Tired Of Killing Houseplants? Try Using WiFi.

Here at Hackaday, we have to admit to neglecting a few houseplants in our time. Let’s face it… a cold, hard, thinking machine can care for our green friends better than you can. Why not team up? [cabuu]’s WiFi-enabled soil moisture sensor will do the trick in case you, too, want happy plants.

This is one of those projects which would have been much more difficult even five years ago, and really shows how lucky we are to have accessible technology at our fingertips. It’s conveniently constructed from off-the-shelf electronics modules, and nestled inside a 3D-printed case. The design is attractive as well as functional, showing the status LED and allowing access to the USB charging port.

The brain is a WeMos D1 mini, while a D1 battery shield and 14500 Li-ion battery supplies power. A key point of this build is the use of a capacitive moisture sensor, which doesn’t suffer the same long-term corrosion problems that destroy cheaper resistive probes. And no project is complete without an LED, so a WS2812 shows green for good, red for dry and blue for too wet. To extend battery life, the sensor supports a sleep mode, which tests the soil periodically, and presumably disables the LED.

Of course, if you’re a habitual plant-neglector, simply having a moisture probe won’t help; those can be as easy to ignore as the plant itself. That’s where WiFi comes in. [cabuu] wrote a Blynk app to monitor the sensor on a smartphone. The app shows current moisture levels and allows you to change the wet and dry warning thresholds. When the reading exceeds these levels, the app notifies you — this feature is the one that will keep your plants around.

Continue reading “Tired Of Killing Houseplants? Try Using WiFi.”

Hacker Makes A Flawless Booby Trap, Strikes Back Against Package Thieves

[Mark Rober] was fed up with packages going missing. He kept receiving notifications that his shipments had been delivered, but when checking his porch he found nothing there. Reviewing the CCTV footage revealed random passers-by sidling up to his porch and stealing his parcels. It was time to strike back. Over six months, [Mark] and his friends painstakingly designed, prototyped and iterated the perfect trap for package thieves, resulting in a small unit disguised as an Apple HomePod. The whole scheme is wonderfully over-engineered and we love it.

The main feature of the device is a spinning cup on the top which contains a large amount of glitter. When activated, it ejects glitter in every directions. You could say it’s harmless, as it’s just glitter. But then again, glitter has a way of staying with you for the rest of your life — turning up at the least expected times. It certainly leaves an emotional impression.

Activation is quite clever; the fake package sits on the porch until an accelerometer detects movement. At that point, GPS checks to see if the package has traveled outside a geo-fence around [Mark]’s house. A signal is then sent to the four smartphones to start recording — yes, that’s right, there are 4 phones inside, one on each side to capture the reaction of the thief.

How can [Mark] be so confident that he’ll be able to recover the four phones and their footage? That’s answered by GPS tracking and a can of fart spray actuated by a 3D printed cam and DC motor, ensuring the thief won’t want this package around for long. This actuator and the glitter motor are controlled by a custom PCB, which also triggers the phones to start recording through their headphone jacks and detects the opening of the package with some microswitches. This is truly a masterpiece that outsmarts the package thieves in a way that leaves an impression while still being playful.

(Editor’s Note 2: On 12/20/18 it was announced that two of the five thieves shown in the originally video were staged, apparently without [Mark Rober’s] knowledge. Here is his statement on the matter.)

(Editor’s Note 1: [Sean Hodgins] wrote in with bonus video on how the Glitter Bomb works and how it was made.)

If booby traps are your thing, we’ve got you covered. Check out this ticking bomb style puzzle, or this crate challenge which is rigged to blow.

Continue reading “Hacker Makes A Flawless Booby Trap, Strikes Back Against Package Thieves”

Welcome Our New Insect Overlords With Arduino-Powered Ant Bot

Walking robots come in many forms, and each presents their own unique challenges. Bipedal style locomotion is considered particularly difficult to do well, however designs with more legs offer certain advantages. Hexapods offer the possibility of keeping several legs on the ground while others move, providing a useful degree of stability. [How To Mechatronics] developed this ant robot, which is an excellent example of the form.

The hexapod has as the name suggests, six legs, each of which consist of 3 joints. This necessitates 3 servos per leg, for 18 servos total just for locomotion. Further servos are then used to control the abdomen, head, and mandibles. This gives the robot strong ant credentials, above and beyond being simply a 3D printed lookalike.

Brains come courtesy of an Arduino Mega, chosen for its ability to control a large number of servos. A custom PCB is printed as a shield to ease the connection of all the necessary hardware. An HC-05 Bluetooth module is used for communication with an Android app, which controls the ant. The piece de resistance is the ultrasonic sensors in the head, which allow the ant to automatically defend itself against predators that get too close.

