Hobbit Sword Glows Blue, Vanquishes Unprotected Wifi

Whilst the original Sting glowed blue as a defensive alert, Spark’s “WarSting” is all about aggression. The project hacks a toy Hobbit sword and teaches it to glow blue when vulnerable WiFi is detected. Once alerted, combat ensues. If its bearer slashes, the sword will battle the helpless network, swinging and clanging until it acquires an IP from the defeated DHCP server. Once conquered, the sword publishes a “Vanquished” message to Spark’s cloud, teaching the sword to ignore it from thenceforth.

While “wardriving” has not really been a thing since the first Lord of the Rings movie came out, the last time we saw someone do something similar the hardware was limited to detecting WiFi, not connecting.

Spark CEO [Zach] chose the particular sword because it could be disassembled without being cut apart and already came equipped with easily-hackable LEDs, motion control, and sound effects. Naturally he added one of his own products – the Spark Core – to the hilt to graft WiFi features onto the weapon (a cheaper alternative would be an MCU of your choice and the new ESP8266). The project then hijacks the LED lighting, sound, and hit detection sensor. Our readers can probably come up with some more imaginative actions to take once connected, though the project’s existing code for the Core is published on Github. As-is, in many jurisdictions even merely connecting to an unsecured WiFi these days is unlawful so beware your local restrictions.

Lots of companies could simply advertise the easy way and while obviously an ad, the WarSting is still a creative and fun hack.

See the video below for the sword in action and a Spark’s lore regarding the hack. Thanks [Chris] for the tip.

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ESP Gets FCC and CE

The ESP8266 Internet of Things module is the latest and greatest thing to come out of China. It’s ideal for turning plastic Minecraft blocks into Minecraft servers, making your toilet tweet, or for some bizarre home automation scheme. This WiFi module is not, however, certified by the FCC. The chipset, on the other hand, is.

Having a single module that’s able to run code, act as a UART to WiFi transceiver, peek and poke a few GPIOs, all priced at about $4 is a game changer, and all your favorite silicon companies are freaking out wondering how they’re going to beat the ESP8266. Now the chipset is FCC certified, the first step to turning these modules into products.

This announcement does come with a few caveats: the chipset is certified, not the module. Each version of the module must be certified by itself, and there are versions that will never be certified by the FCC. Right now, we’re looking at the ESP8266-06, -07, -08, and -12 modules – the ones with a metal shield – as being the only ones that could potentially pass an FCC cert. Yes, those modules already have an FCC logo on them, but you’re looking at something sold for under $5 in China, here.

Anyone wanting to build a product with the ESP will, of course, also need to certify it with the FCC. This announcement hasn’t broken down any walls, but it has cracked a window.

Compiling Your Own Programs For The ESP8266

When the ESP8266 was first announced to the world, we were shocked that someone was able to make a cheap, accessible UART to WiFi bridge. Until we get some spectrum opened up and better hardware, this is the part you need to build an Internet of Things thing.

It didn’t stop there, though. Some extremely clever people figured out the ESP8266 had a reasonably high-power microcontroller on board, a lot of Flash, and a good amount of RAM. It looked like you could just use the ESP8266 as a controller unto itself; with this chip, all you need to do is write some code for the ESP, and you have a complete solution for your Internet connected blinking lights or WiFi enabled toaster. Whatever the hip things the cool kids are doing these days, I guess.

But how do you set up your toolchain for the ESP8266? How do you build projects? How do you even upload the thing? Yes, it’s complicated, but never fear; [CNLohr] is here to make things easy for you. He’s put together a video that goes through all the steps to getting the toolchain running, setting up the build environment, and putting some code on the ESP8266. It’s all in a git, with some video annotations.

The tutorial covers setting up the Xtensa toolchain and a patched version of GCC, GDB, and binutils. This will take a long, long time to build, but once it’s done you have a build environment for the ESP8266.

With the build environment put together, [CNLohr] then grabs the Espressif SDK from the official site, and puts together the example image. Uploading to the module requires pulling some of the pins high and some low, plugging in a USB to serial module to send the code to the module, standing well back, and pressing upload.

For his example image, [CNLohr] has a few WS2812 RGB LEDs connected to the ESP8266 WiFi module. Uploading the image turns the LEDs into something controllable with UDP packets on port 7777. It’s exactly what you want in a programmable, WiFi chip, and just the beginning of what can be done with this very cool module.

If you’re looking around for some sort of dev board with an ESP8266 on it, [Mathieu] has been playing around with some cool boards, and we’ve been looking into making a Hackaday version to sell in the store. The Hackaday version probably won’t happen because FCC.

