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We’re at HOPE X

เสาร์, 07/19/2014 - 00:35

For the next three days, Hackaday will be live, in the flesh, at Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC. It’s HOPE X, the biennial conference for hackers, code crackers, and slackers put on by the awesome folks at 2600.

Highlights of the event include a keynote from [Daniel Ellisburg]a video conference with [Edward Snowden], and a whole bunch of other stuff. Hackaday has a booth (thanks, overlords!) on the mezzanine right with the other vendors, right behind the Club-Mate table.

We’ll be putting up random updates from HOPE the entire weekend. If you’re visiting, stop by and we might have a t-shirt for you.

Filed under: cons, Featured

The Hackaday Prize Rules Update and Entry Date Extension

เสาร์, 07/19/2014 - 00:01


Hackaday has been hard at work making sure the requirements to qualify for The Hackaday Prize are well understood. Recently we published a FAQ to help answer questions, and we updated the main contest page to make information easier to find. We are also publishing a pair of “walkthrough” videos that show just how easy it is meet these requirements. In light of these clarifications, and the availability of these helpful resources, we have decided to extend the deadline for entries from 8/4/14 to 8/20/14, and to make minor changes to a couple of requirements in the Official Rules. Here’s a summary:

  • Contestants must now complete all requirements for the “Community Vote (Stage 1)” and “Quarterfinals (Stage 2)” by 11:50 P.D.T. on August 20, 2014 (rather than August 4, 2014).
  • Contestants are no longer required to make one video for the Community Vote stage and another video for the Quarterfinals stage. Instead, only one video – the video described under the “Quarterfinals (Stage 2)” subsection of the Official Rules – is required by the 11:50 P.D.T., August 20, 2014, Quarterfinals deadline.
  • Build instructions are no longer required at the Quarterfinals stage.
  • Contestants do not need to post any videos, at any point in the contest, to Hackaday’s YouTube channel (although you still need to upload each video to YouTube or Youku and tag it with the keyword provided in the Rules).

We have amended the Official Rules to reflect these changes. Please view them here.

We hope that this will make it easier for you to enter and claim the The Hackaday Prize by showing off your mad electronics skills. You’ve got extra time… get hacking!

As always, If you have any questions about The Hackaday Prize you may contact us directly: prize@hackaday.com

Thanks, and good luck!

Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Backyard Brains: Controlling Cockroaches, Fruit Flys, And People

ศุกร์, 07/18/2014 - 21:01

[Greg Gage] and some of the other crew at Backyard Brains have done a TED talk, had a few successful Kickstarters, and most surprisingly given that pedigree, are actually doing something interesting, fun, and educational. They’re bringing neuroscience to everyone with a series of projects and kits that mutilate cockroaches and send PETA into a tizzy.

[Greg] demonstrated some of his highly modified cockroaches by putting a small Bluetooth backpack on one. The roach had previously been ‘prepared’ by attaching small electrodes to each of its two front antennas. The backpack sends a small electrical signal to the antennae every time I swiped the screen of an iPhone. The roach thinks it’s hitting a wall and turns in the direction I’m swiping, turning it into a roboroach. We seen something like this before but it never gets old.

Far from being your one stop shop for cockroach torture devices, Backyard Brains also has a fairly impressive lab in the basement of their building filled with grad students and genetically modified organisms. [Cort Thompson] is working with fruit flies genetically modified so a neuron will activate when they’re exposed to a specific pulse of light. It’s called optogenetics, and [Cort] has a few of these guys who have an ‘I’m tasting something sweet’ neuron activated when exposed to a pulse of red light.

Of course controlling cockroaches is one thing, and genetically engineering fruit flies is a little more impressive. How about controlling other people? After being hooked up to an EMG box to turn muscle actuation in my arm into static on a speaker, [Greg] asked for a volunteer. [Jason Kridner], the guy behind the BeagleBone, was tagging along with us, and stepped up to have two electrodes attached to his ulnar nerve. With a little bit of circuitry that is available in the Backyard Brains store, I was able to control [Jason]‘s wrist with my mind. Extraordinarily cool stuff.

There was far too much awesome stuff at Backyard Brains for a video of reasonable length. Not shown includes projects with scorpions, and an improved version of the roboroach that gives a roach a little bit of encouragement to move forward. We’ll put up a ‘cutting room floor’ video of that a bit later.

