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ODB-II hacking using an Android tablet

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What a strange message to read on the digital dashboard display of your car. This is proof that [Kristoffer Smith] was able to control the ODB-II bus on his Eagle Grand Cherokee.

He’s not just doing this for the heck of it. It stems from his goal of adding an Android tablet on the dashboard which has been a popular hack as of late. This left [Kristoffer] with steering wheel controls that did nothing. They originally operated the radio, so he set out to make them control the tablet.

He had seen an Arduino used to control the CAN bus, but decided to go a different route. He grabbed a USB CAN bus interface for around $25. The first order of business was to use it with his computer to sniff the data available. From there he was able to decode the traffic and figure out the commands he needed to monitor. The last piece of the puzzle was to write his own Android code to watch for and react to the steering wheel buttons. You can check out the code at his repository and see the demo after the break.

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Semi-automatic pick and place machine

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This is a fascinating take on building your own pick and place machine. It does an amazing job of automating the hardest parts of hand assembly, while relying on human dexterity to achieve the hardest parts of automation. It’s a semiautomatic pick and place machine driven by an Arduino and controlled by an Android tablet.

The machine is built in two parts. The portion in the upper left feeds components from reels and is fully automated. The portion on the lower right consists of a padded arm-rest which slides smoothly along two axes. A mechanical arm with multiple articulations is attached to the end, culminating in a tip connector for some vacuum tweezers. Right handers are the only ones who will find this convenient, but oh well. The clip after the break shows it in action. The assembly technician first selects the component from an icon on the Android tablet. The reel machine then dispenses that part, which is picked up by the vacuum tweezers using the left hand to switch the vacuum on and off again. If the part orientation needs to be rotated it can done using the jog wheel on the Android app. It smooth, quick, and best of all, clever!

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Guitar EQ levels trigger the stage lights

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Even if your band hasn’t made it big yet it’s still a lot of fun to put on a great show. This hack will help you add lighting effects to performances without having to shell out for a lighting technician. [Phil] put together a hack that lets you trigger the lights by setting a volume threshold with a pedal switch.

After reading about the hack that adds an EQ display for a pedal board he got the idea to convert the concept as control hardware instead of just for feedback. Just like the visualization project he uses an MSGEQ7 chip which takes care of the audio analysis. He’s using this for electric guitar so he only monitors three or four of the outputs using an Arduino. He built the hardware into a foot pedal by mounting a momentary push button on the lid of the enclosure. Stepping on the button causes the Arduino to save the the current audio level. Whenever it reaches that threshold again it will switch on a mains relay to drive an outlet. In this case a strobe light turns on when he starts to rock out, which explains the bizarre image above. You can get a better feel for the theatrics by watching the clip after the break.

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Wireless Temperature Control for a Microbrewery

Wireless Temperature Control

When brewing your own beer, temperature control is important. If the temperature isn’t regulated correctly, the yeast will be killed when it’s added to the wort. It’s best to cool the wort from boiling down to about 25 C quickly before adding yeast.

To do this, [Kalle] came up with a wireless temperature controller for his home brewing setup. The device uses a heat exchanger to cool the wort. An ATmega88 connected to a H-bridge controls a valve that regulates flow through the heat exchanger. It reads the current temperature from a LM35 temperature sensor and actuates the valve to bring the wort to a set point.

A neat addition to the build is a wireless radio. The nRF24L01 module provides a wireless link to a computer. There’s an Android application which communicates with the computer, providing monitoring of the temperatures and control over the set point from anywhere [Kalle] can get an internet connection.

Android controlled Minecraft ores

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[Ryan] has a friend with a birthday coming up, and being inspired by ever 12-year-olds favorite game, he decided to make a Minecraft ore block with RGB LEDs. The block can change from diamonds to emeralds via commands send from an Android phone.

After a few false starts, [Ryan] eventually had his ore cube laser cut at Acess Space, a hackerspace-ish group in Sheffield. The box was constructed out of 3mm MDF, while the windows were laser cut out of frosted acrylic, while the stone pattern on the cube is one giant custom-made sticker.

With the tedious part of the build out of the way, [Ryan] set to work on the electronics. He used a PIC attached to a few very large RGB LEDs, and a Bluetooth module that allows him to connect his phone to an ore block. Dialing in the right colors took some work, but eventually, [Ryan] had an Android-controlled Minecraft ore block, able to transmutate between gold, iron, diamond, emerald, lapis, and redstone.

You can check out a video of [Ryan]‘s ore block in action after the break.

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Bluetooth headset garage door opener update

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[Lou Prado] sent in a link to his new video on using a Bluetooth headset as a garage door opener for your Android device. This isn’t a new hack, and we’ve actually seen him pull it off once before back in 2011. But we’re running this as an update for a couple of reasons. First off, we had forgotten about the hack and it’s worth revisiting. Secondly, the headset which he used with the initial hack has gone out of production. He chose a new model, and the assembly video (embedded after the break) which he made is a treasure trove of best practices to use when hacking consumer electronics.

Here’s how the hardware part of the hack goes. He removes the speaker from the headset and solders the base of a transistor in-line with a resistor to the red wire. The emitter connects to the grounded frame of the USB charging cable which is plugged into an outlet next to your garage door opener. The collector of the transistor is then connected to the garage door opener, along with a common ground connection, allowing audio from the headset to trigger the transistor to open the door.

The systems is secure based on Bluetooth pairing, which was done with his phone before starting the hardware hack.

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Carry a Git server in your pocket

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We love using Git for its superior version control. We often host our more advanced projects in a public Github repository. But the bulk of our little experiments are simply local repos. This is fine if you’re always at home, but if we are away from home we find ourselves having to SSH into our server to copy over the Git files. [Andrew] found a way around this slightly awkward process. He used an old Android phone as a Git server.

This actually makes a lot of sense when you start to think about it. Most Android phone have a microSD card slot to provide a huge storage bin (the lack of this on the Nexus 4 is baffling) so you don’t need to worry about running out of space. All of these devices have WiFi, making it easy to use them as an AP when there isn’t any other WiFi around. And the web-connected nature of the device will make syncing your repo over the Internet a snap.

Most of the behind the scenes work is done using Debian packages. This provides a few issues which [Andrew] walks through one by one. We also like his pointers like using ‘noatime’ on your EXTx file systems to avoid wear on the SD card.