In This Aussie’s Back Yard, No Cat Is Safe From An Automated Soaking!

Some of us here at Hackaday are cat lovers, but we also understand that a plethora of unwanted cats using a suburban back garden can be bothersome, and a few years ago we featured a project from Aussie YouTuber [Craig Turner], in which he created a motion-detecting water spray for use as a relatively harmless cat repellent. Now he’s back with an updated version which is a little slicker and easier to make.

At its heart is the same PIR-turns-on-water operation, but this time there is a solenoid valve and purpose-built nozzle instead of a car central locking actuator and a lawn sprayer. Doing the electronic work is an off-the-shelf PIR module, so there is no  longer any need to hack a security PIR detector. Add in some pipe sections and PTFE tape with a bit of hot glue, and the result is a far more professional and streamlined device. The video gives a full run-down on construction, though we notice he neglected to emphasise the polarity of his protection diode so keep an eye out if you follow his example.

So if the thought of a continuous supply of free feline company courtesy of your neighbours is not for you then now you are equipped to send them packing. The latest video incarnation of the project is below the break, but if you are in search of the original then you can go back to our coverage at the time.

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Custom Storage Boxes, From Cardboard And 3D Printed Bits

It’s not that storage boxes and organizers are hard to find. No, the problem this project set out to solve was more nuanced than that. The real trouble [theguymasamato] had was that his storage options — wide shelves and deep drawers — weren’t well suited to storing a lot of small and light objects. The result was a lot of wasted space and poor organization. To make matters worse, his big drawers had oddball dimensions, meaning that store bought organizers weren’t a good fit either.

To solve these problems, [theguymasamato] decided to design his own stackable boxes to store small and light objects far more efficiently than before. The design also allows the boxes to be made in a variety of sizes without changing any of the 3D printed parts. Carefully measured and cut cardboard is critical, but that’s nothing a utility knife and ruler can’t solve. The only other requirements are a few simple plastic parts, and some glue. He can fit six of these inside a single one of his drawers with enough room to access and handle them, but without wasting space.

Cardboard is really versatile stuff. Not only has it been behind some amazingly complex devices such as this tiny working plotter, but we’ve seen it form major components in the remarkably ambitious cardboard CNC.

This Owner Took Control Of Their Proprietary Alarm System

When a tip comes in and the tipster feels they have to reassure us that despite appearances their subject is not facilitating crime, it certainly gets our attention. [Flam2006] has a Brinks home security system which can only be configured using a special device only available to installers, and though they managed to secure one through an eBay sale they went to the trouble of reverse engineering its protocol and writing a software emulator in Python. When an owner hacks their own security system to gain full control of something they own, that’s right up our street.

The communication is via an RS485 serial line, and follows a packetised structure with binary rather than ASCII data. There is an almost plug-and-play system for identifying devices connected to a controller, though it is restricted to those devices which the controller already knows about. There is a video of the official method of programming the controller, as well as one of the software in action. We’ve posted them below the break for your delectation.

The ability to perform these tasks on your own property is an important right that has at times been placed under threat by legislation such as the DMCA. We’ve touched upon it countless times, but probably the most high-profile example that we and the wider media have covered are those stories concerning the parts lockdown on John Deere tractors.

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Magnets Versus Laundry Detergent

Soap cleans clothes better than magnets. There, we are spoiling the ending so don’t accuse us of clickbaiting. The funny thing is that folks believe this is plausible enough to ask magnets experts so often that they dedicate a blog entry to comparing magnets and soap. Since you already know how this ends, let’s talk about why this is important. Science. Even though some magnet retailers, herein referred to as [the experts] can easily dismiss this question as fanciful or ridiculous, they apply the scientific method to show that their reasoning is sound and clean evidence is on their side. [The experts] detail the materials and techniques in their experiment so peers may replicate the tests and come to the same results themselves. We do not doubt that the outcome would be equally conclusive.

The experiment includes a control group which processes dirty clothes without detergent or magnets, one group with only magnets, one group with only detergent, and one group with both. White clothing was soiled with four well known garment killers and manually agitated in a bin of warm water. We guessed that magnets would be on par with the control group, and we were pleased to be right. [The experts] now have a body of work to reference the next time someone comes at them with this line. The only question now is if tricky spouses used science to get nerds to do the laundry.

In this age of spin, keeping facts straight instead of jumping to heartfelt conclusions is more vital than ever. We are all potentially citizen scientists so testing a conspiracy is within everyone’s grasp.

