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Ephemeral Photographs Staged with Artful Inventions

อังคาร, 12/09/2014 - 13:00

[Gordon Kirkwood’s] focus as a photographer is in capturing ephemeral phenomena, that is, things that are exhilarating to see but also fleeting. In the pursuit of documenting such blips of beauty found in the natural word, he has taken on engineering the circumstance through which they occur by means of technology.

One of the amazing mechanical creations he’s constructed to aid in his photography is a large computer controlled, bubble blower. A few stepper motors work to dilate three segments of soap-soaked rope engaged at 120 degree angles to create a triangular aperture. When the aperture closes, the segments overlap slightly, covering themselves with a consistent coating of suds. When the segments stretch apart, a fan blows a current of air towards the center, pushing the sheath of fluid into ginormous glimmering orbs which he uses as the focal point in some of his photographs.

More currently, [Gordon] has been developing a body of work that involves zapping botanical subject matter with a quarter-million volts from a portable arc producing device he’s created and capturing the reaction with an ultra low-tech camera (the kind with the bellow and sheet you hide under while exposing the film). Using a method all his own, the shots recorded on large format film are claimed to turn out with even more clarity than any current digital camera in use today. [Gordon] has launched a crowd funding campaign to support a pilgrimage to the majestic island of Hawaii, where he’ll use his lightning producing apparatus on ten different specimens of tropical plant life so that he can record the outcome with his tried and proven technique. (see below an artsy shot of his lightning summoner)

Sometimes Kickstarter isn’t so much about commercialism as it is starting a dialogue with the world and beginning a personal adventure. May the journey lead to new inventions and larger, more ambitious projects! Oh yeah- the bubble blowing machine is a must-see in action. Wicked cool:

 


Filed under: misc hacks

An MSP430-based Automatic Fish Feeder

อังคาร, 12/09/2014 - 10:00

[Dmitri] wanted to buy an automatic feeding setup for his aquarium, but he found that most off-the-shelf feeders are really inaccurate with portion control. [Dmitri]’s fish is sensitive to overfeeding, so an off-the-shelf feeder wouldn’t get the job done. Since [Dmitri] knows a thing or two about electronics, he set out to build his own microcontroller-based automatic feeding machine.

[Dmitri]’s machine is based around a MSP430 that starts feeding at scheduled times and controls how much food is dispensed. The MSP lives on a custom PCB that [Dmitri] designed, which includes a stepper motor driver and input for an endstop sensor. The board is wired to a stepper motor that advances a small wooden board with a series of holes in it. Each hole is filled with a single serving of food. The board slides along a piece of U-channel, and food drops out of each hole into the aquarium when the hole reaches the end of the channel.

The whole build is very well documented, and [Dmitri] explains each block of his schematic in detail. His firmware is also open-source, so you can build your own fish feeder based off of his design. Check out the video after the break to see the feeder in action.


Filed under: home hacks

Making T-Glase Crystal Clear

อังคาร, 12/09/2014 - 07:00

There are 3D printing filaments out there with a lot of interesting properties. Whether it’s the sanded-down MDF feel you get from Laywood, the stretchy and squishy but somehow indestructible feel of Ninjaflex, or just regular ‘ol PLA, there’s a filament out there for just about any use. Even optically clear printed objects. Yes, you can now do some post-processing on printed parts to make T-glase crystal clear.

The big advance allowing translucent parts to be made clear is a new product from Smooth-On that’s meant to be a protective and smoothing coating for 3D printed objects. With PLA, ABS, and powder printed parts, this coating turns objects shiny and smooth. Strangely – and I don’t think anyone planned this – it also has the same index of refraction as T-glase. This means coating an object printed with T-glase will render the layers invisible, smooth out the tiny bumps in the print, and turn a single-walled object clear.

There is a special technique to making clear objects with T-glase. The walls of the print must be a single layer. You’ll also want a perfect layer height on your print – you’re looking for cylindrical layers, not a nozzle that squirts out to the side.

