Posts with «how-to» label

How To Hack A Portable Bluetooth Speaker By Skipping The Bluetooth

Portable Bluetooth speakers have joined the club of ubiquitous personal electronics. What was once an expensive luxury is now widely accessible thanks to a prolific landscape of manufacturers mass producing speakers to fit every taste and budget. Some have even become branded promotional giveaway items. As a consequence, nowadays it’s not unusual to have a small collection of them, a fertile field for hacking.

But many surplus speakers are put on a shelf for “do something with it later” only to collect dust. Our main obstacle is a side effect of market diversity: with so many different speakers, a hack posted for one speaker wouldn’t apply to another. Some speakers are amenable to custom firmware, but only a small minority have attracted a software development community. It doesn’t help that most Bluetooth audio modules are opaque, their development toolchains difficult to obtain.

So what if we just take advantage of the best parts of these speakers: great audio fidelity, portability, and the polished look of a consumer good, to serves as the host for our own audio-based hacks. Let’s throw the Bluetooth overboard but embrace all those other things. Now hacking these boxes just requires a change of mindset and a little detective work. I’ll show you how to drop an Arduino into a cheap speaker as the blueprint for your own audio adventures.

Directing the Hacker Mindset at Myriad Bluetooth Speakers

There’s way too many different speakers out there for one hack to rule them all. But by changing our Bluetooth speaker mindset from “it’s a reprogrammable computer” to “it’s an integrated collection of useful electronic components”, we turn market diversity into our ally.

Look at this from the perspective of Bluetooth speaker manufacturers: they want their Bluetooth speaker to stand out from competitors, and the most obvious way is in their selection of loudspeaker drivers. Surprising the customer with big sound from a little box is key for success, so each product can offer a unique combination for driving the audio, all housed inside an eye-catching enclosure that lets consumers tell one portable Bluetooth speaker from another.

Tailoring for loudspeaker selection has cascading effects through the rest of the system. For best sound, they will need matching audio amplifier modules, which will have their own power requirements, which dictates battery performance, and so on. Catering to these desires, components are excluded from the tightly integrated mystery black boxes. Fortunately for hardware hackers, such an architecture also makes components easy to reuse:

  1. A rechargeable battery.
  2. Ability to charge that battery from USB.
  3. A low-power standby mode to monitor press of the power button.
  4. Protecting battery from over-discharge.
  5. A voltage regulator supplying battery power to the device.
  6. An audio line-in jack.
  7. Volume up/down control.
  8. Amplifier and driver.

All of these are useful for projects, already neatly packaged in a mass-produced enclosure.

Putting Theory Into Practice With An Example

Now that we have a general background, let’s apply this concept to a specific example. But before we begin, an obligatory note in case it is not obvious to any beginners reading this: This activity very definitely voids the warranty (do it, it’s worth it!), and modern portable electronics use lithium chemistry batteries that can be dangerous if mistreated.

The Bluetooth speaker used in this example is a “Rugged Portable Bluetooth Speaker” sold by North American electronics retailer Best Buy under one of their house brands. A search of its FCC ID pointed to Lightcomm Technology Co. as the manufacturer. The “rugged” claim starts with a layer of soft rubber wrapped around its exterior. That plus reinforcements inside the case allows the speaker to absorb some level of abuse. I wanted to preserve this shock absorbing exterior and, thankfully, it was easy to open non-destructively. Even more care would be needed if it was a waterproof speaker (this one wasn’t) and moisture barriers need to be preserved. Alternatively, if the plan is to transfer the internals to another enclosure, the condition of the original box would not matter.

Once the circuit board has been extracted, the Bluetooth interface module should immediately stand out as the most sophisticated component sitting close to an antenna. A search for ATS2823 confirmed it is a module designed and sold for integration into Bluetooth audio products. Its MIPS M4K core and associated flash storage could be a promising start for firmware hacking, but the point of this example is to demonstrate how to hack a speaker utilizing existing firmware. So we will leave the module as-is.

