Blinkenschild, The RGB LED Display For Every Occasion

turd

One morning [overflo] decided to protest the European Parliament’s stance on equine rights of defecation, a cherished liberty dating back to the time of Charlemagne. The best way to do this is, of course, blinking lights. He calls his project Blinkenschild, and it’s one of the best portable LED displays we’ve seen.

The display is based around fifteen RGB-123 LED panels, each containing an 8×8 matrix of WS2811 LEDs. That’s 960 pixels, all controlled with a Teensy 3.1. Power is supplied by fifteen LiPo cells wired together in parallel giving him 6 Ah of battery life. Clunky, yes, but it’s small enough to fit in a backpack and that’s what [overflo] had sitting around anyway.

The animations for the display are generated by Glediator, an unfortunately not open source control app for LED matrices. Glediator sends data out over a serial port but not over IP or directly into a file. Not wanting to carry a laptop around with him, [overflo] created a virtual serial port and dumped the output of Glediator into a file so it could be played back stored on an SD card and controlled with an Android app. Very clever, and just the thing to raise awareness of horse and Internet concerns.

Video below.

UPDATE: Check out [overflo’s] clarification in the comments below.

Continue reading “Blinkenschild, The RGB LED Display For Every Occasion”

Fail of the Week: WS2811 Pixel Failure on FLED

fotw-fled-burnt-pixel

This Fail of the Week project comes from one of Hackaday’s own. [Ben] took on the FLED data visualization project as a way to make the SupplyFrame decor a lot more fun. He had quite a bit of help soldering the 96 WS2811 pixels into their custom made 6’x4′ enclosure and the results are really awesome. In addition to showing server load and playing games, FLED has become something of a job interview. Sit the prospective employee down at a terminal and give them an hour to code the most interesting visualization they are capable of.

But two weeks ago [Ben] staggered into the office and found the display was dead. Did he try turning it off and back on again? Yes, but to no avail. The power supply wasn’t the issue and there was no option but to pull the display off the wall and crack it open for a look at all those pixels. Since every one of them had 4 solder joints on either side he figured the problem was with a broken connection. But not so. He resorted to a binary search for the offending pixel by  cutting the strand in half, and testing each portion. He tracked it down to the pixel whose underside was blackened as you can see above.

[Ben] thinks one of the capacitors inside the sealed enclosure blew, but isn’t certain. Feel free to tell us what you think failed in this component. But the thing we’d really like to know is if there is a more clever way to sniff out the offensive pixel without cutting the connections? Four hours on the floor with this thing (and no knee-pads) and [Ben] has sworn off sourcing pixels from random Chinese suppliers. He might go with pre-assembled strings next time. We chuckle; this is the high-tech equivalent of trying to get old strands of Christmas lights to work.

If you haven’t seen FLED in action, check it out after the break. It amazing how LED intensity and quality diffuser material can make a perfect grid of LEDs seem to dance in waves and color curves.

Continue reading “Fail of the Week: WS2811 Pixel Failure on FLED”

WS2811 SPI Driver Using One Transistor and Passives

ws2811-spi-driver

We love the WS28xx projects because even if we never plan to use them, the signal timing is like the most addictive puzzle game ever. For instance, check out this WS2811A driver which uses hardware SPI to generate the signals.

The WS28xx offerings place a microcontroller inside an RGB LED, allowing them to be individually addressed in very long chains or large matrices (still a chain but different layout). But the timing scheme used to address them doesn’t play well with traditionally available microcontroller peripherals. [Brett] had been intrigued by some of the attempts to bend hardware SPI to the will of the WS2811 — notably [Cunning_Fellow’s] work featured in this post. He took it a great step forward by simplifying the driver to just one transistor, three resistors, and a capacitor.

Click through the link above for his step-by-step description of how the circuit works (it’s not worth re-explaining here as he does a very concise job himself). The oscilloscope above shows the SPI signal on top and the resulting timing signal below. You will notice the edges aren’t very clean, which requires the first pixel to be very close to the driver or risk further degradation. But, since the WS28xx drivers feature a repeater which cleans up signals like this, it’s smooth sailing after the first pixel.

