The Epoch Christmas Tree

It’s that time of the year again, and the halls are being decked with trees, the trees covered in lights, and everyone working in retail is slowly going insane from Christmas songs piped over the PA. [Dan] has a tree and a bunch of programmable LEDs, but merely pumping jollity down that strip of LEDs wouldn’t be enough. The Nerd Quotient must be raised even higher with a tree that displays a Unix timestamp.

This build was inspired by an earlier, non-tree-based build that displays Unix time on a 32 LED array. That build used an ATMega328p for toggling LEDs on and off. This time around, [Dan] is using a dedicated LED controller – the AllPixel – that just wrapped up a very successful Kickstarter campaign. The AllPixel is, in turn, controlled by a Raspberry Pi running the BiblioPixel library,

The tree displays the current time stamp in binary across 32 spaces, with green representing a ‘one’ and a red representing ‘zero’. The top of the tree is the least significant bit, but in case [Dan] gets tired of the bottom of the tree staying completely still for the rest of this holiday season, he can switch the order making the base of the tree the LSB.

Video below.

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The Trompe-l’œil Menorah

Hanukkah decorations have been up in stores since before Halloween, and that means it’s time for electronic Menorahs with blinking LEDs, controllers, and if you’re really good, a real-time clock with support for the Jewish calendar. [Windell] over at Evil Mad Scientist just outdid himself with the Mega Menorah 9000. It’s a flat PCB with nine LEDs, but it uses stippling and a trompe-l’œil effect to make it appear three-dimensional.

Making a 2D object look three-dimensional isn’t that hard – you just need the right shading. A few years ago, [Evil Mad Scientist] created StippleGen, a library to turn images into something that can be easily reproduced with the EggBot CNC plotter. It’s actually quite impressive; there are Voronoi diagrams and travelling salesmen problems, all to draw on eggs. The library can be used for much more, like properly shading a PCB so that it looks three-dimensional.

The Mega Menorah 9000 is surprisingly large, at about 7.5″ wide. It’s powered by an ATtiny85 loaded up with the Adafruit Trinket firmware, making it a truly USB enabled Menorah. While it may just be a soldering kit, it is a fantastic looking PCB, something we’d like to see some more examples of in the future.

“Stomach Shot” Halloween Costume

Halloween may have come and gone, but [Luis] sent us this build that you’ll want to check out. An avid Walking Dead fan, he put in some serious effort to an otherwise simple bloody t-shirt and created this see-through “stomach shot” gunshot wound.

The project uses a Raspi running the Pi Camera script to feed video from a webcam on the back of his costume to a 7″ screen on the front. [Luis] attached the screen to a GoPro chest harness—they look a bit like suspenders—to keep it centered, then built up a layer of latex around the display to hide the hard edges and make it more wound-like. Power comes from a 7.4V hobby Lipo battery plugged into a 5V voltage converter.

After ripping a small hole in the back of his t-shirt for the webcam and a large hole in the front for the screen, [Luis] applied the necessary liberal amount of fake blood to finish this clever shotgun blast effect.

Deck the Halls with a Raspberry Pi Controlled Christmas Tree

You know the holiday season is getting close when the Christmas light projects start rolling in! [Osprey22] is getting a jump on his holiday decorations with his Christmas Tree light show controlled by a Raspberry Pi. Yes, we know he could have done it with an Arduino, or a 555, but the Raspi makes for a convenient platform. With a WiFi module, code changes can be made remotely. The Raspberry Pi’s built-in audio interface also makes it easy to sync music to flashing lights, though we’d probably drop in a higher quality USB audio interface.

[Osprey22’s] Raspberry Pi is running his own custom python sequencer software. It takes an mp3 file and a sequence file as inputs, then runs the entire show. When the music isn’t playing, the Pi loops through a set of pre-defined scenes, changing once per minute.

The hardware itself is pretty straightforward. The Raspberry Pi controls 8 solid state relays through its GPIO interface. 8 strings of lights are more than enough for the average tree. [Osprey22] topped the tree off with a star made of wood and illuminated by a string of 25 WS2801 RGB LED pixels.

Click past the break to see [Osprey22’s] tree in action!

