The OpenServo Project

When it comes to using servos in projects, there is a definite distinction between the cheap ones and the expensive high power and precision models. The OpenServo project gives you a couple options for enhancing your servo experience. By replacing the control board with a new one based on a familiar microcontroller, a whole new set of features can be attained. For those of you out there with a need for servos like these, you can buy the pre-built replacement board (unfortunately sold out right now), or build your own from the provided schematic, BOM, and source code.

Simple sensors to calculate RPM

Ever wonder how to calculate revolutions per minute using a microcontroller? This project shows you how by purposing an IR emitter and detector and a computer fan. As the fan blades spin they disrupt the beam of infrared light between the emitter and the receiver. This results in a waveform on the receiver’s circuit which can be easily used to trigger interrupts in any microcontroller. In this case a PIC 18F452 monitors the detector’s signals for a rising edge. By measuring time data between interrupts the period can be established and RPM calculated. You can see a video of the test rig after the break.

So what can you use this for? It’s the method that most spinning POV displays use to stabilize the display. You won’t be limited to an IR sensor, but can use a hall effect sensor in the same basic fashion.

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Take your PS3 on world tour

[Lossfresnos65] must be planning to do a lot of travelling because he’s entombed his PlayStation 3 in a Pelican case. Inside you’ll find some diamond-plate bezel to cover the console itself and used to surround the 19-inch high-definition television that is mounted to the lid of the case. In the picture above you see the door that lifts to reveal foam cutouts for a TV remote and two six-axis controllers. There’s no battery and no wireless Internet, but connection for the power cord, Ethernet, component video, and HDMI have an external port on the base of the enclosure. There’s also two fans to keep everything cool, and on the front you’ll find two USB ports and a headphone jack. After the break he shows off the finished product but there’s no internal build photos to be found. We linked his forum post at the top as ask him and perhaps he’ll deliver the goods.

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SIM card carrying traffic lights

Apparently some of the traffic lights in Johannesburg, South Africa have SIM cards in them to help maintain the network without a physical connection. Now that’s some and not all, but apparently thieves have learned that the SIMs can be used in cell phones to make anonymous and unlimited calls. Officials are convinced that the thieves have inside information because they only crack open the lights that DO contain a card.

We’re white hats here at Hackaday and certainly don’t want to give out information that aids criminals. But since this is already a huge problem we have an idea of how thieves might be identifying which lights to rob. Sure, they probably do have inside information, but wouldn’t it be fairly simple to track down which lights use cellular communication by using a home made spectrum analyzer? We guess it would depend on how often the lights send out communications bursts. Does anyone have insight on this? Leave you thoughts in the comments.

[Thanks Bob]

Patching into an optical mouse with a PIC

[MikyMouse] cracked open a couple different optical mice (or is it mouses?) in order to play with the data communications coming off of the chips inside. Once he figured out the protocol, it wasn’t too hard to grab the data for use in his own projects. The chip that controls the mouse is one of two he looked at, either an ADNS2051 or an ADNS2610. They run at 5V and use serial communications via SDIO and SCK pins. The clip after the break shows the test apparatus displaying coordinates of the mouse on an LCD screen. This seems like an easy and inexpensive way to get position data from your project. The only tricky part is going to be deciding when and how to to zero out the location.

Not interested in this type of mouse hack? Can we spark your curiosity with this mouse auto-fire project?

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Reminder: Santa-Pede challenge ending soon

This is just a friendly reminder that our Santa-Pede challenge will be ending soon. Please send your submissions to us by emailing them to bbb@hackaday.com or by posting them in the projects section of our forum (did we mention we have a forum now?) by the end of January to be considered. We don’t care how silly, stupid, simple,or slick it is, just send it to us! We have some fun prizes from Adafruit and Make and even have [Phillip Torrone] as a judge. Get those submissions in ASAP.

Monitoring the Engine Control Unit

Is there a place in the dashboard of your high performance automobile for this Engine Control Unit feedback panel? There’s several methods of showing information at work here. The row of LEDs at the top of the bezel provide RPM feedback. The two red LEDs with chrome bezels are alarm indicators. But that big OLED display is the centerpiece of the unit. Not only can you scroll through a myriad of display options, but the screen packs more than enough contrast to be readable during the day. It looks like [Mathieu] is selling these units and has decided not to release source code because of this, but there’s a schematic available and a video after the break shows the menu system from which you can draw inspiration.

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