WiFi Controlled Finger Dims Lights over UDP

While WiFi controlled lights are readily available, replacing your lighting fixtures or switches isn’t always an option. [Thomas] ran into this issue with his office lights. For the developers in the office, these lights always seemed to run a little too bright. The solution? A 3D printed, WiFi controlled finger to poke the dimmer switch.

This little hack consists of a servo, a 3D printed arm and finger assembly, and a Wemos D1 Mini development board. The Wemos is a low cost, Arduino compatible development board based on the ESP8266. We’ve seen it used for a wide variety of hacks here on Hackaday.

For this device, the Wemos is used to listen for UDP packets on the company’s WiFi network. When it receives a packet, it tells the servo to push the dimming button for a specified amount of time. [Thomas] wrote a Slack bot to automatically send these packets. Now, when the lights are too bright, a simple message to the bot allows anyone to dim the lights without ever leaving the comfort of their desk. Sure, it’s not the most secure or reliable method of controlling lights, but if something goes wrong, the user can always get up and flip the switch the old fashioned way.

PostmarketOS Turns 600 Days Old

PostmarketOS began work on a real Linux distribution for Android phones just over 600 days ago. They recently blogged about the state of the project and ensured us that the project is definitely not dead.

PostmarketOS’ overarching goal remains a 10 year life-cycle for smartphones. We previously covered the project on Hackaday to give an introduction. Today, we’ll concern ourselves with the progress the PostmarketOS team has made.

The team admits that they’re stuck in the proof-of-concept phase, and need to break out of it. This has required foundational changes to the operating system to enable development across a wide variety of devices and processor architectures. There’s now a binary package repository powered by builds.sr.ht which will allow users to install packages for their specific device.

Other updates include fixing support for the Nexus 5 and Raspberry Pi Zero, creating support for open source hardware devices including the Pine A64-LTS and Purism Librem 5. PostmarketOS now boots on a total of 112 different devices.

We’re excited to see the PostmarketOS project making progress. With the widespread move to mobile devices, users lose control over their computing devices. PostmarketOS gives us the ability to run code that we can read and modify on these devices. It’s no small feat though. Supporting the wide variety of custom hardware in mobile devices requires a lot of effort.

While it may be a while before PostmarketOS is your daily driver, the project is well suited to building task-specific devices that require connectivity, a touch screen, and a battery. We bet a lot of Hackaday readers have a junk drawer phone that could become a project with the help of PostmarketOS.

Preventing Embedded Fails with Watchdogs

Watchdog timers are an often overlooked feature of microcontrollers. They function as failsafes to reset the device in case of a software failure. If your code somehow ends up in an infinite loop, the watchdog will trigger. This is a necessity for safety critical devices. If the firmware in a pacemaker or a aircraft’s avionics system gets stuck, it isn’t going to end well.

In this oldie-but-goodie, [Jack Ganssle] provides us with a great write up on watchdog timers. This tells the story of a failed Clementine spacecraft mission that could have been saved by a watchdog, and elaborates on the design and implementation of watchdog techniques.

If you’re designing a device that needs to be able to handle unexpected failures, this article is definitely worth a read. [Jack] explains a lot of traps of using these devices, including why internal watchdogs can’t always be trusted and what features make for a great watchdog.

Thanks to [Jan] for the tip!

Build A Home Automation Hub For $20

With so many WiFi home automation devices on the market, you might want to take advantage of these low cost products without having to send your data to third-party servers. This can be accomplished by running your own home automation hub on your home network.

If you don’t want to use a full computer for this purpose, [Albert] has you covered. He recently wrote a guide on running Domoticz on the $20 GL-MT300Nv2 pocket router.

The setup is rather simple: just perform a firmware update on your router using the provided image and a full home automation stack is installed. Domoticz provides a web interface for configuring your devices, setting up rules, and viewing sensor data.

