A Magic Light Bulb For All Your Bright Ideas

[Uri Shaked]’s lamentation over the breaking of his smart bulb was brief as it was inspiring — now he had a perfectly valid excuse to hack it into a magic light bulb.

The first step was disassembling the bulb and converting it to run on a tiny, 130mAh battery. Inside the bulb’s base, the power supply board, Bluetooth and radio circuits, as well as the LED board didn’t leave much room, but he was able to fit in 3.3V and 12V step-up voltage regulators for the LiPo battery.

[Shaked]’s self-imposed bonus round was to also wedge a charging circuit — which he co-opted from a previous project — into the bulb instead of disassembling it every time it needed more juice. Re-soldering the parts together: easy.  Fitting everything inside a minuscule puzzle-box: hard. Kapton tape proved eminently helpful in preventing shorts in the confined space.

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How Smart is the Grid?

Marketing and advertising groups often have a tendency to capitalize on technological trends faster than engineers and users can settle into the technology itself. Perhaps it’s no surprise that it is difficult to hold back the motivation to get a product to market and profit. Right now the most glaring example is the practice of carelessly putting WiFi in appliances and toys and putting them on the Internet of Things, but there is a similar type of fiasco playing out in the electric power industry as well. Known as the “smart grid”, an effort is underway to modernize the electric power grid in much the same way that the Internet of Things seeks to modernize household appliances, but to much greater and immediate benefit.

A Cutler-Hammer industrial breaker ominously predicts the coming confusion in the smart grid arena.
Photo by Bryan Cockfield

To that end, if there’s anything in need of modernization it’s the electric grid. Often still extensively using technology that was pioneered in the 1800s like synchronous generators and transformers (not to mention metering and billing techniques that were perfected before the invention of the transistor), there is a lot of opportunity to add oversight and connectivity to almost every part of the grid from the power plant to the customer. Additionally, most modern grids are aging rapidly at the same time that we are asking them to carry more and more electricity. Modernization can also help the aging infrastructure become more efficient at delivering energy.

While the term “smart grid” is as nebulous and as ill-defined as “Internet of Things” (even the US Government’s definition is muddied and vague), the smart grid actually has a unifying purpose behind it and, so far, has been an extremely useful way to bring needed improvements to the power grid despite the lack of a cohesive definition. While there’s no single thing that suddenly transforms a grid into a smart grid, there are a lot of things going on at once that each improve the grid’s performance and status reporting ability.

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A Smart Table For Gamers

When makers take to designing furniture for their own home, the results are spectacular. For their senior design project, [Phillip Murphy] and his teammates set about building a smart table from the ground up. Oh, and you can also use it to play games, demonstrated in the video below.

The table uses 512 WS2812 pixels in a 32 x 16 array which has enough resolution to play a selection of integrated games — Go, 2-player Tetris, and Tron light cycle combat — as well as some other features like a dancing bird party mode — because what’s the point of having a smart table if it can’t also double as rave lighting?

A C2000-family microcontroller on a custom board is the brains, and is controlled by an Android app via Bluetooth RN-42 modules. The table frame was designed in Sketchup, laser-cut, and painstakingly stained. [Murphy] and company used aluminum ducting tape in each of the ‘pixels’, and the table’s frame actually forms the pixel grid. Check out the overview and some of the games in action after the break.

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Smart Watch Hack Lets You Use Your 3.5mm Headphones With An iPhone 7

As you may have heard, the iPhone 7 is ditching the 3.5 mm headphone jack in the name of progress and courage. Whatever your take on that, it leaves the end user out in the cold if — for instance — their preferred headphones still use the old format. Here to save you from an untimely upgrade is YouTuber [Kedar Nimbalkar], who has modified a Bluetooth Smartwatch to incorporate a 3.5 mm jack to allow continued use your current headphones.

After opening up the smartwatch [Nimbalkar] removes the speaker, solders in a 3.5 mm headphone jack and clips out an opening in the watch’s case that maintains the watch’s sleek exterior.

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DIY Smart Home Device Means No More Fumbling in the Dark

Smart home tech is on the rise, but cost or lack of specific functionality may give pause to prospective buyers. [Whiskey Tango Hotel] opted to design their own system using a Raspberry Pi and Bluetooth device connectivity. Combining two ubiquitous technologies provides a reliable proximity activation of handy functions upon one’s arrival home.

Electrical Wiring Diagram

The primary function is to turn on a strip of LEDs when [Whiskey Tango Hotel] gets home to avoid fumbling for the lights in the dark, and to turn them off after a set time. The Raspberry Pi and Bluetooth dongle detect when a specified discoverable Bluetooth device comes within range — in this case, an iPad — after some time away. This toggles the Pi’s GP10 outputs and connected switching relay while also logging the actions to the terminal and Google Drive via IFTTT.

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Face-slapping security gaff in stored-value cards

The laundry machines at [Hans Viksler’s] apartment were converted over from coin operation to stored value cards. We’ve all dealt with these cards before and [Hans] thought it would be fun to do a little sniffing around at how this particular company implements them. We’ve covered how to read these cards and there have been several stories regarding how to bypass the security that they use.

But [Hans] wasn’t interested in stealing value, just in seeing how things work. So he stuck the card in his reader and after looking around a bit he figured out that they use the Atmel AT88SC0404C chip. He downloaded the datasheet and started combing through the features and commands. The cards have a four-wrong-password lockout policy. He calculated that it would take an average of over two million cards to brute force the chip’s stored password. But further study showed that this is a moot point. He fed the default password from the datasheet to his card and it worked.

We know it takes quite a bit of knowledge for the average [Joe] to manipulate these cards at home, but changing the default password is literally the very least the company could have done to protect their system.