Long-range Bluetooth wardriving rig

bluetooth_wardriving

[Kyle] was digging through a box of junk he had lying around when he came across an old USB Bluetooth dongle. He stopped using it ages ago because he was unsatisfied with the limited range of Bluetooth communications.

He was going to toss it back into the box when an idea struck him – he had always been a fan of WiFi wardriving, why not try doing the same thing with Bluetooth? Obviously the range issue comes into play yet again, so he started searching around for ways to boost his Bluetooth receiver’s range.

He dismantled the dongle and found that the internal antenna was a simple metal strip. He didn’t think there would be any harm in trying to extend the antenna, so he soldered an alligator clip to the wire and connected the CB antenna in his truck. His laptop sprung to life instantly, picking up his phone located about 100 feet away in his house. He took the show on the road and was able to pick up 27 different phones set in discoverable mode while sitting in the parking lot of a fast food chain.

While it does work, we’re pretty sure that the CB antenna isn’t the most ideal extension of the Bluetooth radio. We would love to see what kind of range he would get with a properly tuned antenna.

Keep reading to see a quick demonstration of his improvised long-range Bluetooth antenna.

[Read more...]

Drag and drop programming gets kids started early

minibloq

While programming an Arduino is a piece of cake for EEs who have been around the block a few times, there are some groups who would still find it difficult to get started with the IDE. It is touted for its ease of use, but there is a steep learning curve if say, you are 5 or 6 years old. [Julián da Silva] has been hard at work for a while now, to make the Arduino more accessible than ever.

Earlier today, we posted a story about moldable putty which can be used by children to build rudimentary circuits, enabling them to enter the fun world of hobby electronics at a young age. [Julián's] project “Minibloq” aims to do the same thing with the Arduino. A work in progress, Minibloq uses a graphical interface to “build” Arduino code a block at a time. The code components are dragged and dropped into place on one side of the screen, while the source code is generated on the other half. This helps gently introduce those people new to the Arduino how to write actual code, a little bit at a time.

[Julián] is working hard to ensure that his application works well on OLPC and other classroom-oriented computers to ensure it can reach as wide an audience as possible. We think this would be a great introduction to the world of micro controllers for children as well as those who have never tinkered with electronics at any point in their lives.

Keep reading to see a quick demo of the software in action.

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Aquarium overflow sensor saves your fish and your floors

aquarium_pump_shutoff

If you’ve ever had a water leak in your home, you know the sinking feeling that comes over you as you walk through the door to the sound of running water. [Greg] knows this feeling quite well, having returned home to a sopping wet floor and an overflowing reef aquarium on more than one occasion.

Both of the overflows he experienced were due to a clogged drain in his display, but there was little he could do as far as walling off the drain from potential blockages. With all of the delicate creatures living in the tank, the only possible solution that came to mind was monitoring the aquarium’s water level.

Unfortunately he had no idea how to get this done aside from using probes (which would rust in the salt water) or expensive off the shelf systems. [erich_7719] from the All About Circuits forums helped [Greg] out and designed a circuit for him which would monitor the water level using an IR sensor. The circuit simply shuts off the pump if the water level gets precariously high. As you can see in the video below it works quite well, and as a safety measure, requires a manual restart of the pump once the high water sensor has been tripped.

If you have a need for the same sort of setup, swing by his site for a detailed schematic as well as a bill of materials.

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Feel like we do with a bass guitar talk box

dino_comes_alive

Hacker [Dino Segovis] wrote in to share the latest hack from his HackAWeek series, and this time around he has constructed a talk box for his bass guitar. Providing you are old enough, you probably remember when the talk box made its way into mainstream music, on the “Frampton Comes Alive” album.

The concept of a talk box is pretty simple. A small speaker is built into a sealed enclosure, which carries the sound from the musician’s guitar to his mouth via a plastic tube. The tube is placed in the musician’s mouth, near the microphone. When his mouth is moved, the sound from the guitar is modified and reflected into the microphone.

[Dino] built a similar system using his bass guitar and an amplifier hacked together from an old tape deck. He initially ran into problems with the sound not making it all the way up the tube due to the bass’ low frequency. He had an ‘Aha!’ moment and mounted the speaker on the mic rather than down on the floor, which seems to have fixed the issue.

Be sure to check out the video below to see his talk box in action.

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Push notifications for snail mail on an iPhone

[Matt] over at Make came up with a way to send push alerts to his iPhone whenever his mailbox is opened.

The electronics are just a switch mounted to the mailbox connected to an Arduino with an ethernet shield, but the interesting part of the build is the code. [Matt] got the Arduino WebClient to request a PHP script sitting on a server. This script connects to the Prowl API to push the notification onto an iPhone.

[Matt]‘s project has been up for a few months now, and we still haven’t seen any projects using an Arduino+Push combo, or really any other phone except for the iPhone. We think this could be done on an Android phone with cloud to device messaging, but that can’t be the only solution. Any hackaday readers have an idea of how to implement this outside the iOS world? What would Hackaday readers do with a microcontroller that can send push alerts to your phone?

Video of [Matt] walking us through the project after the break

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The origin of CTRL-ALT-DELETE

You may not have ever thought about it, but the far-too-often-used keyboard combination of Control + Alt + Delete had to have been brought into existence by some random coder at some point in technological history. But wait, it wasn’t just a random coder. The keystroke combo is attributed to [David Bradley]. He was one of the original designers of the IBM Personal Computer. You can even hear his own recount of the story in the video after the break.

He came up with the idea after growing weary of waiting for the Power-On Self Test (POST) routine to finish during each reboot of his software testing regiment. We remember the old days of slow hardware and can understand his frustration at the lost time. He decided to throw in a shortcut that allowed the software to reboot without power cycling the hardware. The original implementation used CTRL-ALT-ESC, but was later changed so that one frustrated keyboard mash couldn’t accidentally reboot the system.

[Read more...]

Fiberoptic mouse prevents stray magnetic fields

[Ben] needed an input device that would operate where electrical signals and magnetic fields wouldn’t be tolerated, so he ended up running fiberoptics instead of electricity to a mouse.

[Ben] ran some glass fiber from the mouse to quadrature encoders to get the x and y velocity. Mouse clicks are read by modifying the existing buttons with a small shutter to block light from shining through the button frame. This isn’t the first time [Ben] adapted fiberoptics to an input device. Last year, he also built a fiberoptic joystick using the same principles.

We covered [Ben]‘s DIY Electron Microscope last month, and we’re wondering if these two projects are related. His project log said he was getting distorted images from the electric field coming from his cooling fan and heater. Maybe he solved that problem and is now just tracking down every last unwanted electromagnetic emission.

Video of the mouse after the break.

[Read more...]

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