The WebStick Is A Small, Cheap NAS

The ESP8266 was one of the first chips that provided wireless functionality at a cost low enough to be widely popular for small microcontroller projects. This project uses one to provide rapid, small, and inexpensive network-attached storage (NAS) capabilities wherever you happen to go.

With an ESP12F board at the heart to provide network connectivity, the small device also hosts a micro SD card slot and a USB-A port to provide power and programming capabilities for the device. It’s Arduino-compatible, and creator [tobychui] has provided the firmware source code necessary to bring it up on your network and start serving up files. Originally intended for people to host web services without experience setting up all of the tools needed for it, there’s services for storing and streaming music and video over the network as well.

While it includes a lot more functionality than is typically included on a NAS, [tobychui] notes that with a library, something like WebDAV could be added to provide more traditional NAS capabilities. As it stands, though, having networked storage with web hosting capabilities on a PCB with a total cost of around $5 is not something to shy away from. If you’re looking for something a little more powerful for your home network, take a look at this ARM-based NAS instead.

Bare PCB Makes A Decent Homemade Smart Watch

These days, we live in a post-Dick Tracy world, where you can make a phone call with your fancy wristwatch, and lots more besides. [akashv44] has gone a simpler route, designing their own from scratch with a bare PCB design.

The build is based around the ESP-12E microcontroller, providing useful wireless connectivity that lets the watch interface with the outside world. The firmware makes queries of NTP servers and Yahoo’s weather API to collect time and weather data for display. It’s also capable of interacting with Blynk relay modules for controlling other equipment, which [akashv44] uses with lights and an air conditioner. The watch uses a small OLED display and a handful of small surface-mount tactile buttons for control. Power is courtesy of a small lithium-ion pouch cell, with charging handled by a TP4056 battery management IC.

It’s a simple smartwatch, but nonetheless one that teaches all kinds of useful skills in embedded development and design. It’s also funny to think how simple it is to build. A decade ago, before the ESP8266 was released, getting wireless connectivity in such a small package was a major engineering challenge. Even the Apple Watch didn’t come out until 2015! Food for thought.

ESPboy Turned Into Functional Walkie-Talkie

The ESPBoy was first built as a hackable open-source game engine and handheld console for educational purposes. However, it’s also a platform that can readily support all kinds of other uses. You can even turn the humble handheld device into a working walkie talkie.

The build relies on adding a SA868 transceiver module to the ESPBoy, along with a microphone, speaker, audio amplifier and antenna as supporting hardware. It then relies on the ESPBoy’s existing screen and buttons as a user interface for the radio. Assembled appropriately, it can then be used as a very basic and barebones walkie talkie for voice communication.

You won’t get coded squelch or other useful features, but it’s enough to let you talk over the air with other handheld radio users. The SA868 module can transmit on a variety of frequency bands, but the video shows it operating in the UHF band around 433 MHz. With a power on the order of 1.8W, it should get you a few kilometers of transmission range in an open field.

Check out our earlier coverage of the ESPBoy and its many different configurations. Video after the break.

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Hack Simple

Here at Hackaday, we definitely love to celebrate the hard hacks: the insane feats of reverse engineering, the physics-defying flights of fancy, or the abuse of cutting edge technology. But today I’d like to raise a rhetorical glass in tribute of the simple hacks. Because, to be perfectly honest, the vast majority of my hacks are simple hacks, and it’s probably the same for you too. And these often go unsung because, well, they’re simple. But that doesn’t mean that something simple can’t be helpful.

Case in point: an ESP8266 press-buttons device that we featured this week. It doesn’t do much. It’s main feature is that it connects to a home automation network over WiFi and enables you to flip three relays. Wires coming off the board are to be soldered to the not-yet-smart device in question, simply connected to each side of the button you’d like to press. In the example, a coffee machine was turned on and the “go” button pressed, automating one of the most essential kitchen rituals. While recording the podcast, I realized that I’ve built essentially this device and have it controlling our house’s heating furnace.

For the experienced hacker, there’s not much here. It’s a simple board design, the software heavily leverages ESPHome, so there’s not much work on that front either. But imagine that you lacked any of the wide-ranging skills that it takes to make such a device: PCB layout, ESP8266 software wrangling, or the nuances of designing with relays. You could just as easily build this device wrong as right. The startup costs are non-trivial.

