The new hotness in consumer electronics might be RF remotes based on protocols like Bluetooth Low Energy, but there’s still plenty of life left in the classic infrared remote. Especially with projects like TinyRemoteXL from [Stefan Wagner], which let you build and program an IR “clicker” of your own. Whether you want to spin up your own custom universal remote or create a beefed up version of the TV-B-Gone, this open source effort is a great place to start.
As you might have guessed from the name, this project is actually a larger version of the TinyRemote that [Stefan] put together previously. The documentation for that project goes a bit more into the nuts and bolts of talking IR, and is definitely worth a read if you’re into the low level stuff. For the original five button TinyRemote, the hardware consists of little more than a ATtiny13A microcontroller, a pair of IR LEDs, and the transistors to drive them.
But on the XL, things are a bit trickier as there are now twelve buttons for the ATtiny13A to read. Obviously there aren’t enough pins to read so many buttons directly, but with a combination of BAS16TW diode arrays and resistors, [Stefan] is able to detect what button was pressed using the chip’s interrupt pin and ADC. Certainly a handy trick to have in the back of your mind, and the open source nature of this project gives you a great chance to see how it’s implemented.
The TV-B-Gone is a well known piece of kit in hacker circles: just point it at a noisy TV in a public space, hit the button, and one of the hundreds of IR remote codes for “Power Off” that it blinks out in rapid succession is more than likely to get the intended response. Unfortunately, while a neat conversation starter, its practical use is limited to a single function. But not so with this programmable IR development board that creator [Djordje Mandic] describes as a “TV-B-Gone on steroids”.
Sure you can point it at a random TV and turn it off with a single button press, but you can also plug the board into your computer and control it directly through the serial connection provided by its CP2104 chip. Using a simple plain-text control protocol, the user can modify the behavior of the device and monitor its status. [Djordje] imagines this feature being used in conjunction with a smartphone application for covert applications. To that end, the device’s support for an onboard battery should keep it from draining the phone during extended operations.
The date was September 26, 1983. A lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defence Forces sat at his command station in Serpukhov-15 as sirens blared, indicating nuclear missiles had been launched from the United States. As you may have surmised by the fact you’re reading this in 2021, no missiles were fired by either side in the Cold War that day. Credit for this goes to Stanislav Petrov, who made the judgement call that the reports were a false alarm, preventing an all-out nuclear war between the two world powers. Today, we’ll look at what caused the false alarm, and why Petrov was able to correctly surmise that what he was seeing was an illusion.
Sometimes, the best hifi gear is the gear you’ve already got. This is particularly the case in the cassette world, as high quality decks are long out of production. [Nick] liked his current rig, but wanted to be able to use it with a remote from across the room. Naturally, he set to hacking the feature in.
The cassette deck in question, a Yamaha K-220, was old enough to lack a remote, but thankfully new enough to use a computer-controlled tape transport. This meant that the basic features of play, stop, rewind and fast forward can all be controlled with simple digital buttons rather than mechanical ones. This made it easy to interface an ATmega328P to the stereo’s original circuitry. Digital IO pins are hooked up to the buttons, held as high-impedance inputs most of the time, only toggling to ground when necessary to trigger a button press. It was then a simple job to hook up an IR receiver to the chip and program it with some Arduino libraries to work with a typical stereo remote control [Nick] had laying around.
While more and more consumer products are rushing to include WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, the simplicity and reliability of infrared has kept it in the game in the game far longer than many might have thought. Despite being thinner and sleeker, the IR remote control that comes with your brand new smart TV isn’t fundamentally different than what we were using in the 1980s.
But that doesn’t mean IR devices can’t enjoy some modern conveniences. Sick of misplacing his remote, [Sasa Karanovic] decided to come up with a way he could emulate it to control his TV over the network. Now with nothing more exotic than a web browser on his phone or computer, he can tap away at a visual representation of a remote to control the TV from anywhere in the house. As you might expect, this project could readily be adapted to control whatever IR gadget you might have in mind.
Admittedly, this isn’t exactly breaking any new ground. We’ve seen plenty of people come up with similar IR gateways in the past with varying levels of complexity. But what we really like about this project is that not only has [Sasa] shared the source code that turns an ESP32 into a network-controlled IR transmitter, but he’s put together a concise video that demonstrates how easy it is so spin up your own version. The 3D printed enclosure that looks like a traditional IR remote was a nice touch too.
The hardware for this project is little more than an ESP32 development board and an LED, but if you’re looking for something a bit more built for purpose, we recently saw a very slick open hardware IR gateway that might fit your needs.
Over the last few weeks the media has been full of talk about NEOWISE, one of the brightest and most spectacular comets to ever pass through our solar system that you can still see if you hurry. While the excitement over this interstellar traveler is more than justified, it’s also an excellent opportunity to celebrate the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope it was named after. The discovery of this particular comet is just the latest triumph in the orbiting observatory’s incredible mission of discovery that’s spanned over a decade, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
In fact, WISE has been operational for so long now that its mission has evolved beyond its original scope. When it was launched in December 2009 from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, its primary mission was scheduled to be completed in less than a year. But like many NASA spacecraft that came before it, WISE achieved its original design goals and found itself ready for a new challenge. Though not before it spent almost three years in hibernation mode as the agency decided what to do with it.
For modern students, the spiral notebook has given way to the laptop and the pocket calculator has been supplanted by the smart phone. We’re not just talking about high school and college, either. Today, the education of even grade school children is intrinsically linked with technology. While some might question the wisdom of moving away from the pencil and pad at such a young age, there’s little question that all the kids stuck at home right now due to COVID-19 would have had a much harder time transitioning to remote learning otherwise.
But that certainly wasn’t the case when Advanced Keyboard Technologies released the Writer in 2003. Back then, five years before the first netbooks hit the market, you’d be hard pressed to find a laptop cheap enough to give to a grade school student. In comparison, these small electronic word processors could be purchased for as little as $150. Not only was the initial price low, but the maintenance costs were almost negligible. They ran for hundreds of hours on a standard AA batteries, and didn’t require schools to have any IT staff to manage them. Sure they couldn’t get on the Internet or even run any software, but they would give students a chance to hone their keyboarding skills. Continue reading “Teardown: The Writer Word Processor”→