Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Robotic Baby Steps

The New Stack

She then looked directly into my eyes and with a subtle “trust me” expression, made the decision to let go of my fingers. Some say that robots and automation are going to take all the jobs. The JeVois platform is quite sophisticated and complex.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Power Hacks for Another Hurricane

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“We have a generator, so the air conditioning will still work, right?,” “We’ll be able to run the fridge, a couple of fans, lights, the TV, the router/wifi and laptops. The generator isn’t big enough to run the air conditioner.”

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Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Build a Hand Held Object Recognizer

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The JeVois machine vision sensor can recognize a wide variety of objects and symbols. My own project, Hedley the Robotic Skull , uses one to track me as I walk around in his field of view. I’d like to branch out and look at a few new applications of the JeVois technology.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Tell Me What You See

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” my optometrist asked as I handed her the little blue JeVois camera. She was suitably impressed and appreciated my showing her the $50 gadget. The magic is in the off-the-shelf parts and a tiny bit of extra programming to tie it all together.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Open Source Video Production with Kdenlive

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The Generation-5 badge has a Raspberry Pi 2, a 3.5-inch color LCD touchscreen and is capable of running short informational videos without freezes or flicker. Then just transfer it over to the badge when finished. This keeps the file size reasonable and easy to work with on a badge.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: The Art of Soldering

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Quite a while back I covered the basics of soldering for off-the-shelf hackers. While it’s great to solder every connection in sight, you’ll still need to deal with the header connections on many DIY/Maker circuit boards. The Technique.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: ‘I See a Machine Vision Sensor’

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Last week we covered the basics of object recognition with voice synthesis. I ran it on the old war-horse ASUS Linux notebook. This week, I’ve successfully ported everything over to run on Hedley, the robotic skull , with his built-in Raspberry Pi and gaggle of Arduino boards.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Capture a Screen Demo on Video

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Using your cell phone video camera to document the movements of a physical computing gadget is pretty straightforward. Upload the video to your Linux notebook or directly to YouTube and then embed it in your article copy, for readers to view. I use one called the Xfce4 Screenshooter.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: More Linux Command Line Commands

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The Raspberry Pi was invented for learning how to program. You can load up nearly any language imaginable and the relatively low price of the board puts the technology within reach of everybody. The Text Flies By. Why not use the more command?

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Raspberry Pi vs. Arduino

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While talking with a guest right before this month’s Orlando Robotics And Maker Club meeting, the question of starting out with a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino came up. Jerry, one of my robot club colleagues, who teaches physical computing, said he gets the same question all the time.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Exploring JeVois Vision Sensor Algorithms

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My latest project, Hedley, the robotic skull, has a JeVois smart machine vision sensor in his right eye socket. He also tracks me using the “salient” algorithm , which is influenced by movement and light sources. We covered the Elegoo robot in a past article.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Mosquitto on the Bone

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We explored using a CHIP single board computer to run the Mosquitto MQTT broker , back in 2017. While the gadget worked fine, it got pushed to the back of the desk due to other projects. Sad to say, the CHIP-based broker gave up the ghost about six months ago.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Why Do You Hack?

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Working on Heathkit and Erector sets of the late ’60s and early ’70s kept me entertained for hours. Tech was a huge focus back then, usually referred to as the “Space Age.” What we call hacking today pushed my ideas out into the real world.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Hands-On Fast Prototyping

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Producing a weekly Off-The-Shelf Hacker story is a bit of work. I write the pieces from scratch and have to shoot/edit the little video that goes with each article. Writing the story is in the latter part of the project. Where’s the Part?

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Build a Dedicated Messaging Broker

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The sprinkler controller and yard light project both use MQTT messaging for data communications. Up until now, my Linux notebook served as the broker during initial development efforts. You can even do messages directly to and from the command line, which is great for prototyping.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Of Steampunk and Tech Time

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The yellow paper signs led me up and down through the grassy lot above the open-air building full of booths. I parked the car, put on my pin-striped vest, top hat and Raspberry Pi-powered steampunk conference badge, then proceeded down the hill into the event.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Microcontroller Wireless Messaging with MQTT

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I even ordered a single-channel relay board that mounts the tiny ESP8226 and a USB programmer that could be used for flashing firmware. Alas, I haven’t been able to get the USB programming board to work, so putting firmware on the 01 microcontroller is a pain.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Throw a Thermocouple on the Grill

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The plan was to upgrade the old high-temperature thermocouple rig and then talk about integrating it with an on-screen analog gauge showing the readings. The gauge, written in Processing , looks steampunky and matches the aesthetics of the wearables and portable systems I build.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Keep Your Projects Moving

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Work, family and social commitments around the busy holiday season make designing, building and writing a monumental challenge. Readers know that there’s considerable behind-the-scenes work fielding just about any type of hardware project. You get the point.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Instantly Upgrade Your Arduino Project Design

