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Hackaday Links: September 5, 2021

Good news from Jezero crater as the Mars rover Perseverance manages to accomplish for the first time what it was sent to do: collect and cache core samples from rocks. Space buffs will no doubt recall that Perseverance’s first attempt at core sampling didn’t go as planned — the rock that planetary scientists selected ended up being too soft, and the percussive coring bit just turned the core sample into powder. The latest attempt went exactly as planned: the cylindrical coring bit made a perfect cut, the core slipped into the sample tube nested inside the coring bit, and the core broke off cleanly inside the sample tube when it was cammed off-axis. Operators were able to provide visible proof that the core sample was retained this time using the Mastcam-Z instrument, which clearly shows the core in the sample tube. What’s neat is that they then performed a “percuss to ingest” maneuver, where the coring bit and sample tube are vibrated briefly, so that the core sample and any dust grains left around the sealing rim slide down into the sample tube. The next step is to transfer the sample tube to the belly of the rover where it’ll be hermetically sealed after some basic analysis.

Did any Android users perhaps oversleep this week? If you did, you’re not alone — lots of users of the Google Clock app reported that their preset alarms didn’t go off. Whether it was an actual issue caused by an update or some kind of glitch is unclear, but it clearly didn’t affect everyone; my phone mercilessly reminded me when 6:00 AM came around every day last week. But it apparently tripped up some users, to the point where one reported losing his job because of being late for work. Not to be judgmental, but it seems to me that if your job is so sensitive to you being late, it might make sense to have a backup alarm clock of some sort. We all seem to be a little too trusting that our phones are going to “just work,” and when they don’t, we’re surprised and appalled.

There seem to be two kinds of people in the world — those who hate roller coasters, and those who love them. I’m firmly in the latter camp, and will gladly give any coaster, no matter how extreme, a try. There have been a few that I later regretted, of course, but by and large, the feeling of being right on the edge of bodily harm is pretty cool. Crossing over the edge, though, is far less enjoyable, as the owners of an extreme coaster in Japan are learning. The Dodon-pa coaster at the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park is capable of hitting 112 miles (180 km) per hour and has racked up a sizable collection of injuries over the last ten months, including cervical and thoracic spine fractures. The ride is currently closed for a safety overhaul; one has to wonder what they’re doing to assess what the problem areas of the ride are. Perhaps they’re sending crash test dummies on endless rides to gather data, a sight we’d like to see.

And finally, you may have thought that phone phreaking was a thing of the past; in a lot of ways, you’d be right. But there’s still a lot to be learned about how POTS networks were put together, and this phone switch identification guide should be a big help to any phone geeks out there. Be ready to roll old school here — nothing but a plain text file that describes how to probe the switch that a phone is connected just by listening to things like dial tones and ring sounds. What’s nice is that it describes why the switches sound the way they do, so you get a lot of juicy technical insights into how switches work.

Feel What The Temperature Is Like Outside Without Leaving Your Bed

Your smartphone might be able to tell you what the weather is like outside, but you’d have to go outside yourself to really feel it. To do this from the comfort of your own bed, [Sagarrabanana] built a clock that lets you really feel the temperature. Video below with English subtitles.

It is basically a box with a solenoid inside to knock out the time, and a Peltier plate on top. Give the box two knocks, which are detected by a piezo element,  and it will tell you the current time down to 15 minute increments in “bell tower” format. Give it three knocks, and the ESP8266 will fetch the ambient outside temperature from a cloud service and cool or heat the Peltier element to that temperature, using a H-bridge motor driver module. The code and design files are available on GitHub if you want to build your own.

All the components are housed inside an attractive 3D printed box with a machined wood top. Although we think this is a very interesting idea, we can’t help but suspect that it might be counterproductive for getting you out of bed on those cold winter mornings.

