Hardware News

The Internet's Physical Backbone is Maxing Out

Earlier this week, we heard reports that we're on the verge of ...

Decoding and Replicating Xantrex Solar Charge Wireless Data

This is a story mostly of decoding data, but there is a happy ending that includes turning that decoding work into an open source receiver. Xantrex solar charge controllers monitor a lot of data about what is happening with your solar panels, and they stream it wirelessly but you need their add-on hardware to receive it. [Eric Herbers] figured if the data is being transmitted, a resourceful hackers should be able to decode it. And he did just that with a little help from his friends in the Hackaday community.
We asked on Twitter what people were working on and [Eric] posted his scope screenshot. The conversation that followed helped point him in the right direction and others knowing about the project surely drove him to finish it. The decoding isn't perfect, but achieve enough to decode and display voltage, amperage, and temperature. [Eric] built the display unit using an Arduino Pro Mini and a character LCD housed in you most common of black project boxes.Filed under: misc hacks

Tesla Energy: Changing How Businesses, Homes Use Power

Founder Elon Musk is leading the electric-car pioneer into the energy infrastructure business. Amazon and Target are among those with pilot projects in the works.

FCC Creates Innovation Radio, The Future Of Wireless Broadband

Thirty years ago there was a lot of unused spectrum in the 900MHz, 2.8GHz, and 5.2GHz bands. They were licensed for industrial, scientific, and medical uses since their establishment in 1947. But by the 1980s, these bands were identified as being underused. Spectrum is a valuable resource, and in 1985, the FCC first allowed unlicensed, spread spectrum use of these bands. Anyone who has ever configured a router will know the importance of this slice of spectrum: they're the backbone of WiFi and 4G. If you're not connected to the Internet through an Ethernet cable, you have the FCC Commissioners and chairpersons in 1985 to thank for that.
Last week, the FCC unanimously voted to allow the use of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band with the Citizens Broadband Radio Service. This opens up 150 MHz of spectrum from 3550 – 3700MHz for new wireless broadband services. If history repeats itself, you will be connecting to the Internet with the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in a few years.
While the April 17th FCC meeting was the formal creation of the CBRS, this is something that has been in the works for a very long time. The band was originally proposed back in 2012 when portions of spectrum were, like the ISM bands back in the 80s, identified as being underused. Right now, the 3.5GHz band is being used for US military radars and aeronautical navigation, but new advances in frequency management as outlined by commissioner [Clyburn] will allow these to coexist with the CBRS. In the words of Chairman [Wheeler], “computer systems can act like spectrum traffic cops.”
Access to the 3.5GHz spectrum will be divided into three levels. The highest tier, incumbent access, will be reserved for the institutions already using it – military radars and aeronautical radio. The second tier, priority access, will be auctioned and licensed by the FCC for broadband providers via Priority Access Licenses (PALs). The final tier, general authorized access, will be available for you and me, provided the spectrum isn't already allocated to higher tiers. This is an unprecedented development in spectrum allocation and an experiment to see if this type of spectrum allocation leads to more utilization.
There are, however, unanswered questions. Commissioner [O'Rielly] has said the three-year license with no renewable expectancy could limit commercial uptake of PALs. Some commentors have claimed the protocols necessary for the CBRS to coexist with WiFi devices does not exist.
Still, the drumbeat demanding more and more spectrum marches on, and 2/3rds of the 150MHz made available under this order was previously locked up for the exclusive use of the Defense Department. Sharing spectrum between various users is the future, and in this case has the nice bonus of creating a free citizens band radio service.
You can read the full order here, or watch the stream of the April 17th meeting.Filed under: Featured, radio hacks

Google's Project Fi service turns multiple phone networks into one

Got a Nexus 6? Itching to dump your traditional wireless service provider for something a bit more ambitious? Google's got you covered. After months of speculation and a not-so-subtle nod from Sundar Pichai at Mobile World Congress, the search giant'...

Disney Invented a Way To Control Your Phone Using the Sounds It Emits

In an effort to bring more functionality and interactivity to a device that is often just a large monolothic touchscreen, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Disney Research have come up with a ...

Android Wear's Biggest Update Ever Brings Wifi and Emoji Support

Apple Watch is finally entering the smartwatch wild this Friday, but Google is updating Android Wear to be an even more compelling competitor with wifi, new hand gestures, always-on apps and yes, even emoji support....

Google's 'balloon-powered internet for all' is almost ready

In case you wanted another behind-the-scenes look at how Google's internet-by-balloon service is doing, now is your chance. The Project Loon team posted a new video showing everything from how it manages its balloon fleet, the balloon creation proces...

FCC vote clears the way for lower-cost mobile data

Don't look now, but you may soon have more options for mobile internet access beyond the usual wireless carriers. The FCC has voted in favor of rules that not only make a wide 100MHz slice of 3.5GHz spectrum available for mobile data, but makes that ...

LA's Street Lighting Will Be Controlled By a Philips Wireless Network

Los Angeles recently converted 140,000 of its street lights to ...

