Hub-powered bike computer

Battery-less Bike Computer Gets Power And Data From The Wheels

Bicycle generator technology has advanced far beyond the bottle dynamos of years past, which as often as not would introduce enough drag when engaged to stall the bike. Granted, it’s not as much of a current draw as a big old incandescent headlight, but this wheel-powered cyclocomputer is a great example of harvesting both power and data from the rotation of a bike’s wheel.

While there are plenty of cyclocomputers available commercially, [Lukas] was looking for some specific features. His main goal was something usable at night, which means a backlit display, ruling out the usually coin-cell power sources. His bike’s hub dynamo offered interesting possibilities — not only does it provide AC power, but its output frequency is proportional to the bike’s speed. This allows him to derive speed, distance, RPM, time-in-motion, and other parameters to display on the 1×8 character LCD display. There’s some clever circuitry needed to condition the output of the hub dynamo, and a 1.5 farad supercapacitor keeps the unit powered for about four days when the bike isn’t in motion.

As for measuring the frequency of the dynamo’s output, [Lukas] simply used a digital input on the MSP430 microcontroller, with a little signal conditioning of course. He also added a barometer chip for altitude data, plus an ambient light sensor to control the LCD backlight. Everything lives in a clever 3D-printed case with a minimalist but thoughtful design that docks and undocks from the bike easily; [Lukas] assures us that a waterproof version of the case is in the works.

We really appreciate the elegance of this design, and the way it uses the data that’s embedded in the power supply. While [Lukas] appears to have used a commercially available generator, we’ve seen other examples of home-brew hub dynamos before — even one that offers regenerative braking.

Download From NFC Datalogger, No App Required

The plethora of wireless technologies has made internet-connected devices the norm, but it’s not always necessary if you don’t need real-time updates. Whether it’s due to battery life, or location and range constraints, downloading data directly from the device whenever possible might be a viable solution. [Malcolm Mackay] demonstrates an elegant solution on the open source cuplTag temperature/humidity logger, using any NFC-enabled smartphone, without requiring a custom app.

The cuplTag utilizes the feature on NFC-enabled smartphones to automatically open a URL provided by the cuplTag. It encodes the sensor data from the sensor unit as a circular buffer in a ~1 kB URL, which automatically uploads to a web frontend that plots the data. (You can use their server or run your own.)

This means that data can be collected by anyone with the appropriate phone with zero setup. The data is displayed on the web app and can be downloaded as a CSV. To deter spoofing, each tag ships with a secret key which is used to generate a unique HMAC every time the circular buffer changes.

Battery life is a priority on the cuplTag, and it’s theoretically capable of running seven years on a single CR1220 coin cell using the current-sipping Texas Instruments MSP430 microcontroller. The hardware, firmware, and server-side frontend and backend code are all open source and available on GitHub.

Earlier this year, we held a data logging contest, and featured submissions that monitored everything from your garden’s moisture levels to your caffeine intake.

NEO430 Puts A Custom MSP430 Core In Your FPGA

We are certainly spoiled by all the microcontroller options nowadays — which is a great problem to have. But between the good old 8-bit controllers and an increasing number of 32-bit varieties, it almost seems as if the 16-bit ones are slowly falling into oblivion. [stnolting] particularly saw an issue with the lack of 16-bit open source soft cores, and as a result created the NEO430, an MSP430 compatible soft processor written in VHDL that adds a custom microcontroller to your next FPGA project.

With high customization as main principle in mind, [stnolting] included a wide selection of peripherals and system features that can be synthesized as needed. Not limiting himself to the ones you would find in an off-the-shelf MSP430 controller, he demonstrates the true strength of open source soft cores. Do you need a random number generator, CRC calculation, and an SPI master with six dedicated chip select lines? No problem! He even includes a Custom Functions Unit that lets you add your own peripheral feature or processor extension.

However, what impresses most is all the work and care [stnolting] put into everything beyond the core implementation. From the C library and the collection of examples for each of the controller’s features, so you can get started out of the box with GCC’s MSP430 port, to writing a full-blown data sheet, and even setting up continuous integration for the entire repository. Each topic on its own is worth looking at, and the NEO430 offers a great introduction or reference for it.

Of course, there are some shortcomings as well, and the biggest downer is probably the lack of analog components, but that’s understandable considering your average FPGA’s building blocks. And well, it’s hard to compete with the MSP430’s ultra low-power design using an FPGA, so if you’re thinking of replicating this watch, you might be better off with a regular MSP430 from a battery lifetime point of view.

Steampunk Water Thief Clock Steals Attention, Too

The funny thing about clocks is that the more intriguing they are to look at, the more precious time is wasted. This steampunk clepsydra is no exception. A clepsydra, or water thief clock is an ancient design that takes many forms. Any clock that uses the inflow or outflow of water to measure time could be considered a clepsydra, even if it uses electronics like this steampunk version.