The pocket router is also supported by OpenWrt and provides a USB host port, making it a low-cost option for any WiFi hack you might have in mind. We’ve seen quite a few OpenWrt based hacks over the years.

Hacking a 20 Year Old Subaru

While cars are slowing becoming completely computer-controlled, road vehicles have been relying on computers since the 1970’s. The first automotive use of computers was in engine control units (ECUs) which came along as fuel injection systems started to replace carburetors.

[P1kachu]’s 1997 Subaru Impreza STi, like most cars of this vintage, uses an ECU and provides a diagnostic connector for external communications. [P1kachu]’s Subaru hacking project includes building a diagnostic interface device, dumping the ECU’s firmware, and reverse engineering the binary to understand and disable the speed limiter. If this looks familiar, it’s because we just covered the infotainment hacks in this car on Saturday. But he added information about the communications protocols is definitely worth another look.

This era of Subaru uses a non-standard diagnostics protocol called SSM1, which is essentially a 5 volt TTL serial line running at 1953 bits per second. The custom interface consists of a Teensy and a 3.3V to 5V level shifter. Once connected, commands can be sent directly to the ECU. Fortunately, the protocol has been quite well documented in the past. By issuing the “Read data from ECU address” command repeatedly, the full firmware can be dumped.

[P1kachu] goes on to locate the various engine tuning maps and discover the inner workings of the speed limiter. With cars getting more computerized, it’s nice to see folks are still able to tune their rides, even if it means using Teensys instead of wrenches.

Rigol MSO5000 Hacked, Features Unlocked

Rigol’s test gear has something of a history of being hacked. Years ago the DS1022C oscillocope was hacked to increase bandwidth, and more recently the DS1054Z was hacked to unlock licensed features. Now, it’s the MSO5000’s turn.

Over on the EEVBlog forums a group has been working on hacking another Rigol, the MSO5000, a 70 MHz oscilloscope which can be upgraded to 350 MHz via software licensing. Various other features including a two channel, 25 MHz arbitrary waveform generator are also built-in, but locked out unless a license key is purchased. The group have managed to enable all the locked options without license keys.

The hack is quite simple. The Linux system running on the scope has a default root password of, you guessed it, “root”. After logging in over SSH with these credentials, the user just needs to modify the startup file to add the “-fullopt” flag to the “appEntry” application. This starts the application in a fully unlocked state, which gives access to all the features.

The MSO5000 costs about $1000, and the bandwidth option alone adds over $3000 to the price. If you’re willing to risk your warranty, and you have the skills to edit a file with vi, this hack provides a serious upgrade for free.

If you have a DS1022C you’ll find our reporting on its hack here, and likewise DS1054Z owners will find theirs here.

Header image: EEVBlog.

Putting M5Stack on LoRa and the Things Network

LoRa is the new hotness in low-power, long-range communications. Wanting to let the packets fly, [Xose] was faced with a frequecny problem and ended up developing a Europe-friendly LoRa module for the M5Stack system. The hardware is aimed at getting onto The Things Network, a LoRa based network that provides connectivity for IoT devices. While there was an existing M5Stack module for LoRa, it only supported 433 MHz. Since [Xose] is in Europe, an 868 MHz or 915 MHz radio was needed. To solve this, a custom board was built to connect the HopeRF RFM69 series of modules to the M5Stack.

If you haven’t heard of it before, the M5Stack platform is a stackable development board platform. Like Arduino, you can add functionality by stacking PCBs using a standard header. Unlike Arduino, M5Stack fits in a case nicely and is designed for building devices with user interfaces. For $35, you get an ESP32 based system with WiFi, Bluetooth, a color LCD, battery, buttons, a speaker, and IO connectors.

With the hardware in place, [Xose] 3D printed a custom case to hold the board and added it to the stack. The firmware acts as a monitor for The Things Network, showing live coverage. The final product looks very clean for a prototype, maintaining the finished look of M5Stack.

The firmware, board design, and case design files for the project are all available on Github.