Grow your own fresh salad year round with this cheap hydroponic setup

With fall approaching you might think about moving your gardening inside. [Jared] used cheap and readily available materials to make these salad-green trays.  When used with his grow lights and tent (which he built during a different project) he was able go from seed to salad-bowl in just four weeks.

A pair of plastic storage bins act as the base, keeping the water right where it should be. Some holes cut into a piece of solid foam insulation holds a set of plastic pots in place, allowing the water to leech into the Rockwool that holds each plant in lieu of soil. To aerate the water [Jared] grabbed a cheap aquarium pump, splitting the output into several different branches. Each has its own check valve to ensure that a pump failure doesn’t let the water find its way out of the plastic tube. A set of bubble stones breaks up the output, helping to mix it with the water.

This isn’t quite as easy to pull off if you don’t already have a grow light. But you can always make it worth the investment if you decide to start next summer’s garden from seed. Or perhaps you can try to make your own using a varation of this shop lighting hack.

[Thanks Jayson]

Recreating the Mac Plus with an FPGA


[Steve] over at Big Mess O’ Wires has never been so happy to see the “Sad Mac” icon.

A little over a month ago, he decided to take on the task of building his own Mac clone using modern technology. Not to be confused with Mac emulation on modern hardware, he is attempting to build a true Mac clone using an FPGA that is functionally identical to the original.

He is calling his creation the “PlusToo”, with the goal of producing a modern version of the Macintosh Plus. The Plus shares a good amount of hardware with its other original Mac brethren, allowing him to replicate any of the other machines such as the Mac 128K, with a few simple configuration changes.

Building this clone is an incredible undertaking, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the construction progress bit by bit. [Steve] has been diligently working for a little over a month now, recently getting the clone to run 68000 code from the Mac ROM, resulting in the Sad Mac image you see above. While the logo has been dreaded among Mac users for years, it signals to [Steve] that things are coming along nicely.

Motorized coop door lets the chickens out for you

[Larry] and [Carol] just upgraded the coop to make their lives easier, and to help keep the chickens happy. The image above is a chicken’s-eye-view of the newly installed automatic door. It’s a guillotine design that uses the weight of the aluminum plate door to make sure predators can’t get in at night. This is much easier to fabricate than a locking coop door would have been. Some leftover aluminum channel guides the door on either side, with a spool above it to wind up some rope, thereby lifting the door.

You can see the belt-drive motor is also mounted inside, out of the element. To the right of the image you can just make out a plastic food container. This protects the electronics from the elements. Inside you’ll find an H-bridge to drive the motor, a real-time-clock to make sure the schedule is well-timed, and an Arduino. There are a couple of reed switches which let the microcontroller sense the position of the door.

After the break you can see a demonstration video, as well as a slide show with build details. The motor is pretty quiet and, although it spooks the chicken in the demo just a bit, we’d be they’ll be used to it in no time.

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Swap-O-Matic: an automat with recycling in mind

The Swap-O-Matic is vending machine built for recycling, not consuming. Instead of feeding money into the machine, you can get an item out of the machine by swapping it for something you don’t need anymore. It’s a great concept with a great retro design, probably influenced by the age of the automat.

[Lina Fenequito] and [Rick Cassidy] built the Swap-O-Matic around the time [Lina] was getting her MFA. The build was in Wired in 2005, but the project has been updated since then and has a new home at LaunchPad in Brooklyn, NY. The first version used a separate computer next to the machine that gave out combinations to locks on the doors. It looks like the new version has been improved with an integrated touchscreen and computer-activated locks leaving [Lina] and [Rick] with a very clean build.

It’s a great idea if you have a relatively homogeneous population with similar interests, so we expect to see some of these popping up at a few hackerspaces. Check out the Swap-O-Matic promo video after the break.

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SPDIF passthrough lets you digitally manipulate the audio

[Mike Field] took what he had learned with a few past projects and combined them to make this FPGA-based SPDIF audio pass-through. In order to get the SPDIF signal ready for the FPGA he needed a few components to use for level conversion. Once everything was connected he used a first in first out (FIFO) buffer to ensure that the outgoing bitrate is the same as the input, while still allowing enough time for the FPGA to do some digital manipulation.

This reminds us of the NeTV, which is an HDMI pass-through device. That one allows you to overlay your own video information to any TV that has an HDMI port. This would allow you patch into any audio system that’s using SPDIF, letting you inject your own audio, such as a paging system in a public lobby, or the ringing of a phone when you get a call, or to create your own sounds.

We like his overhand knot cable management system to keep those jumper wires from becoming too much of a mess on the breadboard.

jGPX keeps the bachelor party moving in the right direction, regardless of BAC


[Davy] and his friend [Chris] were tasked with putting together a bachelor party for their friend [J], and had a little more in mind than the standard drunken revelry. To earn the privilege of partying his brains out, they decided that [J] would have to fulfill a series of tasks and challenges before joining up with the rest of his friends for the evening’s events. [Davy] didn’t specify what these tasks were, lest he spoil the surprise, but he did let us in on a little device that he and [Chris] built to help guide the bachelor through his day.

They were a bit worried that the bachelor would get sidetracked during his journey if he happened to imbibe along the way, so they built a device called jGPX that would ensure [J] stayed on track and on time. jGPX is a custom GPS navigator consisting of an Arduino, a GPS module with built-in antenna, and a compass.  The pair created a set of routes in Google Earth, exporting the data to KML for interpretation by their device. The jGPX is meant to guide [J] along via a small LCD screen that shows him the distance to his target as well as the proper direction of travel to get there.

It looks like [J’s] friends put a lot of effort into his party, and although there are no details as to how things went, we’re sure it was a blast!

Burning Man 2011: Peter Hudson’s Charon Strobe Sculpture

Here at Hackaday the only thing we like better than giant whirling artistic desert based contraptions are interactive giant whirling artistic desert based contraptions. [Peter Hudston]‘s Charon is no exception. Known for his strobe sculptures [Peter] has returned from a two year hiatus with possibly one of the craziest and nightmarish sculptures found on the deep playa. The work features a gigantic spinning wheel that has posed human skeletons mounted on it’s inner edge. Onlookers can pull a series of 6 rope pairs which cause the wheel to rotate rapidly. When the rope pullers are coordinated enough to get the wheel spinning at the right speed, a strobe is activated revealing the skeleton’s animation.

I wandered over to this thing one night after hearing the local buzz about the piece.  The towering wheel was spinning away as the rope pullers of the moment tried desperately to get the strobe to activate, every couple of minutes or so somebody would try and coordinate the pulling only to confuse things.  From my perspective it seemed to be very difficult to get the right speed, and the pullers had to yank the rope practically to the ground. During the short time I was watching the piece (jaw to the floor) the strobe activated once or twice and honestly it was completely worth the effort. To see what this monster looks like in action check out the video after the jump.

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