Link Trucker is a Tiny Networking Giant

If you’re a networking professional, there are professional tools for verifying that everything’s as it should be on the business end of an Ethernet cable. These professional tools often come along with a professional pricetag. If you’re just trying to wire up a single office, the pro gear can be overkill. Unless you make it yourself on the cheap! And now you can.

[Kristopher Marciniak] designed and built an inexpensive device that verifies the basics:

  • Is the link up? Is this cable connected?
  • Can it get a DHCP address?
  • Can it perform a DNS lookup?
  • Can it open a webpage?

What’s going on under the hood? A Raspberry Pi, you’d think. A BeagleBoard? Our hearts were warmed to see a throwback to a more civilized age: an ENC28J60 breakout board and an Arduino Uno. That’s right, [Kristopher] replicated a couple-hundred dollar network tester for the price of a few lattes. And by using a pre-made housing, [Kristopher]’s version looks great too. Watch it work in the video just below the break.

Building an embedded network device used to be a lot more work, but it could be done. One of our favorites is still [Ian Lesnet’s] webserver on a business card from way back in 2008 which also used the ENC28J60 Ethernet chip.
Continue reading “Link Trucker is a Tiny Networking Giant”

How To Build a Pocket-Sized mBed Signal Generator

Last month, I talked about how to get started with mBed and ARM processors using a very inexpensive development board. I wanted to revisit mBed, though, and show something with a little more substance. In particular, I often have a need for a simple and portable waveform generator. It doesn’t have to be too fancy or meet the same specs as some of the lab gear I have, but it should be easy to carry, power off USB, and work by itself when required.

My requirements mean I needed a slightly more capable board. In particular, I picked up a K64F board. This is very similar to the KL25Z board but has a bit more of everything–speed, memory, etc. What I really wanted, though, was the SD card slot. I did, however, do my early testing on a KL25Z, so if you have one, you can still work through the code, although standalone operation won’t be possible. The price jumps from $13 to $35, but you get a lot more capability for the price.

Continue reading “How To Build a Pocket-Sized mBed Signal Generator”

Flat Pack Elastic Band Lamp is a Thing of Beauty

[Matt] was looking for a project for his senior industrial design studio at Wentworth Institute of Technology. He ended up designing a clever lamp that can be flat packed. [Matt] started by drawing out designs on paper. He really liked the idea of combining curves with straight lines, but he wanted to translate his two-dimensional drawings into a three-dimensional shape.

zOz0ys6 - ImgurHaving access to a laser cutter made the job much easier than it could have been and allowed [Matt] to go through many designs for the lamp frame. The two main pieces were cut from acrylic and include mounting pegs for the elastic bands. The two plastic pieces are designed to slot together, forming a sort of diamond shape.

The final version of the lamp required that the elastic bands had holes punched in them for mounting. The holes were placed over the small pegs to keep the bands in place. [Matt] used 3/4″ industrial elastic bands for this project. He then used a 120V 15W candelabra light bulb to illuminate the lamp. The final design is not only beautiful, but it can be flat packed and manufactured inexpensively.

If you want more inspiration for artistically designed lamps check out this one that uses the corrugation in cardboards as a shade pattern.

[via reddit]

Arduino Tetris on a Multiplexed LED Matrix

[Alex] needed a project for his microcomputer circuits class. He wanted something that would challenge him on both the electronics side of things, as well as the programming side. He ended up designing an 8 by 16 grid of LED’s that was turned into a game of Tetris.

He arranged all 128 LED’s into the grid on a piece of perfboard. All of the anodes were bent over and connected together into rows of 8 LED’s. The cathodes were bent perpendicularly and forms columns of 16 LED’s. This way, if power is applied to one row and a single column is grounded, one LED will light up at the intersection. This method only works reliably to light up a single LED at a time. With that in mind, [Alex] needed to have a very high “refresh rate” for his display. He only ever lights up one LED at a time, but he scans through the 128 LED’s so fast that persistence of vision prevents you from noticing. To the human eye, it looks like multiple LED’s are lit up simultaneously.

