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Printing Text with a Chart Recorder

A chart recorder printing 'Hello World'

Chart recorders are vintage devices that were used to plot analog values on paper. They’re similar to old seismometers which plot seismic waves from earthquakes. The device has a heated pen which moves across a piece of thermally sensitive paper. This paper is fed through the machine at a specified rate, which gives two dimensions of plotting.

[Marv] ended up getting a couple of discontinued chart recorders and figured out the interface. Five parallel signals control the feed rate of the paper, and an analog voltage controls the pen location. The next logical step was to hook up an Arduino to control the plotter.

However, once the device could plot analog values, [Marv] quickly looked for a new challenge. He wanted to write characters and bitmaps using the device, but this would require non-continuous lines. By adding a solenoid to lift the pen, he built a chart recorder printer.

After the break, check out a video of the chart recorder doing something it was never intended to do. If you happen to have one of these chart recorders, [Marv] included all of the code in his writeup to help you build your own.

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Long Range Wireless Sensors for the Home-Area-Network

7785441404784533190 In the near future, we will all reside in households that contain hundreds of little devices intertwingled together with an easily connectable and controllable network of sensors. For years, projects have been appearing all around the world, like this wireless sensor system that anyone can build.

[Eric] hopes his work will help bring the truly expansive Home-Area-Network (HAN) into fruition by letting developers build cheap, battery-powered, long-range wireless sensors. His method integrates with the pluggable OSGI architecture and home automation platform openHAB along with using an Arduino as the lower power, sensor node that is capable of utilizing many types of cheap sensors found online.

[Eric]’s tutorial depicts a few examples of the possibilities of these open-source platforms. For instance, he shows what he calls a ‘Mailbox Sentinel’ which is a battery-powered mail monitoring device that uses a Raspberry Pi to play the infamous, and ancient AOL sound bite “you’ve got mail.” It will also send an email once the postman cometh.

In addition, he lists other ideas such as a baby monitoring sentinel, a washer/dryer notification system, water leak detectors, and security implementations that blast a loud alarm if someone tries to break in. All of this potential for just around $20.

The key to making this project work, as [Eric] states, is the MQTT binding that ties together the Ardiuno and openHAB platform. This allows for simple messages to be sent over the Ethernet connection which is often found in IoT devices.

So all you developers out there go home and start thinking of what could be connected next! Because with this system, all you need is a couple of ten-spots and an internet plug, and you have yourself a strong foundation to build on top of. The rest is up to you.

This open, connected device is [Eric's] entry for The Hackaday Prize. You can see his video demo after the break. We hope this inspires you to submit your own project to the contest!

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Quick and Dirty RFID Door Locks Clean up Nice

homemade RFID Door Locks

[Shawn] recently overhauled his access control by fitting the doors with some RFID readers. Though the building already had electronic switches in place, unlocking the doors required mashing an aging keypad or pestering someone in an adjacent office to press a button to unlock them for you. [Shawn] tapped into that system by running some wires up into the attic and connecting them to one of two control boxes, each with an ATMega328 inside. Everything functions as you would expect: presenting the right RFID card to the wall-mounted reader sends a signal to the microcontroller, which clicks an accompanying relay that drives the locks.

You may recall [Shawn's] RFID phone tag hack from last month; the addition of the readers is the second act of the project. If you’re looking to recreate this build, you shouldn’t have any trouble sourcing the same Parallax readers or building out your own Arduino on a stick, either. Check out a quick walkthrough video after the jump.

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Solar Powered DIY Plant Watering System

Solar Powered Watering System

It’s great having fresh vegetables just a few steps away from the kitchen, but it takes work to keep those plants healthy. [Pierre] found this out the hard way after returning from vacation to find his tomato plant withering away. He decided to put an end to this problem by building his own solar-powered plant watering system (page in French, Google translation).

An Arduino serves as the brain of the system. It’s programmed to check a photo resistor every ten minutes. At 8:30PM, the Arduino will decide how much to water the plants based on the amount of sunlight it detected throughout the day. This allows the system to water the plants just the right amount. The watering is performed by triggering a 5V relay, which switches on a swimming pool pump.

