Adding mobile control to your gardening

[The Cheap Vegetable Gardener] wanted to check in on his garden from the road so he wrote a control app for his WinPhone. The hardware work is already done; having been built and tested for quite some time.

The implementation comes in two parts, both shown in the chart above. The grow box is behind a firewall as you don’t want random folks turning on the water and grow lights on a whim. The first part of the interface takes care of this separation by providing a set of functions on the host machine. The second portion is the phone app itself which calls those functions and displays all the pertinent information from the status of the lights, heater, exhaust, and water pump, to the current temperature and humidity. He’s even used Google Charts to graph data over time. The app itself took about two hours to code with no prior experience, a testament to the level of approachability these tools are gaining.

NES controller gets a rumble pak

Add some feedback to an original NES controller by making it vibrate. This feature is often known as Rumble Pak, a controller add-on for the Nintendo 64 which vibrated as a game feature. This version adds a small DC motor (in the upper right) with a screw soldered off-center to the motor shaft.

[Andy Goetz] and his friend built this as a robot controller, taking advantage of the latch and clock pins. Normally, nothing happens while both pins are held high, a signal that they easily patched into using an AND gate. This is actually a neat find, as the addition of an internal microcontroller could add bi-directional communication when the latch is high and the clock is strobed.

Bicycle hub hydropower

[Niklas Roy] wanted to create electricity from moving water so he came up with this hyrdopower generator. It is part of his grand scheme to rent out small personal fountains made from buckets. They need electricity to run so he hooked up the generator to the water jet of a public fountain. It should be possible to use this setup with falling water in a similar way that other generators do.

To build the device he cut fins out of PVC pipe to use as the scoops. They are attached to a Shimano hub generator, meant for producing power while you pedal. The hub is mounted in the front for from a bicycle, which can then be mounted anywhere moving water is available. The only thing that worries us about the setup is [Niklas’] comment that being showered with water didn’t destroy the hub right away.

See the hub and the smaller fountains in the clip after the break.

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Learning to walk, a tutorial on making bipeds walk

[Robert Lam] has produced a number of video tutorials, his latest being a tutorial on how to make a biped robot walk. He is mainly covering the individual motions and actions. He doesn’t go into any specific programming, but rather breaks down the act of walking into several motions and discusses the reason you need them as well as some variations. For some this will seem like obvious observations, but we’ve seen plenty of biped robots that attempt to walk without shifting their weight.You can watch this video after the break, but be sure to dig around in some of his other tutorials for plenty of good stuff.

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Creepy HDD activity lights just in time for Halloween

We almost skimmed right past this spooky HDD activity light thinking it was just another set of LEDs wired to the motherboard.  However, they explained right off that they didn’t want just another blinking light on their case. They wanted it to change its intensity smoothly based on hard drive activity. While there are a million ways this could have been over engineered, we think they did a pretty good job of simplifying the circuit. The bill of materials is pretty much just a handful of resistors, LEDs, an opto isolator, and a capacitor. The effect, is quite nice and can be seen in the video after the break.

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Oogoo, a home-made Sugru substitute

If you follow Instructables.com, it might seem like every third article lately is about Sugru, the nifty air-drying silicone putty that’s good for all manner of repairs and custom parts. It’s fantastic stuff (and we love their slogan, “Hack things better”), but one can’t (yet!) just drop in on any local hardware store to buy a quick fix…so [mikey77] has cooked up a recipe for a basic Sugru work-alike. His “Oogoo” (a name likely inspired by oobleck) is a simple mix of corn starch and silicone caulk.

A two-ingredient recipe would hardly seem adequate material for an article, but [mikey77]’s left no stone unturned, providing an extensive tutorial not only on mixing the compound, but how to add colors, cast and carve custom shapes, and how his home-made recipe compares to the name brand product. As a bonus, the article then drifts into a little Halloween project where he demonstrates etching conductive cloth, how to make conductive glue, and other hands-on shenanigans.