Fire Breathing Jack-O-Lantern of Death

fire_pumpkin

[Rick] is at it again, this week he has conjured up an even more dangerous Halloween hack. Thankfully [Rick] has included a warning of just how dangerous this hack can be, especially if children are around. Don’t do this hack unless you know what you’re doing and you can do it safely.

For [Rick]’s number four hack of the month he gives us the Fire Breathing Jack-O-Lantern of death! This isn’t a new idea but it is a very unique and simple implementation. We always love seeing the ingenuity of hackers to repurpose existing commercial products. In this case, [Rick] uses an automated air freshener which dispenses a flammable spray for the pumpkins breath if you dare get too close, but not so close as to get burned. The trigger distance is controlled by an Arduino and a Parallax Ping))) sensor so as to fire only when people are farther than 3 feet but closer than 5 feet. You can get a copy of the Arduino sketch from his blog posting.

A small candle is used to ignite the flammable spray, which shoots out 5 to 10 inches from the pumpkin’s mouth when triggered by the ultrasonic sensor. It couldn’t be simpler. The most challenging part was getting the large air freshener dispenser in the pumpkin with the flames coming out the mouth. A little extra whacking at the pumpkin fixed the fit, but planning for a larger pumpkin would be advised.

Theoretically the Arduino shouldn’t trigger and throw flames if people are too close, but when kids are running around they may come right into the target area unexpectedly. If this hack is used in the right place it would make for a great Halloween display item and could be used safely.

After the break you can watch [Rick’s] flame breathing Jack-o-Lantern build tutorial.

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JTAGulator Finds Debug Interfaces

jtagulator

[Joe Grand] has come up with a tool which we think will be useful to anyone trying to hack a physical device: The JTAGulator. We touched on the JTAGulator briefly during our DEF CON coverage, but it really deserves a more in-depth feature. The JTAGulator is a way to discover On Chip Debug (OCD) interfaces on unfamiliar hardware.

Open any cell phone, router, or just about any moderately complex device today, and you’ll find test points. Quite often at least a few of these test points are the common JTAG / IEEE 1149.1 interface.

JTAG interfaces have 5 basic pins: TDI (Test Data In), TDO (Test Data Out), TCK (Test Clock), and TMS (Test Mode Select), /TRST (Test Reset) (optional).

If you’re looking at a PCB with many test points, which ones are the JTAG pins? Also which test points are which signals? Sometimes the PCB manufacturer will give clues on the silk screen. Other times you’re on your own. [Joe] designed the JTAGulator to help find these pins.

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Portable gaming console uses SSD1289 and Propeller

building-a-portable-video-game

[Samir] dabbles in hobby electronics and decided to put his skills to the test by building this portable gaming console (Note: this site uses an HTTPS address which cannot be used through Google Tranlator. It does work for the Chrome browser translator). The image above is a screenshot from his Breakout-style game. The paddle at the bottom is controlled with the touchscreen. You move it back and forth to keep the ball from traveling past the bottom edge (it bounces off of the red borders on the sides and top).

The main PCB is larger than the 3.2″ LCD footprint, but [Samir] made sure to include a lot of peripherals to make up for it. The board sports a Parallax Propeller chip to run the games. It interfaces with the SSD1289 screen (this is a cheap and popular choice) but that really eats up a lot of the IO pins. To control the game the touchscreen can be used as we’ve already mentioned. But there are two other options as well. There is an expansion port which uses a shift register (74HC165) to serialize the input. For prototyping this allowed [Samir] to use an Atari joystick. He also rolled a Bluetooth adapter into the project which we would love to see working with a Wii remote. Rounding out the peripherals are an SD card slot, audio jack for sound, and an RTC chip for keeping time.

There are several videos included in the post linked above. After the break we’ve embedded the game-play demo from which this screenshot was taken.

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Propeller turned into chiptune player with a software SID

If there wasn’t reason enough to love the Parallax Propeller, now you can listen to chiptunes with your own pocket SID audio player.

This chiptune audio player uses the very unusual and very cool eight-core Parallax Propeller microcontroller. After soldering a few caps and resistors to a Propeller dev board to allow for audio out, the only thing necessary to play SID music files is a bit of code and an SD card breakout.

The key piece of code for this build would be the SIDcog object written by [Johannes Ahlebrand] this piece of code turns one of the eight cores in the Propeller into a virtual version of the classic Commodore 64 sound chip.

Since the SIDcog object only takes up one core on the eight core Propeller, it could be possible to turn this SID player into an all-inclusive chiptune audio source; the addition of an Atari POKEY or FM synthesis cog would allow for just about any conceivable chiptune sound to be carried around in a pocket.

No Hackaday post about chiptunes or SIDs would be complete without an audio demo, so you can check out the Propeller-powered SID after the break.

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EMIC2 text to speech module

This is the EMIC2 text-to-speech module. You can see from the logo on the bottom left it’s the latest gadget coming out of [Joe Grand's] Grand Idea Studios. [Dino] tipped us off about his first experience with a prototype of the board. He’s driving it with an Arduino and the video after the break shows that the sound rendering is high quality and the words are very easy to understand. One of the things that we think is interesting is that the serial communications used to drive the board are not uni-directional. In fact, there’s a serial terminal that provides documentation on how to use the chip. Obviously this is most suited to the Arduino, which always has a PC-side terminal window available to it.

[Joe] himself shows some of the potential for the board. He gave new life to a broken toy by replacing its internals with a PIC-based circuit to drive the EMIC2. That video is also found after the break. He’s just using the demo clips, but from that you will get a good idea of the vocal modulations this device is capable of. The board rings up at $60 and is available from Parallax.

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Parallax shows love for open source: GCC + Propeller

Parallax has done something that is unthinkable for most microcontroller manufacturing companies. They’ve decided to throw their support behind an open source toolchain based on GCC. That’s right, instead of fighting to get your code compiling on a platform whose example code uses crippleware, you can actually download, compile, and start using this toolchain without code size restrictions or other unfavorable limitations.

Why does this matter? One example that comes to mind is ChibiOS and the STM32F0-Discovery board. We’ve been playing around with that board recently and found out that the Atollic 8k code-size limitation prevents you from debugging ChibiOS. So you either pony up the registration fee, or go though at least a little pain (a lot depending on your skill level) to move to an open source solution. Here that’s not going to happen because you start with a GCC option from the word ‘Go’.

So join us in a round of applause for good decisions. Bravo Parallax! This Beta test targets the P8X32A Propeller chip but we hope it’s so popular that the rest of the line gets its own support.

[Thanks Devlin via Adafruit]

Over-the-air FM radio gains Internet control

[Old bit collector] is giving up control of his radio dial to the Internet. He combined a couple of Parallax products which now allow him to tune, adjust volume, and toggle the power for an FM radio receiver.

The setup is pretty simple. An FM receiver module is mounted in the breadboard seen above which helps to break out its control pins. Those are connected to a Parallax Spinnarette web server board. It’s auxiliary I/O pins are controlled via a web interface that he set up and plans to operate with the browser on his Android phone. But as you can see after the break, any web browser works as long as you know the correct address.

This is pretty good if you’re on a quest to make everything controllable from your smart phone. But we would love to use the concept to make our own streaming radio. You’d be able to tune in to all of your local stations from anywhere in the world.

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