A Hacker’s Christmas Story

Twas the night before Christmas, and because I decided to make everyone’s presents myself this year, I’m still working like mad to get everything done before the big deadline. Why do I do this to myself? Well, partly because I enjoy the process.

My wife had this idea that we can make the older folks some fun decorative blinky things, and picked some motives. My son then drew them out on paper, and I scanned those drawings in and traced them over in CAD. We then cut the shapes out of wood on the CNC router, which turned out to be incredibly successful. (Now that I’ve done it, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of those “quirky” decorative objects that the Swedish flat-packers sell aren’t initially sketched out by third graders.)

Then my son painted them, and it’s my job to insert the twinkling. I bought some of those three-wire “fairy lights” for the purpose, and they’re really fun to hack on. They’re like WS2812s, only instead of using four pins and shifting the data downstream, they’re on a bus, each with a hard-coded address – they know where they are in the string and each LED only listens for the Nth set of 24 bits. This means sending 200 color codes just to light up the 4 LEDs in Aunt Micki’s decorative tree, but so be it.

Last stop, and still to do as of the 23rd, route out some kind of wooden battery case, wedge in the LiPo and the charging circuits, and solder on an on/off switch. It’s down to the last minute, but isn’t that always the way?

Definitely would have been easier just to order something online. But is that the spirit of giving? No! The DIY way brings the family together, gets me some quality time with the CNC machine, and tones up my FreeCAD skills. My son even looked over my shoulder as we were coding some of the LED animations. And nothing says Christmas like hand-coded blinkies.

Happy Holidays, y’all!

11 thoughts on “A Hacker’s Christmas Story

  1. I guess this is as good a place as any…

    Merry Christmas and a hacky new year to all the staff and commenters! May your stockings be filled with PCBs, and the new year bring the components to fill them.

    1. May you hacks result in board revs
      Your CVEs in firmware updates

      May your aliexpress orders beat your Amazon ones
      and the magic smoke stay inside your build.

      May your footprints not tombstone your passives
      And your nets and grounds all align well

      May you catch you spaghetti early
      And your enclosures align to you mounting holes

      May your focus be sharp
      and your tubes live long

      May your tool paths be intuitive
      And your end mills stay sharp

      May your contributors work well together
      and your pull and feature requests align

      May your dependencies resolve
      And your release notes bring you gifts.

      May your niche product nail its target audience
      And your launch be on time and under budget.

      Merry Christmas!

  2. Today, 20.00 (8PM) I finished a wooden five pointed star, hand sawn, with my 8 year old son, added 20 WS2801 leds and wired it to a esp7266 with wled. Just in time to show in the dark before bedtime.
    I feel you.
    And I wish you and everyone a great time, however you fill the coming weeks

  3. Elliot – please please please tell us you got some video of the whole process that you can string together so we can feel like we were there with you through the whole process?! :-) Merry Christmas to all!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.