[Alex] planned to use an Arduino to control this display, but it doesn’t have enough outputs on its own to control all of those lights. He ended up using multiple 74138 decoder/multiplexer IC’s to control the LED’s. Since the columns have inverted outputs, he couldn’t just hook them straight up to the LED’s. Instead he had to run the signals through a set of PNP transistors to flip the logic. This setup allowed [Alex] to control all 128 LED’s with just seven bits, but it was too slow for him.

His solution was to control the multiplexers with counter IC’s. The Arduino can just increment the counter up to the appropriate LED. The Arduino then controls the state of the LED using the active high enable line from the column multiplexer chip.

[Alex] wanted more than just a static image to show off on his new display, so he programmed in a version of Tetris. The controller is just a piece of perfboard with four push buttons. He had to work out all of the programming to ensure the game ran smoothly while properly updating the screen and simultaneously reading the controller for new input. All of this ran on the Arduino.

Can’t get enough Tetris hacks? Try these on for size.

Boxing Trainer Uses DIY Force Sensors

A team of Cornell students have designed and built their own electronic boxing trainer system. The product of their work is a game similar to Whack-A-Mole. There are five square pads organized roughly into the shape of a human torso and head. Each pad will light up based on a pre-programmed pattern. When the pad lights up, it’s the player’s job to punch it! The game keeps track of the player’s accuracy as well as their reaction time.

The team was trying to keep their budget under $100, which meant that off the shelf components would be too costly. To remedy this, they designed their own force sensors. The sensors are basically a sandwich of a few different materials. In the center is a 10″ by 10″ square of ESD foam. Pressed against it is a 1/2″ thick sheet of insulating foam rubber. This foam rubber sheet has 1/4″ slits cut into it, resulting in something that looks like jail bars. Sandwiching these two pieces of foam is fine aluminum window screen. Copper wire is fixed the screen using conductive glue. Finally, the whole thing is sandwiched between flattened pieces of corrugated cardboard to protect the screen.

The sensors are mounted flat against a wall. When a user punches a sensor, it compresses. This compression causes the resistance between the two pieces of aluminum screen to change. The resistance can be measured to detect a hit. The students found that if the sensor is hit harder, more surface area becomes compressed. This results in a greater change in resistance and can then be measured as a more powerful hit. Unfortunately it would need to be calibrated depending on what is hitting the sensor, since the size of the hitter can throw off calibration.

Each sensor pad is surrounded by a strip of LEDs. The LEDs light up to indicate which pad the user is supposed to hit. Everything is controlled by an ATMEGA 1284p microcontroller. This is the latest in a string of student projects to come out of Cornell. Make sure to watch the demonstration video below. Continue reading “Boxing Trainer Uses DIY Force Sensors”

Hackin’ the junkyard: Electric scrap bike projects

[Brad Graham] wrote in to let us know about his electric bike data dump over at, written just for us! Last we heard from [Brad] he was building some serious robots and freakishly tall tallbikes but since the weather has turned for the chilly its time to focus on indoor projects. Using a combination of robot parts, electrical conduit, and OEM bikes for the frames [Brad] takes us through several of his builds and all the various complications trying to drive the (often very powerful) electric motors. The builds range from scrapping motors and controllers to full blown drop in hub motor systems that can combine human and electric power. There is even an electric pusher cargo cart designed for a cooler, because beers are not going to haul themselves around.

Don’t forget to check out the AtomicZombie website for a ton of useful tips to chopping up bikes for your own mutant transpiration projects, we know we will. Thanks [Brad]!

Win a laser cutter by playing with light

Buildlounge and Full Spectrum Laser have decided to give away a laser cutter to whoever comes up with the best project involving light.

The contest is in part sponsored by  adafruit industries. The focus of the contest is light – just design something around light, submit it, and you’re in the drawing for your own laser cutter. A solar oven, photophone, solar fiber-optic lighting and hacking apart an old overhead projector are suggested on the contest page, but the winning project will probably be much cooler.

Entries are due by January 1st. First prize is Full Spectrum Laser’s 40 Watt laser cutter, second is an awesome green laser pointer from Wicked Lasers, and third prize is an EL wire starter kit from Adafruit. Entries are due by January 1st, so we expect to see a lot of awesome submissions on the Hack A Day tip line between now and New Years.