Thar be Beer in These Walls

When you need a cold one and walking downstairs to your twin-keg refrigerator just won’t do, it’s time to break out the tools to deliver that frothy goodness where it’s needed. And so began [DaveLondres’] inspiring tale of piping beer through the walls of his home.

Now we know what you’re thinking… that beer is going to get mighty warm sitting in long lines from the fridge up to the ground floor. [Dave] thought about that too and designed a double-pipe system to overcome the issue. A run of PVC pipe for each keg connect the in-wall taps to holes drilled in the side of a second-hand fridge. An ingenious branching job yields an extra port for each run which was fitted with computer case fans to keep the cold air circulating. Plastic tubing is snaked inside of the PVC to carry the beer.

Rounding out the craftsmanship on this one is the inclusion of a plumbed drain to whisk away the drippings. If you’re not going to have a beautifully adorned chest-freezer-gone-kegerator in your livingroom this is the best alternative we’ve seen.

[via reddit]

WiFi Sucks for RC Vehicles, Upgrade to 3G

This is the Kyosho Blizzard, a tracked remote control vehicle that’s a blast to take out in the rapidly retreating snowpack. [Antibore] was interested in performance testing the range of the thing. It includes a camera that streams video back to a tablet or smartphone. Both the video and the controls use WiFi for communications. As he expected, the rover loses control signal at about fifty meters, with the video has a disappointing twenty meter limit. His workaround is to saddle the crawler with a 3G bridge. Not a bad idea that may be feasibly completed with hardware you have on hand.

In this case he grabbed a Beagleboard-XM. It runs embedded Linux and has USB ports which is perfect for the other two parts of the added hardware: a Huawei E230 3G dongle and a WiFi dongle. This means no alterations to the rover were necessary. He set up OpenVPN and performed a few other tweaks. The WiFi signal is constant, as the transmitter and receiver are both attached to the rover. We just wonder about the latency of the 3G traffic. Let’s hear your thoughts on that in the comments below.

We would be remiss if we didn’t tie-in the potential of this hack. Previously this winter we saw a Kyosho with a 3D printed snow thrower attached to the front. More snow removal power, arguably unlimited range… you can do your entire block from the comfort of the couch. To the Future!

Hands-On Othermill Review Grinds Out Sparkling Results

We’ve been on the lookout for alternatives to chemically etching circuit boards for years. The problem has been that we don’t particularly want to devote months of or lives learning how to build precision CNC mills. Off in the distance there may be an answer for that quandary if you don’t mind parting with twenty-two Benjamins. Sure, it’s a heck of a lot more expensive than toner transfer and cupric chloride, but the Othermill can be purchased right now (in your hands a few months later) and after reading this in-depth review we are a bit less hesitant about opening our wallets for it.

othermill-review-thumbIt’s a tome of a review, but that means there’s something for everybody. We especially enjoyed seeing the 10 mil board shown here which took about 1-hour to mill. Considering it has also been through-hole drilled we’d put that on part with the time it takes to etch a board. There are obvious places where the traces are not perfectly smooth (not sure if that’s burring or over-milling) but they are not broken and the board’s ready to be populated.

Alignment is something of an issue, but the Othermill isn’t limited to PCBs so we’d recommend designing and milling your own alignment bracket system as an early project.

Who isn’t envious of custom-builds that can get down to 10-mils, like this beauty from 2013. Our hopes had been sparked when Carbide 3D came onto the scene. We’re still optimistic that they will make a big splash when they start shipping preorders in a few months.

As this review proves, Othermill is already out in the wild with a 6-8 week wait before shipping. We saw it in action milling multiple materials at the Hackaday Omnibus Lauch Party and were duly impressed. Price or waiting-period aside we’re going to hold off until the software options expand beyond Mac-only; either Othermill will add support or someone will come up with a hack to use traditional CNC software. But if you count yourself as a subscriber to the cult of Apple the software, called Otherplan, does get a favorable prognosis along with the hardware.

Already have an Othermill sitting on your bench? Let us know your what you think about it in the comments below.

