These are the Golden Years of electronics hacking. The home DIY hacker can get their hands on virtually any part that he or she could desire, and for not much money. Two economic factors underlie this Garden of Electronic Eden that we’re living in. Economies of scale make the parts cheap: when a factory turns out the same MEMS accelerometer chip for hundreds of millions of cell phones, their setup and other fixed costs are spread across all of these chips, and a $40 million factory ends up only costing $0.50 per unit sold.
But the unsung hero of the present DIY paradise is how so many different parts are available, and from so many different suppliers, many of them on the other side of the globe. “The Internet” you say, as if that explains it. Well, that’s not wrong, but it’s deeper than that. The reason that we have so much to choose from is that the marginal cost of variety has fallen, and with that many niche products and firms have become profitable where before they weren’t.
So let’s take a few minutes to sing the praises of the most important, and sometimes overlooked, facet of the DIY economy over the last twenty years: the falling marginal cost of variety.
Continue reading “The Long Tail of DIY Electronics”
Waking up to spoilers in the last episode after falling asleep during the first episode of a Netflix binge-watching session ranks right up there on the list of first-world problems. Luckily there’s a solution in the form of a pair of Netflix enabled socks, which looks like a pretty neat wearable IoT project.
To be sure, calling these socks Netflix enabled is a bit of a stretch. Aside from the sock designs, which are based on popular Netflix original series, there’s nothing about the electronics that’s specific to the popular streaming service. These socks, with their Arduino Pro Trinket and accelerometer, detect when you stop moving and send an IR signal to do your bidding – pause the movie, kill the TV, or whatever. The electronic side of the build is pretty approachable – it’s just a couple of modules soldered together. The fiber arts side of the project might be a little outside the wheelhouse of the typical hardware hacker, but you can either team up with someone who knits – an experienced knitter, as socks are not a beginner’s pattern – or just slip the felt-clad hardware into your favorite comfy socks. We’d be a bit concerned about ESD protection for the hardware in the wooly environment, though.
“Netflix and chill” is the current version of last century’s “Watching the submarine races,” and as such the need for special socks or a custom Netflix switch for the occasion is a bit puzzling. Still, the underlying wearables idea is pretty good, with plenty of possibilities for expansion and repurposing.
Continue reading “Netflix and Chill – and Socks?”
While the people at Netflix were busy killing weekends around the world with marathon viewings of 90s sitcoms, they also found time to release the Netflix Switch. It’s a small device with a single button that will control your TV, turn off the lights, and order a pizza. Remember, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
The Netflix Switch is a relatively simple device powered by a Particle Core, an Arduino-compatible development board with on-board WiFi. Also in this box is a LiPo battery, a few LEDs, and an IR transmitter that will send the same IR signal as the Netflix button on your TV remote, should your remote have a Netflix button.
In an unprecedented break from reality, this astute corporate branding of electronics tinkering also has design files, schematics, and real instructions that come along with it. Netflix released all of the mechanical files for their switch in Solidworks format; for the low, low price of only $4000 per Solidworks license, you too can Netflix and Chill.
Although Netflix’ implementation of tapping into a DIY electronics movement that has been around for 100 years is lacking, the spirit of the build is laudable. A single button connected to the Internet is a universal tool, and whether you want to order a pizza or make a ‘do not disturb’ button for your phone, the only limitation for the Netflix and Chill button is your imagination.
Let’s play a quick word association game: Peanut butter…jelly. Arches…golden. NES…Netflix? That last one sounds like a stretch, but the [darNES] development team had a Hack Day and a dream. They started with cached Netflix data and ended up playing it on an ordinary NES. (YouTube link)
The data was pre-converted so that the video frames were stored as tilesets and stored in the ROM image. [Guy] used the NES memory mapper (MMC3) to swap the frames. [darNES] had originally planned to use a Raspberry Pi in the cartridge to handle the video conversion and networking, but had to change gears and make a static ROM image due to time constraints and resource availability.
