Always Misplacing Your Keys? You Can Fix That With Some Logic Chips

Every time he came home, it was the same thing. As soon as he crossed the threshold, his keys just disappeared. There was no other logical explanation for it. And whenever it was time to leave again, he had to turn the house upside down to find them.

One day, [out-of-the-box] decided he’d had enough and built a door-activated alarm system out of stuff he had on hand—a decade counter, a cheapo reed switch-based door alarm, and some transistors. When the door is closed, the decade counter’s output is set to light up a green LED. When he comes home and opens the door, the reed switch closes, triggering the decade counter to shift its output to the next pin. The red LED comes on, and NPN transistor grounds the piezo, sounding the alarm. The only way to stop it is by inserting a shorted 1/4″ phone plug conveniently attached to his key ring into a jack on the circuit board until he hears that satisfying click of safe key-ping.

For those times when immediately plugging the keys into the wall isn’t feasible, or if his keys should disappear before he has the chance, there’s a momentary on the board that will stop the symphony of robotic cicadas blasting out from the piezo. It’s also good for family members who don’t want to play along or haven’t yet earned their 1/4″ plug.

Be sure to check out the build video after the break, which is just through that door there. And keep an eye on your keys, eh? Hackaday is not responsible for lost or stolen personal articles. Should you lose them, we can only suggest making a new car key from the spare and printing replacements for any standard keys.

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Finding Your Motorbike Using Wi-Fi

An urban planner once told me that every car requires at least four times as much space as they actually occupy. Each needs a spot on the roads, and three available parking spaces: one at home, one at work, and one to shop. Motorcycles are much smaller, but they still spend most of their time parked.

Motorcycles are the primary means of transport in Southeast Asia, and learning to safely drive one is an essential part of adapting to life here. Assuming it’s not pouring rain and you’re not flooded past your ankles, it’s actually quite a pleasant experience… until you have to park.

Unlike the parking lots you may be familiar with, there’s no expectation that your bike won’t be moved. In fact, it might very well end up on another floor, in another parking lot, or behind hundreds of impassable parked bikes on the roof. In the latter case, the attendant will shrug and suggest you come back in a few hours. Eventually, this won’t even register as a frustration – you will simply reason that there are plenty of other things that are more convenient here, like the weather (recent typhoon aside) or unlimited symmetrical fiber to the home for USD 5 a month.

That being said, with a little technology the problem could be lessened a bit while waiting for automated parking lots to become commonplace. On rare occasions I see people with little radio emitters that make their headlights flash, but they’re not terribly common here and require carrying yet another thing on my already full key chain (homes here typically use several different locks). It seemed pretty easy to pull off something similar using my smart phone with an ESP8266 running NodeMCU. I had been meaning to try out the sleep modes to save battery power anyway, so off I went.

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Lunar New Year is Coming, Shipping Times May Vary

With one holiday period coming to a close, another looms on the horizon: Lunar New Year. That means three things in my mind: nice weather, a beautiful holiday with great food, and that I had better get all my orders for electronic parts for the next few months out immediately. In fact, I should have done it last month but I’m a bit closer to the source than many of you are.

In any case, Lunar New Year affects our ability to order neat gadgets at a time of year when some of us have received a little money to spend. So I thought I’d take a moment away from hacking to share with you how important this holiday is to much of the world so we can manage our expectations for quick global shipping accordingly.

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Distributed Air Quality Monitoring via Taxi Fleet

When [James] moved to Lima, Peru, he brought his jogging habit with him. His morning jaunts to the coast involve crossing a few busy streets that are often occupied by old, smoke-belching diesel trucks. [James] noticed that his throat would tickle a bit when he got back home. A recent study linking air pollution to dementia risk made him wonder how cities could monitor air quality on a street-by-street basis, rather than relying on a few scattered stations. Lima has a lot of taxis, so why wire them up with sensors and monitor the air quality in real-time?

This taxi data logger’s chief purpose is collect airborne particulate counts and illustrate the pollution level with a Google Maps overlay. [James] used a light-scattering particle sensor and a Raspi 3 to send the data to the cloud via Android Things. Since the Pi only has one native UART, [James] used it for the particle sensor and connected the data-heavy GPS module through an FTDI serial adapter. There’s also a GPS to locate the cab and a temperature/humidity/pressure sensor to get a fuller environmental picture.

