This Useless Machine Now Plays with Fire

The Useless Machine, Candle Edition

Useless machines are a lot of fun, if not just a little overdone. Looking for a new twist, [bd594] decided to try making one that integrates a candle — it works quite well!

While not quite as impressive as some of [bd594's] previous projects, like his rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody on old school computer equipment, we like how he used regular DC motors in this design, instead of servos (the easy way).

A PICAXE14M2 microcontroller controls the H-Bridge responsible for the geared DC motors (taken from a Mac floppy drive), and a light sensor checks for the flame. He’s also made use of some NPN transistors to invert some logic levels to show you if you’re running low on I/O pins, its always possible to incorporate some other discrete components like a transistor to achieve your design.

Among others, some great alternative spins on the “useless machine” include the moody useless machine, an even more useless machine (featuring 8 switches!), a pull-string version, and even a rather ridiculous elevator button pressing useless machine!

Stick around to see this one put out the candle (Caution: Very exciting).

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The Rotary Cell Phone

phone

It’s happened. It’s finally happened. In a move that has hipsters donning their good flannel and breaking out that case of Genesee they were saving for a special occasion, the rotary cell phone is now a reality.

[Jaromir] created this astonishingly retro future device as an entry for the NXP LPC810 challenge, a contest to do the most with an ARM Cortex M0+ microcontroller in an 8-pin package. Having only six I/O pins for controlling a GSM module, display a few buttons, and the fancy rotary dial meant [Jaromir] needed to expand his I/O some way. He chose a shift register to handle the buttons and display in a somewhat impressive demonstration of using a shift register as both an input and output expander at the same time.

From the videos [Jaromir] uploaded, the rotary cell phone isn’t ready for Think Geek to do a production run quite yet. He needs to enter the PIN for the SIM card, AT commands for the GSM module, and is, of course, a horrible method of user input for the younglings who have only seen rotary phones in old movies. That being said, it’s a rotary cell phone running on an 8-pin microcontroller. What more do you want?

Videos of this awesome this truly awesome phone in action below. If you’d like to build your own – and why wouldn’t you – all the files are available on [Jaromir]‘s git

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The Worst E-Reader Ever

oled

Over on the Projects site, [Jaromir] has created a tiny device with an OLED display, three buttons, and a USB port for storing text files, be it for saving a shopping list, a cheat sheet, or the most unusable e-reader ever made.

The front of the device is simply a 96×32 pixel OLED and three buttons for ‘up’, ‘down’, and ‘open/close’. The reverse side is where the magic happens with a PIC24 microcontroller that sets up a file system on the chip, allowing [Jaromir] to write 64kB of data on what is actually a Flash drive with a pitiful capacity. Text files are viewable on the OLED, with the video below showing the front page of Wikipedia being displayed in a glorious 16×4 text mode.

It’s not a very useful device by any means, but for some reason it’s garnered a lot of skulls and followers over on Hackaday Projects. In response to that, [Jaromir] is working on version two with a new PCB and a design for a 3D printed case. Not bad for what [Jaromir] himself describes as worse than just about any phone or tablet.

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The Development Of A Lightweight Wireless Protocol

BANO[Texane] had been thinking about how to monitor the state of his garage door from a remote place. The door itself isn’t around any power outlets, and is a few floors away from where his server would be located in his apartment. This presented a few design challenges – namely, the sensor itself should have a wireless connection to the server, and being low power would be a great idea. This led to the development of a minimalist framework for wireless communication that allows a sensor to run for weeks without a battery swap.

The wireless protocol itself is based on a simple key value pair; each individual sensor, coupled with a NRF905 radio, has passes an address, a key, and a value. There are allowances for checksums and acknowledgement, but as the PDF says, this is a very minimal protocol.

With the software out of the way, [Texane] turned to the hardware. The microcontroller is a simple Arduino clone, paired with a radio and a coin cell on a small board. The micro spends most of its time in a low power state, with the sensor, in this case a reed switch, tied to an interrupt pin.

There was a problem with the power consumption of the radio, though: when the short 17-byte message was transmitting, there was a significant voltage drop. This was okay with a fully charged battery, but with a partially drained coin cell, the possibility of brownouts was high. A big cap in parallel was enough to offset this voltage drop.

It’s still a little expensive for an all-in-one home automation and monitoring system, but developing a functional wireless protocol and the hardware to go with it is no small feat. It’s actually a great piece of kit that [Texane] is sure to find a few uses for.

Koch Lamp is 3D Printed with a Twist

Koch Lamp

[repkid] didn’t set out to build a lamp, but that’s what he ended up with, and what a lamp he built. If the above-pictured shapes look familiar, it’s because you can’t visit Thingiverse without tripping over one of several designs, all based on a fractal better known as the Koch snowflake. Typically, however, these models are intended as vases, but [repkid] saw an opportunity to bring a couple of them together as a housing for his lighting fixture.

Tinkering with an old IKEA dioder wasn’t enough of a challenge, so [repkid] fired up his 3D printer and churned out three smaller Koch vases to serve as “bulbs” for the lamp. Inside, he affixed each LED strip to a laser-cut acrylic housing with clear tape. The three bulbs attach around a wooden base, which also holds a larger, central Koch print at its center. The base also contains a PICAXE 14M2 controller to run the dioder while collecting input from an attached wireless receiver. The final component is a custom control box—comprised of both 3D-printed and laser-cut parts—to provide a 3-dial remote. A simple spin communicates the red, green, and blue values through another PICAXE controller to the transmitter. Swing by his site for a detailed build log and an assortment of progress pictures.

 

The $50 DMX Tester

DMX

Despite being around for about as long as MIDI, DMX, the industry standard for controlling stage lighting and smoke machines, is still an astonishing expensive protocol to work with. Where MIDI can be banged out with a simple microcontroller – with odd bit rate requirements, no less, DMX testers cost hundreds of dollars. Of course this means the market is wide open for a DIY DMX tester, and over on the projects site [Tony] has just the thing.

For the hardware, [Tony] is using few 4×4 matrix keypads for user input, and a character LCD for the display. With this, he can set any of the 512 lighting channels in a DMX setup to any one of the 256 intensity values. Setting a range of channels to any intensity is a snap, with an extremely cut down command protocol. All the processing is handled by an Arduino, which seems more than capable of handling the DMX protocol thanks to the Conceptionetics DMX library.

While it’s not a full-blown lighting console you’d find in the back of a theatre, it’s more than sufficient to test a lighting rig. It also seems pretty simple to use, just the thing if you’re trying to wrap your brain around some theatrical lighting.

Developing the Grillino in 24 Hours

grillino

[Mastro Gippo] hit Shenzhen back in April and organized a challenge for himself: could he develop an electronic device from idea to product in only 24 hours? The result is the Grillino, a simple clone of the Annoy-a-Tron: a small, concealable device that makes chirping sounds at random intervals. It’s name was derived from a mix of the Italian word for a cricket—”grillo”—and, of course, “Arduino.”

Shenzhen was the perfect setting for his experiment, especially because [Mastro Gippo] was in town for the Hacker Camp we mentioned a few months ago. The build is pretty simple, requiring only a microcontroller, a battery, and a piezo speaker. What follows is a detailed journey of dizzying speed through the production process, from bags stuffed full of components, to 3D-printing a test jig, to searching for a PCB manufacturer that could fulfill his order overnight. Video and more below.

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