Decoding and Replicating Xantrex Solar Charge Data

This is a story mostly of decoding data, but there is a happy ending that includes turning that decoding work into an open source receiver. Xantrex solar charge controllers monitor a lot of data about what is happening with your solar panels, and they stream it over RJ25 but you need their add-on hardware to receive it. [Eric Herbers] figured if the data is being transmitted, a resourceful hackers should be able to decode it. And he did just that with a little help from his friends in the Hackaday community.

We asked on Twitter what people were working on and [Eric] posted his scope screenshot. The conversation that followed helped point him in the right direction and others knowing about the project surely drove him to finish it. The decoding isn’t perfect, but achieve enough to decode and display voltage, amperage, and temperature. [Eric] built the display unit using an Arduino Pro Mini and a character LCD housed in you most common of black project boxes.

Excruciating Quest Turns Chromebook Pixel IPS Into Exquisite Extra Monitor

[Shen] wanted an extra monitor at his desk, but not just any monitor. He wanted something particularly special and unquestionably refined. Like any super-power-possessing engineer he set out to scratch his hacking itch and was sucked into a multi-year extravaganza. For the love of everything hardware we’re glad this one came in on the weekend. If we had spent all that time drooling during a weekday we’d be so far behind.

The final product is a desktop monitor on an articulated arm. It features a Chromebook Pixel’s IPS display in a custom-crafted case everything. The journey started out with two different LCD units, the first from a Dell L502x replacement display using a generic LVDS board. The results were meh; washed out colors and obvious pixellation, with display adjustments that left [Shen] with a grimace on his mug. Installment two was an iPad Retina display. This iteration required spinning his own boards (resulting in [Shen’s] discovery of OSH Park). Alas, 9.7″ was too small coupled with short-cable-requirements making this version a no-go.

chromebook-pixel-ips-driver-boardAnd so we arrive at the meat and potatoes of this one. [Shen] identified the IPS LCD display on Google’s first Chromebook Pixel laptop as the object of his desire. The hack takes him through sourcing custom display cables, spinning rev after rev of his own board, and following Alice down the rabbit hole of mechanical design. Nothing marginal is good enough for [Shen], we discovered this with his project to get real audio out of a computer. He grinds away at the driver board, the case design, the control presentation, and everything else in the project until perfection was reached. This work of art will stand the test of time as a life fixture and not just an unappreciated workhorse.

This one is not to me missed. Head over to [Shen’s] project entry on Hackaday.io (don’t forget to give him a skull for this) and his blog linked at the top. We need to celebrate not only the people who can pull off such amazing work. But also the ones who do such a great job of sharing the story both for our enjoyment, and to inspire us.

Hackaday Events: NY, LA, SF, LA

We are doing a lot this spring to get people elbow-deep in hardware hacking. We have so many live events coming up that we’re going to be doing Saturday morning recaps to keep you informed. Here are the upcoming events should be planning to attend if you’re nearby.

nyc-hackationToday! NYC Hardware Hackathon

We hope you didn’t miss our announcements about the Hardware Hackathon we’re putting on in New York. It starts this afternoon and runs all night and into Sunday. If you really want to get in on the hacking we might be able to help you out (hit us up on Twitter). But you can also show up on Sunday to see the results live. Tickets for that are available here.

thp-worldwide-laMay 9 & 10 Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Los Angeles

Next weekend we open up the Hackaday Design Lab of Pasadena, California for a workshop, talks, and a day of hacking. This is the Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Los Angeles. Start out on Saturday with the Zero to Product workshop which will discuss getting from design to production. Interspersed with this are a set of talks from amazing presenters before a bit of social time at night. On Sunday we open our doors for Free Build and hope to see a ton of people working on their Hackaday Prize entries. RSVP now!

2015-05-01_BAMF-meetupSaturday, May 16 BAMF Meetup

Seeing everything at Bay Area Maker Faire means a lot of time on your feet. By the end of the day the Hackaday Crew is ready to take a load off and toss back a tasty beverage. We invite you to join us on Saturday, May 16th starting at 7pm. All the cool kids will be there so please RSVP now.

It’s not compulsory, but a lot of people bring hardware they’ve been working on to show off at this meetup and you should too!

layerone-logoMay 23 & 24 LayerOne Conference

Every year our friends from NullSpace Labs organize the LayerOne Conference in Los Angeles. This is LA’s premier hardware security conference. This year Supplyframe is sponsoring the badges and Hackaday will be camped out at the Hackaday Hardware Villiage.

