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Published on: September 19, 2013 / Comments: None

Solar Swing-Set Install

Benjamin has created a series of videos showing how he converted a swing-set to serve a dual purpose. He beefed up the structure with some 3/4″ conduit which he flattened the ends on and used it for cross bracing. A couple of solar panels we mounted to the roof and the wires were safely routed through conduit to a remote location when he uses the energy to charge his electric motorcycle.

The charging rate varies significantly proportional to the amount of sun. He was seeing 2 Amps on a cloudy day  and has witnessed up to 7 Amps. Check out the videos  after the break.


Published on: September 14, 2013 / Comments: 1

Arduino Guitar Tuner (Frequency Detector)

Here’s a project which rocks! nikoala3 made an Arduino Guitar Tuner based off of this Audino Frequency Detection project. Both projects are well documented so you just may learn something.

In her build nikoala3 shows you how you can take an AC signal and offset it using a voltage divider to bring it into the 0-5V range that the Arduinos Analog to Digital Convert (ADC) uses. The Arduino has a 10bit resolution but the project only uses the high 8 bits giving you a range of 0-255 counts.  The sketch detects the frequency at which the signal crosses a given threshold. Different strings produce different amplitudes so you have to tweak the threshold to where it works with all the strings on your guitar.

A few LEDs and one cool enclosure with a laser cut top really made this project pop. There is something really refreshing about finding well documented builds like this. Check out more build photos after the break.


Published on: September 13, 2013 / Comments: None

Defeating a cheap infra-red security system with Arduino

Security researcher Silvio put together his process for defeating a cheap infra-red based security system.  The security system uses an infra-red remote to arm and disarm the alarm.  The alarm is triggered by any motion that happens while it is armed.

In his first attempt he tried to use an off the shelf learning remote to record the signal and play it back.  For whatever reason the remote didn’t like the signal and didn’t even try to learn it.  So in his second attempt, he whipped out a frequency counter and an oscilloscope and was able to replicate the signal using an Arduino and an infra-red LED.  For fun he also made a third attempt using a more hacker friendly open source board called a USB Infrard Toy made by Dangerous Prototypes.

A good read if you want to learn the process of simple reverse engineering.  Full article here.

Published on: September 12, 2013 / Comments: None

Simple logic analzyer using an ATTiny2313

All too many times we end up creating a tool out of necessity.  Joonas was looking for a simple way to decode PS/2 keyboard data for another project.  So he decided to build a simple logic analyzer that would let him inspect the signals.

The build uses a ATTiny2313 microcontroller, connected to a FTDI USB-to-UART adapter.  On the software side it’s real simple, open up a serial port and capture the serial data.  The data can then be plotted in OpenSniffer and visualized graphically.  One of the downsides to this project is the data rate is pretty low which is estimated at sub 100khz.

Source code is available up at Joonas 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 30, 2013 / Comments: None

Octopart is the BOM Diggity!

[su_quote]…multiple parts simultaneously straight from the Octopart front page. Just copy the list of parts from your spreadsheet or document, and paste straight into the box. [/su_quote]For years engineers and hobbyist have been using to source electronic parts. Until now you have only been able to search for one part at a time which was fine for keeping your cost low and finding alternative sources for hard to find components. But since the beginning their users have been demanding more.

Introducing…BOM Lookup!

We had to give it a test so we found an old BOM (Bill of Materials) we had lying around and copied a column of manufacturer part numbers (MPN) into the search box.  After poking around the results page for a few minutes we quickly came up with a wish list of features.  Sadly, we could not find a way to save your BOM.  Also, you can search by distributor part numbers to build your list, but if you search by MPN there is no way to easily update the BOM with your preferred distributor.

Published on: August 23, 2013 / Comments: None

… Or you can just learn vim

one-does-not-simply-learn-vimEarlier today while suggesting that you upgrade your Arduino IDE, I briefly mentioned my favorite programming editor vim.  Then I realized that there may actually be people in the world who do not know vim (not you, I’m sure you’re a seasoned Unix hacker and you’re reading this on your 40 column serial terminal using vim).  So I thought I should provide you with some info and resources.

First up is 10 reasons to learn vim.  This probably will not convince you to use vim, but it was worth a shot.

Learn vim progressively.  A sort of logarithmic ramp up to learning vim.  You can start to get a good idea of the power of vim by this tutorial.

The infamous vim cheat sheet for programmers.  That’s where the scary image above comes from.  I recommend getting a nice 11×17 landscape full color print of this and posting it on your wall.  Or getting your grandmother to crochet it into a blanket.

The interactive vim tutorial.  This one is cute, a sorta virtual vim you can learn on in your browser.  This will actually be pretty useful in the beginning.

Then there’s the mac-daddy of vim tutorials, vim adventures.  Who said you can’t make a video game using vim ?  It does help get the point across very well and help you memorize the keystrokes.

I recommend hitting up some of these tutorials and just starting to use it, it really is very powerful albeit a little weird at first if you aren’t used to it.

Or you can always buy a book.