Building an aquarium into your walls

built-in-aquarium

We looked through the build log for this in-wall aquarium and were a bit horrified by the before pictures. You look at the original basement photo and there’s wood paneling, an incredibly rusty plumbing stack, and good god what is that wire jumble hanging from the ceiling? But the project’s not about building codes, it’s about the infrastructure that supports this fish tank.

This corner of the basement has a window and the electrical panel in it. It needs to be this big in order to enclose that window, but that offered the opportunity to add in the aquarium while still allowing easy access for feeding and cleaning. Hot and cold water pipes were run over to the location for easy filling. There’s even a drain line running to a utility sink in a different part of the basement for easy cleaning.

This seems like a bit of an upgrade when compared to the coffee pot fish bowl.

[via Reddit]

Interviews with the Hand-Makers

Want some inspiration to launch your own Handmade adventure? [Anne Hollowday] wrote in to share a series of short films she’s been posting called Makers of Things.

So far there are just four episodes but we hope she makes many more. Above you can see the latest, entitled Woodworker. It’s a monologue-style interview with masters of their crafts. The first installment looks at an engineering club called SMEE that builds a wide range of intricately engineered things like clocks. There’s another maker who builds miniature models of machines. And of course, The Problem Solver whose high-tech endeavors parallel the subjects of interest found on our main site.

Embedded DMX controller for Burning Man

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This is the lighting controller [Paul Stoffregen] built for Burning Man. They wanted to go with DMX controlled lighting this year but that most often includes a computer to run the lighting sequences. This board runs the preprogrammed DMX sequence using a hacked lighting design file.

The choreography for the lighting was planned out using a program called Vixen 2. There is one newer version of the software, but [Paul] needed to translate the output file for use with a microcontroller and version 2 makes this a bit easier than version 3. Speaking of conversion, he didn’t want to start from square one and a bit of searching led to a tutorial which [Bill Porter] posted last year on converting Vixen files for use with Arduino. It wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, but most of the ground work was there.

A few code tweaks bent the script to [Paul's] will. He changed the XML parsing function to ignore all but the main channels in the file. He also had it output a text file which can be stored on the SD card. Because the output is not being flashed to a chip this greatly increases the storage available paving the way for much longer and more complex shows.

Want to learn more about the protocol used by DMX equipment? Check out this primer.

PixelBrite is an LED wall/coffee table done right

pixelbrite

The scope of this project is almost as jaw-dropping as the cost of the parts. [LeoneLabs] calls the project PixelBrite. It’s a highly-polished modular RGB LED panel system, and he’s not keeping it a secret. We think it’s reasonable to call the build documentation mammoth. If you’re a fan of fast-motion assembly videos he’s got you covered there as well.

It’s interesting to compare this build to some of the Daft Punk tables from years back. It shows how economies of scale in the hobby electronics industry have helped new and affordable products to emerge. For instance, this offering is a 10×10 grid which is outside of the normal 8 pixel wide orientation dictated by 8-bit microcontrollers. The reason for the change is that this doesn’t use a matrix built with point-to-point soldering. It uses a string of RGB pixels (WS2801).

The enclosure is also a thing of beauty. The dividers that make up each cell are laser cut foam board. This makes the joints very tight to prevent light from leaking into the next cell. The housing is acrylic held in place by an aluminum rail system. Need more than one panel? No problem, a single connector chains one panel to the next. But we did mentioned the cost of materials. Unassembled you can expect to drop over five hundred bones for the pleasure of seeing this thing blink.

[Read more...]

NPR Science Friday Roundup

npr-science-friday-roundup

UPDATE: Listen to the segment here.

Did you know I’m going to be a guest on NPR Science Friday today? If this is the first you’re hearing about it you need to sign up for the mailing list (there’s a sign-up form in the right hand column of this page).

If you’ve already listened to the show and found your way here for the goods on the projects, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Join us after the break for project links and details.

[Read more...]

Goal Zero Bolt hack lets your flashlight use non-proprietary batteries

goal-zero-bolt-modification

[Harrson] was really excited to get a deal on this Goal Zero Bolt flashlight. It’s and LED flashlight that uses Lithium batteries that are recharged via USB. That’s really handy. But when he cracked it open, like any good hacker does with new toys, he found that it won’t charge standard 18650 Lithium cells. That’s the form factor it’s using, but the proprietary cell that comes with it has both conductors at the top.

So where did [Harrson] start with the project? He called the company to ask about the setup. They were able to confirm that the proprietary cells just have a conductor which brings the bottom contact of the cell up to the top. We’d bet this is to make the flashlight itself easier to manufacture.

He got to work by scavenging a flat Kapton covered conductor from an old laptop battery. This thin strip is manufactured for connecting the cells of a battery, and it’s quite flat so it will be able to bypass the 18650 cell housing inside of the battery compartment. He made a solder connection for the strip inside the recharging compartment, leaving a tail which makes contact with the base of a standard cell.

If you’ve ever cracked open a dead laptop battery you probably found round Lithium cells. These are most commonly the 18650 variant we’ve been talking about. The battery dies when just one cell goes bad, so [Harrson] has a supplies of the good cells which he’ll be able to substitute into his flashlight as needed.