Your source for daily hacks

Published on: October 14, 2013 / Comments: None

The Tricorder project is about making discoveries with sensors

When you hear the term Tricorder, you might think of Star Trek but I assure you, this is no toy prop.  Keeping with the same concept of the Tricorder used on the TV show the Tricorder is about reading data, _lots_ of data.  And that is what the Tricorder project aims to do, develop handheld devices that are fitted with lots of diverse sensors in order to observe them.

So far the project has produced a few different versions.  The Mark 1, the Mark 2, etc.  They are currently working on the Mark 5.  Each version is pretty different from the other, and they all contain a wide variety of sensors such as atmospheric temperature, humidity, pressure and electromagnetic field, color, infra-red.  And the obvious like GPS.  They’re even working on developing their own sensors like this 3d printable mini spectrometer.

The project is open, and there are tons of pictures, and schematics on the tricorderproject’s web site.

Published on: September 12, 2013 / Comments: None

TraID the automated transistor type and pinout identifier

Matseng put together a nifty tool that can quickly identify both the transistor type, and the correct pin out.  We posted a method earlier on how to determine these characteristics manually, but where’s the fun in that ?  Part of his self set goal of making a Project A Week, this is his 22nd week project.

His design uses a PIC16LF1503 microcontroller and is powered by a CR2032 coin cell battery.  It uses LEDs and silk-screen markings to show you the output.  On the PCB there are holes for common transistor configurations such as to-92, to-18 and to-220 that you can insert to be identified.  The part is given a voltage in different configurations and read back using the PIC’s ADC.

Source code and schematic are provided on his post to the Dangerous Prototype’s forums.

Published on: August 27, 2013 / Comments: None

Taking apart a bluetooth OBD-II interface

Isn’t it fun to take stuff apart and see how things are made ?  Well Michael over at EDN likes to as well!  He’s got one of those cheap-y eBay Bluetooth OBD-II adapters and while what’s inside isn’t much of a shocker, it’s still nice to look at how things are made.

Inside is a bunch of power regulation, a CAN bus transceiver, a Microchip PIC and a ready-made bluetooth module.  Usually when you crack these cheap clones apart the soldering looks pretty shoddy, but this one looks pretty clean except for the Bluetooth module for some reason.

Check out the full teardown.

Published on: August 17, 2013 / Comments: None

Get Started with PSoC on the Cheap

PSoC, or Programmable System-on-Chip, combines a CPU along with configurable peripherals on a single die.  This combination gives you the flexibility to essentially design the perfect microcontroller for your project.  Need an ADC, 2 PWM’s, 2 Low Pass Filters, a Capacitive Touch Sensor, 2 DAC’s and a RS-232 port?  No problem.  Just drag and drop blocks to add peripherals to your PSoC, ‘wire’ them together, then reference them in your C code.  Until recently, it could be expensive to get started in serious PSoC development.  There are through-hole PSoC’s available, but they are rather limited devices and the idea of surface mount components is daunting to most beginners/DIYers.  Plus, debugging when you are responsible not just for the code but also the peripherals can be frustrating.  And a good debugger for PSoC was not available for free.

Well, Cypress Semi has you covered.  They now have an easy to use, inexpensive development board called the PSoC 4 Pioneer.  It combines an Arm Cortex-M0 CPU with Cypress’ impressive PSoC technology in an Arduino shield-friendly package for only $25.  They also offer plenty of PSoC training for free on their website.

NOTE: We do not receive any compensation for this, or any, article.  We are just genuinely interested in bringing you the latest in development gear.

Published on: August 12, 2013 / Comments: None

Making use of those unused buttons on your remote

On the 20 some-odd remotes I have around the house, I know there are a bunch of buttons on some of them that don’t do anything for my model of whatever it controls.  Badr noticed the same thing on his satellite receiver.  So he decided to give those extra buttons something to control.

Armed with a little IR transmission know-how, a 16f84a, a transistor array and some relays he added support for controlling his some lights and a fan.

He’s got a schematic and source code up here.


Published on: August 2, 2013 / Comments: 1

Mini R2D2 just made my want list

Michiel has a build log of his mini R2D2 project over at letsmakerobots and its turning out really awesome.  I’ve seen the hard core guys who build full scale replicas but never really thought of building a miniature.  He’s broken the build out into sections like Dome, Body, Legs, etc.



He doesn’t have the electronics section up but he is using a Raspberry Pi and a Picaxe micro controller.  I would  guess the Pi handles the main control paths and the Picaxe doing most of the sensor feedback, servos and leds.

Published on: July 24, 2013 / Comments: 1

Using the Peripheral Pin Select feature on a PIC24

pic24fjxxgb004Part 6 of Modtronics Australia’s PIC24 tutorial series,  Modtronics shows you how to use the Peripheral Pin Select feature on a PIC24 microcontroller.  This feature allows you to remap which pins are tied to which peripheral such as uart, I2c, SPI, etc.  Very useful feature when it comes to laying out a board, allowing you to lay things out because of convenience rather than necessity.  This could also lead to reusing of a certain pinout adapter across multiple configurations since it can be selected via software.




Other useful tutorials in this series: