Google Calendar Interface for Your Internet of Lawns

If you live somewhere where summers are hot and dry, you can instantly tell which homes don’t have automatic sprinklers installed. Or they may have them installed, but like the blinking “12:00” on that VCR of yore, the owners may not have mastered the art of programming the controller. To be fair, the UI on most residential irrigation controllers is a bit wanting, which is the rationale behind letting Google Calendar tell your sprinklers when it’s time to water.

Granted, someone who is mystified by setting a digital clock is not likely to pull off [ClemRz]’s build. It’s still pretty simple stuff, though, centered around an ESP8266 as it is. And calling the result an “irrigation system” is a little bit of a stretch, given that it could only support a single zone with a solenoid valve harvested from a defunct sprinkler timer. But as a proof-of-concept, or to water a small area, it hits all the marks. The ESP8266 drives the latching solenoid valve through an H-bridge chip after reading your Google Calendar and looking for upcoming events to open or close the valve. The Google Script and the ESP8266 code default to failsafe so that a mistake doesn’t leave the valve open and run up your water bill or drain your well.

It’s easy to see how this can be expanded to control a multi-zone irrigation system and support a smartphone UI for instant control of the valves. Overrides based on weather forecasts would be a nice feature too. Or you could just read the soil moisture levels directly with backscatter sensors.

Hackaday Prize Entry: WiFi In Wall Switches

The Internet of Things and Home Automation are the next big thing, even though we’ve had X10 switches and controllers for forty years. Why the sudden interest in home automation? Cheap microcontrollers with WiFi, ZigBee, and Z-wave, apparently. For this Hackaday Prize entry, [Knudt] is building a WiFi switch, meant to be retrofitted into any Euro wall switch.

There are three parts of [Knudt]’s WiFi wall switch, each of them with different requirements. The top layer is the switch itself and a small OLED display. These switches are really two small capacitive switches, which means there’s no reason to go through the work of sourcing a proper mechanical switch. Good thinking, there. The second layer of this contraption is basically an ESP8266, providing all the logic for this wall switch. The bottom layer is a bit more interesting, housing the 110-230V input, with a Triac or relay. This is where the fun, burny stuff happens.

Right now, you can go down to your local home supply store and simply buy a device like this. History has shown that’s a terrible idea. With home automation cloud services shutting down and security vulnerabilities abound, a DIY or Open Source home automation project really is the best idea. That makes [Knudt]’s project a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

Build Your Own In-Fridge Soda Fountain

Who doesn’t love an ice cold soda? Lots of people, probably. This one’s not for them. It’s for those of us that are tired of having to go through the arduous process of manually opening a bottle and pouring a drink. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have your own soda fountain at home? [Kedar Nimbalkar] thought so, and built a soda fountain that you can install right inside a fridge.

The system is based around using small pumps marketed as “6V DC air pumps” on Amazon. [Kedar] uses an indirect method of pumping the soda in this project. It’s a sad fact that it’s hard to find a cheap pump that’s safe to use with fluids for human consumption, and on top of that, many types of pump out there aren’t self-priming. This means the pump needs to be charged with fluid to work, which can make changing empty bottles a real pain.

Instead of pumping the fluid directly, the pumps instead push air into the top of the sealed soda bottles, which forces soda out of another tube in the bottle. This means that the pumps themselves don’t have direct contact with the soda which is a great design when working with stuff you’re going to put in your body. Following on from this careful design, the tubing selected is food safe. Unfortunately, even though the pumps don’t directly touch the soda itself, it’s highly unlikely the pumps chosen (designed for aquariums) are genuinely food-safe themselves.

When you’re building a beer funnel setup for Australia Day/4th of July/Other, using all manner of industrial or agricultural fittings may be a relatively low risk, as it’s a one-off exposure. But if you’re building a system handling products for human ingestion that you’re using on a regular basis, you really do want to make sure that the parts you use aren’t slowly poisoning you. There’s many ways this can happen — parts may corrode or react with substances in the food, plastics may outgas, or there may be lubricants in the parts that have toxic compounds in them. Just look what can happen if you drink wine out of a gun barrel — and that was from a single exposure!

Overall it’s a cool project, and one that would be especially fun and educational to do with children. Young humans are well known for their predilection towards sugary beverages, and have minds ready to be filled with knowledge about pumps, safe food handling practices, and of course, electronics. We also like [Kedar]’s use of commonly available materials, like a plastic food container for the enclosure. The project would be a great starter on your way to building a more complicated cocktail-mixing barbot. Video after the break.

