Watch Life Tick Away, One LED Segment At A Time

In the grand scheme of things, a single human lifetime is a drop in the bucket. Even if we don’t like to acknowledge it, we all know the meter is running so to speak. Yet you’re still squandering your precious time on this Earth by reading Hackaday instead of doing something constructive. Of course nobody is burning up more time on this site than those of us who are writing it all, so don’t feel too bad.

To remind us that life is fleeting, [Dries Depoorter] has designed the Shortlife: a device that counts down until your expected departure date. Before you get too excited, it can’t predict the future. The gadget is programmed with the vital statistics for the individual user, and data provided by the World Health Organization is used to calculate how much of your estimated life expectancy has already elapsed. Some would find this information depressing, while others will no doubt look at it as a source of inspiration. Us? We just think its a slick piece of gear.

The Shortlife is made up of a custom PCB mounted to a marbled block of recycled plastic. On the board there’s an ATmega328 microcontroller, a MAX7219 LED driver, and of course the red LED segment displays. Three of them are the classic seven count, while the rightmost display sports fourteen segments for a bit of added accuracy. All the user has to do if they want to watch their remaining time slip away is plug the device into a USB power source and set the current time.

We’ve seen similar mortal countdown clocks in the past, but the Shortlife certainly brings a certain level of elegance to the idea. Plus we also like the fact that you’re just a line of code or two away from having the display tick down to some other date in the future when that whole existential crisis kicks in

UV Phone Sanitizer Shows The Power Of Modern DIY

Editor’s Update: According to the schematic for this project, SST-10-UV-A130-F405-00 (PDF) LEDs are used which produce 405nm UV-A light. The manufacturer, Luminus, does not recommend that part for disinfection or sterilization. Luminus sells UV-C LEDs for that purpose, generating 275-285nm. After publication the part number used was changed to and American Opto L933-UV265-2-20 which is a UV-C LED producing 265-278nm.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on the hacking and making scene, though it hasn’t been all bad. Sure, shipping on average is taking a lot longer than we’d like when ordering parts, but otherwise being stuck at home has given many people far more time to work on their projects than they would have had otherwise. In some cases, it’s also been a reminder of just how far we’ve come in terms of what the dedicated individual is capable of producing within the confines of their own home.

As a perfect example, take a look at this UV sanitizer box built by [Md Raz]. Looking for a way to quickly and easily kill germs on smartphones and other small devices, he used the considerable capabilities afforded to the modern hacker to produce a professional-looking device in far less time than it would have if he had to outsource things like PCB manufacturing or injection molding.

Inside the 3D printed enclosure is an array of SMD UV-C LEDs that, according to the manufacturer’s specs, will destroy viruses and bacteria in 5 minutes. To make sure the LEDs are given enough time to do their job, [Md] is using an ATtiny85 to control the countdown and a seven segment display to let the user know how much longer they have to wait. All the electronics are held on PCBs produced with a BotFactory SV2 desktop PCB printer, but for those of us with somewhat more limited budgets, a mill or even a modified laser engraver could be used to produce similar boards.

With everything going on, there’s understandably been increased demand for germicidal lights. But unfortunately, some unscrupulous manufacturers are trying to take advantage of the situation. Being able to select the LEDs for this device based on their specifications is arguably just as important as how quickly it was produced. Though we’d still advise a position of “trust, but verify” when it comes to UV-C.

Viewing Countrywide Weather At A Glance

For his latest project, weather display aficionado [Richard] has put together a handsome little device that shows the temperatures recorded at nine different airports located all over the British Isles. Of course the concept could be adapted to wherever it is that you call home, assuming there are enough Internet-connected weather stations in the area to fill out the map.

The electronics are fairly minimal, consisting of a NodeMCU ESP8266 development board, a few seven segment LED display modules, and a simple power supply knocked together on a scrap of perfboard. As you might expect, the code is rather straightforward as well. It just needs to pull down the temperatures from an online API and light up the displays. What makes this project special is the presentation.

As [Richard] shows in the video after the break, the key is a sheet of acrylic that’s been sanded so it diffuses the light of 42 LEDs that have been painstakingly installed in holes drilled around the edge of the sheet. Combined with a printed overlay sheet, this illuminates the map and its legend in low-light conditions. It’s a simple technique that not only looks fantastic, but makes the display easy to read day or night. Definitely a tip worth mentally filing away, as it has plenty of possible applications outside of this particular build.

With his projects, [Richard] has shown himself to be a master of unique and data-rich weather displays, and a great lover of the iconic seven segment LED display. While his particular brand of climate data overload might not be for everyone, you’ve got to admire his knack for visualizing data.

