Minimizing ESP8266 Battery Drain

[Alex Jensen] wanted to build a battery-powered weather station, using an ESP8266 breakout board to connect to WiFi. However, [Alex]’s research revealed that the ESP chip uses around 70mA per hour when the radio is on — meaning that he’d have to change batteries a lot more than he wanted to. He really wanted a low power rig such that he’d only have to change batteries every 2 years on a pair of AAs.

The two considerations would be, how often does the ESP get powered up for data transmissions — and how often the weather station’s ATtiny85 takes sensor readings. Waking up the ESP from sleep mode takes about 16mA — plus, once awake it takes about 3 seconds to reconnect, precious time at 70mA. However, by using a static IP address he was able to pare that down to half a second, with one more second to do the actual data transmission. In addition to the hourly WiFi connection, the Tiny85 must be powered, though its relatively modest 1.5mA per hour doesn’t amount to much, even with the chip awake for 36 hours during the year. All told, the various components came to around 500 mAh per year, so using a pair of AA batteries should keep the rig going for years.

We’re intrigued by stories of hackers eking out every last drop of power to make their projects work. We’ve posted about ESPs low-power mode before, and what can be more low-power than a watch running off a coin cell?

Meet the Modern Meat Man’s Modified Meat-Safe

Charcuterie is delicious — but is it hackable? When talking about the salty preserved meats, one might be more inclined to indulge in the concept of bacon before pondering a way to integrate an electrical monitoring system into the process. However, [Danzetto] decided to do both when he did not have anywhere to cure his meats. He made his own fully automatic meat curing chamber lovingly called the curebOS with the aid of a raspberry pi. It is basically a beefed up mini fridge with all of the bells and whistles.

This baby has everything.  Sitting on top is a control system containing the Pi. There are 5 relays used for the lights, circulating fan, ventilating fans, refrigerator, and humidifier all powered by a 5 amp supply — minus the fridge. Down below that is the 3D printed cover with a damper for one of the many ventilation fans that regulate the internal temperature.  To the right is a touchscreen for viewing and potentially controlling the system if necessary. The control program was written in Python for viewing the different trends. And below that, of course, is a viewing window. On the inside are temperature and humidity probes that can be monitored from the front screen. These readings help determine when to activate the compressor, any of the fans, or the humidifier for optimal settings. For a final touch, there are also some LEDs placed above the hanging meat to cast a glowing effect upon the prized possessions.

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Hackaday Links: December 3, 2017

Remember the Psion? Back when PDAs were a thing, the Psion was the best you could get. It was, effectively, a palm-top computer with a real qwerty keyboard. It didn’t have Bluetooth, it couldn’t browse the web, and it didn’t have WiFi, but this was an AA-powered productivity machine that could fit in your pocket. Now there’s a new palmtop from Psion engineers. The Gemini PDA is basically a smartphone with a real keyboard that runs Ubuntu. It’s also has a smaller battery than other devices with this form factor, meaning the TSA thinks it’s a smartphone. This thing is going to be cool.

TechShop, Inc. has reached an agreement to sell the company to TechShop 2.0, LLC. New ownership seeks to re-open, continue running makerspaces. Details coming soon.

Arcade monitors are cool, and vector monitors are even cooler. [Arcade Jason] created a gigantic 36″ vector monitor. It’s thirty-six inches of Gravitar, in all its vector glory.

A few links posts ago, I pointed out someone was selling really awesome, really cheap LED panels on eBay. I got my ten panels, and [Ian Hanschen] bought sixty or some other absurd amount. Now, these panels are going for $300 for a 10-pack instead of $50. Sorry about that. Nevertheless, the reverse engineering adventure is still ongoing, and eventually, someone is going to play Mario on these things.

The ESP32 is finding its way into all sorts of consumer electronics. Check this thing out. It’s an ESP32, four buttons, and a circular display. If you want to make your own Nest thermostat, or anything else that needs an awesome circular display, there you go.

Speaking of circular displays, are there any non-CRT displays that come with a polar coordinate system? Every circular LCD or OLED I’ve ever seen uses a Cartesian system, which doesn’t really make sense when you can’t see 30% of the pixels.

