Android Doorbell Notifier

Breadboarded circuit to detect when doorbell rings

It’s always unfortunate to find a FedEx tag on your door saying you missed a delivery; especially when you were home the whole time. After having this problem a few times [Lee] decided to rig up a doorbell notifier for his Android phone.

[Lee]’s doorbell uses a 10 VAC supply to ring a chime. To reduce modifications to the doorbell, he added an integrated rectifier and a PNP transistor. The rectifier drives the transistor when the bell rings, and pulls a line to ground.

An old Netgear router running OpenWRT senses this on a GPIO pin. Hotplugd is used to run a script when the button push is detected.

The software is discussed in a separate post. The router runs a simple UDP server written in C. The phone polls this server periodically using SL4A: a Python scripting layer for the Android platform. To put it all together, hotplugd sends a UNIX signal to the UDP server when the doorbell is pushed. Once the phone polls the server a notification will appear, and [Lee] can pick up his package without delay.

VU Meter Record Player Lights it Up

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[Michaël Duerinckx] was given a turntable for his last birthday from his fiancée — since then he’s started collecting records like nobodies business. But about a month ago he started itching to do an electronics project — he decided to upgrade his record player to include a VU Meter!

As he began designing he soon realized he didn’t have all the tools he needed to do this project right — a perfect excuse to go check out his local makerspace, SoMakeIt!

He started prototyping the VU Meter on a breadboard, and opened up the record player – it was like this thing was made to be hacked. Two free connections off the power supply to power his circuit, bingo! Continue reading “VU Meter Record Player Lights it Up”

Detroit Meetup this Friday

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The plans are made, the swag has shipped, are you going to show up or what? Friday night at 8pm we’re having a Hackaday Meetup at i3 Detroit. That link is how you get your free ticket.

You can come for the hacking, the leisure time, or just to score a free shirt and enough stickers to avoid actually repainting that 1991 POS you call a car.

i3 is offering up their facilities for those that want to work on projects or just hang out. They share a roof with B Nektar so there are an amazing array for tasty beverages available (part of the reason we’re calling this an 18+ event). There’s even talk of parking a food truck out front for the night but they’re still working on that.

Bring some hardware to show off and see if you can keep up with the yarns that [Brian Benchoff], [Chris Gammell], and [Mike Szczys] are known to spin.

DIY OLED Smart Watch

OLED DIY Smart Watch

What is better than making your own smart watch? Making one with an OLED display. This is exactly what [Jared] set out to do with his DIY OLED smart watch, which combines an impressive build with some pretty cool hardware.

When building a DIY smart watch, getting the hardware right is arguably the hardest part. After a few iterations, [Jared’s] OLED smart watch is all packaged up and looks great! The firmware for his watch can communicate with the PC via USB HID (requiring no drivers), contains a “watch face” for telling time, includes an integrated calendar, and support for an accelerometer. His post also includes all of the firmware and goes into some build details. With the recent popularity of smart watches and wearable electronics, we really love seeing functional DIY versions. This is just the beginning. In the future, [Jared] plans on adding Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a magnetometer, a smart sleep based alarm clock, and more! So be sure to look at his two older posts and keep an eye on this project as it unfolds. It is a very promising smart watch!

With Android L including support for smart watches (in the near future), it would be amazing to see DIY watches (such as this one) modified to run the new mobile OS. How great would it be to have an open hardware platform running such a powerful (open source-ish) OS? the possibilities are endless!

Connect 4 Robot Taunts You Before Kicking Your Butt

Connect 4 Robot

[Patrick McCabe] is a student at MIT and for his final project in his Microcomputer Project Laboratory course he decided to build a clever Connect 4 Robot.

The only criteria for the project was that you have to use the Cypress PSOC 5LP kit along with a 8051 micro-controller or equivalent (programmed in the same assembly language as the PSOC). All in all, [Patrick] had 5 weeks to work on the project.

He’s using a regular old Connect 4 game along with an assortment of custom parts. A stepper motor drives the token carriage back and forth across a 15″ aluminum channel using a timing belt. A servo releases the tokens, and all the other components, brackets, and other pieces were either made with his very own UP Mini 3D printer, or out of acrylic using the school’s laser cutter. It’s an extremely clean and well thought out build, and he’s actually uploaded all the custom part files (in SolidWorks format) online, for others to build their own.

Continue reading “Connect 4 Robot Taunts You Before Kicking Your Butt”

THP Entry: A Digital Large Format Camera

Click to embiggen. It's seriously worth it.
Click to embiggen. It’s seriously worth it.

After 20 or so years of development, digital cameras may soon be superior to film in almost every way, but there are a few niches where film cameras reign supreme. Large format cameras, for example, are able to produce amazing images, but short of renting one for thousands of dollars a day, you’ll probably never get your hands on one. For his entry to The Hackaday Prize, [Jimmy.c..alzen] decided to build digital large format camera, using an interesting device you don’t see used very often these days – a linear CCD.

[Jimmy]’s camera is built around a TAOS TS1412S, a linear CCD that is able to capture a line of light 1536 pixels across. The analog values are clocked out from this chip in sequence, going straight into an Arduino Due for processing, saving, and displaying on a small screen.

