The Excel subreddit exploded earlier this week when redditor [AyrA_ch] shared his custom spreadsheet that allowed him to play video files on a locked-down work computer. How locked down? With no access to Windows Media Player and IE7 as the only browser (all plugins disabled, no HTML5), Excel became the unlikely hero to cure a 3-hour boredom stint.
Behind the cascade of rectangles and in the land of the Excel macro, [AyrA_ch] took advantage of the program’s VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) functions to circumvent the computer’s restrictions. Although VBA typically serves the more-complex-than-usual macro, it can also invoke some Windows API commands, one of which calls Windows Media Player. The Excel file includes a working playlist and some rudimentary controls: play, pause, stop, etc. as well as an inspired pie chart countdown timer.
As clever as this hack is, the best feature is much more subtle: tricking in-house big brother. [AyrA_ch]‘s computer ran an application to monitor process usage, but any videos played through the spreadsheet were attributed to Excel, ensuring the process usage stayed on target. You can download it for yourself over on GitHub.
Adding USB functionality to your Arduino projects used to be a pain, but thankfully, the V-USB project came along and gave your ATMEGA328 the ability to control the USB lines directly and mimic simple (low-speed) USB peripherals. [Ray] shows an implementation of the V-USB project by logging the status of the Arduino’s I/O pins to an open Excel spreadsheet
V-USB (Virtual USB) is especially useful for those of us who build standalone Arduino projects with the ATMEGA328. Unlike the Arduino Leonardo and its ATMEGA32U4, the ATMEGA328 does not have a built-in USB controller. The circuit required to tie into the USB lines is made up of just a few basic components, and [Ray] provides a reference schematic and BOM to get you started. The Arduino is programmed to mimic a keyboard, so the datalogging is achieved by allowing the Arduino to ‘type’ the data into an open Excel spreadsheet. In this example, the status of 8 digital pins and all 6 Analog Input pins are logged.
For those of you who prefer the PIC microcontroller and are in a similar position of not having a built-in USB controller, there is the 16FUSB project to help you out.
As many readers may already know, when I’m not featuring your projects or working on the mooltipass I try to make simple things that may be useful to electronics enthusiasts. My latest creation is a simple bill of materials generation tool, which can also do simple stock management. Unfortunately for Linux users, this utility is made using Visual Basic functions in an Excel file.
It works fairly simply: just enter your schematics’ components references in the excel sheet, along with the corresponding Digikey webpage address. Click on the “fetch” button and the script will automatically get all your component characteristics from the internet and tell you the component costs depending on the number of prototypes you want to make. Then click the “sort BoM” button and your BoM will automatically be sorted by component type and value. Another functionality allows you to check that all the components present in your BoM are also present on the (very simple) Kicad generated one. Finally, using another Excel sheet containing your current stock, the Bill of Materials will let you know if you have enough components for the assembly stage. A video of the tool in action is embedded after the break, and you can download the BoM template here (.XLSM file) and the corresponding stock file there (.XLSM file).
Continue reading “A Simple (and Dirty) Bill of Materials and Stock Management Utility”
[Retrobrad's] spinning POV display has long been our favorite. When it popped up on our radar again this morning we were surprise to see we never ran a feature on it! But now there’s so much more to share. Hit the projects icon at the top of his page and you’ll not only get the 8×85 RGB display’s build instructions, but he’s also built a 32×64 pixel spinning display.
Even if you’re not going to make one of these, he explains some pixel-graphics techniques that are useful in other instances. Check out his video on using spreadsheets for creating the hex arrays necessary for each frame the 8×85 display. It’s embedded after the break along with demos of the two displays.
Continue reading “Lots of spinning POV goodness”