DIY Electricity and Internet for Burning Man

bmPowerInet

Despite this being [Kenneth Finnegan's] first Burning Man, the guy came prepared and stayed connected by setting up a beefy electricity supply and a faint yet functional internet connection. If you saw [Kenneth's] Burning Man slideshow, you know that the desert is but a mild deterrent against power, water, and even temporary runways.

He borrowed a 20V 100W solar panel from Cal Poly and picked up a bargain-price TSMT-20A solar charge controller off eBay. The controller babysits the batteries by preventing both overcharging and over-discharging. The batteries—two Trojan-105 220Ah 6V behemoths—came limping out of a scissor lift on their last legs of life: a high internal resistance ruled out large current draws. Fortunately, the power demands were low, as the majority of devices were 12VDC or USB. [Kenneth] also had conveniently built this USB power strip earlier in the year, which he brought along to step down to 5VDC for USB charging.

Internet in the desert, however, was less reliable. A small team provides a microwave link from civilization every summer, which is shared via open access points in 3 different camps. [Kenneth] pointed his Ubiquiti NanoStation at the nearest one, which provided a host of inconvenient quirks and top speeds of 2-20kBps: enough, at least, to check emails.

Spoofing WiFi AP based geolocation

spoofing-wifi-geolocation

[Pierre Dandumont] just finished up a little project that will give Google Maps’ location feature a run for its money. It’s a technique that spoofs WiFi networks in order to relocate the positional data reported via WiFi networks.

He starts with an explanation of the different ways modern devices acquire location data. GPS is the obvious, and mobile network triangulation is pretty well know. But using WiFi networks may be a new trick for you. We’re not 100% certain but we think Google is able to look up location data based on known IP addresses for WiFi access points (this would be a good comments discussion). To trick the system all you have to do is feed some captured AP data into the computer before Google Maps tried to lock onto a location. The video after the break shows Maps with the legit location displayed. After running a quick script whose output is shown above the map position is changed to the spoofed location.

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Tiny WiFi modules, again

cc3000

The CC3000 is a tiny, single-chip component that adds all the necessary hardware (save for a chip antenna) and software to get even the most minimal microcontrollers onto a WiFi network. It was announced early this year but making proper breakout boards takes time, you know? This time has finally arrived with CC3000 modules from Adafruit, and evaluation modules and booster packs from TI themselves.

Unlike other microcontroller-compatible WiFi modules out there, the CC3000 takes care of just about everything – the TCP/IP stack, security stuff, and even the configuration with TI’s SmartConfig app for desktop, laptop, or mobile devices. Realistically, you can get an ATtiny, an exceedingly sparse microcontroller, or even a Commodore 64 or Apple II on the Internet with this. It’s very, very cool.

While these breakout boards and modules are priced very well for what they do, they’re still fairly expensive to stick in a project permanently. Where the CC3000 really shines is including it in your next fabbed board. There are already Altium parts and an Eagle library that includes this part should you need help with that, and blatant advertising for our overlords at SupplyFrame if you’re looking for a source.

Hack It: In-refrigerator egg monitoring

hack-it-egg-sensor

Here’s a concept piece that monitors the eggs in your refrigerator. It’s still in development and we don’t think the general public is ready for digital egg monitoring quite yet. But we love the concept and want to hear from you to see if you could develop your own version.

What we know about the device is that — despite the image which makes smart phone proximity seem important — it connects to the Internet from inside your fridge. It will tell you how many eggs you have left, and even tracks the date at which each entered your refrigerator.

So, what’s inside this thing and who can build their own the fastest? We’ll cover some specs and speculate a bit to get you started: There’s a light sensor to detect when the door opens and an LED below each egg to illuminate the oldest. We think the light sensor triggers a microcontroller that uses each of the egg LEDs as a light sensor as well. If the threshold is too low then there is indeed an egg in that cup. We also like the fact that the tray has fourteen slots; as long as you don’t buy eggs until you have just two left you’ll always have room.

If you build one we want to know. We’re thinking 3D printed cups, low-power microcontroller, but we’re kind of stumped on the cheapest WiFi solution. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

[via Reddit via NY Daily News via Mind of Geek]

Turning a router into an Arduino shield

shield

[Dirk] had a problem: while he already had an Arduino with an Ethernet shield, he needed WiFi for an upcoming project. Running a Cat5 cable was out of the question, and a true Arduino WiFi shield is outrageously expensive. He did, however, have a WiFi router lying around, and decided it would make a perfect WiFi shield with just a little bit of cutting.

The router [Dirk] used was a TL-WR702N, a common router found in the parts bins of makers the world over. Inspiringly, the size of the router’s PCB was just larger than the space between the Arduino’s pin headers. Turning the router into a shield is simply a matter of scoring the edge of the board and gluing on a few pins for mechanical strength.

Power and ground lines were soldered between the pin headers and the router, while data is passed to the Arduino and Ethernet shield through a short cable. It may not look pretty, but if it works in a pinch we can’t complain.

TI’s CC3000 WiFi chip gets a library

About six months ago, Texas Instruments released a simple, cheap, single-chip WiFi module. At $10 a piece in quantities of 1000, the CC3000 is a much better solution to the problem of an ‘Internet of Things’ than a $50 Arduino Ethernet modules, or even the $30 Electric Imp. All indications, especially the frequent out of stock status for the dev board on TI’s web site, show the CC3000 will be a popular chip, but until now we haven’t seen a CC3000 library for the Arduino or other microcontrollers.

[Chris] just solved that problem for us with a CC3000 WiFi library for the Arduino. He ported TI’s MSP430 CC3000 library to the Arduino, allowing even the bare-bones Arduino Uno to connect to a WiFi network with just a handful of parts. The code itself takes about 12k of Flash and 350 bytes of RAM, giving anyone using the CC3000 enough room left over to do some really interesting stuff. There’s even a slimmed down library that uses somewhere between 2k and 6k of Flash, making an ATtiny-powered web server a reality.

There are a few caveats in using the CC3000 with an Arduino; it’s a 3.3 Volt part, so you’ll need a level shifter or some resistors. Also, the chip draws about 250 mA when it’s being used, so you’ll need a beefy battery if you want your project to last an entire day of use.

Now that the library is out of the way, be on the lookout for a CC3000 breakout board. Here’s one, but expect some more on the market soon.

Building a WiFi enabled Nixie counter

wifi-nixie-counter

[Kevin Ballard] built this Nixie counter on the company dime. Tubes like this are getting more and more difficult to find since they’re no longer being manufactured. But when the Bossman hands you a corporate credit card those kinds of concerns take a back seat to your parts-shopping impulses. Start to finished this WiFi enabled counter took six weeks to build.

Connecting the board to the internet was very easy thanks to the Electric Imp that drives it. The difficult part comes in building a driver board and sockets for the tubes. We don’t see a lot of detail on how he’s generating the high voltage. But you can get a good feel for the tube connectors from the picture. He’s using an adapter PCB from Kosbo which breaks the tube pins out to two rows of 0.1″ pitch pin headers. The acrylic base has a port for each made of pin sockets spaced by a thick chunk of acrylic. Wiring harnesses wrap around the back side of the base to mate with the driver hardware. It’s programmed to count some type of company metric (it was funded by the corporation after all). They must be fairly successful because those numbers are flying by in the demo video.

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