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Bask In The Glory Of This 336 LED Digit Display

[Chris Combs] recently took the wraps off of an incredible art piece that he calls Road Ahead which uses 336 seven segment LED digits to create an absolutely gorgeous display. With a piece of smoked acrylic to slightly diffuse the orange glow of the LEDs, the end result has a distinctively retro look that we’d gladly spend all day staring at.

For those looking to dig a bit deeper, [Chris] has put together some very impressive documentation over on Hackaday.io that goes into plenty of detail on how he designed and built this beauty. From the design of the PCBs that carry all of the 0.3″ SMD displays to the custom software running on the Raspberry Pi 3 that powers it, there’s no technical stone left unturned.

According to the build log, this is the second version of the display. The first one was housed in a rather attractive wooden enclosure, but as [Chris] explains, that was precisely the problem. He wanted something that looked cold and unfeeling as the nearly 340 digits flashed away with potentially ominous intent. So he ditched the wooden case for a powder coated steel one that looks more like the front panel of a mainframe than something you’d pick up at the craft store.

Another interesting point explained in the write-up is how the Python software is designed to treat the hardware as a contiguous graphical display rather than just an array of independent digits. Grayscale images can be reproduced on the by using PWM to adjust the brightness of each segment’s corresponding “pixel”; though admittedly it takes a bit of imagination to see the intended image with a resolution this low.

This project reminds us of the incredible LED hexdump display we saw not that long ago, down to the PWM trickery for squeezing “graphics” out of these exceptionally non-graphical elements. With any luck, perhaps these are the opening shots in an arms race to see who can build the largest array of multi-segment LED displays.

Waking Up To Classic Soundgarden Screaming

In a project that was really only slighly less creepy before the singer’s untimely death in 2017, this alarm clock built by [Rafael Mizrahi] awakens its user to a random selection of Chris Cornell’s signature screams. Not content to be limited to just the audio component of the experience, he contained all of the hardware within a styrofoam head complete with a printed out facsimile of the singer’s face.

An Arduino Uno coupled with a seven segment LED display provides the clock itself, which is located in the base. There’s no RTC module, so the Arduino is doing its best to keep time by counting milliseconds. This means the clock will drift around quite a bit, but given that there’s also no provision for setting the time or changing when the alarm goes off short of editing the source code, it seems like accurate timekeeping was not hugely important for this project.

Audio is provided by an Adafruit VS1053, which contains a microSD card full of MP3 samples of Cornell’s singing. This is connected to an X-Mini portable capsule speaker which has been installed in a hollowed out section of the foam.

Unconventional alarm clocks are something of a staple here at Hackaday. From ones which physically assault you to mimicking sunrise with OLEDs, we thought we had seen it all. We were wrong.

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Really Big Digital Clock Finds Use For Really Big 3D Printer

What does it take to make a really big digital clock? If [Ivan Miranda]’s creation is any gauge, it takes a really big 3D printer, an armful of Neopixel strips, and a ton of hot melt glue.

It looks like [Ivan]’s plus-size clock is mainly an exercise for his recently completed large-bed custom 3D printer, in itself a project worth checking out. But it’s a pretty ambitious project, and one that has some possibilities for enhancements. Each of the four seven-segment displays was printed separately, with a black background, translucent white for the segments, and recesses for five RGB LEDs each. The four digits and colon spacer are mated together into one display, and an ESP8266 fetches the time from a NIST server and drives the segments. What’s really interesting about [Ivan]’s projects is that he constrains himself to finishing them each in a week. That explains the copious amount of hot glue he uses, and leaves room for improvements. We’d love to see this display built into a nice walnut case with a giant red diffusing lens. Even as it stands it certainly makes a statement.

We’ve featured other outsized seven-segment displays before, but few as big as this one.

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Raspberry Pi-Powered Back To The Future Time Circuits

Here’s something that’s a little late to celebrate the fact that all the events in Back to the Future have happened in the past, but that’s what time machines are for, right? [Deater] created Pi-powered time circuits and a flux capacitor. He might not have a DeLorean, but he does have the equipment to turn a DeLorean into a cool car.

The ‘time circuits’ shown on-screen in Back to the Future actually weren’t very complex; the times were just cutouts with lights and gels; no real electronics wizardry necessary. Of course the BttF DeLorean has since been remodeled and refurbished with time circuits that look and act the part, and [Deater]’s time circuits have everything you would expect: a display of the destination, current, and last time, sound effects, numeric keypad, flux capacitor, and a speedometer.

While it doesn’t simulate the time circuits from the movie exactly, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The movie time circuits were colored gels, and wouldn’t exactly be practical for a Raspberry Pi-based prop. It’s a great build, and one that would look great in either a ’98 Nissan Altima or a DeLorean

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