The coating for the pictures above was applied on a makeshift lathe built out of an electric drill and a sanding pad. This gave the coating a nice, even layer until it dried. After a few tests, it was determined lenses could be printed with this technique. It might not be good enough for 3D printed eyeglasses, but it’s more than sufficient for creating windows for a model, portholes for an underwater ROV, or anything else where you want nothing but light inside an enclosure.


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

EDC CONTEST ROUNDUP: Musician’s Assistant AND BitMasher!

อังคาร, 12/09/2014 - 04:00

We’re getting all sorts of entries in the Trinket Everyday Carry Contest! Today we’re featuring just a couple of the awesome entries dedicated to creating music!

[johnowhitaker] is hard at work on A Musician’s Assistant. [John] is creating a device that does anything a practicing musician might need on the go. The Musician’s Assistant will include a metronome, tap/temp counter, and tuner. He’s hoping to also give it the ability to play back arbitrary notes using the Pro Trinket’s on-board ATmega328. [John] is trying to do all this with just LEDs and buttons as a user interface, though he is willing to go to an LCD or OLED if he needs to.

[Michele Perla] is working on BitMasher, portable lo-fi music sequencer. The BitMasher will allow a musician on the go to create music anywhere. [Michele] began with a SID based sequencer in mind, but he’s currently trying to do it all on the Pro Trinket. He’s already got [Roman’s] BTc Sound Compression Algorithm working on an Arduino Leonardo. Lo-Fi for sure, but that’s what makes BitMasher fun! [Michele] envisions the song entry to be similar to that of the classic Roland TR-808.  The primary user interface will be an Adafruit Trellis 4×4 button+LED driver board.

Don’t forget that our second random drawing will be held on Tuesday, December 9th, at 9pm EST.  To be eligible you need to submit your project as an official entry and publish at least one project log during the week. This week’s prize is a Cordwood Puzzle from The Hackaday Store. Check out the contest page for the full details!


Filed under: contests, Featured

Compiling Your Own Programs For The ESP8266

อังคาร, 12/09/2014 - 01:00

When the ESP8266 was first announced to the world, we were shocked that someone was able to make a cheap, accessible UART to WiFi bridge. Until we get some spectrum opened up and better hardware, this is the part you need to build an Internet of Things thing.

It didn’t stop there, though. Some extremely clever people figured out the ESP8266 had a reasonably high-power microcontroller on board, a lot of Flash, and a good amount of RAM. It looked like you could just use the ESP8266 as a controller unto itself; with this chip, all you need to do is write some code for the ESP, and you have a complete solution for your Internet connected blinking lights or WiFi enabled toaster. Whatever the hip things the cool kids are doing these days, I guess.

But how do you set up your toolchain for the ESP8266? How do you build projects? How do you even upload the thing? Yes, it’s complicated, but never fear; [CNLohr] is here to make things easy for you. He’s put together a video that goes through all the steps to getting the toolchain running, setting up the build environment, and putting some code on the ESP8266. It’s all in a git, with some video annotations.

The tutorial covers setting up the Xtensa toolchain and a patched version of GCC, GDB, and binutils. This will take a long, long time to build, but once it’s done you have a build environment for the ESP8266.

With the build environment put together, [CNLohr] then grabs the Espressif SDK from the official site, and puts together the example image. Uploading to the module requires pulling some of the pins high and some low, plugging in a USB to serial module to send the code to the module, standing well back, and pressing upload.

For his example image, [CNLohr] has a few WS2812 RGB LEDs connected to the ESP8266 WiFi module. Uploading the image turns the LEDs into something controllable with UDP packets on port 7777. It’s exactly what you want in a programmable, WiFi chip, and just the beginning of what can be done with this very cool module.

