RF wireless kernel module for Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone and others


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...]

Build a waterproof music controller on the cheap


[Aaron] wrote in to show off the waterproof music controller (translated) he just finished building. He uses it in the shower — which makes us wonder how long he’s spending in there. We could also see it being useful by the pool, on the beach, or anywhere else that you need a cheap and easy control system.

His computer plays tunes while he’s getting ready for the day. This means he was able to use an inexpensive wireless keyboard for control. The donor keyboard has dedicated music control keys which he carefully traced to the PCB before removing the flexible sheets that detect key presses. Next he found a water tight food container and sized his protoboard to fit. You can see his button layout above. Holes were cut in the lid of the container, with a plastic membrane glued on the underside. This will keep the water out while still allowing him to actuate the momentary push switches.

Most mobile devices will work with wireless keyboards. If your car is nearby just hook your phone to the stereo and control it with this rather than building a dedicated beach stereo system.

Wireless microcontroller/PC interface for $3


Sending data from a microcontroller to a PC usually requires some sort of serial connection, either through fiddly on-chip USB, FTDI chips, or expensive radio ICs. [Scott] didn’t want to deal with this when creating a network of wireless temperature sensors, so he hacked up a few cheap 433 MHz radio transmitters and receivers to transmit data to a PC for about $3.

After sensor data is collected on a microcontroller and sent over radio, there’s still the issue of getting it into a PC. For this, [Scott] piped the data into the microphone port of a cheap USB sound card. We’ve seen this trick before both in the world of microcontrollers and loading programs onto a Commodore 64 via a cassette interface.

Once the data is sent into the sound card, it’s decoded with a a small Python app. Given the range and quality of the RF transmitters and receivers  [Scott] says it’s not an extremely reliable way to send data to a PC. It is cheap, though, and if you need to read sensors wirelessly on a budget, it’s hard to do much better.

Check out [Scott]‘s demo of his creation below.

Wireless doorbell battery monitor


We know exactly what [Dan] is going through. We also bought a cheap wireless doorbell and are plagued by the batteries running down. When that happens, the only way you know is when people start pounding on the door because you’re not answering the bell. Well no more for [Dan]. He built a backup system which monitors the voltage of the batteries on the chime unit.

You can see the small bit of protoboard he used to house the microcontroller and the UI. It’s an ATtiny13 along with a green LED and a single push button. The idea is to use the chip’s ADC to monitor the voltage level of the pair of batteries which power the chime. When it drops below 3V the green LED will come on.

First off, we wish these things would come with better power supply circuits. For instance, we just replaced the CR2032 in an Apple TV remote and measured the voltage at 2.7V. That remote and the chime both run from a 3V source. Can’t they be made to work down to 1.8V? But we digress.

In addition to monitoring voltage [Dan's] rig also counts the number of times the chime has rung. Every eight seconds it flashes the count in binary, unless he presses the red button to clear the count. This is shown in the video after the break. We guess he wants to know how many times this thing can be used before running the batteries down.

Seriously though, for a rarely used item like this how hard would it be to use ambient light harvesting to help save the batteries? Looking at some indoor solar harvesting numbers shows it might be impossible to only power this from PV, but what if there was a super-cap which would be topped off with a trickle from the panels but would still use the batteries when that runs down?

[Read more...]

Finally, TI is producing simple, cheap WiFi modules


Ever responsive to the hobbyist market, Texas Instruments is releasing a very inexpensive, very simple WiFi module specifically designed for that Internet of Things.

The TI SimpleLink TI CC3000 WiFi module is a single-chip solution to putting 802.11b/g WiFi in just about every project you can dream up. Just about everything needed to put the Internet in a microcontroller is included in this chip – there’s a TCP/IP stack included on the chip, along with all the security stuff needed to actually connect to a network.

The inexpensive micocontroller WiFi solutions we’ve seen – including the very cool Electric Imp – had difficult, or at least odd, means of putting WiFi credentials such as the SSID and password onto the device. TI is simplifying this with SmartConfig, an app running on a phone, tablet, or PC that automagically takes care of setting up a link in a wireless network.

Best of all, the CC3000 only costs $10 in quantities of 1000. Compare that to other Internet of Things WiFi solutions, and it looks like we might be seeing and easy and cheap way to connect a project to the internet this year.

Wireless speaker made using Arduinos and 2.4 GHz tranceivers

[Texane] picked up a 2.4 GHz transmitter/receiver pair for transmitting sensor data wirelessly. After using them in a project he wanted to try pushing them a bit to see what the limits are when it comes to higher bandwidths. He ended up building a wireless speaker that transmits audio at about 90 KB/s. That link leads to a subfolder of his git repository. The code for this project is in the RX and TX folders, with images and video in the DOC folder.

The radio hardware that he’s using is a Nordic nRF24L01P chip which is available on a breakout board from Sparkfun. [Texane] mentioned to us that the chip includes error checking, packet ACK, and automatic retransmission. But these add overhead that can slow things down. The chip does offer the option to disable these features to get lower level access to the hardware. That’s exactly what he did and he mentions that the example code he wrote for the transmitter and receiver make every cycle count. This makes us wonder if it’s the speed of the ATmega328 chip that is the bottleneck, or the transceivers themselves?

Wireless water heater monitor uses whatever was lying around

[Chris] set out to build a monitoring system for his water heater. It doesn’t Tweet or send SMS messages. It simply lights up an LED when the water heater is active. The one thing that complicates the setup is that he didn’t want to pull any wire from the garage into the house. What you see above is the wireless setup he used to accomplish this goal.

This is an electric water heater, so [Chris] patched into the 230V heating element feed. When the water heater is idle this connection is cut off. He used a transformer to step the voltage down to 17V and rectified it before feeding a 7805 power regulator. The rest of the transmitter circuit consists of a 555 timer driving the coil seen on the left. It is made out of telephone wire, with each of the four conductors inside connected together to multiply the number of windings. The box of breakfast sausages hosts the receiver coil. His hardware takes the induced current from that coil and amplifies it, feeding the signal to the base of a transistor responsible for switching the status LED. This works through the 6″ thick garage wall, although he did have to use a battery on the receiving end as his wall wart was injecting way too much noise into the system to work.


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