Hackaday Prize Entry: FabDoc is Version Control for Project Images

FabDoc is an interesting concept that attempts to tackle a problem many of us didn’t realize we had. There are plenty of version control systems for software, but many projects also have a hardware element or assembly process. Those physical elements need to be documented, but that process does not easily fit the tools that make software development and collaboration easier. [Kevin Cheng] sums FabDoc up as “a system to capture time-lapse pictures as pre-commits.”

With FabDoc a camera automatically records the physical development process, allowing the developer to focus on work and review later. The images from the camera are treated as pre-commits. Upon review, the developer selects relevant key images (ignoring dead ends or false starts) and commits them. It’s a version control and commit system for the physical part of the development process. The goal is to remove the burden of stopping the work process in order to take pictures, automatically record the development process and attach it to a specific project, and allow easy management of which images to commit.

The current system uses a Raspberry Pi Zero with a camera mounted on safety glasses, and some support software. Some thought has certainly gone into making the system as easy to use and manage as possible; after setting up a repository, scanning a QR code takes care of telling the system what to do and where to put it. The goal is to make FabDoc fast and easy to use so that it can simply work unattended.

We saw a visual twist on version control some time ago with a visual diff for PCBs, which was a great idea to represent changes between PCB designs visually, diff-style. It’s always exciting to see someone take a shot at improving processes that are easy to take for granted.

Add a Second SD Card to the Pi Zero

The Raspberry Pi Zero is a beautiful piece of hardware, fitting an entire Linux computer into a package the size of a pack of gum (don’t chew it, though). However, this size comes with limited IO options, which can be a complication for some projects. In this case, [Hugatry] wanted extra storage, and devised a smart method to add a second SD card to the Pi Zero.

The problem with the Pi Zero is that with only a single USB port, it’s difficult to add any other storage to the device without making things bulkier with hubs or other work arounds. Additionally, the main SD card can’t be removed while the Pi is running, so it makes sense to add an easy-to-use removable storage option to the Pi Zero.

It’s quite a simple hack – all that’s required to pull it off is a few resistors, an SD card connector, and some jumper wires. With everything hooked up, a small configuration change enables the operating system to recognise the new card.

Overall it’s great to see hacks that add further functionality to an already great platform. If you find it’s not powerful enough, you can always try overclocking one. 

Continue reading “Add a Second SD Card to the Pi Zero”

Raspberry Pi Tracks Office Happiness

It’s always great to see people who haven’t had the opportunity to work with hardware like the Raspberry Pi before come up with a great project and have fun putting it together.  [Katja]’s company has a two-day hackfest where employees can work on some cool non-work-related projects. [Katja]’s team decided to use a Raspberry Pi and some buttons and LEDs to create a ‘happiness tracker‘ for the company.

The resulting project is mounted near the entrance to the office and when they come in or leave, an employee can push one of four buttons to indicate their mood at the time, ‘bad,’ ‘not so good,’ ‘good’ or ‘super.’ The result is tracked and an overall impression of the office’s happiness is the result.

The project consists of the aforementioned Raspberry Pi, four push buttons, five LEDs that animate when a button is pressed and another LED that shows the system is currently up and working. When a user presses a button, the five LEDs animate in the shape of a check mark to show that the button press was successful. A Python script running at startup on the Pi takes care of detecting button pressing, lighting LEDs and sending a message to the server which monitors the level of happiness.

It’s a simple project, but that’s exactly what you need when you start with hardware you haven’t worked with before. It seems like [Katja]’s team had fun building the project and they hope that this can help gauge the overall wellbeing of the office. [Katja]’s blog post has an embedded video of the project in action. In the meantime, check out this bit of facial recognition software that determines how happy you are based on your smile, or this project that lets you know how happy your plant is.

Home Automation: Evolution of a Term

Home automation: for me the term recalls rich dudes in the ’80s who could turn off their garage lights with remote-control pads. The stereotype for that era was the more buttons your system had—even non-enabled ones—the more awesome it was, and by extension any luxury remote control had to be three times the size of any TV remote.

