RFID-based HTPC controller gets a wireless refresh


[roteno] recently wrote in to let us know that he has completed work on the RFiDJ Refresh, a follow up to his 2009 project, the RFiDJ.

The concept is pretty simple – he has a set of RFID enabled tiles, which contain references to particular online streaming audio stations. He uses these tiles to tune into audio feeds on his HTPC by placing them on a block containing an RFID reader.

His previous implementation had the RFID reader tethered to his HTPC, which didn’t make it all that convenient to use. The newer version utilizes a 433 MHz transmitter/receiver pair in order to communicate with the PC, so it can be used anywhere through out his house. The reader and transmitter were placed in a shadow box picture frame, along with a rechargeable Li-poly battery that powers the whole setup. He also mentions that he has added a tactile interface that allows him to initiate mobile phone calls from the RFiDJ as well.

It’s a nice update to an already great project. We imagine it’s a bit more fun for [roteno] and his guests to tap a coaster on the transmitter box than fumble with a remote to change radio stations on the HTPC, but that’s just us.

Check out the videos below to see his new setup in action.

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Repair parts from unlikely sources


[Jay] sent us some details of a quick fix for a baby swing he owns, along with the unlikely place where he found replacement parts. We showed you a pair of his creations earlier this week, which you might recall. As luck would have it, the motor on the baby swing he modified burned out shortly after we featured his hack. Don’t worry – he didn’t break the swing when he hacked it, nor is there a Hack-a-Day curse. It’s purely coincidence, we swear!

The swing is about 7 years old so the burned out motor wasn’t that huge a surprise. After doing some research, it was looking like he would likely need to shell out $70-$100 for a replacement motor. He luckily stumbled upon a forum thread that said a motor from a cheap air freshener was a perfect match, so he gave it a shot.  Sure enough, it was the same motor, but with more torque. All it took was $5 to get the swing up and running good as new.

It just goes to show that you never know useful common items can be until you take them apart to see what’s inside.

Follow-up: Hacking OnStar

Reader [regulatre] has provided us with his furthering of hacking the OnStar system in GM cars. Previously, we wrote about some initial attempts to gain access to the system that OnStar uses to monitor and control cars called GMLAN. [regulatre] has managed to create an adapter between the GMLAN connector and a standard OBD2 plug, which should allow a number of standard readers to be able to retrieve data.

This method details using a bluetooth OBD2 reader, and passing the data onto a linux machine. It looks as though the writer of this method is looking to integrate OnStar reading and writing into an Android App which currently is an OBD monitor.

We love seeing follow-ups like this, because it puts everyone one step closer to full control of closed devices. As always, let us know if you take any of this in a new direction.

Leapfrog Didj: Followup

Yesterday we mentioned the Woot! sale of the Didj, and we had some comments and emails from readers who had purchased one. We couldn’t resist either, and ordered a couple to take apart and modify. We will probably be following the work laid out by [Claude Schwarz], who seems to be one of the leading hackers on the scene. [Claude] has done some work in porting the GP2x libraries to the Didj, which gives a tremendous head start to anyone looking to have a working game system any time soon. There will also be a build log for everyone to follow along at home, and contribute what you want and have, as well as a follow up How-To when a working system is attained. Happy Hacking, everyone.