Defeat Your Car’s Autostop Feature With A Little SwitchBot

These days, many new cars come with some variant of an “auto-stop” feature. This shuts down the car’s engine at stop lights and in other similar situations in order to save fuel and reduce emissions. Not everyone is a fan however, and [CGamer_OS] got sick of having to switch off the feature every time they got in the car. So they employed a little robot to handle the problem instead.

The robot in question is a SwitchBot, a small Internet of Things tool that’s highly configurable for pressing buttons. It’s literally a robot designed to press buttons, either when remotely commanded to, or when certain rules are met. It can even be configured to work with IFTTT.

In this case, the Switchbot is set up to activate when [CGamer_OS]’s phone is placed in phone mount, where it scans an NFC tag. When this happens, Switchbot springs into action, switching off the autostop function. It was set up this way to avoid Switchbot hitting the button before the car has been started. Instead, simply popping the smartphone in the cradle activates the ‘bot.

It’s a rather creative use of the SwitchBot. They’re more typically employed to turn on dumb devices like air conditioners or heaters that can otherwise be difficult to control via the Internet. However, it works well, and means that [CGamer_OS] didn’t have to make any permanent modifications to the car.

The design of the SwitchBot reminds us of the Useless Box, even if in this case it has an actual purpose. Video after the break.

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One Coder Is Porting Portal To The Nintendo 64

When Portal came out in 2007, developers Valve chose not to release the groundbreaking title on an obsolete Nintendo console long out of production. Nobody cared at the time, of course, but [James Lambert] is here to right that wrong. Yes, he’s porting Portal to the N64.

The port, or “demake,” as [James] calls it, has been under construction for some time. The project has posed some challenges: Portal was developed for PCs that were vastly more powerful than the Nintendo 64 of 1996. Thus, initial concerns were that the console wouldn’t be able to handle the physics of the game or render the recursive portal graphics.

However, hard work has paid off. [James] has chipped away, bit by bit, making improvements to his engine all the while. The latest work has the portals rendering nicely, and the companion cube works just the way you’d expect. There’s also a visible portal gun, and the engine can even render 15 recursive layers when looking through mirrored portals. Sixteen was too much.

Of course, there’s still lots to do. There’s no player model yet, and basic animations and sound are lacking. However, the core concept is there, and watching [James] flit through the not-quite-round portals is an absolute delight. Even better, it runs smoothly even on original Nintendo hardware. It’s a feat worthy of commendation.

We had no idea what [James] had in store back when we featured his work creating real-time shadows on N64 hardware. Now we know! Video after the break.

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MIDI Controller Looks Good, Enables Your Air Guitar Habit

We all want to be guitar heroes, but most of us have to settle for letting a MIDI board play our riffs using a MIDI controller. [Joris] thinks a MIDI controller should look like a cool instrument and thus the Ni28 was born. Honestly, we first thought we were looking at wall art, but on closer look, you can see the fretboard and the soundhole are festooned with buttons.

Actually, they aren’t really buttons. The Ni in the name is because the buttons are nickel-plated brass plates that act like touch switches. There’s virtually no activation force required and you can easily touch more than one plate at a time.

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3D Printed Linear Actuator Is Cheap And Strong

Motors are all well and good for moving things, but they’re all about the round-and-round. Sometimes, you need to move something back and forth, and for that a linear actuator will do the trick. While they can be readily sourced for under $50 online, [Michael Rechtin] genuinely felt like reinventing the wheel, and managed to whip up a 3D-printed design that costs under 20 bucks.

The basic design is simple, consisting of a small motor which is geared down through several stages using simple spur gears. The last gear in the train is tasked with turning a lead screw which drives the arm of the linear actuator back and forward.

For simplicity, [Michael] used a 24V brushed DC gearmotor for its low cost and the fact it already has a step-down gearbox integrated into the design. It’s paired with a couple more 3D-printed spur gears to provide even more torque. Instead of a fancy lead screw, the build instead just uses a quarter-inch bolt sourced from Home Depot, which can be had much cheaper. This pushes a 3D-printed arm back and forth thanks to a nut stuck in the arm. It’s all wrapped up in a neat-and-tidy 3D-printed housing. The design is able to push with a force of roughly 220 lbs. For a more practical idea of its strength, it can readily crush an empty soda can.