It’s an involved build, requiring plenty of 3D printing and over 200 fasteners. Fundamentally though, it’s a fully working and tested hexapod build with full plans available for download, ready to toil in your underground sugar caves.

If your hexapod tastes skew more anime than insectoid, check out this Ghost in the Shell build. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

Continue reading “Welcome Our New Insect Overlords With Arduino-Powered Ant Bot”

Arduino One Pixel Camera Sees All (Eventually)

Taking pictures in the 21st century is incredibly easy. So easy in fact that most people don’t even own a dedicated camera; from smartphones to door bells there are cameras built into nearly electronic device we own. So in this era of ubiquitous photography, you might think that a very slow and extremely low resolution camera wouldn’t be of interest. Under normal circumstances that’s probably true, but this single pixel camera built by [Tucker Shannon] is anything but normal.

Continue reading “Arduino One Pixel Camera Sees All (Eventually)”

ULTIMATE – A Useful Tool For File System Hacking

Whether you’re at the hobbyist level or a professional, if you’re working on code for operating systems or file systems, tools can make or break the job. [Ben Lunt] is an enthusiast hacker himself, and found that over time, a series of useful utilities had proliferated beyond reasonable management. It was time to solve the problem – enter ULTIMATE.

ULTIMATE is a combination of a wide swathe of file system hacking tools that [Ben] had developed over the preceding years. Capable of dealing with most FAT variants, Ext4, ISO, [Ben]’s own FYS FS as well as other Linux ephemera, it enables a wide variety of common tasks to be executed from within a single program.

Capabilities of the tool are wide ranging. Files can be inserted into and removed from image files, boot records can be altered, and there’s even the ability to tinker with GPTs for UEFI-based systems. [Ben] has also experimented with the concept of the eMBR – an extended Master Boot Record with greater functionality for larger, modern hard drives.

ULTIMATE is a testament to [Ben]’s broad file system knowledge, and could likely serve useful to many hackers in the file system and OS community. Just be cautious, though – the software is still in an early stage of development. If you’re just getting started in this particular realm of tinkering, take our primer on file system forensics.

 

The Hydrogen Economy May Be Coming Through Your Cooker

About an hour’s drive from where this is being written there is a car plant, and as you drive past its entrance you may notice an unobtrusive sign and an extra lane with the cryptic road marking “H2”. The factory is the Honda plant at Swindon, it produces some of Europe’s supply of Civics, and the lane on the road leads to one of the UK or indeed the world’s very few public hydrogen filling stations. Honda are one of a select group of manufacturers who have placed a bet on a future for environmentally sustainable motoring that lies with hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

The hydrogen-powered Honda Clarity FCV, a car most of us will probably never see. Lcaa9 [CC BY-SA 4.0].
The hydrogen-powered Honda Clarity FCV, a car most of us will probably never see. Lcaa9 [CC BY-SA 4.0].
The trouble for Honda and the others is that if you have seen a Honda Clarity FCV or indeed any hydrogen powered car on the road anywhere in the world then you are among a relatively small group of people. Without a comprehensive network of hydrogen filling stations such as the one in Swindon there is little incentive to buy a hydrogen car, and of course without the cars on the road there is little incentive for the fuel companies to invest in hydrogen generating infrastructure such as the ITM Power electrolysis units that seem to drive so many of the existing installations. By comparison an electric car is a much safer bet; while the charging point network doesn’t rival the gasoline filling station network there are enough to service the electric motorist and a slow charge can be found from most domestic supplies. Continue reading “The Hydrogen Economy May Be Coming Through Your Cooker”

Button, Button, Who’s Got The (One) Button?

We often think that less is more, but what can you do with a device that has only a single button? [Volos] wondered the same thing and he built an Arduino with a single button and a display. After doing some obvious things  (like a counter or stopwatch) he decided to make a calculator.

You can find the source code online and he used a library from GitHub to handle the reaction to single presses, double presses, and long presses. Is it ideal? Probably not. But if you only have a limited amount of space or pins, it can make the difference between a feasible project and one you can’t finish.

His original projects also included a Flappy Bird clone. The OLED display is only 64×48 so that’s not a lot of room. The packaging of the tiny Arduino, the battery, and the display in a good looking case, was pretty impressive. So the device might be usable for something.

Of course, the library will work with any program and there’s no reason you can’t have more than one button and simply multiply their functions with the same strategy. There’s a sample on GitHub that shows how you can create two OneButton objects connected to different hardware devices.

Continue reading “Button, Button, Who’s Got The (One) Button?”