If you’re looking around for some sort of dev board with an ESP8266 on it, [Mathieu] has been playing around with some cool boards, and we’ve been looking into making a Hackaday version to sell in the store. The Hackaday version probably won’t happen because FCC.

Edit: [CNLohr] points out there’s a more preferred toolchain that most people have switched to.


Filed under: parts, slider

The Last Week Of The Mooltipass Approacheth

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 23:30

A year and two days ago, [Mathieu] started out on a quest to develop some hardware with the help of Hackaday readers. This project became known as the Mooltipass, an open source offline password keeper that’s pretty much a password management suite or Post-It notes on a monitor, except not horribly insecure.

The product has gone through multiple iterations of software, [Mathieu] flew out to China to get production started, and the project finally made it to a crowdfunding site. That crowdfunding campaign is almost over with just eight days left and just a little bit left to tip this project into production. This is the last call, all hands in, and if you’re thinking about getting one of these little secure password-storing boxes, this is the time.

You can check out the Developed on Hackaday series going over the entire development of the Mooltipass, made with input from Mooltipass contributors and Hackaday readers. The Venn diagram of those two groups overlaps a lot, making this the first piece of hardware that was developed for and by Hackaday readers.

Even if you have a fool-proof system of remembering all your passwords and login credentials, the Mooltipass is still a very cool-looking Arduino-compatible board. Note that (security device) and (Arduino thing) are two distinct operating modes that should not be conflated.

[Mathieu] and other contributors will be in the comments below, along with a bunch of ‘security researchers’ saying how this device ‘is horrifying’, ‘full of holes’, and ‘a terrible idea’. One of these sets of people have actually done research. Guess which?


Filed under: Crowd Funding, security hacks

Saving The Planet One Flush At A Time

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 22:00

Water is a natural resource that some of use humans take for granted. It seems that we can turn on a facet to find an unlimited supply. That’s not true in all parts of the world. In the US, toilets use 27% of household water requirements. That’s a lot of water to only be used once. The water filling the toilet after the flush is the same as that comes out of the sink. [gregory] thought it would make sense to combine toilet tank filling with hand washing as those two activities happen at the same time.

To accomplish this, a DIY sink and faucet were put in-line with the toilet tank fill supply. The first step was to make a new tank lid. [gregory] used particle board and admits it probably isn’t the best material, but it is what he had on hand. A hole was cut in the lid where a metal bowl is glued in. Holes were drilled in the bottom of the bowl so that water could drain down into the tank. The faucet is just standard copper tubing. The curve was bent by hand using a wire wrap method to keep it from kinking. The only remaining part was to connect the fill line (after the fill valve) to the faucet. Now, when the toilet is flushed, the faucet starts flowing.

Although [gregory’s] project may have increased the percentage of household water used by his toilet, it’s only due to the reduction of non-toilet related water usage. This water saving mod has inspired quite a few folks to make their own sink-toilet hybrid, check them out:

 


Filed under: green hacks

Crosswalk Pong Auf Deutschland

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 19:00

What is there to do in America while you’re waiting to cross the street at an intersection? Nothing; listen to that impatient clicking sound, and if you live in a busy city, pray you don’t get plowed into. In Germany however, pedestrians will now get to play Pong with the person on the other side.That’s right, as a means to encourage people to just hang in there and wait out the cycle instead of darting across against the light, design students [Sandro Engel] and [Holger Michel] came up with an entertaining incentive involving a potential conversation sparking duel with your impromptu counterpart across the street.

The first of these interactive cross-walk indicators was installed recently in Hildesheim, Germany, two years after the duo first designed them back in 2012. There was a little friction about installing the touch screen equipped modules initially, but after a proper redesign for functionality taking traffic science into account, the city authorities caved and allowed them to test the wings of their progressive idea on one city intersection so far. The mindset behind the invention of these indicators is part of a larger movement to make public spaces safer through means of fun and entertainment. Instead of threatening to punish those partaking in unsafe activity with fines, the notion is to positively enforce following rules by adding a level of play. While pedestrians have the right to walk, the screen shows how much time is left to make their away across, and for the duration that traffic is rolling through, the score will be kept for an individual game of pong for those on either side of the light.