The video on the design is great, showing how important features like limit switches are added, and how the wiring can be neatly hidden away inside the housing. We’ve seen [Michael’s] work before, too, like strength testing various types of 3D printed gears. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Prize 2022: Recycled Tire Table Is Where The Rubber Meets The Road

The problem with good inventions is that we usually end up with way too many of that particular widget lying around, which can cause all kinds of problems. Take the car tire, for instance. They were a great invention that helped spell the end of buggy whips and broken wagon wheels. But there are so many used-up tires about today that some people end up burning them in large piles, of all possible things.

Not [Vaibhav], who prefers to turn trash into utilitarian treasures. With little more than an old tire, some jute rope, and four plastic drink bottles, they made a sturdy, low-slung piece of furniture that could be used as a coffee table, a foot stool, or whatever life calls for.

Construction was fairly simple and involved stabilizing the hollow core with a round piece of cardboard glued to either side of the tire. Then came the jute rope and glue artistry, which hides any trace of the foundational materials. Finally, [Vaibhav] glued four plastic bottles to the bottom to act as legs. We think that steel cans would last longer and support more weight, but if plastic bottles are the only option, you could always fill them with dirt or sand.

The Little Big Dogs Of Invention

This is a story about two dogs I know. It is also a story of the U.S. Navy, aviation, and nuclear weapons. Sometimes it is easy to see things in dogs or other people, but hard to see those same things in ourselves. It’s a good thing that dogs can’t read (that we know of) because this is a bit of an embarrassing story for Doc. He’s a sweet good-natured dog and he’s a rather large labradoodle. He occasionally visits another usually good-natured dog, Rocky — a sheltie who is much smaller than Doc.

I say Rocky is good-natured and with people, he is. But he doesn’t care so much for other dogs. I often suspect he doesn’t realize he’s a dog and he is puzzled by how other dogs behave. You would think that when Doc comes to visit, the big dog would lord it over the little dog, right? Turns out, Doc doesn’t realize he’s way bigger than Rocky and — apparently — Rocky doesn’t realize he should be terrified of Doc. So Rocky bullies Doc to the point of embarrassment. Rocky will block him from the door, for example, and Doc will sit quaking unable to muster the courage to pass the formidable Rocky.

It makes you wonder how many times we could do something except for the fact that we “know” we can’t do it. Or we believe someone who tells us we can’t. Doc could barge right past Rocky if he wanted to and he could also put Rocky in his place. But he doesn’t realize that those things are possible.

You see this a lot in the areas of technology and innovation. Often big advances come from people who don’t know that the experts say something is impossible or they don’t believe them. Case in point: people were anxious to fly around the start of the 1900s. People had dreamed of flying since the dawn of time and it seemed like it might actually be possible. People like Alberto Santos-Dumont, the Wright brothers, Clément Ader, and Gustave Whitehead all have claimed that they were the first to fly. Others like Sir George Cayley, William Henson, Otto Lilienthal, and Octave Chanute were all experimenting with gliders and powered craft even earlier with some success.

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A self-service checkout computer game

Practice Your Shopping Skills With This Self-Service Checkout Game

Self-service checkouts have become a common feature in supermarkets the world over, a trend accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. While some may lament the loss of human contact, others relish the opportunity to do their own scanning: with a bit of practice, self-service can provide for a very fast checkout experience. Assuming, of course, that the machine recognizes each product, the built-in weight sensor works correctly, and you don’t get selected for a random check.

If you want to practice your checkout game without spending loads of money, you might want to have a look at [Niklas Roy] and [Kati Hyyppä]’s latest project: Bonprix is a game where the goal is to scan as many items as possible within a 90-second time limit. Installed at the Eniarof DIY festival, it’s designed to resemble a typical supermarket checkout with a display, a barcode scanner and a shopping basket filled with random items. The screen indicates which item should be scanned next; if you’re too slow, the checkout will begin to offer discounts, which you obviously don’t want. When the 90 seconds are over, the machine spits out a receipt indicating your total score.

The checkout desk is made from wooden pallets and cardboard; inside is a laptop running Linux, with a handheld barcode scanner attached via USB. An LED strip provides a beam of bright red light to indicate the scanning area, and turns green when a barcode is successfully scanned. Arduinos control the LEDs and the big red-and-yellow “start” button, while a thermal printer from an ATM prints the receipts at the end of each game.

Apart from a bit of fun, the Bonprix project tries to address questions relating to consumer culture and self-checkouts: is it fair to let customers do their own work? Should they be paid for it? Is it even ethical to encourage people to spend as much as possible?

While this is the first time we’ve seen a self-service checkout computer game, we’ve done a few deep dives into the fascinating technology of barcodes that makes it all possible. Check this out!

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