Christmas Village Spin on the Weasley Clock

Have we seen any Christmas village hacks before? None come to mind and our Google-fu didn’t turn up any either. No matter, even if there were a handful this would rank quite high. [Kyle Anderson] built models of the homes each of his loved-ones inhabit. Each model lights up when its occupant is at home.

This reminds us of the Weasley Clock, itself a popular concept to hack on. The idea is that each family member’s location is shown with a unique clock hand and a set of whimsical locations on the clock face.

The Etherhouse, as [Kyle] calls it, performs a similar action. The WiFi access point in each loved one’s home is monitored for their smart phone. When it is detected, the light for their home model is illuminated. Since each person has their own copy of the village, everyone knows who is home and who is away.

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Secret Attic Library Door

We have a pretty good guess where [Krizbleen] hides away any seasonal presents for his family: behind his shiny new secret library door. An experienced woodworker, [Krizbleen] was in the process of finishing the attic in his home when he decided to take advantage of the chimney’s otherwise annoying placement in front of his soon-to-be office. He built a false wall in front of the central chimney obstacle and placed a TV in the middle of the wall (directly in front of the chimney) flanked on either side by a bookcase.

If you touch the secret book or knock out the secret sequence, however, the right-side bookcase slides gently out of the way to reveal [Krizbleen’s] home office. Behind the scenes, a heavy duty linear actuator pushes or pulls the door as necessary, onto which [Krizbleen] expertly mounted the bookcase with some 2″ caster wheels. The actuator expects +24V or -24V to send it moving in one of its two directions, so the Arduino Uno needed a couple of relays to handle the voltage difference.

The effort spent here was immense, but the result is seamless. After borrowing a knock-detection script and hooking up a secondary access button concealed in a book, [Krizbleen] had the secret door he’d always wanted: albeit maybe a bit slow to open and close. You can see a video of its operation below.

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Home Automation With The Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is the answer to Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and [Orwell]’s Telescreen – a device that sits in your home, listens to everything you say, and will gladly oblige if you want to buy something on Amazon. Brilliant. Despite being a pretty cheap device, there’s not really a whole lot it can do; sure, Echo, or more accurately Alexa, the personality in the Echo, can tell you the weather, queue up a playlist, or read a Wikipedia entry, but there’s a definite lack of imagination when it comes to the Echo.

Now, thanks to some clever API hacks, you can do far more with the Echo. [Noel] is using the Echo to turn lights in his house on and off, ring his home phone, and basically everything else you can do with some wire and a bit of code.

[Noel] got his idea from [Owen Piette] who recently investigated the Echo API. It’s all unpublished by Amazon, but it is possible to poll the todo list for random key phrases. By polling this API and getting new results, it’s pretty easy to set up some logic to do arbitrary actions.

Right now [Noel] can turn a light on and off and call his phone, but the sky really is the limit here. If you have a web-enabled thermostat, Alexa can turn the heat on or off. Want to text yourself something? That’s easy too. Anything that can be put in a todo list can be done with the Echo, the only obstacle is doing all the programming and electronics.

Arduino Thermostat Includes Vacation Mode

When [William’s] thermostat died, he wanted an upgrade. He found a few off-the-shelf Internet enabled thermostats, but they were all very expensive. He knew he could build his own for a fraction of the cost.

The primary unit synchronizes it’s time using NTP. This automatically keeps things up to date and in sync with daylight savings time. There is also a backup real-time clock chip in case the Internet connection is lost. The unit can be controlled via the physical control panel, or via a web interface. The system includes a nifty “vacation mode” that will set the temperature to a cool 60 degrees Fahrenheit while you are away. It will then automatically adjust the temperature to something more comfortable before you return home.

[William’s] home is split into three heat zones. Each zone has its own control panel including an LCD display and simple controls. The zones can be individually configured from either their own control panel or from the central panel. The panels include a DHT22 temperature and humidity sensor, an LCD display, a keypad, and support electronics. This project was clearly well thought out, and includes a host of other small features to make it easy to use.

