Tag Archives: HackADay

Creating motion-controlled cabinet lights with ATtiny85

This strip of white LEDs can be turned on, dimmed, and shut off with a wave of your hand.

In Thomas Snow’s house, the kitchen lights never seem to adequately illuminate his counter space. Beyond that, the Maker always seemed to find that whenever he needed to flick on the light switch, his hands were dirty. Cognizant of both of these things, he decided to devise a simple yet clever solution which consisted of installing a motion-controlled LED strip under his cabinets.


As you would imagine, the DIY solution works by simply waving a hand under the cabinet whenever some additional light is required. Snow is able to adjust the brightness by moving his hand up and down within the vertical space between the countertop and cabinet. Think of it as an invisible dimmer switch — or just magic.

This was made possible by employing an ultrasonic range sensor that determines the hand distance between the cabinet and the counter, along with a pyroelectric infrared (PIR) sensor that only activates the ranging when it senses movement around the counter.

“I [didn’t] want to run the sensor all the time because, even though we can’t hear the 40kHz chirp, I imagine the dogs and bird (our pets) can hear it. Additionally, I imagine there is a limited lifetime on the sensor.”

Most importantly, the project is based on an ATtiny85. Snow simply set up an Eclipse environment with the AVR GCC compiler and programmed his own PWM for dimming LEDs)and millisecond counter.

Intrigued by this ‘bright’ idea? Head over to the project’s official Hackaday.io page here.

This robotic guitar can shred all by itself

Maker creates a robotic guitar to bring unseen data sources into the real world.

It all began nearly 30 years ago when Ben Reardon was awestruck by a robot playing a classical guitar at the 1988 World Expo in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia. While he may have only been a teenager at the time, he promised himself that he’d go on to build one of his own when he grew up. 27 years later, Reardon has indeed achieved his childhood aspirations by creating a pretty slick robotic player guitar — or what he calls the first “network time protocol accurate, Internet of Things connected, Big Ben chiming grandfather clock, firewall log playing, door chiming, guitar playing robot thingy.”


The Maker realized that all of the technological ingredients were available to bring the idea to life after attending SIGGRAPH 2014, and in order to first test out his concept, Reardon devised a prototype robotic tambourine using a vibrating disk, Raspberry Pi, some Python script, a few LEDs and a pair of piezo speakers.

“I wired up a vibrating disk (like the one you have in your mobile phone that makes it vibrate) into a Raspberry Pi GPIO pin. The vibrating disk sat just above the drum skin and vibrated when it received a current. The Pi was connected to the Internet and a python script tailed the firewall logs so that when the Pi was hit from an IP, the firewall blocked the connection and a current was sent to the vibrating disk, which then jumped up and down on the tambourine. Also at this point, the blue and red LEDs strobed in sequence and a pair of piezo speakers sounded in turn,” he writes.

Whilst this prototype was a mere proof-of-concept, it was a significant ‘hello world’ moment as the gap had been bridged between an esoteric real-time data source and the real world. Moving ahead, Reardon equipped his guitar with both an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and a Raspberry Pi as well as a RC servo for each of the six strings. In addition, actual picks were employed to strum the harmonic sounds of the acoustic guitar. These were affixed to the servo horns using a screw at the pivot and a small copper pin. The Maker also ended up using aluminum extrusion to mount the servo — three per side to leave space for pick adjustments.


“The servo rig needs to be just right. It has to be stiff enough so as not to move, whilst still allowing the pick to be adjusted up, down and sideways so as to position the tip of the pick just so; critically plucking just enough string whilst remaining at the right angle and depth so as to stay clear and not get stuck — or it would never pluck the string at all,” he writes.

Altogether, the guitar featured six yellow manual buttons to operate and tune each pick up and down individually, along with two additional buttons to run pre-programmed routines. The six tuning buttons were controlled by the ATmega328 board, while the pair of pre-programmed buttons were monitored by the Pi. For some extra effects, LED lights were tasked with illuminating blue lights inside picks. To complete the project, Reardon only need 460 lines of code — Python and a bit of Bash — and Processing sketches for the Arduino.


