Ask Hackaday: Wiping Your Bum With An Arduino?

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Over or under? Standing or sitting? Truly, toilet paper has been the focus of the most irreconcilable arguments ever. The folks on the Arduino Stack Exchange have a far more important question: how do you trigger an alarm when your TP supply is low?

[user706837] asked the Internet this question in response to his kids never replacing an empty roll. This eliminates the most obvious means of notifying someone of an empty roll – looking at it before you sit down – and brings up a few interesting engineering challenges.

Most of the initial ideas deal with weight or some sort of light sensor that can differentiate between the white TP and the brown roll. A much, much more interesting solution puts a radioactive source in the TP holder’s spring-loaded rod and uses a sensor to detect how much TP is left. A quick back-of-the-wolfram calculation suggests this might be possible, and amazingly, not too dangerous.

We’re turning this one over to you, Hackaday readers. How would you design an empty toilet paper alarm? Bonus points awarded for ingenuity and cat resistance.

Image source, and also one of the longest and most absurd Wikipedia articles ever.

A Cocktail Shaker With Android And Arduino

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The most rewarding part of any project must be sitting down to see the fruits of your labors set in action for the first time and relaxing with a nice drink. [Tony DiCola] is really showing off his ability to think ahead, because his smart cocktail shaker takes care of the post-build celebration, measuring out drinks with exacting precision.

The build measures out precise amounts of any liquid with the help of a small electronic scale [Tony] picked up from Harbor Freight. Instead of trying to interface with the electronics in the scale, he instead connected a INA125 instrument amplifier to the load cell. An Arduino micro measures the weight on the load cell, and with the known densities of gin, vermouth, and Kahlua, [Tony] can get a very good idea of how much liquid is in the cocktail shaker.

The really neat part of this build is the interface: [Tony] wrote an Android app for his tablet that talks to the Arduino with an Adafruit Bluefruit Bluetooth adapter. The app receives the current weight on the load cell, displays the current amount of liquor in the cocktail shaker, and provides step-by-step instructions for making any cocktail.

It’s a handy little device to keep around the liquor cabinet, and with an absurd amount of pumps and valves could easily become the basis for a very cool cocktail bot.

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Turning A Router Into An Arduino Yún

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The Arduino Yún was the first of a new breed of Arduinos that added a big honkin’ Linux System on Chip to the familiar ATMega microcontroller and unique pin headers. It’s a surprisingly powerful system, but also very simple: basically, it’s just an Atheros AR9331 running Linux, an ATMega32u4 doing its Arduino thing, both connected by a serial connection. The Atheros AR9931 is also found in a router popular amongst hardware hackers. It really was only a matter of time before someone ported the Yun software to a router, then.

[Tony] took a TL-WR703N router and put OpenWRT on it. Turning this router into the Linux side of a Yún was a simple matter of uploading the Yún software to the root directory of the router and rebooting it. The Arduino side of the Yún is handled by an Arduino Mega connected to the USB port of the router. A quick update to Arduino’s boards.txt file, and a hacked together Yún is just a strip of duct tape away.

The Yún may not be extremely popular, but it does have a few interesting use cases. Maybe not enough to drop $70 on a board, but if you already have a WR703 router, this is a great way to experiment.

Thanks [Matt] for the tip.

Here’s the Dirt on Printing With Pollution

[Anirudh] and his friends were sitting around reminiscing about India. In particular, they recalled riding around in auto-rickshaws in stifling heat, watching their skin turn black from the exhaust. They started thinking about all of the soot and pollution in crowded cities the world over and wondered whether the stuff could be re-purposed for something like printer ink. That’s how they came up with their soot/pollution printer.

They created a soot-catching pump which they demonstrate with a burning candle. The pump mixes the soot particles with rubbing alcohol and an oil substrate and sends the ink to an HP C6602 inkjet cartridge. They used [Nicolas C Lewis]‘s print head driver shield for Arduino to interface with the cartridge, turning it into a 96dpi printing head that uses only five pins.

[Anirudh] and his friends plan to design a carbon separator using charged plates to capture the soot particles from pollution sources and filter out dust. Be sure to check out their demonstration video after the jump.

