If you’re going to develop another Arduino-compatible board these days, you might as well take a “kitchen sink” approach. The Smart Citizen Kit piles it on, including Wi-Fi, an SD card slot, and EEPROM on its base. The attached shield—dubbed the “Ambient Board”—is a buffet of sensors: temperature, humidity, CO, NO2, light intensity, and a microphone for reading sound levels. The board’s intended purpose is to provide an open-source, interactive, environmental database by crowdsourcing data from multiple Smart Citizen Kits, but you can add your own stuff or yank the shield off altogether. Additional shields are also under development, aimed at providing agricultural data, monitoring biometrics, and more.
Stick the Smart Citizen somewhere and it can send sensor data to the web over a WiFi connection. The result is worth a look. Here’s the map with the real-time data from early release models scattered over Europe, most of which appear to be solar-powered with a small LiPo battery to keep them going overnight. There’s also an accompanying iPhone app that lets you set up the Smart Citizen, retrieve data from nearby sensors, and allows you to match your phone’s GPS location to any data you collect while carrying the board around.
The developers met their Kickstarter goals earlier this summer and the board has recently entered the manufacturing process, Rummage through their GitHub files here, and watch a video preview of the Smart Citizen below.
Continue reading “Smart Citizen: Arduino-compatible and packed with sensors”
That’s a pretty amazing image to catch peering out from your back balcony. The rig used to record such a gem is seen on the right. It’s called a Barn Door tracker and was built by [DCH972]. Details for this build are scattered all over the place, there’s a video (also found below), another album of some of the best images, and plenty of background info in the Reddit thread.
This design is also know as a Haig or Scotch mount. While we’re dropping links all over the place check out the Wikipedia page on the topic. The point of the system is to move the camera in such a way so that the stars appear to hold in the same place even though the earth is moving. There’s an ATmega32u4 breakout board riding on top of the breadboard. It’s doing some pretty heavy math in order to calculate the stepper motor timing. That’s because the mount is like a photo album, hinged at one side and opened on the other by a ball screw. This linear actuation needs to be meshed with the change in angle of the mounting platform, and finally it needs to sync with the movement of the earth. But once a series of images is captured correctly they can be processed into the composite photograph shown above.
If missed that SDR galactic rotation detector from last May you should find it equally compelling.
Continue reading “Building a Barn Door tracker for astronomical photography”
The Xbox 360 has the option of parental controls. It limits the rating of games which can be played on the system. [Oscar] didn’t really need to remove the lock-out. It was simply an interesting proof of concept for him. In the image above he’s holding up a Vinciduino board. It has an ATmega32u4 chip that can brute-force attack the Xbox 360 parental code (translated).
We’ve seen quite a few of these attacks lately. Like the recent iPad pin attack this uses the microcontroller to emulate a keyboard. As you can see in the video, [Oscar] first navigates the menu system to the unlock code screen, then plugs in his device.
The unlock screen calls for a four-digit numeric PIN. That’s a total of 10000 possible combinations. It looks pretty slow in the demo, but according to his calculations the worst case scenario would still break the code in less than seventeen hours. Apparently there’s no lock-out for the max number of wrong codes.
Continue reading “Brute force attack Xbox 360 parental controls”
The bad thing about this type of hack is that now [Tomek Dubrownik] needs to cut a hole in his desk to house the thing. He got this military grade trackball working over USB. It’s old, and could be used as a blunt weapon. But as the video shows it still makes a great input device.
He found the hardware on Allegro — a Polish auction site similar to eBay — for just $20. The original circuitry didn’t make a lot of sense, but a bit of probing with the old oscilloscope let him establish connections to the encoders which are read by some TI 54xx parts. Apparently they use the same logic as 7400 parts but are military grade. He chose a ATmega32u4 development board for his replacement control board. That chip has native USB support so the rest is just a matter of passing data like an HID input device. His code even lets him use those pushbuttons to toggle between cursor movement and window scrolling.
[Tomek] translated his post into English after some prompting by friends at the Warsaw Hackerspace. Here’s the original in Polish if you’re interested.
Continue reading “Ditch that boring mouse for a military-grade trackball”
[blueHash] uses this cheap development board as an AVR programmer. What’s interesting to us is that it solves the chicken-or-egg problem that is usually encountered when bootstrapping a programmer. We’ve written about this issue before. Most programmers use microcontrollers, which first need to be flashed using a programmer. But it turns out the chip on this dev board has a DFU mode which gets around that conundrum.
He grabbed a uSD dev board for about $6. It’s got a crystal, an ATmega32u4 chip, and on the other side there’s a MicroSD card slot. We looked around and found an Atmel Datasheet (PDF) which describes the Device Firmware Upgrade mechanism. The AVR devices which support DFU are factory configured to use it. This dev board is designed to use DFU so all [blueHash] needed to do is find and configure a ISP firmware package that worked with this chip.
[Becky Stern] came up with a way to make sure you and your dog are getting enough exercise. It’s a dog collar mounted GPS that measures how far you have walked. Just set your target distance and the progress bar in the middle of this flower will let you know when you reached it.
The most obvious piece of hardware is the OLED board which is sticking out like a sore thumb. But if you’d like to be a little more discreet you could forego the full-featured display for some carefully places LEDs to make up a circular progress bar. The GPS module itself fits well in the center of the flower, which [Becky] shows us how to make out of wire-edged ribbon. Hidden on the other side is an ATmega23u4 breakout board running the Arduino bootloader.
If you’re interested in sewables and textiles [Becky] uses a lot of basic techniques that are good to learn. Check it out in the clip after the break. She’s always shown a remarkable ability to develop projects which won’t scare away the villagers in the way our wire-sprouting breadboard hacks sometimes do.
Continue reading “GPS dog collar keeps track of your walks”
Here’s the guts from [Dext0rb’s] Super Nintendo cartridge. It’s easy to pick out the dark-colored board which lets him reflash SNES ROMs via USB. We’ve seen this done a number of times, but this is a much cleaner option than hacks that just add a dead-bug-style memory chip.
The board he designed has a double-row of pin headers sized to fit the footprint vacated by the original ROM chip. The board has a mini-USB connector which can be accessed through a hole he cut in the side of the cartridge enclosure. This is in the right place so that you cannot plug it in when it’s being used in the SNES (which would cause damage). The ATmega32u4 chip handles USB connectivity and programs the 32 megabit flash chip which stores the ROM. He’s posted a few articles on the blog portion of his site which you’ll find interesting. We suggest starting with this hardware teaser.