LED module used to display load, traffic, and status data for your PC

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You’re going to like [Ivan’s] write-up for this LED computer status monitor. Of course he didn’t just show-and-tell the final product — if he had you’d be reading this in a Links post. But he also didn’t just detail how he put the thing together. Nope, he shared pictures and details of every iteration that got him here.

It started off with a tachometer. Yeah, that analog display you put on the dashboard of your car which reads out RPM. He wanted to make it into a USB device which would read out his CPU load. But that’s an awful lot of work when it can only display one thing at a time. So he decided to add an 8×8 LED module which would display the load for each individual core of his CPU. It looks great next to the illuminated tachometer. From there he added resolution by transitioning to an RGB module, which ended up sucking him into a coding project to extend the data pushed to his embedded hardware. In the end his ReCoMonB (Real Computer Monitoring Block) displays CPU load, RAM usage, several aspects of HDD activity, as well as the network up and down traffic.

We think he’s probably squeezed all that he can from this little display. Time to upgrade to a TFT LCD.

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Computer monitor Ambilight clone shows remarkable performance

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Check out this fantastic Ambilight clone for a computer monitor which [Brafilus] has been working on for a few years. It’s actually the third revision and watching the demo video below left our jaws agape.

Details are only available as comments on the YouTube page. But he’s given us just enough to be satisfied. His self-etched board hosts a PIC 18F14K50 microcontroller. It is talking to each of the 28 LED pixels which themselves live on tiny hunks of diy PCB as well. He wrote his own PC software in C# to capture the colors around the edges of the screen. He also worked hard to ensure there are plenty of tweaks available for true color matching between the monitor and what your eye sees bouncing off of the wall.

If you’re looking for something like this on your television set go back a couple of days and check out that standalone unit.

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Laptop backlight converted from CCFL to LED

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[Lee Davison] acquired an Acer laptop that didn’t have a display anymore. He had enough parts on hand to add in an LCD panel and give it a CCFL backlight. But when he started looking for an inverter to drive the backlight he couldn’t find one. What he did have on hand were some smashed screens that had LED backlights and so the CCFL to LED backlight conversion project was born.

He tore into the LED display and found the driver board. Unfortunately he didn’t locate the datasheet for the exact LED driver, but he found one that was similar and was able to trace out the support circuitry on the PCB. This let him cut away the unneeded parts of the board without damaging the driver. He didn’t want to pull out the CCFL tubes until he was sure the LED conversion would work so he tried it out on another smashed panel (where does he come up with all these parts) and it worked great. Once he got everything in place he was very happy with the results. The only drawback to the system is that he doesn’t have the ability to dim the backlight.

Stereoscopic display art installation

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This rig is something of a museum or art installation, but the concept is so simple we thought it could easily inspire your next project. The two mirrors and two video sources make up a stereoscopic display.

The user sits between two displays (computer monitors shown here, but the post also shows images projected on two walls of a room). A pair of mirrors mounted at forty-five degrees form the eye pieces. It’s a V-shaped mirror assembly in which the narrow end pointing toward the bridge of the user’s nose. The mirrors reflect the images from the monitors, giving a different view for each eye.

In this case each monitor is playing back a video loop, but one is just slightly longer than the other. Each monitor has a potentiometer in front of it. The user can turn them to speed or slow the playback in an attempt to bring the video back into sync. We don’t think we’d replicate that portion of the project. But it might be fun to view some stereoscopic clips in this way. There’s even instructions on how two cameras were used to record the scenes.

You can get a closer view of the test apparatus in the clip after the jump.

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Using a flashing LCD monitor to transfer data

lcd-screen-data-transferWe love the concept of using an LCD screen to transfer data. The most wide-spread and successful method we know of is the combination of a QR code and the camera on a smart phone. But for less powerful/costly devices data can be transferred simply by flashing colors on the screen. That’s what [Connor Taylor] is testing out with this project. He’s using a TEMT6000 light sensor to turn a white and black flashing monitor into binary data.

So far this is just a proof of concept that takes measurements from the light sensor which is held in front of a Macbook Retina display with different backlight levels. At 3/4 and full brightness it provides more than enough contrast to reliably differentiate between black and white when measuring the sensor with the Arduino’s ADC. What he hasn’t gotten into yet is the timing necessary to actually transfer data. The issue arises when you need to have multiple 1’s or 0’s in a row. We’ve tried this ourselves using an LDR with limited success. We know it’s possible to get it working since we’ve seen projects like this clock which can only be programmed with a flashing screen.

[Connor’s] choice of the TEMT6000 should prove to be a lot more sensitive than using just an LDR. We figure he could find a way to encode using multiple colors in order to speed up the data transfer.

Use an old laptop as a second desktop display

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When we’re trying to get a relatively complex project to work we often end up with twenty windows open. When this happens we’re usually referencing multiple data sheets, webpages, and trying to write code that the same time. We’ve seen people with two or three monitors to alleviate the situation (often called a battlestation), but the we’re cheap and can’t justify buying more displays just for these occasions. Well [Oscar] may have the solution for us. His old laptop had been sitting in a box unused so he flipped the screen and built a stand to position it as an additional display on his desk.

The hack simply removed the screen for the hinged cover so that it could be flipped around. This turns the laptop into a tablet minus the touchscreen ability but that could always be added in later (we’ve seen it done with netbooks). He tells us that the only issue he ran into during this process was the length of the inverter cable. He simply cut it and spliced in a little bit of extra length.

[Oscar] didn’t write a post about his project, but you can see the build gallery after the break.

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Python script lets you monitor multiple serial devices at once

Not knowing what’s going on inside of your electronics projects can make it quite difficult to get the bugs out. [John] was bumping up against this problem when working on wireless communications between several devices. At just about the same time his friend came up with a script with lets you monitor multiple serial devices in one terminal window.

We’re used to using minicom, a Linux package that does the job when working with serial connections of all kinds. But [John] is right, we’re pretty sure you can only connect to one device per minicom instance. But [Jim’s] Python serial terminal (available in this git repository) allows you to specify multiple devices as command line arguments. You can even use wildcards to monitor every USB connection. The script then automatically chooses a different color for each device.

The image above is from [John’s] wireless project. Even without any other background this shows how easy it is to debug this way rather than tab back and forth between windows which gets confusing very quickly.