While alarm clocks are falling out of favor, they are still a popular build for hackers. We’ve covered one that looks like it came from a fallout shelter, and another with a very cool looking VFD display. Continue reading “Feel What The Temperature Is Like Outside Without Leaving Your Bed”

A Not-So-Alarming Clock

By and large, alarm clocks (including phones that double as alarm clocks) are annoyingly alarming. If it’s not the light or the sound, it’s both. Yes, we know that’s the point of an alarm clock, but sometimes life presents opportunities to check the time and/or the weather and sleep in a little bit longer based on the result. We don’t know about you, but loud noises and eye-blasting light are not conducive to getting back to sleep, especially if you’re a light sleeper.

In [Stavros Korokithakis]’ case, if it’s a tennis practice morning but it’s raining, then it’s no longer a tennis practice morning and he can go back to sleep for a while. A phone seems perfect for this, but the problem is that it provides too much information: the phone can’t check the weather without the internet, and once it has internet access, a bunch of eye-opening notifications come flooding in.

[Stavros] had a long list of must-haves when it came to building the ultimate alarm clock, and we can totally get behind that. He needed something smarter than the average off-the-shelf clock radio, but nothing too smart. Enter the ESP8266. As long as it has an internet connection, it can fetch the time and the weather, which is really all that [Stavros] needs. It gets the current temperature, wind speed, and forecast for the next two hours with the OpenWeather API, and this information is converted to icons that are easy to read at a sleepy, one-eyed glance at the OLED.

Adaptive brightness was high on the list of must-haves, which [Stavros] solved by adding a photoresistor to judge the ambient light and adjust the OLED screen brightness appropriately. And he really did think of everything — the octagonal shape allows for the perfect angle for reading from bed. There’s just one problem — it can’t accept input, so it doesn’t actually function as an alarm clock. But it makes a damn good bedside clock if you ask us.

If you really want to start the morning right, use a winch to yank the covers off of you.

Via Adafruit

Breathtaking Alarm Clock Looks Like It Came From A 1960 Fallout Shelter

All the hardcore geeks have alarm clocks where the bell striker is a hard disk read head… or at least they’ll be building them after seeing this. [Senile Data Systems] created an industrial voltage alarm clock out of decade counters that looks like it was unearthed from a fallout shelter (machine translation).

At first glace you might mistake this for a binary clock since it uses a column of LEDs to indicate each digit of 24-hour time. It’s not, as each row corresponds to a pin on the CD4017 decade counters that make up the timekeeping circuit inside.

Thumbscrew wheel switches at the top of the bulky handheld unit are how the alarm time is set, triggering a bell along the top edge. The clock is driven by the 50 Hz line voltage and [SDS] tried using that AC to drive a solenoid as the striker on the prototype unit but it performed poorly. The use of a hard disk read head turns out to be the perfect striker, as heard in the video after the break. As for triggering from the decade counters, here’s what [SDS] told us about the design:

The switches’ outputs gets ANDed with a 10 Hz signal (on a 60 Hz grid it will become 12 Hz). This drives a slightly beefy transistor which in turn drives an electromagnet to hammer a bell which broke off my bicycle. Yes. This is a digital analog alarm clock. The clock portion is digital but the bell is analog and sounds like Grampa’s old wind up alarm clock.

The build came about when a cache of over 600 industrial LEDs (24 V – 48 V) fell into his lap. This makes the insides of the clock something to behold as point-to-point soldering connects the panel mount lights and all nine logic chips. Add in that transformer for getting the line voltage and we imagine this thing has quite a bit of heft to it.

If you’ve ever had an alarm with a wind-up bell you know there’s no better way to jolt yourself out of a peaceful slumber and into the chaos of the real world. If the gentle tinkle of the hard drive head isn’t enough for you, this fire bell alarm clock will certainly do the trick.