Filed under: Featured, Medical hacks

THP Entry: Atomic Space Time

ศุกร์, 07/18/2014 - 18:00

Accurate time is all around us. Streaming down from satellites thousands of miles in space, UTC time information is at all of our fingertips. You just have to know how to reach out and grab it. [hkdcsf] not only knows how to do this, he does it in style.

Tipping his hat into The Hackaday Prize contest, [hkdcsf]‘s atomic clock is masterfully crafted. Not only does it get time information from GPS satellites, it also has the ability to grab the infomation from the DCF77 transmitter. And if ever it’s in a position where neither signal can be found, an RTC crystal keeps the time and date accurate.

His design is based on a PIC18F25K20, and bristles with so many features that it might make you dizzy. So be warned – you might want to be in a seated position before taking a look at this project. [hkdcsf] does a great job at detailing exactly how his clock works, and his efforts to provide this level of detail will surely help other hackers to add similar features to their future projects.

The project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

Filed under: gps hacks, The Hackaday Prize

Homemade Bazooka Has Earned Its Stripes

ศุกร์, 07/18/2014 - 15:01

Many of us dream of launching rockets from our shoulders, but [John] here actually did something about it.

This bazooka build started with a 6″ diameter PVC pipe. He mounted a length of 80/20 T-slotted aluminum extrusion to the pipe through a couple of wood blocks. [John] installed rail buttons on some Estes Alpha rockets which slide along nicely inside the T-slot. He welded a PVC cleanout fitting and plug to one end for easy access and gave her a nice paint job.

The ignition is simple: an irresistible red push button is wired to a 9V battery and a pair of alligator clips. [John] loads up a rocket, puts the gators on the wires of an igniter, pushes said button, and Bob’s your uncle. All he needs now is a pair of gun boats. Video of the build and some demonstrations we don’t necessarily recommend are after the jump.

Filed under: weapons hacks

Xbox 360 Slim Gets Gutted and… Painted White?

ศุกร์, 07/18/2014 - 12:01

We love portable console builds, and this one by [Daniel Fürstauer] is no exception. It’s a beautifully hacked Xbox 360 slim into an aluminum briefcase — complete with a screen and a full audio system!

He started by gutting the Xbox 360 slim and throwing out pretty much all of the original enclosure, minus the disc drive cover. Now what he did next was completely for aesthetics, but freaking awesome. He actually took the motherboard out, taped off some of the important components, and spray painted the entire thing white! We’re not too sure what effect this will have on some of the components, but it seems to work, and gives it a really unique look underneath his Plexiglas enclosure.

He housed the rest of it (complete with custom cooling fans!) inside of one of those nice aluminum briefcases, complete with a widescreen LCD monitor, and computer speakers. He even fit the power supply inside — all you have to do is plug it in! There’s also room for at least one controller, whose holding spot doubles as space for the disc drive to eject.

It’s a super slick build, and he’s even made a demonstration video of it:

We’ve seen lots of PS3 and Xbox 360 portable builds, but no PS4′s yet. Anyone up to the challenge?


Filed under: xbox hacks

Make that C64 Keyboard Work as a USB Keyboard

ศุกร์, 07/18/2014 - 09:01

Let’s face it, we all have keyboard peculiarities. Don’t try to deny it, everyone who types a lot has an opinion of the keyboard they stroke so frequently. We know [Brian Benchoff] swears by his model M, and we’re guessing he was the one that bumped into [Evan] and convinced him to write about his conversion of a Commodore 64 keyboard for use as a USB device.

This is not [Evan's] first rodeo. We recently saw him fixing up the worn off letters of his own model M. But this time around there’s some clever microcontroller work at play. Apparently mapping 122 keys using an Atmel AVR 32u4 chip (built in USB connectivity) is quite a task. Luckily someone’s already worked out all kinds of good things and is sharing the love with the Soarer’s Keyboard Controller Firmware. Of course it handles scanning, but also includes debounce, muxing, and the trick to scan more keys than the uC has pins for. We still don’t fully understand that bit of it. But [Evan] did post the config file he’s using so perhaps after we get elbow-deep in the code we’ll have a better understanding.