[Brian Benchoff] and [Mike Szczys] will be hacking their own badges while looking for awesome hacks other people are pulling off. We’ll bring plenty of swag and want to get everyone there to try at least some level of badge hack.

3D Printed Headgear Turns You into a Sim

Stop what you’re doing and dust off that 3D Printer, you’re going to want this headgear for your next party. [Daniel Harari] has created the perfect start of a phenomenal The Sims costume with this Bluetooth-enabled plumb bob.

The iconic crystalline shape will be familiar to anyone ever exposed to the game. It served as a handle and indicator for each virtual character in the popular life-simulation video game. On a short build deadline (a party), [Daniel] found a model of the shape he wanted on Thingiverse. He printed it in translucent green PLA so that LEDs inside would make it glow.

A headband and an aluminum pipe connect this to the wearer. Inside the printed enclosure is a an intricately packaged set of electronics that include an Arduino pro mini, low-side transistors to control six RGB LEDs, and an HC-05 Bluetooth module to connect to his phone. Batteries were mounted on the side of the pipe but we bet a bit of head scratching could re-imaging the battery type and get it inside the enclosure as well.

[Daniel] muses about adding brainwave sensing to control the LEDs. For this build he didn’t even need to write an app; he was able to get an already available color-picker to work. We’d like to see this combined with sentiment; a concept starting to gain popularity which samples social media and ascertains mood to change the display base what is found.

You realize what’s missing from his writeup? We couldn’t find any pictures of him wearing the thing!

Review: HUZZAH is the ESP8266 WiFi Setup You Need

A little board that adds WiFi to any project for a few hundreds of pennies has been all the rage for at least half a year. I am referring to the ESP8266 and this product is a marrige of one of those WiFi modules with the support hardware required to get it running. This week I’m reviewing the HUZZAH ESP8266 Breakout by Adafruit Industries.

If you saw the article [cnlohr] woite for us about direct programming this board you will know that a good chunk of that post covered what you need to do just to get the module into programming mode. This required adding a regulated 3.3V source, and a way to pull one of the pins to ground when resetting the power rail. Not only does the HUZZAH take care of that for you, it turns the non-breadboard friendly module into a DIP form factor while breaking out way more pins than the most common module offers. All of this and the price tag is just $9.95. Join me after the break for the complete run-down.

Continue reading “Review: HUZZAH is the ESP8266 WiFi Setup You Need”

3D Printing an Arcade Controller

A keyboard and mouse simply can’t stand in for games originally meant to be played with a joystick and buttons. We are of course thinking of coin-op here and building your own set of arcade controls is a great project to give back some of the thrill of those classics. But these are not trivial builds and may push your comfort zone when it comes to fabrication. Here’s one alternative to consider: 3D printing an arcade controller housing.

3d-printed-arcade-controller-thumb[Florian] already had experience building these using laser cut acrylic and MDF. This is his first foray into a 3D printing build method for the controller body. The top is too large to easily produce as a single piece on inexpensive printers. He broke it up into sections; eleven in total. When the printing is complete he chemically welds them together using a slurry of acetone and leftover ABS.

We think one possible extension of this technique would be to build a mounting system that would allow you to swap out segments (instead of welding them all) while you dial in the exact placement that you want for each component. You know, like when you decide that rectangular button pattern doesn’t fit your hand. That said, this looks like a beautiful and functional build. At the least it’s a great way to practice your 3D printing skills and you end up with a wicked controller at the end of it.

More Hackathon Tickets Just Made Available

We had a number of people tell us they weren’t able to get tickets to our Hackathon in New York on Saturday. A block of tickets was just made available. Head on over and grab yours right now!

We’re bringing a mini-van-load of hardware along with us for this one. Our hope is to see a hardware hacker claim the top prize of $5000, but we do have other prizes just for the teams that create something with hardware. You can team up with other creative hackers from the area, all while being wined and dined (well, fed and hydrated anyway) through the entire thing. We can’t wait to see what you can get working with just twenty-hours of build time! You can find out a bit more about the hardware we’re supplying and what we have planned over on our event page.

That’s on Saturday, but the fun actually starts this evening. Join us at 7pm this evening at Antler Wine & Beer Dispensary. We’d appreciate a quick RSVP if you’re coming, and don’t forget to bring some hardware you been working on lately. See you there!