Who Could Resist a Color Coded Clock?

[Luc] wanted to make a clock like no other. He knows that the territory is well-trod, especially in the area of minimalist design. Undeterred, [Luc] came up with a fresh design that uses the resistor color code to display the time. He’s calling it the Nerd’s Ultimate Watch.

It doesn’t get much more minimalist than four RGB LEDs. Each one illuminates in the color that represents the digit in the current time. For instance, I’m typing this sentence at 1:37PM. The clock uses 24-hour time, so let’s call it 13:37. Using resistor color code time, that’s 1, 3, 3, 7, or brown, orange, orange, violet.
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The Quest for Mice With Frickin’ Laser Beams (Pointed At Their Brains), Building A Laser Controller

The logo for the field is kind of cute though.
The logo for the field is kind of cute though.

[Scott Harden] is working on a research project involving optogenetics. From what we were able to piece together optogenetics is like this: someone genetically modifies a mouse to have cell behaviors which can activated by light sensitive proteins. The mice then have a frikin’ lasers mounted on their heads, but pointing inwards towards their brains not out towards Mr. Bond’s.

Naturally, to make any guesses about the resulting output behavior from the mouse the input light has to be very controlled and exact. [Scott] had a laser and he had a driver, but he didn’t have a controller to fire the pulses. To make things more difficult, the research was already underway and the controller had to be built

The expensive laser driver had a bizarre output of maybe positive 28 volts or, perhaps, negative 28 volts… at eight amps. It was an industry standard in a very small industry. He didn’t have a really good way to measure or verify this without either destroying his measuring equipment or the laser driver. So he decided to just build a voltage-agnostic input on his controller. As a bonus the opto-isolated input would protect the expensive controller.

The kind of travesty that can occur when [Stefan Kiese] doesn't have access to nice project boxes.
The kind of travesty that can occur when [Scott] doesn’t have access to nice project boxes.
The output is handled by an ATtiny85. He admits that a 555 circuit could generate the signal he needed, but to get a precision pulse it was easier to just hook up a microcontroller to a crystal and know that it’s 100% correct. Otherwise he’d have to spend all day with an oscilloscope fiddling with potentiometers. Only a few Hackaday readers relish the thought as a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

He packaged everything in a nice project box. He keeps them on hand to prevent him from building circuits on whatever he can find. Adding some tricks from the ham-radio hobby made the box look very professional. He was pleased and surprised to find that the box worked on his first try.

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Better Way Of Cheating

Believe it or not, some video games are still developed for the PC. With video games come cheat codes, and when they’re on the PC, that means using a keyboard. You can easily program any microcontroller to send a string of characters over a USB port with the touch of a button. Believe it or not, a lot of people haven’t put these two facts together. [danjovic] has, leading him to build a simple and cheap USB keystroke generator for quickly typing in cheat codes.

[danjovic] is basing his build around a Digispark, a cheap, USB-enabled ATtiny85 dev board. This, of course, means there’s not a lot of pins to play with – there are only four I/O pins, and one of them is connected to ground by a LED. That leaves only three I/O pins, but [danjovic] managed to put seven different cheats in his project using diodes and something that is almost charlieplexing.

If you’re wondering, this is a very inexpensive project. [danjovic] is using a Chinese digispark clone, a handful of 1N4148 diodes, and a few tact switches. Anyone with a well-stocked part drawer or a tenner on eBay could build this. If you want the proof of work for this project, you can check out the demo video below.

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Analog Guts Display GPS Velocity in this Hybrid Speedometer

A digital dash is cool and all, but analog gauges have lasting appeal. There’s something about the simplicity of a purely mechanical gauge connected directly to a vehicle’s transmission. Of course that’s not what’s hapenning here. Instead, this build is an analog display for GPS-acquired speed data.

The video below does a good job at explaining the basics of [Grant Stephens]’ build. The display itself is a gutted marine speedometer fitted with the movement from a motorcycle tachometer. The tach was designed to take a 4-volt peak-to-peak square wave input signal, the frequency of which is proportional to engine speed. To display road speed, [Grant] stuffed an ATTiny85 with a GPS module into the gauge and cooked up a script to convert the GPS velocity data into a square wave. There’s obviously some latency, and the gauge doesn’t appear to register low speeds very well, but all in all it seems to match up well to the stock speedo once you convert to metric.

There’s plenty of room for improvement, but we can see other applications where an analog representation of GPS data could be useful. And analog gauges are just plain fun to digitize – like these old meters and gauges used to display web-scraped weather data.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: A Very Small Password Keeper

One of the more popular security builds in recent memory is USB password vaults. These small thumb drive-sized devices hold all the passwords you have to deal with, and are locked behind a authentication code on the drive itself. For their Hackaday Prize entry, [Miguel] and [Noel] asked how inexpensively one of these devices could be made. The answer, coming in the form of their Memtype project, is very inexpensively.

The Memtype project is based on the cheapest and most simplistic USB implementation on the planet. It’s built around an ATtiny85 and V-USB‘s software only implementation of a USB keyboard, requiring only a few resistors and diode in addition to the ‘tiny85 itself.

The device can only be unlocked with a four-digit pin, input through the clever use of a small SMD joystick. After inputting the correct code, the Memtype grants the user access to all the stored passwords. As far as security goes, [Miguel] and [Noel] have implemented NOEKEON in assembly, however it should be noted that all security is weaker than a pipe wrench. For managing the passwords, [Miguel] and [Noel] built a small, simple GUI app to set the PIN and write credentials to the device.

[Miguel] and [Noel] already have a demo video up for the Memtype, you can check that out below.

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Smallest MIDI Synth, Again!

Not content with fitting a tiny square-wave MIDI synthesizer into a MIDI plug, [Mitxela] went on to cram a similar noisemaker into a USB plug itself.

Besides being physically small, the code is small too, as well as the budget. It uses V-USB for the USB library running on an ATtiny85, and a couple of passive parts. His firmware (apparently) takes in MIDI notes and spits out square waves.
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Simple Fuel Pressure Alarm Averts Diesel Disaster

If you could spend a couple of bucks on a simple project that might prevent a $2000 repair bill on your vehicle, you’d probably build it, right? That’s the idea behind this simple low-pressure alarm for a diesel fuel system, and it’s so simple it makes you wonder why the OEM didn’t do it.

We normally see [Bob Johnson] coming up with nifty projects (like this claw or this camera slider) that more often than not combine woodworking and electronics. But no tree carcasses were harmed in the making of this project. [Bob]’s goal is just to sound a warning and flash a light if the output of a pressure switch goes to ground. That indicates the lift pump in his Dodge Ram’s fuel tank has failed, which could lead to the sudden failure of the downstream injector pump for lack of lubrication by the fuel itself. His simple ATtiny85 circuit lives on a small perfboard in a 3D printed case and taps into a $30 fuel pressure switch. The microcontroller code enables a short delay to prevent nuisance alarms, and if the pressure drops below 5 PSI, [Bob] gets a chance to shut down the engine and disappoint his mechanic to the tune of $2000.

Maybe it’s planned obsolescence on the OEM’s part, or maybe it’s not. But kudos to [Bob] for a simple hack that averts a potentially expensive problem.

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