Water heater controller automates garage doors

water-heater-controller-automates-garage-doors

The black box mounted between two garage doors is actually a water heater controller. The entire assembly is a conglomeration of hacks which [Simon] added to his garage over the last four years. We’ll give you a quick rundown, but the entire story is told in his blog post.

Back when the house was built [Simon] was approached by the contractor who offered to throw in remote control for the garage door rollers for just 1500 Australian Dollars (about $1350 with today’s rates). That sounded quite steep to him. He managed to add his own remote control for about a third of the price. But there were a few missing features. Notably, a lack of a light that comes on when the doors open. He also didn’t like that the button inside the garage was on the motor, which is mounted quite high.

Years later his water heater controller needed a firmware upgrade from the manufacturer. Check this out: they replaced the entire controller rather than flashing the PIC 18F2321 inside. What a waste! But in this case [Simon] snagged the old unit, which included several mains rated relays. He connected one up to a light socket seen above, and outfitted several illuminated buttons on its original enclosure. Now he has the satisfaction of a light that comes on with when the door opens,  and shuts itself off after a preset delay.

Now his daughter wants smartphone control. But that’s as easy as hacking a Bluetooth headset.

Computer monitor Ambilight clone shows remarkable performance

ambilight-project-discreet-led-boards

Check out this fantastic Ambilight clone for a computer monitor which [Brafilus] has been working on for a few years. It’s actually the third revision and watching the demo video below left our jaws agape.

Details are only available as comments on the YouTube page. But he’s given us just enough to be satisfied. His self-etched board hosts a PIC 18F14K50 microcontroller. It is talking to each of the 28 LED pixels which themselves live on tiny hunks of diy PCB as well. He wrote his own PC software in C# to capture the colors around the edges of the screen. He also worked hard to ensure there are plenty of tweaks available for true color matching between the monitor and what your eye sees bouncing off of the wall.

If you’re looking for something like this on your television set go back a couple of days and check out that standalone unit.

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PBX blade for multiple extension home telephony

home-pbx-blade

It looks like a consumer good, but this PBX server blade was built by [Benoit Frigon] over the last couple of years. It brings multiple telephone extensions to his home service.

The device runs Asterisk open source PBX software. Because it will be on all the time he wanted something that doesn’t draw a lot of power. The 500 Mhz system seen on the left has just a half a gig of ram. It’s enough to do the job and at 10 Watts it’s not going to break the bank when it comes to paying the electric bills. The board in the middle is used to interface the analog handsets with the land line. From the look of it he’s got it rigged for two extensions.

That’s all somewhat par for the course with PBX rigs, but the enclosure is where he really shines. [Benoit] used 22 gauge aluminum sheet to fabricate the enclosure which is designed to blend in with the rest of his home’s rack mount hardware. To provide control at the rack he added his own LCD and touch-sensitive button interface to the front of the case based on a PIC 18F2520. The system can also be accessed via the web thanks to a custom interface he coded.

USB infrared receiver looks good sitting in your livingroom

usb-ir-receiver

The problem with building your own electronics for the living room is that the final product may not fit your decorating style. This was true with [Itay's] prototype of a universal USB IR receiver. So after testing it out for a few weeks he decided to build a final version that started by selecting an enclosure he could be proud of.

He came across an LED flash light at the dollar store which has an aluminum body. When we read about this we envisioned a cheap version of a Mag Light from which he removed the cylinder that holds the batteries. But actually, the pod seen above is the entire flashlight (with an added base). It forced him to design a tiny surface mount PCB to fit everything inside.

It’s not too much of a stretch since IR receivers tend to be small anyway. [Itay's] design put a PIC 18F2553 on one side of the board. The other side hosted the through hole components: an IR receiver, LED for feedback, and the connections for the USB cable that exit through the rubber button cover that used to switch the flashlight on. He had a problem with one of the resistor values which took a while to figure out. But eventually he got it working. It’s been in use now for six months.

Wristwatch made of sandwiched PCBs

wristwatch-from-sandwitched-pcbs

Here’s a wristwatch concept we haven’t seen before. Instead of trying to sandwich everything inside of a case it uses a stack of PCBs as the body of the watch.

[Mats Engstrom] wrote in to tip us off about his build. The design goes with LEDs which is nothing new. But unlike previous offerings [Mats] didn’t go with one LED for each minute. When the touch sensor in the middle of the watch is activated the twelve LEDs on the face will let you know the hour and the nearest five minutes. A video of this is embedded after the break.

The design uses three different circuit boards. The bottom board is the largest and provides slots through which the wrist bands can connect. It also serves as one of the two battery connectors. The second PCB is a spacer with a cutout for the coin cell that powers the device. The top board is where all the magic happens. It’s dual sided to host the LEDs and touch senor, with the PIC microcontroller and support circuitry on the other side.

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Perpetual pong

perpetual-pong

[Jeff Joray] wrote in to show off this perpetual Pong device he built. The six by ten LED matrix acts as a game board for Pong but there are no controls. The board simply plays against itself. It’s pretty much a pong clock without the clock.

The brain of the device is a PIC 16F684 which drives the six rows of the display directly. He went with a decade counter (CD74HC401) to scan the rows one at a time. Now what would you expect to find on the underside of this hunk of protoboard? A rat’s nest of point to point wiring? If so you’re going to be disappointed. [Jeff] spent the time to generate a schematic and board layout in Eagle. While at it, he knew he was going to be using protoboard so the artwork is designed to use solder bridging as much as possible. What he ends up with is one of the cleanest mutiplexed one-off projects you’re going to find. See it in action after the jump.

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MP3/USB/Aux hack hidden behind cassette facade

mp3-hiding-in-plain-sight

[Ivan] made something special with this car stereo hack. He altered the head unit to play MP3 files from USB and added an auxiliary line-in. But looking at it you’d never know. That’s thanks to the work he did to create a false button hiding the audio jack, and a false cassette hiding the USB port and MP3 player display. Possibly the best part is that the radio itself still works like it always did.

There are several components that went into making the system work. It starts with the cassette/radio head unit. To that he added an MP3 player with remote which he picked up on Deal Extreme. He wasn’t a huge fan of the IR remote that came with it so he rolled in a remote that mounts on the steering wheel. To pull everything together he used a PIC 16F877a. The microcontroller controls the lines which tell the head unit if a tape has been inserted. When [Ivan] selects either the Aux input or wants to play MP3s from a thumb drive the uC forces the head unit into cassette mode and the audio from the player is injected into the cassette player connections.

To help deter theft [Ivan] created two false fronts. The end of a cassette tape plugs into the USB port. The rewind button plugs into the Aux jack. You can get a good look at both in the demo after the break.

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