Want to do a quick hack? It might be a little more than 10 minutes, but not a whole lot. 10 Minute Hacks are simple, quick and easy. You should be able to build one with the sort of tools a hardware hacker is likely to have lying around or can get access to at a Hack Space and you should be able to buy the bits locally without resorting to the web (Craft Shops, Maplin, DIY stores, that sort of thing).
We’ll put together a series of these, so if anyone has any suggestions drop an email to email@example.com.
So to get the ball rolling here’s a super quick and classy thing no home should be without. The Internet. OK, perhaps you are not familiar with The IT Crowd.
So it’s a black box with a flashing LED. But then it’s the sort of thing no proper geek’s home should be without (along with a lightsaber, a sonic screwdriver, retro consoles and an extensive collection of Marvel DVDs).
You’ll need a box, obviously, and some sort of battery holder for power (the Internet is wireless after all). You’ll need an LED and some way of making it flash. Now this is where things get tricky due to the number of options. You could use a cheap Chinese Arduino clone to drive it, or even a Raspberry Pi. But that would be an insane waste. How about the venerable NE555 timer?
Well this is a 10-minute hack, so it needs to be simple and the parts need to be bought from a bricks and mortar shop. Fortunately I live close to a Maplin, which gives me additional options I’d otherwise be without. One of those options is a flashing LED. This is an LED in a standard package but it has an integrated circuit to handle the turning on and off. They are a little more expensive than standard LEDs, but usually cheaper than the components required to make your own flasher. So that’s a no brainer for this hack!#
While I’m at Maplin I’ll also pick up a decent size black case. a power switch (yes, I know switching off the Internet would be a bad thing, but seeing as we are going to battery power this thing, let’s be practical) and a fancy shmancy chrome bezel. I’ve got the wire, soldering iron and solder kicking around here, and a drill and various attachments for knocking holes in the case (our hackspace has these too, just in case you don’t).
As I’m using a dual AA battery holder (1.5V x 2 in series, so that’s 3V) I could probably get away without using a biasing resistor for the LED as it’s forward voltage is 2.5V (at 55mA). But as I’ve got a suitable resistor kicking around from other projects I’ll include it (I’ll put this on the shopping list too, in case you want one). I’ve calculated the value as 10 Ohms (¼ watt would be sufficient).
Here’s the shopping list
- UK36P 5mm Red Flashing LED £0.99
- BZ75 Black ABS Box 198x112x64 £5.99
- YR60Q AA Battery Box £1.59
- M10R 10Ohm Resistor £0.29
- N88AX0 Chrome LED Holder £1.59
- L85AB PP3 Battery Clip (for Battery Holder) £1.59
- YW34W 250V Square Red Push to Make (locking) Switch £2.49
Total cost of the build is £14.53. There’s a little fat we can trim but that’s not a bad price for your very own Internet.
The actual build is simplicity itself. We need two holes, one for the LED and one for the switch. If you use the bottom of the ABS box as the top of your Internet then you can use the ejector pin mark as a guide for where the centre of the box is. Drill the hole for your LED bezel here. Stick your switch on one of the sides (I chose a short side).
I mounted the LED and soldered the 10 Ohm resistor to the Anode (a top tip when using round package LEDs, the flat side at the bottom of the LED body is next to the cathode or ground side of the LED – make a bend on this leg before fitting into the bezel so you can tell which leg is which after fitting).
Solder the positive (red) wire from the battery clip to one of the contacts on the switch, solder the other to the 10 Ohm resistor. Solder the negative (black) wire from the battery clip to the cathode of your flashing LED. That the build finished, now give everything a good inspection before fitting your batteries and switching the power on.
Hopefully at this point you now have a black box with flashing LED on it – AKA The Internet. For a final flourish I added a “please return to” sticker.