Pocket-Sized Workstation Sports Pi Zero, Pop-Up Screen

Many of us could use a general-purpose portable workstation, something small enough to pocket but still be ready for a quick troubleshooting session. Terminal apps on a smartphone will usually do the job fine, but they lack the panache of this pocketable pop-top Raspberry Pi workstation.

It doesn’t appear that [Michael Horne] has a specific mission in mind for his tiny Linux machine, but that’s OK — we respect art for art’s sake. The star of the show is the case itself, a unit intended for dashboard use with a mobile DVD player or backup camera. The screen is a 4.3″ TFT with a relatively low-resolution, so [Michael] wasn’t expecting too much from it. And he faced some challenges, like dealing with the different voltage needs for the display and the Raspberry Pi Zero W he intended to stuff into the base. Luckily, the display regulates the 12-volt supply internally to 3.3-volts, so he just tapped into the 3.3-volt pin on the Pi and powered everything from a USB charger. The display also has some smarts built in, blanking until composite video is applied, which caused a bit of confusion at first. A few case mods to bring connectors out, a wireless keyboard, and he had a nice little machine for whatever.

No interest in a GUI machine? Need a text-only serial terminal? We’ve seen that before too. And here’s one with a nice slide-out keyboard built in.

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Look Upon Eyepot, And Weep For Mercy

Hope you weren’t looking forward to a night of sleep untroubled by nightmares. Doing his part to make sure  Lovecraftian mechanized horrors have lease in your subconscious, [Paul-Louis Ageneau] has recently unleashed the horror that is Eyepot upon an unsuspecting world. This Cycloptic four legged robotic teapot takes inspiration from an enemy in the game Alice: Madness Returns, and seems to exist for no reason other than to creep people out.

Even if you aren’t physically manifesting nightmares, there’s plenty to learn from this project. [Paul-Louis Ageneau] has done a fantastic job of documenting the build, from the OpenSCAD-designed 3D printed components to the Raspberry Pi Zero and Arduino Pro Mini combo that control the eight servos in the legs. If you want to play along at home all the information and code is here, though feel free to skip the whole teapot with an eyeball thing.

A second post explains how the code is written for both the Arduino and Pi, making for some very illuminating reading. A Python script on the Pi breaks down the kinematics and passes on the appropriate servo angles to the Arduino over a serial link. Combined with a web interface for control and a stream from the teapot’s Raspberry Pi Camera module, and you’ve got the makings of the world’s creepiest telepresence robot. We’d love to see this one stomping up and down a boardroom table.

Seems we are on a roll recently with creepy robot pals. Seeing a collaboration between Eyepot and JARVIS might be too much for us to handle. Though we have a pretty good idea how we’d want to control them.


Upgrading a 3D Printer with OctoPrint

If you’ve been hanging around 3D printing communities, or reading the various 3D printing posts that have popped up here on Hackaday, you’ve almost certainly heard of OctoPrint. Created and maintained by Gina Häußge, OctoPrint allows you to turn an old computer (or more commonly a small ARM board like the Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone) into a network-accessible control panel for your 3D printer. Thanks to a thriving collection of community developed plugins, it can even control other hardware such as lights, enclosure heaters, smart plugs, or anything else you can think to hook onto the GPIO pins of your chosen ARM board. The project has become so popular that the new Prusa i3 MK3 has a header on the control board specifically for connecting a Pi Zero W running OctoPrint.

Even still, I never personally “got” OctoPrint. I was happy enough with my single printer connected to my computer and controlled directly from my slicer over USB. The majority of the things I print are of my own design, so when setting up the printer it only seemed logical that I would have it connected to the machine I’d be doing my designing on. If I’m sitting at my computer, I just need to rotate my chair to the right and I’m at my printer. What do I need to control the thing over WiFi for?

But things got tricky when I wanted to set up a second printer to help with speeding up larger projects. I couldn’t control them both from the same machine, and while I could print from SD on the second printer if I really had to, the idea seemed painfully antiquated. It would be like when Scotty tried talking into the computer’s mouse in “Voyage Home”. Whether I “got it” or not, I was about to dive headfirst into the world of OctoPrint.

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Make Christmas Commercial Again with this Tiny TV Ornament

Readers of a certain age will remember a time when the Christmas season in the US officially kicked off after Thanksgiving. That was when advertisers began saturation bombing the communal mind with holiday-themed TV commercials night and day. Broadcast TV no longer holds sway like it did back then, and advertisers now start their onslaught in September, but you can put a little retro-commercialism back to Christmas with this 90s Christmas commercial-playing ornament for your tree.

