Hacklet 27 – Holiday Hacks

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays around here. That means it’s time for holiday hacks here on The Hacklet! This week we’re looking at the coolest festive hacks created by YOU on Hackaday.io!

xmashdrWe start with [charliex] and Cypress PSOC 4 + ESP8266 WS2812 RGB XMAS Lights. The name might be a mouthful, but the goal of the project is a simple one: Awesome Christmas lights! [Charliex] has created WiFi controllable Christmas lights. To do this, he’s utilized ARM core based PSOC4 chips from Cypress. WiFi duty is handled by the popular ESP8266 module, and the lights themselves are WS2812 addressable strips.

[charliex] really outdid himself this time, creating a complete solution from the ground up. He started with a Cypress dev board, but quickly moved to a board of his own design. The PCBs  first were milled at home, then sent out for manufacturing.
Control of the strip is via UDP through a WiFi network. [Charliex] found the strips have plenty of WiFi range to place outside his home.  The last part of the puzzle was control – which [charliex] handled in style by creating his own GUI to handle synchronizing several strips to music played on a central computer.

snowflakeNext up is [nsted] with another LED hack, Glowing Xmas Snowflake Sculpture. [Nsted] was contracted to add some extra LED bling to a sculpture. The problem was that these LEDs would be filling in gaps left in the primary interactive lighting system which ran the entire sculpture. Any time you have to meld two systems, things can get crazy. [Nsted] found this out as he added WS2812B Adafruit NeoPixel strips to the Sensacell modules already designed into the sculpture. Communications happen via RS485, with Arduino Due and Megas handling the processing. Power was a concern with this sculpture, as it was pulling over 100 amps at low voltage. Like many art installations, this was a “work down to the wire” event. Everything came together at the last-minute though, and the project was a success!

musicNext up is [Jeremy Weatherford] with Christmas Orchestra.  [Jeremy] has taken on the task of making the most epic retro electronics orchestra ever created. He’s playing Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Wizards in Winter on four floppies, three scanners, and an ancient inkjet printer. LED strips on the moving elements add lights to the sound. An Arduino Mega with a RAMPS board controls the show. [Jeremy] had his orchestra professionally recorded both on audio and in video. We’re anxiously awaiting the final video upload so we can rock out to some old hardware!

xmaslightsFinally, we’ve got [crenn6977] with his Solar powered Christmas Light Controller. This was [crenn6977’s] entry in the The Hackaday Prize. While it didn’t take him to space, we’re sure it will bring Santa to his door. Rather than run lots of tiny solar cells for his Sun powered Christmas lights, [crenn6977] is going for a single large panel and wireless control. The nRF24L01+ is handling the wireless connectivity, while a STM32F042 ARM cortex M0 processor is the brains of the operation. Solar power demands efficient design, so [crenn6977] is digging deep into op-amp circuits to keep those LEDs running through the night, and the batteries charging through the day.

It’s just about time for us to settle our brains for a long winter’s nap, so we’ll close this edition of The Hacklet here.  As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hacklet 26 – Arduino Projects

Arduino is one of those boards that has become synonymous with hacking and making. Since its introduction in 2005, over 700,000 official Arduino boards have been sold, along with untold millions of compatible and clone boards. Hackers and makers around the world have found the Arduino platform a cheap and simple way to get their projects off the ground. This weeks Hacket focuses on some of the best Arduino based projects we’ve found on Hackday.io!

drawingbot[Niazangels] gets the ball – or ballpoint pen – rolling with Roboartist, a robot which creates line drawings. Roboartist is more than just a plotter though. [Niazangels] created a custom PC program which creates line drawings from images captured by a webcam. The line drawings are converted to coordinates, and sent to an Arduino, which controls all the motors that move the pen. [Niazangels] went with Dynamixel closed loop servo motors rather than the stepper motors we often see in 3D printers.

tape[Peter Edwards] is preserving the past with Tapuino, the $20 C64 Tape Emulator. Plenty of programs for the Commodore 64, 128, and compatibles were only distributed on tape. Those tapes are slowly degrading, though the classic Commodore herdware is still going strong. Tapuino preserves those tapes by using an Arduino nano to play the files from an SD card into the original Datasette interface. [Peter] also plans to add recording functionality to the Tapuino, which will make it the total package for preserving  your data. All that’s missing is that satisfying clunk when pressing the mechanical Play button!