Solder to the External Audio Input

The easiest way to pipe audio into this system is to pretend to be an external audio source. We want the system to believe we are connected via an audio cable plugged into the line-in jack, but for compactness we’d prefer to do this without using an actual cord. This approach is easy, nondestructive, and preserves the existing volume control mechanism. There are a lot of different ways to implement an audio jack, so some exploration with a multimeter will be required. We need to find the standardized contacts for: audio input left channel, right channel, and ground. (Wikipedia reference: “Phone connector (audio)“)

It’ll be a little tricker to decipher the plug detection scheme, as it is not standardized. In this particular example, there is a fourth pin that floats in the absence of an audio plug. When an audio plug is present, the pin is grounded. Soldering a wire to always ground that detection pin will keep this speaker constantly in “playing external audio” mode.

Or Connect To Amplifier Directly

An alternative approach is to bypass existing input and volume control, sending audio directly to the amplifier chip. To find this chip, we start with the voice coil wires and backtrack. It’ll likely be the largest component near those voice coil wires. Once the amplifier chip is found, consult the datasheet to find the input pins to cut free from the circuit and rewire for audio input that bypasses existing control.

But even if we wish to maintain existing volume control, it is still useful to locate the audio amplifier chip. It is the most power-hungry component on the circuit board, and peak power requirements for the system are dictated by the amount of power this amplifier will draw when playing loudly. Therefore it is half the puzzle of calculating our available power. This particular Bluetooth device uses a Mixinno MIX2052 chip sitting adjacent to the voice coil wire connector, with a peak power of 6 watts.

Tap Into Power Supply

The other half of the puzzle is the voltage regulator delivering power to the amplifier chip. Similar to how we look for our amplifier near our voice coil wires, we can look for our regulator sitting near inductors, capacitors, and diodes. Once the power module is found, read its data sheet to determine peak power output.

The power budget for our hack would be constrained by power figures for those two components. Most microcontrollers consume maximum power during bootup. So as long as the audio source stays quiet during this time, we would have a little extra power to support boot. Somewhere between the regulator and the amplifier is also the best place to tap power. It allows us to piggyback on the existing power management circuit that shuts down the amplifier when entering low power mode, cutting power to our hack at the same time.

In the case of this board, there was one prominent coil and a Techcode TD8208 step-up regulator was found next to it. Configured to deliver 5 volts, this regulator can deliver 1A and tolerate brief spikes not to exceed 2A. This wouldn’t be enough to feed a Raspberry Pi 4, but plenty for an Arduino Nano.

Repurpose Control Button

So far functionality for three of the four buttons on this speaker has been preserved: power, volume up, and volume down. The fourth button initiates Bluetooth pairing, or to pick up a phone call. We’re cutting BT out of the equation so this is no longer useful and can be repurposed.

On this speaker, SW4 is normally open and pulls to ground when pressed, making it trivial to reuse. I cut the trace leading to the Bluetooth interface module and soldered a wire so the switch now pulls an Arduino pin to ground when pressed.

Tuck Everything Back In

A few pieces of internal plastic reinforcements for ruggedness were cut away to create enough volume for an Arduino Nano inside this enclosure. It is no longer quite as rugged, but now it is far more interesting as a platform for sound hacks. To conclude this proof of concept, the Arduino Nano is using the Mozzi audio library to play the classic Wilhelm scream whenever our repurposed button is pressed.

 

Build Your Own Bleepy Bloopy Buzzy Box

Bluetooth used to be the novelty. With plenty of hacks adding Bluetooth to existing audio equipment, playing Bluetooth audio out of one, or building our own Bluetooth speakers from scratch. But now Bluetooth speakers are ubiquitous, we’re approaching the point where Bluetooth is not necessarily the center of attention. Skipping the Bluetooth in a portable Bluetooth speaker gives us a new platform for our noise maker hacks. Something small, fun, and easy to bring to our next hacker show-and-tell meetup!

A Custom Keyboard At Maximum Effort

No one loves hacked keyboards more than Hackaday. We spend most of our workday pressing different combinations of the same 104 buttons. Investing time in that tool is time well spent. [Max] feels the same and wants some personality in his input device.

