Learn By Doing: Turn Your Garage Into Your Perfect Workspace

Plenty of potential, but a cozy hacking space it is not

To us hackers and makers, the tools of our trade are often as important and interesting as the details of the hacks themselves, but what about the most important tool of all — the very space you use to make your magic happen? That may be your bedroom, a nearby hackerspace, and if you have the resources, you may even own a place of your own, and get to build your perfect workspace.

The latter situation is what [MichD] and partner [Brittany] found themselves in, having moved into their first place. Many couples focus on getting a hot tub in the garden or sorting the nursery, but these two are proper electronics nerds, so they converted a free-standing double wide garage into the nerdhub, learning as they went along, and documenting it in excruciating detail for your viewing pleasure.

Door fitted, framed up, and insulation in place. All ready for plasterboarding.

The building structurally is a single-skinned brick-built box, with a raw concrete floor. Pretty typical stuff for the UK (we’ve seen much worse), but not ideal for spending an extended amount of time in due to our damp, cold climate, at least in winter.

The first order of business was partitioning the front section for bike storage, and screeding the floor. Once the floor was solid, the walls and ceiling joists could be framed up, ready for fitting insulation material and covering with plasterboard.

Electrics were next in order, with the wires clipped to the brickwork, well away from where the plasterboard would be, therefore making it less likely to accidentally drill into a live cable when adding external fixtures.

Since the front part of the room was to be partitioned off, another access door was needed. This involved cutting out the bricks to fit a concrete lintel. With that installed, and the bricks above supported, the area below was cut out to the required shape. A somewhat nerve-wracking experience, if you ask us!

As any self-respecting hacker will tell you — no room build is complete without a decent amount of RGB bling, so the whole room was decked out with APA102 addressable LED strips. Control of these was courtesy of WLED running on an ESP32 module, with LedFX used on a nearby PC to perform music visualisation, just because.

Already got your space worked out, but need a little help with organisation? Not got much space, and need a portable solution? Check this out for (small) size!

DIY Arduino Based EV Charger Saves Money, Looks Pro

Electric vehicles (EVs) are something of a hot topic, and most of the hacks we’ve featured regarding them center on conversions from Internal Combustion to Electric. These are all fine, and we hope to see plenty more of them in the future. There’s another aspect that doesn’t get covered as often: How to charge electric vehicles- especially commercially produced EV’s rather than the DIY kind. This is the kind of project that [fotherby] has taken on: A 7.2 kW EV charger for his Kia.

Faced with spending £900 (about $1100 USD) for a commercial unit installed by a qualified electrician, [fotherby] decided to do some research. The project wasn’t outside his scope, and he gave himself a head start by finding a commercial enclosure and cable that was originally just a showroom unit with no innards.

An Arduino Pro Mini provides the brains for the charger, and the source code and all the needed information to build your own like charger is on GitHub. What’s outstanding about the guide though is the deep dive into how these chargers work, and how straightforward they really are without being simplistic.

Dealing with mains power and the installation of such a serious piece of kit means that there are inherent risks for the DIYer, and [fotherby] addresses these admirably by including a ground fault detection circuit. The result is that if there is a ground fault of any kind, it will shut down the entire circuit at speeds and levels that are below the threshold that can harm humans. [fotherby] backs this up by testing the circuit thoroughly and documenting the results, showing that the charger meets commercial standards. Still, this isn’t a first-time project for the EV enthusiast, so we feel compelled to say “Don’t Try This At Home” even though that’s exactly what’s on display.

In the end, several hundred quid were saved, and the DIY charger does the job just as well as the commercial unit. A great hack indeed! And while these aren’t common, we did cover another Open Source EV charger about a year ago that you might like to check out as well.

Continue reading “DIY Arduino Based EV Charger Saves Money, Looks Pro”

The BluePill board used for this hack, wired to the DYMO RFID reader, after all the wires for this hack have been soldered onto the BluePill board.

#FreeDMO Gets Rid Of DYMO Label Printer DRM

DYMO 550 series printer marketing blurb says “The DYMO® LabelWriter® 550 Turbo label printer comes with unique Automatic Label Recognition™”, which, once translated from marketing-ese, means “this printer has DRM in its goshdarn thermal stickers”. Yes, DRM in the stickers that you typically buy in generic rolls. [FREEPDK] didn’t like that, either, and documents a #FreeDMO device to rid us of yet another consumer freedom limitation, the true hacker way.

The generic BluePill board and two resistors are all you need, and a few extra cables make the install clean and reversible – you could definitely solder to the DYMO printer’s PCBs if you needed, too. Essentially, you intercept the RFID reader connections, where the BluePill acts as an I2C peripheral and a controller at the same time, forwarding the data from an RFID reader and modifying it – but it can also absolutely emulate a predetermined label and skip the reader altogether. If you can benefit from this project’s discoveries, you should also take a bit of your time and, with help of your Android NFC-enabled phone, share your cartridge data in a separate repository to make thwarting future DRM improvements easier for all of us. Continue reading “#FreeDMO Gets Rid Of DYMO Label Printer DRM”

You Can Turn Soft Drink Bottles Into Handy Solar Lamps

Solar lights are a popular garden decoration. Of course, they’re available cheaply from most hardware and garden stores, but if you’re more of the DIY type, you might like to build your own. [opengreenenergy] has done just that, using recycled materials for a cheap and simple design.

