Simple Decoder Serves As Solo Ham’s Test Buddy

For a hobby that’s ostensibly all about reaching out to touch someone, ham radio can often be a lonely activity. Lots of hams build and experiment with radio gear much more than they’re actually on the air, improving their equipment iteratively. The build-test-tweak-repeat cycle can get a little tedious, though, especially when you’re trying to assess signal strength and range and can’t find anyone to give you a report.

To close the loop on field testing, [WhiskeyTangoHotel] threw together a simple ham radio field confirmation unit that’s pretty slick. It relies on the fact that almost every ham radio designed for field use incorporates a DTMF encoder in the microphone or in the transceiver itself. Hams have used Touch Tones for in-band signaling control of their repeaters for decades, and even as newer digital control methods have been introduced, good old analog DTMF hangs in there. The device consists of a DTMF decoder attached to the headphone jack of a cheap handy talkie. When a DTMF tone is received, a NodeMCU connected to the decoder calls an IFTTT job to echo the key to [WTH]’s phone as an SMS message. That makes it easy to drive around and test whether his mobile rig is getting out. And since the receiver side is so portable, there’s a lot of flexibility in how tests can be arranged.

On the fence about ham as a hobby? We don’t blame you. But fun projects like this are the perfect excuse to go get licensed and start experimenting.

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Raspberry Pi Doorbell Is Fully Featured

When you think of a doorbell, you typically don’t think of anything very complicated. It’s a button that rings a bell inside your home. That’s about it. [Ahmad] decided he wanted to turn his doorbell up to eleven (Google Doc) with this build. Using a Raspberry Pi, he was able to cram in loads of features.

When the doorbell button is pressed, many different events can be triggered. In the demo video, [Ahmad] shows how his phone receives a text message, and email, and a tweet. The system can even be configured to place a voice call via Google Hangouts using a USB microphone. [Ahmad] demonstrates this and shows how the voice call is placed almost instantly when the button is pressed. This may be a bit overkill, but it does demonstrate many different options depending on your own needs.

For the hardware side of things, [Ahmad] purchased a wireless doorbell. He opened up the ringer unit and hooked up the speaker wires to a couple of pins on the Raspberry Pi through a resistor. The doorbell unit itself is powered off of the 3.3V supply from the Pi. The Pi also has a small LCD screen which shows helpful information such as if the Internet connection is working. The screen will also display the last time and date the doorbell was pressed, in case you weren’t home to answer the door.

On top of all of that, the system also includes a Raspberry Pi camera module. This allows [Ahmad] to take a photo of the person ringing the doorbell as a security measure. He can even view a live video feed from the front door by streaming directly to YouTube live. [Ahmad] has provided a link to his Pi image in the Google Doc so others can use it and modify it as they see fit. Continue reading “Raspberry Pi Doorbell Is Fully Featured”

Controlling Nokia Phones With Arduino

While [Ilias Giechaskiel] was waiting for his SIM900 shield to arrive, he decided to see what he could do with an old Nokia 6310i and an Arduino. He was researching how to send automated SMS text messages for a home security project, and found it was possible to send AT commands via the headphone jack of Motorola phones. But unfortunately Nokia did not support this, as they use a protocol known as FBus. With little information to go on, [Ilias] was able to break down the complicated protocol and take control with his Arduino.

With the connections in place, [Ilias] was able to communicate with the Nokia phone using a program called Gnokii — a utility written specifically for controlling the phone with a computer. Using the Arduino as an intermediary, he was eventually able tap into the FBus and send SMS messages.

Be sure to check out his blog as [Ilias] goes into great detail on how Nokia’s FBus protocol works, and provides all source code needed to replicate his hack. There is also a video demonstration at the end showing the hack in action.

Adding Features To The DoorBot

network sniffing doorbell

There’s an interesting network-enabled doorbell on the market from Edison Junior called the DoorBot that boasts some useful features, notably that it can make calls to a phone when someone pushes the button for the doorbell. However, [MadBeggar] saw the potential in this device and couldn’t wait to get some more functionality out of it, so he has reverse engineered the communications protocol for the doorbell.

