Turning a Kindle into a weather display

Since the first time [Matt] saw an e-paper display, the idea of using it as a regularly updated, non real-time display consumed him. It really is the perfect platform for very readable calendars, agendas or, as [Matt] found out, a weather display.

[Matt]‘s build uses a server to fetch and parse weather data and forecasts from NOAA. This data is then inserted into an SVG file, rendered, converted into a PNG, and finally converted into a grayscale, no transparency image required by the Kindle.

After the image is crafted by [Matt]‘s server, a small script running on the Kindle fetches the image, clears the screen, and displays the image. This entire process happens twice a day, often enough for [Matt] to get a good idea of the weather outside without having to look out a window.

The really striking feature of [Matt]‘s build is how good his weather display looks. The wonderful iconography of this weather display comes partly from graphics found on The Noun Project, with a few weather conditions drawn by [Matt] himself. It looks great, and is an awesome example of an excellent use of e-paper.

Help create a universal ARM programmer

The new crop of ARM Cortex M0/M3/M4 microcontrollers have a lot of interesting features for developers. In addition to supporting drag and drop programming via USB, the same hardware can also be used as a debugger. Setting breakpoints and inspecting memory at any point in the code is a wonderful feature, but not all the new ARM dev boards we’ve seen support this feature.

The folks over on SimpleCortex have a solution to this problem, but they need your help. To get their CMSIS-DAP hardware working with Open Source tools, they’re looking for a few good programmers and hardware developers to build a toolchain.

Right now, the hardware only works with Keil development tools. A closed source development environment is no good to anyone, so if you have some experience writing drivers and such, send the guys at SimpleCortex an email. They’ll give you a free board in return for a contribution to building an open source ARM toolchain.

Common sense requires us to mention that you should probably only send these guys an email if you actually plan on working on this problem. Still, it’s a great opportunity to contribute to open hardware.

Building a bigger Shapeoko router

Hackaday alumni [Will O'Brien] sent in a few projects he’s been working on lately while he’s in the process of upgrading his workspace. He’s building a 1200 x 1200 mm CNC router based on the Shapeoko router, and it sure looks like he’s having fun doing it.

The Shapeoko router is based on the Makerslide open source linear bearing system. This system uses common aluminum extrusions as the frame of a very simple, very inexpensive CNC router. The Makerslide system is designed to be expandable; if you want a larger axis, just bolt in a longer piece of aluminum extrusion. We haven’t seen many Makerslide builds take advantage of this fact, a shame as the stock Shapeoko only has a build area of 200 mm square.

[Will] is expanding this build area to 1200 mm square, but of course this means beefing up some parts of the build. He’s already moved up to very hefty 250 oz/in Nema 23 stepper motors (up from the Nema 17s for a standard Shapeoko), as well as beefing up the motor mount a great deal.

[Will] also sourced a few lengths of cable drag chain (yes, that’s what it’s called) to keep all the wires for his huge CNC routers out of the path of a moving gantry and spinning motors. It looks like he’s got a very nice build shaping up, and we can’t wait to see it in action.

An ice tube clock for the TI Launchpad

Because Nixies, Decatrons, and VFD tubes really are that cool, [cubeberg] over on the 43oh forums designed an IV-18 clock for the TI Launchpad.

Like adafruit’s Ice Tube clock, [cubeberg]‘s project uses a surplus Russian IV-18 VFD tube conveniently sourced on eBay. On the board, there are three buttons for changing the time and setting the alarm along with a MAX6921 VFD tube driver and a small switching regulator to boost the 5 Volts on the Launchpad to the 50 V the tube requires.

There was a little bit of space left on [cubeberg]‘s PCB design, and he filled that space with a header for a buzzer and a temperature sensor. Right now, the code doesn’t support an alarm function and he’s still waiting on a few components to finish off the thermometer portion of the board, but it’s still the makings of a very nice clock.

If you’d like to grab your own Launchpad ice tube clock, [bluehash] is organizing a group buy for 430h forum members. If they can get 15 pieces built, the clock will cost less than $5/unit. Very cool, and very cheap when you consider TI is practically giving Launchpads away.

[ch00ftech] Visits a Shenzhen Market

On a business trip, [ch00ftech] visited a Shenzhen electronics market and documented the trip. Some of the attractions included multiple Apple stores of questionable authenticity, stores selling PC components with no manuals, drivers, or packaging, and a variety of LEDs and lasers.

[ch00ftech] showed off the loot from the trip, including breadboards, perf boards, LED matrices, and an RFID reader all for very low prices. There’s also the Class 4 laser pointer that cost about $120 and has a power output of “between 500 mW and 8000 mW.” Given the 500 mW power restriction on lasers sold in the US, it’s fair to say that this thing should be handled with care. Hopefully the included safety classes actually block the specific wavelength of the laser.

The staff in these stores were very knowledgeable and knew part numbers and inventories by memory. One of the biggest surprises was just how low the prices were.  While Radio Shack has started to carry some more parts for hackers, it seems that nothing stateside can compare these Chinese electronics markets.

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