Hackaday Links: December 15, 2013

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Want to get a hold of a gaming controller attachment for iOS at a rock bottom price? [Dark GOD] learned that Amazon is closing out the Gameloft DUO Gamer hardware for $6 because the hardware is no longer supported by the operating system. He shows how to make it work using a Cydia app. [Thanks ProMan]

[Frank Zhao] had a cheap HDMI switch which had problems with a sagging power rail. His solution was to hack in a USB port to inject some power.

This security hack uses an Arduino with LCD screen to display a QR code. Scan it with an Android device and you no longer need keys! Here’s the code repo and a demo video.

It’s interesting to see how many places the WS28xx pixels are popping up. Here’s a crowdfunding campaign that uses a matrix of the pixels as a portable gaming display. Look somewhat familiar? We’ve seen [Retro Brad's] earlier hardware (made to play Super Pixel Bros.) that used an LED module instead. This is probably a lot easier to drive since it uses serial data instead of multiplexing.

Next is some robot building inspiration. [IronJungle] has been hard at work building a rover that uses compass bearings for navigation.

We liked seeing a drop-in replacment uC for Ikea Dioder projects, but if you need more power under the hood, take command of those colored lights with a Raspberry Pi.

Those lucky enough to have access to a laser cutter will find this Inkscape extension for living hinges useful.

Finally, POTUS threw down the gauntlet, encouraging everyone to learn how to program by pointing them toward the Hour of Code program. We’ve long thought that everyone should have some level of coding education. Do you agree with us? Of course, getting something like this into schools is a monumental challenge, so it’s nice to see extra-curricular offerings. We also believe that Hackerspaces are among the best driving forces for getting kids a tech education. [via Adafruit]

Making QR Codes in Google Docs

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[Jordi] sent us this great tip on how to generate QR codes inside Google Docs. This can be super handy if you ever need to make a lot of them at one time, plus they update on the fly!

In his example he set up the code to create vCards so he could transfer contacts to his phone quickly and easily. The code pulls in a Google API QR generator and provides you with a QR code as an image! The following is his code, which can be easily modified to suit your needs:

=image("https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?chs=200x200&cht=qr&chl=BEGIN:VCARD%0AN:" & A2 & "%20" & B2 & "%0ATEL;CELL:" & C2 & "%0AEMAIL:" & D2 & "%0AEND:VCARD")

Or if you just want the bare bones:

=image("https://chart.googleapis.com/chart?chs=200x200&cht=qr&chl=<strong>YOUR CELL</strong>")

And if you need a full walkthrough, there is a video after the break. Those wanting to tinker around with more QR code hijinks will enjoy forming images from QR codes and milling QR codes into your copper layers.

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LCD-based QR clock

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Here’s a new take on the QR clock concept that uses an LCD display. The concept comes from the work [ch00f] put into his two versions of a QR clock (both of which used LED arrays). The time of day is encoded using the Quick Response Code standard. This version generates a new code each second which encapsulates date, hour, minute, and second information. If you look at the image on the left you’ll notice the code is not centered. Take a look at the video after the break and you’ll see that’s because it’s bouncing around the LCD like a screensaver. Watch a little longer and you’ll see the psychedelic effects shown in the image on the right.

A PIC32 is driving the display. It’s connected to a DCF77 radio module which feeds the system atomic clock data. The color plasma effects are used to show when the device has locked onto the radio signal.

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Making a QR clock bigger, cheaper, and better

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With the massive response and blog cred from his QR Code clock, [ch00f] felt it was time to step up his game and update his design to a proper commercial product. His new QR clock is bigger, brighter, cheaper, and in every way better than the old version, but these improvements came at a cost.

The LED matrices [ch00f] used in his earlier, smaller version weren’t very aesthetically pleasing. He wanted the lights to shine a brilliant white, and also be somewhat attractive when not illuminated. The 8×8 LED arrays [ch00f] picked up from Futurlec had a disgusting yellow coating on each LED that turned light emitted by the blue LEDs inside to a brilliant white. This simply wouldn’t do for a commercial product with [ch00f]‘s name on it, so he turned to the one place in the universe where everything was for sale: alibaba.com.

