Cheap Cat Feeder Enhances Sleep

We’ll admit it: we sometimes overcomplicate things. Look at [Peter Weissbrod’s] automated cat feeder, for example. It isn’t anything more than a bottle, a servo, some odds and ends, and an Arduino. However, it lets him sleep in without his cat waking him for service.

We looked at the code and thought, “This thing will just dispense food all the time! That’s not what you want!” Then we looked closer. [Peter] uses a common household timer to just turn the device on in the morning, let it run for a bit, and then turns it off. You can see a video of the mechanism, below.

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Smartphone Case For The Retro Gamer

A well-designed phone case will protect your phone from everyday bumps with only as much style flair as you’d like. While protection is usually the only real function of a case, some designs — like [Gabbelago]’s Emucase — add specific utility that you might not have known you needed.

Contrary to most cases, the Emucase fits over your phone’s screen, and the resulting facelift emulates the appearance of a Game Boy for easier — you guessed it — Game Boy emulation play on your smartphone.

Cannibalizing a USB SNES gamepad for its buttons and rubber contact pads, Gabbelago then threaded some wire through the contacts, securing it with copper tape and glue; this provides a measurable level of capacitance to register on the touchscreen. Using heat to bend the sides of the 3D printed case so it can attach to the phone is probably the trickiest part of this cool project. Check out his build instructions for any pointers you need.

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33C3: Works for Me

The Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) is the largest German hacker convention by a wide margin, and it’s now in its thirty-third year, hence 33C3. The Congress is a techno-utopian-anarchist-rave with a social conscience and a strong underpinning of straight-up hacking. In short, there’s something for everyone, and that’s partly because a CCC is like a hacker Rorschach test: everyone brings what they want to the CCC, figuratively and literally. Somehow the contributions of 12,000 people all hang together, more or less. The first “C” does stand for chaos, after all.

What brings these disparate types to Hamburg are the intersections in the Venn diagrams. Social activists who may actually be subject to state surveillance are just as interested in secure messaging as the paranoid security geek or the hardcore crypto nerd who’s just in it for the algorithms. Technology, and how we use it to communicate and organize society, is a pretty broad topic. Blinking lights also seem to be in the intersection. But on top of that, we are all geeks. There’s a lot of skill, smarts, and know-how here, and geeks like sharing, teaching, and showing off their crazy creations.

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Sorting Resistors with 3D Printing and a PIC

If you aren’t old enough to remember programming FORTRAN on punched cards, you might be surprised that while a standard card had 80 characters, FORTRAN programs only used 72 characters per card. The reason for this was simple: keypunches could automatically put a sequence number in the last 8 characters. Why do you care? If you drop your box of cards walking across the quad, you can use a machine to sort on those last 8 characters and put the deck back in the right order.

These days, that’s not a real problem. However, we have spilled one of those little parts boxes — you know the ones with the little trays. We aren’t likely to separate out the resistors again. Instead, we’ll just treasure hunt for the value we want when we need one.

[Brian Gross], [Nathan Lambert], and [Alex Parkhurst] are a bit more industrious. For their final project in [Bruce Land’s] class at Cornell, they built a 3D-printed resistor sorting machine. A PIC processor feeds a resistor from a hopper, measures it, and places it in the correct bin, based on its value. Who doesn’t want that? You can see a video demonstration, below.

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Mike Szczys on the State of the Hackaday

Hey, that’s me! I had the honor of giving a talk at the Hackaday SuperConference in November about our editorial direction over the past year and looking towards the next. At any given time we have about 20-25 people writing articles for Hackaday. We depend on their judgment, experience, and skill to keep Hackaday fresh. It would be wonderful if you would join me in thanking all of the writers and editors for a great year by leaving your well-wishes in the comments.

Take a look at the video of the talk, then join me below for a few more thoughts.

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Reflow Soldering at Another Level

We’re used to reflow soldering of our PCBs at the hacker level, for quite a few years people have been reflowing with toaster ovens, skillets, and similar pieces of domestic equipment and equipping them with temperature controllers and timers. We take one or two boards, screen print a layer of solder paste on the pads by using a stencil, and place our surface-mount components with a pair of tweezers before putting them in the oven. It’s a process that requires  care and attention, but it’s fairly straightforward once mastered and we can create small runs of high quality boards.

But what about the same process at a professional level, what do you do when your board isn’t a matchbox-sized panel from OSH Park with less than 50 or so parts but a densely-packed multilayer board  about the size of a small tablet computer and with many hundreds of parts? In theory the same process of screen print and pick and place applies, but in practice to achieve a succesful result a lot more care and planning has to go into the process.

This is being written the morning after a marathon session encompassing all of the working day and half of the night. I was hand-stuffing a row of large high-density boards with components ranging from 0402 passives to large QFPs and everything else in between. I can’t describe the board in question because it is a commercially sensitive prototype for the industrial customer of the friend I was putting in the day’s work for, but it’s worth going through the minutiae of successfully assembling a small batch of prototypes at this level. Apologies then, any pictures will be rather generic.

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Fully 3D Printed Snow Blower

For anyone living in cooler climates, the annual onslaught of snow means many hours shoveling driveways and sidewalks. After a light snow, shoveling might seem a waste of time, while a snow blower would be overkill. If only there were a happy middle ground that required minimal effort; perhaps an RC snow groomer with a 3D printed snow blower would work.

We featured an earlier version of this project last year. This year’s model features a slipper clutch — combined with a differential from a heavy RC truck — to forestall damage to the attachment if you happen to hit any rocks or ice chunks. The blades are also thicker and lack teeth in this iteration, as they would catch on anything hard and shatter the blade more often than not. Designed by [Spyker Workshop] (aka [The_Great_Moo]) the snow blower attaches to the front of RC snow groomer — which is originally meant to act like a plow. Seeing the snow blower attachment in action, we’re inclined to believe that he may be onto something.

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