The Pizza Button

How often have you ever wanted a pizza but reaaaaaaally didn’t want to get off the couch to go order, or god forbid, actually go to a pizzeria to pick one up?  Well [Brody Berson] has the solution for you!  He re-purposed an Amazon Dash button to order himself Domino’s Pizza with the press of a button.

He was originally inspired by our recent post about hacking the Amazon Dash button to do whatever you want — and whatever he wanted was a pizza button. He admits he was inspired by the bachelor years gone by where this would have been really, really handy — apparently he even ordered McDonalds through Postmates once!

It’s pretty simple too — all he needed to do was a bit of coding. Someone had already made a specific Domino’s Pizza API, and thanks to the interest in the Dash button, he was able to find everything he needed to mash together a one-push-button-pizza-delivery-device. Continue reading “The Pizza Button”

Traffic Light tells you if the Internet is up

Some of us are not blessed with an always on, high availability internet connection. Sick of answering the constant “Is the internet up?” questions, go-to IT support dude [PatH] took matters into his own hands and developed an unmistakable traffic light display of internet status for his apparently low-reliability connection.

A toy traffic light from Amazon forms the core of the UI, and the lights are driven by a Raspberry Pi that pings a suite of 10 sites in round robin fashion. If a site is found to be unavailable, the Pi goes into “deep probe” mode to determine the extent of the outage, and lights up accordingly. If the light is green, the connection’s clean; if it lights up red, best go to bed. As a bonus, logs are kept of all deep probes, which may prove useful for diagnosing ISP issues.

A display like this could go a long way toward making sure you stay connected, and can reduce the workload for you as de facto IT support. Of course for a little more information about the connection speed with retro styling, you might want to throw a Dekatron at the job.

GoGo Starts Testing New In-Flight Internet Technology

GoGo, the largest provider of Internet above 30,000 feet, has announced they are now testing their next generation of in-flight Internet.

Of special interest in the new 2Ku system is the antennas strapped to the top of a GoGo-equipped plane’s fuselage. These antennas form a mechanically-phased-array that are more efficient than previous antennas and can provide more bandwidth for frequent fliers demanding better and faster Internet.

The Antenna Pod
The Antenna Pod

Currently, GoGo in-flight wireless uses terrestrial radio to bring the Internet up to 35,000 feet. Anyone who has flown recently will tell you this is okay, but you won’t be binging on Nexflix for your next cross country flight. The new system promises speeds up to 70Mbps, more than enough for a cabin full of passengers to be pacified by electronic toys. The 2Ku band does this with a satellite connection – much faster, but it does have a few drawbacks.

Because the 2Ku system provides Internet over a satellite connection, ping times will significantly increase. The satellites GoGo is using orbit at 22,000 miles above Earth, or about 0.1 light seconds away from the plane. Double that, and your ping times will increase by at least 200ms compared to a terrestrial radio connection.

While this is just fine for email and streaming, it does highlight the weaknesses and strengths of mobile Internet.

Hackaday Prize Entry: netBOOT Powercycles Your Modem When You Can’t

Many people have their home network setup with a dynamic dns service in order to remote access their files, printers, or Pi based security camera systems. Many people also suffer from less than stellar internet connectivity and find themselves unable to access their home system due to a stalled signal.

netBOOT is an Arduino based device that automatically resets your modem for you, when you are unable to. Core of the system is a standard issue ATMEGA328p based Arduino board combined with a W5100 Ethernet module, and a relay module. The software on the Arduino periodically pings a list of IP addresses and listens for a response. If none is found within 3 tries the relay module, which is connected inline with the DC power of your modem, is clicked open for 10 seconds and then returned closed. Once your modem has rebooted and re-synced everything should be good to go.

We don’t remember seeing this feature in the list of specs for Google’s new OnHub. The ability to reset bad connections seems like a feature that should be built into future-thinking routers, right?

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Amazon Dash: Hack It to Run Your Own Code

The Amazon Dash is a $5 push-to-buy-cat-litter button which has excellent potential for repurposing, but you need to know what is going on inside first. [Tony Dicola] has the details in this excellent bare metal guide to the Dash. In this, he covers how to get inside the Dash and reprogram it to do something more interesting than buying cat litter.

He first cracks the device open, connecting a programmer, then building a toolchain to compile programs to run on. This isn’t for the faint-hearted because you are programming directly for a device that wasn’t really built for it, but [Tony] has posted examples and there are few tools to hold your hand on the way. There is a safety net, [Tony] provided details on how to reset the Amazon Dash Button if you manage to brick it.