After some trials and tribulations with component manufacturers in China, [ch00f] had the perfect LED matrix; not too expensive, very good quality control, and something that looked really good when both unpowered and illuminated.

Now that his boards are being spun up, [ch00f] hopes to sell his QR clock on Tindie. Each 24×24 LED matrix should cost less than $100, a pretty good deal if you ask us. He’d like to know if anyone out there has any feature requests, to which we can only say he should get rid of the PCB border. Tiling a few of these displays and controlling them via serial would be much cooler than a QR Code clock.

QR clock is unreadable by humans and computers alike

The clock is a perfect technology. For just a few dollars, you can buy a digital wristwatch and chronometer able to keep extremely accurate time for years without winding a spring or replacing a battery. Anything ‘improvement’ on the design of a clock only makes it harder to read, a feature exploited by the very 1337 binary clocks we see from time to time. [Ch00f] decided it was time to give way to the march of progress and build a completely unreadable clock. He came up with a QR code clock that is unreadable by humans and cellphones alike.

The hardware is built around nine 8×8 LED matrix panels resulting in a 24 x 24 pixel display, perfect for displaying a 21 pixel square QR code. The LED drivers are a standard multiplexed affair, but this project really shines in the firmware department.

The microcontroller [Ch00f] used – an ATMega328 – is far too small to store the 1440 QR codes for every minute of the day. No, this project would have to dynamically generate QR codes on the fly, not exactly an easy problem.

After looking over the official QR code standard, [Ch00f] wrote a rather large program that turns alphanumeric sequences into QR code. This runs on the microcontroller every minute, generating a new QR code for every minute of the day.

It’s nigh impossible for a human to read a QR code, but [Ch00f] figured he could make his project even less useful. By multiplexing the LEDs at a very low duty cycle [Ch00f] made it impossible for a camera to capture the entire QR code, even though the pattern of pixels is still visible to the human eye. A fabulously useless build that really steps up the game for unreadable clocks.

Video after the break.

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QR code opens doors to you

[Jeremy Blum] wrote in to share his LibeTech QR Code Door Lock project. He developed it during his Senior year at Cornell University along with three of his classmates. It seeks to move away from magnetic card locks in favor of optical locks that authenticate based on a QR code.

The hardware he’s using here is definitely cost prohibitive, but we’re sure the concept could be greatly simplified. In this case a BeagleBone running embedded Linux monitors a feed from a webcam. When it detects a QR code it compares it with a database of approved keys and will unlock the door for you.

There are problems with this technique, one being that an attacker might be able to get a usable photograph of your key without you knowing. But the majority of hotel locks in use right now are even less secure than that. On the upside, the key to your room can be emailed to you for use on just about any device with a screen, or printed out on a piece of paper.

You can find [Jeremy's] presentation video embedded after the break.

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Putting QR codes in copper

Former Hackaday contributor [mikeysklar] has been trying to etch a QR code into a sheet of copper. Although his phone can’t read the CuR codes he’s made so far, he’s still made an impressive piece of milled copper.

The biggest problem [mikey] ran into is getting Inkscape to generate proper cnc tool paths instead of just tracing a bitmap image. He’s got the CNC part of his build under control, but he still can’t find a QR code reader that will register his work.

We’re no stranger to QR codes here at Hack a Day, and it’s very possible the only thing that could be stopping [mikey]‘s QR code from being read by a phone is the contrast of the image. We’re thinking a little bit of printer’s ink forced into the non-copper part of the PCB would make the QR code register. Since [mikey] already has a very nice negative etching of his QR code, he could easily use his new board as a printing plate, making infinite paper copies of his copper-based QR code.

If you’ve got any ideas on how [mikey] can get his QR code working, post them in the comments.

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