If you give this a try, we want to hear about it. Anyone have any modern keyboards they’re in love with? Leave a comment below.

Filed under: Microcontrollers, peripherals hacks

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum

ศุกร์, 07/18/2014 - 06:01

Don’t call it an arcade. There are arcade-like things about it… like dance-based video games, Skee-ball, and tickets — oh so many tickets. But Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum is a one-of-a-kind that you need to visit next time you’re in the North suburbs of Detroit, Michigan.

[Marvin] was there in person, as he is many days. He talked with us for a few minutes and we’ve folded his interview, along with footage of many of the attractions, into the video above.

He’s been collecting for more than three decades. The attractions are packed into every bit of floor space, spilling up onto the walls, and hanging from every spot in the ceiling. There are true antiques from both home and abroad that could be referred to as automatons, rows of fortune tellers, a track of large airplane models that make a loop around the establishment when fed a quarter, and much more.

Some of the attractions were build for him, like the robot band you can make out behind [Marvin] during the interview. It is a MIDI-based build that allows songs to be selected from a touchscreen. Soon to be on exhibit is a Tesla-coil-based offering which [Marvin] commissioned after taking second place to [Nicolai Tesla] on a list of oddest museums.


Filed under: classic hacks, Featured, robots hacks

A Lithium Ion Supercapacitor Battery

ศุกร์, 07/18/2014 - 03:00

Lithium ion supercapacitors. No, not lithium ion batteries, and yes, they’re a real thing. While they’re astonishingly expensive per Farad, they are extremely small and used as the first line of defense in some seriously expensive heavy-duty UPS installations. Here’s a Kickstarter using these supercaps to replace the common AA, C, and D cell batteries. Even better, they can be recharged in seconds.

For each size battery, the caps used actually have a slightly higher energy density than a similarly sized dollar store battery. By adding a little bit of circuitry to drop the 3.8 Volts out of the cap down to the 1.5 V you expect from a battery, this supercap becomes a very expensive rechargeable battery, but one that can be recharged in seconds.

This is one of those crowdfunding campaigns we really like: an interesting tool, but something we just can’t figure out what the use case would be. These lithium ion supercaps are too expensive to be practical in anything we would build (save for a Gauss pistol), but the tech is just too cool to ignore. If you have a use case for these caps in mind, please leave a note in the comments.

Somewhat relevant Mouser link.

Filed under: Crowd Funding

Building The Slimmest Raspi

ศุกร์, 07/18/2014 - 00:00

[Colin], AKA [Domipheus], was working on a project to monitor a thermostat with a wall mounted Raspberry Pi and a touchscreen. Simple enough, but the Pi has a problem: The plugs are all around the perimeter of the board, and with a TFT touch screen shield, it’s a bit too thick to be wall mounted. What followed is a hack in the purest sense: [Domipheus] removed and relocated components on the Pi until the entire Pi/display stack was just a hair over 10mm tall.

A Raspberry Pi Model A was used for this build, meaning the Ethernet jack was gone, and there was only a single USB port to deal with. Still, the highest components – the RCA and audio jacks – were too tall and needed to be removed; they weren’t going to be used anyway.

After these components were gone, [Domipheus] turned his attention to the next tallest parts on the board: fuses, caps, and the HDMI port. For fear of damaging the surrounding components when removing the HDMI connector the right way, this part was simply hacked off. The large tantalum cap near the USB power connector was removed (it’s just a filter cap) and the large protection diode was moved elsewhere.

Slimming down a Pi is no good without a display, and for that [Domipheus] used this touchscreen thing from Adafruit. Things got a little complicated when the project required the ability to remove the LCD, but you can do amazing things with a DIP socket and a file.

The end result is a Raspberry Pi with touchscreen display that’s just a smidgen thicker than a CD case. It’ll fit right up against a wall in its repurposed enclosure, and the end result looks very professional.

[Thanks Luke via reddit]

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

THP Hacker Bio: hackersbench

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 21:01


Remote sensing applications that make sense and cents? (sorry, couldn’t help ourselves) That’s what [hackersbench], aka [John Schuch], aka [@JohnS_AZ] is working on as his entry for The Hackaday Prize.

