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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San Francisco Event: Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic

 

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It’s a mouthful to say, but an evening-ful of fun. San Franciscans who like to talk about all things hardware need to block this one out on their calendars:

Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic
Thursday, August 14th 2014 starting 6pm-9:30pm
500 3rd St., Suite 230 in San Francisco

The night will include a few talks on hardware; So far we know [Matt Berggren] is doing FPGA stuff, [Chris Gammell] will talk about KiCAD, and I’m going to talk about the community adventure that is Mooltipass. We’re also looking for others to make presentations so step up and share your hardware passion!

In addition to the formal talks there’ll be plenty of time for chewing the fat with all the other hardware-awesomes that will be there. See you a week from tomorrow, and don’t be shy about bringing your own hardware to show off!

Hack Your Datasheets Using Datasheet.net

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If you use datasheets (which is probably every reader of Hackaday) you need to check out this tool that seeks to add modern features to the decades-old component specification delivery system. That link takes you to the announcement of the launch of Datasheet.net.

What you see above is the biggest feature the service brings to the table, the ability to create “snippets” from datasheets by clicking and dragging the area you’d like to save (you can even get a public link to the snippet). Once you have selected a snippet there are a few tools that allow you to make annotations on it. We’ve used the rectangle tool to highlight the clock speed and divider settings in this snippet for an ATmega328 uC. The interface also offers the ability to draw arrows, freehand, or to add text to the snippet. At the bottom of this example we used the description area to notate the fuse settings (in hex) which we most often use with this chip. These snippets and annotations can then be shared with other users of the service, and there’s also a comments section below the snippet for your team to use. See examples of this in the video below.

This solves one of our biggest beefs with PDF datasheets — the ability to jump back and forth and to easily find commonly used sections. This datasheet is 567 pages long and not fun to paw through looking for the same info repeatedly. It also offers rudimentary “favorite” flagging to keep a list of your oft-used sheets — but we’d like to see more options for categorizing our collection. We also find it hard to get by without the Table of Contents functionality we’re used to in our normal document view (evince). We’ve already pestered the lead developer, [Ben Delarre], to add this feature. He’s the same guy who came up with the schematic sharing site CircuitBee. Now would be a great time to mention that this service is owned by Hackaday’s parent company SupplyFrame.

Datasheet.net has a mammoth source of datasheets available through the search, but the list of planned feature additions includes datasheet upload. Also on the list is a “Discussion” feature which sounds interesting to us. What if, through the discussion engine, searching for datasheets also turned up a list of open hardware projects that use this part? We are also drooling over the ability to embed these snippets directly in webpages. [Ben] tells us that’s already built but they didn’t have time to add it to the UI before launch. Gone will be the days of taking screenshots of PDFs for your blog writeup!

PDF delivery of datasheets revolutionized access to information about electronic components. We’re hoping that this marks the next evolution. In addition to better working features, wouldn’t it be nice if you could actually get notifications when new datasheet revisions or errata were published?

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How FindChips started as a NASA engineer’s hack

A couple of weeks ago I was visiting SupplyFrame to meet the new owners of Hackaday. The CEO, [Steve Flagg] asked me how we can introduce FindChips to the readers. I’m used to people trying to get things on our front page so I had the question ready for him: where’s the hack? Much to my surprise he was ready for me. “What if I tell you that it started as a hack by a NASA Engineer?”

It turns out he was right. He put me in contact with [Randy Sargent], the founder of FindChips.com. If you’ve ever hacked together a script to make your life easier you’ll want to listen to what Randy had to say. You never know when it’ll turn into a full-blown start-up.

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Hello from SupplyFrame – your new evil overlords !

A couple of weeks ago one of our engineers woke up and read that HackADay was going up for sale. His first reaction was much the same as most regular readers of HackADay, he was worried and concerned that a site that he has read daily for years was going to be sold to someone who would promptly carve it up and ruin it. So he bumped it up the chain here at SupplyFrame and we decided that HaD would be a good fit for us and so we made an offer and here we are!

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