Make Christmas Commercial Again with this Tiny TV Ornament

Readers of a certain age will remember a time when the Christmas season in the US officially kicked off after Thanksgiving. That was when advertisers began saturation bombing the communal mind with holiday-themed TV commercials night and day. Broadcast TV no longer holds sway like it did back then, and advertisers now start their onslaught in September, but you can put a little retro-commercialism back to Christmas with this 90s Christmas commercial-playing ornament for your tree.

The idea came to [SeanHodgins] after stumbling upon a collection of Christmas commercials from the 1990s on YouTube. With his content identified, he set about building a tree-worthy display from a Pi Zero W and a TFT LCD display. An audio amp and tiny speaker from an old tablet and a LiPo battery and charger form the guts of [Sean]’s TV, which were stuffed into a 3D-printed TV case, appropriately modeled after the TV from The Simpsons. The small fresnel lens that mimics the curved screens of yore is a nice touch. The software has some neat tricks, such as an HTTP server that accepts the slug of a YouTube video, fetches the MP4, and automatically plays it. We prefer our Christmas tree ornaments a little quieter, so a volume control would have been nice, but aside from that this looks like a ton of fun.

This isn’t [Sean]’s first foray into tricked-out ornaments, of course; readers might recall his IoT cheer-measuring Christmas ornaments from last season.

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Ask Hackaday: Prove Santa Exists

There is no question, that Santa Claus exists. He’s real, with the sleigh, the beard, and the reindeer and everything. He distributes gifts to billions of children in an evening, squeezes down a billion chimneys without getting that stylish red outfit dirty, and gets back home to the North Pole before sunrise. What more proof do you need, after all the missile defence folks track his progress over the icy wastes every Christmas Eve!

Well, the previous paragraph is the story you’ll get from the average youngster in countries where St. Nick is a cultural fixture, and who are we to disabuse them of this notion. Certainly not [Dave Barrett], who has the task of coming up with some ideas for a Santa Proof Of Existence for a kids’ Christmas party. In a previous year he’s thrilled them with a view of the sleigh taking off (in reality a remote-controlled model rocket launch complete with fake air traffic control clearance for Santa via CB radio), but this year the party isn’t somewhere with the space to do that trick. Instead he has the task of maintaining the illusion in those young minds for another year, with only a modest suburban plot in which to do it.

How would you prove Santa’s existence for the credulous young party-goers, using the finest technological marvels available to the Hackaday community? Perhaps you might create the illusion of boots crunching in the snow outside, or maybe the not-so-distant sound of reindeer. We suggest a Santa-Pede won’t cut it, and neither will hiring the beardy member of your hackspace as a stand-in. Kids aren’t that stupid!

What do you think? Go nuts in the comments.

Santa image: Jonathan Lindberg [Public domain].

Never Let Your Christmas Tree Run Dry, With Added Ultrasound

Winter in the parts of the Northern Hemisphere for which observing Christmas includes bringing half a forest into the house should really be divided into two seasons. No-spruce-needles-in-the-carpet season, and spruce-needles-doggedly-clinging-to-the-carpet season. Evergreen trees were not designed for indoor use, and for a hapless householder to stand any chance of keeping those needles on the branches there has to be a significant amount of attention paid to the level of the water keeping the tree hydrated.

[Evan] has paid that attention to the problem of Christmas tree hydration, and to address the shortcomings of earlier designs has come up with a low water warning using an ultrasonic rangefinder. Where previous sensor attempts based on conductive probes succumbed to corrosion or dirt build-up, this one has no contact between sensor and water.

Behind the rangefinder is a CHIP board, whose software sends a text message to his phone when the water level gets a bit low. All the software is available in the linked GitHub page, so should you wish to make your tree safe from thirst, you too can give it a try.

SMS texts are a good way to alert a tree owner, but we quite like the sensor that used the tree lights instead.

Tis the Season for Terror with DIY Krampus

The holiday season is full of many sounds; walking through your neighborhood on a winter night you may hear time-honored songs, the tinkling of glasses, and the laughter of good company. But if the chilly wind also brings to your ear the panicked sounds of screaming children, you may have wandered a bit to close to [Tyler Garner]’s house.

Rather than old Saint Nick or a couple of reindeer, [Tyler] decided to top the roof of his home with a disturbingly well done rendition of everyone’s favorite Austro-Bavarian goat-demon, Krampus. While he did finish the build off with a store-bought Krampus mask, every other component was made with about a 60/40 ratio of hardware to craft store scores. While your holiday decorations this year may not include any spawns of hell, the general construction techniques and resourcefulness [Tyler] shows in this build may come in handy when Halloween rolls around again.

The “skeleton” of Krampus is made up of PVC pipes and fittings mounted on an MDF base. Not only do the PVC fittings make it easy to recreate the rough anatomy of a humanoid figure, but if you don’t glue them all together, you can take it apart later for storage. We might have gone with something a little heartier than MDF for the base, but at least [Tyler] added a few pieces of galvanized pipe at the bottom to give it a little weight down low.