His goals for the project were to implement third-party notifications such as text messaging, VoIP/SIP integration, and maybe even a desktop client. So far he has only been able to analyze the communications protocol but he hopes that others will be able to build upon his work or even add features he hasn’t thought of yet. The makers of the device promise to eventually deliver on some of these features but so far haven’t delivered.

There are some other projects out there that integrate wireless connectivity with a doorbell. However, [MadBeggar] notes that the DoorBot really stands out among all of the internet-enabled doorbell, mostly because nothing else around is as clean or is as easy to install as the DoorBot. He just wishes that the software wasn’t so clunky and that it had its full potential unlocked with these extra features. We’d say he’s on the right track!

New Year’s Eve Countdown Clock Included SMS Interactivity

interactive-sms-new-years-countdown

We remember several years back, when text messaging was first becoming popular, we went to a bar which had a huge television that would display text messages sent to a particular number. This sounds like a novelty, but in a large group of folks who know one another it’s the sandbox of social games. Wanting to tap in on that fun for his New Year’s Eve party, [James] built this countdown timer that includes an element of SMS interactivity.

The rig is projector based. A computer using Processing does the majority of the work but [James] needed a way to accepts text messages (the locale of the party had no Internet connection so this was the best bet). He grabbed a GSM shield and his Arduino Leonardo. The bulk of the evening the display showed the last few messages received, with a small countdown timer in the lower corner. As the countdown approached zero the time was given prominence as in the image above. We guess he was lucky to find a prepaid SIM card that allowed free incoming text messages. Our cell provider charges us 20¢ for each.

You might give this one a whirl next year. If it’s not quite your thing take a look around. We’ve seen a lot of fun setups like this mini ball drop.

VGA Message Board Displays SMS Without A Computer

[Achu Wilson’s] latest creation is a VGA message board which is written to via SMS text messages. This doesn’t sound too interesting at first, until you find out he’s doing this with a microcontroller rather than a PC. All of the complexity is in the code that drives the VGA. He managed to do it without any jitter while using an 8-bit microcontroller.

But first, the cellular side of things. A GSM modem takes care of connectivity. To communicate with the modem [Achu] used an ATmega8. He mentions the he could have used a much smaller uC, like an ATtiny, but this is what he had lying around. When a message is received the ATmega8 feeds the characters to an ATmega16 which is driving the VGA monitor. Rather than deal with the analog voltages necessary to run a color display he simply ganged the three color lines together and drives them from one of the microcontroller pins. This results in white and black which correspond to voltage or no voltage.

You can see him showing off the system in the clip after the break.

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Hackaday Links: May 11, 2012

Three days of work in 5 minutes

[Celso] bought himself a Ultimaker kit and put together a time-lapse video of him putting it together. There’s a lot of work that goes into these machines, but being able to print a nearly perfect cube on the first run is nearly magical.

How about a CNC mill, too?

The folks over at Inventables have put together a tiny CNC mill kit designed from the fruitful mind of [Edward Ford]. The Shapeoko mill is designed around the Makerslide linear bearing system, so you’re getting a lot of precision very easily. Here’s some more info on the Shapeoko

Update the firmware on your RasPi

[Hexxeh] has been playing around with the Linux images for his Raspberry Pi, so he needs to reinstall the firmware on an image quite a lot. He wrote a tool to automate this task, but it should be useful for RasPi users that want to keep kernel and firmware up to date. You can get the rpi-updater at [Hexxeh]’s GitHub.

Your robotic barista is still always on the phone

Zipwhip is a company that provides a bridge from your phone to your computer so text messages can be displayed on your desktop. To show off their tech, they created a text enabled espresso machine. Everything on this robotic barista is automatic: the cups are grabbed from a warming tray with a servo arm, coffee is automatically brewed, and the last three digits of your cell phone number are printed on the foam to identify each cuppa. Check out the video; action starts at 1:30.

Awesome reading material

If you’re looking for something to read on that fancy tablet computer of yours, here’s every issue of New Scientist from 1956 to 1985. The early 60s issues say fusion power plants are about 50 years away, so we should be just fine in a couple of years.