It seems like hardly a day goes by that doesn’t see some news story splashed across our feeds that has something to do with Elon Musk and one or another of his myriad companies. The news is often spectacular and the coverage deservedly laudatory, as when Space X nails another double landing of its boosters after a successful trip to space. But all too often, it’s Elon’s baby Tesla that makes headlines, and usually of the kind that gives media relations people ulcers.
The PR team on the automotive side of Tesla can take a bit of a breather now, though. This time it’s Elon’s solar power venture, Tesla Energy Operations, that’s taking the heat. Literally — they’ve been sued by Walmart for rooftop solar installations that have burst into flames atop several of the retail giant’s stores. While thankfully no lives have been lost and no major injuries were reported, Walmart is understandably miffed at the turn of events, leading to the litigation.
Walmart isn’t alone in their exposure to potential Tesla solar problems, so it’s worth a look to see what exactly happened with these installations, why they failed, and what we as hackers can learn from the situation. As we’ll see, it all boils down to taking electrical work very seriously and adhering to standards designed to keep everyone safe, even when they just seem like a nuisance.
Continue reading “Solar System Wars: Walmart Versus Tesla”
Those that work in front of a computer for a living spend most of the time making very little sound. Unless you’re a member of the clicky mechanical keyboard club, your working time is a low-observables time during which people can forget about you. You can make sure you’re not overlooked with this smartphone hotspot presence detector.
[Emilio Ficara]’s quiet work habits resulted in his housemates locking him in sometimes, to his inconvenience. PIR or microwave occupancy sensors might have worked to fix the problem, except that a few flexing fingers aren’t always enough to trigger them. Luckily, [Emilio] is also wisely distrustful of free WiFi, so his phone is always set up as a mobile hotspot, giving him the means to reliably detect his presence. An ATtiny2313 and an ESP-01 do the business of polling for the SSID of his phone and blinking a bright blue LED by his door for his housemates. It’s not perfect, of course; it could easily be spoofed by anyone else who knows his SSID. But simple works for now.
With almost everyone carrying one now, smartphone detection is a good proxy for the presence of a person. But it doesn’t work in every case, so you may want to familiarize yourself with the aforementioned PIR and microwave methods.
[Jeremy Blum] aimed to be the brightest student at his Master’s graduation ceremony this spring. He designed an LED rig for his mortar board which should battle the sun’s intensity by using up to 21 watts of power. But he didn’t stop with eye-catching intensity. while he was at it he also included some interactive features so the guy behind him has a way to keep from going blind.
One thing that really caught our eye is the 3D printed parts he generated for the project. There’s a nice mounting plate for the LED side of things, and a wrist-mounted enclosure for the Raspberry Pi board. Wait, why does he need an RPi to drive some LEDs? We already mention interactivity which is facilitated by the Pi acting as a WiFi hotspot. Connect to the access point and choose a color. If you’re in the seat behind [Jeremy] you’ll want to choose black! All of this and is explained in his video presentation.
Continue reading “LED Mortar Board Battles Suns Brightness With 21W Of Power”
[Drug123] made the most out of this inconspicuous gray box on the gable end of his father’s home. It serves up a 3G Internet connection that was otherwise unavailable..
The project idea was sparked by the absence of wired or fiber optic broadband in the community where his dad lives. He knew some neighbors were using 3G connections, but he couldn’t get it to work inside the house. So he set about developing an external installation that would both communicate with the cellular network, and provide a WiFi connect to it. Hardware for that is relatively expensive; a USB 3G modem and a WiFi router with a USB port.
The box itself is made of plastic, but even without the Faraday cage effect that would have been formed by using a metal housing, the 3G modem’s internal antenna just doesn’t do the job. You can see that [Drug123’s] solution was an external antenna which is mounted at the peak of the roofline. Inside the box there’s an exhaust fan to cool things off when they get too hot, as well as some power resistors which provide a heat source on the coldest nights. The low-cost build certainly fits the bill, and it’s not too hard on the eyes either.
Apparently Verizon customers are expected to pay for a second data plan if they want to be allowed to use a cellphone as a mobile hotspot. This means one data plan for the phone, and a second for the tethering. [DroidBionicRoot] thinks this is a little silly since there is already a data cap on the phone’s plan. But he’s found a way around it if you don’t mind rooting the phone to enable free tethering.
Not surprisingly it’s a very simple alteration. The phone is already capable of tethering, to enable the feature without Verizon’s permission just edit one database value. In the video after the break, [DroidBionicRoot] starts the process with a rooted Droid Bionic handset. He purchases an app for $2.99 which allows him to edit SQL databases on the handset. From there he navigates to the ‘Settings Storage’ database and changes the ‘entitlement_check’ key value to 0. Reboot the phone and tethering is now unlocked.
Continue reading “Use Droid Bionic As A Mobile Hotspot Without Paying Extra”
For all those times you need to broadcast your own access point where there’s no outlet [Larry] shows us how to make a solar-powered hotspot. He started by slapping a solar panel on the lid of a cigar box and attaching it to five rechargeable AA batteries inside. These power the mainboard from a router which is the perfect size to friction fit in the opening. It has been flashed with a copy of DD-WRT, and set to scan for open WiFi connections. When it finds one it connects and rebroadcasts its own WiFi signal to the surrounding area. He leaves it in the back window of his car and uses it to get on the net during lunch.