The idea came to [SeanHodgins] after stumbling upon a collection of Christmas commercials from the 1990s on YouTube. With his content identified, he set about building a tree-worthy display from a Pi Zero W and a TFT LCD display. An audio amp and tiny speaker from an old tablet and a LiPo battery and charger form the guts of [Sean]’s TV, which were stuffed into a 3D-printed TV case, appropriately modeled after the TV from The Simpsons. The small fresnel lens that mimics the curved screens of yore is a nice touch. The software has some neat tricks, such as an HTTP server that accepts the slug of a YouTube video, fetches the MP4, and automatically plays it. We prefer our Christmas tree ornaments a little quieter, so a volume control would have been nice, but aside from that this looks like a ton of fun.

This isn’t [Sean]’s first foray into tricked-out ornaments, of course; readers might recall his IoT cheer-measuring Christmas ornaments from last season.

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Simultaneous AP & Client on the Pi Zero W

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is a great platform for IoT projects, with a smattering of GPIO and onboard WiFi. However, security is an important consideration when it comes to the Internet of Things and it can be beneficial to keep your IoT devices on a separate network for safety’s sake. [Albert] wanted to do this all on board the Pi Zero W, and figured out how to get it acting as an access point and a client all at the same time.

[Albert] starts off with a fresh install of Raspbian Stretch, and sets the Pi up in OTG mode. This allows access to the Pi over a USB serial terminal. This is great for productivity when working on headless networking projects, as it can be frustrating trying to work with an SSH session that keeps dropping out when you change settings.

After creating a second named device (ap0) to go along with the one created automatically by the kernal (wlan0), DNSmasq is installed to act as a DHCP server for the AP. Hostapd is then installed to control the AP settings. Following this, like anything in Linux, a flurry of configuration files are edited to get everything humming along and starting up automatically after a reboot. For some reason, things don’t start up smoothly, so [Albert] has a cron job that fires 30 seconds after bootup and toggles the interfaces off and on again, and that’s done the trick.

It’s a useful hack, as it allows the Pi Zero to act as a hub for IoT devices, while also creating a bridge between them and the internet. Traffic can be managed to stop random internet users flicking your lights on and off and overspeeding your dishwasher.

We’ve seen the Pi Zero used for just about everything under the sun so far. If you’re just starting your own IoT build, perhaps you’d like to use the Pi Zero as a streaming camera?


Turn that Pi Zero into a Streaming Camera, Step-by-Step

What makes [mwagner1]’s Raspberry Pi Zero-based WiFi camera project noteworthy isn’t so much the fact that he’s used the hardware to make a streaming camera, but that he’s taken care to document every step in the process from soldering to software installation. Having everything in one place makes it easier for curious hobbyists to get those Pi units out of a drawer and into a project. In fact, with the release of the Pi Zero W, [mwagner1]’s guide has become even simpler since the Pi Zero W now includes WiFi.

Using a Raspberry Pi as the basis for a WiFi camera isn’t new, but it is a project that combines many different areas of knowledge that can be easy for more experienced people to take for granted. That’s what makes it a good candidate for a step-by-step guide; a hobbyist looking to use their Pi Zero in a project may have incomplete knowledge of any number of the different elements involved in embedding a Pi such as basic soldering, how to provide appropriate battery power, or how to install and configure the required software. [mwagner1] plans to use the camera as part of a home security system, so stay tuned.

If Pi Zero camera projects catch your interest but you want something more involved, be sure to check out the PolaPi project for a fun, well-designed take on a Pi Zero based Polaroid-inspired camera.

Hackaday Links: March 26, 2017

PoC||GTFO 14 is now out. It’s a 40 MB PDF that’s also a Nintendo Entertainment System ROM, and a Zip archive. Pastor Laphroaig Screams High Five To The Heavens As The Whole World Goes Under. Download this, but don’t link – host it yourself. Bitrot will be the end of us all.

[Photonicinduction] is back. The guy best known for not starting an electrical fire in his attic has been working through some stuff recently. He got married, went to India, and he’s going to try to blow a five thousand amp fuse. Good on him.

There’s a certain segment of the Internet that believes the Raspberry Pi Zero doesn’t exist. The logic goes something like this: because I can’t buy a Ferrari right now, Ferraris don’t exist. Now there’s a new and improved website that checks if the Pi Zero and Pi Zero W are in stock: thepilocator.com. It checks a dozen or so online stores for the Pi Zero and Pi Zero W. Guess what? They’re mostly in stock.

[bxcounter] built a PC case and holy crap this thing is incredible. This case is made out of Paulownia wood, and is made up out of fifty pieces held together with magnets. This thing is hand-carved and looks fantastic. Inside is a Mini-ITX motherboard, an i3, a Gigabyte ITX-sized 1060, and an SSD. It’s no powerhouse, but then again it’s not overkill, either. This is a fantastic addition to any battlestation.

As most hackerspaces do, the Omaha Maker Group had a storage problem. Previously, members used plastic totes someone picked up as surplus, but these totes were in short supply. Banker’s Boxes are a better idea, but how to store them? A box case. This ‘bookcase for boxes’ holds 21 standard Banker’s Boxes and only uses two full sheets of MDF in its construction.