Up Your Game With A Battle Tested Input Device

If you’re looking to add some realism to your flight setup without converting the guest bedroom into a full-scale cockpit simulator, you might be interested in the compromise [MelkorsGreatestHits] came up with. He bolted a genuine military keypad to his PC joystick and instantly added 100% more Top Gun to his desktop.

The Rockwell Collins manufactured keypad came from eBay, and appears to have been used in aircraft such as the EA-6B Prowler and Lockheed C-130 Hercules for data input. Each key on the pad is wired to the 37 pin connector on the rear, which [MelkorsGreatestHits] eventually mapped out after some painstaking work with a breakout board.

Once the matrix was figured out, he made up a cable that would go from the connector to a Teensy 2.0 microcontroller. The Teensy reads the keypad status and converts button presses over to standard USB HID that can be picked up in any game.

The joystick side of the build is a VKB Gunfighter, which is already a pretty nice piece of kit on its own. No modifications were necessary to the joystick itself, other than the fact that it’s now mounted to the top of a black project enclosure. It still connects directly to the computer via its original USB cable, as the keypad has its own separate connection. As luck would have it, the joystick is almost a perfect fit in the opening on the keypad, which presumably would have been for a small screen when installed in the aircraft.

Finding cockpit components from military aircraft on eBay is not as hard as you may think; something to keep in mind if you ever decide to tackle that custom flight simulator build.

IKEA Cloud Lamp Displays The Weather With An ESP8266

The IKEA DRÖMSYN is a wall mounted cloud night light that’s perfect for a kid’s room. For $10 USD, it’s just begging for somebody to cram some electronics in there and make it do something cool. Luckily for us, [Jodgson] decided to take on the challenge and turned this once simple lamp into a clever weather display. It even still works as an LED lamp, if you’re into that sort of thing.

After stripping out the original hardware, [Jodgson] installed a Wemos D1 Mini and a string of fourteen SK6812 RGB LEDs that run down the length of the cloud’s internal structure. Weather data is pulled down with the OpenWeatherMap API, and conditions are displayed through various lighting colors and effects.

Sunny days are represented with a nice yellow glow, and a cloudy forecast looks like…well it’s already a white cloud so that one’s pretty easy. If rain is expected the cloud turns blue and the bottom LEDs flicker a bit to represent raindrops. When there’s a thunderstorm, the cloud will intermittently flash random LEDs on the strip a bit brighter than their peers; a really slick effect that gets the point across immediately.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen somebody take a cheap light from IKEA and turn it into something much more impressive with the ESP8266. Just like with that previous project, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this particular modification popping up more in the future.

Smarten Up Your Air Conditioning With The ESP8266

If you’re looking for “smart” home appliances, there’s no shortage of options on the market. Even relatively low-end gadgets are jumping on the Internet of Things bandwagon these days (for better or for worse). But what if you’re not looking to purchase a brand new major appliance right now? In that case, you might be interested in seeing how [Giulio Pons] added some high-tech features to his existing air conditioner on the cheap.

Since his AC unit had an infrared remote control, the first thing [Giulio] needed to do was come up with a way to emulate it. An easy enough project using the ESP8266 and an IR LED, especially when he found that somebody had already written a IR communications library for his particular brand of AC. From there, he could start tacking on sensors and functionality.

With the addition of a DHT11 sensor, [Giulio] can have the AC turn on and off based on the current room temperature. It also gives him an easy way to verify the AC is actually on and operating. By checking to see if the room starts cooling off after sending the IR command to start the AC, his software can determine whether it should try resending the code, or maybe send a notification to alert him that something doesn’t seem right. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper ESP8266 project without some Internet connectivity, so he’s also created a smartphone application that lets him control the system while away from home.

Now admittedly nothing in this project is exactly new, we’ve seen plenty of hackers switch on their AC with the ESP8266 at this point. But what we particularly liked was how well thought out and documented the whole process was. The rationale behind each decision is explained, and he even documented things like his network topology to help illustrate how the whole system comes together. Even if the techniques are well known by many of us, this is the kind of project documentation that makes it accessible to newcomers. Our hats off to [Giulio] for going the extra mile.

In the past we’ve seen a similar project that allowed you to control your AC from Slack, and our very own [Maya Posch] took us on a whirlwind tour of the very impressive ESP8266-powered environmental monitoring system she helped develop.

Spectrum Chiptunes On An STM

Some of us here at Hackaday are suckers for a bit of chiptune music as the backdrop for many excellent times. The authentic way to create chiptunes is of course the original hardware, but in 2019 it’s far more common to do so with an emulator on a modern computer. That computer doesn’t have to sport a high-end processor and desktop operating system though, as [Deater] shows us with his ZX spectrum chiptune player on an STM32L46G Discovery board.

