A Christmas Tree for your Lab

It seems like holiday decorations come up earlier and earlier every year. You might not have room for a full-blown tree in your lab, but if you have an arbitrary waveform generator and a scope, Tektronix has a way for you to show your spirit electronically.

You can see the video below. Naturally, it features Tektronix gear, but we are pretty sure you could make it work with any arbitrary waveform generator that has at least two channels and a scope with an XY mode.

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Custom PCB Revives a Vintage Tree Stand

After 56 years, [Jeff Cotten]’s rotating Christmas tree stand had decided enough was enough. While its sturdy cast aluminum frame was ready for another half-century of merriment, the internal mechanism that sent power up through the rotating base had failed and started tripping the circuit breaker. The problem itself seemed easy enough to fix, but the nearly 60 year old failed component was naturally unobtanium.

But with the help of his local makerspace, he was able to manufacture a replacement. It’s not exactly the same as the original part, and he may not get another 56 years out of it, but it worked for this season at least so that’s a win in our books.

The mechanism inside the stand is fairly simple: two metal “wipes” make contact with concentric circle traces on a round PCB. Unfortunately, over the years the stand warped a bit and the wipe made contact with the PCB where it wasn’t intended do. This caused an arc, destroying the PCB.

The first step in recreating the PCB was measuring the wipes and the distance between them. This allowed [Jeff] to determine how thick the traces needed to be, and how much space should be between them. He was then able to take that data and plug it into Inkscape to come up with a design for his replacement board.

To make the PCB itself, he first coated a piece of copper clad board with black spray paint. Using the laser cutter at the makerspace, he was then able to blast away the paint, leaving behind the two concentric circles. A quick dip in acid, a bit of polishing with toothpaste, and he had a replacement board that was close enough to bolt up in place of the original hardware.

If you’d like to see the kind of hacks that take place above the stand, we’ve got plenty to get you inspired before next Christmas.

LED Christmas Tree Is Perfect Holiday Build

Soon the most wonderful time of the year will be upon us. Families all over the globe will gather together to exchange gifts, eat good food and enjoy some quality time with each other. For many, it will be the first time they’ve seen each other since the last holiday season. For us hackers –  this translates to a time we get to talk about ourselves and show off a little about what we do. Been taking it easy this year? Have no hacks to talk about? Well, it’s not too late! Break out the soldering iron and whip up the perfect conversation starter – an LED Christmas tree!

[Gumix] took a handful of those flickering LEDs and a step down DC-DC converter to make his simple but elegant tree. No microcontroller here… no code is running. As soon as power is applied, the flickering LEDs do all the work to create a visual delight.

Flickering LEDs have been the focus of a few hackers. They’re basically LEDs designed to flicker like a real candle. [cpldcpu] hooked a scope to one and guessed that a linear shift-register was responsible for the randomness behind the flickering, which would be confirmed several months later.

Be sure to check out [Gumix] LED tree and the video demonstration below.

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Touch Panels Make This Christmas Tree Interactive

The city of Liverpool, famously known as both the home port of the Titanic and the birthplace of The Beatles, also seems to have a thing for interactive public art installations. Witness this huge interactive Christmas tree that can be played by passersby.

The display in the city’s busy Williamson Square was commissioned by a municipal business group and built by [Adrian McEwen]. The idea was to adorn the 10-meter natural tree with large geometric ornaments covered with Neopixel strips. [Adrian] documents the build process in some detail, including that fact that over 170 meters of WS2812b strips went into the ornaments for the tree. While the strips themselves at IP68 rated, the connections needed when attaching them to the custom-made frames were not, and that had to be overcome with ample application of heat-shrink tubing. OctoWS2811 adapter boards were dangled about the tree to control the lights and connected together with garlands of Ethernet cables. Pressure sensors were used to control the lights when the EMI from the beefy power supplies needed to run everything proved too much for the original touch sensors. After a lot of bench testing and a few long nights working with the city crew to hang the display, passing Liverpudlians can now play the tree and enjoy the Christmas season.

Would you rather a smaller display for your own Christmas tree? This somewhat hyperactive indoor light show might be what you’re looking for.

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Must-Have Overkill Christmas Tree Lights

The yuletide fire is out, so we’re starting to receive this year’s Christmas hacks. [Chris] sent us his awesome video-mapped tree lighting hack. His project made clever use of a bunch of cool tools, so even if you’re not thinking forward to next December, it’s worth a look. Still images don’t do it justice; check out the video below the break.

The end result is an addressable string of WS2812B LEDs connected up to a Raspberry Pi Zero that can display a video image even though it’s wrapped around a roughly cone-shaped (pine) object. But this is actually more impressive than you’d think at first; how would you map a flat image to a string of LEDs wrapped around a tree?

[Chris]’s solution was to write a routine that lit up the LEDs in a unique pattern and then detected them using OpenCV and a webcam, making the mapping directly. He then samples images from a video at exactly the points where the pixels are located on the tree, and sends this data out to the LEDs.

The basic framework here should transform fairly easily into a generic image-mapping procedure with randomly located LEDs, so we think it’s a hack that’ll outlast the season. And because it runs on the Pi Zero, everything is in Python so it’d be a good project for beginners to replicate. However, the code section on the project page still lists it as coming soon. We hope so!

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Deck the Halls with a Raspberry Pi Controlled Christmas Tree

You know the holiday season is getting close when the Christmas light projects start rolling in! [Osprey22] is getting a jump on his holiday decorations with his Christmas Tree light show controlled by a Raspberry Pi. Yes, we know he could have done it with an Arduino, or a 555, but the Raspi makes for a convenient platform. With a WiFi module, code changes can be made remotely. The Raspberry Pi’s built-in audio interface also makes it easy to sync music to flashing lights, though we’d probably drop in a higher quality USB audio interface.

[Osprey22’s] Raspberry Pi is running his own custom python sequencer software. It takes an mp3 file and a sequence file as inputs, then runs the entire show. When the music isn’t playing, the Pi loops through a set of pre-defined scenes, changing once per minute.

The hardware itself is pretty straightforward. The Raspberry Pi controls 8 solid state relays through its GPIO interface. 8 strings of lights are more than enough for the average tree. [Osprey22] topped the tree off with a star made of wood and illuminated by a string of 25 WS2801 RGB LED pixels.

Click past the break to see [Osprey22’s] tree in action!

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Fubarino Contest: Home Automation and Candle Flicker

fubarino-contest-christmas-tree-flickering-led

Here’s a set of holiday themed contest entries:

With a home automation system already in place, and considering the time of year, [Thom] chose to use his Christmas tree lights as the contest easter egg. When he uses his smart phone to set the fifth channel of the lighting controller to a 50% duty cycle it causes the string of lights to mete out the Hackaday web address as a series of dots and dashes. You can find the code here (DOC).

[Jacques] offers up a flickering LED as the host of his hidden easter egg. When you short the two leads of the LED for a little bit it forces the PIC 10F200 into a different mode that then flashes our URL in Morse Code. Have a look at the assembly file. His implementation was based on the reverse engineering we saw recently.


This is an entry in the Fubarino Contest for a chance at one of the 20 Fubarino SD boards which Microchip has put up as prizes!

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