Intrigued? Head over to the project’s official page here, or simply listen to the robotic instrument strum a few soothing sounds below.

Building a minimal 8-bit microcomputer with AVR

Inspired by the 8-bit home machines of the ’80s, the Dan64 is a minimalistic microcomputer based on an ATmega328.

Our friends over at Hackaday recently brought to our attention a pretty neat barebones AVR microcomputer from IT professional Juan Martínez.


Inspired by the machines of the 80s like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64, Martínez built his own minimalistic 8-bit microcomputer — which he calls The Dan64 — using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), the SPI SRAM, a few transistors and a PS2 driver for its keyboard. The single-board DIY device is capable of using its keyboard, outputting video to a screen, loading and running external programs, and even writing new programs that could be saved and ran later.

“A microcomputer without software is not very useful but I didn’t feel like writing much software myself using my own dialect of Basic or Forth so I decided to implement a virtual machine, specially because there was the option to use a cross compiler,” he explains.

To accomplish this, the Maker elected to use a 6502 virtual machine due to the availability of cross compilers that would let him compile and debug code for the microcomputer on his larger PC and then load it into the micro to run. In true 8-bit microcomputer style, programs are loaded and stored as audio files. However, Martínez does advise that the volume may need to be adjusted before doing so.


“DAN64 uses a variant of PSK to encode the programs. The data block starts with a sync pulse followed by a header that includes a magic number, the block length and a parity byte as rudimentary checksum. Then the actual data follows, ending in another parity byte,” he adds.

When all was said and done, the current version features composite video black and white output (256 x 192 resolution, 32 x 24 characters), 64KB of memory, external storage support via audio in/out, as well as a 6502 assembler and disassemble so that users can program the chip in its native assembly code.

Intrigued? We figured you’d be. Martínez has logged the entire build here, as well as made its code available on Github.

This Arduino-based device notifies you of an external IP address change

Maker uses Arduino with an Ethernet shield to send you an email whenever your external IP address changes. 

A Maker by the name of “Bayres” has devised a pretty slick project using an Arduino with an Ethernet shield that is capable of obtaining an external IP address of your Internet connection and then notifying you of any changes by email.


The idea was first conceived after his father bought a video camera system to remotely monitor their rural property. Unfortunately, given the area, the only reasonable Internet connection that he was able to get was DSL. As you can imagine, the service wasn’t too stable which caused the external IP address to fluctuate quite frequently. Once this happened, there was no way to know what the address was changed to and no way to access the camera system unless he had local access to the network.

“I looked into DDNS services but most require a client running on a PC 24/7. This is undesirable because of power consumption and if the power goes out, which occurs frequently, the PC will shut off,” Bayres explains.

The Maker’s solution to the problem consisted of using an Atmel based Arduino with an Ethernet shield to acquire the web connection’s external IP address and monitor it periodically. In the event that it were to vary, an email is sent via SMTP, indicating the new IP address. Bayres decided to add a shell that was accessible via the Arduino’s Serial port, thereby letting a user enter their own parameters that are then stored in the board’s EEPROM. From there, the Arduino starts and enters the setup() function.


“The serial port is initialized then the existing parameters are read from the EEPROM and copied into string variables. Since the parameters vary in length the starting address for each parameter in EEPROM is dynamic. To address this, the first seven bytes of EEPROM contain the length of each parameter. The length of each parameter is first read out of EEPROM. Then the start address of each parameter is calculated and stored in RAM so the Arduino know what portion of EEPROM each parameter occupies.”

The program compares the current and previous values. Should there be any disparity between the two, it uses the Sendmail() function to establish a connection with the SMTP server and send an email alert. Once the message is sent, the connection to the SMTP server is severed.

Meanwhile, the system includes a small LCD as well, which is attached to the Arduino and driven by a 74HC595 shift register, that displays the current IP address output. This also makes it super easy for a user to check up on the connection. To enable this, the Maker turned to the Textfinder Arduino library that was tasked with searching through the returned string and identifying the address.

Intrigued? Head over to the project’s official page to learn more.

LoFi is a low-power, low-cost way to connect sensors to the Internet

LoFi is a small, affordable, auto-transmitting module that Makers can attach to any appliance or project.