In the first of three videos, he steps us through the design and materials, starting with a layer to hold the keys. FR4 is the layer of fiberglass substrate used for most circuit boards. Protoboards with no copper are just bare FR4 with holes. Homemade CNC machines can glide through FR4, achieving clean lines, and the material comes in different mask colors so customizing an already custom piece is simple. We see a couple of useful online tools for making a homemade keyboard throughout the videos. The first is a keypad layout tool which allows you to start with popular configurations and tweak them to suit your weirdest desires. Missing finger? Forget one key column. Extra digit? Add a new key column. Huge hands? More spaces between the keys. [Max] copied the Iris keyboard design but named his Arke, after the fraternal sister to Iris which is fitting since his wrist rests are removable.

In the second video, we see how the case and a custom cable are designed. One of the most beautiful features of this build is the cable with 3D-printed boots that are sized to fit ordinary pin headers. The homemade keyboard that this article is being typed on just has a piece of yellow Cat5 between the halves. When the custom cable is assembled, we see a hack revealed by accident. Twelve wires for the cable are salvaged from some ribbon cable and by cutting the ribbon straight across, every scrap of wire is the same length. No more of those unruly wires at the end or that one short one that kinks all the others. There is also a cable boot design that didn’t make the final cut but featured some secure threaded ends that are still available for download.

Another bonus hack comes from the calipers used to break wires into subsections. Check out how to make your calipers run for years on a singe battery. Keyswitch wiring is explained in the final video, shown below, which is simple enough since it is a row-and-column arrangement. The third bonus hack is when we see that classic gray ribbon “stripped” by applying a hot iron to the tip. [Max], like others, has a video about making helping hands from coolant hoses, but here he chooses the more straightforward route of putting some gummy tack on the table and mashing the header into it. Like the shortcut with the keyboard layout design, an online tool generates the firmware.

When you are ready to make your own keyboard, you will be in good hands with time-tested methods or even 3D printing. If you like the regular design, you can also overhaul an old keyboard, or update a USB device to Bluetooth.

PID Control with Arduino

Experience — or at least education — often makes a big difference to having a successful project. For example, if you didn’t think about it much, you might think it is simple to control the temperature of something that is heating. Just turn on the heater if it is cold and turn it off when you hit the right temperature, right? That is one approach — sometimes known as bang-bang — but you’ll find there a lot of issues with that approach. Best practice is to use a PID or Proportional/Integral/Derivative control. [Electronoob] has a good tutorial about how to pull this off with an Arduino. You can also see a video, below.

The demo uses a 3D printer hot end, a thermocouple, a MAX6675 that reads the thermocouple, and an Arduino. There’s also an LCD display and a FET to control the heater.

The idea behind a PID controller is that you measure the difference between the current temperature and the desired temperature known as the setpoint. The proportional gain tells you how much output occurs due to that difference. So if the setpoint is way off, the proportional term will generate a lot of output to the heater. If it is close, only a little bit of output will result. This helps prevent overshoot where the temperature goes too high and has to come back down.

The integral term adds a little bit to the output based on the cumulative error over time. The derivative term reacts to changes in the temperature difference. For example, if something external causes the temperature to drop suddenly, the derivative term can goose the output to compensate.

However, the operative word is “can.” Part of setting up a PID is finding the coefficients for each term which for some systems could be zero or even negative (indicating a reverse effect).  There are a lot of other subtleties, too, like what happens if the output stops affecting the temperature for a long period and the integral amount grows to unmanageable magnitude.

By the way, we’ve covered a PID library for Arduino before. While this post talks about temperature, PID control is used for everything from flight control to levitation.

Hack a Day 14 Apr 09:00

Glorious Body of Tracked ‘Mad Mech’ Started as Cardboard

[Dickel] always liked tracked vehicles. Taking inspiration from the ‘Peacemaker’ tracked vehicle in Mad Max: Fury Road, he replicated it as the Mad Mech. The vehicle is remote-controlled and the tank treads are partly from a VEX robotics tank tread kit. Control is via a DIY wireless controller using an Arduino and NRF24L01 modules. The vehicle itself uses an Arduino UNO with an L298N motor driver. Power is from three Li-Po cells.

The real artistic work is in the body. [Dickel] used a papercraft tool called Pepakura (non-free software, but this Blender plugin is an alternative free approach) for the design to make the body out of thin cardboard. The cardboard design was then modified to make it match the body of the Peacemaker as much as possible. It was coated in fiberglass for strength, then the rest of the work was done with body filler and sanding for a smooth finish. After a few more details and a good paint job, it was ready to roll.