Inside the camera, the sensor is on a pair of rails and driven across the focal plane with the help of a stepper motor. The effect is something like the flatbed scanner to camera conversions we’ve seen in the past, but [Jimmy] is able to adjust the exposure of the camera simply by changing the integration time of the sensor. He can also change the delay between scanning each column of pixels, making for some really cool long-exposure photography techniques; one side of an image could be captured at noon, while the other side could be from a beautiful sunset. That’s something you just can’t do otherwise without significant digital manipulation outside the camera.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

Droning On: PID Controllers and Bullet Connectors

droning-on-hill Not all drones are multirotors – Posing in our title photo are Maynard Hill and Cyrus Abdollahi. Maynard’s plane, TAM5 aka The Spirit of Butts Farm, is the smallest aircraft to make a transatlantic flight (YouTube link). Retracing the path of Alcock and Brown from Newfoundland to Ireland, the 6 pound (dry weight) model made the trip in just under 39 hours. All this happened in 2003, and was the cap on a lifetime of achievements for Hill. These are the types of pursuits that will be banned in the USA if the FAA restrictions go into effect.

Flight Controllers

Quite a few of you thought the Naze32 was left out of last column’s flight controller roundup. I hear you loud and clear! I’ll add the Naze to the controllers which will be tested on The Hackaday Testbed. The hard part is finding the darn things! I currently have an Acro Naze32 on its way to Droning On HQ.  If I can find a full version, I’ll add that.

PID Controllers Deep Dive

I’ve gotten a few questions on Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) controllers, so it is worth diving in a bit deeper to explain what a PID controller is. PID controllers are often found in process controls managing parameters like temperature, humidity, or product flow rate. The algorithm was initially designed in the late 1800’s as a method of controlling the helm of large naval ships. In fixed wing drones, PID keeps the plane’s wings level and on course. In multicopters, PID loops control heading, but they also provide the stable flight which allows the quadcopter to fly in the first place. A full explanation of PID loops would be beyond the scope of a single article, but let’s try a 10,000 foot explanation.

pidP: This is the “Present” parameter. P Has the most influence on the behavior of the aircraft.  If the wind blows your quadcopter from level flight into a 30 degree right bank, P is the term which will immediately take action to level the quad out. If the P value is too high, The quadcopter will overshoot level flight and start banking the other way. In fact, way too high a P value can cause a quadcopter to shake as it oscillates or “hunts” for level. Too Low a P value? the quadcopter will be very slow to react, and may never quite reach level flight again.

I: This the “Past” parameter. The I term dampens the overshoot and oscillations of the P term, and avoids the tendency of P to settle above or below the set point. Just like with P, too high an I term can lead to oscillation.

D: This is the “Future” parameter, and has the smallest impact on the behavior of the aircraft. In fact, some flight controllers leave it out entirely.  If P and I are approaching a set point too quickly, overshoot is likely to occur. D slows things down before the overshoot happens.

So why do multicopter pilots dread PID tuning?  Quite simply, it’s a tedious process. Couple a new pilot and an unproven aircraft with un-tuned PID values, and you have a recipe for frustration – and broken propellers. Things get even more complex when you consider the fact that there are at least 3 sets of PID variables to be tuned – Pitch, Roll, and Yaw. Some flight controllers now support multiple PID values depending on the style of flight. Want your plane or multicopter to fly around like a hotrod? You need a totally different set of PID values than a docile trainer craft. Rolf Bakke (KapteinKUK himself) made a video illustrating how multicopters behave when tuning PID values. You can easily see how a quad can go from “drunk” to “angry bee” with just a few value tweaks. All this is coming together with The Hackaday Testbed, which will help me in posting a few PID tuning videos of my own.

Hackaday Testbed Update

As for the testbed itself, it’s nearly complete! You can follow the progress on my Hackaday Projects Page. Most of the assembly has been relatively straightforward.   though of course there are always a few snags. It seems I always forget something when ordering up parts for coils-bada build. In this case it was 2.5mm banana plugs and motor mounting screws.

The Hobbyking motors attach to the frame with 3mm screws. The problem is that there really is no way to know how long the screws should be until you have the motors, mounting plates and drone frame on hand. I have a bunch of 3mm screws of various lengths, and thankfully there were enough screws of the correct length to mount the motors. Murphy is always at my side, as I accidentally grabbed a screw that was 1mm too long and, you guessed it, screwed right into the windings of the motor. Doh! Thankfully I had spares.

bullet-solderBullet connectors can be a real pain to solder. There are some jigs out there which help, but I’ve always found myself going back to the old “helping hands” alligator clips. Bullets tend to use lower gauge wire than we’re used to with regular electronics. 14, 12, even 8 gauge wires are used on R/C aircraft. A low power soldering iron with a surface mount tip just won’t cut it. Those irons just doesn’t have the thermal mass to get the connectors up to soldering temperature. This is one of those places where a decent 40 watt or better Weller iron (yes, the kind that plugs right in the wall) can be a godsend. I’m using an Metcal iron here, with a wide flat tip.

bullet-solder-2Bare bullet connectors and alligator clips can also create a problem – the metal clips create even more thermal mass. Years back an old-timer showed me a trick to handle this. Slip a piece of silicone R/C plane fuel tubing on the bullet, and then clip the helping hands onto the tube. The tube will act as insulation between the bullet and the clip. Silicone can easily withstand the temperatures of soldering. I’ve also used the silicone tube on the jaws themselves – though eventually the jaws will cut the soft tubing.

That’s about it for this edition Droning on! Until next time, keep ‘em flying!

Title photo credit Cyrus Abdollahi.