Turn Cordless Tool Batteries into USB Chargers

It is the unspoken law of cordless tools – eventually you will have extra batteries lying around from dead tools that are incompatible with your new ones. Some people let them sit in lonesome corners of the garage or basement; others recycle them. [Eggmont] was facing this dilemma with a Makita battery from a broken angle grinder and decided to make a USB charger out of it.

[Eggmont] took the simplistic approach, using an old cigarette lighter-to-USB adapter. First, [Eggmont] removed the battery connector from the bottom of the broken angle grinder. Next, the casing surrounding the cigarette lighter plug was removed so that the adapter’s wires could be soldered to the contacts on the battery connector.  The USB ports were then glued onto the top of the connector. The adapter was rated 9-24V input, so it was fine to use it with the 18V tool battery. Since the battery connector is still removable, the battery can be recharged.

Tool manufacturers are tapping into the market of repurposing old batteries for charging mobile devices. Both DeWalt and Milwaukee Tool have now created their own USB adapters that connect to their batteries. Or, you can purchase the Kickstarter-funded PoweriSite adapter for DeWalt batteries instead. Compared to their cost, [Eggmont’s] project is very economical if you already have the battery at hand – you can find the USB adapter for less than $10 on Amazon.

The Halfbug

[Alex] posted up build details of his robot, Halfbot, on Tinkerlog. We’ve been big fans of his work ever since his Synchronizing Fireflies Instructable way back in the day. [Alex’s] work usually combines an unconventional idea with minimalistic design and precise execution, and Halfbot is no exception.

You’ll have to watch the video (embedded below the break) to fully appreciate the way it moves. The two big front legs alternate with the small front pads to make an always-stable tripod with the caster wheel at the back. It lifts itself up, moves a bit forward, and then rests itself down on the pads again while the legs get in position for the next step. It’s not going to win any speed tournaments, but it’s a great-looking gait.

The head unit also has two degrees of freedom, allowing it to scan around with its ultrasonic rangefinder unit, and adding a bit more personality to the whole affair.

[Alex] mentions that he’d recently gotten a lathe and then a CNC mill. So it’s no surprise that he made all the parts from scratch just to give the machines a workout. We think he did a great job with the overall aesthetics, and in particular the battery pack.

We’re excited to see how [Alex] adds new behaviors as he develops the firmware. No pressure!

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[Fran]’s New Project: The DSKY

[Fran] has already made a name for herself in some retro cool historical aviation and computer circles by tearing down a flight-ready spare of a Saturn V launch vehicle digital computer, the computer that was responsible for getting all flights to the moon into low earth orbit. Now she’s ready for another project, and again, this is something that hasn’t been done in 40 years. She’s building a DSKY, the control panel for the Apollo Guidance Computer

The Apollo Guidance Computer is a well-documented piece of computing history, with homebrew versions all over the web. The DSKY is only one small part of the AGC, but it is by far the most famous module. Being the only user interface for the AGC, it’s the only part of the AGC that gets all the screen time in Apollo 13, the travesty on BluRay that was Apollo 18, and is the only device that bears any physical resemblance to its real-life counterpart in a number of AGC simulators.

That’s not to say DSKY builds haven’t been attempted before; there are a few out there using LEDs and off-the-shelf buttons for the build, but the DSKY from the mid-60s is much, much cooler than a bunch of LEDs and light pipes. The eery green numbers are actually EL displays. Guess how those displays are controlled? Relays. It’s a masterpiece of technology, made even more impressive in that the folks at MIT who built the thing didn’t have anything better to build the display with.

Because of her deconstruction efforts with the Saturn V LVDC, [Fran] was invited down to the National Air and Space museum in the middle of Washington DC. There, she saw everyones favorite ugliest spacecraft, the Apollo LEM, along with an incredible assortment of paraphernalia from aviation history. The Wright Flyer – yes, the original one – is hanging from the ceiling next to the Spirit of St. Louis, and X-15 rocket plane, right above the command module Columbia from Apollo 11. Copies of probes currently rolling over Mars are on display, and you can walk through a training model of Skylab. If you’ve never been, spend half a day there, then take the metro out to the Udvar-Hazy center, where you’ll find all the stuff they couldn’t fit in the downtown collection like a Space Shuttle and a Concorde.

This is only the first part of [Fran]’s vlog documenting the construction of a copy of the DSKY, and we haven’t even seen the inner guts of the most famous part of the AGC yet. She’s been working on this for a while now, and there’s no doubt she’ll finish the job and come up with the best replica of a DSKY ever.

Ask Hackaday: What is The Future of Virtual Reality?

Most of us have heard of Second Life – that antiquated online virtual reality platform of yesteryear where users could explore, create, and even sell content.  You might be surprised to learn that not only are they still around, but they’re also employing the Oculus Rift and completely redesigning their virtual world. With support of the DK2 Rift, the possibilities for a Second Life platform where users can share and explore each other’s creations opens up some interesting doors.