He received a multi-thousand-dollar water bill after having an underground pipe break and leak without knowing it. His idea will help you notice problems like this sooner. But if you actually have a way to capture data about your own water use you also have a tool to help encourage less wasteful water use habits. We wanted to learn more about the hacker who is working on this project. [John's] answers to our slate of questions are after the break.

I would have to say building things. While very often that means electronics, I also do a lot of woodworking, and some metalworking too. I’ve been around long enough (I’m probably a fair bit older than most people reading this) that I have accumulated a lot of tools for all those pursuits. Whether it’s silicon, code, wood, or metal, I find the satisfaction of a completed design/build project equally, and highly gratifying.

I spent about 16 years working for Motorola in Manufacturing Engineering at a plant that produced computer circuit boards. 6809 through hole when I started, and we were doing 68030 double-sided SMT when I left. From there I went into being a manufacturers rep for EOS/ESD control equipment and material, as well as doing contract auditing and training for ESD management. After that I went into field sales for a number of high-end aerospace telemetry companies.

Most of that business, and virtually all manufacturing, dried up with the economy quite a few years ago so I say that currently I’m a consultant (but of course that’s code for the fact that what few companies there are prefer to hire inexpensive new college grads). No real sour grapes; I do consult, and do a fair amount of writing, and have quite a lot of time to play in my shops. But if the right manufacturing engineering job came along ….

Solving problems. And that includes improving things. While I would never knock pursuits that give other people joy, I’ve never been one for making blinky lights for the sake of having blinky lights. If the blinky light means I forgot to turn off my soldering iron out in the shop, or the pool pump back pressure is too high, or the dog’s water dish is empty .. I’m all in!

Often the problem I tackle is one of “I want (need) that but it’s really stupidly expensive!”. So I’ll build one. Sometimes it’s a simple hand tool of some sort, and at the other extreme is the 500 sq ft In-law suite (with full bath and kitchen) that I built single-handedly for our home.

Cheap-assed Chinese tools!!! Specific example: I have a band saw from a low-end distributor everyone knows. The blade guides broke in the first month. It’s impossible to keep the wheels aligned. The blade life is measured in minutes. It’s a total piece of crap, and I have other examples from the same place. I learned my lesson, and tell people whenever the topic comes up; You’ll be WAY better off buying a used piece of name brand (usually American) equipment than buying discount import crap.

(I really should sell the damn thing for scrap and just get over it.)

Honestly, I’m pretty operating system agnostic. I started with CPM, lived through all the Windows incarnations, Learned UNIX System V back at Motorola (as well as HP-UX), and have dabbled in Linux since before Red had a Hat. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses.

I will say two things; I do 99% of my work on Windows based systems because the hardware is so inexpensive and the OS really is pretty worry free, and I don’t own a single piece of Apple hardware.

Favorite? That’s tough. I don’t keep gear that I don’t enjoy using. If you forced me to pick one I’d have to say the Fluke Model 77 multimeter that I’ve had for 25 years. It says something for a meter when you’ve worn out three sets of test leads  and the meter itself still works as well as the day you bought it. It’s easy, it’s rugged, and it’s operation is intuitive. It does what it does, and it does it flawlessly. I guess this choice is sentimental. This one meter has seen me through a few decades, and a few careers, and just keeps on going.

I’m going to pick three, and the first two are sentimental.

Blinking LED with LM3909 and capacitor [via Instructables]

First is the LM3909. You could take this (long out of production) chip, add an LED, a cap, and a D-cell battery and the led would blink … for almost 3 years! It’s one of the very first parts I played with, and helped fire my passion for electronics.

Second would be the MC145436. This is an old Motorola DTMF decoder chip. You’d give it a colorburst crystal, an audio signal, and it would spit out DTMF digits as BCD. I used that part for all sorts of remote control projects when I was young, and was the basis of the very first product I sold … on Usenet. :-)

Modern stuff is a bit tougher. A lot of the Class-D audio amp parts impress me. As well as quite a few new motor controllers. And then modern sensors are just getting more and more amazing. But to pick one, I’d have to say my current favorite is the PIC microcontroller. Dirt cheap, low cost programming equipment, a good (and free) IDE. I just feel totally at home with them. Full disclosure, I’ve been playing with PIC micros for about 25 years.

