Turn An Unused Pi Zero Into A Parts Bin WiFi Extender

We know a lot of you are sitting on an unused Raspberry Pi Zero W, maybe even several of them. The things are just too small and cheap not to buy in bulk when the opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately, the Zero isn’t exactly a powerhouse, and it can sometimes be tricky to find an application that really fits the hardware.

Which is why this tip from [Tejas Lotlikar] is worth taking a look at. Using the Pi Zero W, a cheap USB WiFi adapter, and some software trickery, you can put together a cheap extender for your wireless network. The Pi should even have a few cycles left over to run ad-blocking software like Pi-hole while it shuffles your packets around the tubes.

[Tejas] explains every step of the process, from putting the Raspbian image onto an SD card to convincing wpa_supplicant to put the Pi’s WiFi radio into Access Point mode. Incidentally, this means that you don’t need to be very selective about the make and model of the USB wireless adapter. Something with an external antenna is preferable since it will be able to pull in the weak source signal, but you don’t have to worry about it supporting Soft AP.

With the software configured, all you need to finish this project off is an enclosure. A custom 3D printed case large enough to hold both the Pi and the external WiFi adapter would be a nice touch.

Building A 3D Scanner With A 3D Printer

Using a 3D printer to make high quality parts is a great way to improve the look and appeal of any project. If you want to replicate something exactly, though, you’ll need either a very good set of calipers and a lot of time or a 3D scanner. Using the 3D scanner and the 3D printer go along very well together, especially if you use your 3D printer to build your 3D scanner too.

This project comes to us from [Vojislav] who spent the past two years perfecting this 3D scanner. Using a vast array of 3D printed parts, this build looks professional on every level. It also boasts a Raspberry Pi Zero and a fleet of camera modules, not to mention its own LED lighting. [Vojislav] has provided the printer files and the software needed to run it on the project page. It all runs through command line and python code, but that shouldn’t be a big hurdle.

While there is no video of it in action, it seems like all the parts are there for a solid 3D scanner, provided you have access to a 3D printer that can churn out the parts you’ll need. If you need something larger, there are some other options available as well that really take your photogrammetry skills to the next level.

Vintage Slide Viewers Make Beautiful Retro Emulators

35mm still photography is still hanging on out in the wild, with its hardcore fans ensuring it never quite dies out despite the onward march of digital imaging. Slides are an even more obsolete technology, forgotten long ago when the quality of color negative films improved. The related paraphernalia from the era of the photographic slide continues to clutter up attics and garages the world over. [Martin Burlus] was in possession of some retro slide viewers, and found they made an excellent basis for a RetroPie build.

The build relies on stock standard fundamentals – a Pi Zero runs the show, combined with a USB hub and a power supply. [Martin] then chose to build this all inside the case of the slide viewer, combined with a 2.8″ PiTFT display. This neatly slots directly on to the Pi Zero’s 40-pin header, and comes complete with a touch screen. It’s the perfect size to slide into most slide viewers, though some models required removal of the tact buttons.

The slide viewers make for a charming enclosure, and the classic 1970s optics make for pleasant viewing. Throwing a modern display behind a vintage lens is a great way to give a project a more classic look and feel. One thing’s for sure – we’ll be keeping an eye out for a slide viewer of our own next time we’re passing through the local junk shops.

Etch-A-Snap Will Sketch Your Selfies

The Etch-a-Sketch was a hugely popular toy in the days before video games and the Internet became ubiquitous. These days, they’re a fun amusement, but can still be difficult to master. Rather than learn the necessary skills himself, [Martin Fitzpatrick] decided to build a machine to draw for him. Enter the Etch-a-Snap.

The build starts with a Raspberry Pi Zero, equipped with the requisite camera. Images taken are processed into a 100×60 pixel image with 1-bit color. At this stage, a network graph representation is built of the image and used to generate commands for the plotting mechanism to draw the scene. Plotting is achieved with stepper motors that turn the knobs through 3D-printed gears. Plotting is slow, with images taking 15 minutes to an hour to “develop”. The system can also be used to draw manually processed images, which can improve results when images are chosen carefully.