There’s a lot of great effort that went into this build, and [Dickel] shows his work and process on his project page and in the videos embedded below. The first video shows the finished Mad Mech being taken for some test drives. The second is a montage showing key parts of the build process.

Paper and cardboard are very versatile and accessible materials for making things. It’s what was used to do some target practice with this working paper and cardboard gun. With the right techniques foam core can be worked into an astonishing variety of shapes, and we also made a case for the value of a desktop vinyl cutter on any well-equipped hacker’s workbench.

DIY Dungeon Crawler Game Plays on Single LED Strip

A delightful version of a clever one-dimensional game has been made by [Critters] which he calls TWANG! because the joystick is made from a spring doorstop with an accelerometer in the tip. The game itself is played out on an RGB LED strip. As a result, the game world, the player, goal, and enemies are all represented on a single line of LEDs.

How can a dungeon crawler game be represented in 1D, and how is this unusual game played? The goal is for the player (a green dot) to reach the goal (a blue dot) to advance to the next level. Making this more difficult are enemies (red dots) which move in different ways. The joystick is moved left or right to advance the player’s blue dot left or right, and the player can attack with a “twang” motion of the joystick, which eliminates nearby enemies. By playing with brightness and color, a surprising amount of gameplay can be jammed into a one-dimensional display!

Code for TWANG! is on github and models for 3D printing the physical pieces are on Thingiverse. The video (embedded below) focuses mainly on the development process, but does have the gameplay elements explained as well and demonstrates some slick animations and sharp feedback.

Using a spring doorstop as a controller is neat as heck as well as intuitive, but possibly not quite as intuitive as using an actual car as a video game controller.

Afroman Teaches Intro to Servos, Builds Laser Turret

After a longish hiatus, we were pleased to see a new video from [Afroman], one of the most accessible and well-spoken teachers the internet has to offer. If you’re new to electronics, see the previous sentence and resolve to check out his excellent videos. The new one is all about servos, and it culminates in a simple build that provides a foundation for exploring robotics.

[Afroman] leaves no gear unturned in his tour de servo, which is embedded after the break. He explains the differences between open vs. closed loop motor systems, discusses the different sizes and types of servos available, and walks through the horns and pigtails of using them in projects. Finally, he puts this knowledge to use by building a laser turret based on a pan-tilt platform.

The Arduino-driven turret uses two micro servos controlled with pots to move by degrees in X/Y space. Interestingly, [Afroman] doesn’t program the board in the Arduino IDE using wiring. Instead, he uses an open-source microcontroller language/IDE called XOD that lets you code by building a smart sort of schematic from drag-and-drop components and logic nodes. Draw the connections, assign your I/O pin numbers, and XOD will compile the code and upload it directly to the board.

XOD seems like a good tool for beginners to do rapid prototyping. On the other hand, a look into the generated code reveals a whole lot of wrappers that obfuscate the bits of code that actually do stuff. There doesn’t seem to be a way to shed them, either, so once you design something in XOD, you’re kind of stuck using it to iterate. That said, the generated code is well documented, and someone who knows what they’re looking at could find, for instance, the I/O pin assigned to the blink sketch LED.

Once the novelty of the double laser cat tormentor has subsided, use the other servos in that 5-pack you bought to flip a light switch, control a knob, or play the glockenspiel.


Filed under: how-to, Laser Hacks

Stop Motion with the Time Glove

What do you get when you put an ultra-bright LED in the palm of a glove, and strobe it controlled by an accelerometer? A Time Control Glove! In creator [MadGyver]’s own words, it’s “just a stroboscope with frequency adjustment” but the effect is where all the fun is.

The Time Control Glove uses the stroboscopic effect, which many of us have seen used in timeless water drop fountains where the strobe rate makes drops appear to change speed, freeze in place, and even change direction. [MadGyver] made the entire assembly portable by putting it into a glove. An on-board accelerometer toggles the strobe in response to a shake, and the frequency is changed by twisting the glove left or right. The immediate visual feedback to the physical motions is great. The whole effect is really striking on the video, which is embedded below.