Again, I’m kind of agnostic on this one too. Language to do what? Program a web page? I love hand coding HTML, and must have written a million lines of Perl code. Program a microcontroller? It’s got to be C, mostly because I spent years stuck in the misery of ASM coding. A Windows app? Honestly, I do very little of that, and often stick with Perl for that too. Though I have just started teaching myself Python.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Ladder Logic as well. Seems more like puzzle solving than programming. What’s more, when you tell people you program in Ladder Logic, most have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Fun.

But really, I am much more a hardware guy. These days, however, you can’t get very deep into hardware without bumping into code.

  1. I’ve just started accumulating parts to build a large analog musical synthesizer, something I’ve wanted to do ever since I played with the ARP-2600 synthesizer back in High School (about 1975).
  2. Runabout [Image by Dan Gilman]

    I have a lot of ideas for CNC engraving/milling equipment I’d like to build from the ground up. I’ve actually started prototyping motor controllers for that, but I don’t know when I’ll actually get to building the mechanics.
  3. I’ve always wanted to build a boat. A wooden speed boat, a lot like a Chris Craft “Gentlemans Runabout”. I found the blueprints for it years ago. I’d love to start on it … but first I guess I’d have to build another shop ….

Critical thinking.

Insane audio products, free energy plans, get rich schemes, weight loss and health quackery, tabloid publications, hundreds of TV shows, and whole lot of the government would all disappear over night.

About ten years ago we had an underground water pipe break while we were on vacation. I didn’t discover it until I received a water bill for several thousand dollars. Luckily the city gave me a huge once-per-lifetime credit, but since then I’ve thought that the fact that you can only see your water consumption once per month is profoundly stupid. Particularly when everyone is pushing us hard to conserve water. In engineering terms; a feedback-loop that takes 30 days is bound to fail.

Over the years I’ve considered the problem MANY times, but all the solutions I came up with were ridiculously expensive, or stupidly complicated to build and install. And further, no one but me (or other true geeks) would actually build one, so it would be of relatively low value in a societal sense.

The turning point was discovering the sensor I’m using (MAG-3110), a three-axis magnetometer intended be a compass and orientation sensor in tablets and cell phones. The thing about the sensor is that it is VERY sensitive, sensitive enough to detect the orientation of the magnet inside most non-reporting water meters in use today.

The Hackaday Prizes focus is on the future. And yeah, a whole lot of the future is in space and with new technology, but I think a whole lot of our mental energy ought to be focused on cleaning up our act right here on Earth. Because really, the future depends on it.

Um … not really. That sounds conceited, doesn’t it? Really, I hang out on an IRC channel with a bunch of amazing engineers, and we all help each other out a lot. It’s kind of like having an assortment of gurus in my back pocket.

I’d love to see a PRACTICAL 3D printer that could produce small buildings and structures in concrete or some other long lived material. Yeah, there have been a couple of university projects, but I’d love to see the hive of genius we call the Maker Movement tackle the problem. (I think it’s as much an issue of budget as it is technology)

Rules were made to be broken

  • Never say no to free parts.
  • Give up. You’ll never have enough storage room.
  • Solving a problem for your wife (husband) will earn you flack-free shop hours.
  • Always presume the pointy end is REALLY hot.
  • Never buy a pet. Adopt from a rescue.
  • The easiest way to locate a lost part is to order another one.
  • Life is too short for de-caf.
  • Always start by measuring the power supply.
  • Science fiction is just the stuff you haven’t built yet.
  • Ohms law can not be broken. Recheck your math.
  • Yes, it’s normal to think of the solution 4 seconds after waking up in the morning.
  • No one in history has ever created something that is beyond your ability to understand and learn from.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Interviews, The Hackaday Prize

Developed on Hackaday: Discovering Shenzhen and its Companies

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 20:00

Two weeks ago we showed a first demonstration video of the offline password keeper (aka Mooltipass) the Hackaday community had been working on for the last 6 months. We received lots of interesting feedback from our dear readers and around a thousand of them let us know they were interested in purchasing the device. We agreed that preferential pricing should be offered to them, as they have been supporting this community driven project for so long.