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A Chandelier Guaranteed To Make Some Retro Game Hardware Collectors Wince

If there’s one thing our community is good at, it’s re-imagining redundant old hardware, particularly in the field of classic gaming consoles and their peripherals. Dead consoles have become new ones, Powergloves have ventured into virtual reality, and light guns, well, they’ve become novelty light fittings.

The [JJGames] Nintendo light gun chandelier will probably make collectors wince who prefer their retro hardware pristine, but it’s certainly an eye-catching conversation piece. The twelve guns are carefully disassembled and the Nintendo electronics removed, before a bulb holder and teardrop lamp is installed. Wiring is completed with twist caps,  the guns are joined at the grip with some metal strips and glue, and a chain for ceiling attachment completes the ensemble. A dozen pieces of ireplacable retro hardware sacrificed for a novelty, or a masterpiece of interior decoration? You decide, though we’d opt for the latter in the context of the retro games based business in which it sits.

Our favourite NES lightgun hack ever has to be [Seb Lee-Delisle]’s one that fires a real laser. Meanwhile [JJGames] have made it here before in a similarly wanton use of classic Nintendo plastic, with their urinal made from SNES cartridges.

Hack My House: UL Certification And Turning The Lights On With An ESP8266

It’s hard to imagine a smart house without smart lighting. Maybe it’s laziness, but the ability to turn a light on or off without walking over to the switch is a must-have, particularly once the lap is occupied by a sleeping infant. It’s tempting to just stuff a relay in the electrical boxes and control them with a Raspberry Pi or micro-controller GPIO. While tempting, get it wrong and you have a real fire hazard. A better option is one of the integrated WiFi switches. Sonoff is probably the most well known brand, producing a whole line of devices based on the ESP8266. These devices are powered from mains power and connect to your network via WiFi. One disadvantage of Sonoff devices is they only work when connected to Sonoff’s cloud.

Light switches locked in to a cloud provider are simply not acceptable. Enter Tasmota, which we’ve covered before. Tasmota is an open source firmware, designed specifically for Sonoff switches, but supporting a wide range of ESP8266 based devices. Tasmota doesn’t connect to any cloud providers unless you tell it to, and can be completely controlled from within a local network.

Certifications, Liability, and More

We’re well acquainted with some of the pitfalls of imported electronics, but one of the lesser known problems is the lack of certification. In the United States, there are several nationally recognized testing laboratories: Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Intertek (ETL) are the most prominent. Many  imported electronic devices, including Sonoff devices, do not have either of these certifications. The problem with this is liability, should the worst ever happen and an electrical fire break out. The Internet abounds with various opinions on the importance of the certification — a missing certification mark is somewhere between meaningless and a total hazard. The most common claim is that a house fire combined with non-certified equipment installed would result in an insurance company refusing to pay.

Rather than just repeat this surely sage advice from the Internet, I asked my insurance agent about uncertified equipment in the case of a fire. I discovered that insurance agencies avoid giving definite answers about claim payments. The response that came back was “it depends”: homeowner’s insurance covers events that are accidental and sudden. If a homeowner was aware that they were using uncertified equipment, then it could be categorized as “not an accident”. So far, the myth seems plausible. The final answer from the insurance agency: it’s possible that a non UL-certified device could result in denial of payment on a claim, but it depends on the policy and other details– why take the risk? Certification marks make insurance companies happier.

I also talked to my city’s electrical inspector about the issue. He commented that non-certified equipment is a violation of electrical code when it is hard-wired into a house. He echoed the warning that an insurance company could refuse to pay, but added that in the case of injury, there could be even further liability issues. I’ve opted to use certified equipment in my house. You’ll have to make your own decision about what equipment you’re willing to use.

There are some devices on Amazon that claim to have certification, but searching the certification database leads me to believe that not all of those claims are valid. If in doubt, there is a searchable UL database, as well as a searchable Intertek database.
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Teardown: The Guts Of A Digital Sentry

I have a home alarm system that has me wondering if I can make it better with my maker Kung-fu. Recently we had to replace our system, so I took the time to dissect the main controller, the remote sensors, and all the bits that make a home security system work.

To be precise, the subject of today’s interrogation is a Zicom brand Home Alarm that was quite famous a decade ago. It connects to a wired telephone line, takes inputs from motion, door, and gas sensors, and will make quite a racket if the system is tripped (which sometimes happened accidentally). Even though no circuits were harmed in the making of this post, I assure you that there are some interesting things that will raise an eyebrow or two. Lets take a look.

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