Hackaday Links: March 25, 2013

Illegal, yet impressive

cans

Want a soda? Just grab a robot, shove it in a vending machine, and grab yourself one. This video is incredibly French, but it looks like we’ve got a custom-built robot made out of old printers and other miscellaneous motors and gears here. It’s actually pretty impressive when you consider 16 ounce cans weigh a pound.

UNOBTANIUM

chip

Okay, we got a lot of emails on our tip line for this one. It’s a group buy for a programmable oscillator over on Tindie. Why is this cool? Well, this chip (an SI570) is used in a lot of software defined radio designs. Also, it’s incredibly hard to come by if you’re not ordering thousands of these at a time. Here’s a datasheet, now show us some builds with this oscillator.

Chiptune/keygen music anywhere

keygen

[Huan] has a co-loco’d Raspi and wanted a media server that is available anywhere, on any device. What he came up with is a service that streams chiptune music from your favorite keygens. You can access it with Chrome (no, we’re not linking directly to a Raspberry Pi), and it’s extremely efficient – his RAM usage didn’t increase a bit.

Take it on an airplane. Or mail it.

bomb

[Alex]‘s hackerspace just had a series of lightning talks, where people with 45-minute long presentations try to condense their talk into 10 minutes. Of course the hackerspace needed some way to keep everything on schedule. A simple countdown timer was too boring, so they went with a fake, Hollywood-style bomb. No, it doesn’t explode, but it still looks really, really fake. That’s a good thing.

Printers have speakers now?

nokia

[ddrboxman] thought his reprap needed a nice ‘print finished’ notification. After adding a piezo to his electronics board, he whipped up a firmware hack that plays those old Nokia ringtones. The ringtones play over Gcode, so it’s possible to have audible warnings and notifications. Now if it could only play Snake.

Stealing cars and ringing doorbells with radio

audacity-am-zoom

The cheap software defined radio platforms that can be built out of a USB TV tuner aren’t getting much love on the Hackaday tip line of late. Thankfully, [Adam] sent in a great guide to cracking sub-GHz wireless protocols wide open, and ringing doorbells, opening cars, and potentially setting houses on fire in the process.

The first wireless hack [Adam] managed to whip up is figuring out how a wireless doorbell transmitter communicates with its receiver. [Adam] connected a FUNcube software defined radio dongle (although any one of the many USB TV tuner dongles we’ve seen would also work) and used GNU Radio to send the radio signals received to a WAV file. When looking at this audio file in Audacity, [Adam] saw the tell-tale signs of digital data, leaving with a string of 1s and 0s that would trigger his wireless doorbell.

The FUNcube dongle doesn’t have the ability to transmit, though, so [Adam] needed a more capable software defined radio to emulate the inner workings of a doorbell transmitter. He found one in the Ettus Research USRP, a software designed radio that’s doing a good job of keeping [Balint], Hackaday SDR extraordinaire, very busy. By sending the data [Adam] decoded with the FUNcube dongle over the USRP, he was able to trigger his wireless doorbell using nothing but a few hundred dollars of radio equipment and software ingenuity.

Doorbells are a low-stakes game, so [Adam] decided to step things up a little and unlock his son’s car by capturing and replaying the signals from a key fob remote. Modern cars use a rolling code for their keyless entry, so that entire endeavour is just a party trick. Other RF-enabled appliances, such as a remote-controlled mains outlet, are a much larger threat to home and office security, but still one [Adam] managed to crack wide open.

Hackaday Links: February 22, 2013

Playstation π

PS3

Yeah, it’s another home made Raspberry Pi case, but [Gabriel]‘s Mini Playstation 3.14 is the bee’s knees. The enclosure was once a metal gift box originally intended for gift cards. With a few whacks of a Dremel, the world finally has a new PS3 that runs Linux.

Up there with The Secret Life of Machines

mechatronik

[Mattias] sent in a tip about a really cool TV show airing in Sweden. It’s called Mekatronik, and it’s basically the interesting parts of Mythbusters where [Jamie] and [Adam] build random cool stuff. It’s a Swedish language program, so if anyone would like to make some subs for the episodes, we’ll be more than happy to link to it again.

Web-based software defined radio

sdr

The amateur radio club at University of Twente in the Netherlands came up with something really cool: a web-based software defined radio.  So what, you ask? It’s just streaming audio or something over the Internet? Nope. You can actually control this SDR over the web.

We’re deeply sorry for turning the hardware turn to slag. Really, we are.