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My own project, Hedley the Robotic Skull now uses an Arduino Nano clone as a driver board for his jaw servo. I recently replaced the old Arduino NG with the Nano. I was sitting there looking at the skull and it struck me. The two boards are about the same size.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: First Look at the Raspberry Pi 4

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A shiny new Raspberry Pi 4 board arrived to the Dr. Torq headquarters last week, along with a Raspberry Pi Zero W , some Hall effect sensors and a 3.0-amp wall wart. I’ve been anxious to see how the thing works in a few projects. The 3.0-amp power supply was another $8.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: How to Use the Dial Caliper for Extra Precise Measurement

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Off-the-Shelf hackers are certainly familiar with measuring parts using a common, everyday tape measure. What if you want to measure parts in the range of a couple of thousandths of an inch, say for fabbing up a few 3D printed parts? Watch the dial for the lowest number.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Use Picture-in-Picture in Your Next Tech Video

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I didn’t have the video ready by press time for last week’s story , so I just went with the meter moving up and down on-screen. Readers had to take it on faith that the thermocouple actually worked. You can certainly show the finished clip on the Pi.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Control Your Home Projects with Amazon Alexa

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One of the great things about working with modern microcontrollers is that you can massively alter device behavior by simply modding the firmware and maybe adding a circuit or two. We’ll revert back to the yard sensor firmware shortly. Using the FauxmoESP Library.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Building Your Own Compact Portable Power Brick

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Fortunately, modern off-the-shelf parts are available at reasonable prices, so you can pretty much get whatever you need. The trick is that you have to build it yourself. For example, I needed a portable power supply for Hedley, the robotic skull.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Super Simple App For The Yard Sensor

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We’ve worked on the passive infrared (PIR) yard sensor for a while now, mostly on the hardware and software side. Last week we discussed firmware for the NodeMCU WiFi module that allows the device to send and receive MQTT messages to a broker and switch the relay on or off.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Build a Sensor System to Watch the Backyard

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They worked OK, although they were a bit kludgy and I never really was that happy with the results. Time marches on and much has changed in the physical computing world. Today, we’ll take a first look at the prototype for my new and improved PIR yard sensor.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Adding MQTT and Cron to the Lawn Sprinkler Project

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The project highlights key design and implementation concepts that off-the-shelf hackers will face in the systems they build. Additionally, network-enabled Arduino clones, such as the NodeMCU boards are nearly as cheap as a plain old non-networked Arduino.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: How to Solder Tubing with a Propane Torch

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Because we’ve been on the subject of soldering in recent articles, I felt like it would be a good time to go back and add a nice copper tubing base to my steampunk monitor project. Dark composite wood flooring formed the original base and it worked pretty well. Cutting the Tubing.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Use Processing’s Meter Library to Build Gauges

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I’ve cobbled together several gauge interfaces using the Processing programming language. In one, I programmatically built the gauge elements from lines, arcs and text. Just set a value and the gauge display changes. Install the Meter Library in Processing. The Code.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Tips for Your Next Tech Conference Proposal

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It’s that time of year again, the tech conference proposal season. If you’ve ever wanted to showcase your latest techno-gadget or hacker technique to an eager audience, now is the time to get going. The All Important Submission Deadline. Culture Off-The-Shelf Hacker

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Add Stereo Audio to Your DIY Gadgets

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The sound will come from a small speaker in the roof of his mouth, which coupled with synchronized jaw movement will make him speak. I’m currently searching for the perfect speaker to fit into his noggin. Let’s throw something together for the job.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: From the Space Age to the Age of DIY

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There has been scant little coverage of the Apollo 8 space mission that occurred just 50 years ago around this past Christmas season. In a small capsule, three American astronauts successfully circled the moon and made it back to Earth in one piece. The audio board has six terminals.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Conversations with Hedley, the Robotic Skull

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One of my dreams has always been to carry on a conversation with Hedley , the robotic skull , during shows and small-scale demos. Alexa-styled responses are possible, although it requires a solid connection to the internet. Like others in the talking robot niche , my solution is to “simulate” a conversation using scripted replies from Hedley. He and I become actors who say our lines at the right time. A button push will increment to the next audio file.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Making Parts with a Resin 3D Printer

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Off-the-shelf physical computing uses microcontrollers, sensors, networks, various tools, Linux and design thinking to build gadgets that do interesting jobs. Off-the-shelf hardware hackers do the same with the physical gizmo.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Hedley The Robotic Skull Gets A Partial Maxillectomy

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After what feels like forever, my latest project, Hedley the robotic skull , finally has a speaker mounted in the roof of his mouth. A future story will tie the whole flapping-jaw/voice effect together along with the Processing program that does the speech-to-audio analysis.

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Add Demo Videos to WordPress on Linux

The New Stack

Short videos showing details of in-process project builds, results and working prototypes are coming to the weekly Off-The-Shelf Hacker column. The time has come to add video elements to the stories. Click the “Create Account” link.