With the emergence of the Internet of Things, it’s only a matter of time before the walls of homes are adorned with smart gadgetry and nearly everything around us are laden with sensors. However, the price point of these devices keeps many out of reach for a vast majority of consumers. Aside from that, there are countless third-party transceiver modules and data loggers available on the market today that are still a bit pricey and tend to be too complicated to deploy in volume.


In an effort to solve this conundrum, Maker David Cook has devised a readymade, self-transmitting module that enables hobbyists and hackers alike to add wireless connections to any appliance or DIY project in a much more affordable, less power manner. A user simply needs to attach the aptly-dubbed LoFi to circuit points or sensors throughout a home or garden, and its acquired data can be relayed to either a PC or sent to Internet via Wi-Fi. There’s no programming or protocols to learn, or carrier boards to be made. The best part? The entire thing will cost less than a morning cup of coffee (approximately $3).

“Using your desktop or laptop, you can set trigger levels on individual modules to tell them when to transmit. For example, send an update when the voltage changes by more than 1 V on the vibration sensor near the garage door opener. You can also set the module on a timer, such as hourly on your garden monitor,” Cook writes.

The low-cost, low-power solution is comprised of a cheap transmitter and receiver along with a pre-populated board that users can wire with appliances or projects, ranging from a doorbell to a thermostat. By pairing sensors and a battery, LoFi can be used as a standalone sensor station outdoors. The pre-programmed board boasts five analog inputs, an internal temperature sensor, a voltage reference and is based on an ATtiny84A, which is tasked with monitoring the inputs and outputs of the data. The compact sender module is also equipped with a red and green LED to indicate status, and an optional coin-cell holder and pushbutton to manually activate transmission. What’s more, sensors such as light, humidity and vibration, and an infrared motion detector can be added as well.


After the device is all wired up, Makers can take their smartphone, attach it to the Serial cable and read all sensor values. Users can set minimum/maximum thresholds and a timer by which they’d like LoFi to relay the data. Once configured, the inexpensive transmitter and receiver are attached, connected to a listening gateway, and linked to a home PC using the aforementioned Serial cable. By doing so, users can receive all the information that has been sent. Even better, a Wi-Fi board can be added to enable wireless transmission to Internet or a home network. It should be noted that LoFi is compatible with data.sparkfun.com, a free open-source Internet repository.

LoFi is capable of achieving low-power by being in deep slow mode most of the time. On average, the module consumes just 18μA of power, allowing it to last a year on coin-cell or 10 years on a AA batteries. Given its power consumption and 1.25 square inch package, the board can be used in a wide-range of applications.

For instance, the combination of LoFi, a tilt ball switch and some velcro inside a Tic-Tac box can serve as a garage door detector. Or, LoFi, an infrared reflective sensor and a bead jar can alert a user if they’ve got mail. By gutting an iPhone charger and adding a coin cell, LoFi can create a disguised in-house temp monitor. The list goes on and on…

Want to learn more? Head over to the project’s official Hackaday.io page here. Feeling inspired? Submit your idea for some Hackaday Prize stardom.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize calls hackers to save the world

Atmel is a proud sponsor of this year’s contest that looks to ‘make’ a difference in our world.

Want to go to space or grab $196,883? How does $100,000 and a 6-month residency sound? These and hundreds of other prizes await those who ideate and build something that matters, or as we like to put it, literally ‘make’ a difference.


Last year, our friends at Supplyframe launched the first-ever Hackaday Prize,​ a competition designed to drive innovation in connected hardware around the Internet of Things. After proving to be a roaring success, the contest received entries from 55 countries, awarded over $350,000 in prizes, and saw the creation of hundreds of truly excellent open hardware projects — many of which were Atmel powered, may we add.

When all was said and done, the winning submission was a global open-source network of ground stations from a team of 10 Makers led by Pierros Papadeas. The SatNOGS project hoped to enable communication with the thousands of satellites already in orbit. Not long after, third-place victor Michael Colton took his standalone pocket-sized software defined radio to Kickstarter. There, the PSDR garnered over $66,000. And, most recently, second-place recipient Colin O’Flynn has launched a crowdfunding campaign for his hardware security testing platform, ChipWhisperer-Litethat allows developers to explore side-band and glitch vulnerabilities. The question is, which inspiring concepts will follow in their footsteps?

