LED Clock Strips Time Down To Pulses Of Light

Nietzsche said (essentially) that time is a flat circle — we are doomed to repeat history whether we remember it or not. This is a stark and sobering thought for sure, but it’s bound to dissipate the longer you look at [andrei.erdei]’s literal realization of time as a flat circle.

A clock that uses nothing but RGB LEDs to give the time sounds confusing and potentially cluttered, but the result here is quite pleasing and serene. We figure it must be the combination of brighter LEDs to represent 12, 3, 6, and 9, and dimmer LEDs for the rest of the numbers, plus the diffusion scheme. The front plate is smoky acrylic topped with two layers of frosted black window foil.

Inside the printed plastic ring are two adhesive RGB LED strips running on an ESP8266 that ultimately connects to an NTP time server. The strips are two halves of an adhesive 60 LED/meter run that have been stuck together back to back so that the lights are staggered for seamless coverage. This sets up the coolest thing about this clock — the second hand, which is represented by a single pink LED zig-zagging back and forth around the ring. Confused? Watch the short demo after the break and you’ll figure it out in no time.

Now that times are strange, you might be more interested in a straightforward approach to finding out what day it is. The wait is over.

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Keep The Family At Bay While Working From Home With This WiFi Do Not Disturb Dongle

Those who have been suddenly introduced to the wonderful world of working from home over the last couple of weeks may have experienced a bit of culture shock. Even with today’s open floorplan workspaces and less-formal expectations, work isn’t home. That’s especially true with young children in the house, who’ll probably respond to seeing mommy or daddy working from home much differently than [Bob] from accounting would at the office.

To smooth out the rough spots of transitioning to a full-time work-from-home setup, [Brian Lough] threw together this web-enabled “do not disturb” beacon for his office door. The original idea was to simply provide a red light and a green light to let the rest of the family know when [Brian] would be in a meeting, but in an example of scope creep that turned out to be useful, [Mrs. Lough] rewrote the spec to include a button on the family-facing side so that she could alert him that his presence is requested.

[Brian] went through a couple of prototype using both an ESP32 and an ESP8266. We were rooting for the ESP32, which [Brian] was leveraging for its built-in capacitive touch input. That would have eliminated a physical button, but alas, the ESP8266 made it into the final build, along with lots and lots of Blu-Tack. The video below details the build and the code, and features an adorable Irish lesson as a bonus.

Yes, a simple text message would probably have satisfied the specs, but where’s the sport in that? Then again, as [Brian] points out, this build seemed oddly familiar for a good reason.

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The Corona Clock

Schools are closed here in Germany until after Easter vacation, and that means that our almost-six-year-old son Max is staying at home with us. The good news is that my wife and I work from home anyway, so it’s not too stressful as long as he can look after himself for eight hours per day. The bad news is that there’s no way a kindergarten kid can take care of himself for such long stretches, and we don’t want to just park him in front of the boob tube. At least there’s two of us.

The new stay-at-home life has required some adjustment, but for at least the first five days (and counting) it’s working out pretty darn well. One trick: my wife came up with the idea of a visual schedule to help Max divide his day up into kindergarten-sized chunks, and then we added an LED strip behind it to turn it into a linear clock of sorts. And we did it with stuff we had lying around the house.

Granted, it’s not a super deep hacky-hack, and some of you out there could probably get it done with a handful of 555 timers. But it was quick, gets the job done, and heck, with NTP sync, it’s the most accurate kiddie clock in the world! So those of you out there who are stuck like we are, trying to balance childcare and working from home, here’s a quick project that can increase familial harmony while giving you an excuse to order more LED strips.

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Sort The Rainbow With An Algorithm Machine

When you’re trying to learn how an algorithm works, it’s not always easy to visualize what’s going on. Well, except for maybe binary sort, thanks to the phone book. Professor [thatguyer] is a computer science teacher who wanted a way to help his students visualize the process of algorithms and at the same time, get a grasp on their resource cost.

The Algorithm Machine can demonstrate 8 different search and sort algorithms using two 100-count strips of RGB LEDs — one to represent an array of integers, and one to create indicators pointing to the integers under scrutiny.

This functional beauty is totally interactive, too. Once the user chooses the values and the algorithm and starts the process, they can speed it up or slow it down with the rotary encoder, or pause to discuss and start again with that slick triangular play button. We particularly like the control button wiring harness [thatguyer] created to keep everything neat and hot-swappable.

