Enjoy An ASCII Version Of Star Wars In The Palm Of Your Hand For May The 4th

Everyone by now has probably seen the original — and best; fight us — installment of the Star Wars franchise, and likely the ASCII-art animation version of it that improves greatly on the film by eliminating all those distracting special effects, human actors, and the soundtrack. But what we haven’t had until now is a portable player for ASCIIWars, to enjoy the film in all its character-based glory while you’re on the go.

While this tribute to [Simon Jansen]’s amazing ASCII-art achievement might seem like a simple repackaging of the original, [Frank] actually had to go to some lengths to make this work. After getting [Simon]’s blessing, the build started with a WEMOS D1 Mini, a good platform for the project less for its wireless capabilities and more for its 4 MB of flash memory. A 240×360 TFT LCD display was selected to show the film; the scale of the display made most fonts hard to read, so [Frank] used Picopixel, a font designed for legibility on small screens. The animation file is stored on the SPIFFS file system on the D1’s flash memory, and a few lines of code parse it and send it to the display. The final touch is mounting the whole thing is an old slide viewer, which magnifies the display to make it a little easier to see.

As much as we applaud [Frank]’s tribute to [Simon]’s effort, there’s no reason to confine this to the Star Wars universe. If you read up on the history of ASCII art, which goes surprisingly far back, you might be inspired to render another classic film in ASCIImation and put it on a viewer like this. ASCII-Metropolis, anyone?

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A Not-So-Alarming Clock

By and large, alarm clocks (including phones that double as alarm clocks) are annoyingly alarming. If it’s not the light or the sound, it’s both. Yes, we know that’s the point of an alarm clock, but sometimes life presents opportunities to check the time and/or the weather and sleep in a little bit longer based on the result. We don’t know about you, but loud noises and eye-blasting light are not conducive to getting back to sleep, especially if you’re a light sleeper.

In [Stavros Korokithakis]’ case, if it’s a tennis practice morning but it’s raining, then it’s no longer a tennis practice morning and he can go back to sleep for a while. A phone seems perfect for this, but the problem is that it provides too much information: the phone can’t check the weather without the internet, and once it has internet access, a bunch of eye-opening notifications come flooding in.

[Stavros] had a long list of must-haves when it came to building the ultimate alarm clock, and we can totally get behind that. He needed something smarter than the average off-the-shelf clock radio, but nothing too smart. Enter the ESP8266. As long as it has an internet connection, it can fetch the time and the weather, which is really all that [Stavros] needs. It gets the current temperature, wind speed, and forecast for the next two hours with the OpenWeather API, and this information is converted to icons that are easy to read at a sleepy, one-eyed glance at the OLED.

Adaptive brightness was high on the list of must-haves, which [Stavros] solved by adding a photoresistor to judge the ambient light and adjust the OLED screen brightness appropriately. And he really did think of everything — the octagonal shape allows for the perfect angle for reading from bed. There’s just one problem — it can’t accept input, so it doesn’t actually function as an alarm clock. But it makes a damn good bedside clock if you ask us.

If you really want to start the morning right, use a winch to yank the covers off of you.

Via Adafruit

Dazzling Desktop Dodecahedron

Much like us, [AGBarber] digs all the infinity polyhedra already out there, but laments the fact that almost all of them are too large to be used as desktop distractions conversation pieces. That’s probably because it’s a lot easier to build ’em big, but that didn’t stop [AGBarber] from trying, succeeding spectacularly, and paving the way for anyone who wants to take on the challenge of building a dazzling desk toy of their own.

We all know that all those little strips of LEDs have to be chained together somehow. Wires would work fine in a larger version, but at roughly softball size, they become a tedious and fiddly nightmare. So what did [AGBarber] do instead? That’s right, they designed two different types of custom corner PCBs. The 3D printed brackets that hold the LEDs and the panels together are no cakewalk, either — [AGBarber] recommends using a resin printer if you have access to one, though it isn’t strictly required.

Everything about this project is open source, including a bonus printable jig for gluing the brackets together at just the right angles. All the steps are well-documented, from applying the mirror film to programming the Wemos D1 mini that controls the lights [AGBarber] programmed in a ton of animations, too, which you can watch after the break.

Want to build a small infinity thingy that isn’t quite so difficult? Crack open a cold one and check out these cool coasters.

