Snuggle up with the softer side of hacking


Not all hacks need to be made up of servo motors, wireless radios, and PIR sensors. Sometimes hacking has a softer side, of which [Katie] reminds us with her latest creation.

Her LED quilt incorporates 64 hand-sewn LEDs, all of which were painstakingly attached with conductive thread. The same thread was used in a sewing machine to build the conductive grid that powers the LEDs. One half of the circuit was sewn into the front of the quilt in the form of 8 rows, while the columns are sewn into the back side. All of the rows and columns meet in the corner of the quilt, where they are attached to a Lilypad Arduino using simple metal snaps.

The LED matrix panel was then tested, then sewn into an actual quilt. The finished product looks completely innocuous until lit up, as you can see in the video below. We think it would make a great nightlight replacement for a child, especially if programmed to display soothing light patterns.

[via Make]

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Oscilloscope thinks it’s a video monitor

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture.

Where would we be if we listened to advice like that? [Eric] writes that with a fairly simple circuit, he’s able to split a composite video signal into its constituent X and Y ramp signals for display on his trusty Tektronix 465m. A LM1881 IC does the bulk of the heavy lifting. After running the signal through a few passive components, the generated ramp signals are ready for consumption by his venerable ‘scope. All that’s needed past that is some additional glue logic to invert the levels so the image shows up properly. The end result is a display that has an almost ethereal quality to it, like an old TV set or something out of the movie Brazil.

Hit the break to catch a video of the circuit in action.

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“Stupid expert” builds a machete slingshot for the impending zombie apocalypse


Sometimes people build things for the simple challenge of building. This is one of those cases.

The gentleman you see in the image above is [Jörg Sprave] of The Slingshot Channel. He is a self-proclaimed “Supid Expert” on the subject of slingshots and has taken his love of flinging things at absurd velocities to a whole new level.

His latest creation is a machete slingshot, which is really more accurately described as a machete crossbow. Measuring over six feet long, the impressive apparatus fires a specially altered machete with an insane amount of force using thick rubber bands. In the test firing shown in the video below, the machete is embedded up to the hilt in six layers of very thick cardboard, requiring quite a bit of work to remove.

As he states in the video while brandishing his bloodied forearm, building such a device is extremely dangerous, and should be limited to “Stupid Experts” . In no way should you attempt to build one of your own.

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Jacob’s Ladder makes itself at home in a floppy disk box

[Plasanator] adds a bit of safety to his Jacob’s Ladder by housing it in a familiar enclosure. It doesn’t take very many components to make one of these, but to get the high voltage you’ll need some type of coil. He’s using one from the electrical system of an old car, then building around it with a big 15mf 220V capacitor, a dimmer switch normally used in household wiring, terminal blocks, and some braising rod or coat hanger for the spark to traverse.

The video after the break shows this in operations, and we’d agree with [Plasanator] that this is a wonderful addition to your Halloween decor. Of course you want to keep fingers away from the dangerous bits and that’s where the enclosure and key lock come into play. Were not sure what he made the upright cylinder from, but the base is a blast from the past. Remember when one of those used to sit proudly on every desk as a tribute to how important the information you had on had really was?

Don’t want to play with high voltage like this? You can build a fake using EL wire.

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Converting the BlinkM into the world’s tiniest Arduino


The BlinkM “Smart LED” is a great little device on its own accord. It allows for complete control of its RGB LED using a built-in microcontroller, enabling the user to do a wide array of things that normally require PWM to accomplish. At just over half an inch square, this little device might also be the smallest Arduino on the market.

The BlinkM packs an ATiny85 micro controller, which allows it to be flashed with the Arduino bootloader thanks to the people over at the [High-Low Tech group at MIT]. They did some tweaking of the Arduino IDE configuration files and incorporated some core library code created by [Alessandro Saporetti] to get the job done – all of which is available on their site.

Once the code is uploaded to the BlinkM, you essentially have a micro Arduino running at 8MHz with a built in LED and 2 I/O lines (5 if you snip off the LED). It’s a great device to have on hand if you feel like a full-fledged Arduino would be overkill in your project.

Stick around to see a video tutorial of the reflashing process.

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SMS gateway lets you Twitter by text message

[GuySoft] threw together a cellphone-based SMS gateway that allows him to push text messages to Twitter. Once up and running, it can be used by multiple people, either with shared or individual Twitter accounts. At its core, this setup uses the cellphone as a tethered modem on a Linux box. The open source software package, Gammu SMSD, provides hardware hooks for phones running in modem mode. The package is already in the Ubuntu repositories but it runs cross-platform and can be downloaded from the project site. This gave [GuySoft] the ability to script a framework that checks for received SMS messages, compares the incoming phone number for a match on a saved list, then pushes the message from a confirmed number to Twitter via their API.

A web interface is used to register new numbers and associate them with Twitter accounts. On the back-end, [GuySoft's] own Python script handles the translation of the message. You can download all of the code, and get more insight on setup from the readme file, over at the GitHub repository.

Designing a controllable RGB LED driver board

[Paul] wrote in to tell us about this LED driver board he’s been working on with a few friends. The collaborators had been unhappy with the Lumens per Watt ratings (or lack of a rating) on low powered LEDs and set out to find a better solution. They picked up the beefy ASMT-MT00 which houses all three diodes in one package, with all the pins on one side of the surface mount package, a heat dissipating tab on the other side, and pushed 30 Lumens per Watt. With that in hand they set out to design a host board for the blindingly bright light.

The board includes a heat sink on the underside. To drive the LEDs [Paul] sourced an LM3407 constant current driver. The manufacture recommends using one of these chips for each of the colors in the LED package. [Paul] built a circuit that allows him to route power around each LED, making the system work with just one low-side driver. From there, an ATtiny2313 provides addressable control via the RS485 protocol. Screw terminals on either end of the PCB allow this to be chained along with other modules, and they’ve already worked out a basic PureData program that will be able to address multiple boards once they finish manufacturing them.