Remote Control of Clocks is Easy as Pi

[Fatjedi007] recently acquired three programmable boxing gym-type clocks to help his developmentally disabled clients manage their time. The plan was to have timers of varying lengths fire at preset times throughout the day, with the large displays providing a view from anywhere. Unfortunately, the clocks were not nearly as programmable as he needed them to be.

Since he’d spent enough money already, [Fatjedi007] turned to the power of Raspberry Pi to devise an affordable solution. Each clock gets a Pi Zero W and a simple IR transmit/receive circuit that operates using LIRC. The clocks came with remote controls, so it was just a matter of re-programming them. From LIRC, he wrote some scripts with SEND_ONCE and schedules the timers with a cron job. No need to get out the ladder—he can program all of them from his chair over VNC.

He does have one problem, though, and that’s getting the Zeros to set themselves over NTP with static IPs. Do you have any suggestions? Put ’em in the comments and help a Jedi out.

LIRC is pretty handy for anything you want to control remotely, like a stereo system.

Thermal Camera Diagnoses Thermal Issue on a Sonoff Switch

No matter what your experience level with troubleshooting, there’s always at least a little apprehension when you have to start poking through a mains powered device. A little fear is a good thing; it keeps you focused. For some, though, the aversion to playing with high voltage is too much, which can cause problems when something fails. So what do you do when you’re reluctant to even open the case? Easy — diagnose the problem with an infrared camera.

[Bald Engineer]’s electrophobia started early, with some ill-advised experiments in transcutaneous conduction. So when his new Sonoff WiFi switch failed soon after deploying it to control a lamp in his studio, popping the top while it was powered up was out of the question. The piquant aroma of hot plastic was his first clue to the problem, so he whipped out his Flir One Thermal Camera and watched the device as it powered up. The GIF nearby shows that there was clearly a problem, with a bloom of heat quickly spreading out from the center of the unit. A few IR images of the top and bottom gave him some clues as to the culprits, but probing the board in those areas once power was removed revealed no obviously damaged components.

[Bald Engineer] hasn’t yet gotten to the bottom of this, but his current thinking is that the NCP1117 regulator might be bad, since it rapidly spikes to 115°C. Still, we think this is a nifty diagnostic technique to add to our toolkit, and a great excuse to buy an IR camera. Or, we could go with an open-source thermal camera instead.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

ESP-01 Bridges the Gap Between IR and WiFi

[Emilio Ficara] dropped us a line recently about his efforts to drag his television and receiver kicking and screaming into the modern era. His TV is old enough that it needs an external tuner, which means it requires two separate remotes to properly channel surf. He wanted to simplify the situation, and figured that while he was at it he might as well make the whole thing controllable over WiFi.

To begin the project, [Emilio] had to capture the IR signals from the two remotes he wanted to emulate. He put together a quick little IR receiver out of parts he had in the junk bin which would connect up to his computer’s microphone port. He then used an open source IR protocol analyzer to capture the codes and decode them into hex values.

As a proof of concept he came up with a little device that combines an ESP-01 with an ATmega88. The ESP-01 runs a minimal web server that receives hex codes as URL query strings. These hex codes are then interpreted by the ATmega88 and sent out over the IR LED. [Emilio] notes that driving the IR LED directly off of the ATmega pin results in fairly low range of around one meter, but that’s good enough for his purposes. If you want to drive the IR LED with more power, you’ll need to add a transistor to do the switching.

Passing the hex code 0x0408 to turn off the TV

Now that he can decode the signals from his original remotes and transmit them over WiFi via his bridge device, he has all the groundwork he needs to come up with a streamlined home entertainment controller. A native application for his smartphone or perhaps a minimal web interface is the last piece of the puzzle.

This project reminds us of a similar attempt at controlling legacy IR devices from a smartphone via Bluetooth. If you’re looking for more information about wrangling IR signals from your microcontroller, this primer from 2013 is still a great look at the subject.

