Reverse Engineering a Wireless Studio Lighting Remote

Strobe Remote

If you want to take a photograph with a professional look, proper lighting is going to be critical. [Richard] has been using a commercial lighting solution in his studio. His Lencarta UltraPro 300 studio strobes provide adequate lighting and also have the ability to have various settings adjusted remotely. A single remote can control different lights setting each to its own parameters. [Richard] likes to automate as much as possible in his studio, so he thought that maybe he would be able to reverse engineer the remote control so he can more easily control his lighting.

[Richard] started by opening up the remote and taking a look at the radio circuitry. He discovered the circuit uses a nRF24L01+ chip. He had previously picked up a couple of these on eBay, so his first thought was to just promiscuously snoop on the communications over the air. Unfortunately the chips can only listen in on up to six addresses at a time, and with a 40-bit address, this approach may have taken a while.

Not one to give up easily, [Richard] chose a new method of attack. First, he knew that the radio chip communicates to a master microcontroller via SPI. Second, he knew that the radio chip had no built-in memory. Therefore, the microcontroller must save the address in its own memory and then send it to the radio chip via the SPI bus. [Richard] figured if he could snoop on the SPI bus, he could find the address of the remote. With that information, he would be able to build another radio circuit to listen in over the air.

Using an Open Logic Sniffer, [Richard] was able to capture some of the SPI communications. Then, using the datasheet as a reference, he was able to isolate the communications that stored information int the radio chip’s address register. This same technique was used to decipher the radio channel. There was a bit more trial and error involved, as [Richard] later discovered that there were a few other important registers. He also discovered that the remote changed the address when actually transmitting data, so he had to update his receiver code to reflect this.

The receiver was built using another nRF24L01+ chip and an Arduino. Once the address and other registers were configured properly, [Richard's] custom radio was able to pick up the radio commands being sent from the lighting remote. All [Richard] had to do at this point was press each button and record the communications data which resulted. The Arduino code for the receiver is available on the project page.

[Richard] took it an extra step and wrote his own library to talk to the flashes. He has made his library available on github for anyone who is interested.

Atmel and Arduino Announce Wi-Fi Shield 101 at World Maker Faire

Atmel and Arduino teamed up at World Maker Faire to introduce the Wi-Fi shield 101. [Gary] from Atmel gave us the lowdown on this new shield and its components. The shield is a rather spartan affair, carrying only devices of note: an Atmel WINC1500 WiFi module, and an ATECC108 crypto chip.

The WINC1500 is a nifty little WiFi module in its own right. WINC handles IEEE 802.11 b/g/n at up to 72 Mbps. 72Mbps may not sound like much by today’s standards, but it’s plenty fast for most embedded applications. WINC handles all the heavy lifting of the wireless connection. Connectivity is through SPI, UART or I2C, though on the Arduino shield it will be running in SPI mode.

The ATECC108 is a member of Atmel’s “CryptoAuthentication” family. It comes packaged in an 8-pin SOIC, and is compatible with serial I2C EEPROM specifications. Internally the similarities to serial EEPROMs end. The ‘108 has a 256-bit SHA engine in hardware, as well as a Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) level random number generator. Atmel sees this chip as being at the core of secure embedded systems. We think it’s pretty darn good, so long as we don’t hear about it at the next DEFCON.

The Wi-Fi shield 101 and associated libraries should be out in January 2015. We can’t wait to see all the new projects (and new ways to blink an LED) the shield will enable.

Adding a Digital Back to a Sweet Old Camera

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[Eugene] wanted to use his vintage Leica M4 as a digital camera, and he had a Canon EOS 350D digital camera sitting around unused. So he Frankensteined them together and added a digital back to the Leica’s optical frontend.

It sounds simple, right? All you’d need to do is chop off the back from the EOS 350D, grind the digital sensor unit down to fit into exactly the right spot on the film plane, glue it onto an extra Leica M4 back door, and you’re set. Just a little bit of extremely precise hackery. But it’s not even that simple.

Along the way [Eugene] reverse-engineered the EOS 350D’s shutter and mirror box signals (using a Salae Logic probe), and then replicated these signals when the Leica shutter was tripped by wedging an Arduino MiniPro into an old Leica motor-winder case. The Arduino listens for the Leica’s bulb-flash signal to tell when the camera fires, and then sends along the right codes to the EOS back. Sweet.

There are still a few outstanding details. The shutter speed is limited by the latency in getting the signal from the Leica to the 350D back, so he’s stuck at shutter speeds longer than 1/8th of a second. Additionally, the Canon’s anti-IR filter didn’t fit, but he has a new one ordered. These quibbles aside, it’s a beautiful hack so far.

What makes a beautiful piece of work even more beautiful? Sharing the source code and schematics. They’re both available at his Github.

Of course, if you don’t mind completely gutting the camera, you could always convert your old Leica into a point and shoot.