Remote Controlled Wildlife Camera with Raspberry Pi

If you are interested in local wildlife, you may want to consider this wildlife camera project. [Arnis] has been using his to film foxes and mice. The core components of this build are a Raspberry Pi and an infrared camera module specifically made for the Pi. The system runs on a 20,000 mAh battery, which [Arnis] claims results in around 18 hours of battery life.
[Arnis] appears to be using a passive infrared (PIR) sensor to detect motion. These sensors work by detecting sudden changes in the amount of ambient infrared radiation. Mammals are good sources of infrared radiation, so the sensor would work well to detect animals in the vicinity. The Pi is also hooked up to a secondary circuit consisting of a relay, a battery, and an infrared light. When it's dark outside, [Arnis] can enable “night mode” which will turn on the infrared light. This provides some level of night vision for recording the furry critters in low light conditions.
[Arnis] is also using a Bluetooth dongle with the Pi in order to communicate with an Android phone. Using a custom Android app, he is able to connect back to the Pi and start the camera recording script. He can also use the app to sync the time on the Pi or download an updated image from the camera to ensure it is pointed in the right direction. Be sure to check out the demo video below.
If you like these wildlife cameras, you might want to check out some older projects that serve a similar purpose.
Filed under: Raspberry Pi

This Kit Lets You Build A Functioning Laptop Out Of A Raspberry Pi

The list of cool stuff you can do with a ...

More Power For Raspberry Pi USB Ports

Since the Raspberry Pi 2 was released, everyone building RetroPi emulators has been graced with four USB ports. For those of us doing useful stuff with the Pi, those ports are a little anemic: you can't plug in a webcam and a WiFi module at the same time without suffering CPU brownouts. The maximum current all USB peripherals can draw from the USB port is 600mA. By changing a value in the /boot/config.txt file, this current limit can be increased to 1.2mA for all four ports.
The yellow line traces the signal from the GPIO to the USB power switch.Because the USB current limit is set in software, there must be a few bits of hardware that do the actual work. Tucked away below the right hand of the GPIO header is the hardware that does exactly that. It's an AP2253 current-limited power switch (PDF), and the current is adjustable by tying a resistor to pin 5 on the chip.
Pin 5 on the AP2253 is connected to two resistors. One resistor goes directly to a ground plane, while the other is switched through a FET. The gate of this FET goes to another resistor, and when a GPIO pin is high, these resistors are wired in parallel. This means the resistance is halved when the GPIO pin is high, doubling the current limiting circuit in the AP2253.
This setup provides a relatively easy mod to increase the current limiting of the USB ports so they can provide 4x500mA, meeting the USB spec. The AP2253 power switch's current limiting can be set by a single resistor, anywhere from 10kΩ to 232kΩ. By removing R50 and R4, and replacing R50 with a 10kΩ resistor, the current limiting of the AP2253 switch will be set to its maximum, 2.1A. Divide that by four, and you have 500mA per port, just like every other computer on the planet.
There is a reason the Raspberry Pi foundation set the current limiting of the USB ports so low. The Pi was originally intended to run off of a micro USB phone charger. There aren't many phone chargers out there that will supply more than 1A, and the CPU and related peripherals will take half of that. If you're going to change the /boot/config.txt file, you're going to need a beefy power supply. Increasing the current limiting of the USB ports to 2A will require an even bigger, beefier supply.Filed under: Raspberry Pi

The 2G Raspberry Pi Smartphone

For [Tyler]'s entry to the Hackaday Prize, he's making something that just a few years ago would be unheard of in a homebrew build. He's making a DIY smartphone. Yes, with cheap single-board Linux computers, GSM modules, and SPI touchscreen displays, it's possible to build your own smartphone.
Inside [Tyler]'s DIY smartphone is a Raspberry Pi Model A, a 3.5 inch touchscreen PiTFT with 480×320 resolution, and an Adafruit FONA module The connections are simple enough; the TFT is connected over SPI, and the GSM module over serial. The entire device is powered by a 1200mAh LiIon battery, charged with a powerboost board, runs an operating system written in Python capable of making calls, sending texts, and takes pictures with a Pi camera.
This is not what you would normally call a smartphone. The FONA module is 2G only, meaning you're limited to 2G speeds and 2G networks. AT&T will be shutting down 2G networks in a little bit, although T-Mobile will be keeping them up for anyone who still has an old Nokia Brick.
That said, [Tyler]'s phone is still exactly what you want in a minimal phone: it just makes calls and receives texts, it has a camera, and unlike the Nokia, you can take it apart and repair it easily. Not that you ever had to do that with a Nokia…Filed under: Cellphone Hacks, Raspberry Pi

Pack your Raspberry Pi into an underpowered laptop for $100

The Raspberry Pi has already found its way into a number of unusual applications from DIY cell phones to Gif-capturing cameras. Now, a recently launched IndieGoGo campaign aims to put it somewhere more familiar: your lap. The PiKasa is essentially a ...