Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Mystery boxes

In Hardware on Jun 2, 2010 at 00:01

Ok, here’s a puzzle for you. A project with two boxes, but what are they for?

The first box is truly a “black box” – no connections at all, no display, no button, nothing:

Dsc 1495

Not much to see on the inside either:

Dsc 1494

The second box has a 5-way button and an LCD display:

Dsc 1497

There’s a USB connector on the bottom right, but it’s only used for charging and debugging.

There’s a bit more electronics inside this one:

Dsc 1496

Still a few wires missing, because I haven’t hooked everything up yet.

So there you have it. Both boxes are self-contained, but the project I’ll be using them for needs both. I’ll reveal the project once I’ve got the basic software going – it’s always the code that takes the most time to develop!

  1. First one could be a repeater to cover entire house with signal, the second one remote display/controller for other units?

  2. I spy with my little eye, something beginning with G… ;-)

  3. First box might be a sensor box, to be deposited someplace. Second box looks like containing a GPS receiver to record a position and might receive data using radio link from first box (or several boxes of first type).

  4. I think it is for your’e car (and it is illegal in France, and germany) Perhaps use a USB stick for portable data

  5. Is that a GPS module in the White box?

    My guess is that the black one is some kind of a repeater or remote logging unit since it seems to contain only a JeeNode. White one for logging your position?

    Basically, no clue… :)

  6. I noticed the GPS too, maybe an implementation of GPS-hide-and-seek (I beleive it is called GEOtagging ?) where the one box gets hidden and the other box must be brought to the coordinates the hidden box sends out ? or a simple outdoor weather station, but then I cannot imagine what the GPS is for. curious

    • Ah, that’s an interesting idea. I had to look it up, lots of info on Wikipedia’s geocaching page. But that’s not what I had in mind.

  7. Getting closer. GPS, yes. No other units or sensors or outside connections are involved.

  8. Are you going to post it to one of us and use it to see what strange routing the mail service uses to deliver it?

    Unfortunately the only vaguely sensible use I can come up with for the pair is an experiment to test the range of the wireless. The black one acts as a stationary beacon, and you go walk about with the beige one.

  9. […] range of the wireless. The black one acts as a stationary beacon, and you go walk about with the beige one.

    Bingo! – I want to test the RFM12B range under various conditions. The black box just echoes what it receives. Place both boxes together, press the button, then start walking around with the LCD unit. Indoor, outdoor, open field, trees as obstacles, etc.

    Wow, guessed in under 12 hours. I’m impressed.

  10. YAY! \o/

    I’d like to thank my parents, my agent, my make-up artist and everybody who knows me!

    • I still think you should do a GPS logged postal route test though :)
  11. Still, one question hasn’t been solved yet: why the 5-way button?

    • why the 5-way button?

      I’m planning to re-use this LCD unit for other projects later. The 5-way button could come in handy when used with a little menu system. Well … originally, I wanted to do that here as well: menu’s, logging the entire route w/ reception results, etc – but now I’m aiming for a simpler real-time distance readout – i.e. just basic range testing.

  12. Great idea, I,ll invite you for a drink, so you can check the distance of 1 km. groet Jeroen

  13. Now you are getting outdoors. It would be nice to have the beacon long-time powered by a solar-panel and have it stored inside a watertight box attached to the solar-panel. And later adding sensor(s) to the beacon.

  14. I’d invite you for a drink too but 1700km is a litle too far….

    I need to cover about 100 meter between severl buildings and so fa no luck from inside the actual structures. I’d like to know about any range extending measures you may test.

    • Heh – and reception would be a bit hard, if I leave the beacon in Houten ;)

      Maybe the trick is to substantially reduce transmission speed and receiver bandwidth in your case. No hardware or antenna changes, just different RFM12B settings. This is how some people seem to be able to get halfway around the globe on a few milliwatts – google “QRSS” for that hobby…

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