Hacking an Escape From East Germany

Some hacks are just for fun. Some make your job or your life easier. Once in a great while, a hack will save your family from an oppressive government. This is the kind of hack that [Günter] pulled off when he and [Peter] built a homemade hot air balloon to escape East Germany and the oppression of the Stasi in 1979.

Like many East Germans who weren’t in line with the Party, [Günter] found life unsatisfactory on his side of the Berlin Wall. Travel, job options, and freedom of expression were all severely limited. Aside from joining the Communist Party, the only option seemed to be escape to West Germany.

[Günter] and his wife [Petra] were inspired when [Petra]’s sister, who had escaped in 1958, came to visit. She brought with her a newspaper that covered the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [Günter] and [Peter], whom he worked with, decided that they would conspire to build a hot air balloon capable of transporting them, their wives, and their four children across the border.

Theirs is an incredible story fraught with adversity. They ended up constructing three different balloons, all the while traveling further and further from home to avoid suspicion when buying large quantities of fabric. They had a lot of trouble finding the right propulsion method and ended up using pure oxygen. During the narrow window they had before [Günter] was due to report for military duty, the weather was unfavorable except for a short period after a front had passed through. They had no time for testing and just went for it.

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Stop Traffic In This 7-Mode LED Running Jacket

[Miria] was tired of tangling with bicyclists on her nighttime runs. It was obvious to her to illuminate herself, but she thought it would be really cool if the lights responded to her heart rate. The short summary that tipped us off is over at NYC Resistor, and [Miria] gives the gory details on her blog. The LEDs operate in seven different light modes that increase in speed proportionate to her heart rate.

She started the build around an Arduino but found that the compatible heart rate sensors were mostly optical and gave inaccurate readings. Since she was already using a Garmin GPS watch and heart rate monitor band, she decided to hack into the conversation between the two. Garmin uses the ANT protocol for this. While [Miria] found the documentation to be an effective sleeping pill, she also found that SparkFun has an ANT transceiver breakout board. Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued.

[Miria] continued undeterred, using the SparkFun board for prototyping. Her final version uses a Teensy 2.0 and this ANT transceiver in place of the ill-fated SparkFun board. She found an Energizer power pack that plugs directly into the Teensy and can power both Adafruit weatherproof LED strips for about an hour. Look both ways, and check out her demo after the break.

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Disrupting Advertisement Agency Workers with Electric Shocks

We hope this project will make you laugh as much as we did. For 4 hours, some Australian advertising executives agreed to be subjected to Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) controlled by people from all over the globe watching their reaction over the Internet. The public could disrupt their day with a click of a mouse. The user simply needed to go online, choose a live stream, click the ‘Disrupt’ button and watch as the EMS instantaneously zapped the volunteers. For each ‘disruption’, the company donated $1 to a local community.

The EMS hardware was designed to deliver up to 60V pulses and controlled using the MIDI protocol. The platform is powered by 8 AA batteries and receives zapping commands via UDP. Unfortunately, the resources can’t be found on the project’s webpage, but you can still have a look at the two videos embedded after the break. The total amount donated during this experiment was $5500!

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Your resume all cinched up in LaTeX

latex-resume

Engineers just do things differently, which is why this hack makes a lot of sense to us. Instead of choosing a platform like Open Office to maintain his resume [Campbell Hennessy] renders his employment and references using LaTeX.

We separate content from styling on the web all the time using CSS and content management systems (Hackaday uses WordPress). And with the online component of employment history and job applications becoming progressively more important it makes a lot of sense to prepare your CV accordingly.

LaTeX is a markup language that makes graphically pleasing typesetting effects a snap. We’ve seen it used to label resistor storage tubes and server side hacks to embed the markup in HTML. If you haven’t tried it out yourself just grab your resume (which probably needs updating anyway), a LaTeX rendering tool of your choice, crack those knuckles, and follow along with [Campbell’s] experience.

Building an IR mouse interface for the disabled

[Chris Young] has a physical disability that means he can’t use a mouse very well. He typically uses Dragon Naturally Speaking for moving his mouse using voice commands but has found that it lacks some features he needs and can crash at times.

His solution to this problem was to create a device that will translate IR signals from a simple remote into mouse actions and movements. He is using an Arduino micro for this task, and as you can see in the video it seems to have worked out well for him. He has code and schematics available on his site if you would like to recreate this yourself.

[Chris] has actually built several accessibility devices for himself and others. You should check out his blog for more, including his thoughts on the cost of commercial accessibility equipment vs DIY. If you think you would like to try making a device to help someone with a physical disability access a computer, hop on over to thecontrollerproject.com and join up on the forums.

 

via thecontrollerproject.com

What’s happening at LIFE.hackaday lateley

corkIf you haven’t been over to LIFE.hackaday lately, maybe you should check it out.

You could be learning how to be a hero with a wine cork, or how to easily break string without scissors(or your teeth). Need new ways to mount your tablet? We’ve got you covered. However, the story that is probably most important right now is how to keep your ice cream from getting that freezer burnt section on the top.

Sliding gopro rig for timelapse

timelapsethumb

This week I released a project for LIFE. involving a timelapse rig.

After seeing this super simple timelapse egg timer we had earlier this week, I wanted to have a try at doing a “no tools required” rig for moving timelapse.  I used an egg timer to pull it along a table.  It wasn’t perfect but it worked. Admittedly not as well as if I had just pulled out a teensy and a geared motor, but still ok.