This iteration uses 3D printed face plates to give the LEDs shape, but in an early version, [thatguyer] cut and sanded a ton of circles out of brass tubing, and folded as many triangles cut from disposable baking pans. The world could use more teachers as committed as [thatguyer]. This really seems like a handy teaching aid for these concepts, and we wish we’d had one in class to play around with. Here’s your algorithm for watching the demo: click break, press play, enjoy.

If you’re still confused, there are other ways to understand algorithms through visualization. Failing all that, just watch these Hungarian folk dancers work out various algo-rhythms.

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Vinyl Cut Your Way Into An Edge-Lit Glass Display

The chances are you’ve seen the myriad cheap copyright-infringing edge-lit acrylic displays from Chinese suppliers everywhere on the internet, and indeed, etching acrylic with a modest CNC laser cutter has become easily viable to a lot of us in more recent years. However, if you want to kick things up a notch, [Michael Vieau] shows us how to build a plaque from scratch using not acrylic, but rather etched glass to make the finished product look that much more professional.

There are a few different steps to this build and each one is beautifully detailed for anyone who wants to follow along. First, the electronics driving the WS2812 lights are designed from scratch based on an ATtiny microcontroller on a PCB designed in Fritzing, and the sources necessary for replicating those at home are all available on [Michael’s] GitHub. He even notes how he custom-built a pogo-pin header at the end of the USBASP programmer to be able to easily use the same ICSP pinout in future projects.

But since a lot of you are likely all too familiar with the ins and outs of your basic Arduino projects, you’ll be more interested in the next steps, detailing how he milled the solid wood base and etched the glass that fits onto it. The process is actually surprisingly simple, all you need is to mask out the design you want through the use of a vinyl cutter and then pouring some etching solution over it. [Michael] recommends double-etching the design for a crisper look, and putting everything together is just as simple with his fastener of choice: hot glue.

Much as there was an age when Nixie displays adorned every piece of equipment, it seems like ease of manufacture is veering us towards an age of edge-lit displays. From word clocks to pendants and badges, we’re delighted to see this style of decoration emerge, including in replacing Nixies themselves!

Addressable LED Strings In Your USB

WS2812Bs, or NeoPixels, or whatever else you call them brought full-color LEDs to maker projects a meter at a time in recent years. Hooked up to a microcontroller, they make creating vibrant, full-color glowables a cinch. They won’t work on their own though, and a some point you want to ditch the dev board and let the blinking stand on its own two feet. Enter the USB LED Otter.

This small square of PCB lets you plug an LED strip directly into a USB port. The PCB itself has four traces on the back that mate with any USB port, and three pads for soldering the strip’s ground, 5 Volt line, and data. An STM32F072 microcontroller serves as the brains of the operation, packing plenty of horsepower and full compatibility with USB 2.0.

Code is flashed to the chip over USB using Device Firmware Upgrade (DFU) and once written the strip can then be driven by jamming the string into a suitably powerful USB wall charger. The man behind the build, [Jan Henrik], has mentioned that Open Pixel Control could be implemented but that may be an exercise left to the reader.

It’s a useful little tool, and one that promises to do even more with a little more development. Whipping up a few boards should be an easy task for anyone with a reflow oven and a free weekend. Oh, and if you’re tired of the WS2812? There’s other addressable LEDs out there, too!

Icosahedron Glows With The Best Of Them

Glowables come in all shapes and sizes, and we’re always keen to see the multitude of different ways hackers find to put great masses of LEDs to good use. [cabrera.101] wanted to get in on the action, and whipped up a rather flashy icosahedron.

The build uses high-density 144-LED-per-meter strips for the edges, with 60-LED-per-meter strips used for the tubes that connect to the stainless steel ball in the centre. An Arduino Mega controls the Neopixel strips, with the wiring carefully planned out to ensure all LEDs have adequate power and signal to operate correctly. Not one to skimp on the juice, [cabrera.101] outfitted the rig with a 5V, 60A power supply – something that would have seemed ridiculous in 1992, but barely raises an eyebrow today.

It’s a build that would make a perfect whatchamacallit for a science fiction film. The reflections of the edge lights on the central sphere are particularly scintilliating. If you’re new to the realm of glowables, it’s easy to start – there are plenty of tools to help, too. Video after the break.

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