Hackaday Links: December 13th, 2012

Cardboard box computer

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[Alistair] chapman had a Laptop with a broken screen sitting in his parts bin. He knew he had an LCD panel on hand that would probably work with it, but it wouldn’t fit in the case. His solution was to transplant all the computer parts into a cardboard box from a motherboard.

This violin is garbage

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The kids in this orchestra live in a villiage built on top of a landfill. But they make the most out of what they have. This orchestra is composed of instruments built from garbage and they seem to work pretty well. [Thanks Bruce]

More LED mystery puzzles

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[Henryk] is at it again. He puts together some very impressive circuits that play tricks on your engineering mind. His latest is three LEDs in series. Look closely and you’ll see they’re not performing as expected. Watching the solution to one of his previous puzzles will help you figure out how he’s doing it. His work is simply amazing.

Netbook framed as a dedicated weather station

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Not wanting to get rid of old but still working hardware, [Retro Toaster] built a dedicated weather station by mounting the screen, keyboard, and track pad in a picture frame.

Current and voltage testing your USB projects

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This dev board is a pass-through for USB devices. It makes voltage and current testing your device quite simple.

An Extemely Unique Weather Display

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Most home weather displays use an LED screen or other moderately interesting methods of showing you what’s going on outside. The [Tempescope], however, takes an entirely different route, actually recreating a tiny weather environment on your bookshelf!

This active weather device is controlled via an Arduino as well as a pump, ultrasound diffuser, and other assorted components connected to a computer. It was originally meant to display, or more accurately recreate (precreate?) tomorrow’s weather. What is even more interesting is that using [World Weather] software, it’s able to simulate the weather on any place on earth.

Early in this article [Ken] lists the art of [bonsai] as one of his inspirations. He’s open to suggestions as to how to expand this device, which can be seen after the break. We (I at least) would think it was awesome if there was actually a bonsai tree in the environment in keeping with its influences. Certainly our readers can give him some feedback as well! [Read more...]

Building a steam punk style time and weather display

This is [Pierre Cauchois'] digital weather display. Since weather displays are ubiquitous in this day of smart phones in every pocket he went out of his way to give it a unique look. He started with a wooden voltmeter case, swapping the ancient display for a modern LCD screen.

He used Gadgeteer components for the retrofit. The images for the LCD are stored on an SD card and displayed on demand. Since the digital bezel will be the same no matter what the time or environmental conditions [Pierre] used the power of the .NET framework that drives the system. He made up an image using magenta for all of the dial openings. This way a sprite can be used just for the changing numbers, weather icon, and graphing area.

Looking at all that went into coding the project we think the Gadgeteer components are perfect for those that are well-versed in upper-level languages and don’t really want to deal with low-level microcontroller issues.

[Thanks George]

Extending the range of wireless weather stations with walkie talkies

[Roel] wanted to put a wireless weather station in his greenhouse. Even though the weather station was supposed to transmit over fairly long distances, the geometry of his back yard and a few stone walls killed the radio signal even after putting a good antenna on the receiving side of his wireless weather station setup. Wanting to get his weather station working, [Roel] did the sensible thing and built a packet radio setup out of a pair of walkie talkies, greatly increasing the range of his weather station.

This build comes after [Roel] spent a great deal of time reverse engineering the wireless protocol of his Thierry Mugler weather station. With a little bit of code, [Roel] is able to get the current temperature and humidity reading into his Linux box. This system relies on the transmitter inside the weather station, so the system falls apart over any sufficiently large distance.

To increase the range of his weather station, [Roel] took his existing hardware and added a pair of inexpensive FRS walkie talkies. The build uses the hardware from his previous build to get the radio data from the weather station. This data is sent over to an ATmega88 where it’s converted to packet radio and sent over the walkie-talkie. On the receiving side, the output of a second walkie-talkie is piped into the Linux soundmodem app (link, but it’s down as of this writing) where it’s decoded. Sending the received data to gnuplot makes a very nice graph of the temperature and humidity.

[Roel] put the code for both the tx and rx sides of the build up on his build page. Very nice work that uses very inexpensive hardware.

Arduino weather-station to Internet bridge

Here’s a project that looks to eliminate the PC necessary for pushing weather station data to the Internet. When you think about it, getting data from your own weather sensing hardware to a site like Weather Underground doesn’t require very much processing at all. The largest chunk of the puzzle is a window to the Internet, and that can be easily accomplished with a microcontroller rather than an always-on computer.

In this case, [Boris Landoni] is using an Arduino along with an RS232 shield and an Ethernet shield. The weather station, a La Crosse WS23xx series, already has an RS232 serial port for grabbing the data. The shield is necessary to step the voltage down to levels that will play nicely with Arduino. It also gives you a D-Sub connector for easy hook up. From there he hit up the documentation for Weather Undeground API, writing code to build the necessary string which is pushed over the Ethernet connection at regular intervals.

If your weather station only offers a USB port you’re not out of luck. Using an embedded platform with USB host functionality you can achieve the same results as we see here.

Extend your personal weather station’s reporting capabilities

This Nexus wireless weather station has an array of weather sensors that you mount outside and monitor on the LCD screen. It also has the ability to stream the data over USB, but that feature is only supported in Windows and the companion software leaves a lot to be desired. Here’s a technique that will let you unlock the potential of the data by streaming it to your Linux box or directly to the Internet.

It turns out that grabbing the data via Linux has been made quite easy thanks to a package called TE923 (translated). With the base unit connected via USB, the software will pull down a string of colon-separated data which will be easy to parse using your favorite scripting language. But what if you don’t want to tether this to a computer?

The project goes one step further by using a Carambola board. This is a WiFi board with a USB port on it. It runs OpenWRT so getting TE923 going is as simple as building the package. The best part is, any wireless router that runs OpenWRT (or DD-WRT, etc.) and has a USB port can substitute for this board. With the module connected to the station, data is pushed to the Pachube website to serve as a custom web readout.

[Thanks Saulius]

La Crosse weather station wireless data acquisition

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Hackaday reader [equinoxefr] posted some images to our flickr pool showing off some modifications he made (Google Translation) to his La Crosse WS2305 weather station. Having built other router-based weather stations in the past, [equinoxefr] was looking for a better way to gather weather data after one of the routers gave up the ghost.

With a brand new La Crosse WS2305 in hand, his goal was to feed the Lacross’ data to his HTPC which runs XBMC. He pulled the weather station apart and probed around with an oscilloscope until he could find the TTL Tx and Rx pins required to retrieve data from the unit. He hooked the data pins to an XBee wireless transmitter, which he then tucked away in the station’s battery compartment.

Another XBee unit was connected to his computer via an XBee Explorer board, and he was reading data from his weather station in no time.

While his isn’t the first La Crosse weather station hack we’ve seen around here, we like how simple and clean it is. If you’re interested, be sure to check out his flickr stream to see more images of the hacking process.