The impetus for the project came he tells us while teaching students to code simple sine wave music players, having code already in the bag for emulating the classic AY-3-8910 sound chip on the Raspberry Pi and the Apple II he decided to port that to the STM32L476 dev board. An earlier version used the internal DAC, but this was refined to send I2S data to an external DAC. The code can be had from GitHub (confusingly buried among code for an LED driver), and we’ve attached a video below of it playing some chiptune goodness.

Of course, Sinclair chiptunes don’t grab all the limelight. There have been plenty of Nintendo and Sega players too. You might also recognize [Deater] from his non-chiptune work, porting Portal to the Apple ][.

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Simple Arduino Universal Remote Control

The infrared remote control might not hold the seat of honor in the average home theater setup that it once enjoyed, but it’s not quite out to pasture yet. After all, what are you going to use to stop Netflix once the Chromecast invariably disconnects from your phone? As long as there are devices out there that will respond to commands blasted their way via an IR LED, hackers will be looking to get in on the action.

In an effort to make IR remote hacking just a bit easier, [sjm4306] has submitted his Remoteduino for the 2019 Hackaday Prize. With this handy tool in your arsenal, you can focus on developing the software side of your next IR remote project without worry about the hardware. Just upload your code, and get clicking.

As you might imagine, the design is rather simple. On the front edge of the PCB you’ve got the prerequisite IR LED, and a healthy supply of tactile buttons that your code can use as input. The remote features a fairly standard layout on the top half, complete with silkscreened labels for the common functions, but below that [sjm4306] has packed in six general purpose buttons that can be used for whatever you like.

The Remoteduino is powered by an ATmega328P, and the whole thing runs on a CR2032 cell mounted on the backside. [sjm4306] mentions in his write-up on Hackaday.io that battery life was always a consideration during development of the Remoteduino, so he’s made a few energy-saving considerations. Using the internal 8 MHz oscillator instead of an external crystal shaved a bit off the top, and the aggressive sleep routines got him the rest of the way. In testing, he estimates the battery should last a few years even with daily use.

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Freeform ESP8266 Network Attached Data Display

Like many of us, [Josef Adamčík] finds himself fascinated with so-called “freeform” electronic designs, where the three dimensional circuit makes up sections of the device’s structure. When well executed, such designs really blur the line between being a practical device and an artistic piece. In fact his latest design, an ESP8266 MQTT client, would seem to indicate there might not be much of a “line” at all.

The inspiration for this project actually comes from something [Josef] had worked on previously: an ESP8266-based environmental monitoring system. That device had sensors to pick up on things such as humidity and ambient light level, but it didn’t have a display of its own; it just pushed the data out onto the network using MQTT. So he thought a companion device which could receive this environmental data and present it to him in a unique and visually appealing way would be a natural extension of the idea.

As the display doesn’t need any local sensors of its own, it made the design and construction much easier. Which is not to say it was easy, of course. In this write-up, [Josef] takes the reader through the process of designing each “layer” of the circuit in 2D, printing it out onto paper, and then using that as a guide to assemble the real thing. Once he had the individual panels done, he used some pieces of cardboard to create a three dimensional jig which helped him get it all soldered together.

On the software side it’s pretty straightforward. It just pulls the interesting bits of information off of the network and displays it on the OLED. Right now it’s configured to show current temperature on the display, but of course that could be changed to pretty much anything you could imagine if you’re looking to add a similar device to your desktop. There’s also a red LED on the device which lights up to let [Josef] know when the batteries are getting low on the remote sensor unit; a particularly nice touch.

If you’d like to see more of these freeform circuits, we’d advise you to checkout the finalists for our recently concluded “Circuit Sculpture” contest. Some of the finalists are truly beyond belief.

SerialPlot Does Exactly What You Think It Does

The serial port remains a hacker staple, being one of the easiest ways to move a little bit of data from one machine to another. All manner of projects use the interface, and often, sensors are connected and their data read over such connections. In these cases, it can be useful to plot said data, and SerialPlot is a tool that can do just that.

SerialPlot is capable of reading data over several serial ports at once, and plotting it for your viewing pleasure. It’s capable of interpreting data in a variety of integer and float formats, and plotting multiple channels in a synchronised manner. It’s also capable of sending basic commands out over the serial port, which can be used to trigger or control attached equipment.

Overall, it’s a useful utility for anyone with an array of sensor’s connected over the most classic of interfaces. Of course, if you’re having trouble keeping track of all your serial ports, there’s a utility to help with that, too.