DRM Protection Removed for… Coffee?

Keurig, the manufacturer of a single-serve coffee brewing system, has a very wide following amongst coffee drinkers. Their K-cup (pre-packaged coffee grounds with a coffee filter, all in a plastic container) is an interesting concept and makes brewing a single cup of coffee much more efficient over making a whole pot. Their newer line of coffee makers, the Keurig 2.0, has some interesting (and annoying) security features though, which [Kate Gray] has found an interesting and simple way around.

The DRM security in these coffee makers is intended to keep third-party “cups” from being used in the Keurig. It can recognize an authentic Keurig cup, and can stop the operation of the coffee pot if a knockoff is placed in the machine. We can only assume that this is because Keurig makes a heap of cash by selling its canisters of coffee. One simple solution was already covered a few days ago by taping an authentic lid to the machine. This one doesn’t require any authentic pods but just removes one wire from a wiring harness inside of the case.

There are other ways around the security on these devices, but when [Kate Gray] actually investigated, she found the security decidedly lacking. With something this simple, one can only speculate how much Keurig has really invested in making sure users don’t use third-party cups of coffee in their machines, but it also brings up the classic question of who really owns hardware if we can’t use it in the way we want, rather than the way the manufacturer wants.

You can read more about the project on its Reddit page. Thanks to [MyOwnDemon] for the tip!

DIY Chicken Feed Indicator Tells You When To Feed The Chickens

While prepping for the upcoming apocalypse, the [prepforshtf] folks had time to design and build an automatic chicken feeder. It’s a very simple design (the best kind) that is made from standard PVC drain pipe. The pipe is positioned vertically and filled with chicken feed. A T-joint at the bottom of the pipe allows chickens to access the food inside. As food is eaten away, gravity pulls more food down to the feeding area.

That sounds pretty straight forward but it quickly became clear that checking the food level was a chore, almost as much as just feeding the chickens everyday. To remedy the requirement to constantly check the food level, the automatic feeder system was taken apart and modified to include a level indicator. Now, inside the 4-inch pipe resides a plate that resembles a butterfly valve.

This plate doesn’t control the flow of feed like a normal butterfly valve would, the feed actually holds the plate in a vertical position until the feed level drops below the plate. Since the plate has a heavier side, it will rotate when the feed no longer holds it in position. A large red pointer was attached to the plate’s axle and, since it is on the outside of the feeder, it allows a clear indication that the feeder needs a refill.

This is a great project that shows that even simple projects can be very beneficial in everyday life. With no electronics or batteries to fail, this feed indicator will certainly be very reliable. No doubt the chickens will be happy. Check this out for a more involved electricity-powered feeder.

EPROM Coffee Table

Either in need of a coffee table or suffering a severe lack of upscaled electronics, [Darren] just finished up a great build for his living room. It’s a huge, scaled up version of a UV erasable EPROM with an infinity mirror in place of the fused quartz window.

[Darren]’s coffee table was inspired by an earlier build by the geniuses at Evil Mad Scientist. A few years ago, they built a 555 footstool that was scaled up about 30 times its normal size. Even at footstool scale, the 555 is still relatively tiny.

[Darren] is using a similar construction technique by forming the legs of the EPROM out of laminated plywood. Since this build is significantly larger, building the entire device out of solid, laminated plywood would result in an unwieldy and expensive piece of furniture. Instead, [Darren] constructed the legs and sides out of plywood laminations, covering the ends, top, and bottom with plywood panels. The result is a hollow EPROM/coffee table that’s still structurally sound.

If you’re a bit confused after counting the number of pins on the coffee table, you’re in good company. This is technically a scaled-up version of a 16-pin 0.600″ PDIP, something that a quick googling suggest isn’t historically accurate. Maybe there was an EPROM with a 4-bit wide data bus somewhere in the annals of electronics history, but we’re happy with saying that a completely accurate scaled-up ROM would be far too big for [Darren]’s living room.

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