You Want How Much for a Phone Charger?

People quickly find out that I am a dork, and their next question typically is “why do you own that old as dirt dumb phone?”. Well to be honest, I don’t like phones. After a decade of Palm Pilots and Windows CE devices, I really don’t like touch screens either (fat man fingers and a bad habit of chewing nails does not help). I also do not like that in order to get a fancy PDA with a radio you usually have to sign up for a data plan, or pay for the thing in full.

Now get off my lawn! Seriously though, I really only need my phone to do two things, make phone calls, and send SMS messages. If I had a wishlist the only other things I would like is mass storage for MP3 files, and Bluetooth. Naturally when I started my new day job I found the geek in the department and shortly there after I got asked about my basic LG flip phone.

After a few days of interrogation I jokingly snapped back with “well since you are so worried about it why don’t you give me a better phone!” With a little hinting around and a bribe of a “Swiss Roll” at lunch, I was given an old HTC phone with Windows Mobile 5.

While it is not exactly an iPhone or an Android,  it is much more featured than what I had, and it has a mini SD card slot and Bluetooth! The only catch was, he could not find the charger. We did not know if the thing even worked (he had never seen the thing turned on) , or what condition the battery was in.

As a good little hacker I took it anyway,  join me after the break to see me get it fired up and save a quite a bit of change in the process.

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Laser cut 3D sculptures remind us of an old Playstation

[Paul] a.k.a. [VoidFraction] put up the source and documentation for his sculptures made with laser cut polygons.

For computing his triangles, [Paul] developed LcAgl, an algorithm that transforms a 3D model into the AutoCAD file needed to cut a whole bunch of triangles and connectors. This file was shot over to a laser cutter and after a confusing assembly, [Paul] can make just about any low polygon count model he wants.

For his sculptures, [Paul] uses Coroplast, a type of corrugated plastic commonly used in political campaign signs. Coroplast is lightweight and flexible, a bonus when [Paul] is fitting his triangles together. The connecting tabs are made from acrylic – a very rigid material, so the triangles are held tightly in place.

Since the models in most 3D games are just a bunch of polygons anyway, this technique reminds us of the first 3D console games. [Paul]‘s rhino looks like it walked off the set of a low polygon game like Virtua Fighter or Jumping Flash!.

Giving Siri the keys to your house

We haven’t really covered many hacks having to do with Apple’s newest iPhone feature Siri. We’d bet you’ve already heard a bunch about the voice-activated AI assistant and here’s your chance to give it the keys to your house. This project uses Siri to actuate the deadbolt on an entry door in a roundabout sort of way.

This is really just a Siri frontend for an SMS entry system seen in several other hacks. The inside of the door (pictured above) has a servo motor mounted next to, and attached via connecting rod with, the lever-style deadbolt. An Arduino equipped with a WiFly shield controls that servo and is waiting for instructions from the Google app engine. But wait, they’re not done yet. The app engine connects to a Twilio account which gives it the ability to receive SMS messages. Long story short; Siri is sending a text message that opens the door… eventually. You can seen in the demo after the break that the whole process takes over twenty seconds from the time you first access Siri to the point the bolt is unlocked. Still, it’s a fine first prototype.

There’s a fair amount of expensive hardware on that door which we’d like to see converted to extra feaures. [CC Laan] has already added one other entry method, using a piezo element to listen for a secret knock. But we think there’s room for improvement. Since it’s Internet connected we’d love to see a sensor to monitor how often the door is opened, and perhaps a PIR sensor that would act as a motion-sensing burglar alert system.

Don’t need something this complicated? How about implementing just the secret knock portion of the hack?

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Washing machine powered bike

[Ameres Valentin] was looking for a less expensive way to get around after spending in excess of 100 Euros a month on public transportation in Munich. His solution is an electric bicycle powered by a washing machine motor. It’s a 300 Watt motor that runs on 24 Volts, capable of around 3000 RPM. We’re used to seeing hub motors or chain drives on electric vehicle hacks, but it looks like [Ameres] is using a flywheel on the motor shaft to drive the rear wheel of the bike through direct contact.

Inside the saddle bag you’ll find two 12 volt 12 amp hour sealed lead acid batteries which are used in series. It looks like he charges these with a wall wart (that we think might use a switching power supply) modified with a couple of large alligator clamps. A push button mounted on the handlebars makes it go.We wonder if he’s still able to pedal when the batteries are running low? We don’t see a way to disengage the motor from the rear wheel so we’d bet this is something of an issue. Then again, if that charge actually works you’re never far from an opportunity to top off the batteries.

Check out a quick clip of the motor spinning the wheel embedded after the break.

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Fattening a thin client to run a Debian desktop

While watching his thin client boot up [Nav] noticed that it’s using some type of Linux kernel. He wondered if it were possible to run a full-blow desktop distribution on the device. A little poking around he got a Debian desktop distribution running on a thin client.

The hardware he’s working with is an HP t5325. It’s meant to be a dumb client, connecting to a backend machine like a Windows Terminal Server or via SSH. But it’s got a 1.2 GHz ARM processor and [Nav's] preliminary investigations revealed the it’s running a version of Debian for ARM. He used CTRL-C during the boot sequence to derail that process and dump him to a shell. The login was easy enough to guess as the username and password are both ‘root’.

Once he’s got that root access it was slash and burn time. He got rid of the HP-specific setup and made way for additional Debian modules like the apt system. This isn’t trivial, but he’s worked out a bunch of sticking points which makes the process easier. With the repository tools loaded you can install Xserver and Gnome for a full-blown desktop on the embedded hardware.

Using an LCD’s poor viewing angle to your advantage

Early LCD monitors had some pretty awful issues when not viewed from directly in front of the screen. These days the technology has really minimized this flaw, but if you still have a cheap monitor on hand you might want to pull it out and give this hack a try. [Chris Harrison] is using oblique viewing angles to display additional information on cheap montiors.

Take a look at the two images above. The one on the left is taken from directly in front of the monitor and looks normal. But if you view the same screen from the side, the financial information is obscured. This is by design. Using very light colors, the obscuring characters are almost indiscernible from straight on, but you can just see them there a little bit (they look like burn-in does on a CRT screen). But from the side, these light colors become quite bold and blend with the rest of the data on the screen.

This works because of the polarizing filters on an LCD screen. You might want to watch [Bill Hammack] explain how an LCD works if you’re not familiar. Because the viewing angle color changes are a flaw and not a feature, manufacturers make the up-and-down angles the worst to improve on side-to-side viewing. [Chris'] experiments play into that by using a computer monitor on its side. Check out the video after the break to see some of the different applications that he uses this for.

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Logging bubble frequency and pressure in your fermenter

In an attempt to add technology to his brewing process [hpux735] build a sensor rig that monitors bubbles and pressure during fermentation. What does this have to do with brewing great beer? We’re not sure and neither is [hpux735], but he’s got some preliminary readings to spark your imagination.

The bubble sensor itself was inspired by a SparkFun Tutorial where fermenting wine was monitored with a data logger. It uses an optical gate to detect the passage of air. But the goal here was to combine bubble frequency with internal pressure measurements to calculate how much CO2 is being vented. Perhaps it would be possible to get an idea of how close the batch is to completion based on those calculations. A hole was drilled into the fermenter side of an airlock to take these pressure readings.

This actually works quite well during secondary fermentation when the bubble frequency is quite slow. The hardware is able to discern a pressure difference before and after a bubble has passed the lock. Unfortunately the system breaks down during the vigorous bubbling that takes place soon after pitching yeast. See a few bubble-counting clips in the video after the break.

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