Bonus content: [Mike Estee], CTO of Othermill just gave a talk last night about how he got into making mills and the challenges of building something with super-high-precision. Sound isn’t good but the talk is solid. Hackaday’s [Joshua Vasquez] also gives a talk on the video about building an SPI core for FPGA. These talks are one of the Hardware Developer’s Didactic Galactic series which you really should check out if you’re ever in the San Francisco area.

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We Have a Problem: Household Electrical

Hackaday, we have a problem. The electricity in your house is on. It’s always on. How fast are those kilowatt-hours ticking by and what is causing it? For most people the only measurement they have of this is the meter itself (which nobody looks at), and the electric bill (which few people actually analyze). Is it silly that people pay far more attention to the battery usage on their phone than the electricity consumption in their abode? I think it is, and so appears another great seed idea for Hackaday Prize entries.

A Better Way to Measure

breaker-panelThe tough part of the problem here is getting at reliable data. Just yesterday we saw an incredible resource monitoring project that uses an optical sensor to measure the turning or the wheel in an electric meter. We’ve seen similar projects for meters that have a blinking LED, and a few other methods. But in many cases the electrical meter is outdoors which makes cheap, easily installed sensors a difficult goal to achieve. Even if we did, this still provides just one stream of data, the entire house.

Alternatively you could tap into the breaker box. We’ve seen [Bill Porter] do just that and there are some commercially available kits that include an octopus of clamp-style current sensors. This is a bit of an improvement, but still requires the user to open the electrical panel (don’t scoff at that statement, you know most people shouldn’t be doing that) to install them. I’m sure there are other methods that I’m missing and would love to hear about them in the comments below.

The Point

To sum up what I’m getting at here, think about the Kill-A-Watt which proved to be a very interesting hack. People liked not just seeing how much power something uses but extending where that data can be accessed. We don’t remember seeing any successful efforts to move the concept ahead a few generations. But if someone can crack that nut it could yield a wave of energy savings as people are able to be better connected with what is using a lot of electricity in their homes.

Your Turn (and Lessons from Last Week)

As with last week, now it’s your turn to come up with some ideas… wild, fantastic, good, bad, outlandish, let’s hear them. Better yet, document your idea on Hackaday.io and tag it with “2015HackadayPrize“. You can win prizes just for a well presented idea!

Speaking of last week, I shared the idea of adding some feedback to how long you’ve been in the shower. There were many opinions about the value and worthiness of that idea so I thought I’d close by covering some of them. Yes, there are much bigger wastes of water (and electricity in this case) in the world but why limit our solutions to only the largest offenders? The low-hanging fruit tends to be stuff a lot of people can understand and relate to. If we only talked about large-scale fixes (I dunno; reducing mercury emissions from power plants?) there is little momentum to crank-start a movement. If you found yourself thinking the ideas from this week and last are far too simple to win The Hackaday Prize that means you better get your project going. The world is hacked together by those who show up.

I’d love to hear suggestions for future installments of We have a problem. Leave those ideas in the comments and we’ll see you here next week!


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Prove Your Design; Prove Your Market; Earn Six-Digits of Cash

Let’s talk about the newest part of this year’s Hackaday Prize: Best Product. In addition to all of the other prizes offered, the Best Product Prize will award $100,000 to one entry which is designed for manufacturing and embodies the core of this year’s theme. What exactly does that mean? It boils down to one hundred grand to jumpstart your product launch. Let’s take a closer look at why we added this prize and the specifics of entry.

What about the other 90%

You have a working prototype and you’re one step away from making your first million, right? That is almost always a fallacy. One major hurdle is the engineering needed to take a working prototype to the factory line — that can be nine-tenths of the work. Designing for production is a story that we want to tell. This becomes an educational tool for those just starting to learn about product design. If we make the steps, gotchas, and tricks of the trade easier to learn we chip away at the hard part of hardware and this is one of the chief motivators for adding Best Product.

Proving Your Market

Before you take the risk you want to make sure there is a customer base out there who want to buy your hardware. We’ve noticed that Crowd Funding platforms are a growing avenue for market research. It has become something of a pre-order system, but it also means that all decisions are somewhat locked in before going into production. We see the Best Product prize as a way to prove the market, not just for the winner but surely for all of the ten finalists as well. Still want to go the crowd funding route afterwards? Fine, we’ve seen big things happen for a lot of great builds featured on Hackaday. But competing for the Best Product award keeps your options open during and after the crowd has spoken their peace.