For the next few days I will be touring Shenzhen and finally meeting the persons who have been assembling my electronics projects for the last 2 years, including the Mooltipass beta testers’ batch. I’ll also meet with Ian from Dangerous Prototypes, talk with the people behind the Haxlr8r program, visit Seeedstudio offices and a CNC shop. If everything goes well with the camera I just purchased in Hong Kong I should have nice things to show you. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below in case you’re in the area…

Filed under: Hackaday Columns

Red Bull Creation: A Giant Daisy Wheel Printer

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 18:02

While most of the teams in this year’s Red Bull Creation didn’t really pay attention to the theme of ‘reinventing the wheel’, 1.21 Jiggawatts did. Their creation, a giant typewriter that can be suspended along the side of a building, takes its inspiration directly from 1970s typewriters and printers. Yes, it’s a giant daisy wheel typewriter.

The basic idea of a daisy wheel typewriter is a wheel with a few dozen petals, on the end of which is a single letter. To print a letter, the wheel spins around, and a solenoid mechanism strikes the letter against a piece of paper. This was cutting edge tech in the 70s, and was a fast (and cheap) way for computers to print out letter-quality reports.

1.21 Jiggawatts used a ladder as the rail to move down a line of text. The movement from line to line was supposed to be done by dangling the ladder off a chain with a few sprockets attached to motors. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t quite get the machine working for the competition and live event, but the build does show an amazing amount of creativity and respect for classic, forgotten technology.


Filed under: contests, Featured

Print Tasty Treats With MIT’s Ice Cream Printer

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 15:00

Three MIT students decided that 3D printers just aren’t interesting enough on their own any more. They wanted to design a new type of printer that would really get young kids engaged. What’s more engaging to children than sugary treats? The team got together to develop a new 3d printer that prints ice cream.

The machine is built around a Solidoodle. The Solidoodle is a manufacturer of “accessible” 3d printers. The printer is enclosed inside of a small freezer to keep things cold during the printing process. On top of the machine is a hacked Cuisinart ice cream maker. The machine also contains a canister of liquid nitrogen. The nitrogen is used to blast the cream as it leaves the print head, keeping it frozen for the 15 minute duration of the print.

It sounds like the team ran into trouble with the ice cream melting, even with the liquid nitrogen added. For a single semester project, this isn’t a bad start. Be sure to watch the clip of the machine running below.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks

Solar Powered DIY Plant Watering System

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 12:00

It’s great having fresh vegetables just a few steps away from the kitchen, but it takes work to keep those plants healthy. [Pierre] found this out the hard way after returning from vacation to find his tomato plant withering away. He decided to put an end to this problem by building his own solar-powered plant watering system (page in French, Google translation).

An Arduino serves as the brain of the system. It’s programmed to check a photo resistor every ten minutes. At 8:30PM, the Arduino will decide how much to water the plants based on the amount of sunlight it detected throughout the day. This allows the system to water the plants just the right amount. The watering is performed by triggering a 5V relay, which switches on a swimming pool pump.

[Pierre] obviously wanted a “green” green house, so he is powering the system using sunlight. A 55 watt solar panel recharges a 12V lead acid battery. The power from the battery is stepped down to the appropriate 5V required for the Arduino. Now [Pierre] can power his watering system from the very same energy source that his plants use to grow.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, green hacks

Self-Balancing Robot Uses Android and Lego NXT

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 09:00

Self-balancing robots are pretty cool, but sometimes a bit too complex to make. [HippoDevices] shows us that it’s really not that hard, and you can even do it with Lego NXT and an Android device!

First step is to build your two-wheeled robot – go nuts! As long as the Lego NXT motors are strong enough you’ll be able to make most different shaped robots easy to balance. You’re going to need an Android ADK board to provide communication between the Lego motors and your Android device. [HippoDevices] is using their own design, called the Hippo-ADK which is on Kickstarter currently.

This allows your Android device to read the status and control the Lego Motors — from there it’s just a matter of programming it to balance according to the device’s gyroscope.

And since you already have a smart device on your robot, you can control it with another Android device!

[Thanks Zipper!]

Filed under: Android Hacks, robots hacks, toy hacks

Finally, an Easy To Make Holder for Lithium Ion Batteries

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 06:00

For projects requiring a bit more juice, the mass production of those small rectangular lithium ion batteries for cell phones, cameras and other electronics are extremely useful — the problem is, how do you mount them, short of soldering the terminals in place? With a bit of perfboard of course!

