Jacob’s Ladder makes itself at home in a floppy disk box

[Plasanator] adds a bit of safety to his Jacob’s Ladder by housing it in a familiar enclosure. It doesn’t take very many components to make one of these, but to get the high voltage you’ll need some type of coil. He’s using one from the electrical system of an old car, then building around it with a big 15mf 220V capacitor, a dimmer switch normally used in household wiring, terminal blocks, and some braising rod or coat hanger for the spark to traverse.

The video after the break shows this in operations, and we’d agree with [Plasanator] that this is a wonderful addition to your Halloween decor. Of course you want to keep fingers away from the dangerous bits and that’s where the enclosure and key lock come into play. Were not sure what he made the upright cylinder from, but the base is a blast from the past. Remember when one of those used to sit proudly on every desk as a tribute to how important the information you had on had really was?

Don’t want to play with high voltage like this? You can build a fake using EL wire.

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Converting the BlinkM into the world’s tiniest Arduino


The BlinkM “Smart LED” is a great little device on its own accord. It allows for complete control of its RGB LED using a built-in microcontroller, enabling the user to do a wide array of things that normally require PWM to accomplish. At just over half an inch square, this little device might also be the smallest Arduino on the market.

The BlinkM packs an ATiny85 micro controller, which allows it to be flashed with the Arduino bootloader thanks to the people over at the [High-Low Tech group at MIT]. They did some tweaking of the Arduino IDE configuration files and incorporated some core library code created by [Alessandro Saporetti] to get the job done – all of which is available on their site.

Once the code is uploaded to the BlinkM, you essentially have a micro Arduino running at 8MHz with a built in LED and 2 I/O lines (5 if you snip off the LED). It’s a great device to have on hand if you feel like a full-fledged Arduino would be overkill in your project.

Stick around to see a video tutorial of the reflashing process.

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SMS gateway lets you Twitter by text message

[GuySoft] threw together a cellphone-based SMS gateway that allows him to push text messages to Twitter. Once up and running, it can be used by multiple people, either with shared or individual Twitter accounts. At its core, this setup uses the cellphone as a tethered modem on a Linux box. The open source software package, Gammu SMSD, provides hardware hooks for phones running in modem mode. The package is already in the Ubuntu repositories but it runs cross-platform and can be downloaded from the project site. This gave [GuySoft] the ability to script a framework that checks for received SMS messages, compares the incoming phone number for a match on a saved list, then pushes the message from a confirmed number to Twitter via their API.

A web interface is used to register new numbers and associate them with Twitter accounts. On the back-end, [GuySoft’s] own Python script handles the translation of the message. You can download all of the code, and get more insight on setup from the readme file, over at the GitHub repository.

Designing a controllable RGB LED driver board

[Paul] wrote in to tell us about this LED driver board he’s been working on with a few friends. The collaborators had been unhappy with the Lumens per Watt ratings (or lack of a rating) on low powered LEDs and set out to find a better solution. They picked up the beefy ASMT-MT00 which houses all three diodes in one package, with all the pins on one side of the surface mount package, a heat dissipating tab on the other side, and pushed 30 Lumens per Watt. With that in hand they set out to design a host board for the blindingly bright light.

The board includes a heat sink on the underside. To drive the LEDs [Paul] sourced an LM3407 constant current driver. The manufacture recommends using one of these chips for each of the colors in the LED package. [Paul] built a circuit that allows him to route power around each LED, making the system work with just one low-side driver. From there, an ATtiny2313 provides addressable control via the RS485 protocol. Screw terminals on either end of the PCB allow this to be chained along with other modules, and they’ve already worked out a basic PureData program that will be able to address multiple boards once they finish manufacturing them.

Headphones use standard-sized but proprietary rechargeable batteries

Here’s something we haven’t run across before. We’re familiar with proprietary battery shapes (we’re looking at you, digital camera manufacturers), or custom recharge connections (look of death directed toward cellphone manufacturers), but using electrical tricks to force AAA brand loyalty is a new one. It seems that’s exactly what is happening with [OiD’s] wireless headphones which were manufactured by Phillips.

The headphones take AAA sized batteries and can use either disposable or rechargeable varieties. There is a warning label advising that only Phillips brand rechargeables should be used, and sure enough, if you try a different brand the performance suffers both in charging time and in battery life. The original batteries are labelled as Nickel Metal Hydride at 1.2V and 550 mAh, which falls within common specs. But [OiD] noticed that there is an extra conductor in the battery compartment that makes contact with the sides of the battery case. Further inspection reveals that a reverse-biased diode makes contact through this conductor with a portion of the battery which has not been painted. This is not true with other brands, allowing the circuit to distinguish between OEM and replacements.

[OiD] shorted out that connection and immediately saw a performance boost from his replacement batteries. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on here without a full schematic for the circuit, but we’d love to hear your speculation on this setup in the comments. Is this a low tech version of the identity chips that camera batteries sometimes hide?

Propeller Lamp

Wanting to replace a power hungry halogen lamp in the living room, [Jason Dorie] went out to design a Remote Controlled, Dimmable Led Lamp (pictures). The body of the lamp is a pretty interesting idea, sporting a couple waste baskets with a translucent HDPE skin as the lampshade and a PVC column for structure.

The column is wrapped in a spiral of 16 foot long led strips , and are wired so they can be controlled in groups. Light output is (estimated) at about the same as a 100-150 watt incandescent while only consuming 24 watts.

The lamp is controlled via a universal remote and features a TLC5940 driven by a Propeller, all sitting on a CNC machined PCB. With that much horsepower under a lamp you can expect that it will not just simply dim in and out, so join us after the break for a video to see how to turn on a lamp with style.

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The Nintendo Entertainment System is by far the most popular 8 bit post crash video game system. Therefore, the NES gets all sorts of mods and hacks done with it, but there is not a whole bunch of noise for its bigger badder 16 bit brother the Super Nintendo. Have no fear though [Vigo the Carpathian] (I did not know it was the season of evil!) helps to correct that in his first Instructable, turning a SNES into an all in one classic video game player.

Using the shell of a Super Nintendo the bottom half includes ZOTAC IONITX-C-U mini ITX motherboard, and a dual SNES controller port to USB that fits in the original openings to use the real deal controllers. A USB port is also mounted for some wireless dual shock action.

On the top half, the eject button, and cartridge slot flaps have been removed and speaker grill cloth was added to provide venting. Near the back of the unit, SD-card to SATA adapter provides storage, which we think is a good idea for cheap SSD storage. Micro switches are also rigged up so that the original power and reset buttons control the same computer functions.

Clean looks, small form factor, join us after the break for a quick video.

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