bradpowers (author)Dark Magis2010-08-03

Are you thinking like an LCD monitor, or a small LCD screen? If it's the latter, I like this one:;=37&products;_id=250

And this one:;=37&products;_id=250

You just have to pick whether you want white on black or black on green. That said, Sparkfun has a more impressive selection of screens like this PSP Screen (note, you'll need a relatively powerful microcontroll, think ARM7 or so, to drive this) or this:

Let me know if you have any other questions, or if I didn't answer this one very well.

Dark Magis (author)bradpowers2010-08-03

Thanks. I also prefer Sparkfun. Nice tutorial by the way.

bradpowers (author)Dark Magis2010-08-04

Thank you. Best of luck with your Electronics workshop, and your electrical engineering endeavor. Let me know if there's anything else I can do to help.

Brad Powers

OriginalMacMan (author)2008-10-08

Heres a hint get a PS3 or Wii then you don't have to waste your time!!!!

Here's another. This is not a waste of time. This is called doing something to learn. Sure, I could hook up a laptop to a TV, or use a Wii. But what will I have learned? Nothing. WIth this, I learned a new programming language, I refined my soldering skills, I wrote a killer program that parses html and displays arbitrary websites on the TV. While this did take me excessive amounts of time, I learned, I was able to share my new knowledge on this site, and I was able to make something amazing. How can you dismiss all that so easily?

tuleele (author)bradpowers2010-05-12

Wow brad what a way to stick it to them... most people forget that the name of this is isINSTRUCTABLES.COM and that great electronic engineers and hobbyists such as yourself do projects like this to learn, explore or just have fun. I give you big kudos for this instructable and your prrevious comment. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!

ReCreate (author)2009-10-28

Wow that's neat, How easily can you program it and in what language?

ReCreate (author)2009-03-03

so this can only view text from the web? no java,html,flash,asp,php,javascript, vbscript or anything else?

DavidRobertson (author)ReCreate2009-07-22

No, that is only a sample program. Other 'widgets' can be written in parallax propeller spin and uploaded either via the ethernet or through a parallax PropPlug

ReCreate (author)DavidRobertson2009-07-22

Oh, I get it thanks :)

Bobthewrecker (author)2008-09-28

I really don't understand why you would spend the time to do this if you can just connect the TV to a computer.

mrdepo96 (author)Bobthewrecker2009-06-23

I think he explained it above

Because this way, you don't need an expensive computer strapped to your television yo use twitter :D

Sandisk1duo (author)2008-07-25

so what can this thing do?

bradpowers (author)Sandisk1duo2008-07-25

That's the beauty of microcontrollers, it can do anything that you can program it to do. Typical applications include pulling data from a server or website, parsing it, and putting it on a television screen, but you could attach sensors to it and have it put that data on the web if you wanted.

Sandisk1duo (author)bradpowers2008-07-25

well, can you program it to convert VGA to TV?

DannyboyINXS (author)Sandisk1duo2008-07-26

its not a matter of programming... its just about finding the right connector... i believe there are ones out that have a VGA plug on one end (to computer) and 3 RGB Component cables on the other end (to a tv that supports component video)
these are the sort of things u would be looking for:

i managed to change my xbox 360 AV cable to have a vga plug on the end replacing the composite (yellow plug) which i never really used.
i was then able to have 2 options of using a component connection and a VGA connection....
btw, that was just for anyone interested in using a computer monitor for an xbox 360

Sandisk1duo (author)DannyboyINXS2008-07-26

did YOU make it?

DannyboyINXS (author)Sandisk1duo2008-07-27

if your talking about the xbox 360 VGA cable... then yes, but where i live, they don't sell Microsoft's version, so seeing i had the parts, i thought i would make it, following the tutorial carefully cos i didn't have the money for a replacement lol

Sandisk1duo (author)DannyboyINXS2008-07-27

but no way to convert S-Video/Composite(yellow) to VGA?

