Fixing Christmas Lights And Shocking Yourself Silly

Tazer

As [Medhi] was setting up his Christmas tree, he found a string with a few broken lights. Because he’d bought a cheap string of lights wired in series, of course one bulb was burnt out, rendering the entire string useless. His original game plan was to search through the entire strand for the broken bulb, but that’s the easy way out. His backup plan was to zap the broken bulb out of the string. After a few hours of figuring out what that meant, he came up with a way to fix a broken string of lights.

When a bulb burns out, the filament breaks creating an air argon gap between the two electrodes. By sending a huge voltage down the string, it should fire an arc through that gap, illuminating the burnt-out bulb for a brief time.

Experiments with socks and low humidity commenced, but it wasn’t until [Medhi] stuck his finger in a lighter that he found a better source of high voltage sparks. [Mr. Brows] connected the piezoelectric element to the plugs on his string of lights and… nothing happened. At least until he plugged the lights back in. Then, strangely, they worked. The reddit thread for the video says this behavior is due to an anti-fuse built into the bulb. When enough voltage goes through this anti-fuse, a thin sheet of insulator breaks down and allows dead bulbs to short themselves.

Hackaday head honcho [Mike] just got this method of finding dead Christmas lights to work, replacing 14 bulbs in a string of 100 lights. This leads us to an interesting question: why isn’t this simple method of fixing a string of Christmas lights common knowledge? You would think something this useful wouldn’t be introduced to the world via a YouTube video where someone  repeatedly burns and shocks himself. You can, of course, buy something that does the same thing, but this is far too simple of a solution for a classic problem to pass under our noses for this long.

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Inverted Christmas Tree Made of Nespresso Tubes

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What happens when you put a few geeks in a room with a curtain rod, 240 Nespresso tubes, some planks, some tape, fairy lights, and a Raspberry Pi? Well, apparently this!

There’s not too much information on how they made it, but there is a pretty extensive gallery of photos. When we consider how much packaging we waste, it’s nice to see some being reused for a project, at least temporarily! The Nespresso tubes are pretty nice looking which certainly lends itself to this project, but our real question is who drank all the coffee…

The LED fairy lights are voice controlled using a Raspberry Pi model B, nothing too fancy, but a nice added affect. Check out the video after the break — the voice commands are in French though!

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Arduino Christmas Lights

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Here’s a cool hack to get you in the December holiday mood! Arduino controlled Christmas lights!

It all started because [Anx2k] had some leftover LED’s from one of his other projects, so he decided to make use of them as permanently mounted Christmas lights. He’s installed them underneath his tiled roof, and run all the wires into his attic where he has an electrical box serving as the main control hub. He uses an Arduino Uno to control them, and a 460W computer power supply to provide the juice. The LED modules themselves are Adafruit RGB pixel strings. There’s actually three of the LED modules per tile — two shining up to illuminate the tile, and one shining out.

He’s set up a ton of different patterns to run, and they are pretty awesome! Check out the video after the break.

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Hackaday Links: Christmas Eve, 2012

It’s Christmas Eve, the perfect time to interact with your extended familial units, eat cookies, nog things up a little, and watch Die Hard. Christmas Eve also means it’s a low-effort day here at Hackaday, so here’s a few cool things we’ve run across in the past few weeks.

A Round OLED Display

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That right there is a circular OLED display. [ArtistEngineer] over on reddit found this display on AliBaba. It’s a 1.13 inch diameter display with a resolution of 128×128 (yeah, we don’t know either). This looks like a great display for a DIY wrist watch, digital gauge, or loads of other devices where a square display doesn’t make much sense.

There seems to be a few circular OLED display manufacturers – including Truly Semiconductors who happened to put up a datasheet for their round display – but sourcing these in reasonable quantities is a pain. Anyone up for a group buy? Think of the fun you’ll have coding a polar coordinate display!