It’s a project that combines modern hardware with a classic toy for some interactive fun. We could imagine a large-scale version of this being a great installation at a science museum or MakerFaire. We’ve seen others tackle a computer-controlled Etch-A-Sketch, too. Video after the break.

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Portable Pi Power Pack Makes For Petite Projects

Since the Pi Zero was released, there have been many attempts to add a power bank. Cell phone batteries are about the same size as a Pi Zero, after all, and adding a USB charging port and soldering a few wires to a Pi is easy. The PiSugar is perhaps the cutest battery pack we’ve seen for the Pi Zero, and it comes in a variety of Hats compatible with the Pi, capable of becoming a small display, a keyboard, or any other thing where a small, portable Linux machine is useful.

The core of this build is a small circuit board the size of a Pi Zero. Attached to this board is a 900mAh battery, and the entire assembly is attached to the Pi Zero with a set of two spring clips that match up with with a pair of pads on the back of the Pi. Screw both of these boards together, and you have a perfect, cableless solution to adding power to a Pi Zero.

But the PiSugar doesn’t stop there. There are also cases, for a 1.3 inch LCD top, a 2.13 inch ePaper display, an OLED display, a camera, a 4G module, and something that just presents the pins from the Pi GPIO header. This is an entire platform, and if you print these parts in white plastic, they look like tiny little sugar cubes filled to the brim with electronics and Linux goodness.

Yes, you’ve seen 3D printed Pi cases before, but nothing in the way of an entire platform that gives you a Pi Zero in an extensible platform that can fit in your pocket and looks like sweet, sweet cubes of sucrose.

An Air Quality Monitor That Leverages The Cloud

Air quality has become an increasing concern in many urban areas, due to congestion and our ever-increasing energy use. While there are many organisations that task themselves with monitoring such data, it’s also something anyone should be able to take on  at home. [Chrisys] is doing just that, with some impressive logging to boot.

The build starts with a Raspberry Pi Zero W, which offers the requisite computing power and Internet connectivity in a compact low-power package. For determining air quality, the Bosch BME680 sensor is used. This offers temperature, pressure, and humidity readings, along with the ability to sense the presence of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These can be harmful to human health, so it’s useful to have an idea of the levels in your home.

The hardware is incredibly refined. It’s simple enough for the newbie, but just begs for the more experienced hacker to expand on.

On the software side, data is accessible through the Balena cloud service. Sensor readings are stored in an InfluxDB instance, with Grafana providing the visually attractive graphs and monitoring. It’s all very slick and Web 2.0, and can be accessed from anywhere through a web browser.

The project is a great example of combining a basic DIY Raspberry Pi setup with the right software tools to create a polished and effective end product. Of course, if you’re looking for something more portable, this project might be more your style. 

2600-Inspired Handheld Brings The Faux Woodgrain

The Atari 2600 is a console from a very different time, when home appliances, furniture, and even automobiles were all covered in fake vinyl woodgrain veneer. Somehow it was the in thing for a decade, and then immediately became tacky overnight. Regardless, if you want to evoke the era, that’s what you do – and that’s exactly what [Christian] did with this handheld RetroPie build.

An early concept sketch shows off [Christian]’s art skills.
The technical side of things is fairly routine in these parts – a Pi Zero runs RetroPie so you can play emulated games from the mid-90s and earlier. It’s the visual presentation that we particularly enjoy. The look of the early Atari is evoked through clever use of materials. The body is in black plastic, with blocky red buttons for controls. It’s finished with a vinyl woodgrain applique around the screen, and we think it’s a wonderful aesthetic.

The files to print your own are available on Thingiverse, and [Christian] has provided a basic guide to sourcing similar parts. It’s all common stuff, readily available on eBay or elsewhere.

We love seeing retro throwbacks like this – the tiny Macintosh Plus from the 2017 Superconference is a particular highlight.