And it was a luxury–the hardware was expensive and most people couldn’t justify it. Kind of like the laser-disc player of home improvements. The technology was opaque to casual tinkering, it cost a lot to buy, and also was expensive to install.

The richie-rich stereotypes were reinforced with the technology seen in Bond movies and similar near-future flicks. Everything, even silly things, is motorized, with chrome and concrete everywhere. You, the hero, control everything in the house in the comfort of your acrylic half-dome chair. Kick the motorized blinds, dim the track lighting, and volume up the hi-fi!

This Moonraker-esque notion of home automation turned out to be something of a red herring, because home automation stopped being pretty forever ago; eventually it became available to everyone with a WiFi router in the form of Amazon Echo and Google Nest.

But the precise definition of the term home automation remains elusive. I mean, the essence of it. Let’s break it down.

Continue reading “Home Automation: Evolution of a Term”

The Perfect Tourist Techno-Cap

How many times are you out on vacation and neglect to take pictures to document it all for the folks back at home? Or maybe you forgot just exactly where that awesome waterfall was. [Mark Williams] has made a Raspberry Pi Zero enabled cap that can take photos and geotag them with the location as well as the attitude of the camera.

The idea is to enable the reconstruction of a trip photographically. The hardware consists of a Raspberry Pi Zero W coupled with a Raspberry Camera V2 and a BerryGPS-IMU. Once activated, the system starts taking photos every two minutes. Within each photograph, the location of the photographer is recorded like most GPS enabled camera.

An additional set of data including yaw, pitch, and roll along with direction is also captured to understand where the camera is pointing when the image was taken. Even if he’s tilting his head at the time the photo was taken, the metadata allows it to be straightened out in software later.

This information is decoded using GeoSetter which puts the images on a map along with the field of view. Take a peek at the video below for the result of a trip around Sydney Harbour and the system in action. The Raspberry Pi Zero and camera combo are useful for a lot of things including this soldering microscope. Hopefully, we will be seeing some DIY VR gear with stereo cameras in the near future. Continue reading “The Perfect Tourist Techno-Cap”

Hackaday Prize Entry: Hydroponic Garden Control

[Todd Christell] grows tomatoes in hydroponic buckets in his backyard, and recently he suffered a crop loss when a mechanical timer failed to dispense the nutrient flow as directed. He decided the solution was to add a sensor array to his home network.

[Todd]’s home automation setup runs on a Raspberry Pi loaded with Jessie OS and Node-Red, with Mosquitto as his MQTT message broker. With a sensor network in place, [Todd] would get updates on his phone alerting him if there was a problem with the pumps or if the nutrient bath was getting too low.

The proposed hydroponic setup would consist of an ESP8266-12 equipped with a DS18B20 waterproof temperature sensor, a reed sensor detecting nutrient levels, and a relay board triggering one pump to fill the grow buckets from the main sump and another to top off the sump with the solution from a reserve tank. One early problem he encountered was the electric fence (pictured above) that he employs to keep squirrels away from his tomatoes, interfered with the ESP8266’s signal.

Robot Car Follows Wherever You Go

Having a pet can really make a difference to your happiness at the end of the day, but they’re also a lot of work. This project by [Ioannis Stoltidis] does something similar — minus all the responsibility. The Smart Car Follower Project is designed to track people using Bluetooth and IR and follow them around from room to room.

Submitted as part of a Master’s thesis, this project hacks a toy car and uses a key chain transmitter that sends the tracking signals. A Raspberry Pi 3 combines the Bluetooth RSSI and IR signals to make create an estimate of the position of the beacon. Arduinos facilitate the IR signaling as well as the motor control allowing the robot to chase the user around like a puppy. The whole thing also comes with obstacle avoidance using ultrasonic sensors on all sides which are good if you have a lot of furniture in the house.

You can also choose to go manual-mode and drive it around the block using a PC and gamepad. A webcam connected to the onboard computer allows a first person view of the vehicle by sending the video feed over wifi to a PC application. OpenCV is used to create the final GUI which allows you to see and control the project remotely. The source code is available for download for anyone who wants to replicate the project. Check out the video of it in action below.

Continue reading “Robot Car Follows Wherever You Go”