Update: In response to [Hirudinea]‘s comment about mining the carbon from cars, [Anirudh] is now looking for collaborators (tinkerers, filmmakers, DIY enthusiasts) to move forward with the idea of re-purposing carbon. Email him at anirudhs@mit.edu.

 

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A Low Cost Arduino FPGA Shield

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[technolomaniac] is kicking butt over at Hackaday Projects. He’s creating a low cost Arduino based FPGA shield. We’ve seen this pairing before, but never with a bill of materials in the $25 to $30 range. [technolomaniac's] FPGA of choice is a Xilinx Spartan 6. He’s also including SDRAM, as well as an SPI Flash for configuration. Even though the Spartan 6 LX9 is a relatively small FPGA, it can pack enough punch that the Arduino almost becomes a peripheral. The main interconnect between the two will be the Arduino’s ability to program the Spartan via SPI. Thanks to the shared I/O pins though, the sky is the limit for parallel workflow.

[technolomaniac] spent quite a bit of time on his decoupling schematic. Even on a relatively small FPGA power decoupling is a big issue, especially when high speed signals come into play. Thankfully Xilinx provides guides for this task. We have to mention the two excellent videos [technolomaniac] created to explain his design. Documenting a project doesn’t have to be hours of endless writing. Sometimes it’s just easier to run a screen capture utility and click record. As of this writing, the schematic has just been overhauled, and [technolomaniac] is looking for feedback before he enters the all important layout stage. The design is up on his github repository in Altium format. Due to its high cost, Altium isn’t our first pick for Open Hardware designs. There are free viewers available, but [technolomaniac] makes it simple by putting up his schematic in PDF format (PDF link). Why not head over to projects and help him out?

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The Credit Card Sized GameBoy

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Think you’ve seen every possible type of Arduino based hand held video game? [Kevin] managed to coax something new out of the theme with a very clever credit card sized console that uses some very interesting construction techniques.

The inspiration for this project began when [Kevin] dropped an SMD resistor into a drill hole on a PCB. This resistor fell right through the hole, giving him the idea creating a PCB with milled cutouts made to fit SMD components. With a little experimentation, [Kevin] found he could fit a TQFP32 ATMega328p  - the same microcontroller in the Arduino – in a custom square cutout. The rest of the components including a CR2016 battery and OLED display use the same trick.

The rest of the design involved taking Adafruit and Sparkfun breakout boards, and modifying the individual circuits until something broke. Then, off to Eagle to create a PCB.

[Kevin]‘s experiment in extremely unusual PCB design worked, resulting in a credit-card sized “Game Boy” that’s only 1.6 millimeters thick. The controls are capacitive touch sensors and he already has an easter egg hidden in the code; enter the Konami code and the Hackaday logo pops up to the tune of [Rick Astley]‘s magnum opus.

Now [Kevin] is in a bit of a bind. He’d like to take this prototype and turn it into a crowd sourced campaign. In our opinion, this “Game Boy in a wallet” would probably do well on a site like Tindie, but any sort of large scale manufacturing is going to be a rather large pain. If you have any wishes, advice, of complaints for [Kevin] he’s got a few links at the bottom of his project page.

Smart Thermostats for an Old Club House

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[Michael] is a Scout Leader in the Netherlands, where they have a great clubhouse—a “Landhuis.” The only problem? It’s old, and it’s not an efficient place to heat!

The building currently has two furnaces to cope with its many nooks and crannies, with individual thermostats in each of the five rooms. If a thermostat was activated in one of the rooms, it would control a valve in the furnace responsible for that room. Depending on which valve the furnace is attached to, a furnace would start. As you can imagine, this is an extremely inefficient system if you are heating two different rooms (and using two different furnaces!) It’s all on or off with no in-between.

As true scouts, they try to adhere to the simple principle of “why buy it when you can build it?” Commercial systems are expensive, and besides, they needed a project to work on! They’ve designed a smart(er) system using an Arduino Mega 2560 with five DS18B20 temperature sensors set up in each room, and even threw together a nice enclosure for it! They’ve included the source code on GitHub (in Dutch), so if you’re interested in setting up something similar you can check it out.

[Michael] will be around in the comments section, so if you have any feedback or questions, let him know!