FitBit Hack causes food to spoil if you don’t exercise

exercise-or-starve

This hack could be titled ‘Exercise or Starve’. [Charalampos] needed some motivation to become more active. There’s a device called a FitBit tracker (black and blue on the left) which records your activity and submits it to a web interface. You get daily goals and can earn badges. But those stinking badges didn’t motivate him. He decided he needed something that would really get him off of the couch. So he hacked the FitBit to cut power to his refrigerator. Not meeting his goals will eventually result in a stinky mess and no dinner.

It’s a bad idea to cut power to the icebox. But we see this merely as a proof of concept. He’s using the Belkin WeMo networked outlet. Other than some security issues we discussed on Thursday this is a very simple way to control devices from your server. [Charalampos'] implementation uses the FitBit API to check his activity and drives the outlet accordingly.

Populate SMD boads using a toothpick and tweezers

cnlohr-hand-applied-solder-paste

Here’s a demonstration which proves you don’t really need special tools to populate a surface mount PCB. We’ve seen this board before, it’s the glass PCB server which [Cnlohr] developed and demonstrated by connecting the real world to Minecraft. It’s a tiny board and we were happy to have the chance to see his method for populating the parts before reflow soldering.

In the video after the break [Cnlohr] starts by dispensing a glob of solder pasted from its storage container. He mentions that as long as you store the stuff in the refrigerator it’s rather easy to work with. Because most of his projects are single boards it’s not worth it to have a solder stencil produced. Instead he picks up a bit of the solder glob on the end of a toothpick and applies it to each pad.

This isn’t really as bad as it sounds. The fine pitch TQFP footprints can just be dragged with a bit of the paste. After this application — which took around seven minutes — he grabs some tweezers (not the vacuum type) and begins placing each component. If he missed some paste he’ll discover it in this step and add where necessary. The last step is a trip through his toaster oven.

[Read more...]

Barometer tells you to take your bike or the train

bike

Before beginning his day, [Richard] needs to decide whether he should ride his bike to work or take the London tube. All the information to make that decision is available on the Internet – the current weather report, and the status of the subway lines and stations he’d be taking. The problem, though, is all these pieces of information are spread out in multiple places. [Richard]‘s solution to this was to make a bicycle barometer that pulls data from these places and makes the decision to ride a bike or the tube for him.

[Richard]‘s barometer is built around a nanode and an old clock he found at a flea market. The nanode queries the UK’s weather bureau and the London underground’s line and station status. All the variables under consideration are weighted; if it’s snowing, the output is much more likely to decide on the tube than if there was a slight drizzle.

It’s a really cool build that certainly makes a great use of the publicly accessible APIs made available by the London underground. You can check out a video of the barometer after the break.

[Read more...]

Getting rid of telemarketers with a Banana Phone

Banana

The Federal Trade Commission really doesn’t like robocalls and other telephone solicitors selling you vinyl siding or home security upgrades. The FTC is even offering $50,000 to anyone who can do away with these robocalling telemarketers, and [Alex] looks like he might just claim the prize. He developed The Banana Phone, a device that eliminates those pesky telemarketers.

The basic idea of the Banana Phone is requiring callers to enter a four-digit pass code (played via text to speech over a relevant song to prevent a bot from getting through) before connecting them to the main line. Once a caller has been verified as human, their number is added to a white list so they won’t have to listen to [Raffi] every time they call.

The Banana Phone uses off-the-shelf parts  including a Raspberry Pi and a phone/Ethernet adapter with the total build cost under $100. You can check out a demo of the Banana Phone in action after the break starting at about 2:25.

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Y Combinator and Upverter Host Hardware Hackathon

Y Combinator + Upverter Hackathon

Startup accelerator Y Combinator and Upverter are joining forces to run a hardware hackathon. This event aims to encourage hardware hackers to get together and design new products in a twelve hour sprint. Startups including Pebble, Octopart, and Lockitron will also be participating.

It’s a free event, and the winning teams will get their design manufactured. Participants will retain the rights to their designs, get free professional Upverter accounts, and have the chance to chat with some of the Y Combinator partners. This makes it a great opportunity for people looking to create their own hardware startup.

The event takes place on February 23rd at the Y Combinator offices in Mountain View, CA. Registration is open until February 8th. If you’re in the Bay Area and do hardware, you should check this event out.

Siri controlled Arduino using Ruby

siri-proxy-ruby-arduino

This snippet of Hello World code lets [Nico Ritschel] turn the Pin 13 LED on his Arduino on and off using Siri, the voice-activated helper built into iPhones. The trick here is using the Ruby programming language to get Siri Proxy talking to Arduino via the USB connection. He calls the project siriproxy-arduino.

On one end of the hack resides SiriProxy, a package not approved by Apple which is capable of intercepting the Siri messages headed for Apple’s own servers. The messages are still relayed, but a copy of each is available for [Nico's] own uses. On the other side of things he’s building on the work of [Austinbv's] dino gem; a Ruby package that facilitates control of the Arduino. It includes a sketch that is uploaded to the Arduino board, opening up a Ruby API. The collection of code seen above defines the pin with the LED connected and then listens for a specific Siri commands to actuate it.

Take a look at [Nico's] explanation of the module in the video after the break.

[Read more...]

Reverse engineering salvaged part footprints

reverse-engineering-component-footprints

So you just pulled a fancy component off of a board from some broken electronics and you want to use it in your own project. What if the data sheet you found for it doesn’t include measurements for the footprint? Sure, you could pull out your digital calipers, but look at the measurements in the image above. How the heck are you supposed to accurately measure that? [Steve] found an easy answer for this problem. He uses microscope software to process an image of the board.

One common task when working with a microscope is measuring the items which are being viewed under magnification. [Steve] harnessed the power of a piece of free software called MiCam. One of its features is the ability to select an area of the photograph so serve as the measuring stick. To get the labels seen in the image above he selected the left and right edges of the board as the legend. He used his digital calipers to get a precise measurement of this area, then let the software automatically calculate the rest of the distances which he selected with his cursor.

MiCam is written for Windows machines. If you know of Linux or OSX alternatives please let us know in the comments.

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