Hackaday links: September 11, 2012

Xbee sensors at Lowe’s?

Lowe’s, the home improvement big box store, is selling some home automation items which might be Xbee compatible. They’re being sold under the brand name Iris. There is some debate as to whether they’re Xbee, or just 802.15.4 hardware. Either way they might be worth checking out for your wireless projects.

Father sword replica from Conan the Barbarian

Sometimes its just fun to watch the master at work. In this case it’s a blacksmith replicating the sword from Conan the Barbarian. [via Reddit]

LG washing machine that phones home

LG has built an interesting troubleshooting feature into some of their washing machines. This video shows the encoded audio it will output if you use the right button combination. You’re supposed to hold your phone up to the machine while talking to customer service and they’ll be able to get some type of debugging information from the dial-up modem type of sounds. If you end up decoding this audio we want to know about it! [Thanks Pedro]

MicroSD card adapter for Raspberry Pi

[TopHatHacker] was surprised to see a full-sized SD card slot on the Raspberry Pi. His temporary solution to get his microSD card working was to uses a miniSD adapter. He cut away the case and bent the pins until they lined up with the microSD card.

Batman’s cowl for retro motorcycle enthusiasts

Okay, we think this Batman cowl in the style of 1950’s motorcycle garb is pretty cool. Just realize that if you’re seen wearing this you will be thought of as one of the crazy guys in town. [via BoingBoing]

Accessing an SD card through a parallel port, just because

[Vinod] sent in a very cool build he says is somewhat of a ‘mad project': he mounted an MMC and SD card under Linux using the parallel port on his computer. Even though parallel ports are getting rarer these days, we absolutely love [Vinod]‘s dedication and willingness to dig around the Linux kernel.

The hardware portion of the build is very simple – just an SD/MMC header and a few resistors wired up to a parallel port. The software side of the hack gets pretty interesting with [Vinod] building a kernel module, something we rarely see on Hackaday.

We’d have to agree with [Vinod]‘s ‘mad project’ sentiment, if only because of the terrible throughput of [Vinod]‘s adapter; it takes him more than a minute to transfer a 1.5 MB file onto the SD card – terribly slow, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, we’ve got to respect [Vinod] for pushing the limits of uselessness and still building something cool in the process.

Building a media player with an MSP430

A media player based on an Arduino and SD card has been done to death several times over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate [Matt]‘s MSP430 audio player. It’s a very nice piece of work that supports a FAT16 file system and only takes up 54 bytes of RAM.

To make his dream of a 430 media player a reality, [Matt] based his work on the DIY Life Talking MSP430 project. Unlike this previous attempt to play music with a ‘430 and SD card, [Matt] threw in a full FAT16 file system, allowing him to drag and drop audio files on his computer to the SD card.

Right now [Matt]‘s build can play a stereo audio file through its speakers, but the sound quality over a mono file is greatly reduced. The maximum sample rate is 16kHz; a ‘good enough’ sample rate if you’re listening with terrible headphones. In the video after the break, [Matt] plays this awesome Symphony of Science on his homebrew media player. We’re guessing his camera doesn’t do his project justice, but it’s still impressive nonetheless.

[Read more...]

Building the worst Linux PC ever

Linux is generally considered the go-to OS for under powered computers. Wanting to challenge the preconceived notion that Linux requires ‘a computer made in the last 20 years,’ [Dmitry] built the worst Linux PC ever around a simple 8-bit microcontroller.

The ATMega1284p [Dmitry] used doesn’t have a lot to offer as far as RAM and storage goes; just 16 kilobytes of SRAM and a paltry 128 kilobytes of Flash storage. While this may be voluminous in the embedded world, it’s peanuts compared to the gigabytes of RAM and hard drive space on even a low-end netbook. To solve this problem, [Dmitry] threw an antique 30-pin RAM SIMM at the problem. It’s wired up directly to the microcontroller, as is the 1 Gigabyte SD card that serves as the PC’s hard drive.

Linux requires a 32-bit CPU and a memory management unit, something the puny microcontroller doesn’t have. For [Dmitry], the best course of action was emulating an ARM processor on an AVR. We’re not sure if we’re dealing with genius or madness here, but it did prove to be a valuable learning exercise in writing a modular ARM emulator.

How fast is it? [Dmitry] tells us it takes two hours to boot up to a bash prompt, and four more to load up Ubuntu and login. If you want a Megahertz rating, good luck; the effective clock speed is about 6.5 kilohertz. While the worst Linux PC ever won’t win any races, its simple construction puts it within the reach of even the klutziest of hardware builders; the entire device is just a microcontroller, RAM, SD card, a few resistors, and some wire.

If you’d like to build your own worst Linux PC, [Dmitry] has the firmware and disk image available to download. If you want to watch the time-lapse of this thing booting, check out the video after the break.

[Read more...]

Flash an Arduino from an SD card

[Kevin] has been working on reverse engineering the protocol used by the Arduino IDE and porting it to the Arduino platform. Now that his BootDrive project is nearing completion, he’s ready to give every Arduino the ability to program another Arduino over an SD card.

BootDrive isn’t terribly different from using an Arduino as an ISP, only now AVRdude runs on the Arduino itself and no computer is required to put new firmware into the target Arduino.  [Kevin] attached a MicroSD breakout board to an Arduino-compatible clone. When the clone starts up, it searches the SD card for a file called ‘program.hex.’ This file is sent over to the target Arduino and the new firmware is installed.

While it may not be extremely practical if you’ve only got a few Arduinos that never leave your workbench, we’re thinking this would be an invaluable tool if you need to update the software on a board already ‘in the field,’ serving as a weather station or homemade game camera. [Kevin] put up a demo of his BootDrive project; you can check that out after the break.

[Read more...]

NES controller is a slick way to carry around your portable OS

nes-controller-linux-drive

[Oliver] had an old NES controller laying around, and without any other use for it, he decided to repurpose it as a portable storage device.

He gutted most of the controller, removing the plastic standoffs, leaving the D-pad and remaining buttons intact. He crammed a 32 GB flash drive inside, along with the guts from an SD card reader. Using a Dremel he cut several openings into the controller, one for the flash drive and SD card reader’s USB ports, as well as for the SD card itself. When the physical modifications were finished, he installed a small Linux distro on the flash drive, which can be run by any PC that supports booting from USB.

While some might argue, we think it’s a neat way to reuse an old gaming peripheral that he might have otherwise thrown out. The portable OS is something that would certainly come in handy, though we can’t wait until the Raspberry Pi is finished – it would be awesome to have a complete computer packed in there too.

Speaker-mounted WAV player for street performances

This naked speaker is the basis for [MaoMakMaa's] newest project called the Wavedrone. He plans on using the autonomous and cable-less device during street performances. You can hear the effect of some stretched jazz cords being played on it in the video clip after the break. The sound is kind of an ethereal background noise that observers might not immediately realize is there.

You can see the 9V battery which serves as the power source clinging to the frame of the speaker. A 7805 linear regulator tames that battery and feeds the two IC’s on the circuit board seen to the right. The ATtiny85 is reading music from an SD card and playing it back in mono (obviously) with the help of an LM386 audio amplifier chip. The trimpots that go into the high pass and low pass filters in between the microcontroller and amplifier allow for a bit of sound manipulation, but we’re more impressed with the quality of the sound this is getting when properly trimmed.

[Read more...]