A ‘Do Not Disturb’ Digital Assistant

Flow requires a certain amount of focus, and when that concentration is broken by pesky colleagues, work can suffer, on top of time wasted attempting to re-engage with the task at hand. The Technical Lead in [Estera Dezelak]’s office got fed up with being interrupted, and needed his own personal assistant to ward off the ‘just one question’-ers.

Initially, [Grega Pušnik] — the tech lead — emailed the office his schedule and blocked out times when he wasn’t to be disturbed, with other developers following suit. When that route’s effectiveness started to wane, he turned the product he was working on — a display for booking meeting rooms — into his own personal timetable display with the option to book a time-slot to answer questions. In an office that  is largely open-concept — not exactly conducive to a ‘do not disturb’ workstation — it was a godsend.

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A Colorful Clock for Toddlers

[Don] and his wife were looking for a way to teach their two-year old daughter how to tell time. She understood the difference between day and night, but she wasn’t old enough to really comprehend telling the actual time. [Don’s] solution was to simplify the problem by breaking time down into colored chunks representing different tasks or activities. For example, if the clock is yellow that might indicate that it’s time to play. If it’s purple, then it’s time to clean up your room.

[Don] started with a small, battery operated $10 clock from a local retailer. The simple clock had a digital readout with some spare room inside the case for extra components. It was also heavy enough to stay put on the counter or on a shelf. Don opened up the clock and got to work with his Dremel to free up some extra space. He then added a ShiftBrite module as a back light. The ShiftBrite is a high-brightness LED module that is controllable via Serial. This allows [Don] to set the back light to any color he wants.

[Don] already had a Raspberry Pi running his DIY baby monitor, so he opted to just hijack the same device to control the ShiftBrite. [Don] started out using a Hive13 GitHub repo to control the LED, but he found that it wasn’t suitable for this project. He ended up forking the project and altering it. His alterations allow him to set specific colors and then exit the program by typing a single command into the command line.

The color of the ShiftBrite is changed according to a schedule defined in the system’s crontab. [Don] installed Minicron, which provides a nice web interface to make it more pleasant to alter the cron job’s on the system. Now [Don] can easily adjust his daughter’s schedule via web page as needed.


Never miss your transport with this bus arrival notifier

[John Graham-Cumming] was all set to start a new project based on the Raspberry Pi. Well, that was until shipment was delayed due to manufacturing issues. Not to fret, he transitioned over to a router board which displays the arrival countdown for mass transit bus service.

He based the build on a web page the Transport for London provided. You can load it up and see if your bus is running on time or not. There’s no published API, but by studying the source code from the site [John] was able to figure out how the JSON commands were formatted.

The next step is building a standalone device to pull the data and display it. The board seen above is from a Linksys WRT54GL router. This longtime favorite has a serial port header which can be driven from the Linux kernel. He wired up a jack on the router’s case, and uses an extension cable to get from it to the 7-segment displays mounted in a model of the bus. Since there’s four digits the display can tell you minutes until the arrival of two different buses.

[Thanks Pseudo Lobster]

25th Chaos Communication Congress schedule

The team behind 25C3 has published the first draft of this year’s schedule. The annual Chaos Communication Congress is happening December 27th to 30th in Berlin, Germany. There are plenty of interesting talks already in place. We’re spotting things we want to attend already: The conference starts off with how to solar power your gear, which is followed by open source power line communication. A TOR-based VPN, an open source BIOS, rapid prototyping, holographic techniques, and running your own GSM network are on the bill too.

We’ll have at least three Hack a Day contributors in attendance. Last year featured two of our favorite conference talks: [Drew Endy]’s Biohacking and the MiFare crypto1 RFID crack. We hope to see you there.

The Last Hope schedule finalized, preregister now

The schedule for this year’s The Last Hope conference in New York City has been finalized, and there’s still time to preregister. Today is the last chance for overseas attendants to preregister, and the rest of you have until July 6th. A/V volunteers are still needed, so step up if you have the desire and skills.

The three-day conference will feature three tracks of scheduled talks, plus one track for unscheduled talks by registered attendees. You can view the full schedule interactively, in wiki format, or in conventional format. It takes place between July 18th and July 20th; hurry up and snag your tickets now. We’re interested in all the talks, but [Chris Seidel]’s talk on biohacking, NYC Resistor’s presentation about collaborative hardware hacking, and [Ray]’s demonstration on escaping high security handcuffs have us waiting in rapt anticipation. So who’s going? What are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

Defcon 16 schedule finalized

If you were waiting to finalize you travel plans, now’s the time; Defcon has published the final speaking schedule. The conference starts Friday August 8th in Las Vegas, NV and continues through Sunday with four separate speaking tracks. There’s quite a few talks we’re looking forward to: Silicon guru [Christopher Tarnovsky] from Flylogic will be hosting a breakout session on smartcard security. [Gadi Evron] will talk about the security implications of biological implants in the future. [Thomas Wilhelm] is going to cover building a mobile hacker space and the vehicle related hacks it requires.