RFID RGB Lamp Goes the Distance


[Philippe Chrétien’s] project makes it to our front page just based on its completeness. When you hear about a multicolored lamp which changes based on an RFID tag you might not get too excited. When you look at the refined electronics and the quality of the wooden enclosure it’s another story entirely.

As we’ve said many times before, coming up with the idea for a project is the hardest part… especially when you just want to start hacking. With his kids in mind [Philippe] figured this would be something fun for them to play around with, opening the door to discussing the electronics concepts behind it.

He prototyped on a breadboard using three N-type MOSFETs to drive the colors of an RGB LED strip. The proven circuit was laid out and etched at home to arrive at the clean-looking Arduino shield shown off above. The entire thing gets a custom enclosure cut using layered plywood, a paper template, and a bandsaw.

Need a use for this once the novelty has worn off? Why not mod it to use as a motion activated night light? Alas the actual project link for that one is dead, but you get the idea.

PS4 Controller LEDs Suck (the battery)

The new Playstation 4 Dualshock controllers are super high-tech. They have bright shiny lights on them to prove it.

But [xn0] from neograf.com had a suspicion about these new-fangled controllers. That LED light bar is awfully bright, how much power does it consume?

As it turns out, quite a bit. After dismantling one of his controllers he discovered the LEDs are connected to the main PCB with a ribbon cable — super easy to detach. He then performed some rather unscientific tests of leaving the controllers on over night. His empirical conclusion? If you leave the controller with lights on it will die within 24 hours, if you disable the lights, it will still be at approximately 66% battery capacity after the same amount of time.

Another user on the forums quickly pointed out that this test could have been as simple as using a multimeter — so he did that afterwards. The LEDs appear to draw around 40-50mA, which isn’t that much, but it is more than the controller uses while idle (30-40mA)!

We assume Sony will add a firmware option to turn these lights off in the future, but until then, if you’re really dying for an extra hour or so of gameplay, it’s a super easy modification.

[via ps3hax.net]

8-Bit Video Game is Best of Retro Gaming on a Shoestring Budget


[Petri] wrote in to show off the 8-bit gaming system and original platformer which he and [Antti] developed. Don’t get us wrong now, it’s impressive that the duo were able to put together what looks like a very interesting game. But we’ve seen many industry-leading video games developed with just one or two people (we’re thinking all the way back to the days of Atari). Nope, what’s most interesting to us is that the console is also their creation. We should note that the title screen was the work of their friend [Juho].

Take this with a grain of salt, as the bottom right image in the vignette obviously includes an Arduino. But isn’t it a testament to the state of open hardware and the sharing of knowledge through the Internet that this is even possible on the hobby level? And just because we call it “hobby” doesn’t mean you have to lower your expectations. This thing is full featured. Watch the clip after the break to see the ATmega328 driving a 104×80 resolution screen with a 256 color palette, while using four audio channels for the chiptunes. The thing even utilizes an original NES controller port for user input.

And for those of you who are thinking we’ve seen the same thing before, we never get tired of seeing projects where a lot of hard work has obviously paid off!

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Breadboard Friendly ARM Board Based on STM32F4


Umm yeah… this is more like it. The STM32F4Stamp is a project which [Frank Zhao] put together to make his ARM prototyping process more like is was back when everything came in a DIP format. As you can see, it’s just narrow enough to leave one row open on the breadboard for jumper wires.

Don’t get us wrong, we do really like STM’s own Discovery Boards for the hardware they deliver at a very low price. But the dual-row pin headers on the larger versions (all except the F0 variant) make it tricky to connect your peripherals. This is pushed to the point that a large percentage of hacks we’ve seen with the Discovery boards are actually just to make connecting external hardware easier.

You may be thinking that there’s a lot missing from this board, but we disagree. Obviously there’s still a USB port which can be used to power the board via a 3.3V regulator. But since the STM32 chips have a built-in bootloader the USB connection can also be used to flash firmware to the processor. Nice! It’s open hardware if you want roll your own. For your convenience we’ve embedded the schematic after the break, along with [Frank’s] demo video.

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Maglite 18650 Battery Conversion

maglite 18650

Maglite’s used(?) to be the king of flashlights, but replacing those pesky D-cell batteries is kind of ridiculous in this day and age. So [Travis] decided to upgrade it to make use of the ever-so-common, 18650 lithium-ion battery.

Not looking to purchase any components [Travis] performed this hack using simple recycled household parts. You could solder tabs on the 18650’s so they better mimic a typical alkaline battery cell, but [Travis] notes that because most solder tarnishes the electrical conductivity isn’t always the greatest. So instead, he used aluminum foil. It doesn’t look professional, but it does the job and keeps all the components unmodified so the lithium cells can be used elsewhere if needed. To center the batteries inside the Maglite he used a few strips of cardboard from a case of beer — again, this is just making use of what was available. That being said however, if you wanted to do a professional job on it, nothing is stopping you! A 3D printed 18650 to D-cell adapter would look quite nice… Finally, in order to make the battery spring contact the smaller surface area of the lithium cells, all you have to do is flip it around backwards and slightly bend the inner spring out. That’s about it.

It’s a pretty simple hack we admit, but definitely super handy. In a past project [Travis] also replaced the halogen bulb with a high power LED, making this flashlight even more powerful — and because the LED driver accepts a broader range of voltages it lasts longer too. If you need more inspiration for retrofitting flashlights with LEDs check out this switch-mode driver board hack.

Unfortunately this hack does reduce the Maglite’s thief-head-bashing-ability with such light batteries.

ScareMail Tries to Disrupt NSA Email Surveillance


Are you on the NSA’s email watchlist? Do you want to be?  This project is called ScareMail and it’s designed to mess with the NSA’s  email surveillance programs.

[Benjamin Grosser] has written it as a plugin for many popular web browsers, and it uses an algorithm to generate a clever but ultimately useless narrative in the signature of your email using as many probable NSA search terms as possible. The idea behind this is if enough people use it, it will overload the NSA’s search results, ultimately making their email keyword tracking useless.

So how does it work? The algorithm starts with natural language processing (NLP) and an original source of text — he picked Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Using the processor it identifies all nouns and verbs in the original text and replaces them with properly formatted and conjugated “scary” words that he’s indexed from a list of hypothetical NSA key words. To ensure each signature is unique, he makes use of a Markov chain to generate new texts that are completely different each time. The result is a somewhat coherent paragraph that doesn’t make any real sense.

But wait! Surveillance like this is bad, but hypothetically it could work! Well, maybe. But the point is: 

ScareMail reveals one of the primary flaws of the NSA’s surveillance efforts: words do not equal intent.

Stick around after the break to see a proper video explanation of ScareMail by [Ben] himself.

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Fail of the Week: How a Cheap USB AC Adapter Might Indirectly Burn Your House Down

This Fail of the Week will remind our readers that every project they make, no matter how small they might be, may have big consequences if something goes wrong. Shown in the picture above is an oven that [Kevin] tweaked to perform reflow soldering. The story is he had just moved into a new place a few weeks ago and needed to make a new batch of boards. As he had cycled this oven many times, he was confident enough to leave the room to answer a few emails. A few minutes later, he had the unfortunate experience of smelling something burning as well as discovering white smoke invading his place.

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