Since the idea is generating some interest, the group of developers involved with the project have moved to promote their work (now branded as Actiwait) with an Indiegogo campaign. They hope to turn their invention into a full fledged product that will potentially be seen all over the world. Admittedly, it’d be charming to see this sort of technology transform our urban or residential environments with a touch of something that promotes friendly social interaction. Hopefully my faith in our worthiness to have nice things is warranted and we start seeing these here in America too. Nice work!

Check out this encounter with the street indicator here. The guy introducing the invention loses to the girl on the other side, but they share a high-five as they pass in the street:


Filed under: Crowd Funding, lifehacks

Calculator + MSP430 + IR LED = TV Remote?

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 16:01

Eschewing the store-bought solution, [Stefan] managed to build a TV remote out of an old calculator. The brains of the calculator were discarded and replaced with an MSP430, leaving only the button matrix and enclosure. Rather than look it up, he successfully mapped the matrix manually before getting stumped with the infrared code timings. Some research pointed him to a peculiarity with Samsung IR codes and with help from an open source remote control library he got it working.

When the range was too limited to satisfy him he added a booster circuit and an LED driver which he snapped off the top of an old remote; now it works from 30 feet away. Some electrical tape and hot glue later and it all fit back into the original case.

It cannot take photos or play Super Smash Brothers, but it does what a remote needs to do: browses channels in the guide, control volume, and turn the TV on or off. Considering that all this calculator was built to do was boring basic arithmetic, it is a procrastination-enabling upgrade.

See the video after the break for some smiles.


Filed under: home entertainment hacks

Chaos Theory in Practice: Chua’s Circuit

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 13:01

Chua’s circuit is the simplest electronic circuit that produces chaos—the output of this circuit never repeats the same sequence, and is a truly random signal. If you need a good source of randomness, Chua’s circuit is easy to make and is built around standard components that you might have lying around. [Valentine] wrote a comprehensive guide which walks you through the process of building your own source of chaos.

The chaos of Chua’s circuit is derived from several elements, most importantly a nonlinear negative resistor. Unfortunately for us, this type of resistor doesn’t exist in a discrete form, so we have to model it with several other components. This resistor, also known as Chua’s diode, can be created with an op-amp configured as a negative impedance converter and a couple pairs of diodes and resistors. Other variations such, as the schematic above,22`01 model Chua’s diode using only op-amps and resistors.

The rest of the circuit is quite simple: only two capacitors, an inductor, and a resistor are needed. [Valentine] does note that the circuit is quite sensitive, so you might encounter issues when building it on a breadboard. The circuit is very sensitive to vibration (especially on a breadboard), and good solder connections are essential to a reliable circuit. Be sure to check out the Wikipedia article on Chua’s circuit for a brief overview of the circuit’s functionality and a rabbit trail of information on chaos theory.


Filed under: hardware

Bad Code Results in Useless Passwords

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 10:01

[HeadlessZeke] was excited to try out his new AT&T wireless cable box, but was quickly dismayed by the required wireless access point that came bundled with it. Apparently in order to use the cable box, you also need to have this access point enabled. Not one to blindly put unknown devices on his network, [HeadlessZeke] did some investigating.

The wireless access point was an Arris VAP2500. At first glance, things seemed pretty good. It used WPA2 encryption with a long and seemingly random key. Some more digging revealed a host of security problems, however.

It didn’t take long for [HeadlessZeke] to find the web administration portal. Of course, it required authentication and he didn’t know the credentials. [HeadlessZeke] tried connecting to as many pages as he could, but they all required user authentication. All but one. There existed a plain text file in the root of the web server called “admin.conf”. It contained a list of usernames and hashed passwords. That was strike one for this device.

