A Digital Magic 8-Ball? Signs Point To Yes

[FacelessTech] was recently charmed by one of our prized possessions as a kid — the Magic 8-Ball — and decided to have a go at making a digital version. Though there is no icosahedron or mysterious fluid inside, the end result is still without a doubt quite cool, especially for a project made on a whim with parts on hand.

It’s not just an 8-ball, it also functions as a 6-sided die and a direct decider of yes/no questions. Underneath that Nokia 5110 screen there’s an Arduino Pro Mini and a 3-axis gyro. Almost everything is done through the gyro, including setting the screen contrast when the eight ball is first powered on. As much we as love that aspect, we really like that [FacelessTech] included a GX-12 connector for easy FTDI programming. It’s a tidy, completely open-source build, and there’s even a PCB. What’s not to like? Be sure to check out the video after the break to see it in action.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the smallest Magic 8-Ball build we’ve seen. Have you met the business card version?

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Bright White Night Light Fights E-Waste

E-waste is a gigantic problem, and it can seem impossible as a lone individual to make any kind of dent in it. But [akshar1101] is trying to do their part by looking past the defective aspects of broken, discarded electronics to draw out the possibilities of what’s left.

This friendly night light is made from the PCBs of four broken Nokia 5110 LCD modules. The screens were all toast, but the nice white LEDs that used to light them from the sides work just fine. [akshar1101] cleverly tied all the LED and GND lines together with single right-angle header pins. To power the LEDs, they wired up a JST receptacle to one of the PCBs and connected a 3.7 V lithium battery pack that sits underneath. [akshar1101] diffused the piercing white lights into a soft glow with two pieces of acrylic.

We love to see electronic components get saved from landfills, especially when they can be turned into something useful and beautiful. Something about the traces on these boards makes them visually interesting to us — it’s that little hiccup that interrupts otherwise parallel lines.

If all of your 5110 LCDs are in working order, you could spice one of them up with an RGB backlight.

An RGB Backlight For The Nokia 5110 LCD

Hardware hackers love the Nokia 5110 LCD. Or at least, they love the clones of it. You can pick up one of these panels for a couple bucks wherever electronic bits and bobs are sold, and integrating it into your project is a snap thanks to all the code and documentation floating around out there. But while it might be cheap and reliable, it’s not a terribly exciting component.

Which is perhaps why [Miguel Reis] thought he’d spruce it up a bit with an RGB backlight. While we’ll admit that this hack is mostly about looking cool, it’s not entirely without practical application. If your gadget experiences some kind of fault, having it flash the LCD bright red is sure to get somebody’s attention from across the room.

The board itself is very straightforward, with four MHPA1010RGBDT RGB LEDs and a couple of passives to keep them happy. The Nokia 5110 LCD module just pops right on, and beyond the extra pins added for the three LED colors, gets wired up the same as before. The backlight LEDs just need a few spare GPIO pins on your microcontroller to drive them, and away you go.

[Miguel] is currently selling his RGB version of this iconic LCD on Tindie for only a couple dollars more than the standard version, so it looks like a pretty cheap way to add a little bling to your next project. (Tindie is owned by Supplyframe, which also owns Hackaday. But they didn’t put us up to adding this link.)

Desktop Weather Monitor Leaves Nothing To Chance

[Mirko Pavleski] has put together a little weather station for himself that combines Internet-sourced forecasts with physical sensor data to give him a complete view of his local conditions. There’s no shortage of weather applications for our smartphones and computers that will show us the current local conditions and the forecast for the next couple of days. It’s so easy to pull weather data from the various APIs out there that you even see the functionality “baked in” to different gadgets these days. Of course, you can dig through every weather API in the world and not find the temperature and humidity inside your office; for that, you need your own sensors.

[Mirko] took a somewhat unconventional approach by essentially building two totally separate weather devices and packing them into one enclosure, which gives the final device a rather unique look thanks to the contrasting display technologies used.

Local conditions are detected by an Arduino Nano connected to a BMP180 sensor and displayed on a Nokia 5110 LCD. The screen shows not only real-time temperature and barometric pressure, but the change in pressure over the last several hours. The three-day forecast, on the other hand, is provided by a NodeMCU ESP8266 development board connected to the increasingly ubiquitous 0.96 inch OLED.

