ContactKey: A portable, battery-powered phonebook

contactKey

Although it’s still a prototype, [Russell] tipped us off to his battery-powered device for storing your contacts list: ContactKey. (Warning: Loud sound @ beginning). Sure, paper can back up your contact information, but paper isn’t nearly as cool to show off, nor can it receive updates directly from your Android. The ContactKey displays a contact’s information on an OLED screen, which you can pluck through by pressing a few buttons: either ‘Up,’ ‘Down,’ or ‘Reset’. Although the up/down button can advance one contact at a time, holding one down will fly through the list at lightning speed. A few seconds of inactivity causes a timeout and puts the ContactKey to sleep to conserve battery life.

This build uses an ATMega328 microcontroller and an external EEPROM to store the actual list. [Russell] wrote an Android app that will sync your contact list to the ContactKey over USB via an FTDI chip. The microcontroller uses I2C to talk to the EEPROM, while an OLED display interfaces to the ATMega through SPI. We’re looking forward to seeing how compact [Russell] can make the ContactKey once it’s off the breadboard; the battery life for most smartphones isn’t particularly stellar. Phones of the future will eventually live longer, but we bet it won’t be this one.

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Smart Brake lights and more with OpenXC

smart-brake-light

At a recent hack-a-thon event, [Al Linke] tapped into a vehicle’s OBD port with an OpenXC vehicle interface and hacked an LED screen in the rear window to display data based on events. If you haven’t heard of OpenXC, you can expect to read more about it here at Hackaday in the near future. For now, all you need to know is that OpenXC is Ford’s open source API for real-time data from your vehicle: specifically 2010 and newer model Ford vehicles (for now).

[Al] connected the OpenXC interface to his Android phone over Bluetooth, transmitting data from the OBD port to the phone in real time. From here, the Android can do some really cool stuff. It can use text to speech to announce how much your lead foot cost you, add sound effects for different car events, and even interact with additional devices. Although he managed all of those features, [Al's] primary goal was to add an LED screen that displayed messages on the vehicle’s back window.

When the phone detected a braking event from the car, it directed the LEDs to light up with a “braking” image, adding some flavor to the process of stopping. He could also change the image to a “Thank You” sign with a waving hand, or—for less courteous drivers—an “F U” image with a slightly different hand gesture. You’ll want to check your local and/or national laws before attempting to strap any additional lighting to your vehicle, but you can watch [Al's] car light up in the video below. For a more detailed look under the hood, he’s also provided an Instructables page.  If OpenXC catches on, the number of vehicle hacks such as the Remote Controlled Car may skyrocket.

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An absurdly small tri-copter

tricop

The team behind the Femtoduino – an extraordinarily small repackaging of the Arduino – sent in a few videos from YouTuber [phineasIV], a.k.a. [Eric] that shows one of the smallest multicopters we’ve ever seen.

Because this isn’t a traditional quad or hexcopter, the control system is a little weird. Two of the motors and props are fixed along the vertical axis, while the rear prop is connected to a small servo to rotate from side to side. Still, the electronics are fairly standard for any multi rotor vehicle – a triple-axis gyro provides the stability of the vehicle coupled with MultiWii, while an amazingly small servo receiver, Bluetooth module,, Femtoduino, and a trio of brushless ESCs tie everything together.

The end result is a tri-copter that weighs about the same as the Crazyflie Nano Quadcopter, but is just a bit smaller. As impressive as it is on video (seen below), we’d love to see this tiny robotic hummingbird in person.

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Controlling Chromecast: AirCast APK released

aircast

[Koush] is at it again, this time releasing AirCast, an Android app that’ll push videos to the Chromecast from Dropbox, Google Drive, and your phone’s Gallery. Astute Hackaday readers will recall that AirCast has been around for a few weeks now, but limited to only his whitelisted Chromecast. As [Koush] explains it, he had to reverse engineer the protocols and now he simply avoids the Chromecast SDK entirely. If you’re lucky enough to have a Chromecast, you’ll want to hurry and grab the APK (direct download link) and have some fun with it before it self-destructs. [Koush] isn’t ready to release it for more than a 48 hour period, but we encourage you to take advantage of AirCast and contribute to his call for feedback, bugs, and crash reports. You have a little under a day left.

See “AllCast” work its magic in the video below. No, that’s not a typo. Apparently [Koush] has been struggling with available names for the app, and you’ll hear him call it “AllCast” in the Youtube video. That name was taken for some other product, though, and “AirCast” has now replaced it. If you suddenly regret not immediately ordering a Chromecast and are sitting this one out, go read [Mike's] rant and get psyched up for when they’re back in stock.

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Android hack adds missing Chromecast button to Netflix app

android-netflix-chromecast-hack

We finally got our hands on a Chromecast over the weekend and we love it! But it wasn’t without a bit of a speed bump. Including a quick initial setup, we had a YouTube video playing in our living room about three minutes after the package hit our mailbox. But we spent the next twenty minutes feeling like a moron because we couldn’t get the Netflix app on an Android phone to cast the video. Turns out there is a bug in the Netflix app that doesn’t add the Chromecast icon for all devices.

The issue is that the newest version of the Netflix app isn’t pushed to all devices. A fix is on the way, but we’re not good at waiting. We used this technique to trick Netflix into thinking we have different hardware. Notice from the screenshots above that one lists our device as an LG-P769 manufactured by LGE. That’s how our /system/build.prop file originally looked. By using the BuildProp Editor app we changed those settings to Nexus S by samsung. After rebooting several of our apps were missing from the app drawer, including Netflix. But they all still worked hitting the Play Store for reinstallation and we now have no problem casting Netflix.

Chromecast bootloader exploit

chromecast-hack

Well that didn’t take long. The team over at GTVHacker have worked their magic on Chromecast. The HDMI dongle announced by Google last week was so popular they had to cancel their 3-free-months of Netflix perk. We think the thing is worth $35 without it, especially if we end up seeing some awesome hacks from the community.

So far this is just getting your foot in the door by rooting the device. In addition to walking through the exploit the wiki instructions give us a lot more pictures of the internals than we saw from the teardown in yesterday’s links post. There’s an unpopulated pad with seventeen connections on the PCB. You can patch into the serial connections this way, running at a 115200 8n1. But you won’t have terminal access out of the box. The exploit uses a vulnerability in the bootloader to flash a hacked system folder which provides root. After wiping the cache it reboots like normal but now you can access a root shell on port 23.

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Android stick mutates into a home server

small-form-factor-home-server

Kiss that energy hungry PC you’ve been using as a home server goodbye. [Vince Loschiavo] shows us how he squeezed a remarkable amount of functionality out of an inexpensive Android stick which manages his home’s digital empire.

He started off just wanting some network attached storage. For this he grabbed an MK802 Android Stick which you can get for a song if you find the right deal. To bend it to his will he said goodbye to the Android OS, installing Ubuntu for ARM instead. The stick (which is missing its case in the image above) connects to a USB hub in host mode, but does actually draw all of its power from the hub itself. This made it possible to attach a USB to Ethernet adapter to boost the speed which would have been limited by the WiFi connection. There’s a 320 gig USB hard drive for the storage. With that much space on hand it makes sense to add streaming media service as well which is simple since it’s running Linux. The last part of his work actually turns it into an Asterisk server by way of Google Voice and a SIP phone. An impressive outcome at a bargain price to be sure!