[HeadlessZeke] could have attempted to crack the passwords but he decided to go further down this rabbit hole instead. He pulled the source code out of the firmware and looked at the authentication mechanism. The system checks the username and password and then sets a cookie to let the system know the user is authenticated. It sounds fine, but upon further inspection it turned out that the data in the cookie was simply an MD5 hash of the username. This may not sound bad, but it means that all you have to do to authenticate is manually create your own cookie with the MD5 hash of any user you want to use. The system will see that cookie and assume you’ve authenticated. You don’t even have to have the password! Strike two.

Now that [HeadlessZeke] was logged into the administration site, he was able to gain access to more functions. One page actually allows the user to select a command from a drop down box and then apply a text argument to go with that command. The command is then run in the device’s shell. It turned out the text arguments were not sanitized at all. This meant that [HeadlessZeke] could append extra commands to the initial command and run any shell command he wanted. That’s strike three. Three strikes and you’re out!

[HeadlessZeke] reported these vulnerabilities to Arris and they have now been patched in the latest firmware version. Something tells us there are likely many more vulnerabilities in this device, though.

[via Reddit]


Filed under: internet hacks, security hacks

Hackaday Links: December 7, 2014

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 07:00

Have some .40 cal shell casings sitting around with nothing to do? How about some bullet earbuds? If you’ve ever wondered about the DIY community over at imgur, the top comment, by a large margin, is, “All of these tools would cost so much more than just buying the headphones”

Here’s something [Lewin] sent in. It’s a USB cable, with a type A connector on one end, and a type A connector on the other end. There is no circuitry anywhere in this cable. This is prohibited by the USB Implementors Forum, so if you have any idea what this thing is for, drop a note in the comments.

Attention interesting people in Boston. There’s a lecture series this Tuesday on Artificial Consciousness and Revolutionizing Medical Device Design. This is part two in a series that Hackaday writer [Gregory L. Charvat] has been working with. Talks include mixed signal ASIC design, and artificial consciousness as a state of matter. Free event, open bar, and you get to meet (other) interesting people.

Ghostbusters. It’s the 30th anniversary, and to celebrate the event [Luca] is making a custom collectors edition with the BluRay and something very special: the Lego ECTO-1.

Let’s say you need to store the number of days in each month in a program somewhere. You could look it up in the Time Zone Database, but that’s far too easy. How about a lookup table, or just a freakin’ array with 12 entries? What is this, amateur hour? No, the proper way of remembering the number of days in each month is some bizarre piece-wise function. It is: f(x) = 28 + (x + ⌊x⁄8⌋) mod 2 + 2 mod x + 2 ⌊1⁄x⌋. At least the comments are interesting.

Arduinos were sold in the 70s! Shocking, yes, but don’t worry, time travel was involved. Here’s a still from Predestination, in theatres Jan 9, rated R, hail corporate.


Filed under: Hackaday links

Kid Designs His Own Prosthetic Arm at a Summer Camp

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 04:00

Ever heard of the summer camp called Superhero Cyborgs? It’s where [Coby Unger] met nine-year-old [Aidan Robinson] and helped him design his very own custom prosthetic arm.

The camp is put on by KIDmob for kids who have various limb disabilities, and helps give them the tools and guidance to be able to make their very own prosthetics. Some of the designs the children come up with are cool, useful, pretty and sometimes not overly functional — but [Aidan’s] designs really intrigued [Coby] who is a designer and part of the staff at Pier 9, a world-class fabrication facility (and makerspace) run by Autodesk.

There’s a lot of problems with prosthetics for children. They’re very expensive, kids don’t stay the same size, and even though they might cost a lot, they don’t necessarily work that well. [Aidan] had a few commercial options but didn’t like any of them, so much so that he preferred not wear them period. But when he attended the camp he realized he had the ability to design a prosthetic that he’d actually want to wear.