[Dushyant Ahuja] knows what time it is, thanks to his Infinity Mirror Clock. This clock tells time with the help of some WS2812B RGB LED. [Dushyant] debugged the clock with a regular Arduino, but when it came time to finish the project, he used an ATmega328 to create an Arduino compatible board from scratch. Programming is easy with an on-board Bluetooth module. [Dushyant] plans to add a TFT lcd which will show weather and other information when those power-hungry LEDs are switched off.

alarm2[IngGaro] built an entire home alarm system with his project Arduino anti-theft alarm shield. [IngGaro] needed an alarm system for his home. That’s a lot to ask of a standard ATmega328p powered Arduino Uno. However, the extra I/O lines available on an Arduino Mega2560 were just what the doctor ordered. [IngGaro] performed some amazing point-to-point perfboard wiring to produce a custom shield that looks and works great! The alarm can interface with just about any sensor, and can be controlled via the internet. You can even disarm the system through an RFID keycard.

Want MORE Arduino in your life? Check out our curated Arduino List!

That’s about all the millis()  we have for this weeks Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hacklet 25 – ESP8266 WiFi Module Projects

Few devices have hit the hacker/maker word with quite as large a bang as the ESP8266. [Brian] first reported a new $5 WiFi module back in August. Since then there have been an explosion of awesome projects utilizing the low-cost serial to WiFi module that is the ESP8266. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the great ESP8266 projects we’ve found on Hackaday.io!

retroWe start with [TM] and the ESP8266 Retro Browser. [TM] has a great tutorial on combining the ESP8266 with an Arduino Mega2560. [TM’s] goal was a simple one: create a WiFi “browser” to access Hackaday’s Retro Site.  This is a bit more complex than one would first think, as the Arduino Mega2560 is a 5V board, and the ESP8266 are 3.3V parts. Level shifters to the rescue! [TM] was able to bring up the retro site in a terminal, but found that even “simple” websites like google send enough data back to swap the poor ESP8266!

oilmeterNext up is [Thomas] with the Simple Native ESP8266 Smartmeter. [Thomas] has created a device to measure run time on his oil heating system. He implemented this with some native programming on the ESP8266’s onboard Diamond Standard L106 Controller. When he was done, the ‘8266 had two new AT commands, one to start measurement and one to stop. A bit of web magic with some help from openweathermap.org allows [Thomas] to plot oil burner run time against outside temperature.

native[Matt Callow] is also checking out native programming using the EspressIf sdk with his project ESP8266 Native. ExpressIf made a great choice when they released the SDK for the ESP8266 back in October. [Matt] has logged his work on building and extending the demo apps from EspressIf. [Matt] has seven demo programs which do everything from blinking an LED to connecting to thingspeak via WiFi. While the demos aren’t all working yet, [Matt] is making great progress. The best part is he has all his code linked in from his Github repo. Nice work [Matt!]


8266[Michael O’Toole] is working on ESP8266 Development PCBs. The devboards have headers for the ESP8266, an on-board ATmega328 for Arduino Uno compatibility, and a USB to serial converter to make interfacing easy. [Michael] also provides all the important components you need to keep an ESp8266 happy, such as programming buttons, and a 3.3V regulator. We really like that [Michael] has included a header for a graphical LCD based local console.

Want to see more ESP8266 goodness? Check out our curated ESP8266 list on Hackaday.io!

Hackaday.io Update!

Hackaday.io gets better and better every day. We’ve just pushed out a new revision which includes some great updates. Search is now much improved. Try out a search, and you’ll find you can now search by project, project log, hacker, or any combination of 11 different fields. Our text editor has been revamped as well. Update a project log to give the new look a try!
We know everyone on .io is awesome, but just in case a spammer slips in, we’ve added “report as inappropriate” buttons to projects and comments. Once a few people hit those report buttons, projects or comments get sent to the admins for moderation.

That’s all the time we have for this week’s Hacklet! As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hacklet 15 – Arcade Fire


This week’s Hacklet is dedicated to arcade games. The arcade parlors of the 80’s and early 90’s may have given way to today’s consoles and PC games, but the classic stand-up arcade cabinet lives on! Plenty of hackers have restored old arcade cabinets, or even built their own. We’re going to take a look at some of the best arcade game-related hacks on Hackaday.io!

blackvortex[Brayden] starts things off with his Raspberry Pi Vintage Arcade. The Black Vortex is a tabletop arcade cabinet using a Raspberry Pi, an old monitor, and some nice carpentry skills. Black Vortex uses a Raspberry Pi B+. The extra GPIO pins make interfacing buttons and joystick switches easy. On the software side, [Brayden] is using the popular PiMame (now PiPlay) flavor of Linux built for gaming and emulation. Black Vortex’s shell is plywood. [Brayden] used a pocket hole jig to build a sturdy, cabinet without extra support blocks. A stain finish really works on this one!