[Jason] came up with this idea when he was trying to figure out a way to mount small lithium cells for a battery fuel gauge for another one of his projects. He found if you use good quality perfboard you can use a 90 degree male pin header to contact the terminals, and a strip of female pin header as a kind of battery stop at the other end. This allows you to very snugly squeeze the battery in place — you may need to adjust the length of the male pins though in order to fine tune the fit!

Now you can add a nice wire terminal, solder up the connections, and there you have it, an easy to make, extremely useful battery holder!

Filed under: how-to, misc hacks

The Party was Bumping, then the Fire Dragon Showed Up

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 03:01

Epic Party.

I don’t use that label lightly. After the Red Bull Creation’s day of show and tell was over — winners having been presented with trophies and stuffed with barbecue over at Bert’s — people started to trickle into OmniCorp Detroit for the party.

Like all of the best parties we didn’t really see it coming. I grabbed a folding chair on the street out front with a beer in my hand and enjoyed a rotating variety of interesting people to talk with. [Brian] rolled up riding one of the trophies, a modified toddler’s tricycle that proves his future with a travelling circuit is still viable. They roped off the area and set up huge speakers for the DJ. Then two guys game lumbering down the street sharing the work of hauling a tub full of ice and 12-ounce clear glass bottles with colored liquid inside. Turns out they just opened a distillery down the street and decided to donate some vodka infusions for the festivities. Yum!

Upstairs, a couple hundred square feet of area was ringed by a bar (with wide variety of kegs, slushy drinks, and one of those hot dog rollers), couches, a few work benches, a second DJ booth, and a photobooth. We only got one picture before the smoke machine reduced visibility.

Unlike a lot of ragers I’ve been at, it was easy to start up a conversation with just about anyone. Living expenses are so low in Detroit and artists are flocking to the area. This is who made up most of the group. Fascinating people who are working on a multitude of different projects and have stories of building community on their streets while rehabbing houses that cost $1-2.5k to purchase but didn’t come with most of what you’d assume a house should.

Then the fire dragon showed up

Inside was packed and outside was starting to get crowded. Then the fire dragon showed up. Named Gon KiRin, it’s the work of Ryan C. Doyle who was on Team Detroitus and is artist in residence at Recycle Here!, the build venue for the Red Bull Creation. The beast is build on the frame of a 1960′s dumptruck and most of the building materials were found on the sides of the highway. The huge propane tank on the back allows it to breathe fire. I love that three daisy-chained 9-volts and two bare wires are the control mechanism for this. One thing became readily apparent; you don’t stand in front of Gon KiRin while it’s breathing fire.

The crowd piled onto the couches on top of the tail and at either rear hip. The dragons back also bore a continually rotating set of people. After midnight the guests really started to flood in. [Caleb] and I tried to close down the party but a few hours after midnight it didn’t seem to be getting any slower.

Capping off the weekend like this really proves that you need to get your team into next year’s Red Bull Creation. I got in the easy way — judges don’t have to stay up for 72 hours building stuff. Despite the sleep deprivation for contestants I didn’t come across anyone who wasn’t having a blast during the build, while goofing off, or trying to stay awake as this party got moving.

Bravo Detroit, you’re now on my short list of best party towns. Who else wants to be added to that list? Hackaday’s going to be in Las Vegas for DEFCON in a few weeks. Anyone know of parties planned that weekend and how we can get in?

Filed under: Featured, misc hacks, transportation hacks

Non-Lethal Electric Chair Brings the Death Row Experience Home

พฤ, 07/17/2014 - 00:01

One of our trusty tipsters named [Arman] wrote in to tell us about this awesome little Horror VR Hackathon that sought to create a non-lethal electric chair, for a seriously creepy and shocking experience.

[Arman] works in a small prototyping shop, so when a few guys from the local VR group called to ask for help building a non-lethal electric chair, he thought they were joking — until they showed up at the shop! Finally understanding what they really wanted to do, he hooked them up with an EL wire power supply (high voltage AC, low amperage) for their first prototype.