 

Monitor GitHub Activity with an RGB LED Matrix

tim-display

Ever wonder who is forking your code? [Jack] did, so he built a real time GitHub activity display for his company’s repositories. The display is based a Wyolum The Intelligent Matrix (TiM) board. The TiM is an 8 x 16 matrix of the ubiquitous WS2811/Smart Pixel/NeoPixel RGB LEDs with built-in controller. We’re seeing more and more of these serial LEDs as they drop in price. Solder jumpers allow the TiM to be used as 8 parallel rows of LEDs (for higher refresh rates), or connected into one long serial chain.

[Jack] wasn’t worried about speed, so he configured his board into a single serial string of LEDs. An Arduino drives the entire matrix with a single pin. Rather than reinvent the wheel, [Jack] used Adafruit’s NeoMatrix library to drive his display. Since the TiM uses the same LEDs as the Adafruit NeoPixel Matrix, the library will work. Chalk up another victory for open source hardware and software!

An Electric Imp retrieves Github data via WiFi and passes it on to the Arduino. This is a good use of a microcontroller such as the AVR on the Arduino. [Jack’s] display has a scrolling username. Every step in the scroll animation requires all the pixel data be clocked out to the TiM board. The Arduino can handle this while the IMP takes care of higher level duties.

Continue reading “Monitor GitHub Activity with an RGB LED Matrix”

Hackaday Links: Sunday, June 30th, 2013

hackaday-links-chain

The race is on to squeeze cycles out of an 8MHz AVR chip in order to better drive the WS2811 LED protocol.

[Asher] doesn’t want to buy charcoal aquarium filters if he can just build them himself. He filled a couple of plastic drink bottles with charcoal, cut slots in the sides, and hooked them up to his pump system. A gallery of his work is available after the break.

Is the best way to make microscopic sized batteries to 3d print them? Harvard researchers think so. [Thanks Jonathan and Itay]

The Ouya gaming console is now available for the general public. [Hunter Davis] reports that the Retrode works with Ouya out-of-the-box. If you don’t remember hearing about it, Retrode reads your original cartridge ROMs for use with emulators.

Making a cluster computer out of 300 Raspberry Pi boards sounds like a nightmare. Organization is the key to this project.

Hackaday alum [Jeremy Cook] is working on an animatronic cigar box. Here he’s demonstrating it’s ability to listen for voice commands.

A Kelvin clips is a type of crocodile clip that has the two jaws insulated from each other. [Kaushlesh] came up with a way to turn them into tweezer probes.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: Sunday, June 30th, 2013″

LED tie plays Tetris

tetris

[Bill] has been working with a gaggle of 8th graders this summer at a STEM camp, impressing them with his geeky attire such as an 8-bit and PCB ties, and an LED illuminated lab coat. The adolescent tinkerers asked him what he would be wearing on the last day. Not wanting to let the kids down, he whipped up an LED Tetris tie in an evening.

The Tetris board is a 20 x 4 grid of WS2811 based RGB LED strips, controlled by a Digispark dev board. Structurally, the tie is just two bits of card stock with the electronic bits sandwiched in between. and taped to a cheap clip-on. In the video below, the tie doesn’t have any sort of input to control the movement and rotation of blocks. [Bill] plans to update his tie with some rudimentary AI so it can play itself.

All the code is over on [Bill]’s git. It’s still a work in progress, but from the STEM student’s reaction, there’s a lot of potential in this tie.

Continue reading “LED tie plays Tetris”

WS2811 can be addressed at 800kHz using a 8MHz clock

ws2811-running-at-8mhz

Timing is everything and that’s why most communication protocols require a very accurate clock source. The WS2811 LED strip controllers are no different. But [Danny] figured out a way to drive them reliably with an 8MHz clock source.

The WS2811 has become one of the most popular controllers for RGB pixels and strips alike. We’ve seen several hacks used to address them, including the 16MHz AVR technique that inspired [Danny] to take on this project. He planned to use that library but the 25-day shipping time for a 16MHz crystal drove home to invent a way to use the internal oscillator instead.

The gist of the hack is that he wrote assembly code to handle pairs of binary bit values. With a code block for each of the four possible combinations in hand he had to find a way to craft the conditional jumps to preserve accurate timing. After hitting the wall trying to solve this puzzle by hand he wrote a C++ program to solve it for home. The proof is in this video which shows one chip driving multiple Larson scanners on a single strip.

Continue reading “WS2811 can be addressed at 800kHz using a 8MHz clock”