Oinker is Twitter for HAMs


Have you ever wanted to send a quick message to your HAM radio buddies over the air but then realized you forgot your radio at home? [Troy] created Oinker to remedy this problem. Oinker is a Perl script that turns emails into audio.

The script monitors an email account for new messages and then uses the Festival text-to-speech engine to transform the text into audio. [Troy] runs Oinker on a Raspberry Pi, with the Pi’s audio output plugged directly into an inexpensive ham radio. The radio is then manually tuned to the desired transmit frequency. Whenever Oinker see’s a new email, that message is converted into speech and then output to the transmitter.

The script automatically appends your HAM radio call sign to the end of every message to ensure you stay within FCC regulations. Now whenever [Troy] runs into some bad traffic on the road, he can send a quick SMS to his email address and warn his HAM radio buddies to stay clear of the area.

Arduino-Based Power Failure Alert System


When the power went out at his parents’ shop and ruined the contents of their fridge, [Lauters Mehdi] got to work building a custom power failure alert system to prevent future disasters. Although some commercial products address this problem, [Lauters] decided that he could build his own for the same cost while integrating a specific alert feature: one that fires off an SMS to predefined contacts upon mains power failure.

The first step was to enable communication between an Arduino Micro and a Nokia cell phone. His Nokia 3310 uses FBus protocol, but [Lauters] couldn’t find an Arduino library to make the job easier. Instead, he prototyped basic communication by running an Arduino Uno as a simple serial repeater to issue commands from the computer directly to the phone, and eventually worked out how to send an SMS from the ‘duino. [Lauters] then took the phone apart and tapped into the power button to control on/off states. He also disconnected the phone’s battery and plugged it into an attached PCB. The system operates off mains power but swaps to a 1000mAH 9V backup battery during a power outage, logging the time and sending out the SMS alerts. A second message informs the contacts when power has been restored.

Head over to [Lauters's] project blog for schematics and photos, then see his GitHub for the source code. If you want to see other SMS hacking projects, check out the similar build that keeps a remote-location cabin warm, or the portable power strip activated by SMS.

Arduino-based temp control via SMS


As connected as we are, reliable and affordable internet is still a luxury in the far reaches. [kohleick's] country home is not just remote; with temperatures dropping to -30C in the winter, it’s practically Arctic. His solution for controlling the thermostat from afar was to take advantage of the GSM network and implement a SMS-based heater controller. The unit typically operates in “antifreeze mode,” but sending a simple text message prior to visiting causes the heater to kick it up to a more comfortable setting for your arrival. Daily logs report the system’s status, and an alert will trigger when temperatures fall below a set limit, thus indicating potential faults with the heater.

The build uses a Freeduino paired with an external GSM modem for communication and an LCD to display current status and menus, which users access via three buttons on the side of the picture frame. [kohleick] connected two temperature sensors: one directly to the Freeduino’s shield and a second outside the house. After the temperature sensors detect deviance from the set point, or upon SMS instruction, the Freeduino will crank up the heat through a 5V relay attached to the home’s boiler. Head over to the Instructables page linked above for a bill of materials, schematics, and the code. The Siemens GSM modem in this build is nothing to worry about, but be careful if you try to reproduce this project with an Arduino GSM shield, or your house might really heat up.

Controlling a terminal with Google Voice


For how awesome Google Voice is, we’re surprised we haven’t seen this before. [Steve] is using Google Voice to run commands on just about any Linux box.

Google Voice doesn’t have an official API, and existing unofficial APIs weren’t up to snuff for [Steve]‘s project. He ended up writing his own that checks his unread message inbox every minute and looks for new text messages beginning with the phrase, ‘Cmd’. If a series of checks pass – the text coming from a known phone number and a proper terminal command – the command runs and sends the a text back indicating success or failure.

While [Steve] probably won’t be playing nethack or Zork via SMS anytime soon, we can see this being very useful for a Raspi home automation task. Just send a text message and a properly configured Linux box can open your garage door, turn on the lights, or even start a webcam.