Take a ride past the break to go on the walk through, and stick around for the testing video if you want to drive around Lima for a bit. Interested in monitoring your own personal air quality? Here’s a DIY version that uses a dust sensor.

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Upgraded Hotel Room Coffee

The secret of cold-brew coffee is out. Department stores are selling gimmicks to make it at home or you can make it with a mason jar in good old-fashioned DIY style. This method is for the on-the-go hacker who may not have even the most spartan of equipment to brew a cold cup of Joe. Many hotel rooms are outfitted with a cheap percolating coffee machine and proprietary pods. The pods are just a sachet of filter paper with ground coffee inside.

Leave that percolating fire hazard unplugged and brew those pods overnight in a glass of water. In eight hours, you have a cup of rocket fuel. Compost the spent pod and away you go. Don’t heat your brew in the coffee maker, that’ll probably wreck it. Nuke it if you need it hot.

If coffee implements are your bag, here’s a 3D printed coffee bean grinder but be sure to read up on 3D printing and food safety. If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, how about a perfectly timed cup of tea?

Cat Feeder Has Steampunk Flair and a GMail Account

While it is often said that “necessity is the mother of invention”, we can’t say that’s always been our experience here at Hackaday. You won’t need to search too long before you find a project or hack on this site that definitely falls out of the realm of strict necessity. But that’s part of the fun, there’s a reason this site isn’t called AppropriateUseOfTime.com

But when [Sam Storino] couldn’t seem to stop his cats from howling for their supper at 3:00 AM, he had the perfect opportunity to fulfill that age-old wisdom. Not only did he manage to turn a trip to the plumbing isle of his local home improvement store into a very Steampunk-looking automatic cat feeder, but he also found the time to write up an exceptionally detailed series of blog posts on what he learned during the process.

The heart of the machine is everyone’s favorite Linux board, the Raspberry Pi. You might be thinking the Pi is overkill for a simple timer, and you’d be right. Rather than just dump the food out on a set schedule, [Sam] decided to get a little fancy and come up with some Python scripts that will monitor a GMail inbox and activate the feeder hardware when it receives an email with the title “feed cats”. He then uses IFTTT to send the appropriately named email to the GMail account of his cat feeder on a specific schedule. Hey, nobody said necessity was the mother of straightforward invention.

In the final post of the series, [Sam] goes over the hardware side of the device. Copper pipe makes up the frame, which holds a commercial off-the-shelf dry food dispenser. The feeder was designed for manual operation, but by attaching a continuous rotation servo [Sam] can spin it up and dump a pre-measured amount of food via the Pi’s GPIO pins. The addition of some PVC pipe and fittings takes the food and (at least in theory) divides it equally between the two cat bowls below.

If you think [Sam] may have put a bit more thought than was necessary into something as simple as feeding his pets, keep in mind that he’s in exceptionally good company. Paging through the archives, it seems the intersection of felines and hackers is littered with gloriously complex contraptions.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Clunke Button Powers Accessibility

An AT button is a device that helps people with all kinds of physical disabilities to interact with their world. There isn’t much to them,  just a switch wired up to a 3.5mm mono plug or jack, but the switch is installed in a large button housing that’s easy to operate.

These buttons can be used with any appliance or toy that can be adapted for mono input. They’re a simple piece of technology that makes a world of difference, but for some reason, they cost around $65 each. Because of this, people make their own simple switches, but these aren’t usually sturdy or long-lasting. [Christopher] thinks they should cost way less than that and set out to make buttons for about $10 in materials. Aside from the printed files, all you really need to make a Clunke button is one Cherry MX in your favorite shade of blue, blue, or blue, and either a 3.5mm mono jack or plug, depending on preference.

[Christopher] and his team devised the Clunke Button in collaboration with the local United Cerebral Palsy chapter as part of their senior design project. When it came time to present the project, they wanted to find a way to be able to pass a Clunke button around the audience and have it do something when pressed. They made an interactive ticker by adding an ESP-01 and a battery. [Christopher] has since taken over the project and continues to improve the design as he progresses through the Prize finals. Code for the ticker is available on GitHub, and the button STL files are on Thingiverse.