We have seen some interesting hacks that repurpose the Dash to capture your child’s bowel movements by intercepting the device connecting to WiFi, but this guide takes it a step further. It allows you to run your own code, which turns this into a really low-cost and well-engineered all-in-one WiFi device. The missing piece is proof-of-concept code to run the WiFi module inside. If you’re working on that we’d love to hear about it!

Continue reading “Amazon Dash: Hack It to Run Your Own Code”

44 Mac Pros Racked Up to Replace Each Rack of 64 Mac Minis

We were delighted at a seeing 96 MacBook Pros in a rack a couple of days ago which served as testing hardware. It’s pretty cool so see a similar exquisitely executed hack that is actually in use as a production server.  imgix is a startup that provides image resizing for major web platforms. This means they need some real image processing horsepower and recently finalized a design that installs 44 Mac Pro computers in each rack. This hardware was chosen because it’s more than capable of doing the heavy lifting when it comes to image processing. And it turns out to be a much better use of rack space than the 64 Mac Minis it replaces.

Racking Mac Pro for Production


Each of the 11 R2 panels like the one shown here holds 4 Mac Pro. Cooling was the first order of business, so each panel has a grate on the right side of it for cold-air intake. This is a sealed duct through which one side of each Pro is mounted. That allows the built-in exhaust fan of the computers to cool themselves, pulling in cold air and exhausting out the opposite side.

Port access to each is provided on the front of the panel as well. Connectors are mounted on the right side of the front plate which is out of frame in this image. Power and Ethernet run out the back of the rack.

The only downside of this method is that if one computer dies you need to pull the entire rack to replace it. This represents 9% of the total rack and so imgix designed the 44-node system to deal with that kind of processing loss without taking the entire rack down for service.

Why This Bests the Mac Mini

3 racks - Linux. Mac Min, Mac Pro
3 racks – Linux. Mac Min, Mac Pro

Here you can see the three different racks that the company is using. On the left is common server equipment running Linux. In the middle is the R1 design which uses 64 Mac Minis for graphic-intensive tasks. To the right is the new R2 rack which replace the R1 design.

Obviously each Mac Pro is more powerful than a Mac Mini, but I reached out to imgix to ask about what prompt them to move away from the R1 design that hosts eight rack panes each with eight Mac Minis. [Simon Kuhn], the Director of Production, makes the point that the original rack design is a good one, but in the end there’s just too little computing power in the space of one rack to make sense.

Although physically there is room for at least twice as many Mac Mini units — by mounting them two-deep in each space — this would have caused several problems. First up is heat. Keeping the second position of computers within safe operating temperatures would have been challenging, if not impossible. The second is automated power control. The R1 racks used two sets of 48 controllable outlets to power computers and cooling fans. This is important as the outlets allow them to power cycle mis-behaving units remotely. And finally, more units means more Ethernet connections to deal with.

We having a great time looking that custom server rack setups. If you have one of your own, or a favorite which someone else built, please let us know!

[Thanks to drw72 for mentioning R2 in a comment]

Open Hybrid Gives you the Knobs and Buttons to your Digital Kingdom

With a sweeping wave of complexity that comes with using your new appliance tech, it’s easy to start grumbling over having to pull your phone out every time you want to turn the kitchen lights on. [Valentin] realized that our new interfaces aren’t making our lives much simpler, and both he and the folks at MIT Media Labs have developed a solution.

open-hybrid-light-color-pickerOpen Hybrid takes the interface out of the phone app and superimposes it directly onto the items we want to operate in real life. The Open Hybrid Interface is viewed through the lense of a tablet or smart mobile device. With a real time video stream, an interactive set of knobs and buttons superimpose themselves on the objects they control. In one example, holding a tablet up to a light brings up a color palette for color control. In another, sliders superimposed on a Mindstorms tank-drive toy become the control panel for driving the vehicle around the floor. Object behaviors can even be tied together so that applying an action to one object, such as turning off one light, will apply to other objects, in this case, putting all other lights out.

Beneath the surface, Open Hybrid is developed on OpenFrameworks with a hardware interface handled by the Arduino Yún running custom firmware. Creating a new application, though, has been simplified to be achievable with web-friendly languages (HTML, Javascript, and CSS). The net result is that their toolchain cuts out a heavy need for extensive graphics knowledge to develop a new control panel.

If you can spare a few minutes, check out [Valentin’s] SolidCon talk on the drive to design new digital interfaces that echo those we’ve already been using for hundreds of years.

Last but not least, Open Hybrid may have been born in the Labs, but its evolution is up to the community as the entire project is both platform independent and open source.

Sure, it’s not mustaches, but it’s definitely more user-friendly.

Continue reading “Open Hybrid Gives you the Knobs and Buttons to your Digital Kingdom”