Envision a world where you could log on to a “virtual net”, put on your favorite VR headset and let your imagination run wild. You and some friends could make a city, a planet…and entire universe that you and thousands of others could explore. With a little bit of dreaming and an arduino, VR can bring dreams to life.

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Hacklet 24 – Raspberry Pi Projects

Experimenting with embedded Linux used to mean reformatting an old PC, or buying an expensive dev board. In February of 2012, the Raspberry Pi was released, and it has proven to be a game changing platform. According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, over 3.8 million boards have been sold. 3.8 million translates into a lot of great projects. This week’s Hacklet focuses on some of the best Raspberry Pi projects on Hackaday.io!

rpfpvWe start with [richardginus] and the RpiFPV (aka Raspberry Pi First Person View) project. [Richardginus]  is trying to build a low latency WiFi streaming camera system for radio-controlled models using a Raspberry Pi and camera. He’s gotten the system down into a respectable 160 milliseconds on the bench, but in the field interference from the 2.4GHz R/C transmitter drives latency way up. To fix this, [Richardginus] is attempting to control the plane over the same WiFi link as the video stream. We’d also recommend checking out some of those “outdated” 72 MHz R/C systems on the used market.

piholgaNext up is [James McDuffie] and his RPi Holga. Inspired by [Peter’s] Holga camera project, [James] has stuffed a Raspberry Pi model A, a camera module, and a WiFi adapter into a Holga camera body. The result looks like a stock Holga.  We saw this camera up close at the Hackaday 10th Anniversary event, and it fooled us – we thought [James] was just a lomography buff. It was only after seeing his pictures that we realized there was a Pi hiding inside that white plastic body! Definitely check out [James’] instructions as he walks through everything from hardware mods to software installation.

cluster2No Raspberry Pi list would be complete without a cluster or two, so we have [Tobias W.] and his 3 Node Raspberry Pi Cluster. The Raspberry Pi makes for a cheap and efficient platform to experiment with cluster computing. [Tobias] did a bit more than just slap a few Pis on a board and call it a day though. He custom machined an aluminum plate to hold his 3 node cluster. This makes wire management a snap. The Pi’s communicate through a four port Ethernet hub and all run from a single power supply. He even added a key switch, just like on the “old iron” mainframes. [Tobias] has been a bit quiet lately, so if you run into him, tell him we’re looking for an update on that cluster!

pivenaFrom [Tim] comes the PIvena, a Raspberry Pi laptop which takes its styling cues from [Bunnie Huang’s] Novena computer.  Pivena is a bit smaller though, with a 7” HDMI LCD connected to the Pi. The case is made from laser cut wood and a few 3D printed parts. Everything else is just standard hardware. [Tim] kept the PIvena’s costs down by using a wooden kickstand to hold up the screen rather than Novena’s pneumatic spring system. The base plate of the PIvena includes a grid of mounting holes just like the Novena. There is also plenty of room for batteries to make this a truly portable machine.  The end result is a slick setup that would look great at any Hackerspace. We hope [Tim] creates an update to support the new Raspberry Pi B+ boards!

Our Raspberry Pi-based alarm clock is chiming the hour, so that’s about it for this episode of the Hacklet! As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Adding a Steady Rest to a Lathe

A steady rest is a tool for a lathe, enabling a machinist to make deep cuts in long, slender stock, bore out thin pieces of metal, and generally keeps thin stuff straight. Unlike a tool that follows the cutter, a steady rest is firmly attached to the bed of a lathe. [Josh]’s lathe didn’t come with a steady rest, and he can’t just get parts for it. No problem, then: he already has a lathe, mill, and some metal, so why not make the base for one from scratch?

[Josh] was able to find the actual steady rest from an online dealer, but it wasn’t made for his lathe. This presented a problem when attaching it to his machine: because each steady rest must fit into the bed of the lathe, he would need a custom bracket. With the help of a rather large mill, [Josh] faced off all the sides of a piece of steel and cut a 45 degree groove. To make this base level, [Josh] put one side of the base on the lathe, put a dial micrometer on the tool post, and got an accurate reading of how much metal to take off the uncut side.

With the steady rest bolted onto the lathe, [Josh] turned a rod and found he was off by about 0.002″. To machinists, that’s not great, but for a quick project it’s fantastic. Either way, [Josh] really needed a steady rest, and if it works, you really can’t complain.

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A Breakout Board for the ESP8266-03

In the last few weeks we have been seeing a lot of ESP8266 based projects. Given this WiFi module is only $3 on Ebay it surely makes sense using it as an Internet of Things (IoT) platform. To facilitate their prototyping stage I designed a breakout board for it.

The board shown above includes a 3.3V 1A LDO, a genuine FT230x USB to UART adapter, a button to make the ESP8266 jump into its bootloader mode and a header where you can find all the soldered-on-board module IOs. One resistor can be removed to allow 3.3V current measurement, another can be populated to let the FT230X start the bootloader jumping procedure. All the IOs have 1k current limiting resistors to prevent possible short-circuit mistakes. Finally, the board deliberately doesn’t use any through hole components so you may put double-sided tape on its back to attach it anywhere you want. As usual, all the source files can be download from my website.