Better Controls For Your Chromecast Through CEC

Modern home cinema equipment is well-equipped with features for interoperability and convenience, but in practice, competing standards and arcana can make it fall over. Sometimes, you’ve gotta do a little work on your own to glue it all together, and that’s what led [Victor] to develop a little utility of his own.

ChromecastControls is a tool that makes controlling your home cinema easier by improving Chromecast’s integration with the CEC features of HDMI. CEC, or Consumer Electronics Control, is a bidirectional serial bus that is integrated as a part of the HDMI standard. It’s designed to help TVs, audio systems, and other AV hardware to communicate, and allow the user to control an entire home cinema setup with a single remote. Common use cases are TVs that send shutdown commands to attached soundbars when switched off, or Blu-Ray players that switch the TV on to the correct output when the play button is pressed.

[Victor]’s tool allows Chromecast to pass volume commands to surround sound processors, something that normally requires the user to manually adjust their settings with a separate remote. It also sends shutdown commands to the attached TV when Chromecast goes into its idle state, saving energy. It relies on the PyChromecast library to intercept traffic on the network, and thus send the appropriate commands to other hardware. Simply running the code on a Raspberry Pi that’s hooked up to any HDMI port on a relevant device should enable the CEC commands to get through.

It’s a project that you might find handy, particularly if you’re sick of leaving your television on 24 hours a day because Chromecast never bothered to implement a simple CEC command on an idle timeout. CEC hacks have a long history, too – we’ve been covering them as far back as 2010!

Turn Your Old-school CRT Into A YouTube Media Player

Ever wish you could enjoy modern conveniences like YouTube in a retro world of CRTs and late 20th century graphics?

[Johannes Spreitzer] happened to find an old VIENNASTAR CRT (cathode-ray tube television) made by the Austrian brand Kapsh at a flea market. The CRT dates back to 1977 and uses just RF input, making it useless as a modern television set since most TV stations nowadays broadcast primarily in digital.

However, HDMI-to-RF transmitters do exist, making it possible to convert HDMI signals to RF or coaxial cable output to replace an antenna signal. What [Spreitzer] did next was to plug in a Chromcast and essentially convert the CRT into an old-school monitor. You can see some of the trippy graphics in the video below – the video samples shown fit the retro aesthetic, but I’m sure there’s video combinations that would seem pretty out of place.

HDMI-to-RF adapters are pretty easy to pick up at a hardware store, and they allow you to project videos onto specific channels on a CRT. Needless to say, they don’t work the other way around, although since there are still televisions that only pick up RF broadcasts, coaxial to HDMI adapters do exist.

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This Chromecast Volume Knob Has A Certain ’70s Chic

Chromecast devices have become popular in homes around the world in the last few years. They make it easy to cast audio or video from a smartphone or laptop, to a set of speakers or a display connected to the same network. [Akos] wanted to control the volume on these devices with a single, simple piece of equipment, rather than always reaching for a smartphone. Thus was built the CastVolumeKnob.

The project began by using Wireshark to capture data sent by the pychromecast library. Once [Akos] understood the messaging format, this was implemented in MicroPython on an ESP8266. A rotary encoder is used as a volume knob, and a Neopixel ring is used for visual feedback as to the device being controlled and the current volume level.

Further work was done to improve usability, with an ATtiny85 microcontroller being used to monitor the encoder for button presses before waking up the ESP8266, greatly reducing power consumption. The device is also rechargeable, thanks to an 18650 lithium polymer battery, and charger and boost converter boards. It’s all wrapped up in a sleek 3D printed case, with a translucent bezel for the LEDs and a swanky machined aluminium knob as the cherry on top.

It’s a homemade device that nonetheless would be stylish and unobtrusive in the living room environment. We imagine it proves very useful when important phone calls come in and it’s necessary to cut the stereo down to a more appropriate volume.

For another take, check out this USB volume knob with a nice weighty feel, courtesy of lead shot.

UPnP, Vulnerability As A Feature That Just Won’t Die

UPnP — in a perfect world it would have been the answer to many connectivity headaches as we add more devices to our home networks. But in practice it the cause of a lot of headaches when it comes to keeping those networks secure.

It’s likely that many Hackaday readers provide some form of technical support to relatives or friends. We’ll help sort out Mom’s desktop and email gripes, and we’ll set up her new router and lock it down as best we can to minimise the chance of the bad guys causing her problems. Probably one of the first things we’ll have all done is something that’s old news in our community; to ensure that a notorious vulnerability exposed to the outside world is plugged, we disable UPnP on whatever cable modem or ADSL router her provider supplied.

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Fix Your Insecure Amazon Fire TV Stick

I recently spent a largely sleepless night at a hotel, and out of equal parts curiosity and boredom, decided to kill some time scanning the guest network to see what my fellow travelers might be up to. As you’d probably expect, I saw a veritable sea of Samsung and Apple devices. But buried among the seemingly endless number of smartphones charging next to their sleeping owners, I found something rather interesting. I was as picking up a number of Amazon-made devices, all of which had port 5555 open.

As a habitual Android tinkerer, this struck me as very odd. Port 5555 is used for Android Debug Bridge (ADB), a development tool used to control and perform various administrative tasks on an Android device over the network or (more commonly) locally over USB. The number of users who would have legitimately needed to enable network ADB on their devices is surely rather low, so to see a half dozen of them on the network at the same time seemed improbable to say the least.

Why would so many devices manufactured by Amazon all have network ADB enabled? I realized there must be a connection, and it didn’t take long to figure it out.

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Chromecast Vintage TV Is Magic

When [Dr. Moddnstine] saw a 1978 General Electric TV in the trash, he just had to save it. As it turned out, it still worked! An idea hatched — what if he could turn it into a vintage Chromecast TV?

He opened up the TV and started poking around inside. We should note that old TV’s are pretty dangerous to open up if you’re not familiar with the components inside — high-voltages that could kill you linger on some capacitors. [Dr. Moddnstine] didn’t go into too much detail, so do a little extra research before you open up a TV.

Part of his goal for this project was to keep everything self-contained within the TV so all you would have to do is plug it into the wall in order to use it. Since the TV is so old, it doesn’t even have an analog RCA connections for a video input — just a VHF input. Because of this he needed to use three separate connection adapters to get the video signal to the TV.

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A Power Switch For The Chromecast

Chromecasts are fantastic little products, they’re basically little HDMI sticks you can plug into any monitor or TV, and then stream content using your phone or computer as the controller. They are powered by a micro USB port in the back, and if you’re lucky, your TV has a port you can suck the juice off. But what if you want to turn it off while you use a different input on your TV so that your monitor will auto-sleep? You might have to build a power switch.

Now in all honesty, the Chromecast gets hot but the amount of power it draws when not in use is still pretty negligible compared to the draw of your TV. Every watt counts, and [Ilias] took this as an opportunity to refine his skills and combine a system using an Arduino, Bluetooth, and Android to create a robust power switch solution for the Chromecast.

The setup is rather simple. An HC-05 Bluetooth module is connected to an Attiny85, with some transistors to control a 5V power output. The Arduino takes care of a bluetooth connection and uses a serial input to control the transistor output. Finally, this is all controlled by a Tasker plugin on the Android phone, which sends serial messages via Bluetooth.

All the information you’ll need to make one yourself is available at [Ilias’] GitHub repository. For more information on the Chromecast, why not check out our review from almost three years ago — it’s getting old!