How To Control the Lights with a TV Remote

In this day and age of the Internet of Things and controlling appliances over the internet, the idea of using an old-fashioned television remote to do anything feels distinctly 2005. That doesn’t mean it’s not a valid way to control the lights at home, and [Atakan] is here to show us how it’s done.

To the experienced electronics maker, this is yesterday’s jam, but [Atakan] goes to great lengths to hash out the whole process from start to finish, from building the circuitry to switch the lights through to the code necessary to make a PIC do your bidding. It’s rare to see such a project done with a non-Arduino platform, but rest assured, such things do exist. There’s even some SPICE simulation thrown in for good measure, if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty.

Perhaps the only thing missing from the writeup is a primer on how to execute the project safely, given that it’s used with a direct connection to live mains wiring. We’d love to hear in the comments about any changes or modifications that would be necessary to ensure this project doesn’t hurt anyone or burn an apartment complex down. Sometimes you can switch lights without a direct connection to the mains, however – like this project that interfaces mechanically with a standard light switch.

Cryptanalyse Your Air Con

Infrared remote controls are simple and ubiquitous. Emulating them with the aid of a microcontroller is a common project that hackers use to control equipment as diverse as televisions, cable boxes, and home stereos. Some air conditioners can be a little more complicated, however, but [Ken]’s here to help.

The root of the problem is that the air conditioner remote was using a non-obvious checksum to verify if commands received were valid. To determine the function generating the checksum, [Ken] decided to bust out the tools of differential cryptanalysis. This involves carefully varying the input to a cryptographic function and comparing it to the differences in the output.

With 35 signals collected from the remote, a program was written to find input data that varied by just one bit. The checksum outputs were then compared to eventually put together the checksum function.

[Ken] notes that the function may not be 100% accurate, as they’re only using a limited sample of data in which not all the bytes change significantly. However, it shows that a methodical approach is valuable when approaching such projects.

Thirsty for more checksum-busting action? Check out this hacked weather station.

Car Lights for Reflow Heat Source

If you only have a car and you need to unsolder some tricky surface mount components: what would you do? If you’re Kasyan TV, you’d remove your car’s halogen lights and get to town. That’s right: car lights for reflow.

When the friend of the host of Kasyan TV needed to remove some roasted toasted FETs from his motherboard but didn’t have anything for reflowing, she took some headlights and used them as an infrared source to desolder the FETs. Powered by a lab supply (although car batteries work too), the process works with 60 and 100-watt bulbs.

Now, reflowing with halogen bulbs isn’t new, and we’ve seen it done with the run of the mill 100-watt bulbs and a halogen floodlight. However, what we really like about using car lights is that they’re available everywhere and we already own some that we could (temporarily) repurpose. Now, don’t get us wrong – if you’re going to be reflowing more than just a little, there are plenty of alternative methods that don’t involve staring at “rather bright lights” for extended periods of time.

People ’round these parts can’t seem to get enough of reflow: from open source reflow oven controllers to reflowing with a hair straightener we’ve seen quite a bit. If you’re new to the reflow arena, we’ve got zero to hero: reflow style just for you. And if DIY at home reflow isn’t intense enough for you, we’ve got next level reflowing as well.

The full video is after the break, complete with Kasyan TV’s sponsored segment in the middle..

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Mike Ossmann and Dominic Spill: IR, Pirates!

Mike Ossmann and Dominic Spill have been at the forefront of the recent wave of software-defined radio (SDR) hacking. Mike is the hardware guy, and his radio designs helped bring Bluetooth and ISM-band to the masses. Dominic is the software guy who makes sure that all this gear is actually usable. The HackRF SDR is still one of the best cheap choices if you need an SDR that can transmit and receive.

So what are these two doing on stage giving a talk about IR communication? Can you really turn traffic lights green by blinking lights? And can you spoof a TV remote with a cardboard cutout, a bicycle wheel, and a sparkler? What does IR have to do with pirates, and why are these two dressed up as buccaneers? Watch our video interview and find out, or watch the full talk for all of the juicy details.

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