Help me reverse engineer an LED light bulb

hack LED bulb

I went to the last monthly meeting of Sector 67, a hackerspace in Madison, WI. One of the things shown off was a color changing LED light bulb that Menards was clearing out for $1.99. Inside there’s two RGB LEDs controlled by an ATtiny13 and powered by an AC/DC buck converter. An ATtiny13 will run you around $1.25 by itself so this price is quite amazing. I grabbed a couple of these bulbs and set to work on them. Join me after the break to see what I’ve got so far.

Update: read a follow-up to this post.

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Nixie frequency counter gone timepiece

nixie clock hack

[Windell] of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories took an ancient Nixie tube based frequency counter and converted it into a clock. The unit he got his hands on is an HP model that was still in great shape. He’s using an internally generated one second pulse as the clock signal, but some modifications are necessary to display time. That’s because the frequency counter is base 10 and clocks use a quirky combination of base 60 and base 12.

It wasn’t too much of a problem to rig up a system to track minutes and seconds. The tens digit for each is monitored by a couple of AND gates that he added to the mix. When they detect a ‘6’ the digit is reset and a pulse increments the next digit as the carry. This is more difficult to accomplish with the hours though. Minutes and seconds count from 0 to 59 but hours don’t start at 0. Instead of over-complicating the logic [Windell] used a bit of slight-of-hand. The Nixie tubes for the hours have been rewired so that when the counter is at 0, the filament in the shape of a 1 lights up. No difference in logic, just a translation that makes them display one digit higher than the actual count.

Helicopter POV display is a masterwork

helicopter hack LED mod

Yes! A radio control helicopter with a fairly high-resolution persistence-of-vision display is a beautiful thing. [Mziwisky's] handiwork is the result of several steps along the prototyping path. He built up a POV test rig on a breadboard, designed his first PCB for the project, and then went to work building it. After initially being inspired by a POV ceiling fan [Mziwisky] looked around to see if anyone else had already added a display to a helicopter. Indeed, this has been done before but there were very few details on the build.

The helicopter has two blades and each have the same hardware on them and gobbled up about ten hours of assembly time each. He basically built a printed circuit board using the blades as a substrate by attaching adhesive copper foil. This makes up the matrix for the LEDs and connects to a small circuit board with an ATmega8 and some shift registers mounted on the inside end of the blade. There’s also a 180 mAh LiPo battery pack, and a hall effect sensor to synchronize the display on each. The results are spectacular, as you can see in the video after the break, but there’s a few bugs left to work out in order to fully tame the 32 LEDs on each rotor.

Kind of looks like the future is happening right now.

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Building a wooden Vespa

vespa hack mod wood

Scooter fans should start sharpening their chisels if they want to undertake this project. This Vespa is the work of a master carpenter and a lot of time. Through the build log photos you can see that it all started with a frame made by bending and laminating wood layers together. Veneer adds the stylish stripe and a lot of carving and turning brings the curves associated with the classic scooters. Even the hand grips, brake handles, and saddle are made out of wood. There’s springs for some shock absorption but we’d bet you don’t want to ride this for too long, or park it outside. Now it just needs an electric motor retrofit.

[Thanks Blair]

Stupid Friggin’ Robots

 

Some robots aspire to greatness, revolutionizing our humanoid behaviour in ways we struggle to understand. They have traveled in space, photographing the stars like celestial paparazzi or snatching Martians up like interplanetary bed intruders. Some robots are happy to perform their everyday functions with dignity and grace, scrubbing our floors and thanking us for recycling.

It may seem that every robot has a calling that–whether grandiose or humble–makes it a valuable part of our society. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Some robots use our hard-earned energy resources to no good use, lazing around without a useful function, drinking flux and tonic all night while watching reruns of Lost in Space. They are stupid robots.

Many humans look upon such pitiful automatons as nothing more than flotsam in the whitewater rapids of human achievement, but the more empathetic among us are ready to celebrate the unique uselessness of stupid robots in grand style. Enter Bacarobo (translated), the premier event showcasing the quirkiest and most amusingly useless robots of our time.

This year the contest was held at the end of October, and the entrants were hilarious to say the least. The dancing olé-bot drew much applause, while the shivering toque robots wooed the crowd in a desperate attempt to escape their frigid prison. It will be fun to see whether any stupidly adorable robot designs will come out of our own Santa-bot competition, considering the source material. If you’ve ever built a stupid or useless robot (accidentally or not) please share your story in the comments. Sometimes the most endearing things about our technology are the parts that don’t work the way they’re supposed to.

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