While this year’s Christmas lists are dominated by electronic gadgets and other mass-produced toys, it wasn’t always like that. We’re not trying to sound like the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn, but many of today’s gifts lack the personal touch found in old, hand-made toys.
[henlij’s] son is a budding electronics geek who loves playing with switches and lights, so he was inspired to build him a fun toy to pass the time. He constructed a simple box full of lights and switches that his son could toggle on and off to his heart’s content.
While there’s not a ton going on inside the box, we think that the idea is fantastic. With just a few dollars worth of simple components, anyone who knows their way around a soldering station can build something that will keep a child fascinated for hours.
There’s no reason to stop at buttons and lights either. If we were to build one, we would swap the bulbs out for LEDs, then add a wide variety of switches and dials along with speakers and any other components we could get our hands on.
The options are pretty limitless, so if you happen to know a child that gets a kick out of playing with buttons and switches, why not make him or her something special this year, much like [henlij] did for his son?
[Markus] had been drooling over some LED panels to use as a soft light source for photography, but being a hobbyist, he didn’t want to spend a ton of money to buy them. He figured that he had enough electronics know-how to build his own panels, while saving a boatload of cash in the process.
He hoped to keep the total cost under £100, so along with new items like LED light strips, he would have to use some stuff he had sitting around, like the metal cooking containers that make up the body of the lights. While originally planned for use in a different project, it turns out that the cooking containers were ideal for his lighting setup, since they are both durable and great heatsink material.
The remainder of the build is pretty straightforward. [Markus] used a pre-made LED dimmer to control the panel’s brightness, along with some tinted plexiglas to diffuse the light while bringing the color temperature into a more usable range.
While he missed his £100 mark, the lights look great – we just might have to build a few of them ourselves.
So Halloween finally arrived, we hope you had enough time to pull off your frightening feats in the way you had originally envisioned. Now it’s time again to look to the future and start planning this year’s Christmas decorations. Lights are always a popular theme, and this year you might want to look into DMX lighting controls and decide if that’s a route you want to take. [Akiba] has your back, he just put together a set of videos explaining the DMX lighting protocol and how to use it with an Arduino.
The thought here is that the Arduino can be used as a sort of DMX hub that is connected directly to a computer running open source controller hardware. It can send commands which the Arduino decodes, deciding whether to just pass them on to DMX compatible devices, or to do what it does best and control other hardware that is not normally accessible through the lighting command protocol. To the control program your four-dollar strand of LED lights looks no different from a thousand dollar stage light, making it cheap and easy to build your own entertaining holiday show right in your front yard. See the second video in this series after the break where [Akibo] details the hardware setup for his system. The other parts are available at the link above.
Be careful, this can be a consuming endeavor. Don’t believe us? Just look around and you’ll find no shortage of large DMX builds just for Christmas lights.
Continue reading “Looking toward Christmas decor by learning about DMX”
New Years celebrations tend to get bigger and bigger every year for most people, and [Brian] takes no exception. In order to top his lighted tree of a few years ago, he has concocted a 40’x40′ set of Seven-Segment displays made out of Christmas lights, hung from nearby trees. These displays would start counting down the minutes an hour before the ball drop, and be synchronized with music. Also in the spirit of a New Years party, the music he has chosen is in the form of a Power hour. The control board [Brian] is using also comes with two extra outputs, which he plans to use for the most exciting possible additions: Fireworks and Flamethrowers.
Be sure to check back after New Years to see a video of the device in action. Be sure to Hack, Drink, and Party Responsibly out there.
[Nathan Long] sent in two fairly simple mods he’s been working on. The first is the control of Woot-off Lights via LPT port. A computer checks Woot for the Woot-off logo, and if the logo is spotted, on go the lights. It’s really just a twist on the LED/Arduino email message system, but the creativity is nice.
His other modification is the stuffing of a Microsoft Intellimouse inside of a Logitech Wingman. With the goal of giving the old PS/2 mouse USB capabilities and removing the terrible ball. For those that are asking themselves “why bother? Terrible ergonomics, no scroll wheel, etc.” [Nathan] claims it’s for Quake 2 nostalgia, to each their own we suppose.
[Joshua] shares his details on building this 20-channel DMX controller. He’s sourced some extension cords to cut up for the complicated wiring project. He plans to drive 120V lights with the system so he’s also using the extension cords to connect a bunch of outlet boxes to the main controller. Inside you’ll find a set of AVR chips ready for your commands. Instead of using jumpers or DIP switches to set their addresses he set them in the firmware and burned a different version to each chip. The key here is writing the address right on the chips to prevent any confusion.
This will be used of Halloween and Christmas displays. We love Halloween hacks just about as much as we love Christmas hacks, so hit the basement and don’t forget to share the result of your labors with us.
[Muris] is pumping out the home lighting hacks. He developed this motion sensing module as an add-on to the IR switch we saw last week. There’s some kind of fuse box above his entry door and its white cover, which you see above, is where he mounted an IR distance sensor to detect movement and switch on the lights. The RC5 infrared protocol is used to transmit the necessary signal to turn the lights on, then when a set amount of time has passed it will turn them back off again.