Unfortunately the EL power supply driver took too much juice, so they called [Arman] back the next day to hack together some of those joke gum shockers instead — he hooked them up to an Arduino and they work like a charm. 

The experience (sadly, not video recorded) went like this. Brave testers would sit in the chair with the Oculus rift on and they would see that they are in a strange room with a red curtain across the window. After a bit of time passed the curtain would open, revealing an audience of faceless men…

This is about when you realize you’re in death row. ZAP!

[Thanks for sharing Arman!]

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Virtual Reality

Kumo Connect: from Automated Desktop and Backyard Gardens to Automated Everything

พุธ, 07/16/2014 - 21:01

I ran into a guy at Maker Faire Kansas City who I used to scoop ice cream with twenty years ago. We were slinging frozen dairy at a Baskin Robbins in a dying suburban strip mall that had a one-hour photo booth in the parking lot. It was just far enough away from our doorstep that dotting its backside with the hard-frozen ice cream balls that had been scooped and then not always accidentally dropped into the depths of the freezer was challenging. This guy, [Blake], kept a hockey stick hidden in the back room especially for this purpose. I never could get them to fly that far, but he was pretty good at it.

I hadn’t seen him since those days, and there he was manning a booth at Maker Faire. He looked quite professional, showing no hint of the mischief from those days of ice cream hockey. His booth’s main attraction was Niwa, a connected indoor garden. Having spent four years living and working in Japan after college, [Blake] did not choose this name arbitrarily: ‘niwa’ is Japanese for ‘garden’. He loves Hackaday and was more than happy to share his story.

Connecting with Nature

[Blake] is an avid gardener, but his wife does not share this passion. A few years ago, he took a new job that required travel on an almost weekly basis, which meant big trouble for his plants. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find what he wanted to ensure they were taken care of. You know what comes next: he decided he would design his own system. However, he had no experience with electronics.

Enter the Sparkfun Arduino Inventor’s Kit. Once he achieved Hello, World, he was unstoppable. After a couple of months, a lot of googling, and several prototype iterations, he arrived at the current design.

Niwa does pretty much everything you’d want a connected garden to do: it measures the soil moisture, relative humidity, ambient light, temperature, and barometric pressure. Inside the controller is a custom ATMega328 shield that can work as a standalone or on top of a Pi for web connectivity and control.

He can set it to water on a schedule through Google calendar, but he prefers to do it himself from his phone. The Pi sends a sensor data breakdown the Xively web service so he can check out the graphs from his hotel room. Niwa doesn’t use anything weird or difficult to source, just good ol’ ebay sensors like a photocell, the DHT-11, and a BMP-085 for barometric pressure data.

Garden Party

Once he got Niwa up and running, he expanded automation to his larger indoor garden as well as his 25’ x 25’ outdoor vegetable garden. The indoor gardens use aquarium pumps and buckets for watering. Outside, the vegetables thrive in rows divided by soaker hoses that are fed from the spigot and controlled with a solenoid valve. All three gardens have gnome guardians with weather sensors and a 2.4GHz radio so they can share intel. [Blake] has plans to integrate weather monitoring that would have the system check rain predictions and adjust watering accordingly.

Home of the Future

Once he had all three gardens running smoothly, [Blake] wanted to automate all the things. His blinds could open and close based on the light outside. His dog could be fed automatically. The thermostat could make decisions; the garage door could close itself if left open. Did the mail come? Did the doorbell ring while no one was home? No reason he couldn’t find out, and from almost anywhere in the world.

Then [Blake] saw a business opportunity. He brought in a few people to help with software development, marketing, manufacturing, and design, and Kumo Connect was born. They have built many prototypes including an automatic dog feeder, smart thermostat, and garage door unit. All of these are standalone units, but are able to talk to each other. Other designs they have built include automated window blinds, safes, and desk locks.

[Blake] and his team are getting close to releasing Niwa as a commercial product. Either way, they plan to publish all the CAD designs and code once everything is ready for prime time. For now, you can visit their site and register for updates.

[Blake]‘s advice to anyone who wants to explore open hardware and software, spearhead a startup, or anything in between is simple: surround yourself with people smarter than you. In particular, he is grateful for the support of his teammates and all his friends at Hammerspace.

[Photo credit: Back to the Future, Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment]

Filed under: Featured

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