If you’re not into the whole duality thing and would rather do it all on the same device, you might be interested in one of the ESP8266 weather monitors we’ve seen in the past.

Rubber Duck Debugging The Digital Way

Anyone who slings code for a living knows the feeling all too well: your code is running fine and dandy one minute, and the next minute is throwing exceptions. You’d swear on a stack of O’Reilly books that you didn’t change anything, but your program stubbornly refuses to agree. Stumped, you turn to the only one who understands you and pour your heart out to a little yellow rubber duck.

When it comes to debugging tools, this digital replacement for the duck on your desk might be even more helpful. Rubber duck decoding, where actually explaining aloud to an inanimate object how you think the code should run, really works. It’s basically a way to get you to see the mistake you made by explaining it to yourself; the duck or whatever – personally, I use a stuffed pig– is just along for the ride. [platisd] took the idea a step further and made his debugging buddy, which he dubs the “Dialectic Ball,” in the form of a Magic 8-Ball fortune teller. A 3D-printed shell has an ATtiny84, an accelerometer, and an LCD screen. To use it, you state your problem, shake it, and read the random suggestion that pops up. The list has some obvious suggestions, like adding diagnostic print statements or refactoring. Some tips are more personal, like talking to your local guru or getting a cup of coffee to get things going again. The list can be customized for your way of thinking. If nothing else, it’ll be a conversation piece on your desk.

If you’re more interested in prognostication than debugging, we have no shortage of Magic 8-Ball builds to choose from. Here’s one in a heart, one that fits in a business card, and even one that drops F-bombs.

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Art Deco Radio Gets FM Reception

Taking a vintage radio and cramming it full of modern, Internet-connected, guts has long been a staple of the hacking and making scene. While some might see it as a crime to take what’s arguably a legitimate piece of history and turn it into nothing more than a slipshod case for the Raspberry Pi, we have to admit there’s a certain appeal to the idea. Taking the beauty of classic design and pairing it with more modern capabilities is getting the best of both worlds.

But this project by [Nick Koumaris] is a somewhat unique take on the concept. Rather than sacrificing a real vintage piece of hardware to house the electronics, he’s designed a 3D printable case that looks like a classic 1936 AWA Radiolette. But what’s really interesting to us is that he then puts a basic FM radio inside of it.

That’s right, no Internet radio streaming or smartphone Bluetooth compatibility here. It’s just a regular FM radio, not entirely unlike the kind of hardware you’d expect to be inside of a classic radio. Of course, it’s much more modern, and [Nick] actually built it himself from a TEA5767 FM radio module and an Arduino Pro Mini.

While functionally it might not be terribly exciting, we do appreciate that he went through the trouble to make a vintage-looking user interface for the radio. While physical buttons would arguably have been more appropriate given the era, the art deco inspired font and graphics that show on the device’s Nokia 5110 LCD do look really slick.

Purists will surely be happy to see another project where a piece of vintage piece of audio equipment wasn’t sacrificed at the Altar of Hack, but we’ve also played host to many projects which weren’t nearly as concerned with historical preservation.

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It Keeps On Going And… Arduino Edition

How long can you keep an Arduino circuit running on three AA batteries? With careful design, [educ8s] built a temperature sensor that lasts well over a year on a single charge of three 2250 mAH rechargeable cells (or, at least, should last that long).

Like most long-life designs, this temperature sensor spends most of its time sleeping. The design uses a DS18B20 temperature sensor and a Nokia 5110 LCD display. It also uses a photoresistor to shut off the LCD display in the dark for further power savings.

During sleep, the device only draws 260 microamps with the display on and 70 microamps with the display off. Every two minutes, the processor wakes up and reads the temperature, drawing about 12 milliamps for a very short time.

Along with the code, [educ8s] has a spreadsheet that computes the battery life based on the different measured parameters and the battery vendor’s claimed self discharge rate.

Of course, with a bigger battery pack, you could get even more service from a charge. If you need a refresher on battery selection, we covered that not long ago. Or you can check out a ridiculously complete battery comparison site if you want to improve your battery selection.

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