Sink Your Teeth Into PiPhone

Raspberry Pi cell phoneHave you ever dreamed of independence from smartphone bloatware? If you have a Raspberry Pi and an Adafruit TFT, you’re halfway to making your own version of [Dave]‘s PiPhone.

This tasty proof-of-concept cellular sandwich is made by adding a Sim900 GSM/GPRS module, which communicates via UART, to the Pi/TFT hardware while using a piece of foam core board in the middle to prevent shorts. You won’t get free service or anything, but you can pop a pre-paid SIM card into it. He’s powering it with a LiPo battery and using a DC-to-DC converter to set up the 3.7V to 5V. You could do a lot worse than the $158 BOM, and we’re betting you have a Pi lying around already. We wish more phones had baby rocker switches.

There’s a slight problem with the PiPhone: it gets pretty warm and there isn’t a lot of room for air circulation. For best results, let it cool on a well-attended windowsill or operate it near a fan like [Dave] did. He doesn’t have the code up on GitHub as of this writing, but he will capitulate to high demand. Make the jump to see [Dave]‘s tour of the PiPhone and watch him make a call with it.

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Google Releases Project Ara MDK

Ara Modules

 

It’s been a little while since we’ve heard about modular smartphones, but Google has just released the Module Developers Kit (MDK) for Project Ara. The development kit gives an overview of the inner workings of the project, and provides templates for building your own modules.

Once you’ve agreed to the license agreement and downloaded the MDK, you’ll find a large specification document. It explains how a phone will comprise of many modules loaded into an endoskeleton, giving mechanical support and electrical connections. An interface block provides each module with power and data over LVDS. Modules are held in place by an electro-permanent magnet which can be toggled by software.

When you’re finished with the specification document, you can dive into the reference designs. These include templates and actual modules for WiFi, thermal imaging, a battery pack, and more. Mechanical CAD is provided as STEP files and drawings, and electrical design files are provided as Altium projects and PDF schematics.

We discussed both Project Ara and Phonebloks on Hackaday in the past, but now we’re starting to see real details. Google’s Project Ara Developer Conference takes place on April 15th and 16th, and you can register to take part remotely for free. Is this the start of an open, modular phone? Let us know what you think.

[Thanks to Adam for the tip]

Don’t Just Go Sticking That Anywhere: Protect the Precious With a USB Wrapper

Oooh, look, a public charging station. Should you trust it? You might get juice jacked. Oh wait, you’ve got a USB Wrapper designed by [Scasagrande] to deny access to your datas.

This project was inspired by the USB Condom, but the problem with those is that they completely cut out the data lines and limit the charge rate to USB 2.0 (500mA). The data lines are used to communicate information about the charger’s power sourcing capabilities to the device. Many manufacturers short D+ and D- together, but Apple applies specific voltages to those lines.

[Scasagrande]‘s USB Wrapper gives you options. You can set it to Dedicated Charging Port, Sony, Open Circuit, or Apple. The super-cool part of this hack is for you Apple fanboys. The bottom slider lets you emulate any Apple charger and use any USB cube (including one you may have made) as long as you have that funny cable in your messenger bag.  The hardware is open source and available at [Scasagrande]‘s repo.

Make the jump to see [Scasagrande]‘s nicely detailed video about the project.

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USB-ify your Old Cell Phone Chargers

phoneChargerUSBd

If you’re like us, you probably have a box (or more) of wall warts lurking in a closet or on a shelf somewhere. Depending on how long you’ve been collecting cell phones, that box is likely overflowing with 5V chargers: all with different connectors. Bring them back to life by doing what [Martin Melchior] did: chop off the ends and solder on a bunch of USB jacks.

You’ll want to use chargers rated for at least 500mA (if not 1A) for this project, or you may be wasting your time considering how much current devices pull these days. Get your polarity right, solder on a USB jack, and you’re finished. Sure, it’s a no-brainer kind of project, but it can clean out some of your closet and give you a charging station for every room of your home and the office. [Martin] glued the USB jack directly onto the adapters, so there are no tangled cords to worry about. iPhone users will need to do the usual kungfu if you want your Apple device to charge.

Automated Phone Cracker/App Tester Steps it Up a Notch

delta bot cracks your passwords

Delta robots like this automated phone tester are awesome: high speed, accuracy, and mesmerizing to watch. [Justin Engler], a security researcher from ISEC Partners (also speaks at DEFCON on occasion) needed a robot to help with repetitive testing. He contacted the folks over at Marginally Clever to see if they could help him out, and they came up with this slick delta robot.

Normally they build these robots out of plywood, but [Justin] requested a bit more of a modern look, and although it looks blue, it’s actually clear acrylic: they haven’t removed the protective film yet.  The robot is quite functional, but [Justin] plans on upgrading it in the future to increase the top speed. It currently has a built-in camera, using OpenCV to watch the log-in screen as it tries every combination as quickly as possible.

Stick around to see it in action!

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Photosphere’ing Made Easy and Cheap

photosphere

Android phones have a cool function called Photo Sphere — unfortunately, unless you’re very steady and can manipulate the phone around its camera’s axis… the results aren’t that amazing. Unless you make a cheap 360 degree panorama head for your tripod that is!

[Oliver Krohn] designed this super simple adapter which you can mount on any tripod. It’s a U-shaped bent piece of aluminum, a bottle cap with a 1/4-20 nut, a thick piece of wire, and a cellphone case. The wire is bent with a notch to sit just below the camera’s lens on the cellphone — it is also placed directly above the tripods panning axis. This puts the nodal point in the perfect place, which allows for a great photo sphere every time.

To see how it works (and the amazing results!) stick around for the following video.

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USB Charger Solves Mongolia Electricity Problem

thermoelectric

People living in remote areas of Mongolia do not have access to electricity or gas, and rely on traditional wood stoves for their homes, which are used almost all the time. Many use solar panels to generate some electricity for small tools, but unfortunately there are often times when it is cloudy for days on end. [Chingun Has] saw this problem and created his own clever solution — a small thermoelectric USB charger.

[Chingun's] device features an array of peltier plates inside of an aluminum shroud. The device is designed to sit on top of a stove, or to be strapped onto a stove pipe. When there is a large enough temperature differential between the two sides of a peltier plate, a charge is induced. He’s using a small fan to help cool the other side of the peltier plates. A small control box houses a voltage regulator circuit that provides 5V over USB.

The cool thing about this project is that it is partially the result of [Tony Kim], an MIT professor who traveled to Mongolia to teach students an edX circuits course about a year ago. [Chingun] was one of his students, and this is a great example of a solution to a real-world problem.

An excellent video after the break gives a complete explanation of the project, as detailed by [Chingun] himself — it’s well worth the watch!

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