Sending data over Bluetooth Low Energy with a cheap nRF24L01+ module

nRF24L01+ modules like the one shown above are a great way to send data wirelessly between your projects. They can be found on many websites for less than $1.50

a piece and many libraries exist for them. After having thoroughly looked at the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) specifications, [Dimitry] managed to find a way to broadcast BLE data with an nRF24L01+.

Luckily enough, BLE and nRF24L01+ data packets have the same preambles. However, the latter can’t send more than 32bytes in a packet and can’t hop between frequencies as fast as the BLE specification wants. [Dimitry] found the solution when he discovered that he could send unsolicited advertisements on three specific channels. In the end, considering the 32 bytes the nRF24L01+ can send, you’ll need to use 3 bytes for the CRC, 2 for the packet header, 6 for the MAC address and 5 for devices attributes. This leaves us with 16 bytes of pure data or 14 bytes to split between data and name if you want your project to have one.

A think-tank solution for monitoring radioactive water storge tanks

SONY DSC

When we hear reports of radioactive water leaking into the ocean from the [Fukushima Dai-Ichi] plant in Japan we literally have to keep ourselves from grinding our teeth. Surly the world contains enough brain power to overcome these hazards. Instead of letting it gnaw at him, [Akiba] is directing his skills at one solution that could help with the issue. There are a number of storage tanks on site which hold radioactive water and are prone to leaking. After hearing that they are checked manually each day, with no automated level monitoring, he got to work. Above is the wireless non-contact tank level sensor rig he built to test out his idea.

A couple of things made this a quick project for him. First off, he just happened to have a MaxSonar MB7389 waterproof sonar sensor on hand. Think of this as a really fancy PING sensor that is water tight and can measure distance up to five meters. [Akiba's] assumption is that the tanks have a hatch at the top into which this sensor would be positioned. The box next to it contains a Freakduino of his own design which includes hardware for wireless communications at 900 MHz. This is the same hardware he used for that wireless toilet monitor.

We really like seeing hacker solutions to environmental problems. A prime example is some of the cleanup hacks we saw around the time of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

 

Xbox 360 light right and RF module connected to Raspberry Pi

rpi-connected-to-xbox-lightring

If you want to mess around with your Xbox 360 controllers on a computer Microsoft would be happy to sell you a USB dongle to do so. But [Tino] went a different route. The board that drives the Xbox 360’s status light ring also includes the RF module that wirelessly connects the controllers. He wired this up to his Raspberry Pi using the GPIO header.

The module connects via an internal cable and is treated much like a USB device by the Xbox motherboard. The problem is that it won’t actually handle the 5V rail found on a USB connector; it wants 3.3V. But this is no problem for the RPi’s pin header. Once a few connections have been made the lights are controlled via SPI I2C and [Tino] posted some example code up on Github to work with the RF module. He plans to post a follow-up that interfaces the module with a simple microcontroller rather than an RPi board. If you can’t wait for that we’re sure you can figure out the details you need by digging through his example code.

Hacklet adds Linux control for the Modlet smart outlet

modlet-for-linux-hacklet

Linux users now have a simple option for controlling the Modlet smart outlet. Hacklet is a Ruby script that can switch and read status information from Modlet.

This is the first we remember hearing about Modlet. It’s another take on controlling your appliances remotely. Unlike WeMo, which puts control of one outlet on WiFi, the Modlet uses a USB dongle to control two outlets wirelessly. It has the additional benefit of reading how much current is being used by each plug. This does mean that you need a running computer with the USB dongle to control it. But cheap embedded systems like the Raspberry Pi make this less of an issue both in up-front cost, and the price to keep it running all the time.

[Matt Colyer's] demo video includes an unboxing of the $60 starter kit. The screen seen above shows his script pairing with the outlet. It goes on to demonstrate commands to switch it, and to pull the data from the device. He even provides an example of how to use IFTTT with the script.

[Read more...]

Reverse engineering a wireless protocol

logic

Like all good tinkerers, [Andrew] decided to figure out how his wireless security system worked. Yes, it’s an exercise in reverse engineering, and one of the best we’ve seen to date.

After breaking out the handheld spectrum analyzer and TV tuner SDR, [Andrew] cracked open a few devices and had a gander at the circuit boards. The keypad, PIR sensor, and base station all used a TI radio chip – the CC11xx series – that uses SPI to communicate with a microcontroller.

Attaching a logic analyzer directly to the radio chip and reading the bits directly, [Andrew] started getting some very good, if hard to understand data. From the security system specs, he knew it used a ’20-bit code’, but the packets he was reading off the SPI bus were 48 bits long. The part of this code was probably the system’s address, but how exactly does the system read its sensors?

The easiest way to figure this out was to toggle a few of the sensors and look at the data being transmitted. With a good bit of reasoning, [Andrew] figured out how the alarm system’s code worked. This theory was tested by connecting one of the radios up to an Arduino and having his suspicions confirmed.

While [Andrew]‘s adventure in reverse engineering is only a benefit for people with this model of security system, it’s a wonderful insight into how to tear things apart and understand them.

An XBMC controller built for Grandma

10-finished-controller

Is your grandmother cool enough to use XBMC? Maybe it’s a testament to the functionality of the wildly popular home entertainment suite rather than the hipness of your elders. But indeed, [Brian's] grandmother is an XBMC user who needed a controller with larger buttons to accommodate her. This is what he built. He sent us a set of photos and a description of the build, both of which you can see below. He was inspired to get in touch after reading about the custom controller which [Caleb] has been working on for [Thomas].

[Brian] didn’t get bogged down with electronics. He went with the simple, cheap, and popular solution of gutting a wireless keyboard. After tracing out the keys he needed he got rid of everything except the PCB. A wiring harness was crafted by soldering jumper wires to the PCB traces and terminating them with crimping slide connectors. The arcade buttons he used have terminals for the connectors which will make it simple to mate the electronics with the mechanics.

The enclosure is a little wooden hobby box. It originally had a lid with a mirror. [Brian] broke open the lid’s frame to replace it with a thin piece of plywood which hosts the buttons. Inside you’ll find a battery power source. These keyboards last a long time on one set of batteries so he just needs to remember to preemptively replace them from time to time. The finishing touch was to add decals so that granny can figure out what each button does.

[Read more...]

RF wireless kernel module for Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone and others

rfm12b-kernel-module

If you’ve done any wireless work with hobby electronics you probably recognize this part. The green PCB is an RFM12B wireless board. They come in a few different operating bandwidths, the 433 MHz is probably the most common. They’re super easy to interface with a small microcontroller but what about an embedded Linux board? That is the focus of this project, which builds a kernel driver for the RF module.

You can get your own RFM12B for a few bucks. They’re quite versatile when paired, but a lot of inexpensive wireless consumer goods operate on this band so the board can be used to send commands to wireless outlets, light fixtures, etc. [Georg] has been working with the BeagleBone, BeagleBone Black, and Raspberry Pi. His software package lets you build a kernel module to add an entry for the device into the /dev directory of a Linux system. So far the three boards listed are all that’s supported, but if you have five I/O pins available it should be a snap to tailor this to other hardware.

Wondering what else you can do with the setup? This will get the receiving end of a text-messaging doorbell up and running in no time.

[Read more...]

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