Get neck-deep into ZigBee

Here’s a bulky tutorial that will round-out your understanding of ZigBee wireless communications (translated). The protocol is great for hobby electronics projects because it uses low-power short range wireless devices to build a mesh network. The guide covers both hardware and software, but also takes the time to explain what that hardware is doing in the background.

As you can see, several different renditions of an XBee module are used as examples. They pretty much all rely on a series of SparkFun breakout boards that each serve different purposes. Once you’ve acquired these modules, there’s a fair number of choices needed to configure them to play nicely with each other. We read most of the tutorial (we’ll save the rest for later enjoyment) and had no problem following along even without owning the hardware or being able to use the interface as we learned.

Whenever we cover XBee modules we always like to mention that it’s quite easy to use these for remote sensors with no additional microcontroller needed.

The Zigroller Balance Bot

The Zigroller is a Zigbee remote-controlled balance bot.  Although balance bots have been featured on [HAD] before, the Zigroller appears to be well-built and the project is well documented.  Besides a section on hardware, the software for this build is documented here.  The theory behind a balancing bot like this is given in this [MIT] paper if you’d like some more background.

The roller itself was conceived as a project for a UW class this summer.  The class was about control theory, so the electronics and mechanical setup was copied off of the [ArduRoller] project.  In order to keep this project from influencing the control code of this ‘bot, it’s claimed that the code was not looked at while writing the new software. The process for building the remote control assembly is nicely documented and is an original creation for this project. Check out a video of it in action after the break! Continue reading “The Zigroller Balance Bot”

Zigbee home automation gives us another reason not to get up

[Russell] sent in a neat home automation project he’s been working on. Even though the project only has two devices so far, we can already see the potential of his project.

Instead of the X10 standard that has been a staple of home automation for more than 30 years, [Russell] went with ZigBee modules. Aside from being much faster and more flexible than X10 home automation modules, ZigBees also open up a bunch of projects that would be impossible if he went with X10. With some well-placed IR transmitters hidden in his living room, it would be possible to have a TV and cable box controlled via the Internet.

So far, [Russell] built an network-controlled RGB ‘mood lamp’ and an infrared remote for his central air. Everything is controlled through a web app, and [Russell] says that additional modules can be easily added to the code.

Check out [Russell]’s demo of his project after the break.

Continue reading “Zigbee home automation gives us another reason not to get up”

Blox That Play Back

I’m sure most of us remember playing with blocks when we were kids, well now this age old children’s toy has been crammed full of electrical goodness by a team of Electrical Engineers from the University of Texas. The Blox, which are about the size of a standard Rubiks Cube each contain 16 IR sensors, 4 touch panels, a 3-axis accelerometer, a ZigBee Wireless Module, a 2″ OLED display and a battery, all controlled using an ARM Cortex processor.

The Blox show their full potential when used together as an interactive distributed computing system. Blox is an open source project so all of the build details, schematics and code can be found on the website. For an overview and demonstration of the Blox check out the video after the break.

Continue reading “Blox That Play Back”

Hackaday Links: Monday, May 30th

Huge, fully functional NES game pad replica


Students at Dutch TU Delft university recently built a huge replica of the original NES controller (Google Translation), which is fully functional and can be used to play games on a large display screen they also installed. How big is it, you ask? It’s about 6 meters wide – over 30 times the size of the original NES game pad and requires participants to jump on the buttons to play.

Convert any image to G-code


Members of [Forskningsavdelningen], a Swedish hackerspace, are working on software that will allow users to vectorize bitmap images in order to convert them to G-code files for CNC milling. A good portion of the project is complete, but there is still a bit of work to do, so you won’t see it in action for a while. When it’s ready, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Convert your lame Dead Space plasma cutter into a bonafide laser weapon


If you forked out big bucks for the special edition of Dead Space 2, you know how lame the included plasma cutter replica is. Check out this video, that shows you how to convert your LED toy to a dual laser, fire starting, laser pistol. The process is pretty simple, so what are you waiting for?

Synchronized, LED-lit juggling balls


[Jonathan] wrote in to share a project he and some friends have just finished. He’s not sharing a ton of details at the moment, but he has put up a video showing off their wireless LED juggling balls. All we know is that they use bright RGB LEDS, Zigbees for communication, and that they are awesome. We can’t wait to hear more about them!

Water cooled PS3 Laptop


[Pirate] recently unveiled his latest work, a water-cooled Playstation 3 laptop. It looks pretty sharp, and can undoubtedly rival some of Ben Heck’s work, even if it does have an external PSU. Obviously having a separate power component isn’t necessarily ideal, but when you are cramming all of that water cooling goodness into such a small package, something has to give!

Extracting secured firmware from Freescale Zigbee radios


[Travis Goodspeed] recently tore down the Freescale MC13224 wireless radio chip in an effort to demonstrate how the device’s firmware could be read, even when locked down in “secure” mode. While you might not recognize the Freescale MC13224 radio by name alone, you are certainly familiar with some of its practical applications. Found in the QuahogCon and Ninja Party badges among other consumer goods, the popular Zigbee radio turned out to be a fairly easy conquest.

[Travis] first used acid to decap one of the microcontrollers to see what was going on under the plastic casing. Inside, he discovered a discrete flash memory chip, which he removed and repackaged using a wedge wire bonder. He was easily able to extract the firmware, however decapping and repackaging a flash chip isn’t necessarily the most user-friendly process.

After digging further, he discovered that holding one of the chip’s pins low during boot would allow him to run custom code that recovers the firmware image once the pin is pulled high once again. This far more practical means of firmware recovery can be easily facilitated via a circuit board revision, as [Travis] mentions in his blog.

IP-based engine remote enable switch


[Mariano] owns a late 90’s Jeep Wrangler, and had no idea just how easy it was to steal. Unfortunately for him, the guy who made off with his Jeep was well aware of the car’s vulnerabilities. The problem lies in the ignition – it can be broken out with a screwdriver, after which, the car can be started with a single finger. How’s that for security?

[Mariano] decided that he would take matters into his own hands and add a remote-controlled switch to his car in order to encourage the next would-be thief to move on to an easier target. He describes his creation as a “remote kill” switch, though it’s more of a “remote enable” switch, enabling the engine when he wants to start the car rather than killing it on command.

The switch system is made up of two pieces – a server inside the car’s engine bay, and a remote key fob. The server and the fob speak to one another using IPv6 over 802.15.4 (the same standard used by ZigBee modules). Once the server receives a GET request from the key fob, it authenticates the user with a 128-bit AES challenge/response session, allowing the car to be started.

It is not the simplest way of adding a remote-kill switch to a car, but we like it. Unless the next potential car thief digs under the hood for a while, we’re pretty sure [Mariano’s] car will be safe for quite some time.