[Aidan] wanted a prosthetic that could use different attachments specific to what he wanted to do, taking inspiration from a Swiss army knife. He wanted to be able to play the Wii, assemble LEGO, eat food, and even play an instrument. His mom wanted the prosthetic to be able to “grow” with [Aidan]. A tall order? Perhaps, but [Coby] was up to the challenge.

It’s rather ingenious actually. [Coby] designed a flower shaped piece of plastic that can be 3D printed and then thermoformed in warm water to form around the end of a limb.

To tighten it, he stole a ratcheting adjustment system from an adjustable knee strap, allowing for quick installation and removal — something [Aidan] can do himself.

This way as he continues to grow, the prosthetic remains adjustable, and worst case, just needs a new part 3D printed. To allow for the attachment of various tools, [Coby] added a quick release clamping system designed to hold anything with a 1/2″ diameter shaft making it super easy for [Aidan] and his mom to make their own attachments.

3D printing is doing some great things for prosthetics. Earlier this year we saw an Iron Man themed prosthetic hand to make kids dreams come true, a cute story about someone making an artistic prosthetic for a random stranger and the introduction of E-nable, a community dedicated to DIY prosthetics — to give the world a “Helping Hand”.

[Thanks Jerome!]

 


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, Medical hacks

8 Bit Message in a Digital Bottle

จันทร์, 12/08/2014 - 01:00

As seasoned data-travelers, we’re used to wielding the internet to send messages and communicate to others without any limitations. No one has to be stranded on a figurative island blowing smoke signals… unless of course they wanted to be. What [Harm Alexander Aldick] has done with his project “Lorem Ipsum”, is create a situation where others can only communicate to him through a sort of message in a bottle. The bottle in this case is an electronic widget.

In this social experiment, [Harm] has stationed a small Ikea picture frame at his desk, which shows images and text sent to him in real-time from others in the world. With an Arduino as the brain, a small 8×8 LED matrix mounted at the bottom right of the frame displays the data received by means of an ethernet module. Anyone can use his web interface to modify the pixels of the matrix on a virtual version of the installation. Once sent, the message is transmitted through an IPv6 internet connection and is translated to UDP which the unit is controlled by.

[Harm]’s project investigates how people react when given the chance to send a message in complete anonymity to someone they don’t know… in of all things, the form of something as limited as 64 pixels. The project name “Lorem Ipsum” refers to the filler text used in graphic design to hold the place of what would otherwise be more meaningful information, so that it doesn’t detract from the experience of viewing the layout. Curious about what sort of ‘graphical experience’ I would come up with myself, I took a shot at punching away at [Harm’s] GUI. I got momentarily lost in turning the little red dots on and off and eventually turned out this little ditty:

It was supposed to be something of a triangle, yet turned into a crop circle… or pronged nipple. After it was sent, I wondered whether or not [Harm] actually saw it. In the case that he did, I can only imagine what I communicated to our fellow hacker abroad with my squall of dots. All of these thoughts though are the whole point of the project. Awesome work!


Filed under: Arduino Hacks

An Expanding Wooden Table

อาทิตย์, 12/07/2014 - 22:00

A few years ago, the world of fine woodworking was presented with the Fletcher Capstan table. It’s a round table, able to expand its diameter merely by rotating the top. A gloriously engineered bit of mechanics move the leaves of the tables out while simultaneously raising the inner part of the table. It’s a seriously cool table, very expensive, and something that will probably be found in museums 100 years from now.

[Scott Rumschlag] thought his woodworking skills were up to the task of creating one of these expanding tables and managed to build one in his workshop. Like the Fletcher Capstan table, it’s a table that increases its diameter simply by rotating the table top. Unlike the commercial offering, this one doesn’t cost as much as a car, and you can actually see the internal mechanism inside this table.

