Top 10 hacking failures in movies

It had been requested that we make a short video covering the top worst hacks in movies. Being the community that we are, it seemed like an interesting request. We asked for your input, and you were happy to deliver! However, the proposition of creating a “top 10″ list turned out to be quite difficult. There were just SO MANY horrible scenes that I started thinking about how to even categorize them. We could probably to a “top 10″ in any of the following categories without even having to dig too deeply:

  • hacker lingo
  • mocked up interfaces
  • fake input devices
  • virus screen-takeover moments
  • access denied messages
  • hardware taped together

Honestly, after breaking it down in such a manner, making the top 10 movie hacking failures, felt painfully general. It is like making a list of “top 10 animals that ever existed”. The state of technology portrayal in movies is frankly abysmal. It is obvious that the only people who know less about tech than “hollywood” are the people making laws about it.

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Automatic Closet Lightswitch

closet-door-switch-box

[Dillon] wrote in to tell us about his latest project, an automatic light switch for a the hallway closet in his house. Although this project could probably be done very simply, [Dillon] accomplished everything in a way that actually looks professionally done and has some neat features. Check out his site for more pictures of the build.

Not that we at [HAD] mind a bit of messy wiring, but if it’s going inside a house, neater is always better. On the other hand, this project took nearly a year to go from idea to implementation, so please keep submitting your spaghetti-wired projects.  We understand.

As an electrical engineering major, [Dillon] didn’t skimp on basic electrical components, and has schematics available on his site. A MSP430 microcontroller provides the “brains” for everything, turning the light off after 5 minutes if the doors are not shut. Be sure to check out his video overview after the break with footage of it in action. [Read more...]

Ikea Dioder ambilight hack

kidea-dioder-ambilight-mod

There are a lot of hacks out there for Ikea’s Dioder LED light set. [Lambertus] wanted to create an easy and affordable ambilight while keeping the hardware modifications to a minimum. He also wanted anyone to be able to easily duplicate his work. He recently wrote in to share his successful solution.

The customizations boil down to three main steps: solder the ICSP connector wires to the test points on the Dioder PCB, connect a PIC programmer to the ICSP port (and reprogram), and attach a 5V RS-232 device to the ICSP port. The software was the most difficult part of the procedure for [Lambertus]. The PIC16F684 didn’t contain the required UART and PWM controllers, so he had to get crafty. Fortunately he’s done all the work for us, and lists the necessary .hex file he created on his site.

By adding support to boblight, his new ambilight is working with his media center very nicely. There’s a little demo video after the break.

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Making it Easier to Build Firmware

OSHW Logo

Most microcontroller manufacturers give you some kind of free development toolchain or IDE with their silicon products. Often it’s crippled, closed source, and a large download. This is pretty inconvenient when you want to have firmware that’s easy to build and distribute. I’ve found many of these toolchains to be annoying to use, and requiring closed source software to build open source firmware seems less than desirable.

It’s possible to build code for most microcontrollers using command line tools. You’ll need a compiler, the device manufacturer’s libraries and header files, and some method of flashing the device. A lot of these tools are open source, which lets you have an open source toolchain that builds your project.

Setting up these tools can be a bit tricky, so I’m building a set of templates to make it easier. Each template has instructions on setting up the toolchain, a Makefile to build the firmware, and sample code to get up and running quickly. It’s all public domain, so you can use it for whatever you’d like.

Currently there’s support for AVR, MSP430, Stellaris ARM, and STM32L1. More devices are in the works, and suggestions are welcome. Hopefully this helps people get started building firmware that’s easy to build and distribute with projects.

Epson projector LED mod

Epson-projector-LED-mod

Projector bulbs can be incredibly expensive to replace. Sometimes it’s more cost efficient to just buy a whole new projector instead of a new bulb. [Shawn] recently found a nice deal on an ‘as is’ Epson EMP-S4 on eBay and decided to take a chance. He assumed it probably worked with the exception of the missing lamp the seller mentioned. His suspicions were correct, and one custom LED mod later, his projector was up and rolling.

Without a stock lamp installed, the projector would give an error message and shut itself off. So, the first step was to wire up a little bypass. Once that was taken care of, [Shawn] installed a 30W 2000 lumen LED and custom fit an old Pentium CPU heatsink to keep the LEDs temperature down. He also wired up the heatsink fan in parallel with the stock exhaust fan for good measure.  Optical lenses help focus the light, and some custom wiring makes the LED turn on and off just like the stock lamp would.

In the end, his first experiment was a success, but [Shawn] wants to try an 8000 lumen 100W LED to make it about as bright as the stock lamp was. Check out a little video walkthrough after the break.

[Thanks Shawn]

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Centerpieces for a geeky wedding

centerpiece

[Bill Porter] is a married man now, and evidently his new wife, [Mara], is awesome. They put together one of the geekiest weddings that included custom side-lit LED centerpieces.

Instead of laser engraving the dozens of plastic panels for each centerpiece, [Bill] tricked [Mara]‘s Silhouette Cameo home vinyl cutter – the same one they made their invitations with – into engraving acrylic panels. They’re made out of very thin plastic, but the fact that the couple were able to snap apart the engraved plasic after putting sheets though the machine is very impressive for something that’s generally used for scrapbooking.

As for the base of each centerpiece, [Bill] whipped up a few enclosures on his 3D printer and built a few battery packs out of 18650 lithium ion cells. The nine LEDs in each base were leftovers from a previous project involving LED strips, perfectly suited to run for a few hours in a reception hall.

It’s a great build for a wonderful occasion, and we’re really impressed with the plastic cutting ability of the Sihouette Cameo. Very nice work there.

Handwriting robot arm is a little stiff-wristed

handwriting-robot

Check out this robot arm capable of handwriting which is orders of magnitude clearer than our own. It was built by [Patrick Barnes] as contract work for a campaign to raise funding for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Don’t miss the video after the break which starts off with the satisfying whine of some serious stepper motors. Judging scale from this image is a bit tough, but [Patrick] tells us that the entire assembly stands almost fourteen inches tall and the arm has a reach of around twenty inches. The demonstration shows off it’s abilities by drawing a Hilbert Curve. From watching the action you’ll realize that, though this arm and hand look fantastic, this is really a SCARA plotter. The wrist and fingers are for looks only, providing a place where the felt-tipped pen can be mounted (held flush to the paper with a rubber band). Whether that’s a disappointment or not, the precision and look of the machine bring it very high marks. It could take a bit of a lesson in penmanship from another we’ve seen though.

[Read more...]

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