1768 LEDs, Because 96 Just Wasn’t Enough

Some people would look at a massive 6’x4′ LED matrix hanging on the wall playing animations and be happy with the outcome. But [Ben] just isn’t one of those people. The original FLED (Fantastic LED thingy) was eight rows of twelve addressable LEDs for a total of 96 pixels. This spring he upped his game and retrofitted the display with 1768 LEDs.

It wasn’t simply an issue of restlessness, the original build suffered from LEDs dying. We actually featured it for that reason as a Fail of the Week.  This is not strictly a hobby project, it’s hanging on the wall in the Supplyframe offices, so pulling it down frequently to fix broken parts is not ideal.

fled-reborn-LED-layoutTo make FLED more reliable [Ben] sourced strips of the new APA102 LEDs which we looked at back in December. They use an SPI bus instead of the bizarre timing scheme of the WS2812. At first glance you’d think this would mean easier assembly compared to soldering both sides of each of the original 96-pixels. These do come in strips, but laying out 52×34 still means soldering to the ends of each row.

A lot of love went into making sure those rows were laid out perfectly. A sheet of white foamed PVC serves as the substrate. There is grounding braid on either end of the rows, one is the voltage bus, the other is ground. It fits the original enclosure which is acrylic and does a great job of diffusing the light. I’ve seen it in person and it looks pretty much perfect!

It’s not just the physical layout of this many pixels that is a challenge. Pushing the data to all of them is much harder than it was with 96. [Ben] transitioned away from RaspberryPi. He considered using a Teensy 3.1 and ESP8266 but the WiFi of these cheap modules is far too slow to push frame information from a remote box. In the end it’s a BeagleBone Black that drives the reborn display. This is a great choice since there’s plenty of power under the hood and a traditional (and much faster) WiFi dongle can be used.

Don’t miss the animation demos found after the break.

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Raspberry Pi driven Polargraph exhibits high precision drawing ability

This polar graph draws some amazing shapes on a dry erase board. Part of that is due to the mounting brackets used for the two stepper motors and the stylus. But credit is also due for the code which takes velocity into account in order to plan for the next set of movements.

The Go language is used to translate data into step commands for the two motors. This stream of commands is fed over a serial connection between the RPi board and an Arduino. The Arduino simply pushes the steps to the motor controllers. The inclusion of the RPi provides the horsepower needed to make such smooth designs. This is explained in the second half of [Brandon Green’s] post. The technique uses constant acceleration, speed, and deceleration for most cases which prevents any kind of oscillation in the hanging stylus. But there are also contingencies used when there is not enough room to accelerate or decelerate smoothly.

You can catch a very short clip of the hardware drawing a tight spiral in the video embedded after the break.

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Building a game clock for Go or Chess

[Matias] is just getting into hobby electronics and decided to push the limits of his skill by building this game clock. He comes from a software design background and that really shows through in the UI design seen in the video after the break. We enjoy the journey through his prototyping process which started with an Arduino and a breadboard, and ended with this standalone timer.

After building the first working prototype with four buttons and a character LCD, he migrated to a plastic ice cream container as an enclosure. This worked well enough, but the flimsy case needed an upgrade. As he looked toward the next version he decided to move to an Arduino Nano board to save on space. The rest of the components were soldered to some protoboard, with a pair of pin headers to receive the Nano. The finished board is the same length as the Nano and only about twice as wide.

The box was modeled on the computer (it looks like SketchUp to us be we could be wrong) then cut from pieces of Masonite. It hosts the character LCD with a pair of arcade buttons for each player to shift the time burden to his or her opponent. The middle button pauses the game, and there’s a trimpot on the back to adjust the screen contrast. [Matias] managed to include a surprising number of settings which will make this little box useful for a wide range of game types.

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PSP Go gets butchered (teardown)


Not due to be released until the beginning of October, a PSP Go demo unit (shipped to G4TV) has already earned itself a teardown from [iFixit]. Among what was discovered:

– Once a few screws are removed, the battery is user replaceable (as-in: no soldering iron required)

– Wireless connectivity is only supplied through a 802.11b chip (no update to ‘n’, or even ‘g’, by Sony)

– Almost all chips are EMI-shielded (making them a bit more annoying to get to)

With a cheaper version of the PS3 ready to hit shelves, one can only wonder whether the relatively high price tag on this new PSP is worth it.

Update: It seems as though no party involved wanted the info leaked this early, which explains why the video and picture gallaries (up courtesy of Google) have been removed.

Update 2: The article (linked above) and video are now available. An explanation on why Sony had them remove the items for quite some time (plus some repair manuals) was posted by iFixit.

The GO sequencer


[Guy John] sent in this cool sequencer project. He’s using the game Go as the input. A web camera pics up the location of the pieces on the grid and plots them in his sequencing software. You can see that it is still very much in progress, but it is coming along nicely. He openly admits that it may never be completely practical. There is still so much to be improved to get it even comfortably usable, such as motion detection to remove his hand from the mix when re locating the Go pieces. This project is very similar to the Skittles interface that we posted back in July.  It would be kind of interesting, though probably repetitive, to actually play a game of go and listen to the variations in the music while you play.