Controlling blinds using off the shelf solutions can be expensive – more so if you have multiple blinds you want to control. [HumanSkunk87] felt the cost was too high, so they designed a controller to automatically open and close the blinds.
The main part of this build is a motor and a ball chain gear – a wheel that captures the balls of a ball chain so that the chain can be pulled. The wheel was designed using Fusion3D and then printed out. The motor requires enough power to pull the chain — [HumanSkunk87] figures it needs to be able to pull about 2.5kg in order to raise the blind. After giving up on stepper motors, a DC motor with a worm gear was found to have enough torque to work. A WEMOS D1 Mini controls the motor controller that drives the ball chain wheel. Two micro switches tell the WEMOS when to stop at the bottom and top of the window.
The WEMOS is programmed using ESPHome and it connects to [HumanSkunk87]’s HomeAssistant to complete the automation. Check out the descriptions in the link for the parts and the code used to run everything. There are many other creative ways to open your blinds, It’s even possible to automate curtains instead of blinds.
Continue reading “DIY Automated Roller Blinds”
For some reason, when slot machines went digital, they lost their best feature — the handle. Who wants to push a button on a slot machine, anyway? Might as well just play video poker. [John Bradnam] seems to agree, and has built an open-source three-color matrix slot machine complete with handle.
In this case, you’ll be losing all of your nickels to an Arduino Pro Mini. The handle is an upgrade to an earlier slot machine project that uses three 8×8 matrices and a custom driver board. When the spring-loaded handle is pulled, it strikes a micro switch to spins the reels and then snaps back into place. Between each pull, the current score is displayed across the matrix. There’s even a piezo buzzer for victory squawks. We only wish the button under the handle were of the clickier variety, just for the feels. Check out the short demo video after the break.
If you’re not a gambler, you could always turn your slot machine into a clock.
Continue reading “Slot Machine Has A Handle On Fun”
With the coronavirus raging worldwide, 2020 has seen major shortages of personal protective equipment impact healthcare workers and individuals alike. This has led many to improvise their own solutions. One of the more complete offerings we’ve seen is this hybrid respirator build from [Ben Howard].
[Ben’s] build goes above and beyond the usual craft project masks. It uses a laser-cut chipboard frame to fit three HEPA filters, originally designed for the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. Two are used for exhalation, while one is used for inhalation. A small blower fan is installed with the intake filter, to provide mild positive pressure when breathing in. The assembly is wrapped up in fabric, using layers of spandex, fleece, and ripstop nylon to provide the best possible seal against the wearer’s face.
It’s a build that should appeal to those who want to breathe cleaner air and also protect others from exhaled particles that can spread respiratory viruses. We’ve seen all kind of masks hit the scene this year; the graphene-impregnated variety is one of the more interesting designs. Still, one can hope that future years lead to less reliance on such measures!
In 2020 when we carry an all-purpose computer and data terminal able to store our every thought and deed on a global computer network, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time we were excited by the simpler things. Take the camcorder for example, back in the 1990s the idea of a complete video recording solution that captured moving images on tape cartridges and fit in the palm of your hand was a very big deal indeed, and camcorders as we called them in those innocent times were a prized posession. Now they’re a $0.50 find a Goodwill, which is how [Dustin] picked up the RCA camcoder he’s converting into something altogether more modern. He’s gutted it and upgraded it by removing the analogue innards and retaining only the case and lens assembly to put around a Raspberry Pi and associated HQ camera module.
Opening the camcorder up reveals a ton of miniaturised analogue circuitry, but once the original assemblies are removed it’s relatively straightforward to put the Pi camera on the rear of the lens unit. There’s plenty of space for the Pi in the box, and he’s putting a touchscreen on the outside.
Sadly the camcorder’s original tiny CRT is no longer working, else that would have been the ultimate retro viewfinder. Still we hope to see some tinkering on that part of the project since those little CRTS make for delightful hacks. The project is very much a work in progress, but should serve that these once ubiquitous devices are now in the realm of the throwaway.
This isn’t the first such conversion we’ve seen with a Raspberry Pi, the original camera module is a handy fit to an 8mm movie camera.
Keeping a bird bath or a pond in your yard is a great way to add ambiance and style, but both of these things can be a haven for mosquitoes. Popular methods of getting rid of them are often with harsh pesticides, but [Shane] has brought us a more environmentally-friendly way of taking care of these disease-carrying insects by looping a Cardi B playlist underwater, killing the mosquito larvae.
