DIY Signboard

Web server outages suck. Let’s celebrate the Blahg’s return with a DIY LED project – signboard 2. And no, I don’t know what happened to signboard 1 – maybe if you look, you can find it and report back?

signboard.jpgOn this page, I will introduce the electronic signboard with PIC16F84A.

112 LEDs are used for message display and 50 LEDs are used for around.

Latch registers by CPLD are used for the display of the LEDs.

Interesting little project there. I could see spending some time building my own programmable LED board. (via MAKEzine)

[tags]Signboard, DIY, LED, MAKEzine[/tags]

Build your own Sputnik

It’s been 50 years since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, shaming the American government into taking the space race seriously. In part of a look back BBC News has a retrospective on the Sputnik launch and a guide in brief on building your own satellite.

“Technology now is way ahead of what was available in 1957, and making your own fully functional Sputnik would now be very simple indeed,” says Jan Buiting, editor of Elektor Electronics, a hobbyist magazine.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you could build one in a container smaller than a matchbox, weighing about as much as a wristwatch. The components, including a transmitter, battery and the sensors you’d need would probably cost less than £50,” he says.

Of course, launching it into space, getting it to the right altitude to orbit, and keeping track of it might all require a bit more. However, the basics of building the device are clearly easily achieved in modern times.

[tags]Sputnik, Space race, DIY, Build your own Sputnik[/tags]

DIY – build your own portable MP3 player

If mp3-stick-complete.jpg you have some real talent with hardware project building, you might be interested in this article about building your own portable mp3 player. Just be aware that it is not for the meek.

Project description – This is not a beginner project!


The MP3stick is a simple and small portable MP3 player. A microcontroller Atmel AVR ATmega128 is the heart of the circuit. MP3 decoding is done by an VLSI VS1011b decoder IC. A MMC/SD card works as memory medium for MP3 files, playlist files and skin files. The player is designed to draw his power from a LiIo/LiPo battery with 3.6V. a charger cicuit, based on MAX1811, is included. All information will be shown on a Nokia color LCD with 128×128 pixel and 256 colors. The player will work in text-only mode and if a skin file is available, also with nice graphic skins. A docking port allows outside connectivity for serial control signals, audio signals and charger voltage input.

All the necessary hardware is detailed in the guide following the introduction. A number of pictures are included to see various phases in the build. Firmware information is given. Even finaly build size (22x39x64mm) and approximate battery life guidelines are included. The work on this is impressive, and if you have the talent to build, this looks like a great project to get involved with.

[tags]mp3, DIY, MP3 player, Hardware project[/tags]

Build your own Segway-style scooter

Don’t tlbonscooter have several thousand dollars in the wallet to spare, but really want your own Segway?  Well, you could always try the Do-it-yourself homebuilt Segway-style scooter if you have the skills for that.

Self-balancing scooters, like the Segwayâ„¢ are often thought to be technological miracles, but it is not actually very hard to build one. I built the one described here in about a week using off-the-shelf parts. I spent another week tweaking the high-speed stability, improving the steering control, and writing about it.

Shoot yeah!  I have mad skillz.  So mad they have to be spelled with a ‘z’ instead.  But not quite mad sizzles, which is what I hear Snoop Dogg has.

So just how does the DIY self-balancing scooter compare to a real Segway?

The Segway is made with quite high-quality, high-tech, and expensive components. Overall, the components I used are a lot lower-tech and cheaper than the ones in the Segway. Yet, mine seems to ride just fine. It suggests that there’s room for a Henry Ford of balancing scooters to develop and sell a low-cost everyman’s version. Here’s a quick comparison. Quotes below are from

This is followed by the comparison.  And I can tell you from reading it that while the real deal certainly wins for polish, the DIY scooter doesn’t measure up too badly on functionality.  Now to find a few hundred spare hundred lost in the sofa to make my own.

The author of the page has extensive information on the why of building this, some ideas for doing your own, and even updates on his next generation DIY home-built.  Overall, it’s a really cool project.  The write-up and details are long, but if you are into this kind of project work, I assure you it is worth the time to read it.

[tags]Self-balancing scooter, DIY Segway-style scooter, DIY[/tags]

It’s PC clean-up time!

Do you keep your system in tip-top shape all the time?  Do you clean up old, unneeded files, wipe down the case, clear our the dust, and perform regular backups?  If you’re like the vast majority of home computer users, the answer is no.  I’m certainly not one who is good about doing these things.  While randomly reading one of my many “Man, I love this site, but I rarely remember to read it even though it’s in my Bloglines feed” web sites, I found this collection of links to computer clean-up guides that we all should be using regularly.

The guide starts out with the virtual cleanups you need, such as uninstalling programs you don’t need any more and looking at disk usage and cleaning clutter, but also includes the real-world cleanup task you should do regularly – clean out dust from the system and keyboard.  As is typical with a LifeHacker article, the comments add extra suggestions that are as good as what is in the article.