Sega controller houses auto-launch emulator


[Joe's] wife grew up playing Sega games and he wanted to help her unwind by reliving the experience. Since the work computer she uses when travelling isn’t a good place to install emulators he built this plug-and-play emulator inside of a Sega controller.

We’ve seen this type of thing a few times before (even with XBMC in a SNES controller) but there is one thing we hadn’t thought of lately. Newer versions of Windows have auto-launch disabled for USB drives. But [Joe] knew that there were still some USB sticks that manage to auto-launch anyway so he researched how those work. It turns out that they have two partitions, one is formatted as a CDFS which looks like a CD-ROM to Windows and allows auto-launch. He used this method of partitioning a USB stick, storing the ROMs on the mass storage partition and the emulator and the CDFS partition. To finish the hack he cracked open the controller and found room for a USB hub and the PCB from the thumb drive.

If you still have cartridges lying around you can pull the ROMs off of them over USB.

New Year’s Eve countdown clock included SMS interactivity


We remember several years back, when text messaging was first becoming popular, we went to a bar which had a huge television that would display text messages sent to a particular number. This sounds like a novelty, but in a large group of folks who know one another it’s the sandbox of social games. Wanting to tap in on that fun for his New Year’s Eve party, [James] built this countdown timer that includes an element of SMS interactivity.

The rig is projector based. A computer using Processing does the majority of the work but [James] needed a way to accepts text messages (the locale of the party had no Internet connection so this was the best bet). He grabbed a GSM shield and his Arduino Leonardo. The bulk of the evening the display showed the last few messages received, with a small countdown timer in the lower corner. As the countdown approached zero the time was given prominence as in the image above. We guess he was lucky to find a prepaid SIM card that allowed free incoming text messages. Our cell provider charges us 20¢ for each.

You might give this one a whirl next year. If it’s not quite your thing take a look around. We’ve seen a lot of fun setups like this mini ball drop.

Hackaday Links: November 9, 2012

Yeah, it’s like Twitter but actually cool

Thingiverse – still the best place on the Internet to find cool 3D models to print out – has gone all Web 3.0 with their new Dashboard feature. Basically, you can think of this as Thingiverse’s version of Twitter. The dashboard allows you to see the latest updates from people you like, follow people, categories, and tags, and check out your all-important ‘who’s following me’ stats. Yes, to the Hackaday crowd it may sound a little lame, but it’s a great way to winnow the (awesome) wheat from the (slightly less awesome) chaff.

Hey, we goofed. And not by using the same image twice

Remember when we jumped on the Occupy Thingiverse bandwagon? Well, there were questions about the Thingiverse Terms of Service and confusion that Makerbot actually owns everything uploaded to Thingiverse. That’s completely wrong according to Makerbot’s lawyer [Rich McCarthy]. The whole issue dealt with “Moral Rights or attribution” – a French legal doctrine that isn’t part of US law (or the law of any English-derived legal system as far as we can tell). Yeah, we goofed.

Now u cn snd SMS msgs wit n ‘ino & cell sheld

[Meir] sent in a cellular library for microcontroller projects that allows for simple sending and receiving of SMS messages. Yes, it’s been done before, but [Meir] hid all the hardware interaction with the cellular shield – a good design practice – to make the code nice and tidy.

And you thought PVC was bad…

Just in time for Thanksgiving, [Lou] shows us the fastest way to make mashed potatoes: an oxygen and propane powered potato gun. The build uses oxy and propane tanks you can pick up for a few bucks at any hardware store, steel pipe for the barrel, a grill igniter, and a few pipe fittings. It’s awesome, and we’ve got to hand it to [Lou] for this one. Now to build one and test it out on our indestructible test dummy.

It’s just like the Raspberry Pi! They’re that backordered!

Remember the Stellaris Launchpad, the very cool (and very inexpensive) ARM dev board put out by TI? Yeah, they’re shipping now. News of this comes from [Ryan Holtz] at Autodesk after the FedEx guy came knocking a few days ago. The good news is they’re shipping, the bad news is the price increased slightly to $13.