LiveLight is an expertly crafted ambilight clone

[SunWind] developed his own version of the Phillips Ambilight system (translated) which he is calling LiveLight. We’ve seen more than a few of these hacks, many of them are based around Arduino, and most use LED strip lighting. [SunWind] is using strip lighting as well, but his design is clean and polished quite a bit more than anything else we’ve seen. In our minds this would be welcomed by even the most discriminating of A/V enthusiasts.

He found just the right size of project box and managed to fit everything in on a nicely milled PCB. The enclosure itself has also been milled to allow the mini USB B connectors for each of the nine RGB LED strips. But he didn’t stop there, the top of the enclosure has labels milled into it to help when hooking everything up.

An ATmega32 addresses the LED strips based on data pushed in from a computer. An on-board FTDI chip adds USB connectivity and [SunWind] used a hack to rewrite the EEPROM on that chip so that it enumerates with the name “LiveLight USB Interface”. A program called Boblight gathers the data from the currently playing video. You can see the final project in the video embedded after the break.

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Washing machine mechanical timer replaced with microcontroller

After the electromechanical timer on [Paul Canello's] washing machine broke for the third time he decided he needed to stop repairing it and find a more permanent fix. He decided to build his own microcontroller-based system for washing his clothes (translated). Caution: The image links on [Paul's] page seem to be broken and will unleash a never-ending storm of empty pop-up windows if you click on them. We’ve embedded all of the images after the break to save you some hassle.

The controller on a washing machine is nothing more than a mechanical alarm clock. It starts the cycle, then moves through various modes based on the passage of time. [Paul] started his hack by observing how long the delay between cycles was meant to be, and recording which parts of the machine were switched on and off at each stage.

It turns out that when the mechanical knob is turned, it reroutes how water flows through the detergent chamber. Since that knob won’t be in the new system [Paul] came up with a way for the microcontroller to handle this by using a servo motor. The rest of the control involves relays to control the motor, and solenoid valves for the water. There are also pressure switches that give feedback for the level of the water in the machine. A PIC 16F872 serves as the new controller, with the help of a 7 segment display, a buzzer, and a pair of buttons as the user interface.

This is an older project, but after reading about the Arduino controlled dishwasher [Ramiro] sent us a link. Thanks! [Read more...]

Faking high-speed video photography of repetitive events

[Destin] has been doing some high-speed and high-resolution video photography using a standard DSLR. He accomplishes this using a bit of ingenuity to capture images of repetitive events at slightly different points in time.

The banner image above shows a bullet travelling through a set of matchsticks. [Destin] uses the sound of the gun firing to trigger the flash that captures the image. A piezeo transducer picks up the sound, triggering a precision pulse generator. That pulse generator then triggers the flash, adding a delay based on the settings. In this way, [Destin] can capture video by firing a bullet for each frame, but adjusting the delay period of the pulse generator to capture the image when the bullet is in a slightly different place from the previous frame. It’s an old technique, but after some post-processing it produces a high-quality output without sinking thousands of dollars into an actual high-speed camera. Check out the video we’ve embedded after the break.

We like this guy’s style. We saw him strapping a camera onto a chicken back in December and we hope to see a lot more from him in the future.

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A big transformer, because it’s cool!

[Grenadier] Had some spare wire, electrical tape, and a giant ferrite core laying about and decided to create a massive and pretty snappy looking disk shaped flyback transformer. Dubbed the Fryback, he claims that it will “revitalise your health and bring wondrous wealth and prosperity to your family”.

He chose a disk shaped transformer because they look cooler, fair enough.. (oh and they reduced inter-winding capacitance and the voltage difference between layers). The construction is fairly simple, but time consuming. Grenadier goes through the important steps on his website, but be prepared for 25 hours of winding wire if you decide to make your own.

Running at 48V the Fryback can output 8kV at a very high current, producing some nice thick 30cm long sparks. Check out the video after the break to see the Fryback in action.

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How to Make a Hand Drill out of a Pencil Sharpener

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say. [Jason] was in such a situation where he needed to install some safety railing at his grandmother’s house. He didn’t have the necessary tools available, like a drill, so he fashioned one himself out of a pencil sharpener and some fittings and wire that he was able to find.

Although crude, and probably not what one would choose to use if an actual drill was available, this “drill-pencil-sharpener” actually does a pretty decent job of cutting through plywood as seen in the video after the break. [Read more...]

Vocera B1000A teardown


[Gray] over at Geek Chique had a bit of an eBay mishap and was suddenly the proud owner of 16 Vocera B1000A badges. If you are not familiar, these badges are small, lightweight communications devices similar to the famous Star Trek communicator, which allow users to talk to other individuals via VOIP. He was working on getting the remaining badges up and running by reimplementing the server software, and figured that since one of the badges he purchased was not working, he might as well take it apart.

It took him awhile to get the well-made badges apart, requiring a rotary tool and some elbow grease to get the job done. Inside, he found that the device was split into two circuit boards, one being the “WiFi” board, and the other the “CPU” board. The WiFi board uses a Prism WiFi chipset, which was incredibly common at the time of construction. The CPU board sports small SRAM and flash chips as you would expect, with a Texas Instruments 5490A DSP running the show.

While it remains to be seen if tearing the device down helps [Gray] to get things up and running again, it never hurts to take a closer look to see what you are working with.

Putting the flex back into the RDS 80 soldering station


[Markus] was looking to upgrade his soldering station, and having had good luck with Ersa in the past, opted to purchase one of their new stations, the RDS 80.

Once he got the iron home however, he was very disappointed to see that while his previous Ersa model used a silicone cable to connect the iron to the base station, his new iron used a stiff, non heat-resistant PVC cable instead. He found plenty of people complaining about the same issue online, but no one seemed to have a fix, so he set off to figure it out for himself.

He thought that he could disassemble the iron and change the wiring out once it was apart, but it seemed that there was no way of doing so without destroying it. Instead he chopped the wire off at the end of the soldering iron, replacing it with a new silicone cable. He did the same thing at the base station end, since he was forced to reuse the proprietary 4-pin plug Ersa decided to use there.

His modifications worked out nicely, and he is now happily soldering away.

If you happen to have one of these soldering stations, be sure to swing by his site to get a closer look at how he swapped out the cable.