A new year, a new opportunity. This time, the Supplyframe team is issuing a call to hackers, engineers, Makers, and hardware startups from all over the world to focus their creative efforts on solving serious issues that face humanity. The global water crisis, pollution, climate change, food shortages, fossil fuel dependency, and many other big problems are awaiting new solutions. It’s time to unleash the community’s innovative energy and collective expertise to move mankind forward. (“One small step for Makers, one giant leap for mankind.”)


As if you didn’t know, The Hackaday Prize boasts the richest and most compelling prize pool ever available to hardware hackers. In fact, the grand prize winner this year will once again have the unparalleled opportunity to receive a ticket into space (or $196,883 in cash, a mathematically interesting Monster Group number), and other astounding prizes will be up for grabs with a total value of over $500,000.

“The world has some big problems that still need solving,” explained Steve Flagg, Supplyframe Founder and CEO. “This year’s Hackaday Prize is all about inspiring people to tap into their hacker spirit and to build something that could make a real difference for humanity.”

Joining the team this year are Akiba (Freaklabs, @Freaklabs), Pete Dokter (Sparkfun, @petedokter), Heather Knight (Marilyn MonRobot, @HeatherKnight), Ben Krasnow (GoogleX & host of Applied Science on YouTube, @benkrasnow), Lenore Edman & Windell Oskay (Evil Mad Scientist Labs, @EMSL), and Micah Scott (Scanlime, @Scanlime) alongside returning judges Limor “Ladyada” Fried (Adafruit, @adafruit), Jack Ganssle (Ganssle Group, & The Embedded Muse), Dave Jones (EEVBlog, @eevblog), Ian Lesnet (Dangerous Prototypes, @dangerousproto), and Elecia White (Logical Elegance, @logicalelegance). Safe to say, we cannot be more excited to be a leading sponsor of this quest for the best!


So, who can participate in this chance of a lifetime? Individuals or teams from the United States, UK and India, among many other countries are eligible to enter. Universities, colleges, hackerspaces, and startups are strongly encouraged to take part, as are young hackers. However, please note, applicants must be 13 year of age or over to qualify.

“The world’s problems can’t wait. Share your ideas to help everyone get started.” Ready to make? Preliminary submissions are now being accepted via H​ackaday.io​ through August 17, 2015. 100 semifinalists will be selected on August 31, with finalists revealed October 5, and winners announced shortly thereafter on November 9.

Was this blog post not thorough enough? You can always learn more here.

Rocking out with a DIY Arduino synth guitar

Maker creates a slick synth guitar out of an old drum machine, ribbon potentiometers, a joystick shield and an Arduino. 

Recently brought to our attention by our friends at Hackadaya Maker by the name of “Gr4yhound” has devised a slick synth guitar comprised entirely from scratch using an old Yamaha DD-55 drum machine, some SoftPot ribbon potentiometers, a SparkFun joystick shield, and an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4).


The device itself consists of two components, a guitar body and neck. The body is made from a piece of pine that was cut using Gr4yhound’s homemade CNC machine, while three circles were routed out to make room for the Yamaha drum pads, wiring and the joystick shield. Meanwhile, the neck was actually derived from a de-fretted Squire Affinity Strat neck.


Three SoftPot membrane potentiometers were added to the neck to simulate strings. Beyond that, the drum pad trio acts as touch sensors, allowing Gr4yhound to play each string simultaneously and form tunes. The joystick shield enables Gr4yhound to add additional effects to the overall sound, and an Arduino Micro serves as the primary controller and transmits the musical notes as MIDI commands. The Maker used a commercial MIDI to USB converter in order to play the music on a computer, while converter lets him power the Arduino via USB.

Ready to rock out? Head on over to the project’s official build log here, or watch it in action below!

Building a custom door chime with an ATtiny85 and AES-CMAC

AES-CMAC on an ATtiny85? You bet! 

