Hackaday Prize Entry: Under Cabinet LED Lighting Controller

[Matt Meerian]’s workbench seems to be in perpetual shadow, so he has become adept at mounting LED strips under all his shelves and cabinets. These solve any problems involving finding things in the gloom, but present a new problem in that he risks a lot of LED strips being left on, and going round turning them all off is tedious.

His solution is to make a wireless controller for all his home LED strips, under the command of a web app from his Android tablet. An ESP8266 and a set of MOSFETs provide the inner workings, and the whole is presented on a very compact and well-designed purple OSH Park PCB reflow soldered on a $20 Wal-Mart hotplate and set in a plastic enclosure. The web interface is still in development, but has a fairly simple CSS front end for the ESP8266 code. All software, the schematic, and BoM can be downloaded from the Hackaday.io page linked above.

This project isn’t going to end world hunger or stop wars, but it’s beautifully done and well documented, and it makes [Matt]’s life a lot easier. And that makes it a good entry for the Hackaday Prize.

Filed under: led hacks

A Real Turn Off

[Newbrain] had a small problem. He’d turn off the TV, but would leave the sound system turned on. Admittedly, not a big problem, but an annoyance, none the less. He realized the TV had a USB port that went off when it did, so he decided to build something that would sense when the USB port died and fake a button press into the amplifier.

He posted a few ideas online and, honestly, the discussion was at least as interesting as the final project. The common thread was to use an optoisolator to sense the 5 V from the USB port. After that, everyone considered a variety of ICs and discretes and even did some Spice modeling.

In the end, though, [Newbrain] took the easy way out. An ATtiny 84 is probably overkill, but it easy enough to press into service. With only three other components, he built the whole thing into a narrow 24-pin socket and taped it to the back of the audio unit’s wired remote control.

The seventh post contains the code for the CPU. It isn’t all that difficult or exciting, but the thought process of evaluating FETs and logic ICs against a cheap CPU is entertaining and maybe even instructive.

The amplifier’s wired remote acted like a potentiometer, interestingly enough, so it was a little different than what you would probably find on another piece of gear. We’ve looked at remote hacking several times. Unsurprisingly, the Arduino features in several of them — a small step up from the ATtiny84 used here.

Filed under: ATtiny Hacks

Line Follower with No Arduino

There’s hardly a day that passes without an Arduino project that spurs the usual salvo of comments. Half the commenters will complain that the project didn’t need an Arduino. The other half will insist that the project would be better served with a much larger computer ranging from an ARM CPU to a Cray.

[Will Moore] has been interested in BEAM robotics — robots with analog hardware instead of microcontollers. His latest project is a sophisticated line follower. You’ve probably seen “bang-bang” line followers that just use a photocell to turn the robot one way or the other. [Will’s] uses a hardware PID (proportional integral derivative) controller. You can see a video of the result below.

Looking at how [Will] used simulation to devise a PID with opamps and a PWM generator is illustrative. As you can see from the video, the results are good.

We’ve looked at BEAM before. We’ve even seen mutants that combine traditional BEAM circuitry with microcontrollers. But it’s still nice to see the pure analog version running through its paces every once in a while.

Filed under: robots hacks

New Part Day: Wireless BeagleBones On A Chip

The BeagleBone is a very popular single board computer, best applied to real-time applications where you need to blink LEDs really, really fast. Over the years, the BeagleBone has been used for stand-alone CNC controllers, the brains behind very large LED installations, and on rare occasions has been used to drive CRTs. If you just want a small Linux board, get a Pi. If you want to do something interesting with hardware, get a BeagleBone.

The BeagleBone ecosystem has grown a lot in the last year, from the wireless and Grove connector equipped BeagleBone Green, the robotics-focused BeagleBone Blue, the Zoolander-inspired Blue Steel. Now there’s a new BeagleBone, built around a very interesting System on Module introduced earlier this year.

The new board is called the BeagleBone Black Wireless, and it brings to the table all you know and love about the BeagleBone. There’s a 1GHz ARM355x with two 32-bit 200MHz PRUs for the real-time pin toggling. RAM is set at 512MB, with 4GB of eMMC Flash and Debian pre-installed, and a microSD card for larger storage options. The new feature is wireless connectivity: a TI WiFi and Bluetooth module with provisions for 802.11s replaces the old Ethernet connector.