Computing with transistors

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So you know computers are made up of simple logic gates, latches, buffers, and other miscellaneous digital cruft,  but how do we turn these digital circuits into a computer? Over the last few months, [Andrew] has been putting up a bunch of blog posts on the application of digital logic. Start out on the ‘Computing with Transistors’ post before moving on to The Digital State and Circuits and Arithmetic. There’s some good readin’ there.

 Embedding 3D objects in a web page

Go ahead. Click it. It’s Sketchfab that allows anyone to publish interactive 3D designs without a browser plugin. If anyone out there is trying to build a Thingiverse clone that isn’t tied to Makerbot, consider using this for the preview page for each object.

Surprisingly, Twinkies were the one thing that didn’t survive the Apocalypse.

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While there’s no use in mourning the death of the Twinkie – Little Debbie also makes small cream-filled cakes – you might as well include some Twinkies, Snowballs, Ding Dongs, and Ho-Hos in your Christmas baking. [scoochmaroo] on Instructables put together a list of homebrew recipes for the now defunct Hostess snack cakes.

Perfect for autonomous robots

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[maxogden] over on the gits put together a script for automatically joining wireless networks on Linux. This was tested on a Raspberry Pi, and we’re thinking it would be perfect for whatever autonomous creation you’ll be building in your workshop next year.

Arduino compatible Christmas tree

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It wouldn’t be the holidays without an LED Christmas tree, and luckily [Danilo] brings the goods with an Arduiinofied LED Christmas tree (Italian, translation).

In the past week, we’ve seen LED Christmas trees of digital logic and a great freeform circuit version. Unlike these other builds [Danilo]‘s LED tree uses a piece of protoboard masterfully cut into the shape of a Christmas tree. There’s no PCB for this build; just a lot of bare wires and a lot of patience.

Because [Danilo]‘s tree makes use of the PWM pins on his Arduino, it was possible to connect his tree to the Arduino with a few 90 degree headers. This provides a great base for his tree and makes it possible to build a professional-looking enclosure for his project.

You can check out [Danilo]‘s tree in action after the break.

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3D printed Christmas cookies

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Here is yet another way to get into the holiday spirit at your local Hackerspace (or at home if you’re happen to have your own 3D printer). [Ralph Holleis] wrote in to show off his 3D printed Christmas cookies. The majority of the info on this project comes from the video embedded after the break. The extruder head he’s using includes a syringe which is filled with what we assume is Spritz Cookie dough. It is squeezed out in a pattern before heading to the oven for baking.

[Ralph] mentioned that he’s using UNFOLD Pastruder as the print head. We looked and couldn’t find that exact design, but it seems like it might be related to this Claystruder head designed by a user named [Unfold]. If you have the exact link to the extruder design seen above please let us know in the comments section.

If you don’t already have this type of head it’s just a matter of printing the mounting brackets and buying a syringe to match. But you’ll also need compressed air and a valve to regulate the flow of dough. It might be easier just to print your own cookie cutters. This is a great project for people who don’t have access to a laser cutter for gingerbread house work.

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Sound reactive Christmas tree makes folks happy

public-square-holiday-tree-is-sound-reactiveThis non-traditional Christmas tree in Victoria, British Columbia is bringing people together this holiday season. It boasts over 800 lights that react to sound. You can see the pulsing and color changing that go along with some Tuba carols in the clip after the break.

The art installation was commissioned by the Downtown Victoria Business Association. A great big cherry tree was adorned with strings of individually addressable RGB LED Christmas lights. They are controlled by a system which calculates changes based on onset, energy and frequency analysis of sound picked up by multiple microphones. The effect is delightful and it’s not just musicians getting in on the fun. Passersby can’t seem to help themselves from yelling, clapping, and singing to make the tree sparkle.

Also included in the project is an interactive stop-motion animation film. It’s projected on the side of a building and invites viewers to send a text message to interact with it. A video of this is also found after the jump.

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