Hackaday links: September 11, 2012

Xbee sensors at Lowe’s?

Lowe’s, the home improvement big box store, is selling some home automation items which might be Xbee compatible. They’re being sold under the brand name Iris. There is some debate as to whether they’re Xbee, or just 802.15.4 hardware. Either way they might be worth checking out for your wireless projects.

Father sword replica from Conan the Barbarian

Sometimes its just fun to watch the master at work. In this case it’s a blacksmith replicating the sword from Conan the Barbarian. [via Reddit]

LG washing machine that phones home

LG has built an interesting troubleshooting feature into some of their washing machines. This video shows the encoded audio it will output if you use the right button combination. You’re supposed to hold your phone up to the machine while talking to customer service and they’ll be able to get some type of debugging information from the dial-up modem type of sounds. If you end up decoding this audio we want to know about it! [Thanks Pedro]

MicroSD card adapter for Raspberry Pi

[TopHatHacker] was surprised to see a full-sized SD card slot on the Raspberry Pi. His temporary solution to get his microSD card working was to uses a miniSD adapter. He cut away the case and bent the pins until they lined up with the microSD card.

Batman’s cowl for retro motorcycle enthusiasts

Okay, we think this Batman cowl in the style of 1950’s motorcycle garb is pretty cool. Just realize that if you’re seen wearing this you will be thought of as one of the crazy guys in town. [via BoingBoing]

LEGO ROV without a tether

[Brane] built an underwater ROV from LEGO mindstorm parts. Look closely at this image and you should notice something missing. The tether that normally carries power and control lines from an ROV to the surface is missing. This is a wireless solution that lets him control the device using an Xbox controller.

The video after the break shows about five minutes of test drive footage. [Brane] has a big aquarium in which he can test the thing. Since he put it together as his senior engineering project at University it’s likely that this is a testing facility at the school. Here’s the little we know about the hardware: It’s using NXT Mindstorm parts to control the motors, with a sealed chamber for a battery. Connectivity is provided by an XBee module with an NXT adapter board called the NXTBee. A laptop with its own XBee module makes up the other end of communications. Right now [Brane] uses an Xbox controller connected to the laptop, but a standalone device would be easy to build by hacking the XBee and controller together directly.

Continue reading “LEGO ROV without a tether”

Remote control with an XBee and a Propeller

If you’ve been playing with electronics for long enough, eventually you’ll need a nice remote control transmitter to control your RC car, airplane, or any other robotics project you have lying around. With these robotics projects comes the problem remote control, and the XBee Handheld Controller may be just the ticket to remotely control any project that comes off your workbench.

This isn’t the first remote controller we’ve seen that does just about everything, but it is the first one to include an XBee wireless transceiver to easily interface to your robotics project. The controller comes in two models, the Q4, which uses four Playstation-like joysticks, and the Q2, which uses proper remote control gimbal joysticks. Both the controllers have a slew of buttons, toggle switches, four rotary pots and a 2×20 LCD display.

After the break you can check out [Paul]’s pitch explaining what these controllers can do and showing off a hexapod robot under the control of his Q4 controller. A very neat project, and we can’t wait to see this controller out in the field.

Continue reading “Remote control with an XBee and a Propeller”

The excitement of ice fishing now from anywhere in the world

Now you can experience the excitement felt for centuries by ice fisherman thanks to this cellular-capable tip-up.

For the uninitiated a little ice fishing primer may be in order. The majority of what you see above is a standard tip-up rig for ice fishing. Basically it lets you set many baited lines and just watch for a flag to pop up when one of them hooks a fish. Just drill a hole in the ice and drop the line through — the orange frame rests on the surface of the ice.

The add-on here is the grey box which is hiding an Xbee device. A magnet and reed switch (which can be found at the local hardware store) complete a circuit when the flag is down. But if the flag pops up the reed switch opens (or closes, we’re not sure which) and the Xbee sends an alert to a base station, which then converts that to a text message to push to your phone. As you guessed, there’s a video after the break.

Fun and convoluted. But not entirely useless. We’d suggest swapping the Xbee/cellular hardware for a cheap microcontroller/Bluetooth setup. This way you can knock back a few cold ones in the ice house while waiting for the wireless network to alert you via an SL4A script.

Continue reading “The excitement of ice fishing now from anywhere in the world”

Kilonode: how to test a huge Xbee mesh network

So let’s say that you’re a developer on the Xbee team. You need to test the extremes of what the RF radio modules can do when in a large network. But in addition to numerous nodes, you also need to test the effects of distance on the radios. Since it’s not reasonable to distribute hundreds of the devices (each with their own power source) throughout town, you build a test setup like the 1 kilonode Xbee rig which the project manager, [Jared Hofhiens] is showing off.

He’s holding one blade from the rack-mounted system. Each of those squares is an Xbee module, there’s 32 etched onto the board. On the edge furthest from him there are a set of connectors which mate with the rack connectors, hooking the blade up to a set of terminal servers. These servers allow developers to ssh into individual modules. On the near side of the blade there’s a set of attenuation adjustment circuits. They allow adjustments of 0-40 dB of attenuation in 10 dB increments to adjust how strong the RF signals are, simulating distance between modules.

Thirty-two of these cards are mounted in the three racks seen above to make up the 1024 module node. We really appreciate this look behind the scenes and think you’ll enjoy the video tour after the break. If it leaves you wanting more check out how one company builds cloud storage. Continue reading “Kilonode: how to test a huge Xbee mesh network”

Universal 20 channel project controller from a Ps2 controller

So you’ve got a really cool project that requires a wireless controller and a ton of different channels. What are you going to do? Are you going to go pick up an expensive RC controller? Nah, you’re going to build your own. This project makes a generic 20 channel controller for your projects by stuffing an SMDuino and an XBee module inside a ps2 controller.  Unfortunately you lose the force feedback since you have to remove the motors to make space for the extra components and batteries. You do end up with a decently ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing controller though.

Continue reading “Universal 20 channel project controller from a Ps2 controller”

You’ll throw your back out playing this analog TV synth


While CRT televisions fall to the wayside as more people adopt flat-panel TVs, the abundance of unused sets gives hacker/artist [Kyle Evans] an unlimited number of analog canvases on which to project his vision. He recently wrote in to share his latest creation which he dubs “de/Rastra”.

The “CRT Performance Interface” as he calls it, is an old analog television which he hacked to display signals created by moving the TV around. Fitted with an array of force sensors, accelerometers, and switches, the display is dynamically generated by the movements of whomever happens to be holding the set.

Signals are sent wirelessly from his sensor array to an Atmel 328 microcontroller with the help of a pair of XBee radios, where they are analyzed and used to generate a series of audio streams. The signals are fed into a 400W amplifier before being inserted into the CRT’s yoke, and subsequently displayed on the screen.

We’re sure [Kyle] is probably trying to express a complex metaphor about man’s futile attempts to impose his control over technology with his project, but we think it simply looks cool.

Check out [Kyle’s] work for yourself in the video below and give us your take in the comments.

Continue reading “You’ll throw your back out playing this analog TV synth”