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Hacklet 25 – ESP8266 WiFi Module Projects

Few devices have hit the hacker/maker word with quite as large a bang as the ESP8266. [Brian] first reported a new $5 WiFi module back in August. Since then there have been an explosion of awesome projects utilizing the low-cost serial to WiFi module that is the ESP8266. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the great ESP8266 projects we’ve found on Hackaday.io!

retroWe start with [TM] and the ESP8266 Retro Browser. [TM] has a great tutorial on combining the ESP8266 with an Arduino Mega2560. [TM’s] goal was a simple one: create a WiFi “browser” to access Hackaday’s Retro Site.  This is a bit more complex than one would first think, as the Arduino Mega2560 is a 5V board, and the ESP8266 are 3.3V parts. Level shifters to the rescue! [TM] was able to bring up the retro site in a terminal, but found that even “simple” websites like google send enough data back to swap the poor ESP8266!

oilmeterNext up is [Thomas] with the Simple Native ESP8266 Smartmeter. [Thomas] has created a device to measure run time on his oil heating system. He implemented this with some native programming on the ESP8266’s onboard Diamond Standard L106 Controller. When he was done, the ‘8266 had two new AT commands, one to start measurement and one to stop. A bit of web magic with some help from openweathermap.org allows [Thomas] to plot oil burner run time against outside temperature.

native[Matt Callow] is also checking out native programming using the EspressIf sdk with his project ESP8266 Native. ExpressIf made a great choice when they released the SDK for the ESP8266 back in October. [Matt] has logged his work on building and extending the demo apps from EspressIf. [Matt] has seven demo programs which do everything from blinking an LED to connecting to thingspeak via WiFi. While the demos aren’t all working yet, [Matt] is making great progress. The best part is he has all his code linked in from his Github repo. Nice work [Matt!]

 

8266[Michael O’Toole] is working on ESP8266 Development PCBs. The devboards have headers for the ESP8266, an on-board ATmega328 for Arduino Uno compatibility, and a USB to serial converter to make interfacing easy. [Michael] also provides all the important components you need to keep an ESp8266 happy, such as programming buttons, and a 3.3V regulator. We really like that [Michael] has included a header for a graphical LCD based local console.

Want to see more ESP8266 goodness? Check out our curated ESP8266 list on Hackaday.io!

Hackaday.io Update!

Hackaday.io gets better and better every day. We’ve just pushed out a new revision which includes some great updates. Search is now much improved. Try out a search, and you’ll find you can now search by project, project log, hacker, or any combination of 11 different fields. Our text editor has been revamped as well. Update a project log to give the new look a try!
We know everyone on .io is awesome, but just in case a spammer slips in, we’ve added “report as inappropriate” buttons to projects and comments. Once a few people hit those report buttons, projects or comments get sent to the admins for moderation.

That’s all the time we have for this week’s Hacklet! As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hackaday Links: November 30, 2014

Tired of wiring up the power rails and serial adapter every time you build something on a breadboard? [Jason] has you covered. He put his Breadboard Buddy Pro up on Indiegogo, and it does everything you’d expect it to: power rails, USB to UART bridge, and a 3.3 V regulator. Oh, he’s not using an FTDI chip. Neat.

With Christmas around the corner, a lot of those cheap 3-channel RC helicopters are going to find their way into stockings. They’re cool toys, but if you want to really have fun with them, you’ll need to add a penny.

Here’s a crowdfunding campaign for a very interesting IoT module. It’s a UART to WiFi adapter that has enough free Flash and RAM to run your own code, GPIOs, SPI, and PWM functions. Wait a second. This is just an ESP8266 module. Stay classy, Indiegogo.

Mankind has sent space probes to the surface – and received pictures from – Venus, Mars, the Moon, Titan, asteroids Itokawa and Eros, and comet Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. In a beautiful bit of geological irony, every single one of these celestial bodies looks like a rock quarry in Wales. That quarry is now for sale.

Here’s something exceptionally interesting. It’s a browser plugin that takes a BOM, and puts all the components into a cart. Here’s the cool bit: it does it with multiple retailers. The current retailers supported are Mouser, Digikey, Farnell/Element14, Newark, and RS Components.

Want a death ray? Too bad, because it’s already been sold.

Micro Python Now Runs on the ESP8266 – Contributors Wanted to get Wifi Working

[Damien] sent us a quick email to let us know that Micro Python, a lean and fast implementation of the Python scripting language on microcontrollers is now running on the ESP8266. You may remember him from his interview on Hackaday, back when Micro Python was still at the crowdfunding stage. His campaign gathered £97k (for a £15k objective) and its comment section let us know that the backers are very happy with what he delivered.

As the very cheap ESP8266 Wifi module is gathering a lot of attention, he implemented support for it. You may use the dedicated files in the main repository ESP8266 folder  together with esp-open-sdk or simply use the precompiled binary available here. Unfortunately the software doesn’t have WiFi support yet, as it’s only a Python REPL prompt over UART at the moment. Contributors are therefore welcome to help speed up the development!

A Breakout Board for the ESP8266-03

In the last few weeks we have been seeing a lot of ESP8266 based projects. Given this WiFi module is only $3 on Ebay it surely makes sense using it as an Internet of Things (IoT) platform. To facilitate their prototyping stage I designed a breakout board for it.

The board shown above includes a 3.3V 1A LDO, a genuine FT230x USB to UART adapter, a button to make the ESP8266 jump into its bootloader mode and a header where you can find all the soldered-on-board module IOs. One resistor can be removed to allow 3.3V current measurement, another can be populated to let the FT230X start the bootloader jumping procedure. All the IOs have 1k current limiting resistors to prevent possible short-circuit mistakes. Finally, the board deliberately doesn’t use any through hole components so you may put double-sided tape on its back to attach it anywhere you want. As usual, all the source files can be download from my website.