Hacklet 49 – Weather Display Projects

Everyone wants to know what the weather is, and what it is going to be. Today’s internet enabled forecasts give us continuous streams of current weather data and predictions from any of several computer models. Couple that with data from an on-site station, and you’ve got a lot of information to display! It makes sense that weather display projects would be popular with hackers, makers and engineers. What do you do after you build the worlds most awesome clock? Build the worlds most awesome weather display (and then incorporate a clock in there as well!).

Last week on The Hacklet I mentioned that there are two basic types  of weather projects on Hackaday.io: Sensing and Display projects. There was a bit of foreshadowing there, as this week’s Hacklet covers some of the best weather display projects on Hackaday.io!

geoWe start with [Ashley Hennefer] and G.E.O, a project which is out of this world – literally. Geological Environment Observer, or G.E.O was created for NASA’s Space Apps Challenge. G.E.O’s mission is to keep astronauts on long-distance space flight missions connected with their home city (and planet). An astronaut programs the device with their home city and G.E.O takes it from there. Inside a glass globe, G.E.O creates weather patterns mirroring the programmed city. It does this with Adafruit NeoPixel LEDs, a water pump, a mist generator, and a wave shield. An Intel Edison controls the system. For now, weather data and programming are completed using a web interface. Once G.E.O launches though, data will be streamed via NASA’s deep space network.

flaps[Sephen DeVos] keeps track of the weather with a glance at his Internet Split Flap Weather Clock. Lots of weather apps use simple icons to display the current conditions. [Sephen] placed those icons on a mechanical split flap display which lets him know the conditions outside. The project’s case came from a donor clock given to [Sephen] by his parents. He then 3D printed an entire split flap mechanism, including the gears! Each 50 mm x 100 mm flap forms half an image.  A small stepper drives the flaps, while an IR detector lets the system know when it has reached a home position. Control is handled by an Arduino Nano and companion Ethernet shield. The Arduino checks the weather every 30 minutes. If conditions have changed, it flips to the right icon. Genius!

usmap[Dan Fein] is keeping track of the temperature across the entire USA with Weather Map. [Dan] works for Weather Underground, so it’s no surprise that he uses their API (accessed via a node.js script) for weather data. The data is fed into a spark core which then drives a string of 100 WS2812 LEDs. Each LED is mapped to a specific point in the continental USA. Color indicates the current temperature at that location. [Dan] does caution that you’ll have to slow down access to Weather Underground  if you’re using a free API key. Even with slower updates, this is still an awesome project!

yaws[Jeff Thomas] went the traditional route with YAWS – (Yet Another Weather Station). YAWS uses a 5 inch TFT LCD to display weather data from a number of sensors. [Jeff] got his display and the driver board from buydisplay.com. The driver board uses the venerable RA8875 display driver chip. The RA8875 handles all the hard parts of driving an LCD, like video RAM, refresh, and clocks. This allows a relatively slow Arduino to drive all those pixels. [Jeff] created a very handsome interface to display all his data, but he has a small problem – a memory leak causes the system to freeze up every 18 hours! We’re hoping [Jeff] will share his source code so the Hackaday.io community can help him find that pesky bug!

If you want to see more projects like these, check the Weather Display Projects list on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

50 Shades of Gray Water Reuse

Entered into this year’s Hackaday Prize, [TVMiller] built a super cheap Arduino powered gray water recovery system.

The system is very simple and can be easily made for almost any bathroom. By making a zig-zag of PVC pipe underneath the sink, he’s created a simple grey water reservoir sized for his toilet’s flushing capability.  And if you use too much water, it just backs into the drain — think of it as a giant P-Trap! A 12V solenoid and 240L/h water pump switch on after the toilet has been flushed — refilling the tank with reused gray water! He’s also added an Arduino and an LCD screen to keep track of the water saved; with the nice touch of a HaD logo of course.

We love [TVMiller’s] project brief build logs — he doesn’t hold anything back.

Pipes were glued, the inhaled toxins coursing through my lungs and penetrating the cells, turning me in an enhanced human, now capable of lifting small things with great ease, like a stapler or Big Gulp.

Continue reading “50 Shades of Gray Water Reuse”

Model House Models House, Vice-Versa

[Eric Tsai] is on a home-automation rampage. Not content with the usual smartphone-based GUIs, [Eric] built a cardboard model house that models his house. Open the garage door, and the model house’s garage door opens. Open the real front door, and a tiny servo motor opens the cardboard front door.

The model house also comes with a power meter that represents his current power usage, which is certainly useful for figuring out if something electronic has gone grossly wrong. You should watch the video (found after the break) all the way through, here’s the spot where he turns on an electric leaf blower. Despite a little big of lag that’s pretty cool!

But the system doesn’t stop there. Since he can control the garage door and some lights remotely via WiFi, the next logical step is to add a couple of buttons so that the model house can control the real house.

We’ve covered [Eric]’s home before. He set up simple, Arduino-based sensor packages all around his house, connected them together through the pub/sub framework MQTT and added in the open-source OpenHAB software interface. The door sensors connect to a hacked Wink hub. From whether or not his dog is barking to whether his laundry is done, [Eric]’s system knows it all.