[Pierre] obviously wanted a “green” green house, so he is powering the system using sunlight. A 55 watt solar panel recharges a 12V lead acid battery. The power from the battery is stepped down to the appropriate 5V required for the Arduino. Now [Pierre] can power his watering system from the very same energy source that his plants use to grow.

The Rabbit H1 is a Stationary Mouse Replacement

rabbit h1

[Dave] has some big plans to build himself a 1980′s style computer. Most of the time, large-scale projects can be made easier by breaking them down into their smaller components. [Dave] decided to start his project by designing and constructing a custom controller for his future computer. He calls it the Rabbit H1.

[Dave] was inspired by the HOTAS throttle control system, which is commonly used in aviation. The basic idea behind HOTAS is that the pilot has a bunch of controls built right into the throttle stick. This way, the pilot doesn’t ever have to remove his hand from the throttle. [Dave] took this basic concept and ran with it.

He first designed a simple controller shape in OpenSCAD and printed it out on his 3D printer. He tested it out in his hand and realized that it didn’t feel quite right. The second try was more narrow at the top, resulting in a triangular shape. [Dave] then found the most comfortable position for his fingers and marked the piece with a marker. Finally, he measured out all of the markings and transferred them into OpenSCAD to perfect his design.

[Dave] had some fun with OpenSCAD, designing various hinges and plywood inlays for all of the buttons. Lucky for [Dave], both the 3D printer software as well as the CNC router software accept STL files. This meant that he was able to design both parts together in one program and use the output for both machines.

With the physical controller out of the way, it was time to work on the electronics. [Dave] bought a couple of joysticks from Adafruit, as well as a couple of push buttons. One of the joysticks controls the mouse cursor. The other joystick controls scrolling vertically and horizontally, and includes a push button for left-click. The two buttons are used for middle and right-click. All of these inputs are read by a Teensy Arduino. The Teensy is compact and easily capable of emulating a USB mouse, which makes it perfect for this job.

[Dave] has published his designs on Thingiverse if you would like to try to build one of these yourself.


Laser Piano Worthy Of The Band ‘Wyld Stallyns’

Laser Piano uses Arduino

[Robi] and [Kathy] from elecfreaks have put together a how-to article about a Laser Piano they just built. Instead of keys, the user breaks beams of laser light to trigger the sounds.

Several laser pointer diodes are wired in parallel and mounted in a box, cardboard in this case. The laser diodes are aimed at photocells that reside on the other side of the box. Each photocellis connected to a digital input pin on an Arduino. When the Arduino senses a state change from one of the photocell, meaning the beam of light has been interrupted, it plays the appropriate wave file stored on an external JQ6500 sound module.

[Robi] admits that there are some improvements to be made, specifically the trigger response time and the piano sounding too monotonous. If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments section.

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Pew Pew! An Arduino Based Laser Rangefinder

Arduino Laser Rangefinder
Lasers are some of the coolest devices around. We can use them to cut things, create laser light shows, and also as a rangefinder.[Ignas] wrote in to tell us about [Berryjam's] AMAZING write-up on creating an Arduino based laser rangefinder. This post is definitely worth reading.

Inspired by a Arduino based LIDAR system, [Berryjam] decided that he wanted to successfully use an affordable Open Source Laser RangeFinder (OSLRF-01) from LightWare. The article starts off by going over the basics of how to measure distance with a laser based system. You measure the time between an outgoing laser pulse and the reflected return pulse; this time directly relates to the distance of the object. Sounds simple? In practice, it is not as simple as it may seem. [Berryjam] has done a great job doing some real world testing of this device, with nice plots to top it all off. After fiddling with the threshold and some other aspects of the code, the resulting accuracy is quite good.

Recently, we have seen more projects utilizing lasers for range-finding, including LIDAR projects. It is very exciting to see such high-end sensors making their way into the maker/hacker realm. If you have a related laser project, be sure to let us know!