Do-it-yourself (DIY) tech projects can be the perfect thing to keep you busy during a Covid-19-inspired lockdown – or if you’re still looking for a way to stay busy while the economy recovers.
There’s nothing quite like a great passion project to distract you and engage your energies, and if the finished result is an interesting and useful piece of tech, what’s not to love?
Here are 5 DIY tech projects to help keep you busy and engaged during the lockdown. Some are simple, others more complex, but all are bound to be fun challenges if you’re a maker.
1). Zener Diode Tester
Zener diodes are special semiconductor diodes: they allow current to flow in a single direction, but if subject to sufficient voltage they also allow current to flow in the opposite direction, known as reverse breakdown.
The voltage at which a Zener diode allows breakdown to occur is its “Zener voltage.”
They are some of the most useful and handiest components for circuit design, and if you make many projects that involve DIY circuitry you are likely to use them.
With this in mind, why not design your own Zener Diode Tester using some 9-volt batteries, circuitry, and crocodile clips? It’s a worthwhile project if you are planning to use Zeners in a great many other projects.
2). Build an Amazon Echo with a Raspberry Pi
An Amazon Echo is a useful household device for playing media, taking reminders and notes. It’s an excellent virtual assistant. But what if you don’t feel like shelling out $50-$150 for one of these?
Not to worry, you can make your own version of an Amazon Echo using a Raspberry Pi. You’ll need a Raspberry Pi 2 (with a USB wi-fi adapter) at least, or better yet a Raspberry Pi 3, and you’ll need Raspbian installed.
You’ll also need a MicroUSB power cable, an 8GB MicroSD card, a USB microphone (these can be had cheaply – try the PlayStation Eye), speakers, and a keyboard and mouse for setup.
The rest is easy. Install the Amazon Alexa Skills Kit onto the Raspberry Pi and use this to create your own DIY Amazon Echo.
3). Tin Can Wi-Fi Antenna
Tired of weak Wi-Fi? Want to give your signal a boost?
You don’t need to shell out a lot of money.
All you need is a tin can, at least 3” in diameter, and about $5.00 worth of supplies total.
The other components are an N-type female jack panel mount connecter, about 1.25” of 12-gauge copper wire, four nuts and bolts, a drill, a ruler, a permanent marker, a soldering iron, and then your internet modem to connect the whole thing to when you’re done.
4). Build Your Own Dropbox Alternative
Dropbox keeps your files safe by backing them up.
But what if that isn’t enough? After all, maybe you want more control of your own data.
Besides, if you enjoy DIY tech projects, there’s really no substitute for using a Raspberry Pi to create your own homebrew Dropbox alternative.
You’ll need a Raspberry Pi set up with an external disk and wireless network card. You can sue the open source syncing service Owncloud to handle the actual data control.
From there, it’s a simple matter of setting up the server, installing Owncloud, and enjoying your new personal cloud service. No more annoying terms of service, no outages, and the only limits on the amount of data you can store are the ones you build.
5). Create Your Own VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can be a great way to protect your privacy online.
That said, free VPNs are dodgy and questionable at best – it’s a good bet they might be profiting from your data.
Paid VPN services can offer quality experiences and are generally the way to go… unless you want to build your own.
Building your own VPN service still requires you to trust your ISP to whatever degree you already do, since you’ll be running it from home. If that’s no problem, it’s not difficult to take a Mac computer and a macOS Server, or a Raspberry Pi, and create your own VPN. You can also do it using an old PC and Amahi.
There’s nothing quite like a new DIY tech project to keep you busy during a Covid-19-inspired lockdown. Some of the projects described here are relatively simple and easy, while others may take a bit longer. All should offer fun diversions and a chance to exercise your skill in order to make a useful item of tech.