Sous Vadar


[Craig] pulled off a beautiful build with his Sous Vader project. The name is a geeky spin on sous vide, a method of cooking foods in water held at a precise temperature. Building your own setup at home saves a ton of money, but it’s also a lot of fun. This explains the frequency with which we see these builds here at Hackaday.

So this one has a flashy name, a fine-looking case, but the beauty continues on the internals. [Craig] posted an image with the cover off of the control unit and it’s absolutely gorgeous inside. Part of the reason for this is the circuit board he spun for the project which hosts the ATmega328 and interfaces with the LCD, buttons, temperature sensor, and mains-switching triac. But most of the credit is due to his attention to detail. The image on the right shows him prototyping the hardware. Since some of his meals take 20 hours to prepare it’s no wonder he found an out-of-the-way closet in which to do the testing.

Make sure to read all the way to the bottom of the post for some cooking tips. For instance, since he doesn’t have a vacuum sealer he uses zipper bags — lowering them into water to push out the air as they are sealed.

Bluetooth Network Monitor

Bluetooth Network Monitor

[Zak] wanted to keep tabs on his network connection without needing to log into his router. Since his router was a PC running Debian Linux, he rigged up a Bluetooth Network Monitor to display the information.

The monitor is based on a ATMega328P that reads data from a Bluetooth serial connection and displays it on the TFT screen. It uses a low cost Bluetooth module to receive data from a router. A shell script fetches the data and formats it into a string that can be sent over the Bluetooth link.

A USB connection with a desktop computer is used to power the device, but [Zak] also added USB support using V-USB. He plans to use it to get data from the desktop. For example, he could display CPU load and temperature data.

Overall, this is a nice project for fetching data wirelessly and displaying it on your desk. [Zak] has provided the code and Eagle files with his write up for anyone interested in building their own.

8×8 LED matrix pendant sealed in a block of epoxy


This is the back side of [Dmitry Grinberg’s] 8×8 LED matrix pendant. He had seen the other projects that used a 5×7 grid but wasn’t really satisfied with the figures that can be drawn in that confined area when each pixel has only the option of being on or off. His offering increases the drawing area and includes the ability to display each pixel at several different levels.

He’s using an ATmega328 microcontroller soldered directly to the pins on the back of the LED module. He mapped out the IO in his firmware to make the soldering as easy as possible. To protect the hardware he fashioned a mold around the edges of the LED package using duct tape. The tape held epoxy in place as it hardened, encasing the microcontroller and holding the power wires and ICSP header tightly.

After the break you can see about six seconds of the device in action. The four levels of brightness for each pixel really do make quite a difference!

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Overclocking microcontrollers


We’re all familiar with overclocking desktop computers; a wonderful introduction to thermal design power and the necessities of a good CPU cooler. [Marcelo] wanted to see how far he could overclock a microcontroller – in this case an ATMega328 – and ended up with a microcontroller designed for 20 MHz running at 30 MHz.

To verify that his uC could run at higher clock speeds, [Marcelo] began his experiments by uploading a piece of code that toggled a few pins as fast as possible. He needed to upload this code with a common 16 MHz crystal – AVRDude simply won’t work when a chip is clocked at higher speeds.

After successfully demonstrating his microcontroller will turn pins on and off at 30 MHz, [Marcelo] wanted to see if he could do something useful. By editing a single setting in his Arduino boards.txt file., [Marcelo] was able to have his overclocked microcontroller read and reply to characters sent over a serial connection. It worked, demonstrating an overclocked microcontroller could be useful in some situations.

As for what [Marcelo] plans to do with his faster microcontroller, he’s thinking of improving a ATMega-powered VGA color generator. A higher clock speed means he can push more pixels out to a VGA monitor.

Bathroom fan that switches itself on when it gets steamy or smelly

At first we thought that [Brandon Dunson] was writing in to tell us he’s too lazy to fix his bathroom fan. What he really meant is that simply replacing the unit isn’t nearly enough fun. Instead, he developed his own bathroom fan trigger based on stinky or humid air conditions. He didn’t publish a post about the project but we’ve got his entire gallery of build images after the break.

The initial inspiration for the project came from a twitter-connected fart sensing office chair. Hiding behind the character display you can see the MQ-4 methane gas sensor which he picked up for the project. But since there’s also a shower in the bathroom he included a humidity sensor with the project. Both are monitored by an ATmega328 which averages 10 readings from each sensor before comparing the data with a set threshold. If the sensors read above this level a relay turns on the bathroom fan.

Don’t be confused by the small DC fans seen above; [Brandon] is still using a proper exhaust fan. These are just used to help circulate the air around the sensors so that low-hanging smells will still trigger the system. This has got to be the perfect thing for a heavily used restroom.

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AVR Minecraft server lets you toggle pins from the virtual world

Wanting to test his skills by building a webserver [Cnlohr] decided to also code a Minecraft server which allows him to toggle pins from inside the game. The rows of switches seen above give him direct access to the direction register and I/O pins of one port of the ATmega328.

The server hardware is shown in the image above. It’s hard to tell just from that image, but it’s actually a glass substrate which is [Cnlohr’s] specialty. He uses an ENC424J600 to handle the networking side of things. This chip costs almost twice as much as the microcontroller next to it. But even in single quantities the BOM came in at under $20 for the entire build.

In the video after the break [Cnlohr] and a friend demonstrate the ability for multiple users to log into the Minecraft world. The simulation is fairly bare-bones, but the ability to affect hardware from the game world is more exciting than just pushing 1s and 0s through some twisted pairs.

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QR clock is unreadable by humans and computers alike

The clock is a perfect technology. For just a few dollars, you can buy a digital wristwatch and chronometer able to keep extremely accurate time for years without winding a spring or replacing a battery. Anything ‘improvement’ on the design of a clock only makes it harder to read, a feature exploited by the very 1337 binary clocks we see from time to time. [Ch00f] decided it was time to give way to the march of progress and build a completely unreadable clock. He came up with a QR code clock that is unreadable by humans and cellphones alike.

The hardware is built around nine 8×8 LED matrix panels resulting in a 24 x 24 pixel display, perfect for displaying a 21 pixel square QR code. The LED drivers are a standard multiplexed affair, but this project really shines in the firmware department.

The microcontroller [Ch00f] used – an ATMega328 – is far too small to store the 1440 QR codes for every minute of the day. No, this project would have to dynamically generate QR codes on the fly, not exactly an easy problem.

After looking over the official QR code standard, [Ch00f] wrote a rather large program that turns alphanumeric sequences into QR code. This runs on the microcontroller every minute, generating a new QR code for every minute of the day.

It’s nigh impossible for a human to read a QR code, but [Ch00f] figured he could make his project even less useful. By multiplexing the LEDs at a very low duty cycle [Ch00f] made it impossible for a camera to capture the entire QR code, even though the pattern of pixels is still visible to the human eye. A fabulously useless build that really steps up the game for unreadable clocks.

Video after the break.

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