The Spindicator

oooh shiny

[Harvey] wrote in to share the Spindicator with us. The spindicator is a hard drive activity activity indicator built in a ring to resemble a dekatron. Using the pulses from the hard drive activity LED, [Harvey] tested several different methods of interpreting that data for display. The final version, negative edge triggered with a lowpass filter can be seen after the break.  It is nice and smooth and vaguely reminiscent of many programs’ loading screens.

He has pictures and tons of detail on the project including videos of previous versions that acted quite erratically.

39 thoughts on “The Spindicator

  1. Cool. Was the choice of duct tape made for aesthetic reasons or to control airflow in the case? If the latter, I’ve never seen someone goto those lengths — good idea. :)

  2. That’s pretty sweet! Throw together a nice PCB and get Sparkfun to carry them, I’d totally impulse buy something like that. :)
    -Taylor

  3. nice idea, but i think the implementation is a bit lacking. the high activity would get annoying fast, occasionally jumping too fast to see properly. i would rather a little averaging in there to keep the speed constant when hdd is sending bursts, maybe speed up the low activity a little.
    some fading trails perhaps?
    i would personally turn the leds off when activity dropped to just background activity.

  4. @Japala
    I totally remember that hack! one of the mods that got me started into casemods actually.

    so here’s a question for OP. the foil tape, i’m assuming is for thermal and airflow. how did you get around the dust issues inside the optical drives? did you make modular plug it slides into or what?

  5. Kick ass find Caleb! This kind of interesting article is what makes you the best writer here at HAD. Pure awesomeness.

  6. Am I the only one who read the name of this as the Sphincticator? And would a Sphincticator consist of concentric rings of LEDs that pulse in and out?

  7. so, if you’re running the HD pulses through the low pass filter while hammering away at the drive, wouldn’t the leds stop “spinning” altogether since constant pulses without any breaks would be smoothed out completely?
    a divide by ### counter would be more accurate but probably less practical since you would have to divide by such a great number to actually “slow” the “spinning” down to a perceivable rate. now that I’m thinking about it, the low pass filter is quite cleaver. nice work! nice pictures too, BTW.

  8. great hack, verry cool.. might make one myself (once my pc is up and running again)..
    For one reason or another I don’t like the idea of doing this to my laptop..

  9. ELEGANT. Get long lead leds and spaghetti and run straight to board mounted to (for those dressed cases) a pop out plastic panel. Epoxy or silicone leds to panel. Then a one minute install. Hack the socket from a junk, hard, optical, Zip, or even that old floppy with the small plug. Leds could be inline, 10mm size, in that old floppy drive slot, or even in the old floppy carcass gutted and stuffed with this circuit. Decade is cool but 8 is great. More than one chip to choose from and exactly what ubuntu and Youtube do, I don’t partake of once bitten fruit so I wouldn’t know about that. On a bigger size, 8 or 16 (one chip) multiples, still no other extras. With 32 or more the capacitor could be smaller for a higher definition display. Under a plastic dome think UFO. Do it on an Alien case.

  10. I like it! Maybe I will make one ;)

    To stop it for spinning crazy fast, you could add an lm2907 (frecuency to voltage converter) and an XOR gate.
    I will draw it because it’s hard to explain:

    When the frecuency increases at the output of the XOR gate, it will increase the voltage at the output of the LM.
    When that voltages raises enough, it will trigger the B input of the gate, giving a low state at the output, that will make the output of the LM lower, thus untriggering the input of the gate, when the frecuency increases again, the cycle starts all over.
    This will all happen too fast to the eye to notice it.

    Off course, you’ll have to add the associated components for the LM to work properly.

    Simple, cheap, microcontroller-free, and oldschool.
    BBB (Bueno, bonito y barato), como decimos por estos lares.

  11. Ring-schming, bah, humbug! Now flatten these out to a line, add some more, make it go back-and-forth and we got instant KITT scanner (for younger guys: Cylon visor :)! Oh, and RED, of course…

  12. He could sell this idea for some modding company like dangerden or tt and make good on it or just be a lil loser for rest of his life.

    On this world you need to cash in as early as u can.

  13. My solution for the speedy times would be to simply add a second ring and run that through a 1/10 divider, so you’d have a highspeed ring and a lowspeed ring, then you could either switch over when a threshold is reached or drive them simultaneously.
    It’s not too complex since it’s adding the same circuit with a cheap logic divider in front, and maybe a driver to boost the hardware pulses to drive 2 inputs, matter of pennies though.
    Alternatively you could use the same ring but dynamically insert the divider.
    The threshold detection can for instance be done with a small capacitor that doesn’t discharges in time when the pulses come too frequently and switches a gate to route it to a divider.

    But that’s all going fancy, it’s nice as it is already though.

    Another idea that pops in my head: do the same with a cable/dsl-modem or router activity LED, or if you don’t want to mod the original device hardware (warranty reasons) make a small photodetector circuit to detect the LED and send the pulses.

  14. @Whatnot, your second idea raises an interesting question. Are the activity lights on modems/routers driven by PWM that is somehow relative to the rate of data flow? If so I can see all kinds of fun things that you could do with that.

  15. I think this is a extremely useful idea for SSD’s. Having moving to Solid Sate drives, I was surprised at losing the, often barely audible, cues of ‘thrashing’ a magnetic drive. This would be an excllent indicator for a stuck or loop condition, something which is, frankly totally unnoticable on an SSD.

  16. Not only is the project cool as all get out, but the ideas, uh, spinning off from it are equally awesome.

    This post is an example of some really good HAD.

  17. @AMK the activity light being actually reflecting the amount of activity is a hit and miss per brand, some just blink dumbly and a few actually blink according to rate and others just have a few set blinking frequencies that are selected to indicate rate, like 1 blink a sec is low activity and 10 blinks a sec is high activity.
    You’d have to be lucky to get one that does the actual rate, and if you do that should be readily apparent.
    My current modem is the dumb kind, it only blinks on a set rate it seems :/

    As an alternative: I notice that the LED on my computer’s network port actually seems to blink according to data rate, if you have one of those that’s another option to look into, although it might not be a real 1:1 pulse but more a averaged signal of some sort.

    I always thought it was a bit of a pity that those LED on NIC ports are so seldom seen, they would be nice on the front of the computer, but soldering in wires would make the interior of the computer so messy though.

  18. I have an urge to implement the whole thing in an 8-pin micro. Except you’d still need the opto for safety, and if it can’t be one chip then what’s the point…

  19. @Whatnot: I think WestfW has the right idea. A couple of small micros, one on front handling display, one on the back collecting the info from all those cards with lights in the rear, send the info over to the front micro with a 1 wire connection so it is not messy inside.

  20. reminds me of the days when the “activity light” LED blinked a binary representation of data transmitted. theoretically allowing people tap the data unawares

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s