[DickB1]’s sticky-fingered timepiece works by siphoning water from the lower chamber into the upper chamber on a one-minute cycle. An MSP430 and a MOSFET control the 12 V diaphragm pump. As the water level rises in the upper chamber, a float in the siphon pushes a lever that moves a ratchet and pawl that’s connected to the minute hand. The hour hand is driven by gears. A hidden magnet and Hall effect sensor help keep the clock clicking at one-minute intervals.

Although [DickB1] doesn’t tell you exactly how to replicate this clock, he offers enough information to get started in designing your own. Take a second to check it out after the break.

Most of the thieving around here is done for the joules, so here’s a joule thief running a clock.

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Returning Digital Watches To The Analog Age: Enter The Charliewatch

The Charliewatch by [Trammell Hudson] is one of those projects which is beautiful in both design and simplicity. After seeing [Travis Goodspeed]’s GoodWatch21 digital watch project based around a Texas Instruments MSP430-based SoC, [Trammell] decided that it’d be neat if it was more analog. This is accomplished using the CC430F5137IRGZR (a simpler member of the MSP430 family) and a whole bunch of 0603 SMD LEDs which are driven using Charlieplexing.

This time-honored method of using very few I/O pins to control many LEDs makes it possible to control 72 LEDs without dedicating 72 pins. The density makes animations look stunning and the digital nature melts away leaving a distinct analog charm.

A traditional sapphire crystal was sourced from a watchmaker for around 14€ as was the watch band itself. The rest is original work, with multiple iterations of the 3D printed case settling in on a perfect fit of the crystal, PCB, and CR2032 coin cell stackup. The watch band itself hold the components securely in the housing, and timekeeping is handled by a 32.768 kHz clock crystal and the microcontroller’s RTC peripheral.

The LEDs can be seen in both daylight and darkness. The nature of Charlieplexing means that only a few of the LEDs are ever illuminated at the same time, which does wonders for battery life. [Trammell] tells us that it can run for around six months before the coin cell needs replacing.

It’s completely open source, with project files available on the project’s Github page. We hope to see an army of these watches making appearances at all upcoming electronics-oriented events. Just make sure you lay off the caffeine as the process of hand-placing all those LEDs looks daunting.

Shmoocon: Advanced Low Power Techniques And A Watch

Real quick question: how do you increase productivity at work? The greatest (highest paid) minds would just say: do agile or scrum or something. What’s scrum? That’s where you gather ’round every morning for a waste of time meeting that kills your every desire to be productive. A while back, [Travis Goodspeed] was stuck in some lesser circle of hell like this and in an effort to be polite by not looking at his phone too much, looked at his watch too much. This led to the creation of the Goodwatch, a new bit of hardware that replaces the guts of a Casio calculator watch with a hex editor, ISM-band radio, MSP430 disassembler, and of course an RPN calculator.

[Travis] has already introduced the GoodWatch to the world. We took a look back in December but haven’t heard anything since. His talk at Shmoocon 2018 put a little more light on how this project came to be.

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Hackaday Links: Not A Creature Was Stirring, Except For A Trackball

Hey, did you know Hackaday is starting an Open Access, peer-reviewed journal? The Hackaday Journal of What You Don’t Know (HJWYDK) is looking for submissions detailing the tools, techniques, and skills that we don’t know, but should. Want to teach everyone how to make sand think? Write a paper and tell us about it! Send in your submissions here.

Have you noticed OSH Park updated their website?

The MSP430 line of microcontrollers are super cool, low power, and cheap. Occasionally, TI pumps out a few MSP430 dev boards and sells them for the rock-bottom price of $4.30. Here ya go, fam. This one is loaded up with the MSP430FR2433.

lol, Bitcoin this week.

Noisebridge, the San Francisco hackerspace and one of the first hackerspaces in the US, is now looking for a new place. Why, you may ask? Because San Francisco real estate. The current price per square foot is triple what their current lease provides. While we hope Noisebridge will find a new home, we’re really looking forward to the hipster restaurant that’s only open for brunch that will take its place.

The coolest soundcards, filled with DOS blips and bloops, were based on the OPL2 and OPL3 sound chips. If you want one of these things, you’re probably going to be digging up an old ISA SoundBlaster soundcard. The OPL2LPT is the classic sound card for computers that don’t have an easily-accessible ISA bus, like those cool vintage laptops. The 8-Bit Guy recently took a look at this at this neat piece of hardware, and apart from requiring a driver to work with any OPL2-compatible game, this thing actually works.

NVIDIA just did something amazing. They created a piece of hardware that everyone wants but isn’t used to turn electricity into heat and Bitcoin. This fantastic device, that is completely original and not at all derivative, is sold in the NVIDIA company store for under five dollars. Actually, the green logo silk/art on this PCB ruler is kinda cool, and I’d like to know how they did that. Also, and completely unrelated: does anyone want ten pounds of Digikey PCB rulers?