Archive for Kulverstukas

MPD autoplay feature

At a workshop that I go to we have a music station that’s been playing rock and metal music for a very long time.

The player used was a generic MP3 player hacked to get power from a 5V charger and since it’s very old it has just(!) 2GB of storage, so not many songs fit on it and you can imagine the playlist repeats itself quite often.

Some time ago we talked about something and an idea popped up to make an upgrade to the music station. We had an RPi 1, wifi adapter and 16GB flash drive laying around, so I put those together to make a music station. And with that you also need a some kinda system to actually play music.

I experimented with various different OS’e just for that – Volumio, RuneAudio (and the other version RuneAudio+R E2), Pi MusicBox and Moode Audio.
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Photos with Revue Pocket 350

Continuing my quest with antique photo cameras, I recently tried out this neat pocket camera – Revue Pocket 350 that I had sitting on a shelf for a long time. I had forgotten about it and only recently I remembered it. So I went and bought three films for it and used one right away just to see how it performs.

I expected for the result to be worse, but it turned out… ok.

So the camera is from 1978 (camera-wiki.org), it’s a point-and-shoot type and it’s just a re-branded “Agfamatic 3008” by the German company “Foto-Quelle”.

Point-and-shoot means that you can’t change any parameters. Only thing you can change is the aperture by sliding the selector on one of the settings that are shown as icons of a sun, a sun with clouds, clouds and a sun with a wave below it. The focus also doesn’t change – it’s fixed on infinity, so taking portraits with it is not good.
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Offroad go-kart, part 1

Welp, I never thought I’d be doing this, but making a gokart began when a friend said that he has a kinda brand new 4-stroke, 400cc engine and doesn’t know what to do with it. It was at this moment that I spontaneously said – well let’s make a go-kart then.
I didn’t think much about it and my projects up to that point weren’t so big in size or effort, but anyway, I took it on and I’m glad I did. I learned a lot and having a gokart is LOTSA fun!

I am still making this and this post is a part one where I’ll try to briefly explain things that I did to have a thing that you can actually drive a bit.

When I began I didn’t know anything about how to build one, didn’t know much about how to properly work with metal, didn’t know how to weld and other things, but very much thanks to Kaunas Makerspace and people there I was able to make something.

Without any plans or models, I figure things out as I go from examples I find online either in written form, pictures or videos, and there is plenty of material to see.

Apparently gokart builds are a popular thing in Murica and you can find loads of information on YT, forums or all kinds of websites with sometimes in-depth explanations of how stuff works which was super helpful.
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Making a portable audio speaker

A very long time ago, I acquired cheap Microlab desktop speakers from a friend who agreed to trade them in exchange for beer.

At the time I needed them and he didn’t. Right away after plugging them in I noticed that they are pretty shit in quality (would make an annoying humming noise even when powered from a USB charger and the audio quality was terrible), however they are really cheap so… I used them for a while and then set them aside to collect dust.
For those wondering why the speakers made that noise – it’s because of a ground loop. Connecting the speakers through a ground loop isolator would solve this problem.

Now I thought that it would be nice to have those speakers portable for situations where one would be cool to have, but I didn’t need those Microlab desktop speakers. So I thought I could re-purpose them and learn something in the process (like more advanced 3D modeling and how to use a laser-cutter more).
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Moodle additional functions web service

Not long ago I was tasked to make a tool to manage Moodle courses by moving them through categories, creating and cleaning them up. Now I had to make some way to “refresh” the course participants and that means unenrolling teachers and managers, assign different roles, suspending students, adding students, all that stuff.

This was going pretty good and easy until I hit upon a web service function core_enrol_edit_user_enrolment. It’s an External function that updates a given user enrolment, it is needed to suspend students from a course.
From the official API docs, we can see that it takes in required arguments courseid (User enrolment ID), ueid (User enrolment ID) and status (Enrolment status).

The problem here is with a ueid (User enrolment ID) argument because there’s no function that returns such an ID. At least I wasn’t able to find one easily accessible and I had to make my own web service function to get that ID.
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Meec custom cordless drill battery and charging station

At the Kaunas Makerspace that I visit very often to do various projects, most tools there are donated, some are bought and some tools are self-made (like a spot-welder that I used to connect batteries).

In the case of cordless drills the situation was never good. There are a few of them, but all are missing batteries or have dead packs and sometimes when you need to screw or drill something a bit it’s a little annoying, so we made a few from old LiPo (18650) cells that we salvaged from laptop batteries for Meec cordless drills. They have a very neat battery holder design – batteries simply slide in.

Making of the battery pack is easy, hardest part was to make a case for them and of course a charging station.
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Remote-controlled outdoor light

So some time ago I was asked to make this apparatus – a (flash?) light with intensity controlled remotely. The idea was that it could be hanged in some place and aimed at what needed to be illuminated and after that you should be able to remote-control the light intensity.