custom-crtNext up, [fredkono] blows our minds with the Arcade XY Monitor From Scratch. [fredkono] repairs classic Atari vector game PCBs. He needed a test monitor for his lab. The original Amplifone and WG6100 color XY monitors used in games like Tempest and Star Wars are becoming rather rare. Not a problem, as [fredkono] is building his own. Much like the WG6100, [fredkono] started with a standard color TV CRT. He removed and rewound the yoke for vector operation. The TV’s electronics were replaced with [fredkono’s] own deflection amplifier PCBs.  [fredkono] was sure to include the all- important spot killer circuit, which shuts down the electron guns before a spot can burn-in the CRT.

controlpanel[Rhys] keeps things rolling with a pair of projects dedicated to arcade controls. His TI Launchpad Arcade Control to USB Interface contains instructions and code to use a Texas Instruments Tiva C launchpad as a USB interface for arcade controls. [Rhys] puts all that to good use in his Arcade Control Panel. The control panel features MAME buttons, as well as the standard 2 player fighting game button layout. He finished off his panel with some slick graphics featuring red and blue dragons.

trongame[Sarah and Raymond] hosted a Tron:Legacy release party back in 2010. An epic arcade movie calls for an epic arcade game, or in this case, games. 16 table top arcades to be exact. All 16 machines were built in just 6 days. 8 of the machines ran Armegatron Advanced, a networked version of the classic Tron lightcycle game. The others ran a mix of classic games like PacMan or modern bullet hell shooters like Tou-Hou. The cabinets were built from expanded PVC with wood blocks as a support structure. [Sarah and Raymond] custom painted each cabinet with UV black light paint. We love the custom artwork on their personal signature machines!

mikesArcade[Mike] takes us back to the 80’s with Just Another Arcade Machine. Under the hood, this machine uses the standard Raspberry Pi and PiMame (now PiPlay) suite. [Mike] even added a trackball so he could play Centipede. What makes this arcade special is the cabinet. [Mike] found an old wardrobe with that perfect 80’s style metallic strip cladding. [Mike] removed the cladding, and cut up the chipboard frame. He re-assembled things into a stand-up arcade cabinet that looks like it came right out of Sears’ Electronics department in 1985.

Ok folks, that’s it for another episode of The Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hacklet 14 – Hacks Around the House


In this weeks Hacklet we’re looking at household hacks. Not necessarily globally connected home automation hacks, but task specific hacks that we want in our lives yesterday!

We’ve all had it happen, you’re burning the midnight oil on a project when you realize it’s garbage night. The mad dash to collect empty anti-static bags, last night’s Chinese food, and the rest of the trash before actually venturing outside in the dark.

bins2[Mehmet-cileli] doesn’t have to deal with any of that, thanks to My Bins, his automated trash and recycling can moving system. Normally the bins are stationed near the house. Each garbage night, the system springs into action. The cans and their platform pivots 90 degrees. The entire system then rolls along a track to the curb. Once the cans have been collected, everything rolls back ready for more trash. We just hope [Mehmet’s] garbage men are nice enough to put the bins back on their platform!

teatimeNext we have the perfect cup of tea. [Marcel] kept forgetting his tea while it was steeping. After ending up with ink a few times, he built this Automatic Tea Timer. A button starts the timer, and after a few minutes, the tea bag is automatically lifted and a light illuminates to let you know your tea is ready. [Marcel] used a Raspberry Pi Arduino 555 simple R-C timer circuit to create his delay. The lift arm is a discarded hard drive read arm. The light bulb limits current through the voice coils.

greenhouse1[Juan Sandu] always has veggies with his Smart Small Greenhouse. [Juan] has created a desktop sized greenhouse that gives plants what they crave. No, not Brawndo, we’re talking water, warmth, and light. An Arduino Uno uses sensors to monitor humidity, temperature, light, and moisture. Based upon one of two pre-set plant types, the system determines when to water, turn on lights, or even power up a fan to keep temperatures plant friendly.  [Juan] is still working on his greenhouse, but his code is already up on Github.


grillupNext up is [nerwal] with his entry in The Hackaday Prize, GrillUp. GrillUp is a remote grill temperature monitoring system with a cooling spray. Up to 6 food grade thermometers provide GrillUp with its temperature data. If things are getting a bit too hot, Grillup cools the situation down by spraying water, beer, or your favorite marinade. The system is controlled over Bluetooth Low Energy from an android smart phone. A laser pointer helps to aim the water spray. Once the cooling zones are set up, the system runs automatically. It even has a sprinkler mode, where it sprays everything down.

led-lightsEvery hacker’s house needs some Sci-fi mood lights, right? [spetku and maehem] round out this weeks Hacklet with their Fifth Element Stone Mood Lighting. Originally an entry in the Hackaday Sci-fi contest, these mood lights are based on the elemental stones in everyone’s favorite Bruce Willis movie. The lights are 3D printed in sections which stack over foamboard cores. The actual light comes from a trio of RGB LEDs. LED control is from the same brain board which controls the team’s Robot Army. The lights are designed to open up just like the ones in the movie, though fire, earth, wind, and water are not required. The servos [spetku and maehem] selected weren’t quite up to the task, but they mention this will be remedied in a future revision.