Accessing the Netflix data is just like the days of yore – load the cartridge into an unmodified NES and hit the power button (they didn’t even need to blow on it!). A bare-bones Netflix gallery appears. You can move the white cursor on the screen with the NES controller’s D-pad. House of Cards was the choice, and true to form, the next screen shows you a synopsis with a still image and gives you the option to Play. Recommend is also there, but obviously won’t work in this setup. Still, it got a chuckle out of us. [darNES] admits that due to time issues they did not optimize the color palette for the tilesets. They plan to release more of the technical info this week, but have already given us some hints on their Hacker News thread.
Check out the videos after the break to see the video they fit onto a 256K NES cartridge.
Continue reading “[darNES] Stores Cached Netflix on NES Cartridge”
Net neutrality is one of those topics we’ve been hearing more and more about in recent years. The basic idea of net neutrality is that all Internet traffic should be treated equally no matter what. It shouldn’t matter if it’s email, web sites, or streaming video. It shouldn’t matter if the traffic is coming from Wikipedia, Netflix, Youtube, etc. It shouldn’t matter which Internet Service Provider you choose. This is the way the Internet has worked since it’s inception. Of course, not everyone agrees that this is how things should stay. We didn’t always have the technology to filter and classify traffic. Now that it’s here, some believe that we should be able to classify internet traffic and treat it differently based on that classification.
It seems like much of the tech savvy community argues that net neutrality is a “given right” of the Internet. They believe that it’s the way the Internet has always been, and always should be. The other side of the argument is generally lobbied by Internet service providers. They argue that ISP’s have the right to classify Internet traffic that flows through their equipment and treat it differently if they so choose. As for everyone else, just about everyone these days relies on the Internet for business, banking, and entertainment but many of those people have no idea how the Internet works, nor do they really care. It’s like the electricity in their home or the engine in their car. As long as it’s working properly that’s all that matters to them. If they can check Facebook on their phone while watching Breaking Bad on Netflix in full HD, why should they care how that stuff gets prioritized? It work’s doesn’t it? Continue reading “Net Neutrality: FCC Hack is a Speed Bump on the Internet Fast Lane”
We finally got our hands on a Chromecast over the weekend and we love it! But it wasn’t without a bit of a speed bump. Including a quick initial setup, we had a YouTube video playing in our living room about three minutes after the package hit our mailbox. But we spent the next twenty minutes feeling like a moron because we couldn’t get the Netflix app on an Android phone to cast the video. Turns out there is a bug in the Netflix app that doesn’t add the Chromecast icon for all devices.
The issue is that the newest version of the Netflix app isn’t pushed to all devices. A fix is on the way, but we’re not good at waiting. We used this technique to trick Netflix into thinking we have different hardware. Notice from the screenshots above that one lists our device as an LG-P769 manufactured by LGE. That’s how our /system/build.prop file originally looked. By using the BuildProp Editor app we changed those settings to Nexus S by samsung. After rebooting several of our apps were missing from the app drawer, including Netflix. But they all still worked hitting the Play Store for reinstallation and we now have no problem casting Netflix.
We’d bet that most readers stream video as the lion’s share of their entertainment consumption. It’s getting easier and easier thanks to great platforms like XBMC, but not everything is available in one place, which can be a bit off-putting. [Tony Hoang] is trying to simplify his viewing experience by creating one remote to rule all of his streaming software. He’s got an HTPC connected to his entertainment center, and used a bit of scripting to add some functionality to this Lenovo N9502 remote control.
The hack is entirely software-side. The remote already works quite well, but he remapped the home, end, and page up buttons, as well as the mouse controller. The three buttons will launch XBMC, Hulu, and Netflix respectively. They are also set to kill the other applications before launch so that one button will do everything needed to switch between one another. The mouse remapping takes care of up, down, left, and right keys for navigation in the UI and control of the playing videos. See a demo of the setup after the break.
Everything was done with autohotkey scripts for Windows. But this should be easy to code with other OSes as well. If you’re prone to have a slip of the finger you might want to work out a double-click to launch the applications so you don’t accidentally hit a key in the middle of your favorite show.
Continue reading “One remote to stream them all”