While the build does include some other favorites such as “Baby Shark” and would probably work with any song (or audio of sufficient volume) the build is still pretty interesting. It’s based on a 555 timer circuit which powered an ultrasonic sound gun, but was repurposed for this build. The ultrasonic modules were replaced with piezo modules which were waterproofed with silicone. The sound produced vibrates at a frequency which resonates with the mosquito larvae and is fatal to them. [Shane] put the build into a small boat which can be floated in any pond, bird bath, horse trough, or water feature.
The major caveat to this build is that it may be damaging to other beneficial animals such as fish or frogs, so he suggests limiting its use to uninhabited stagnant water. Either way, though, it’s a pretty unique way of taking care of a mosquito problem not unlike another build which takes care of these insects in water a slightly different way.
Continue reading “Killing Mosquitoes With Cardi B”
Imagine that you’re serving on a jury, and you’re given an image taken from a surveillance camera. It looks pretty much like the suspect, but the image has been “enhanced” by an AI from the original. Do you convict? How does this weigh out on the scales of reasonable doubt? Should you demand to see the original?
AI-enhanced, upscaled, or otherwise modified images are tremendously realistic. But what they’re showing you isn’t reality. When we wrote about this last week, [Denis Shiryaev], one of the authors of one of the methods we highlighted, weighed in the comments to point out that these modifications aren’t “restorations” of the original. While they might add incredibly fine detail, for instance, they don’t recreate or restore reality. The neural net creates its own reality, out of millions and millions of faces that it’s learned.
And for the purposes of identification, that’s exactly the problem: the facial features of millions of other people have been used to increase the resolution. Can you identify the person in the pixelized image? Can you identify that same person in the resulting up-sampling? If the question put before the jury was “is the defendant a former president of the USA?” you’d answer the question differently depending on which image you were presented. And you’d have a misleading level of confidence in your ability to judge the AI-retouched photo. Clearly, informed skepticism on the part of the jury is required.
Unfortunately, we’ve all seen countless examples of “zoom, enhance” in movies and TV shows being successfully used to nab the perps and nail their convictions. We haven’t seen nearly as much detailed analysis of how adversarial neural networks create faces out of a scant handful of pixels. This, combined with the almost magical resolution of the end product, would certainly sway a jury of normal folks. On the other hand, the popularity of intentionally misleading “deep fakes” might help educate the public to the dangers of believing what they see when AI is involved.
This is just one example, but keeping the public interested in and educated on the deep workings and limitations of the technology that’s running our world is more important than ever before, but some of the material is truly hard. How do we separate the science from the magic?
Over the last couple of years the cyberdeck community has absolutely exploded. Among those who design and build these truly personal computers there are no hard rules, save perhaps making sure the final result looks as unconventional as possible. But one thing that’s remained fairly consistent is the fact that these machines are almost exclusively powered by the Raspberry Pi. Unfortunately, that means they often leave something to be desired in terms of raw performance.
But [MSG] had a different idea. His cyberdeck still has the customary Raspberry Pi inside, but it also has an i7 Intel NUC that can be fired up at the touch of a button. He says it’s the best of both worlds: an energy efficient ARM Linux platform for mobile experimentation, and a powerful x86 Windows box for
playing games working from home. It’s the hacker equivalent of business in the front, party in the back.
With a KVM connected to the custom Planck 40% mechanical keyboard and seven inch LCD, [MSG] can switch between both systems on the fly. Assuming he’s got the juice anyway; while the Raspberry Pi 4 and LCD is able to run on a pair of 18650 batteries, the cyberdeck needs to be plugged in if he wants to use the power-hungry NUC. If he ditched the Pi he could potentially load up the case with enough batteries to get the Intel box spun up, but that would be getting a little too close to a conventional laptop.
The whole plurality theme doesn’t stop at the computing devices, either. In addition to the primary LCD, there’s also a 2.13 inch e-paper display and a retro-style LED matrix courtesy of a Pimoroni Micro Dot pHAT. With a little Python magic behind the scenes, [MSG] is able to display things like the system temperature, time, and battery percentage even when the LCD is powered down.
In a post on the aptly-named Cyberdeck Cafe, [MSG] talks about how seeing the VirtuScope built by [bootdsc] inspired him to start working towards his own personal deck, and where he hopes to take the idea from here. The unique USB expansion bay behind the screen holds particular promise, and it sounds like a few add-on modules are already in the works. But of course, it wouldn’t be a true cyberdeck if it wasn’t constantly being improved and redesigned. Come to think of it, that makes at least two rules to live by in this community.