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Programmable Pump Keeps Its Stick On The Ice

Need to water your plants? Pump some coolant on a mill? Fill a watermelon with booze? Never fear, because the third greatest Canadian behind [Alan Thicke] and [Bryan Adams] is here with the solution to all your problems! It’s a cordless pump for desktop CNC, repair, and horticulture that automates daily chores and pumps out exact amounts of liquid.

[Chris], [AvE], Bright Idea Workshop, or, ‘that guy that records videos in his shop’ is rather well-known around these parts; we’ve seen him make an $80,000 gold-plated cutting fluid pot, a copper laminate desk, and recharge his cell phone with a car and a pencil. He’s very, very good at futzing around in his shop and the dialog is the closest YouTube will ever get to Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, albeit without wheezing laughter.

The Kickstarter is for a rechargeable cordless pump, controlled by a microcontroller, that dispenses liquids of varying viscosity onto the item of your choice. It’s perfect for adding cooling to a drill press, watering plants, or something or everything involving beer.

Details on the pump are a little sparse, but given the liquid never touches the pump we’re putting money on some type of peristaltic pump. Add volume measurement, programmable flow rate adjustment, a timer, and dispensing programmable volumes of liquid, and you’ve got something useful.

Thanks [Scott] for the tip.

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Better DIY CT Scanner

If you’re entering something in The Hackaday Prize this year, [Peter Jansen] is a guy you need to watch out for. Last year, he won 4th place with the Open Source Science Tricorder, and this year he’s entering a homebrew MRI machine. Both are incredible examples of what can be built with just enough tools to fit on a workbench, but even these builds don’t cover everything [Peter] has built. A few years ago, [Peter] built a desktop CT scanner. The CT scanner worked, but not very well; the machine takes nine hours to acquire a single slice of a bell pepper. At that rate, any vegetable or fruit would begin to decompose before a full scan could be completed.

This didn’t stop a deluge of emails from radiology professors and biomedical folk from hitting [Peter]’s inbox. There are a lot of people who are waiting for back alley CT scans, but the CT scanner, right now, just isn’t up to the task. The solution is iteration, and in the radiology department of hackaday.io, [Peter] is starting a new project: an improved desktop CT scanner.

The previous version of this CT scanner used a barium check source – the hottest radioisotope source that’s available without a license – and a photodiode detector found in the Radiation Watch to scan small objects. This source is not matched to the detector, there’s surely data buried below the noise floor, but somehow it works.

For this revision of a desktop CT scanner, [Peter] is looking at his options to improve scanning speed. He’s come up with three techniques that should allow him to take faster, higher resolution scans. The first is decreasing the scanning volume: the closer a detector is to the source, the higher the number of counts. The second is multiple detectors, followed up by better detectors than what’s found in the Radiation Watch.

The solution [Peter] came up with still uses the barium check source, but replaces the large photodiode with multiple PIN photodiodes. There will be a dozen or so sensors in the CT scanner, all based on a Maxim app note, and the mechanical design of this CT scanner greatly simplifies the build.

Compared to the Stargate-like confabulation of [Peter]’s first CT scanner, the new one is dead simple, and should be much faster, too. Whether those radiology professors and biomed folk will be heading out to [Dr. Jansen]’s back alley CT scan shop is another question entirely, but it’s still an amazing example of what can be done with a laser cutter and an order from Mouser.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

The Most Powerful Bitcoin Mining Rig Yet

In days of yore, one could mine Bitcoin without much more than an AMD graphics card. Now, without specialized hardware it’s unlikely that you’ll make any appreciable headway in the bitcoin world. This latest project, however, goes completely in the other direction: [Ken] programmed a 55-year-old IBM mainframe to mine Bitcoin. Note that this is technically the most powerful rig ever made… if you consider the power usage per hash.

Engineering wordplay aside, the project is really quite fascinating. [Ken] goes into great detail about how Bitcoin mining actually works, how to program an assembly program for an IBM 1401 via punch cards, and even a section about networking a computer from this era. (Bonus points if he can get retro.hackaday.com to load!) The IBM boasts some impressive stats for the era as well: It can store up to 16,000 characters in memory and uses binary-coded decimal. All great things if you are running financial software in the early ’60s or demonstrating Bitcoin in the mid-2010s!

If it wasn’t immediately obvious, this rig will probably never mine a block. At 80 seconds per hash, it would take longer than the lifetime of the universe to do, but it is quite a feat of computer science to demonstrate that it is technically possible. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen one of [Ken]’s mainframe projects, and hopefully there are more gems to come!

Hackerspace Happenings: Santa Barbara Hackerspace Moving

Occasionally we get a few tips on our hotline telling us of hackerspace happenings. Either a space is moving, they need some help to install a moat around the space, or there’s a mini-conference of weird and esoteric technology happening sometime soon. The latest such tip is from the Santa Barbara Hackerspace. They’re moving, the new space doesn’t have a leaky roof, and they’re looking for some people to help out.

The new space features necessary hackerspace upgrades like no carpet, 120, 220, and 440 Volt outlets, actual parking, and a non-leaky roof. You can get by with a leaky roof in Santa Barbara, but having a roof that doesn’t have holes in it is always a bonus.

Add this to the space’s existing battery of equipment – everything from laser cutters, bandsaws, and welders to oscilloscopes, an amateur radio station, and a forge and anvil, there’s a lot anyone can do in this space.