Making a simple design like this available to the public isn’t a technical flex, and it’s not contributing to the cutting edge. But it just might be giving someone their first taste of DIY home automation, and a sweet taste of success. There’s not much easier than finding a switch and soldering on two wires, but if that’s the spark that pushes them on their path to greater hacks, that’s awesome. And even if it doesn’t, at least it’s another appliance under user control, connected to a private WiFi network rather than spying you out and phoning home to Big Toaster.

So here’s to the simple hacks!

An Elegant Solution For Smart Home Device Integration

Integrating non-smart devices into your home automation system can be a cumbersome process, involving the wiring of multiple modules. However, [Pricelesstoolkit] has created the ESPClicker — a compact, ESP8266-based module that can remotely “press buttons” and simplify this process.

The ESPClicker’s core feature is its three relays that can be soldered to the button terminals of any existing “dumb” device, as [Pricelesstoolkit] demonstrated with his coffee machine in the video after the break. One of the relays can also be configured in the normally closed configuration. A compact twelve pin connector provides a removable wiring interface for the buttons, additional relays, power and even a contactless power detector that can be wrapped around an AC wire.

[PricelessToolkit] has done several Home Assistant related projects, and we recently featured his little Home Assistant controlled guardian bot. We’ve also seen other project that make use of ESPHome, like a iPod style scroll wheel and a LEGO train set.

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A shot of the underside of a "One Fast Cat" cat wheel with an installed ESP8266 and hall effect sensors attached to the base.

Spy On Your Cat To Make Sure It Gets Its Paws In

[Scott Cutler] has a young cat, [Cygnus], that loves to run on a cat wheel and [Scott] had some some important questions about [Cygnus]’s usage of the cat wheel like, how often it’s used, what direction is preferred and how fast does [Cygnus] go. To answer these questions, [Scott] put some telemetry sensors onto the cat wheel and analyzed the results.

An ESP8266 microcontroller and two 3144E hall effect modules were used to sense eight magnets glued onto the outer housing of a “One Fast Cat” cat wheel. [Scott] installed the ESP8266 and hall effect modules onto the base support for the wheels, using 3D printed brackets to secure them.

For the software side, the ESP8266 attaches an interrupt handler whenever a sensor passes by, recording a window of three previous measurements for valid sample determination and, if accepted, uses the time between samples to infer direction and speed. The ESP8266 connects to a pre-configured local WiFi network and has a telnet interface to extract stored log information, in the form of JSON data.

[Scott] has some nice graphs and other data visualizations on [Cygnus]’s usage, including a preference for running at 3 AM, achieving a maximum speed of 14 mph and an average of 4 seconds per run. The source is available on GitHub and the STL files are available embedded in [Scott]’s write-up. We’ve featured cat exercise trackers before with a giant hamster wheel outfitted with a Raspberry Pi and it’s nice to see some options that allow for a retrofit option in addition to a complete DIY solution.

A round clock with a color-coded face, with its name "Pingo" across it, together with a 3D animated mouse

Pingo Is An Analog Clock That Uses Colors Instead Of Hands

The purpose of a clock is to show the time, obviously. But if you’ve followed Hackaday for some time, you’ll know there are about a million different ways of achieving this. [illusionmanager] added yet another method in his Pingo Color Clock, which, as the name suggests, uses color as the main indicator.

The clock’s face is divided into three concentric circular zones. The zone at the center shows the hours, while the outer ring indicates the minutes. Both change their color such that they match the zone in between, which always shows a complete rainbow, at the desired location. In the picture above for example, the magenta inner circle matches the rainbow at the 10 o’clock position, while the yellow outer circle matches it at 10 minutes past the hour, meaning it’s currently 10:10.

A set of concentric circular LED with an ESP8266The rainbow ring is also moving however, and by adjusting its rotation through time you can get some interesting effects. [illusionmanager] programmed it in such a way that the outer ring is always yellow during the day, purple at night, and red at sunrise and sunset. The overall brightness is also adjusted to a day/night schedule.

As complex as the clock’s appearance may be, inside it’s quite a simple design. Nine concentric circular LED strips are driven by an ESP8266, which retrieves the time and sunrise information through its WiFi connection. A piece of translucent white acrylic acts as a diffuser, while a 3D-printed enclosure holds everything together.

Encoding the time using different colors of light has been done before in various different ways, and while we haven’t seen Pingo in real life, we believe it should be somewhat easier to read than most of those examples. It might actually form a nice complement to a recent analog LED ring clock.

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