66% or better

BlinkM gets upgraded to a USB mass-market device

[TodBot] has a new piece of hardware on the way up. His Blink(1) is currently about 50% funded on Kickstarter. It’s a USB nub that has an RGB LED inside of it. When plugged into a computer it can be used as a status indicator. At first that sounds like a let down, but his marketing is fantastic as the myriad of uses really caught our attention. If you’re on the road you can use it to report back your server statistic. Plug one into each rack-mounted servers for quick visual indication of which one has crashed. Or find your own use.

You probably remember [TodBot] as the creator of the BlinkM. Recently he was calling it the world’s smallest Arduino. Well this Blink(1) is being marketed as Arduino programmable as well. The board size is about the same, and both have an RGB LED module. The difference is that the BlinkM had an ATtiny85 and needed a serial converter to program it. This has a USB plug so we’d bet he’s swapped the tiny for an ATmega8u2 or something from the same family.

Don’t think one blinky LED is going to cut it? For folks that just need more resolution there are other hardware options out there. For instance, this project gives you a wireless 8×8 RGB led display to use as an indicator.

Building DIY BlinkM clones

ghetto_pixels

If you are planning on using more than a handful of BlinkMs in a project, you will likely find that their $15 price tag quickly adds up. Instructables user [jimthree] found himself in that position and opted to create his own homebrew version of a BlinkM instead. He calls his creations “Ghetto Pixels”, and while they might not look as professional as the real thing, they get the job done just the same.

He bought a batch of RGB LEDs online for under a dollar apiece, pairing them with ATTiny45s that he scored for about $1.50 each. [imthree] popped his uCs into a programmer, flashing them with an open-source BlinkM firmware clone called CYZ_RGB. He then prototyped his circuit on some breadboard, adding the appropriate resistors to the mix before testing out the LEDs. When he was confident everything was working correctly, he assembled Ghetto Pixels deadbug-style.

When everything was said and done, they came together in a pretty compact package comparable to that of the BlinkM. As you can see in the video below, they work great too!

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Hacking cakes with LEDs, the sequel!

A few weeks back we ran a piece about the convergence of making and baking in an attempt to create a cake festooned with working LEDs. The moral was that not every creative idea ends in victory, but we applauded the spirit it takes to post one’s goofs for the whole internet to see and to learn from.

[Craig]’s LED matrix proved unreliable…and the underlying cake didn’t fare much better, resembling that charred lump in the toaster oven in Time Bandits. The cakes-with-lights meme might have died right there if not for a fluke of association…

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Home made BlinkM units

[Stephen] wrote in to show us this fun LED wall he constructed in his house. He says he was inspired by this project, but found the cost of the BlinkM units from sparkfun to be out of his price range. He really liked how they worked though, so he downloaded the schematic and firmware and built his own. He was able to fabricate 130 of his own for roughly 250 euros as opposed to the 1,452 euro price tag his sparkfun shopping cart had. That’s not a bad deal at all if you’re willing to invest the time in making your own PCBs and assembling the units. You can follow along on his site to see the entire construction process, as well as some pictures of his glass wall in action. The videos, however, aren’t loading for us. Great job [Stephen]!

A Weighted Companion Cube worth saving from the incinerator

companion_cube

It’s honestly sad that Valve has not released any official Portal-related items to the masses, as a market for them clearly exists. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”, and [Jamie] needed a Weighted Companion Cube in the worst way.

Actually he constructed his Companion Cube in order to test out some modifications and upgrades he performed on his homebrew CNC Mill. Judging by how the cube turned out, and the fact that he was able to keep tolerances within .005”, we would say that his mill is working just fine.

The cube was designed in Solidworks, and passed through the BobCAD plugin to generate the GCode for the mill. The base of the cube was machined out of a 3” solid block of aluminum, hollowed out on one side to give him access to the cube’s innards. He milled out heart shaped openings on each side, covering them with frosted Lexan.

He added a BlinkM to the mix, mounting it on the cover plate he milled for the open side of the cube. Once lit it cycles through several colors, including the pinkish tone anyone who has played Portal is quite familiar with.

We would say that it’s a great job, but it doesn’t do his work justice – it’s absolutely stunning. We’re not just saying that because we want one, though we do want one…badly.

BlinkM smart garage door opener

garage_indicator

Calling Canada home, Hackaday reader [TheRafMan] has seen his share of bitterly cold winters. He also knows all too well how hard it is to get his cars started in the morning if somebody happens to leave the garage open. After the door was left open overnight for the second time this last winter, he decided that it was time to add an indicator inside the house that would alert him when the garage had not been closed .

Inspired by our BlinkM Arduino coverage a short while back, his circuit incorporates a BlinkM as well as several other components he already had on hand. He disassembled the garage door switch situated in the house and fit the BlinkM into the switch box once he had finished programming it. A set of wires was run to the BlinkM, connecting it to both a power supply located in the garage as well as the magnetic switch he mounted on the door.

The end result is a simple and elegant indicator that leaves plenty of room for expansion. In the near future, he plans on adding an additional indicator strobe to let him know when the mail has arrived, not unlike this system we covered a few months ago.

Stick around to see a quick video demonstration of his garage door indicator in action.

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Converting the BlinkM into the world’s tiniest Arduino

blinkm_arduino

The BlinkM “Smart LED” is a great little device on its own accord. It allows for complete control of its RGB LED using a built-in microcontroller, enabling the user to do a wide array of things that normally require PWM to accomplish. At just over half an inch square, this little device might also be the smallest Arduino on the market.

The BlinkM packs an ATiny85 micro controller, which allows it to be flashed with the Arduino bootloader thanks to the people over at the [High-Low Tech group at MIT]. They did some tweaking of the Arduino IDE configuration files and incorporated some core library code created by [Alessandro Saporetti] to get the job done – all of which is available on their site.

Once the code is uploaded to the BlinkM, you essentially have a micro Arduino running at 8MHz with a built in LED and 2 I/O lines (5 if you snip off the LED). It’s a great device to have on hand if you feel like a full-fledged Arduino would be overkill in your project.

Stick around to see a video tutorial of the reflashing process.

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