Taken at face value, the new BeagleBone Black Wireless deserves a mention — it’s a BeagleBone with wireless — but isn’t particularly noteworthy. But when you get to the gigantic brick of resin dropped squarely in the middle of the board does the latest device in the BeagleBone family become very, very interesting. The System on Module for this version of the BeagleBone is the BeagleBone On A Chip released a few months ago. The Octavio Systems OSD335x is, quite literally, a BeagleBone on a chip. It’s a BGA with big balls, making it solderable with hand-applied solder paste and a toaster oven reflow conversion. In fact, the BeagleBone Wireless was designed by [Jason Kridner] in Eagle as a 6-layer board. It’s still a bit beyond the standard capabilities of OSHPark, but the design can still be cut down, and shows how this BeagleBone on a Chip can be applied to
other Open Hardware projects.

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, slider

Smart Sutures

Researchers at Tufts University are experimenting with smart thread sutures that could provide electronic feedback to recovering patients. The paper, entitled “A toolkit of thread-based microfluidics, sensors, and electronics for 3D tissue embedding for medical diagnosis”, is fairly academic, but does describe how threads can work as pH sensors, strain gauges, blood sugar monitors, temperature monitors, and more.

Conductive thread is nothing new but usually thought of as part of a smart garment. In this case, the threads close up wounds and are thus directly in the patient’s body. In many cases, the threads talked to an XBee LilyPad or a Bluetooth Low Energy module so that an ordinary cell phone can collect the data.

Of course, sewing strange conductive thread into your body isn’t something most would try out on their own. Still, some of the thread techniques could be useful in other contexts.

We’ve looked at conductive thread several times in the past. We also saw conductive thread in a jacket to help kids learn to ski (which coincidentally used a Flora, similar to a LilyPad).

Filed under: Medical hacks, wearable hacks

Instagram Has Apple (Including Mac) Appeal

The photo-sharing service Instagram isn’t just for millennials and selfie-snapping celebs. Anyone who is serious about iPhone photography should take a look. Instagram also can be used to a large extent on the Mac, giving it surprisingly broad Apple appeal.

 

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TidBITS Watchlist: Notable Software Updates for 26 September 2016

Notable software releases this week include Postbox 5.0.2, Sandvox 2.10.8, Tweetbot 2.4.3, TextWrangler 5.5.2, HoudahGeo 5.1, Parallels Desktop 12.0.2, Mailplane 3.6.7, CleanMyMac 3.5.1, Gemini 2.2.2, Safari 10.0, 1Password 6.3.3, Firefox 49.0, OmniFocus 2.7, Capto 1.1, Lightroom CC 2015.7 and Lightroom 6.7, Pages 6.0, Numbers 4.0, and Keynote 7.0 for Mac, SpamSieve 2.9.25, macOS Server 5.2, KeyCue 8.2, iBooks Author 2.5, and BBEdit 11.6.2.

 

Read the full article at TidBITS, the oldest continuously published technology publication on the Internet. To get a full-text RSS feed, help support our work and become a TidBITS member! Members also enjoy an ad-free version of our Web site, email delivery of individual articles, the ability to make long comments with live links, and discounts on Take Control orders and other Apple-related products.

ExtraBITS for 26 September 2016

In ExtraBITS this week, we offer a few Apple-specific ways to watch tonight’s presidential debate, or maybe a nice peaceful football game. Apple is working on a fix for a security flaw in iOS 10, while Yahoo is dealing with the theft of data associated with 500 million accounts — ouch! Finally, we note Dejal’s 25th year of Mac development.

 

Read the full article at TidBITS, the oldest continuously published technology publication on the Internet. To get a full-text RSS feed, help support our work and become a TidBITS member! Members also enjoy an ad-free version of our Web site, email delivery of individual articles, the ability to make long comments with live links, and discounts on Take Control orders and other Apple-related products.

External Link: How to Watch the Presidential Debate on Your Apple Devices

The first U.S. presidential debate will air tonight, 26 September 2016 at 9 PM EDT. Ben Lovejoy of 9to5Mac has compiled a partial list of the many apps and Web sites that will let you watch live, for free. In addition, as we reported previously, Sling TV is offering a free preview today, which will carry the debate.

 

Read the full article at TidBITS, the oldest continuously published technology publication on the Internet. To get a full-text RSS feed, help support our work and become a TidBITS member! Members also enjoy an ad-free version of our Web site, email delivery of individual articles, the ability to make long comments with live links, and discounts on Take Control orders and other Apple-related products.

Postbox 5.0.2

Major new release of the email client adds dynamic data fields to Responses and Templates and refines its user interface. ($40 new, upgrade pricing available, 23.8 MB)

 

Read the full article at TidBITS, the oldest continuously published technology publication on the Internet. To get a full-text RSS feed, help support our work and become a TidBITS member! Members also enjoy an ad-free version of our Web site, email delivery of individual articles, the ability to make long comments with live links, and discounts on Take Control orders and other Apple-related products.