Punch Through Switches Gears, Shucks Beans

Do you own a LightBlue Bean or Bean+ from Punch Through? If you don’t have one now, you probably never will, as the company has recently announced they’re no longer selling or supporting the Bluetooth Low Energy microcontrollers. The company says that after selling more than 100,000 Bean devices, the challenge of keeping up with a constantly evolving software ecosystem became too difficult, and they are instead going to focus their efforts on advising other companies on how to best develop Bluetooth products.

Frankly, that sounds a bit like getting advice on how to build a fully armed and operational battle station from the Empire, but who are we to judge. While the Bean family of devices clearly wasn’t able to go the distance, Punch Through at least got them out the door and supported them for longer than many might have expected given the increased competition in the BLE market. It’s not hard to do the math: the LightBlue Bean retailed for around $35 USD, and today you can get a BLE-capable ESP32 for five bucks.

So what happens to all those Beans out in the wild? Normally, the parent company dropping support for a microcontroller wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but this time around we have the “Bean Loader” to contend with. This piece of software is used to push code to the device over Bluetooth, and it’s possible that the constant march of operating system upgrades (especially on mobile devices) will eventually break it. Long story short, there’s nothing to worry about in the short term. But down the road, these Beans might be baked.

Luckily, Punch Through did provide some pretty extensive documentation for the Beans. If there’s significant demand, we imagine the community will do their best to take over development of whatever ancillary software is required to keep the hardware usable for the foreseeable future. Speaking of which, the schematics and PCB layouts for both the Bean and Bean+ have been released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that somebody else might put them back into production.

[Thanks to Chris for the tip.]

Motion Sensing Water Gun Tweets Photos To Embarrass Enemies

[Ashish] is bringing office warfare to the next level with a motion sensing water gun. Not only does this water gun automatically fire when it detects motion, but it also takes a photo of the victim and publishes it on Twitter.

This hack began with the watergun. [Ashish] used a Super Soaker Thunderstorm motorized water gun. He pulled the case apart and cut one of the battery wires. he then lengthened the exposed ends and ran them out of the gun to his control circuit. He also placed a protection diode to help prevent any reverse EMF from damaging his more sensitive electronics. The new control wires run to a MOSFET on a bread board.

[Ashish] is using a Lightblue Bean board as a microcontroller. The Bean is Arduino compatible and can be programmed via low energy Bluetooth. The Bean uses an external PIR sensor to detect motion in the room. When it senses the motion, it activates the MOSFET which then turns on the water gun.

[Ashish] decided to use Node-RED and Python to link the Bean to a Twitter account. The system runs on a computer and monitor’s the Bean’s serial output. If it detects the proper command, it launches a Python script which takes a photo using a webcam. A second script will upload that photo to a Twitter account. The Node-RED server can also monitor the Twitter account for incoming direct messages. If it detects a message with the correct password, it can use the rest of the message as a command to enable or disable the gun.