The top of [Scott]’s table is made of three pieces. The quarter-circle pieces are the only thing showing when the table is in its minimum position, and are arranged on the top of the ‘leaf stack’. When the table expands, four additional leaves move up from beneath with the help of a linear bearing made of wood and a roller that slides along the base of this mechanical contraption.

The center of the table – the star – is a bit more difficult to design. While the leaves move up the stack of table tops with the help of a ramp, this is an impractical solution for something so close to the center of the table. Instead of a ramp, [Scott] is using a lifting lever and metal hinge that brings the star of the table up to the right level. Even though it’s a crazy amount of woodworking and fine tuning to get everything right, it’s not too terribly difficult to get your head around.

Videos, including one of the assembly of the table, below.


Filed under: misc hacks, slider

An ATtiny Boost Converter

อาทิตย์, 12/07/2014 - 19:00

This schematic is all you need to build your own voltage converter. [Lutz] needed a converter that could boost 5 V to 30 V to power a string of LEDs. The solution was to use low cost ATtiny85 and some passive components to implement a boost converter.

This circuit follows the classic boost converter topology, using the ATtiny85 to control the switch. The 10 ohm resistor is fed back into the microcontroller’s ADC input, allowing it to sense the output voltage. By measuring the output voltage and adjusting the duty cycle accordingly, the circuit can regulate to a specified voltage setpoint.

A potentiometer is used to change the brightness of the LEDs. The software reads the potentiometer’s output voltage and adjusts the voltage output of the circuit accordingly. Higher voltages result in brighter LEDs.

Of course, there’s many other ways to implement a boost converter. Most practical designs will use a chip designed for this specific purpose. However, if you’re interested in rolling your own, the source and LTSpice simulation files are available.


Filed under: led hacks

Amazon Fire TV Update Bricks Hacked Devices

อาทิตย์, 12/07/2014 - 16:00

The Amazon Fire TV is Amazon’s answer to all of the other streaming media devices on the market today. Amazon is reportedly selling these devices at cost, making very little off of the hardware sales. Instead, they are relying on the fact that most users will rent or purchase digital content on these boxes, and they can make more money in the long run this way. In fact, the device does not allow users to download content directly from the Google Play store, or even play media via USB disk. This makes it more likely that you will purchase content though Amazon’s own channels.

We’re hackers. We like to make things do what they were never intended to do. We like to add functionality. We want to customize, upgrade, and break our devices. It’s fun for us. It’s no surprise that hackers have been jail breaking these devices to see what else they are capable of. A side effect of these hacks is that content can be downloaded directly from Google Play. USB playback can also be enabled. This makes the device more useful to the consumer, but obviously is not in line with Amazon’s business strategy.

Amazon’s response to these hacks was to release a firmware update that will brick the device if it discovers that it has been rooted. It also will not allow a hacker to downgrade the firmware to an older version, since this would of course remove the root detection features.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us. We’ve seen this type of thing for years with mobile phones. The iPhone has been locked to the Apple Store since the first generation, but the first iPhone was jailbroken just days after its initial release. Then there was the PlayStation 3 “downgrade” fiasco that resulted in hacks to restore the functionality. It seems that hackers and corporations are forever destined to disagree on who actually owns the hardware and what ownership really means. We’re locked in an epic game of cat and mouse, but usually the hackers seem to triumph in the end.


Filed under: news, video hacks

Raspberry PiPhone Thermostat Monitors Your Entire House — Or At Least That’s The Plan

อาทิตย์, 12/07/2014 - 13:00

[Jeff McGehee] or how he likes to be known, [The Nooganeer] just finished his first big tech project after finishing grad school. It’s a connected thermostat that makes use of his old iPhone 4, and a Raspberry Pi.