We know peristaltic pumps are the go-to for safe liquid pumping. Anyone know a hacker friendly way of pumping air while ensuring all parts of the system are food safe? The most creative solution we’ve seen is to use breast pumps but it wasn’t ideal. Let us know your own tricks in the comments!

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Hacked IoT Switch Gains I2C Super Powers

Economies of scale and mass production bring us tons of stuff for not much money. And sometimes, that stuff is hackable. Case in point: the $5 Sonoff WiFi Smart Switch has an ESP8266 inside but the firmware isn’t very flexible. The device is equipped with the bare minimum 1 MB of SPI flash memory. Even worse, it doesn’t have the I2C ports extra pins exposed so that you can’t just connect up your own sensors and make them much more than just a switch. But that’s why we have soldering irons, right?

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Oscillating Fan Controller Used As Relay

The most brilliant hacks we see aren’t always the thousand-dollar, multi-year projects spanning every facet of engineering. Rather, the most ingenious projects are ones that take an everyday thing and use it in a simple but revolutionary way. By that measure, it’ll be hard to top [Robert]’s latest hack which uses the controller board from an everyday oscillating fan to build a three-way remote-controlled relay board.

Most oscillating fans have a speed selector switch. What that does might be somewhat different between different types of fan, but in general it will select either a smaller portion of the fan’s motor to energize or switch in a resistor which will have the same speed-lowering effect. [Robert]’s fan had little more than a triple-throw switch on the control board, so when he decided the fan wasn’t worth keeping anymore, he was able to re-purpose the control board into a general-use relay. As a bonus, the fan could be controlled by infrared, so he can also remote control whatever he decides to plug into his new piece of equipment.

While this simple hack might not change the world, it may give anyone with an old fan some ideas for other uses for its parts. If you want to do a little more work and get the fan itself running again, though, it is possible to rebuild the whole thing from the ground up as well.

Zelda and the Ocarina of Things

Voice recognition is this year’s model for home automation, but aside from feeling like you’re onboard the Aries 1b arguing with HAL 9000, it just doesn’t do it for our geeky selves. So what’s even geekier? How about carrying around an ocarina in your pocket so that you can get a Raspberry Pi to unlock the door for you? (YouTube video, embedded below.) Yeah, that’ll do.

[Sufficiently Advanced]’s video gets us 90% of the way toward replicating this build. There’s a tube with a microphone and a Raspberry Pi inside. There are a bunch of ESP8266-powered gadgets scattered around the house that take care of such things as turning on and off the heater, watering plants, and even pressing a (spare) car remote with a servo.

We’d love to know what pitch- or song-recognition software the Raspberry Pi is running. We’ve wanted to implement a whistling-based home automation interface since seeing the whistled. We can hold a tune just fine, but we don’t always start out on the same exact pitch, which is a degree of freedom that [Sufficiently Advanced]’s system doesn’t have to worry about, assuming it only responds to one ocarina.

If you’re questioning the security of locking and unlocking your actual apartment by playing “Zelda’s Lullaby” from outside your window, you either overestimate the common thief or you just don’t get the joke. The use case of calling (and hopefully finding) a cell phone is reason enough for us to carry a bulky ocarina around everywhere we go!

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Cheap Modules Upgrade Home Security System

[gw0udm] had an ancient monitored alarm system fitted to their home, and decided it was time to upgrade to something a little more modern. They chose a system from Texecom, but when it came time to hook it up to their computer, they were alarmed at the costs – £40 for what amounted to a USB-to-Serial cable! There were other overpriced modules too. But [gw0udm] wanted to upgrade, so it was time to hack the system.

The first step was grabbing a £4 USB-to-Serial board and wiring it up – a simple job for the skilled hacker.  As we always say – everything speaks serial. [gw0udm] then set their sights higher – they wanted the Ethernet interface but weren’t about to cough up the coin. After some research, it was determined that a Raspberry Pi could be used with a utility called ser2net with the existing serial interface to do pretty much the same job. It was a simple matter of figuring out the parity and messaging format to get things up and running.

From there, the project moves on to tackling the creation of a GSM module for monitoring in the absence of a local network, and on flashing the firmware of the system itself. It’s great to see a project continually grow and expand the functionality of a product over time.

We see a lot of security systems here at Hackaday – high prices and proprietary hardware tend to inspire the hacker spirit. Check out this reverse engineering of an obsolete 1980s system, resplendent with Eurostile font.