Hold the phone, this is far too clever. [Eduardo] needed to flash an ESP-12 module before soldering it onto a PCB. The usual way of doing this is with an absurd pogo pin jig. You know what’s cheaper than pogo pins? Safety pins. Clever overwhelming.

Gesture Control for Lunch Money

[Dimitris Platis] wanted to add gesture control to his PC. You’d think that would be expensive, but by combining a diminutive Arduino, a breakout board with a gesture controller, and an interconnect PCB, he managed to pull it off for about $7. That doesn’t include the optional 3D-printed case and we think you could omit the interconnect board if you don’t mind some wires and further cut costs. [Dimitris] calls it Nevma, and you can see how the device works in the video below.

The heart of the project is a sensor that measures light and motion. The chip and the breakout board are just a couple of bucks if you order them from China. You can find them in the US if you don’t mind spending a little bit more. The device has an I2C interface, and [Dimitris] uses a tiny Mini SS Micro for the USB interface and the CPU.

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Boxes, Form An Orderly Queue Behind The Armchair!

If you have ever been to a hacker camp, you’ll know the problem of transporting all your stuff to your hackerspace village, or to wherever you’ll be basing yourself for the duration. The car park is always too far away, whatever trolley you’ve brought along is never big enough, and the terrain you have to drag everything over feels more like the Chilkoot Trail than a city sidewalk.

[Jan Henrik] and [Niklas Fauth] have an effective solution to all your hacker camp transport woes, in the form of a motorized platform designed to carry a storage box. Underneath the platform are a pair of hoverboard motors and their controller board reflashed with a custom firmware.

You might be now looking at it and thinking “So what?”, for a single platform is handy but hardly a comprehensive transport solution. What makes this one impressive though is that it’s not a single board, instead there is a swarm of them for which they appear to have implemented some form of optical following system which is teased through the video we’ve placed below the break and with this Tweet, but not in detail yet in the wiki page. A neat train of platforms follows the lead one, transporting everything with minimum fuss. What can we say, except “We want one too!”. There is some code to be found in a GitHub repository, should you be interested in having a go for yourself.

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Internet of Things Opens Possibilities

While a lot of hardware gets put on the “Internet of Things” with only marginal or questionable benefits (or with hilariously poor security), every now and then a project makes use of this new platform in a way that illustrates the strengths of IoT. [ThingEngineer] turned to this platform as a cost-effective solution for an automatic gate, since new keyfobs were too expensive and a keypad was not an option.

Using an Electric IMP, [ThingEngineer] began by installing his IoT patch into the LiftMaster gate control box. This particular gate has easily accessible points that the controller can access to determine the gate’s status, so from there, an API was written to do the heavy lifting. A web server was deployed as well, so anyone with access can use a smartphone or other device to open the gate.

For anyone else looking to deploy a similar IoT solution, [ThingEngineer] has put all of the project code, schematics, and a thorough write-up about the project on his GitHub page. There are many useful ways to get on board the Internet of Things, though; so many that it’s been possible to win a substantial prize for using it in a creative way.

Jeep Wrangler Dome Light Mod

If you’re the owner of a Jeep Wrangler, you may have experienced some frustration with the interior dome light. For those not in the know, removing the doors on a warm day or for a bit of fun can lead to a dead battery. This happens because the Wrangler’s light stays on unless the fuse or light are removed, or a custom shutoff switch is added — at the expense of troublesome wiring. You could say it’s a Jeep Thing. [Tim Nummy] offers a solution with minimal modifications.

First off, pop the switch out of the door and set it aside. As a replacement, [Tim Nummy] has managed to salvage a door light switch from an old Mercedes. In addition to the same momentary-off function as the Wrangler’s stock switch, the button on the new one can be pulled out and locked for a secondary off position. Many machines and appliances use this same type of switch in their safety interlocks as a service position. [Tim] didn’t want to cut apart the wiring in the Wrangler in case something goes awry down the line, so for now he has filed down some spade terminals to slot into the Mercedes plug. He’s also 3D printed a nut to nicely secure the new switch in place. Check out his how-to video after the break!

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