[tags]Cleanup, Clean your computer, Declutter, LifeHacker[/tags]

Set your USB key up to auto-run on insertion

I’ve known this was possible for a while, but I hadn’t looked for nor stumbled upon instructions for putting an autorun file on a USB key and getting it to work. This week, obviously, I found the instructions over at Daily Cup of Tech for making this happen. I can see several good and nefarious uses for this.

The autorun.inf file is the key to getting your USB drive (or CD-ROM drive, for that matter) to perform certain actions automatically and customize it’s look in My Computer. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on how this can be done.

Topics covered are:

  • Autorun.inf Structure
  • Setting a Custom Icon
  • Naming Your USB Drive
  • Setting AutoPlay Options
  • Adding Context Menu Items
  • Changing Default Action
  • Viewing a File
  • School’s Out, Time To Play!

Unfortunately, the author doesn’t have anchors set at each heading, or I would link you directly to each section. Fortunately, the entire article is brief and pretty easy to follow, so this isn’t a big negative in the article layout.

USB key break-ins are a real security threat, and this kind of tutorial helps you make the security breach even easier if you are in to that kind of thing. Whether you depend on natural curiosity to cause the breach or use something like the above-linked tutorial to get a tool running and stealing what you need from your victim, the USB key is handy. This also means you should be aware that the bad guys are learning (or already know) these things and will use them to attack you some day.

So to end, the next natural question for you, the reader, should be “How do I stop this vulnerability from impacting my system/network/company?” now. Well, there are many places that have the answer. I haven’t found one that I would point out as The best way to do this – this Microsoft technet article has the necessary information if you already know your way around the registry, as does this more concise and clearer article. Other helpful points include this CD-Freaks forum post asking that question, as does this web site that seems to focus on autorun features/bugs/benefits. That last one is probably the clearest, so may be the one I point folks to in the future.

[tags]USB autorun, USB keys, Security, DIY, Daily cup of tech[/tags]

Refrigerator LED signs

fridge_lights-1.jpgOn Instructables, there is a guide to making your own refrigerator LED light kit, so you can put up cool (no pun intended) signs or images. It seems to be a pretty easy project, requiring just a few out-of-the-ordinary things to make.

Turn your fridge into a canvas for LED art. Any passerby can place and relocate the magnetic LEDs any way they wish to create illuminated pictures and messages.

It’s great for high traffic kitchens and It’s fun for kids and adults alike.


. . .

  • Super Shield conductive nickel paint
  • 1/4″ copper tape used for circuit board repair (optional)
  • Spray Paint
  • 10mm LEDs in quantities and colors of choice
  • 330 Ohm surface-mount resistors
  • One 4.5 Volt, 500 milliamp AC power supply
  • 1/8″ diameter x 1/16″ NdFeB Nickel plated disc magnets
  • 1/4″ diameter x 1/16″ NdFeB Nickel plated disc magnets
  • 5 minute epoxy
  • Masking tape
  • 1/4″ Quilter’s tape

More details on the ingredients listed above as well as necessary tools for the project are available in the full Instructables guide.

As a side-note to those few readers who know much about the late life of the Tandy Color Computer, this project was done by none other than the amazing Sock Master, creator of some of the most amazing (at the time) demo-scene style work ever seen on the CoCo.

[tags]DIY, LED, LEDs, refrigerator lights, Sock Master[/tags]

Make your own cotton candy machine

Every once in a while, I find the stuff that would make your kids vote for you in a “Coolest parent of the year” contest (for the record, *I* would vote for you every time, but sometimes the kinds need a reminder of how great you are). Follow this cotton candy machine build guide (or if you don’t want all the instructions on one page, start at the intro page)and you’ll get back high on their list for votes.

Here’s a bit to help you see if you are ready to start:


step 1:Materials / Necessities
Okay, so here’s what you’re going to need to make your own cotton candy machine!

  • 1- standard electric motor (preferably 1/4″ motor shaft)
  • 1- 3.25″ X 6+” Aluminum extruded round bar (3.25″ diameter)
  • 2 – 1/2″ bolts of any size diameter (smaller = better, but you need the tap for it)
  • 2 – 1″ bolts of any size diameter (need the tap for the right size)
  • 1 – average toaster heating element
  • ? – .25″ diameter copper pipe (or crimping connectors for wiring)
  • 1 – radio-controller “floppy” antenna
  • ? – lots of miscellaneous screws, nuts, and bolts
  • 1- 3″ (dia) X .125″ piece of wood
  • 1- Light Switch Dimmer or Adjustable power supply ( needs to be able to handle high voltage and amperage output)
  • Teflon Tape
  • Conductive Tape
  • A large, plastic or metal, circular object (if you don’t have one, make one)
  • Some wire mesh (usually used as gutter covering)
  • A Few Sheets of paper
  • Some tape
  • Some heavy gauge wire
  • A small bit of fast drying concrete


  • Lathe
  • Tap
  • Electrician’s pliers
  • Band/Hack saw (if using copper pipe)
  • Drill press (and the smallest drill bit you can find, at least 1/16″ or smaller)
  • metal working clamps
  • Tin Snips
  • Alibre Design Express (free at

The entire instruction set is a bit long, but we’re talking home-made cotton candy here, folks. You just can’t pass up awesomeness like that.

