Cheap as chips Arduino Ethernet shield

It’s no secret that Ethernet shields for the Arduino are a little expensive. With the official Ethernet shield selling for about $50 and other options not much cheaper, there’s a lot of room for improvement for Arduinofied Ethernet. [Boris] over at Open Electronics has a solution to this problem: his Ethercard powered by a $3 Ethernet controller.

The Ethercard uses the Microchip ENC28J60, a through-hole Ethernet controller. There isn’t much else on the board apart from an RJ45 jack, caps, resistors, and a cheap buffer chip. This board was designed to be easily produced, and we’re thinking it might be possible to etch this board at home.

There are a few drawbacks to this ENC28J60 Ethernet shield – the official Arduino Ethernet shield has a 10/100 Mbps connection where the Microchip-powered shield is limited to 10 Mbps. Given the reduced cost, ease of assembly, and the fact that it’s pretty hard to saturate a 100Mbps connection with an Arduino this flaw can be easily ignored.

Pretty neat, especially considering how much you can do with an Ethernet connection on your Arduino. Files and code available in the git.

Laser-charged glow in the dark message board

This entry in the Red Bull Creation contest uses a laser to charge up a glow-in-the-dark message board. The concept is something we’ve seen several times before. Since light can excite a phosphorescent surface, moving pixels of light over that surface leaves a fading trail. Most recently we saw a spinning ring message board. This contest entry is different in that the board is stationary and the print head moves.

It’s basically a two-wheeled robot with a laser diode which can swivel perpendicular to the direction of travel. In this way, the laser prints the rows, and the motion of the robot takes care of advancing the columns. Since laser light has incredible intensity it is able to excite the phosphors much more thoroughly than LEDs. So the message will last longer than that spinning ring project or this awesome turntable hack. Don’t miss the video after the break that shows off the hack along with a bag full of theatrics.

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A look inside what makes cruise control work

[Todd Harrison] took a look inside the business end of the cruise control system from his 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee. We were a bit surprised at how the system operates. The parts seen in the image above make up the throttle control, using a trio of solenoids to vary the level of vacuum inside the device.

We categorized this as a repair hack, but [Todd] is just rubbernecking and doesn’t have any real plan to fix the system. It’s been on the fritz for ten years and this piece may not even be the culprit. But we’re still satisfied because he gives us a look at the system which uses the amber-colored stoppers on the three solenoids to plug three different sizes of weep holes. The unit is a vacuum enclosure where a throttle wire connects to a rubber diaphragm and adjust engine speed as the diaphragm moves. The vehicle’s computer actuates the three solenoids, allowing leakage to vary the level of vacuum, thereby keeping the throttle at just the right level. Neat!

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Raspi contest to get the kids programming

The Raspberry Pi was originally conceived as an educational platform. Much like the BBC Micros and Apple ][s of yore, the Raspi is designed to get kids into programming by giving them a very tiny but still useful computer. Truth be told, we haven’t seen any educational hacks involving the Raspberry Pi, most likely because makers and tinkerers like us have been buying up all the available boards. The Raspi team is trying to correct this problem by holding a summer programming contest aimed at kids under 18 years of age.

The rules are simple: there are two age brackets, under 13, and ages 14-18. The kid who writes the best piece of software for the Raspberry Pi gets $1000, with five $200 runners-up in each category.The contest will run for eight weeks, timed perfectly to coincide with summer vacation.

There will be a few more weekly contests the Raspi team will be holding in the future, but with eight weeks to complete a project we can’t wait to see all the neat stuff kids are going to make.

 

Bricking a Seagate drive while trying to make it work in an Xbox 360

If you’re looking to replace the hard drive in your Xbox 360 without just buying an official unit, you may be out of luck. There is a tool which will let you do it if you are using aWestern Digital drive as the replacement. But if your new drive is a Seagate this tool will not work. [Darth Circuit] set out to make his Seagate work in the Xbox 360, but his manual changes ended up bricking the drive because of just one little error.

The tool that does this with WD drives is called HddHackr. [Darth] started his quest by finding out what the program actually does. In order to stand in for the original drive the new one must have the same model number, serial number, LBA, and firmware revision. Once these values are changed in a binary file it is written to the drive at a specific location. He changed these values on the drive itself, and got pretty far. That is until he tried a new command which ended up locking him out of the drive. Right now it’s pretty much a brick but we hope someone can pick up where he left off and turn this work into something useful for others. Good luck!

Exercise bike actuates your download speeds; messes with music playback

We’re not featuring this project because it involves the tiniest exercise bike in the world. It’s on the front page because the speed-control features which this dynamic duo added are hilarious. They call it the Webcycle and it’s actually two hacks in one.

Way back in 2009 [Matt Gray] and [Tom Scott] slapped an Arduino on the bike and used it to measure the revolutions of the cranks (how fast your feet are going in circles). This was hooked up to the laptop which is fastened to the handlebars. This way you can surf the Internet while you work out, but the bandwidth is directly affected by pedal speed. If you want to watch video you’re going to have to sweat…. a lot. Check it out in the clip after the break.

This March they pulled the Webcycle out of storage so that it may ride again. This time it’s connected to the sound system in their exercise room. A record player motor is the victim in this case. You guessed it — pedal speed dictates the rate of the turntable, modulating the pitch drastically. Make sure the boss isn’t around when you watch this clip because it will be hard not to guffaw.

These guys really have fun with this hacks. It was [Tom's] birthday that prompted that hacktacular mini golf course.

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RA 3D printer controller board does everything, has disco lights

3D printers are getting far, far more complicated than a 4-axis, plastic-squirting CNC machine. These days, you really haven’t earned your geek cred unless you’ve hacked an LCD and SD card interface into your 3D printer, or at least experimented with multiple extruders. There’s a problem with the controller boards everyone is using, though: most boards simply don’t have enough output pins, greatly reducing the number of cool things a 3D printer can do.

Enter RA. It’s a new 3D printer controller board with IO for any imaginable setup. Going down the feature list of RA, we’re wondering why we haven’t seen some of these features before. A 24-pin ATX power header is soldered directly to the board, giving RA users a stupidly easy way to power their printer. Of course there are outputs for LEDs, camera triggers (printer time-lapse movies are really cool), light rings, buzzers, an LCD/rotary encoder/SD card control panel, and support for two heated beds for gigantic printers. If printing in one color isn’t good enough for you, RA has support for three extruders

Compared to other 3D printer boards such as RAMPS or the Sanguinololu, the number of outputs on this board is simply amazing. If you’re planning to build a huge, feature-laden 3D printer, you probably couldn’t do much better than what RA is offering.