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Archive for September, 2012


Arduino House Address

Lighted house addresses have, for some unknown reason, always caught my eye. I was originally going to put some LED’s and a photocell thing together and hang it out front. Course with an Arduino laying around and a fertile mind…well…

So, take an Arduino, DS1307RTC, ethernet shield, LED for testing and a 4×20 LCD and that started the ball rolling…


So why the ethernet? Well, the RTC has been known to lose or gain time so I put in the sketch the code to connect to an internet time server and update the time twice a day. Then I added in the code so the time check would know my time zone and if daylight savings time was in effect or not. Simple little setup but very accurate. Then I added the long and lat so I could calculate sunset and sunrise to control the house address. No simple photo cell for me…

For the house numbers I picked up some blue seven segment displays off eBay for about $8 each. They are 4″ high and you can see one below beside a standard 60 watt light bulb. Suffice to say these displays are easy to see from a hundred feet or more. They only come in blue LED so…if you don’t like blue..well…


I siliconed four of them together, adjusted the circuitry some more and this is what the test bed looked like:


There’s a 12VDC power supply, buck converter for the 5V for the Arduino, ethernet shield, RTC, LCD, relay shield (that never got used in the final version).

I was going to put in a dip switch set up so I could control the segments that would light up, but decided I’d mask off the ones not needed with tape and then hardwire the numbers. If my goal was to market these (which it’s not) then dip switches would be useful…:-)


I put the numbers in a box with a plexiglass front plate. In the daytime the address is easy to see…


I have to paint the box yet…I mounted the controls on the garage wall:


And finally this is what it looks like in the dark..BTW that LED is at 10% of it’s full brightness. If you crank it right up it will fry your eyeballs…


Because of the ethernet board, I can also access and control the lights from my wireless network plus tell if the garage door is open. All in all a very rewarding project and one well suited to an Arduino…


Dragonvale meets Arduino

Dragonvale is an iPad game that puts you in charge of breeding dragons for fun and profit (so you can buy things of course)…The game is well supported by Backflip Studios and they are constantly coming out with new dragons for you to breed all the time.

Breeding, however, is completely random when you start to trying to get some of the rarer dragons. And times for breeding can range from minutes to 48 hours. Of course, you tend to forget that you have an egg in the breeder, or nest. Yep, it’s a two stop process to get a dragon.

So here’s a standard breeder and a nest in game:

DV_Breeder.jpeg  dv_Nest.jpeg  

There’s also an Epic breeder island where you are supposed to have a better chance at breeding rare dragons…

Any way, what was needed was a timer or series of times so you could check the two breeders and the four nests at a glance…Enter the Arduino.

I used a 4 x 20 LCD, Arduino, and wrote the sketch to handle four count down timers which you could set from a keypad. Then it was a trip to the dollar store to get all the stuff to build my “island”.


Then paint it up somewhat (those are the breeders on the top):


Add in the Arduino inside the “island” and wire up all the LED’s (they’d flash when a timer had run down so you know something was bred or hatched):


And finally the finished project running (ticking?) like a top:


No two ways about it, games can be inspiring…


Pop Checker…

No, I don’t mean poking your father to see if he’s asleep or not…

With the Arduino and the Wiznet W5100 ethernet board, I decided to write something that would check my email account. So I wrote a POP EMAIL checker that checks my email (the headers only) every 60 seconds. My main computer checks the email every 10 minutes.

Now why would I want to do this? Since I sell stuff and I’m not always sitting at the computer, I might be in the rec room watching TV and get an order. Since buyers want almost instant registrations I like to keep things moving smoothly. So my POP checker sits down stairs and if I get an email from eBay or PayPal, I have an LED that starts blinking once a second. It stays blinking until I press the reset button on the bread board (it’s not shown in the picture).

Really, I kind of built this simple rig and wrote the sketch to see if I could do it and learn more about the Arduino. I had no idea that I’d really use this thing as much as I do. It’s proved to be extremely useful to me and I actually don’t have any intention of ever taking it apart.

The other difference is that this is an Arduino MEGA (with 256K of ram). Finicky little beast to upload to (got a lot of errors) but it works perfectly.

Arduino POP3 Checker.JPG

The left LED comes on when there is more than one email on the server. The next two LED’s are for eBay and Paypal respectively.

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll even put it in a project box…


Ard_Nerd Oh

It all started off innocently enough.

My daughter in-law called and asked if I knew anything about a device called an “Arduino”. Interestingly enough I’d read a little bit here and there about the devices but I sort of wrote them off as a poor mans SBC (single board computer). None the less, being the electronics nerd that I am, I told her I’d look it again and see if anything was new, not that I actually had any idea what was “old”..but..well.. you know..

I’d seen brief glimpses of the Arduino pop up in my own daily work over the last year. Someone had ripped the guts out of an FCB1010 and put in an Arduino for a brain. Initially I didn’t really get the “why” but that was “then”. Now I know why. I’d also seen articles and pages written about what guys were doing with these things. Naturally that appealed to my tinker side. Big time…

So I figured what the heck. I ordered a knock off Arduino from Asia and a few things to plug into it, just to keep the cost down.

When it finally arrived, like 99.9% of the rest of the first time Arduino owners I plugged it into my Mac, and uploaded the “Blink” sketch. Then like 99.6% of the first timers, I modified the delay() timing and re-uploaded. Finally probably like 99.1% of the first timers, found that “blink” is designed to hook you like a hungry bass. Because it did. The wives comment? “What is it with guys and LED blinky lights?”

I admit I never wrote a line of C code in my life. Years of Z80, 68K assembler for sure. Some Forth for a while. Years of what was ZBasic, which then grew to FutureBasic and then Real Basic that became Real Studio.

But C? Heck, I couldn’t make a lick of sense out of the syntax. So I downloaded some books and started reading about Arduino and C. And started learning. Syntax. I at least had the advantage that I knew programming concepts. Variables (local/global), loops, logic, and so on. So really what I spent the most time learning was the syntax. And it’s so weird and alien from what I normally use I at least don’t mix the two up. Too often…

I should also mention that the Arduino is very well documented but its “user created” libraries are like a dogs breakfast. I spend a lot of time reading the “.h” files to get the commands I can use for whatever library I’m trying to use. There’s a couple of rather pathetic iPad apps that have an Arduino reference but still lack the commands from the various libraries. Probably one of the negative sides of open source. To the credit of some of the authors, they write FABULOUS documentation on how their libraries work, even some with examples. My hat is off to you guys and you know who you are.

I eventually hooked up the parallel LCD I got and added the DS1307 Real Time Clock. Because real time is cool to me. I modified a few sketches I found, got it working the way I wanted and sat back and bathed in the LCD blacklit glow as time counted on.


Of course that wasn’t the end of it. I ordered more bits and pieces, real Arduino’s (not the knock offs) and put together a “kit” for my DIL (she loves the cool factor but struggles to find the time):


So from those humble “blink” beginnings I’ve progressed to this..


Yep…just like a hungry bass…