DannyboyINXS (author)Sandisk1duo2008-07-27

yeah sorry, reading over my comment, i realised i made a mistake, i meant component, i replaced the component plugs, i dont know about the yellow one

joe (author)2008-07-24

This is a neat product. The Parallax chip looks interesting, and having a web server, chip and carrier board all for $75 is a deal. I have used the bs2s for a while. But the parallax bs2 chip, a dev board and the parallax PINK web server come to way than $75 so this kit looks like a neat base for other projects. -Joe

bradpowers (author)joe2008-07-25

Yeah, the PINK server looks OK, but bottom line, all you need is an ethernet controller and some smart programming.

hondagofast (author)2008-07-24

I'd rather use Damn Small Linux on my old Pentium II. It has TV-out. And it's free. No coding.

bradpowers (author)hondagofast2008-07-25

Sounds good. This is hardly the only way to get content on your TV. If you have an interest in programming, in microcontrollers, in adding sensor input, then this might be for you, if not, I would imagine you wouldn't enjoy this kit.

mensmaximus (author)2008-07-24

Of no use to our poor elderly disabled group of boomers.

bradpowers (author)mensmaximus2008-07-25

That's not true, you could easily solder this thing up. You could totally even learn Spin and program this thing! Give it a shot, worst case, you have a device that will tell you what the weather is like in California!

Phoghat (author)mensmaximus2008-07-24

To quote Curly: "Hey, I resemble that remark" I'm a boomer and I'm going to build one. We are not all aging Dead Heads looking back at glory days, you young whipper snapper!

aeromancy (author)2008-07-21

This looks like it would be a fun project to build, and the finished product is awesome. One thing though, do you think that it is worth the $75?

bradpowers (author)aeromancy2008-07-21

Bottom line, this isn't just about the finished product. This is about learning (whether thats how to solder more effectively, learning about making something with a microcontroller, learning how to program, etc), the added benefit is that it does something cool. And yes, if there were a consumer product that was open source, programmable, and displayed information from the internet (I mean come on, TwitterTV) that cost $75, I'd jump all over it. This has the added benefit of needing to be built.

aeromancy (author)bradpowers2008-07-21

Okay, thanks for the information. I may purchase this in the future to learn to solder and program etc. By the way, this was a great Instructable.

bradpowers (author)aeromancy2008-07-21

Thank you for the praise. I'm glad that you're interested in the kit, it's been something I've been wanting to put together for a long time, but being a college student, I never did. Thanks to Limor (Ladyada) I was finally able to do it. Lots of fun, I (sort of) learned a new language, and now I always know what's up with my friends' Twitter feeds. Win-win-win... Have fun!

Wragie (author)bradpowers2008-07-24

Nice one. That is rather an interesting kit with a (whole)lot of possibilities for playing down the road. The P8x processor is also rather interesting, would be even if it didn't have the video built in. It is definitely worth the $75. Once you have it built you could do quite a few different projects and have the results display on your tv.

bradpowers (author)Wragie2008-07-24

Definitely. I'm considering doing something with it and an RFID reader at school

Thornburg (author)2008-07-23

Nice pics, and great detail. Favorited.

bradpowers (author)Thornburg2008-07-23

Thank you.

Computothought (author)2008-07-23

Hmmm that would be a great idea for an old p1 with a cga card. I could install dsl linux or the sort.

cotton (author)2008-07-22

of i just firgured somthin out yo can use your phones internbet connaction tablet iphone itouch and more to chang the things you do

bradpowers (author)cotton2008-07-23


osgeld (author)2008-07-21

well this is defiantly cool as a kit, it teaches some basic electronic assembly, lets you work on your soldering, shows you how to access embedded web devices, and some simple transfer concepts other than plugging in a chip, i dont fully agree with "working with a mcu" nor do i really consider ftping a precompiled program "programming" almost everything above could be done with a pong kit for far less ( would i buy it, heck yea! is it worth 75$ in the end imo no if you have no intrest in electronics one could put fully graphical internet (and a crapton more) on your tv for 70$ and modding your xbox .. which has about the same level of "programming" that this does

bradpowers (author)osgeld2008-07-21

Well, you certainly aren't limited to simply ftping a precompiled program to the chip. I definitely had fun writing my own programs, however, I left it out of the Instructable, as it is a relatively complex topic. My goal was to show how to use the YBox, not how to program in Spin, or how to add external devices like sensors and such. I could have done that in this Instructable, and may do that in a later Instructable, but making something super long makes people lose interest.

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