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.
The round-about way this iPhone garage door opener was put together borders on Rube Goldberg. But it does indeed get the job done so who are we to judge? Plus you have to consider that the Apple products aren’t quite as hacker friendly as, say, Android phones — so this may have been the easiest non-Jailbreak way.
The main components that went into it are the iPhone, a Wemo WiFi outlet, and a 110V rated mechanical relay. But wait, surely it can’t be that simple? You’re correct, just for added subterfuge [Tall-drinks] rolled IFTTT into the mix.
You may remember hearing about If This Then That from the Alert Tube project. It’s a web-based natural language scripting service. Throw everything together and it works like this: The iPhone sends a text message which IFTTT converts to a Wemo command. A power cord connects the Wemo outlet to the 110V electrodes on the relay. The normally open connection of the relay is attached to the same screw terminals of the garage door opener as the push button that operates it. When the relay closes, the garage door goes up or down.
The biggest problem we have with this is the inability to know if your garage door is open or closed.
One aspect of the Raspberry Pi that has always challenged us is the power supply. It was a great idea to power the board from a standard micro-USB port because economy of scale makes phone chargers (even in the 1A range necessary for stable operation of the RPi) cheap and easy to acquire. The thing we miss is the ability to power the device on and off using the built-in hardware. The quandary has given rise to many different solutions, and the ATX Raspbi smart PSU is one of the better ones we’ve come across. It’s a nicely packaged take on the PIC-based version we saw earlier in the year.
The device is a small PCB that acts bridge between the micro-USB power supply and the RPi board. It offers several breakout headers, one of which is used for a power button. The button is monitored by a microcontroller that switches the on-board relay accordingly. But it won’t just kill the power when you want to shut down. It first signals one of the RPi GPIO pins, causing the OS to execute a shutdown script. It then monitors the RPi for the shutdown tasks to finish before cutting the power.
Continue reading “ATX Raspi is a smart power source for Raspberry Pi”
This project is in one of our favorite categories; the kind where asking “why?” is the wrong question. [Berto A.] built the device after observing some power generation by placing a large magnet next to a mechanical relay coil and quickly clicking the relay’s lever. From this humble beginning he built up the RattleGen, a bicycle spoke driven generator.
To get the most power possible he searched around for a massive relay and found one which was originally meant for telephone exchanges. He cut the case open and strapped a big bar magnet to the side of the coil. Next he fabricated an arm which will press against the relay’s lever. To that he added a small wheel which is pressed each time a spoke from the bicycle passes by it. This repeated clicking of the relay lever generates a current (and a rattling sound) that is harvested by the joule thief circuit built on some protoboard. An LED is illuminated, with excess current stored in the capacitor bank. Don’t miss the build and demonstration video after the break.
Continue reading “Rattle generator is a new type of dynamo for a bicycle”
[Thomas] and his friends wanted to ring in the new year by setting off some fireworks. To keep a safe distance and have a little fun they built this network controller launcher (translated).
the image on the left shows the build in its unused and pristine state. But by the end of the celebration it look a bit melted and burnt. Still, for the first revision of the system it ended up working pretty well.
We’ve seen several remote fireworks launchers that burn up resistors to light the fuses. But this system is much more reusable. The image on the right shows the heating elements which light the fuses. Younger readers might have no idea what they’re looking at, but every automobile used to come with at least one of these electric cigarette lighters. Just drive 12V through them and they get burning hot relatively quickly. That’s where the car battery on the base comes into play. It is connected to the lighters using some mechanical relays.
In the food container attached to the side of the launcher you’ll find a Raspberry Pi which provides the web connection for the system. [Thomas] wrote code which uses a webpage with some bomb icons as buttons. Check out the video after the break to see him demonstrate how fast one of these lighters will glow red after pressing a button on his smart phone.
Continue reading “Network-controlled fireworks launcher”
Gutarist, hacker, and mustache enthusiast [David Neevel] brought together way too many pieces of hardware in order to use his electric guitar as a computer keyboard.
So let’s dig into the house of cards he built for the project. It starts off with the guitar which has been fitted with an additional pickup to interface with a Roland GR-33 synthesizer pedal. That outputs a MIDI signal, which many hackers would have connected to the computer and parsed with a simple script. But not [David], he connected it to an Arduino via an optisolator. Well that’s not too ridiculous, right? Don’t you think he’ll just parse the MIDI signals and push them to the computer via the Arduino’s USB port? Wrong! He translates the MIDI signals into combinations for a big relay board which is emulating the key matrix of an old USB keyboard. But as you can see in the demo video after the jump it works quite well.
If you’re more of the drumming sort there’s an electric drum set version of this hack too.
Continue reading “Horribly complicated electric guitar keyboard”
Check out all the work going on in the cabinet below this typewriter. The hack which automates a mechanical typewriter is for an art installation, but wouldn’t it be fun to build one of these to use as a résumé printer? It really makes us wish we had an old typewriter sitting around.
It would have been much easier to patch into an electric typewriter, but we have seen the string trick used on those as well. In this case a loop of string attaches to the the bar under each key, allowing a pull from below to type the character. An automotive door lock actuator ([Harvey Moon] tells us they’re not solenoids) connects to the other end of the string for every key. But then you’ve got to have a way to drive the actuators and that’s where the protoboard full of forty relays seen to the right comes into play. That image, which was taken from the demo video after the break, shows the board being testing. We’d guess more wires are added later to multiplex the array as we can’t figure out how the Arduino manages to drive all forty of them as shown. One thing we are sure about, the completed project looks and sounds amazing!
Continue reading “Automating a mechanical typewriter”