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The Tale of Two Wearable Game Boys

We’re well past the time when Halloween costume submissions stop hitting the tip line, but like ever year we’re expecting a few to trickle in until at least Thanksgiving. Remember, kids: documentation is the worst part of any project.

[Troy] sent us a link to his wearable Game Boy costume. It’s exactly what you think it is: an old-school brick Game Boy that [Troy] wore around to a few parties last weekend. This one has a twist, though. There’s a laptop in there, making this Game Boy playable.

The build started off as a large cardboard box [Troy] covered with a scaled-up image of everyone’s favorite use of AA batteries. The D-pad and buttons were printed out at a local hackerspace, secured to a piece of plywood, and connected to an Arduino Due. The screen, in all its green and black glory, was taken from an old netbook. It was a widescreen display, but with a bezel around the display the only way to tell it’s not original is from the backlight.

Loaded up with Pokemon Blue, the large-scale Game Boy works like it should, enthralling guests at wherever [Troy] ended up last Friday. It also looks like a rather quick build, and something we could easily put together when we remember it next October 30th.

[Troy] wasn’t the only person with this idea. A few hours before he sent in a link to his wearable Game Boy costume, [Shawn] sent in his completely unrelated but extremely similar project. It’s a wearable brick Game Boy, a bit bigger, playing Tetris instead of Pokemon.

[Shawn]’s build uses a cardboard box overlaid with a printout of a scaled-up Game Boy. Again, a laptop serves as the emulator and screen, input is handled by a ‘duino clone, and the buttons are slightly similar, but made out of cardboard.

Both are brilliant builds, adding a huge Game Boy to next year’s list of possible Halloween costume ideas. Videos of both below.

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The R2D2-‘O-Lantern Reddit Doesn’t Want You To See

The people here at Hackaday aren’t dedicating their entire lives to moderating comments and sending press releases to the circular file; some of us actually have jobs and hobbies. [James Hobson] works at a projector company that was having a pumpkin carving contest today. He came up with the best possible use of a pumpkin projector – a R2D2-‘o-lantern that plays the message from [Leia] to [Obi-Wan Kenobi]. [James] submitted this to reddit, but one of the mods deleted it. We’re much cooler than a few mods and their little empire, so we’re putting it up here.

Instead of a knife, [James] used a rather interesting method for carving a pumpkin – a laser cutter. By maxing out the Z height of his laser cutter, he was able to cut a perfect R2D2 graphic on the surface of a pumpkin. No, [James] isn’t removing any of the pumpkin’s skin after the lasering is done, but the result still looks great when backlit.

Inside the pumpkin is a projector playing the famous distress message made from the captured Tantive IV. It’s not entirely accurate – [James] put the projector behind R2’s radar eye and not the holographic projectors, and to project [Leia] in mid-air he would need something like this, Still, it’s a great project we expect to see cloned a year or so from now.

Scare off Squirrels and Tweet about It with the Jack-O’-Lantern Warning System

[Stephpalm] had carved a pumpkin for the first time in two decades. Unfortunately, the neighborhood squirrels were all too pleased with her work and devoured it. Her original goal for the jack-o’-lantern was to have its lights controlled over the internet. These hungry critters inspired another project instead – The Jack-’o’-Lantern Squirrel Early Warning System. There have been hacks that have dealt with pesky squirrels before, such as a trap and an automatic water turret, but they didn’t have the ability to post to social media like this system does.

The system consists of a Spark Core, a passive infrared (PIR) sensor, and a piezo buzzer. When the motion sensor is triggered the buzzer sounds, scaring away any peckish creatures lurking nearby. [Stephpalm] used an NPN transistor and 1k-Ohm resistor to provide enough current to drive the buzzer. All of these components were connected using jumper wires and a breadboard that sits on top of the pumpkin. As a nod to her original idea, [stephpalm] then created “Pumpkin Watch Code” and loaded it into the Core. It posts preset messages to a Twitter account every 45 minutes of inactivity or whenever a pesky squirrel is detected. The messages can be personalized for anyone who wants to make one of these themselves.

We wonder if it would be better to place the breadboard inside the jack-o’-lantern and carve out a couple of holes on top for the PIR sensor’s wires to come out of. That would offer some protection from the elements and prevent it from getting knocked over. We think this project could be adapted for many other uses. After the break, see a video of the system in action!

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