The light source (doesn’t need to be very bright) must be able to have enough power to last for at least a week sitting in idle (only listening to radio signals) and a few hours of constant illumination at night. Depending on the darkness of the night the light source intensity could be adjusted. However the distances over which it would be controlled are 200-300m.
The whole receiving and lighting part needs to be modular – battery, controller and light must be separate for easier handling.

This is pretty easy, fun and a straight-forward task to do with arduinos, but the radio modulation presented a challenge, since it’s the first time I have touched these and SPI as well.

Turns out that there aren’t many solutions to this. There exists a few radio modulators, but they all go up to 100m at best AFAIK. However there is one – LoRa and that’s what I used.

Reading different sources I could gather that a normal distance for LoRa is a few kilometers and that’s what it was designed for. The distance you could reach obviously depends on the environment you’re in, the equipment you use (antennas, power source) and the settings you set for modulators.

LoRa is able to reach such distances with the cost of transfer speed. Meaning it’s ideal to send some sensor values from time to time and not for something that needs to pass a lot of data or pass that data very fast.

So I got to know all the requirements and started to sketch out ideas of how I might construct this.
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BBQ blower v3

This is my third attempt at making my life easier with maintaining a fire. I wrote about other attempts here and here and it looks like that this project has a never ending continuity, since it’s such a useful device…

This device (like previous ones) are to ensure I keep my eyes out of smoke and lungs in proper working condition and this version design was inspired by other devices that are for sale on Amazon or eBay, but they are chinese made tools and require batteries to work… I thought I could make it a bit better with rechargeable batteries, a small display to see how much power is left, a normal on-off switch and possibly with a better air volume output. Also as an added bonus I thought I could use it to inflate a mattress a bit, so that I don’t have to do it with my mouth and then sit down a bit being dizzy AF. Obviously this doesn’t create enough pressure to inflate it all the way though.

I remember a scene in a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon episode “Barbecue brawl” where spike was blowing into charcoal to get the fire going and of course that didn’t go well, if only he had this device though :D


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Firefox add-on installation into Porteus Kiosk

porteus-kiosk-logo

At work we have a couple of info kiosks (we call them terminals) that we bought from some company many years ago, but the support has ended also many years ago, so they abandoned them. The kiosks were running some custom software that the company had thrown together, it didn’t seem very professional from an IT guy’s perspective, because those kiosks were lagging and eventually would hang and would need a manual restart. We were living with this for some years until eventually both kiosks just hanged and didn’t properly boot for no reason.

After this we decided to look for a solution and whadya know – there is one free and simple solution with plenty of customization options for our needs. It fits our situation perfectly and it’s called “Porteus Kiosk

“Porteus Kiosk” is a kiosk edition of Porteus, a portable Linux OS based on Slack and it seems to be popular enough to have a Wiki article for it…

Our kiosks have a “Elo TouchSystems 2515” monitor (meaning there’s no mouse or keyboard) and a “ZOTAC ZBOX ID13” mini-pc which has very low specs like an old Intel Atom CPU and 2GB of RAM.

I quickly downloaded the latest ISO (4.7.0 at the time of writing) and installed it to a flash drive, booted it up on the kiosk to test out and right away noticed some issues that I’d need to fix. The issues were that the system didn’t have a virtual keyboard, like it wasn’t primarily targeted for touch info kiosks (but PK supports most touch devices out-of-the-box) and also in my case, Elo touch screen doesn’t support multi-touch (for scrolling for ex.) and so you’d need to drag the scrollbar, but Firefox scrollbar for that Linux version is very thin and were out of touch bounds, therefore most pages couldn’t be scrolled down the traditional way. I had to find solutions to these.
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Linksys WRT54GL v1.1 USB hardware mod

wrt54gl usb mod

Linksys routers, and I’m talking about WRT54g series, are not so popular anymore. In fact they are pretty much dead, as a technology, at this point. Technology that once were notorious among routers with their endless capabilities router-wise. Projects like DD-WRT and OpenWRT started with these WRT54 routers and now look at them. But because of their slow wifi and ethernet speeds, lack of modern wifi standard support and old chips they became obsolete, but among hackers and makers the name wrt54g is known very well. And when wrt54gl came out in 2005 it was the best-selling router of all time.

Today these routers still can be used for some projects (because of their extensive hackabilities software- and hardware-wise) where network speed is not the top priority. They can probably be compared to small raspberry computers with wifi and ethernet ports already available.

As it happens, I have a couple of these laying around at work (more specifically wrt54gl v1.1) and I thought maybe I could make a piratebox out of one of them. So I started gathering information if that would be possible. I didn’t find any info if piratebox would install properly, so I thought I could just try anyway and see how that goes… and the first thing I needed to do was to install USB ports.
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