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Dynamic Map Of Italy On A PCB

While most PCBs stick to tried-and-true methods of passing electrons through their layers of carefully-etched copper, modern construction methods allow for a large degree of customization of most aspects of these boards. From solder mask to number of layers, and even the shape of the board itself, everything is open for artistic license and experimentation now. [Luca] shows off some of these features with his PCB which acts as a live map of Italy.

The PCB is cut out in the shape of the famous boot, with an LED strategically placed in each of 20 regions in the country. This turns the PCB into a map with the RGB LEDs having the ability to be programmed to show any data that one might want. It’s powered by a Wemos D1 Mini (based on an ESP8266) which makes programming it straightforward. [Luca] has some sample programs which fetch live data from various sources, with it currently gathering daily COVID infection rates reported for each of the 20 regions.

The ability to turn a seemingly boring way to easily attach electronic parts together into a work of art without needing too much specialized equipment is a fantastic development in PCBs. We’ve seen them turned into full-color art installations with all the mask colors available, too, so the possibilities for interesting-looking (as well as interesting-behaving) circuits are really opening up.

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DIY Automated Roller Blinds

Controlling blinds using off the shelf solutions can be expensive – more so if you have multiple blinds you want to control. [HumanSkunk87] felt the cost was too high, so they designed a controller to automatically open and close the blinds.

The main part of this build is a motor and a ball chain gear – a wheel that captures the balls of a ball chain so that the chain can be pulled. The wheel was designed using Fusion3D and then printed out. The motor requires enough power to pull the chain — [HumanSkunk87] figures it needs to be able to pull about 2.5kg in order to raise the blind. After giving up on stepper motors, a DC motor with a worm gear was found to have enough torque to work. A WEMOS D1 Mini controls the motor controller that drives the ball chain wheel. Two micro switches tell the WEMOS when to stop at the bottom and top of the window.

The WEMOS is programmed using ESPHome and it connects to [HumanSkunk87]’s HomeAssistant to complete the automation. Check out the descriptions in the link for the parts and the code used to run everything. There are many other creative ways to open your blinds, It’s even possible to automate curtains instead of blinds.

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Hacker Has Robot Give Yubikey The Finger

[Bertrand Fan] is not a fan of the tiny, hard-to-actuate button on the average Yubikey. Before all that is 2020 occurred, [Bert] had the little 2FA nano-donglette plugged into a spare USB port on the side of their laptop so that it was always available wherever the laptop traveled. Now that working from home is the norm, [Bert] has the laptop off to the side, far out of reach.

A USB-C extension cable certainly made it more accessible, but did nothing for the actuation fail rate of the tiny button. Fed up by inconvenience and looking for a lockdown project, [Bert] decided to make a button-pressing robot finger that’s driven by a spare key on their groovy TKL keyboard.

It runs on a Wemos D1 mini and uses a small stepper motor to push a 3D-printed finger along a rack-and-pinion actuator. Since the Yubikey requires capacitive touch, [Bert] added a screw to the finger tip that’s wired to ground. Now all [Bert] has to do is press a decidedly cooler key to make the finger press the button for him. Check out a brief demo after the break.

If this security flaw makes you uncomfortable, perhaps this 2FA launch console is more to your liking. And as we saw recently, if you don’t like the cost of Yubikeys, you can roll your own 2FA device with a blue pill.

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3D Printed ESP8266 TV Is A Blast From The Past

We’ve often said that one of the best applications for desktop 3D printing is the production of custom enclosures, but you certainly aren’t limited to an extruded version of the classic Radio Shack project box. As [Marcello Milone] shows with this very clever retro TV enclosure for the Wemos D1 Mini, 3D printing means your imagination is the only limit when it comes to how you want to package up your latest creation.

As nice as the printed parts are, it’s the little details that really sell the look. [Marcello] has bent a piece of copper wire into a circle to make a faux antenna with vintage flair, and while the ESP is connecting to the WiFi network, it even shows an old school TV test pattern on its 1.8″ TFT display.

In the video after the break you can see the device go through its startup routine, and while displaying the Hackaday Wrencher at boot might not be strictly on theme…we’ll allow it.

While you could certainly use this little enclosure for whatever ESP project you had in mind, [Marcello] says he’s building a distributed environmental monitoring network using HTU21D temperature and humidity sensors. It sounds like he’s still working on the software side of things though, so hopefully he posts an update when the functionality is fully realized.

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