Arduino Translates Signals Between Steering Wheel Buttons and Aftermarket Head Unit

DIY Steering Wheel Control Adapter

There is no question that steering wheel mounted controls are super convenient. Reaching all the way over to the dashboard to change a radio station is so 1990’s. An ever-increasing percentage of new cars are coming equipped with steering wheel controls for the stereo, however, you’ll lose the button control if you change out the stock head unit to something a little higher in quality. Sure, there may be an adapter readily available for your car/stereo combination, but there also may not be. [Ronnied] took the DIY road and made his own adapter.

The first obstacle for [Ronnied] was to figure out the wiring on the steering wheel controls. After some poking around he found that there were only two wires used for all of the control buttons, each button only changing the resistance between the two wires. The button states could easily be read by using an Arduino’s analog input. A Pro Mini model was chosen for its small size as it could be housed in the radio compartment of the dash.

The next step was getting the Arduino to control the aftermarket head unit. [Ronnied] did some research regarding JVC’s Stalk digital control interface but came to the conclusion that it would be easier to direct wiring the Arduino outputs to the appropriate spot on the head unit’s circuit board. To do this the button for each function that would also be represented on the steering wheel was traced out to find a common point on the circuit board. Jumper wires soldered to the circuit board simply allow the Arduino to emulate button pushes. To ensure that the head unit buttons still work in conjunction with the steering wheel buttons, the Arduino would have to keep the pins as inputs until a steering wheel button was pushed, the pin changed to an output, the signal sent and the pin changed back to an input. This feature was easily created in the Arduino sketch.

Video below.

[Read more...]

‘Duinos and VR Environments

At the Atmel booth at Maker Faire, they were showing off a few very cool bits and baubles. We’ve got a post on the WiFi shield in the works, but the most impressive person at the booth was [Quin]. He has a company, he’s already shipping products, and he has a few projects already in the works. What were you doing at 13?

[Quin]‘s Qduino Mini is your basic Arduino compatible board with a LiPo charging circuit. There’s also a ‘fuel gauge’ of sorts for the battery. The project will be hitting Kickstarter sometime next month, and we’ll probably put that up in a links post.

Oh, [Quin] was also rocking some awesome kicks at the Faire. Atmel, I’m trying to give you money for these shoes, but you’re not taking it.

[Sophie] had a really cool installation at the faire, and notably something that was first featured on hackaday.io. Basically, it’s a virtually reality Segway, built with an Oculus, Leap Motion, a Wobbleboard, an Android that allows you to cruise on everyone’s favorite barely-cool balancing scooter through a virtual landscape.

This project was a collaboration between [Sophie], [Takafumi Ide], [Adelle Lin], and [Martha Hipley]. The virtual landscape was built in Unity, displayed on the Oculus, controlled with an accelerometer on a phone, and has input with a Leap Motion. There are destructible and interactable things in the environment that can be pushed around with the Leap Motion, and with the helmet-mounted fans, you can feel the wind in your hair as you cruise over the landscape on your hovering Segway-like vehicle. This is really one of the best VR projects we’ve ever seen.

Lamp Comes to Life with Ultrasonic Sensors

motion controlled lamp

Fans of the bouncing lamp from the Pixar corporate logo will enjoy [Daniel]‘s latest project. It’s a motion controlled desk lamp that uses ultrasonic sensors to control its physical position.

The core of the project is an Arduino and the three ultrasonic sensors. The sensors act as range finders, and when they are all working together under the direction of the microcontroller they can tell which direction a hand was moving when it passed by. This information is used to drive two servos, one in the base and one on the lamp’s arm.

The project requires an articulating desk lamp of some sort (others besides the specific one [Daniel] used shouldn’t be much of a problem as long as they bend in the same way). Most hackers will have the rest of the parts on hand, with the possible exception of the rangefinder. The code is up on the project site for a look-see or in case you want to build your own.

The only problem that [Daniel] had when putting this all together was that the base was a little wobbly. He was able to fix that with some thumbtacks, and we think the next step for the project should be switching the light on and off over the internet.

Bluetooth Thingies at Maker Faire

In case you haven’t noticed, one of the more popular themes for new dev boards is Bluetooth. Slap a Bluetooth 4.0 module on a board, and you really have something: just about every phone out there has it, and the Low Energy label is great for battery-powered Internets of Things.

Most of these boards fall a little short. It’s one thing to throw a Bluetooth module on a board, but building the software to interact with this board is another matter entirely. Revealing Hour Creations is bucking that trend with their Tah board. Basically, it’s your standard Arduino compatible board with a btle module. What they’ve done is add the software for iOS and Android that makes building stuff easy.

Putting Bluetooth on a single board is one thing, but how about putting Bluetooth on everything. SAM Labs showed off their system of things at Maker Faire with LEDs, buttons, fans, motors, sensors, and just about every electrical component you can imagine.

All of these little boards come with a Bluetooth module and a battery. The software for the system is a graphical interface that allows you to draw virtual wires between everything. Connect a button to a LED in the software, and the LED will light up when the button is pressed. Move your mouse around the computer, and the button will turn on a motor when it’s pressed.

There are a few APIs that also come packaged into the programming environment – at the booth, you could open a fridge (filled with cool drinks that didn’t cost five dollars, a surprise for the faire) and it would post a tweet.

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