Junk box Tesla coil

tesla

[JJ] whipped up a homemade Tesla coil out of junk he had lying around. Basically, it’s a piece of PVC pipe, a tennis ball, and aluminum foil. Even the transformer was pulled from a long-forgotten project. [JJ] is getting some really good arcs, so we’ll call this a win.

Time circuits active

time

[Danilo] was invited to a costume party with a movie theme. He wanted something Back to the Future-is, so he whipped up a flux capacitor (translation). It’s based on a PIC12F675, with the microcontroller running a bit of code that flashes the LEDs just like the movie. Now on to the hoverboard project…

bladeRF, your next software defined radio

SDR

By now you might have a bit weary of your small and inexpensive TV tuner dongle software defined radio. Yes, using a USB TV dongle is a great introduction to SDR, but it has limited bandwidth, limited frequency range, and can’t transmit. Enter the bladeRF, the SDR that makes up for all the shortcomings of a USB dongle, and also serves as a great wireless development platform.

The bladeRF is able to receive and transmit on any frequency between 300 MHz and 3.8 GHz. This, along with a powerful FPGA, ARM CPU, and very good ADCs and DACs makes it possible to build your own software defined WiFi adapter, Bluetooth module, ZigBee radio, GPS receiver, or GSM and 4G LTE modem.

It’s an impressive bit of kit, but it doesn’t exactly come cheap; the bladeRF is available on the Kickstarter for $400. The folks behind the bladeRF seem to be doing things right, though, and are using their Kickstarter windfall for all the right things like a USB vendor ID.

There’s a video of two bladeRFs being used as a full duplex modem. You can check that out after the break.

[Read more...]

Great antenna for software defined radio is really easy to make

800px-Ezcap_EzTV668

The University of Kent’s hackerspace, TinkerSoc, recently had a talk on software-defined radio using an incredibly inexpensive USB TV tuner. Of course this is nothing new to Hackaday readers, but they did manage to build one of the best antennas for their TV dongle. It’s a discone antenna, and is perfectly suited for tuning into a whole bunch of really cool things such as weather balloons and aircraft transponders.

The idea discone antenna looks exactly like its namesake; a metal disk attached to a metal cone. Of course with the frequencies the RTL software-defined radio deals with, it’s rarely necessary to build antennas out of sheet metal. The team at TinkerSoc built their discone out of galvanized garden wire and attached it to the input of their TV tuner.

All the dimensions for their discone antenna were gleaned from [ve3sqb]‘s antenna design programs. Since TinkerSoc designed their antenna for 110 MHz, it ended up being pretty large. For higher frequencies, though, a discone antenna become fairly small and more than portable enough for a mobile rig.

Pictures from weather satellites with a USB TV tuner

europe

Several times a day, a NOAA weather satellite passes over your head, beaming down pictures of weather systems and cloud formations. These transmissions aren’t encrypted, and given the requisite hardware it’s possible for you to download these images from space as [Lovro] shows us in a tutorial video.

To get these near real-time satellite pictures, [Lovro] used one of those USB TV tuners we’ve grown so fond of. A somewhat specialized antenna is required to receive the right hand polarized transmissions from NOAA weather satellites, but with a few bits of wood and wire, [Lovro] made a helical antenna to listen in on the weather satellites transmitting around 137 MHz. After gathering a whole bunch of data from the satellites with SDRsharp, [Lovro] used an image decoder to turn an audio file into a picture taken from space just hours ago.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen images from a NOAA weather satellite downloaded with a software defined radio; last year [hpux735] did just that with a somewhat inexpensive Softrock SDR. [Lovro]‘s use of a USB TV tuner to receive the transmission from NOAA satellites is a lot easier on the pocketbook, though, with the largest expense being an investment in time to build a helical antenna.

Open source software defined radio transceiver

SDR

As the year draws to a close, we must look back and look at the advances in amateur radio this year. The RTL-SDR tuner hack, a USB TV Tuner to create a software defined radio receiver, is one of the greatest hacks of the last 12 months and a great justification for 2012 being the year of software defined radio receivers. 2013 is shaping up to have even more advances in the state of software defined radio. This time we’ll be transmitting as well, possibly with [AE9RB]‘s Peaberry SDR transceiver.

The Peaberry SDR transceiver is a kit to both transmit and receive on every HAM band between 160 meters (1.8 MHz) to 17 meters (18 MHz). It does this through a USB interface and a 48kHz, 24-bit interface that is (or will shortly be) compatible with all the major SDR interfaces.

While the Peaberry SDR requires an amateur radio license to operate, we can’t wait to see what else will be coming to the software defined radio scene in the next year.

Thanks [Zach] for sending this one in.

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