Using your bench tools to test a new display

It usually takes a bit of work to gain confidence when it comes to using new parts. [Glitch] got his hands on this OLED display which is manufactured by Sabernetics and wanted to give it a whirl before building a project around it. He grabbed his Bus Pirate to help learn the ins and outs of the new part.

The 96×16 Dot-Matrix display uses the i2c protocol, keeping the pin count really low (six pins for: ground, reset, clock, data, chip select, and voltage). Since the Bus Pirate gives you command-line-like access to i2c it’s a natural choice for a first test. In fact, the tool has been our go-to device for that protocol for most projects.

The first commands sent are configuration values for the SSD1306 that drives the display. These configure contrast, voltage conversion, and other important values necessary to power on the display. It sprung to life, showing random pixels since the RAM had not yet been initialized. With that success [Glitch] moved on to the Bus Pirate’s scripting capabilities and ended up with a Python script that drives the demo seen above. Now that he knows the commands he needs, it’ll be a lot easier to write code for a microcontroller driver.

Adding an OLED to a LEGO set

Sure, as a very powerful and influential LEGO dictator you’re more than able to make the trains run on time, but how do you make your LEGO citizens realize the benefits of living under your regime? With an OLED LEGO train schedule, of course! [Dan] over at Adafruit put together a great guide to interfacing a very small OLED display to a LEGO setup, perfect for displaying which trains are on schedule and not displaying which trains are heading to a ‘camp.’

The build uses a 96×64 RGB OLED display that is just under an inch in size. After connecting the display to an Arduino, [Dan] crafted a bezel and mounted it inside a LEGO brick wall. Seems like just the thing for the Adafruit LEGO set.

Of course, the tiny Adafruit OLED display can be used for much more than showing the train schedule at a LEGO train station. We imagine this could be put to use in an awesome model train layout or even a small plastic security checkpoint.

Building a DIY GPS cube

Originally, [Karman] wanted to build a speedometer for his bike. Feature creep makes fools of us all, so after a month of work [Karman] had a  GPS-enabled cube that tells him his current latitude and longitude, current time, course, direction and speed.

[Karman]‘s GPS cube uses a cheap GPS module, Arduino Mini Pro, a magnificent OLED display, and a LiPo battery salvaged from a first gen iPod nano. Surprisingly, the build is very clean – there are no wires, headers, or random epoxy globs sticking out everywhere. The entire build is just a bit larger than one cubic inch, allowing [Karman] to carry around the power of a GPS device in his pocket.

The code for [Karman]‘s GPS cube uses the TinyGPS library for Arduino, that has a few great functions that track the number of satellites visible and report the current time. Now all that’s left to do is fabricate a case for this awesome little project. As always, video demo after the break.

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Digital Magic 8 Ball

[sjm4306] had a small Magic 8-Ball key chain as a kid. The fluid in this key chain eventually dried up, and if [sjm] is anything like us the 20-sided die is now lost to the sands of time or at the very least hidden in a box in the basement. After remembering the old Magic 8-Ball one day, [sjm] decided to build a digital version of everyone’s favorite bewitched billiard ball.

The digital magic 8-ball uses a PIC16f886; more than enough to hold the twenty possible replies from a real magic 8-ball. The display is a tin 3 cm OLED which surprisingly emulates the ‘icosahedron with raised letters floating in purple liquid’ aesthetic very well.

Right now, this is just a breadboard prototype – there isn’t an accelerometer or tilt switch in the build yet, so shaking the project does absolutely nothing. [sjm] may add that functionality later by turning his project into a watch, key chain, or installing it in a real Magic 8-Ball case.

Hackaday Links: April 18, 2012

Sandcasting at the beach

[mkb] sent in a video he found of [Max Lamb] sandcasting a stool at a beach in England. The material is pewter, or >90% tin with a little bit copper and antimony thrown in for good measure. While we’re sure there will be a few complaints from environmentalists, it’s still a cool video to see.

Your project needs an OLED display

Here’s a Kickstarter for a tiny 96×16 OLED display. Connect this thing to any I2C bus and you get a 15×2 character display (or a graphic display if that’s your inclination) very easily. Thanks to [Chris] for sending this one in.

Here’s one for a larf

[Ryan Inman] is suing 20 companies because he got mercury poisoning from vacuum tubes. Read that last line again. Most of the companies that sell antique/repro/hard-to-find components like Angela Instruments, Antique Electronic Supply, and even eBay are listed as defendants in the case. This might put at least one company out of business even though they never sold [Ryan] a vacuum tube edit: they did sell him a neon bulb, and courts are generally idiotic when it comes to technological issues. It’s hilarious and sad, so we’ll keep you updated if we get more info.

Nostalgia, the pain from an old wound

The Adafruit blog posted an excellent piece on the Apple ][ game Rocky’s Boots, an educational game from 1982 that teaches kids how to connect logic gates. You can play this game in your browser, but we’d like to hear our stories of ancient video games that teach you engineering concepts like The Incredible Machine or Widget Workshop. Leave a note in the comments if we’re leaving any out.

A question posed to the community

A company is giving away credit card readers that plug into the headphone jack of an iDevice. [J Smith] writes in to ask us if anyone has gotten one of these and opened them up. Like [J Smith] we’re expecting something a repeat of the CueCat where free hardware is opened up to everybody. If you’ve done a teardown of one of these card readers, send it in.

3DS homebrew

[Mike] sent us a link to [neimod]‘s Flickr photostream. It looks like we’re on the cusp of tearing open the Nintendo 3DS for homebrew apps. Someone who uses this much hot glue must know what they’re doing, right?

Reverse Geocache box looks great and packed with features

[Ranger Bob] crafted this great looking Reverse Geocache box. Our favorite feature is the black piece of acrylic on top. It’s laser cut (not sure if the letters are engraved or not) and gives a great finished look while hiding a couple of things at the same time.

The orange box is a metal cash box, and there’s a smooth indentation in the lid where the handle resides when not being carried. [Bob] removed the handle and mounted the GPS module in that void. But there’s also an OLED display mounted next to it. As you can see in the demo video after the break, the screen is bright enough to be seen clearly through the smoky acrylic covering that depression.

This project gave [Bob] the chance to order his first professionally made circuit board. He did the design in Eagle, managing to keep within the 5cmx5cm limits of Seeed Studio’s least expensive Fusion PCB option. The board hosts the PIC 18F87J50 responsible for handing the screen, GPS module, input button, and USB port. Power comes from an internal Lithium battery.

We’ve featured a lot of Reverse Geocache boxes and they’re still one of our favorite projects because so much love goes into the design and build process. Here’s another one that we chose randomly for your amusement.

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Cheap OLED display for your TI Launchpad

The guys over at the 43oh forums have been working on an OLED display booster pack for the TI Launchpad. The booster pack is now available in the 43oh store and is pretty cheap to boot.

The TI Launchpad is an awesome little dev board with a ravenous fan base. We’ve seen a lot of projects on Hack a Day use a Launchpad – everything from intervalometers to chicken coops. Unfortunately, the MSP430 doesn’t have the market penetration of the ‘board that shall remained unnamed,’ so it’s not very common to see a new Launchpad “shield.”

[bluehash] on the 43oh forums has been hard at work for the past month to put together his OLED booster pack. The display is 128×64 pixels with an incredible amount of brightness that we would expect from an OLED display. The software for the display is based on the SSD1306 driver with two font packs – Courier New large and small. Not a bad little piece of kit for an under appreciated dev board.

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