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!
Continue reading “USB Charger Solves Mongolia Electricity Problem”
[Mário] sent us a tip detailing the access control system he and his friends built for the eLab Hackerspace in Faro, Portugal. The space is located in the University of Algarve’s Institute of Engineering, which meant the group couldn’t exactly bore some holes through campus property and needed a clever solution to provide 24/7 access to members.
[Mário] quickly ruled out more advanced Bluetooth or NFC options, because he didn’t want to leave out members who did not have a smartphone. Instead, after rummaging around in some junk boxes, the gang settled on hacking an old Siemens C55 phone to serve as a GSM modem and to receive calls from members. The incoming numbers are then compared against a list on the EEPROM of an attached PIC16F88 microcontroller, which directs a motor salvaged from a tobacco vending machine to open the push bar on the front door. They had to set up the motor to move an arm in a motion similar to that of a piston, thus providing the right leverage to both unlock and reset the bar’s position.
Check out [Mário’s] blog for more details and information on how they upload a log of callers to Google spreadsheets, and stick around for a quick video demonstration below. If you’d prefer a more step by step guide to the build, head over to the accompanying Instructables page. Just be careful if you try to reproduce this hack with the Arduino GSM shield.
Continue reading “Open your Hackerspace Door with a Phone Call”
The much-anticipated Nexus 5 starting shipping out a few weeks ago, and like many new products, some people have received phones with manufacturer defects. This is always unfortunate, but [Adam Outler] over at the XDA Developer forums thinks he’s found a solution to one of the ailments — a low speaker volume fix!
[Adam] noticed that his phone wasn’t quite as loud as he was used to, so he decided to take it apart and see if there was something causing the muffled sound quality. He assumes glue seeped into part of the speaker where it’s not suppose to during assembly, and what he discovered was, you can increase the audio output by opening up the speaker chamber. He found you can easily port the speaker chamber by popping a few holes in it using a hot needle, which helps increase the volume of the phone. It’s not exactly a confirmed hack, but he will be featuring it on XDA-TV in a few weeks, and hopefully a few more cases pop up in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the hack — it might even help users whose phone isn’t unusually quiet!
Now, most people will just return the phone under warranty, which makes sense. But this is Hackaday and XDA we’re talking about. It’s probably less effort to just suck it up, and fix it ourselves. Who cares about warranties?
[via XDA Developers]
Our tips line is blowing up again, this time directing us to Motorola’s Project Ara: a phone with modular components that plug into a base “endoskeleton.” If you missed the news coverage strewn across the web and you are doing a double-take, that’s because Project Ara is frighteningly similar to the (presumed vaporware) Phonebloks concept from a few weeks ago. Phonebloks was the subject of our last “Ask Hackaday” article, generating hundreds of comments ranging from those defending the concept to those furiously opposed to it.
There’s a conspiracy theory circulating that suggests Motorola released the Phonebloks concept as a viral marketing scheme to generate hype before revealing the official product line. We suspect it’s a bit less conniving. As [jorde] explained on Hacker News, an Israeli startup, Modu, had developed a similar modular cell phone several years ago, and Google bought the patents in May of 2011. A few months later, Google bought something else: Motorola. It seems likely that Project Ara is merely a resurrected and revised Modu, and Motorola conveniently announced it in the wake of Phonebloks’ popularity. Regardless, Motorola has announced that they have partnered with Phonebloks’ creator Dave Hakkens .
So what’s different? Phonebloks was met with cries of “vaporware!” and fervent arguments raising concerns about unavoidable hardware limitations. Motorola claims their goal is:
to do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software: create a vibrant third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barriers to entry, increase the pace of innovation, and substantially compress development timelines.
Unlike Project Ara, Phonebloks didn’t consider open-source hardware (Wayback Machine link), and Motorola makes an interesting argument here: that advances in 3D printing indicate an evolving “open hardware ecosystem,” and the next era of phone development may rest in the hands of your average hacker or a small startup company. Some speculate that the Ara will be similar to the relationship between a PC and its peripherals: Motorola provides the essential guts while giving you some slots for attaching additional components. Let us know in the comments what you think about Project Ara: is it just more vaporware, or a watered-down but plausible alternative to Phonebloks? And, perhaps most important: do you, as a hacker, want a phone that supports open hardware and lets you plug in “peripherals?” The Phonebloks website has since changed to reflect the partnership with Motorola, and includes a new video that you can watch below.
Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Does Project Ara Solve the Phonebloks’ Problems?”
[Andy] has done a great job reverse engineering the LG KF700 cell phone display. LG’s KF700 is a 2008 era cell phone — that’s about 300 years old in cell phone years. The phone was somewhat novel in that it used a 3” diagonal 2:1 480×240 widescreen format. While the phone itself may be a memory, its screen lives on through the magic of Ebay.
Obtaining the LCD is the easy part – the hard part is figuring out how to interface to it. LG is very helpful in that regard by publishing detailed service manuals and schematics on their cell phones. We’re not sure if these manuals are supposed to be public domain, but Google is your friend here. With the help of the service manual, [Andy] was able to determine the LCD has an on board controller (Himax HX8352), making it much easier to interface to. He was also able to find out information about the LCD connector pin out, and even a connector part number.
Continue reading “Reverse Engineering an LG Cell Phone Display”
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.
Continue reading “ContactKey: A portable, battery-powered phonebook”