That’s a wrap for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hacklet #13 – Chopper Royalty


This week’s Hacklet focuses on two wheeled thunder! By that we mean some of the motorcycle and scooter projects on Hackaday.io.

hondaskyWe’re going to ease into this Hacklet with [greg duck’s] Honda Sky Restoration. Greg is giving a neglected 15-year-old scooter some love, with hopes of bringing it back to its former glory. The scooter has a pair of stuck brakes, a hole rusted into its frame, a stuck clutch, and a deceased battery, among other issues. [Greg] already stripped the body panels off and got the rear brake freed up. There is still quite a bit of work to do, so we’re sure [Greg] will be burning the midnight 2 stroke oil to complete his scooter.

jetbikeNext up is [Anders Johansson’s] jaw dropping Gas turbine Land Racing Motorcycle. [Anders] built his own gas turbine engine, as well as a motorcycle to go around it. The engine is based upon a Garrett TV94, and directly powers the rear wheel through a turboshaft and gearbox. [Anders] has already taken the bike out for a spin, and he reports it “Pulled like a train” at only half throttle. His final destination is the Bonneville salt flats, where he hops to break the 349km/h class record. If it looks a bit familiar that’s because this one did have its own feature last month.

firecoates[GearheadRed] is taking a safer approach with FireCoates, a motorcycle jacket with built-in brake and turn signal indicators. [GearheadRed] realized that EL wire or LED strip wouldn’t stand up to the kind of flexing the jacket would take. He found his solution in flexible light pipes. Lit by an LED on each end, the light pipes glow bright enough to be seen at night. [GearheadRed] doesn’t like to be tied down, so he made his jacket wireless. A pair of bluetooth radios send serial data for turn and brake signals generated by an Arduino nano on [Red’s] bike. Nice work [Red]!

[Johnnyjohnny] rounds out this week’s Hacklet with his $1000 Future Tech Cafe Racer From Scratch. We’re not quite sure if [Johnny] is for real, but his project logs are entertaining enough that we’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Down to his last $1000, [Johnny] plans to turn his old Honda xr650 into a modern cafe racer. The new bike will have electric start, an obsolete Motorola Android phone as its dashboard, and a 700cc hi-comp Single cylinder engine at its heart. [Johnny] was last seen wandering the streets of his city looking for a welder, so if you see him, tell him we need an update on the bike!



That’s it for this week. If you liked this installment check out the archives. We’ll see you next week on The Hacklet – bringing you the Best of Hackaday.io!

Hacklet #12 – Last Minute Hackaday Prize Submissions


If hackers and engineers are notorious for anything, it’s for procrastinating. Many of us wait until the absolute last-minute to get things done. The Hackaday Prize has proved to be no exception to that. Anyone watching the newest projects could see the entries fly in the last few days. Let’s take a quick look at a few.


[Cyrus Tabrizi] submitted Handuino just a few short hours before the deadline. Handuino is an Arduino based human interface device. You can use it to control anything from R/C cars to 3D printers, to robots to Drones. Input is through the joystick, switches, and buttons, and output through the on-board 2.2″ LCD. Projects can interface to the Handuino via a USB port, or an XBEE radio. Nice Work [Cyrus].


[txyz.info] wants to make us more human than human with Bionic Yourself, an implantable device to make you a bionic superhero. [txyz] plans to use sensors such as an electromagnetic field sensor, accelerometers, and Electromyography (EMG) muscle activity detectors. The idea is to not only sense the implanted wearer, but the world around them. The wearer can then use an embedded Bluetooth radio to send commands. The entire system runs on the Arduino platform, so updating your firmware will be easy. Not everyone has a charging port, so [txyz] has included wireless battery charging in the system.

HAD-alarm-clock[Laurens Weyn] wants to wake us all up with Overtime: the internet connected alarm clock. Overtime is a Raspberry PI powered clock with a tower of 7 segment displays. The prototype displays were sourced from an old exchange rate sign. Overtime does all the normal clock things, such as display the time, and date. It even allows you to set and clear alarms. The display is incredible – there are enough pixels there to play Tetris. Overtime is currently running on an Arduino Mega, but [Laurens] plans to move to a Raspberry PI and hook into the internet for information such as Google calender events.

We’re going to cut things a bit short this week. Your work is done (for now) but for the Hackaday staff, the work is just beginning. We’re already on task, reviewing the entries, and picking which submissions will move on to the next round. Good luck to everyone who entered.

As always, See you in next week’s Hacklet. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!