The design was inspired by the Moser bottle, which is a water-filled bottle used to diffuse sunlight into a room during the day. Instead of sunlight, however, this design uses an LED to provide the light, for decorating a garden or for use when out camping or traveling.

In this design, a solar panel is used to charge a lithium-polymer battery during the day using a LP4060B5F charge controller IC. It’s paired with a AP6685 battery protection IC to ensure the battery is not overly discharged or otherwise damaged in use. When the solar panel stops putting out power when it gets dark, the LED is automatically switched on. It can be set to a low or high brightness to provide more runtime or more light as needed.

All the circuitry is wrapped up in a neat 3D-printed case that allows the hardware to be screwed directly on top of a regular soft drink bottle. Paired with some water in the bottle, and perhaps a little bleach to stave off algal growth, the result is a handy, portable light that also has enough mass to avoid it being blown over easily.

It’s interesting to compare the design to commercial versions that aim to pare costs down to a minimum. Video after the break.

Continue reading “You Can Turn Soft Drink Bottles Into Handy Solar Lamps”

Remote MQTT Temperature Sensor Shows How It’s Done

First of all, there are definitely simpler ways to monitor remote temperatures, but [Mike]’s remote MQTT temperature sensor and display project is useful in a few ways. Not only does it lay out how to roll such a system from scratch, but it also showcases system features like solar power.

After all, if one simply wants to monitor temperature that’s easily done, but once one wishes to log those temperatures and use them to trigger other things, then rolling one’s own solution starts to get more attractive. That’s where using someone else’s project as a design reference can come in handy.

[Mike’s] solution uses two Wemos D1 boards: one with a DS18B20 temperature sensor for outdoors, and one with a small OLED screen for an interior display. The external sensor relies on a rechargeable 18650 cell and a solar panel for a hassle-free power supply, and the internal sensor (of which there can be many) has a cute enclosure and is powered by USB. On the back end, a Raspberry Pi running an MQTT gateway and Node Red takes care of the operational side of things. The whole system has been happily running for over two years.

What is MQTT? It is essentially a messaging protocol, and takes care of the whole business of reliably communicating data back and forth between IoT devices. It scales very well and doesn’t need to be hard or intimidating; our own [Elliot Williams] can tell you all about implementing it.

How Small Is Too Small?

Not a rhetorical question! This week we consider the most micro microcontroller: the HC32L110. It’s the new title holder of the smallest ARM Cortex M0+ part. But could you actually use it?

MCU is the black thing that’s smaller than the capacitor.

I remember way back, when I first learned to solder surface-mount components. It was fiddly at first, but nowadays I don’t use through-hole components unless someone’s twisting my arm. And I still do my soldering myself — down to 0603 really isn’t all that bad with an iron, and below that, there’s always the heat plate. My heat plate has also gotten me through the two times I’ve actually needed to put down a ball-grid-array part. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared, honestly.

So maybe it’s time for me to take the BGA plunge and design a board or two just to get more familiar with the tech. I probably won’t dive straight into the deep end, like the featured chip here with 0.35 mm ball pitch, but rather stick with something that the cheap PCB services can easily handle. My experience tells me that the best way to learn something is just to test it out.

Now, off to go part shopping in the middle of a chip crisis! Wish me luck.

3D Printed Climbing Holds, Now With Texture

Technology enables all kinds of possibilities to mold our environments in the way we best see fit. Plenty of ski resorts use snowmaking to extend their seasons, there are wave pools for surfing hundreds of miles away from oceans, and if you don’t live near any mountains you can build your own climbing wall as well. For the latter, many have turned to 3D printers to create more rock-like climbing grips but plastic doesn’t tend to behave the same as rock unless you do what [Giles Barton-Owen] did and incorporate salt into the prints.

For small manufacturers, typically the way that the rock texture is mimicked is by somehow incorporating sand, permanently, into the grip itself. This works well enough but is often too rough on climbers’ hands or otherwise doesn’t faithfully replicate a rock climbing experience. For these grips, instead of including sand, salt crystals of a particular size were added to a resin that was formed over the 3D printed grip. Once the resin cures substantially, the water-soluble salt can be washed away leaving a perfect texture to grab onto with chalked hands.

While this might not be a scalable method for large-scale climbing grip manufacturers, [Giles] hopes this method will help smaller operations or even DIY climbers to build more realistic grips without having to break the bank. In fact, he has already found some success at his local climbing gym using these grips. The method may be more difficult to scale for larger manufacturers but for anyone who wants to try it out themselves, all that’s needed for this build is a 3D printer, salt, and time.

Continue reading “3D Printed Climbing Holds, Now With Texture”