Our friends at Hackaday recently brought to our attention a nifty little custom door chime, powered by an ATtiny85 and equipped with AES-CMAC for message signing. While Daniel Neville could’ve used a commercial product, it’s evident that the Maker wanted to pack a little extra security into the pint-sized device.


Controlled by the tinyAVR MCU, the gate buzzer features an LM380N audio amplifier as well as a low-cost 315 MHz receiver. Using AVR assembly, the Maker managed to cram everything into the 8 Kbytes of Flash on the ATtiny85, including an AES cypher-based message authentication code. The transmitting gadget signs the request with a key shared between both devices, and the receiver verifies that the message is indeed from a trusted sender.


“The chime learns up to eight transmitters with the same shared key but with different serial numbers and different secret AES-CMAC keys. Each transmitter can have either one or two sensors to monitor. Each sensor on each transmitter is associated with one of sixteen possible sets of sounds. Some sound sets include activation, deactivation and prolonged activation reminder sounds while others only include the activation sound,” Neville writes.

Intrigued? You can read all about the build and access its source codes here.


Hacking an ultimate all-in-one remote with ATtiny85

Maker adds RF control, command sequences and USB power to a Griffin Beacon. 

It’s always exciting to see once discontinued, obsolete products brought back to life with a simple hack and a little DIY ingenuity. Added to the growing list of reincarnated devices is this Griffin Beacon Universal Remote, which has recently been modded to include RF controls and USB power. After finding his former state-of-the-art remote lying around, a Maker by the name of “Joedefa” had decided that it was time for it to stop collecting dust. With the number of wireless devices on the rise, it was clearer than ever that he needed a better, much more efficient way to control them all at once.


“I always have my cell phone so the Beacon seemed like the perfect thing. But a lot of the lights and outlets in my house were RF controlled. Which sparked this project,” the Maker writes. “After fiddling with different projects to control them such as making an Arduino connected with an Ethernet to display a webpage and programming a small remote. I found that I needed a better user interface and the ability to connect to it easily.”


With that in mind, Joedefa devised a simple circuit that could relay the signal of the IR remote, while USB power eliminated any need for batteries. In addition, the project is based around an ATtiny85 that controls the communication between the infrared LED and RF transmit module. Meanwhile, a pair of red and green LEDs allows him to know if the remote has received commands successfully.


The Maker has also appended an IR LED to the build which would enable him to send IR sequences, such as entering sleep mode and a Netflix selector for his Apple TV. To streamline these actions, Joedefa added the sequences to a single button, while the ATtiny85 was tasked with executing the commands. Interested in learning more? Flip over to the project’s official Hackaday.io page here.

Repurposing a Cree Connected Bulb chip for other IoT apps

What if you could use your smart lightbulb’s MCU for another IoT application? Turns out, you can. 

As the Internet of Things seemingly finds its place under our roofs, one of the many brands helping to lead the way is Cree, who recently debuted its new sub-$15 line of Internet-enabled bulbs. Unlike others on the market today, the new 60-watt replacement LED lights are compatible with both Wink and ZigBee-certified hubs, and with a super affordable price, are looking to spur more widespread adoption. Users simply sync their iOS or Android device with the bulb to to trigger a number of settings: dim or brighten, schedule, and remotely turn them for an added layer of security.

While many homeowners will outfit their homes with smart lights, what if the chip embedded inside the Cree Connected Bulb could be used for other IoT applications as well? That’s what John McAlpine set out to discover, and upon breaking apart the bulb, found out that you can indeed.


The Maker’s teardown revealed a small board, which featured a ZigBee radio module along with an Atmel | SMART ATSAMR21E ARM Cortex-M0+based MCU that communicates over the radio to a Quirky Wink hub. With just 3V of power, McAlpine was able to command anything he wanted with PWM output. Watch the video below for a quick demo and pinout of the module.

“You can dig deeper into the hack, write your own controls for it — or, you make use of the apps already available for it — but regardless, this could be a very cheap way of adding in some reliable smart controls to your home,” Hackaday’s James Hobson writes.

Great find, Hackaday! Interested in learning more about the bulb itself? You can do so here.