Things start to get interesting when [Tyler] adds sections of drainage pipe to his PVC skeleton to give it a more girth, as he was finding the bare PVC didn’t have a realistic presence when the robes were thrown over them. [Tyler] also uses expanding spray foam to soften up areas such as the hunched back, which may look messy but has the dual advantages of being cheap and fast.

The figure’s robes are made up of a patchwork of burlap, waterproofed with a spray on liner intended for pickup truck beds. With the application of red and black spray paint and the customary white fringe, it really nails the look.

A particularly nice detail is the hoof peeking out from beneath the robes, which [Tyler] made out of painted air-dry clay. It’s an awesome detail, though almost impossible to see once Krampus is mounted on the roof. Maybe it’s just us, but we think putting so much effort into a nearly hidden feature of a project is the true mark of a master craftsman; this is a secret little hoof that [Bob Ross] himself would be proud of.

While we can’t say we’ve played host to holiday scamps like Krampus or Belsnickle before, Hackaday has certainly seen its fair share of festive hacks over the years.

Star Wars Speeder’s Finishing Touch: Mirrors

[Super 73] make electric scooters, and they made some Star Wars Speeder Bikes with a twist for Halloween; adding some mirrored panels around the bottoms of the bikes made for a decent visual effect that requires no upkeep or fancy workings. Having amazed everyone with the bikes, they followed them up with a video of the build process.

The speeders are shells built around their Super 73 electric scooter, with bases of what looks like MDF sitting on anchor points. Onto the base platforms goes cardboard and expanding foam to create the correct shapes, which are then sanded then coated in fiberglass and bondo. Then it’s time for paint, weathering, and all the assorted bits and pieces needed to make the speeders as screen-accurate as possible. The real finishing touch are the mirrored panels to conceal the wheels and create a levitation illusion. As long as the mirrors are angled so that they reflect the pavement when viewed by a pedestrian, it works fairly well.

Top it off with costumes and a ride around town (with plenty of cameras of course, they naturally wanted to grab some eyeballs) and we have to say, the end result looks nifty. Both the showcase and making-of videos are embedded below.

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Evil Hotspot Costume Makes Valuable Connections

This year for Hallowe’en, [Scott] went out dressed as a Comcast xfinity hotspot. Funny, yes, but there’s a deeper meaning here. [Scott] really went as a walking PSA that illustrates the dangers of making assumptions about the relative safety of WiFi networks based solely on their broadcast names.

[Scott] could have gone chaotic evil with this setup, but he didn’t. No one could actually get on the Internet through him. Inside the “hotspot” are a Wi-Fi adapter and a Pi Zero running a captive portal. It broadcasts the default ‘XFINITY’ and ‘xfinitywifi’ SSIDs, plus a bunch of other common network names. Whenever anyone tries to connect, or worse, their phone automatically connects, they’ll hear a sad tuba cadence. This comes courtesy of a multi-sound effects box that’s controlled by the Pi through a relay board.

Meanwhile, the mark’s device is redirected to an internally-hosted “xfinity” login page. Anyone who actually goes on to enter their login credentials is treated to a classic horror film scream sample while the evil hotspot quietly stores their name and password and displays them on an e-ink display for all to see — a walking e-ink wall of sheep. Check out the demo after the break.

[Scott]’s evil hotspot is powered by a huge battery that can run it for 24 hours. Here’s a wind- and solar-powered WAP we covered several years ago.

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Mini Millennium Falcon Is Envy Of the Neighborhood

Here’s a tip for any readers who may be expecting a child in the near future: there’s about a two year period where you can basically use your child as a Halloween prop. They’re too young to express any serious interest in what they want to dress up as, and as an added bonus, they generally spend most of their time being rolled around in a wheeled contraption anyway. As long as you can keep the little one warm and securely seated in the thing, you’ve essentially got free reign to put them into all sorts of elaborate vehicles.

Case in point, the awesome build that [shnatko] has dubbed the “Millennium Flyer”. Built atop his daughter’s plastic Radio Flyer wagon, the Millennium Flyer is constructed out of wood and foam board. By using the mounting holes in the wagon originally intended for an optional canopy, the ship itself can be removed to fly again next year.

[shnatko] notes that he possess no particular talent for the fine arts, so he decided to skin his build by printing out a high resolution image of the Millennium Falcon he found online. The amount of patience (not to mention printer ink) that this method took is considerable, but we think the final results speak for themselves.

To finish off his build [shnatko] found a blue cold cathode light from his PC modding days and rigged it up with a laptop battery he had laying around. Some foam ribs and wax paper to diffuse the light give it that iconic look from the “real” Falcon.

Between this build and the AT-AT rocking horse from a few weeks back, it seems we are in the golden age of childhood Star Wars conveyances. Though we wouldn’t mind seeing this get mounted to a racing Power Wheels either.