 

Continue reading “Breathtaking Alarm Clock Looks Like It Came From A 1960 Fallout Shelter”

Hackaday Podcast 055: The Most Cyberpunk Synthesizer, Data In Your Cells, Bubbly In Your Printer, And The Dystopian Peepshow

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams discuss the many great hacks of the past week. Just in case you missed the fact that we’re living in the cyberpunk future, you can now pop off your prosthetic hand and jack directly into a synthesizer. The robot headed for Mars has a flying drone in its belly. Now they’re putting foaming agent in filament to make it light and flexible. And did you ever wonder why those pinouts were so jumbled?

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (~60 MB)

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Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 055: The Most Cyberpunk Synthesizer, Data In Your Cells, Bubbly In Your Printer, And The Dystopian Peepshow”

ESP32 Alarm Clock Doesn’t Skimp On The Features

The ESP family of microcontrollers is absolutely on fire right now, with a decent chunk of the projects that come our way now based on one of the impossibly cheap WiFi-enabled boards. In fact, they are so cheap and popular that we’ve started to see a somewhat unexpected trend; people have a tendency to use them as drop-in replacements, despite the more modern boards being considerably more powerful than required. The end result is a bunch of projects in which the ESP is simply underutilized. It’s not a big deal, but somewhat disappointing to see.

But we can assure you this ESP32 alarm clock created by [Pangodream] is absolutely not one of them. He’s packed an impressive number of features into this unassuming little timepiece, and it’s really an excellent example of how much these boards are capable of without breaking a sweat. From DIY touch sensors to the Android application used to configure the clock over the network, this project is overflowing with neat hardware and software tricks worth taking a closer look at.

Inside the 3D printed case, the clock features a BH150 light sensor, the very popular DHT-11 for detecting temperature and humidity, as well as a ILI9341 2.8 inch LCD for the display. In a particularly clever touch (get it?), [Pangodream] used three coins connected to the digital pins of the ESP32 as capacitive sensors. These allow him to interact with the click just by tapping the top of the case, and saved him the trouble of adding traditional switches or buttons. We might have put some indentations in the top case to make identifying which of the three “buttons” you’re pushing, but we suppose the invisible interface does make things look a little more futuristic.

But if even that is too much physical touching for you, then [Pangodream] has come up with a fairly robust system for controlling and interacting with the clock over the network. It’s not just a convenient way of setting the time, a good number of the clock’s functions can be polled and configured in this manner; everything from the sensitivity of the touch sensors to how many times it will beep when the alarm goes off. To make things easier, he’s even wrapped it all up in a handy Android application for on the go configuration.

If this clock doesn’t offer you the level of over-engineering you require, check out this build that uses no less than five ESP32s to get the job done. Or maybe this one that hooks into NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Continue reading “ESP32 Alarm Clock Doesn’t Skimp On The Features”

Weather Forecasting Clock Makes An Almighty Racket

The old-fashioned alarm clock was a staple of cartoons in years past, with loud clanging bells and slap-to-shutoff functionality. Despite being an excellent dramatic device, these classic timepieces began to lose favor to the digital clock radio, and, in more recent times, the smartphone alarm. However, [LenkaDesign] has come up with this excellent build that combines the best of the old and the new.

The build starts with an old alarm clock. The clockwork internals are removed, but the bells remain, powered instead by a brushed DC motor. An Arduino Nano is the brains of the operation, interfacing with the now-ubiquitous temperature, humidity and barometric pressure sensors. Time is displayed on a Nokia 5110 LCD screen of the type popular a decade ago when options for small hobby project displays were significantly more limited then they are today.

As a nice touch, an old circuit board lends a new face to this clock, with a trio of big chunky buttons to act as controls. The LCD uses attractive icons to help convey information, making the most of the graphical capabilities available. There’s even a rudimentary weather forecasting algorithm that uses barometric pressure changes to predict the likelihood of rain.

Overall, it’s a tidy build that promises to serve as a great alarm clock, given the high volume of the original bells. Alarm clocks have always been a hacker staple, but if you’re still struggling to get out of bed this fire bell build should rattle your fillings loose on a daily basis. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

Continue reading “Weather Forecasting Clock Makes An Almighty Racket”