Tornado lamp made with lasers

[Styropyro] did a great job of taking common parts and making an interesting item. He calls this his Tornado lamp, and it’s made with stuff you probably have around the house — well you might have to substitute more common glassware for that Erlenmeyer flask.

The bulk of the hack is in the base. You’ll find a laser diode pointed at a small scrap of mirror. That mirror is mounted on the center of a small case fan, giving the tornadic effect when spinning. To make everything fit just right, the laser is pointed horizontally, with the fan/mirror at a 45 degree angle. The beam points up through a hole in the project box and illuminates the liquid in the flask. That liquid is water doped with a substance that fluoresces. In this shot it’s some fluorescein, but we did mention you can do this with stuff from around the house. [Styropyro] demonstrates the use of liqud from some highlighting markers as a substitute.

If you’re decoration a mad scientist’s lab this is a perfect companion for a Jacob’s ladder.

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Lighting up a runway into the garage

[Timo] didn’t want to look like every other lighted driveway but using solar path lights. Instead he decided to light it up as if it were a runway. It’s easy to look at the result as cute and move on to the next hack. But look again. If you were going to do this yourself how would you implement it considering a car will drive over it, and it’s outdoors?

The first issue of protecting this from traffic is actually not too tough in this case. [Timo's] driveway is made of pavers and is not a solid sheet of asphalt or concrete. He drilled out some of the intersections to make just enough room for each of the PCBs he etched to house the LEDs and host the driver. These boards are inserted horizontally into the sand between the pavers like a fin, with the surface mount LED positioned along the edge. Power and control wires run along each line of lights. They are serial controlled which cuts down on the number of conductors needed. [Timo] didn’t mention weather proofing but we’d suggest casting them in crystal clear resin just like this headphone amplifier.

CAPTCHA bot beats new Are You A Human PlayThru game

What do you put on your pancakes? Butter and syrup but not a pair of shoes? This makes sense to us, and it’s the premise of the new CAPTCHA game PlayThru. The space that is normally filled by nearly illegible text is now taken up by a little graphic-based game where you drag the appropriate items to one part of the screen. In addition to being easier than deciphering letters, this new platform shouldn’t require localization. But alas, it seems the system is already broken. [Stephen] sent us a link to a bot that can pass the PlayThru CAPTCHA.

Take a look at the video after the break to see the four test-runs. It looks like the bot is just identifying the movable objects and trying them out. Sometimes this is quick, sometimes not. But it does eventually succeed. For the PlayThru developers this should be pretty easy to fix, just make an error limit for trying the wrong item. At any rate, we can’t think defeating the current system is nearly as hard as defeating reCaptcha was.

Update: [Tyler] over at Are You A Human wrote in to share their side of this story. Apparently we’re seeing the bot play the game, but not necessarily pass it. It isn’t until the game if finished and the playing information is sent to their servers that a decision is made on whether it is successful or not. This way they can change the authentication parameters from the server side at any time.

At the same time, [Stephen] updated his bot and made a video of it playing the game without any shoes on the pancakes.

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Soldering from the hip

You can be the Sheriff around these parts, but only if you have a solder gun and holster to boot. [Mikasaurus'] latest build is certainly fun, even if it’s not so practical. We’re not giving up our Weller knock-off any time soon, but this quick-heat repackage will certainly be a conversation starter at your next Hackerspace event.

The business end of the build is taken from a cheap four-battery soldering iron. [Mike] separated each of the components, then grabbed a toy gun to see where each of them might fit. The batteries are just the right size to fit into the gun’s magazine. All he had to do to make that happen is add contacts to the gun and springs to the magazine. A momentary push switch was positioned behind the trigger and used to connect the battery pack to the solder tip.

After the break you’ll find a little over-the-top modeling, and some solder melting. This will go great with that 9mm Bluetooth headset you built. Just don’t stick the wrong one in your ear.

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Retrotechtacular: 7-function remote control color television

Ah, the days when a television was a solid piece of furniture. When it comes to moving, we can’t say we miss it. But looking at this wooden TV cabinet with storage for its 7-function remote we can’t help but think that today’s TVs seem more… trivial… when it comes to the layout of the living room.

The promotional video that goes with this model is a gem of a different era. As you probably have heard, this week [Eugene Polley] passed away. He is credited with inventing the first wireless television remote control. It was not nearly as advance as what’s shown in the video after the break. Instead, it used visible light in conjunction with four light sensors at each corner of the CRT screen. You could turn the set on and off, and flip through channels, but sometimes with the right lighting conditions the set would change all by itself. We wonder if you’d ever come home to find the TV has mysteriously flipped itself on?

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Making a digital delay from a simple microcontroller

If you’d like to start experimenting in DSP, or just want to build a guitar pedal, here’s the project for you. It’s an audio echo using just a microcontroller from the fruitful workshop of [Vinod].

For his circuit, [Vinod] fed the output of a small electret microphone into a small amplifier, and then into the ADC of an ATMega32. Inside the microcontroller, [Vinod] set up a circular array which writes the voltage from the microphone and sends it out to a speaker. Because the array is circular (i.e. it loops around when it gets to the end), [Vinod] has a digital version of a loop of magnetic tape, perfect for recording sounds and playing back echos.

Because [Vinod] is using an ATMega32, he only has a limited amount of RAM to record audio samples. The delay time could be lengthened with a more capable microcontroller, or even the addition of a large RAM chip. With his setup, [Vinod] can do some really interesting experiments with audio and DSP, so we wouldn’t be surprised if an enterprising musician used this project as the basis for a digital delay stomp box.

You can check out [Vinod]‘s demo of his echo machine after the break.

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Making Instagram with an old CRT

If you’re not familiar with Instagram, it’s a mobile app that takes pictures, applies low-fi ‘lomographic’ digital filters, and shares them on the Internet. For reasons we can’t comprehend, Instagram has been wildly successful as of late and was recently purchased by Facebook for a Billion dollars. [Martin Ström] figured he could do something much cooler than applying digital filters to a cell phone picture, so he built InstaCRT, an app that turns your pictures into grainy CRT images and satiates the geek and hipster in everyone.

From [Martin]‘s project page, InstaCRT uses a small black and white CRT from an old camcorder and a Canon 7D to apply real-world analog filters to all the uploaded pictures. Once the pictures are uploaded to the MacBook Pro server, they’re displayed on the CRT and a picture is taken with the 7D. Once an Android/iOS device sends a picture to the server, it’s displayed on the CRT, the 7D snaps a picture, and the resulting ‘filtered’ picture is sent back to the mobile device.

While we’re sure a few Hackaday commentors are going to ask ‘why’, it’s still a very cool build that is the first real world digital camera filter we’ve seen. You can check out the video demo of InstaCRT after the break.

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