Pep up your house cat’s boring wintertime life

With winter upon us, and all the windows shut, [Garfield] and [Socks] can get a little restless. But [Dino] is determined to keep his furry friends entertained through the cold dark months. He hit the junk box, and used some interesting fabrication techniques to build the Chase-a-Mouse motorized cat toy.

The toy is popular with the cats because it incorporates two traditionally satisfying features; something to chase, and an obstacle to chase it around. The base of the unit is a long plank which is held up from the floor by a couple of inches. The loop of rope which spans the board’s length has a mouse attached to it with about six inches of string. When the motor is flipped on it bounces and jerks its way around the circuit, darting in and out of the space below the base.

As you can see in the video after the break the motor is a bit loud. [Dino] used the sweeper motor from a Roomba for this. It might freak the kitties out at first, but curiosity will get the better of them eventually. It’s a quick build, and we love the drill-turned-lathe that is used make the wooden pulley for the system.

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Pushing FPGA config files via serial using ‘cat’

[Andrew] is trying to buckle down and hammer out his PhD project but was surprised by the sorry state of the configuration options for his FPGA/ARM dev board. Using JTAG was painfully slow, so he studied the datasheet to see if there was another way. It turns out the Xilinx FPGA he’s using does have a slave serial mode so he came up with a way to push configuration from the ARM to the FPGA serially.

Four of the connects he needed were already mapped to PortC pins on the AT91SAM9260 ARM System on a Chip. He ended up using the EN_GSM pin on the FPGA, since there is no GSM module on this board; connecting it to the microcontroller with a piece of wire. Now he can SSH into the ARM processor, grabbing information on the FPGA from /dev/fpga0. When it comes time to program, it’s as easy as using the cat command on the binary file and redirecting the output to the same hook.

See where Socks has been using a GPS tracking collar

[Buxtronix] wanted to know where his cat (named Ash, but we thought Socks sounded much more cliché) was going when on the loose. He designed a GPS tracking collar and a way to map the data it collects.

The hardware actually turns out to be very simple. He needed a GPS module to gather location data, and a way to store that information having decided that live broadcast was not feasible. He hit SparkFun because they have a GPS module that is small enough for a cat collar, and outputs data with one serial pin. Unfortunately this module is no longer available, but if you have a similarly sized replacement let us know in the comments. Data capture is made easy by this device, you just need to record the serial data as it comes down the pipeline. [Buxtronix] used an OpenLog board as it dumps the data onto an SD card. When [Ash] returns from his roaming, [Buxtronix] grabs the SD card, and uses a Python script to convert the NMEA data to KML format which can be overlaid on Google Earth and Google Maps.

Keeping tabs on your tabby with a camera and GPS

cat_eye_pictures_and_gps

[Janis] has an outdoor cat that likes to roam all over the neighborhood. He was curious to see what he was up to all day, so he decided to build a small cat cam to document the feline’s comings and goings. After the cat returned one evening with a snail riding along on his back, [Janis] thought it would be pretty interesting to see where the cat was going as well.

He calls his creation “CatEye”, and it consists of a small JPEG color camera and GPS sensor, both of which are managed by what looks to be an ATMega328. The camera snaps pictures as the cat roams around, while the GPS sensor records its location throughout its travels. All of the data is stored on an SD card, making it easy to transfer the pics and .KML files back to his computer. A few clicks later, he can see everywhere his cat has been, using Google Earth.

It seems like a pretty interesting project, and we would love to see some schematics and code so that we can strap one of these on [Caleb] our cat to see where he’s been all day.

Hacking for feline enjoyment

[Dino] is staying true to his goal of hacking one project every week. This time around, he’s working on a toy that will amuse and delight his cats. The project centers around a mouse house that has two holes where mice can stick their heads out. When they do, a little LED lamp illuminates their appearance in hopes to catch the eye of your lazy kitty.

The mechanism that automates this device is quite clever and reminds us of the most useless machine. That is, the armature that holds a mouse on either end actuates a limiting switch in the middle of the box when it moves to expose one of the mice. Each of those mice is attached with a rod, along side a leaf switch that makes the mouse retreat when boinked on the head by the cat.

It only takes [Dino] about six minutes to walk us through the build in the video after the break. What follows is a walk through of the wiring and some playtime with the family pets. Despite the intended purpose, it looks like the dog is much more interested than the cat. Either way, it’s a winner in our book.

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Out Engineering a Sneaky Cat

Cats do what they want, which rarely coincides with what their owner wants them to do. In [Dumitru]‘s case, his girlfriend’s cat [Pufu] tended to make it outside into the cold more often than desired. Rather than settle with the normal bell which gets obnoxious even when the cat isn’t misbehaving, he decided to put together a custom Cat Finding collar. He used a PIC microcontroller as the brains, and temperature and light sensors to decide whether the cat had snuck into the cold, dark night. Once the cat has been marked as being outside, a buzzer and LED are set to go off at regular intervals until returned into the safety of the indoors.

[Dumitru]‘s website along with his YouTube videos are in Romanian, though the schematics and source code provided speak for themselves. He does a wonderful job walking through the entire design process, including time spend in the IDE as well as EAGLE designing the board. YouTube has managed to subtitle the majority of the details, but we imagine this post will be a real treat to any Romanian speaking hobbyists out there. Be sure to catch both videos after the break.

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Yet Another Cat Door

Cat Flap Fever

RFID cat flaps are one of those projects we see all of the time. They are generally pretty simple to rig up, not too expensive, and have a good “wow” factor for any non-technical friends or family, not to mention tremendously useful. Why did we decide to share this one? Well, for one, it is simple. It doesn’t tweet, email, or text message, it just gets the job done. Two, it is excellently documented, including a detailed parts list and a step by step schematic just about anyone could use to build their own. [landmanr] does mention that he recommends some sort of project enclosure to protect the electronics from damage, which would be bad for the poor cat stuck outside.

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