Ever since [The Nooganeer] bought his first home with his wife back in the spring of 2014, he’s had ever consuming dream of adding home automation to every appliance. As he puts it…

Home automation has always been a fascination of mine.  How much time and irritation would I save if I didn’t have to worry about turning things on and off, or wonder in which state they were left?  How much more efficient would my home be?  Wouldn’t it be cool to always know the state of every power consumer in my home, and then be able to record and analyze that data as well?

His first challenge was making a smart thermostat — after all, heating and cooling your house typically takes the most energy. Having used a Raspberry Pi before he figured it would be the best brain for his system. After researching a bit about HVAC wiring, [The Nooganeer] settled on a Makeatronics Solid State Relay board to control the HVAC. This allows him to use the GPIO’s on the Raspberry Pi in order to control the furnace and AC unit. 

Now most thermostats just use a single thermosensor in order to determine the temperature — since he’s got a Raspberry Pi, he figured he’d add temperature sensors in a few rooms using a Spark Core kit! The software he’s using is written in Python for visualizations, and he’s using a MySQL database in order to collect analytics.

It’s connected to the net to allow for easy monitoring and control from wherever he is, and since he had an iPhone 4 lying around he decided to use it as the display screen for the thermostat. His blog has tons of info on how he’s created the device, and in time he hopes to publish a more in-depth tutorial for people so they can connect their homes too.

Next up he plans on integrating humidity, light, and motion sensors into small wireless packages to place around the house. Maybe he’ll add a wireless outlet too…


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, iphone hacks, Raspberry Pi

Scanning On The Cheap

อาทิตย์, 12/07/2014 - 10:00

[Will] recently stumbled across the MakerBot Digitizer, a device that’s basically a webcam and a turntable that will turn a small object into a point cloud that can then be printed off on a MakerBotⓇ 3D printer. Or any other 3D printer, for that matter. The MakerBot Digitizer costs $800, and [Will] wondered if he could construct a cheaper 3D scanner with stuff sitting around his house. It turns out, he can get pretty close using only a computer, a webcam, and a Black and Decker line laser/level.

The build started off with a webcam mounted right next to the laser line level. Software consisted of Python using OpenCV, numpy, and matplotlib to grab images from the webcam. The software looks at each frame of video for the path of the laser shining against the object to be scanned. This line is then extracted into a 3D point cloud and reconstructed in MeshLab to produce a 3D object that might or might not be 3D printable.

This is only [Will]’s first attempt at creating a scanner. He’s not even using a turntable with this project – merely manually rotating the object one degree for 360 individual frames. It’s extremely tedious, and he’ll be working on incorporating a stepper motor in a future version.

This is only attempt number 1, but already [Will] has a passable scanned object created from a real-world thing.


Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Cordless Drill Turned Into Bicycle-Powered Generator

อาทิตย์, 12/07/2014 - 07:00

The bicycle is a great invention. It is an extremely efficient method of transportation, even more so than walking. So why not harness that efficiency for other things? [Tony] had that same thought so he ordered a bike generator but after waiting too long for the company to send it, he decided to make his own.

[Tony] is an bicycle enthusiast so he had an old bike and an old training stand he could use for the project. Generating electricity from pedaling the bike requires some sort of generator. Lucky for him, [Tony] happened to have a cordless drill that stopped going in reverse. Since he had since upgraded, this was the perfect candidate for the generator. The drill was mounted to the training stand so that a pulley inserted in the chuck pressed against the rear wheel. Wires were added to connect the drill’s battery connectors to a 12vdc to 120vac inverter. As the bike is pedaled, the rear wheel spins the drill, which spins the drill motor creating DC voltage. That DC voltage is then converted to AC by the inverter. With a multimeter connected to the output from the drill, it is easy to adjust the pedaling speed to keep the output in the 11-14v range which is required by the inverter.

In the photo above, you can see a light bulb being powered by the bike. However, the bike powered generator could not power the larger load of a computer. The remedy for this was to purchase a solar charge controller and a 12 volt battery. The bike charges the battery and the battery can power the computer through the inverter.


Filed under: green hacks