Putting Twitter in a VFD clock

Not content with only knowing the time, [trandi] decided his Vacuum Fluorescent Display clock would be much better if it displayed the weather and a Twitter feed.

[trandi] received a Lady Ada Ice Tube clock last month. The kit went together almost too easily. Now he had to, “make it connect to other ‘stuff’ and display some custom messages.” After playing with the firmware to display a Hello World, [trandi] mucked around with the GPS mod and figured out how to add scrolling text over a serial connection.

A serial connection to an Internet-connected computer is all well and good, but [trandi] really wanted a stand-alone solution. A tiny WiFi to RS-232 board was sourced and the work of getting a clock on the internet began in earnest. After a weekend was wasted trying to debug the HTTP mode of the WiFi board, [trandi] gave up and used TCP mode with manually constructed HTTP headers.

The clock gets the current weather and a Twitter feed. To one-up to the Ice Cube GPS mod, the clock now sets its own time from the Internet. Check out the video of [trandi] showing off his Internet clock and fine collection of single malts after the break.

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Sustainability Hacks: Automatic window control

Sometimes, changing one little bit of a green hack turns it into a build that wastes as much energy as our gaming rig. [Dr. West]‘s automatic window controller is one of these builds. The good news is the window controller can be easily modified to cut energy costs in the fall and spring.

[Dr. West] doesn’t have any control over the heat in his apartment and for the entire Canadian winter, his apartment gets really hot. He doesn’t pay for his heat, so he does what any of us would do – crack a window. Inspired by this post, he put a linear actuator in the frame of his kitchen window. [Dr. West] didn’t want to damage the window frame, so he attached the actuator to a piece of square aluminum tubing that mounts to the existing screw holes.

The electronics, [Dr. West] used a Rabbit 2000 dev board, LCD display and keypad, and built an H-bridge circuit on a bit of breadboard. Because of a port conflict and admitted laziness, an Arduino is used to read the thermistor. The display shows the current and desired temperature, and the Rabbit opens and closes the window accordingly. All the source code is posted in the forum post.

While it’s not the most ‘green’ idea to dump heat from a building’s HVAC system out into a frozen tundra, this would be a great build to automatically open and close windows in the more temperate seasons. Open windows during the day, close them at night and you’ll have no more problems coming home to a house that’s either too hot or too cold. Check out a video of the automatic window after the break.

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