Adding more frequencies to your software defined radio

[regveg] was looking for a way to receive signals outside the normal 64-1700MHz range his TV tuner software defined radio dongle can get. After finding a few $100+ upconverters on the Internet, he stumbled across a DIY project that greatly expands the frequencies his RTLSDR can receive.

[George]‘s upconverter uses heterodyning to increase the frequencies received by a SDR dongle. The basic idea is mixing a signal from an antenna with a 100MHz frequency oscillator. The resulting output will be λ + 100MHz and λ – 100MHz, allowing for a wider range of frequencies that can be received by the SDR TV tuner dongle.

Now [regveg] has a board and schematic that makes it possible to receive just about anything with his TV tuner dongle. Interestingly, this upconverter contains less than $10 in parts and is easily etched at home thanks to a single-sided construction and through-hole parts.

As a small aside, [Andrew] sent in a tip a few days ago telling us his RTL dongle didn’t have any ESD protection. This is a very bad thing, but the good news is the fix is very cheap: just solder in a 10 cent diode and you’re good to go.

Proximity switch for your mains devices

[Ivan's] friend built a proximity sensor to switch his LED bench lighting off every time he walked away. The idea is pretty neat, so [Ivan] decided to implement it for mains devices by making this proximity switched outlet box.

A Sharp GP2D12 infrared distance sensor is the key to the system. It has an emitter and receiver that combine to give distance feedback base on how much of the light is reflected back to the detector. This is presented as a voltage curve which is monitored by an ATtiny85 (running the Arduino bootloader). It is small enough to fit inside the outlet box along with a tiny transformer and linear regulator to power to logic circuitry. The mains are switched with a relay using an NPN transistor to protect the chip’s I/O pins.

Check out the video after the break to see this in action. It should be a snap to add a count-down timer that gives you a bit more freedom to move around the workshop. With that in place this is a fantastic alternative to some other auto-shutoff techniques for your bench outlets.

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Tug of War… with your mind, man!

Challenge your friends to a little mental Tug of War thanks to the Omaha Maker Group’s Red Bull Creation contest entry. The power struggle is all in your mind, and can only be won if you’re able to concentrate deeply and quickly. The headsets worn by each competitor monitor brain waves over a ten second window. If you concentrate more deeply than your opponent they’ll get a squirt of water in the face. If no one is concentrating well the contest is a draw the measurements start again. The screenshot above was taken from the test footage found after the break.

Hardware details are scant on this one. Obviously the Bullduino is the centerpiece of the build, taking readings from the headsets. A motor moves the water nozzle along a slit cut in the top of the sphere.  Progress during the 10-second window is displayed by that nozzle, which starts in the center yellow ‘safe’ zone and moves to one side or another to enter the green ‘kill’ zone.

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Adding an auto-shutoff to the simplest of drip coffee makers

[Jerry Pommer] and his wife have relied on a percolating coffee pot for years. We have fond memories of camping trips with these things; they make great coffee which tastes even better on a cold morning in the back woods. But a recent package from the stork means that they no longer have time to sit and watch the coffee perk. After several days of boil-overs [Jerry] switched to this very basic drip coffee maker he salvaged from the trash pile. It has one switch that turns it on and off and nothing else. In order to make sure he doesn’t forget to turn it off, he hacked together his own shut-off timer for the device.

His write-up is all back story, but the 34 minute video embedded after the break takes us through the hack itself. We like it that he starts by discussing the different options that he could have chosen. Of course it might have been a microcontroller, or a 555 timer keeping time. But in the end he went with a simple resistor-capacitor timer. The carefully calculated component pair drives a Darlington transistor which keeps a relay closed. When the slowly draining capacitor lets the voltage drop past a certain threshold it also kills the power to the hot plate. In this case it will only stay on for about a half hour.

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