Schematics and bill of materials are available on GitHub. Brilliant work! And while we’re discussing the stroboscopic effect, find out how it can be used to tune guitar strings.

[via Arduino Blog]


Filed under: Arduino Hacks, how-to, led hacks

SimpleSumo Bots Teach More than Fighting

[MechEngineerMike] wrote in to share the enthusiasm over SimpleSumo, a series of open source, customizable robots he designed for mini-sumo battling and much more. For the unfamiliar, mini-sumo is a sport where two robots try to push each other out of a ring. [Mike]’s bots are simplified versions designed for education.

[Mike] was inspired by a video of some kids building mini-sumo bots who were doing anything and everything to personalize them. He vowed to make his own affordable, easy-to-build bots with education firmly in mind. His other major requirement? They had to be as easily customizable as that one potato-based toy that eventually came with a bucket of parts. As of this writing, there are 34 interchangeable accessories.

[Mike]’s first idea was to build the bots out of custom 3D-printed building blocks. He soon found it was too much work to print consistent blocks and switched to a modular cube-like design instead. SimpleSumo bots can do much more than just fight each other. [Mike] has written programs to make them flee from objects, follow lines, find objects and push them out of the ring, and beep with increasing frequency when an object is detected.

The bots are completely open source, but [Mike] sells kits for people who can’t print the parts themselves. He’s made a wealth of information available on his website including links to outside resources about mini-sumo, Arduino, programming, and 3D design. How about a complete series of assembly videos? First one is after the break.  Don’t know how to build a battle ring? He’s got that covered, too.

For a sumo bot that’s more brains than brawn, check out Zumo Red, the smart sumo.


Filed under: how-to, robots hacks

Mouse Mis-Clicking? We Got You.

A mouse with malfunctioning buttons can be a frustrating to deal with — and usually a short leap to percussive maintenance. Standard fixes may not always last due to inferior build quality of the components, or when the microswitch won’t close at all. But, for mice that double/triple-click, will release when dragging, or mis-click on release, this Arduino-based hack may be the good medicine you’re after.

Instructables user [themoreyouknow]’s method cancels click malfunctions by latching the mouse’s controller switch trace to ‘on’ when pressed, keeping it there until the button normally closed contact closes again completely. Due to the confined spaces, you’ll want to use the smallest Arduino you can find, some insulating tape to prevent any shorts, and care to prevent damaging the wires this process adds to the mouse when you cram it all back together.

Before you take [themoreyouknow]’s guide as dogma, the are a few caveats to this hack; they are quick to point out that this won’t work on mice that share two pins between three buttons — without doing it the extra hard way, and that this might be trickier on gaming or other high-end mice, so attempt at your own peril.

Speaking of gaming mice, we recently featured a way to add some extra functionality to your mouse — cheating optional — as well as how to stash a PC inside an old Logitech model.


Filed under: hardware, how-to
Hack a Day 30 Aug 09:00
arduino  click  debounce  hardware  how-to  mouse  nano  repair  

Mouse Mis-Clicking? We Got You.

A mouse with malfunctioning buttons can be a frustrating to deal with — and usually a short leap to percussive maintenance. Standard fixes may not always last due to inferior build quality of the components, or when the microswitch won’t close at all. But, for mice that double/triple-click, will release when dragging, or mis-click on release, this Arduino-based hack may be the good medicine you’re after.

Instructables user [themoreyouknow]’s method cancels click malfunctions by latching the mouse’s controller switch trace to ‘on’ when pressed, keeping it there until the button normally closed contact closes again completely. Due to the confined spaces, you’ll want to use the smallest Arduino you can find, some insulating tape to prevent any shorts, and care to prevent damaging the wires this process adds to the mouse when you cram it all back together.

Before you take [themoreyouknow]’s guide as dogma, the are a few caveats to this hack; they are quick to point out that this won’t work on mice that share two pins between three buttons — without doing it the extra hard way, and that this might be trickier on gaming or other high-end mice, so attempt at your own peril.

Speaking of gaming mice, we recently featured a way to add some extra functionality to your mouse — cheating optional — as well as how to stash a PC inside an old Logitech model.


Filed under: hardware, how-to
Hack a Day 30 Aug 09:00
arduino  click  debounce  hardware  how-to  mouse  nano  repair