Slightly Different Entry and Judging Criteria

best-product-requirementsThe entry requirements and judging criteria for Best Product are both a bit different form the main entry field. Rest assured you are still eligible to compete for all of the other prizes.

On the entry side of things the biggest difference is that you need to send us three working beta units for testing by August 17th. When we sat down to figure out what makes something “a product”, the existence of several working prototypes in the hands of beta users was high on that list. In this case we’ll be the testers but this lets us verify that entries aren’t vaporware. You will also need to complete most of your documentation by the entry date.

On the judging side of things the criteria quite different. One noteworthy change to point out; Openness is not among the Best Product judging criteria. If you want to keep the secret-sauce secret you won’t be penalized for it. However, if you also want to win the Grand Prize, Open is the way.

Read the Rules, Start Your Entry

Now that you’re really excited about all of this, make sure you go and read all of the Official Rules. Sections 4 & 5 both have information about Best Product entry and judging criteria.

Getting your entry started is easy. Just begin a project on Hackaday.io and add the tags “2015HackadayPrize” and “BestProduct”. This lets us know you’re in it to win it and we’ll keep you informed of what is coming down the pipeline as the Hackaday Prize progresses.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Time for the Prize: Environment-Related Ideas

You should already know about the 2015 Hackaday Prize, but have you submitted your entry yet? All it takes to get started is talking about one idea you have to address a problem faced by a large number of people. To help get the ball rolling we’re giving away some prizes to three entries that discuss possible solutions to Environment-Related problems.

For your chance at this week’s goodies all you need to do is document your idea on Hackaday.io and tag it “2015HackadayPrize”.

This Week’s Prizes:

time-for-the-prize-environment

On Monday, March 30th we’ll take a look at all the entries tagged 2015HackadayPrize and choose three that best fit the topic of Environment-Related. The best will receive the SmartMatrix 32×32 RGB LED matrix along with a Teensy 3.1 to drive it. The next pick will receive a Bus Pirate and probe cable. The final prize will be a Hackaday Robot Head Tee.

An Idea is All You Need for Entry

shower-toilet-tank-ideaWe’re not messing with you; all you need to win these early prizes is an idea. One of the most powerful pieces of the Hackaday Prize is the pollination of thought. Your idea might be the tipping point for someone else’s breakthrough or vice-versa. Start a project on Hackaday.io and add the tag “2015HackadayPrize”.

Pictured to the right is a whiteboard sketch by [MechaTweak] which illustrates one very simple shower water-saving idea (we think this was prompted by our column on the topic last week). The idea here is that instead of running water down the shower drain as you wait for it to heat up, the water cold be sequestered in a holding tank and used for flushing the toilet the rest of the day. This will certainly be in the running as it addresses the issue of water conservation. Going along with our Environment-related topic you might also tackle alternative energy production, helping detect or curb pollution, making recycling easier, reducing waste, etc.

As we move along we’ll be awarding bigger and better prizes. Submitting an idea now will give you an early start on your planning. You’ll still be eligible for future prizes, and you may submit as many entries as you like.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Enigma Machine Wristwatch

We don’t find smartwatches to be supremely usable yet. This one sets a definition for usefulness. The Enigma machine is of course the cipher process used by the Germans during World War II. This Enigma Machine wristwatch is not only functional, but the appearance is modelled after that of the original machine. With the speckled gray/black case and the Enigma badge branding [Asciimation] has done a fine job of mimicking the original feel.

Driving the machine is an Arduino Pro Mini. We’ve seen Arduino Enigma Machines in the past so it’s not surprising to see it again here. The user interface consists of an OLED display at 128×64 resolution, three buttons, with a charging port to the right and on/off switch on the left.

The device is demonstrated after the break. Quite a bit of button presses are used to set up each of the three encoder wheels. But that’s hardly avoidable when you’re not committing to a full keyboard. We’re pretty impressed by the functionality of [Asciimation’s] interface considering it’s hardware simplicity.

This seems perfect for kids that are proving to have an interest in engineering. They learn about ciphers, embedded programming, and mechanical design and crafting (this is a hand-sewn leather wristband). Of course if you build one and start wearing it into the office we won’t judge.

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