I need someone to explain this to me.

Monitoring batch jobs the Cylon way with Python and a parallel port

parallel-port-trigger

If you happen to do a lot of video encoding, you know that your computer can really drag while the process is carried out. Our own [Mike Szczys] transcodes videos at home fairly often, and because the process is automated, he doesn’t always know if a conversion is taking place in the background.

He has been tinkering with Larson Scanners recently and thought he could put everything he’s learned along the way to good use by using the scanner as a “busy” indicator for his PC. He hooked the scanner up to the computer’s parallel port, and took a few minutes to bang out some Python code that would alert him when his PC was busy.

He set his notifier script to launch along with FFMPEG, whenever his MythTV setup had something ready to convert. The Python script drives a pin on the parallel port high, triggering the Larson Scanner’s animation. Every minute, the script checks the status of FFMPEG and continues to hold the pin high until the application exits. Once the conversion is done, the scanner goes back to sleep, letting [Mike] know that the coast is clear.

Continue reading to see a video of his parallel port trigger in action.

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Animated turn signals add a little bit of Cylon to your automobile

[StarfireMX] churned out a fantastic turn signal replacement for his Mustang. When he switches on his blinker, a chasing pattern of amber LEDs is shown on the front corner of his car. Pretty cool, and as far as we can tell this is still street legal. But once he gets onto private property [StarfireMX] can have a little bit more fun with the replacements. The LEDs are actually fully addressable RGB modules. They can display a variety of colors and patterns, with wireless control from a touch-screen unit he also built.

Both the turn signal unit, and the remote controls are Arduino driven with XBee modules for wireless communications. Pop the hood and you’ll find even more blinky lights to accent the engine, which are also tweaked using the remote control.

Don’t miss the demonstration video after the break. Near the end of the clip you can see how the controller is mounted with heavy-duty Velcro behind the grill. Inside the project box there’s a voltage regulator which drops the 12V down to 5V and can put out a whopping four amps to make sure the LEDs have plenty of current.

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Larson scanner hacking

more MORE MOOOORRREEE

We all love a good larson scanner. They’re so iconic that Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories makes a kit. However, just getting a kit and building it isn’t enough for many of us. How would we make a larson scanner better? Simply by adding more. EMSL shows us how you can modify their kit in both hardware and code to chain them together.  They detail the modifications very clearly and show some video examples. You can see a three larson scanner chain in action after the break.

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Halloween Props: Pie of Sauron

pie-of-sauron

[Richard] combined creative carving with vacuum tube electronics for a unique pumpkin offering. He used the stencil-and-cut method of carving, making use of an inexpensive carving kit for great results. He salvaged an LED module from a flashlight to provide the internal illumination, but it’s the center feature that we like the best. [Richard's] used a glow-transfer counting tube, or dekatron, which provides something like a circular cylon eye to the project. There’s a video of this after the break.

You might not have access to a wicked-looking dekatron but we’re guessing you’ve got a microcontroller and some LEDs lying around that can serve as a stand-in for one night. We’d love to do a reader jack-o-lantern roundup, so if you build something, send us a picture!

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