[tags]Instructables, MAKEzine, Cotton Candy, DIY, Do it yourself, Build your own cotton candy machine[/tags]

Guide: Smuggling liquids on a place

liquids-on-a-plane_resize.jpg Thankfully, there are more people out there that feel as I do about some of the so-called “security” we are getting for our tax dollars.  And they are way smarter than I am, so they write insightful things about the problem.  So there are frequently new posts out there from which I can draw.  The latest is this simple “guide” to taking your liquids on a plane with you.

My latest experiment with TSA security happened by accident. I recently flew to Memphis on business, and while I was there I bought my wife a souvenir bottle of Vidalia onion salad dressing (pictured at left [well, not on my site when I rip his text]). Vidalia onions are one of the four food groups of the South, the other three being barbecue, fried foods, and gravy.

. . .

I took my time packing up my things, watching her wrap the bottle loosely in the paper and drop it into the trash barrel.

I looked around casually. There weren’t very many TSA agents servicing the area, and they were joking around, screening oncoming passengers, watching the X-ray monitor. Everyone’s attention was focused elsewhere. No one was watching me.

I moseyed over to the walkway and glanced in the barrel. It was filled with half-empty coffee cups and discarded water bottles. There, on top of the trash, wrapped in its protective paper, was my salad dressing.

. . .

Calmly, I reached down into that unstable barrel of atomic liquid and grabbed my salad dressing. Then I calmly boarded the moving walkway, and stuffed the salad dressing down my pants. The TSA lets you keep things there, apparently.

No one came after me. I have to be honest, it was almost like they wanted me to take it. The hardest part was returning a few minutes later to take these pictures on my cameraphone.

Mission accomplished, I suppose.  Read the full article for more details and the camera phone pictures that go along with the story.  This story has been covered by several of my favorite web sites/blogs/smarty-smart folks.  Schneier rightly points out that this probably isn’t a smart thing to brag about online and that he probably wouldn’t have been so glib had he been caught.  Boingboing, other the other hand, looks at this from the critique of DHS security standpoint:

The reason this “smuggling” technique works, of course, is that liquids aren’t dangerous. Everyone knows this — even the TSA. That’s why they don’t guard the barrel after they confiscate your wine, water, and salad-dressing. The point of taking away your liquid isn’t to make airplanes safe, it’s to simultaneously make you afraid (of terrorists with magic water-bombs) and then make you feel safe (because the government is fighting off the magic water-bombs). It’s what Bruce Schneier calls “security theater.”

So take your pick of viewpoints – probably unwise and overly risky or possible because everyone realizes liquids aren’t that risky.  Or both, which is what I think – he wasn’t doing himself a favor by doing this, but it wasn’t likely to be caught given how non-dangerous liquids are and therefore unprotected after “disposal” anyway.

[tags]Liquids on a plane, How to smuggle liquids onto a plane, That Zug guy[/tags]

Do it yourself air conditioning zone controls

Hack-a-day recently had a link to a project for doing your own zoning and computerizing your air conditioning system.

servo-zone-damper-had.jpgI’ve been planning to computerize my A/C once I buy a house. I stumbled across this simple vent mod. A $10 servo was added and controlled with some off the shelf computer servo controllers. Personally, I have visions of doing this along with several 1-wire temperature sensors. Check out the DIY zoning project for more ideas along these lines.

I’d love to have the time, energy, and drive to do something like this. I’m a huge computer geek, which contributes to my desire to computerize and/or automate everything, but automated or computer controlled home climate conditioning would just be so damn handy. (via Hack-a-Day)

[tags]Do it yourself home climate zone controls[/tags]

Have you had your head checked lately?

Have you ever wondered if your spouse is dead or just not interested in putting out for you? Have you ever wanted to check someone for epilepsy? Shoot, have you ever just wanted to see the brain waves of someone you know while they slept?

Well, thanks to the tireless efforts of hardware and software hackers from around the world, you now have a way to build and use your own EEG for home use. Of course, I doubt you’ll be able to use the information for any valid clinical diagnosis. Still, it’s a pretty cool project, and completely open-source.

Many people are interested in what is called neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback training, a generic mental training method which makes the trainee consciously aware of the general activity in the brain. This method shows great potential for improving many mental capabilities and exploring consciousness. Other people want to do experiments with brain-computer interfaces or just want to have a look at their brain at work.

Unfortunately, commercial EEG devices are generally too expensive to become a hobbyist tool or toy.

The OpenEEG project is about making plans and software for do-it-yourself EEG devices available for free (as in GPL). It is aimed toward amateurs who would like to experiment with EEG. However, if you are a pro in any of the fields of electronics, neurofeedback, software development etc., you are of course welcome to join the mailing-list and share your wisdom.

On the other hand, it’s a pricey project to try out:

The designers have done their best to create a safe device, but knowing whether the effort is good enough is a completely different matter (an $8000 matter actually). Therefore: everything is provided as is, without any warranty of any kind, expressed or implied.

If you build one, let me know – I’ll volunteer to try it out for you.

[tags]Open source EEG, Check your own bravewaves with this make-it-at-home project[/tags]