Posts with «holiday hacks» label

A Very MIDI Christmas Lightshow

Christmas light displays winking and flashing in sync to music are a surefire way to rack up views on YouTube and annoy your neighbours. Inspired by one such video, [Akshay James] set up his own display and catalogued the process in this handy tutorial to get you started on your own for the next holiday season.

[James], using the digital audio workstation Studio One, took the MIDI data for the song ‘Carol of the Bells’ and used that as the light controller data for the project’s Arduino brain. Studio One sends out the song’s MIDI data, handled via the Hairless MIDI to serial bridge, to the Arduino which in turn sets the corresponding bit to on or off. That gets passed along to three 74HC595 shift registers — and their three respective relay boards — which finally trigger the relay for the string of lights.

From there, it’s a matter of wiring up the Arduino shift register boards, relays, and connecting the lights. Oh, and be sure to mount a speaker outdoors so passers-by can enjoy the music:

Be sure to set up a secondary power source for the relays, as drawing the power from the Arduino is likely to cause big problems. If your preferred digital audio workstation doesn’t have a virtual MIDI instrument, [James] used loopMIDI for the desired effect. He has also provided the code he used to save you some trouble if you’re building this during an invariably hectic holiday season.

Of course, you could always plug your lights into an IoT power bar and have fun that way.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Holiday Hacks

Ceiling Tiles Give it Up for Christmas LED Ornaments

The great thing about holidays is that they always seem to require some shiny things. The modern version of shiny things seems to be LEDs and advances in technology being what they are, we now have amazing programmable LEDs. And programmable LEDs mean animated shiny things! Years ago, [wpqrek] made an LED ornament using discrete components. This year he revisited his ornament and decided to make a new, animated, RGB ornament.

[Wpqrek]’s build is based around five WS2812b strips connected to an Arduino Pro Mini. The ornament itself is a thick styrofoam ceiling tile cut into a star shape with a red-painted wooden frame. Decorated with baubles and stars, the LED strips start in the center and end up at each point in the star. With each strip connected in parallel to the Pro Mini, [wpqrek] used the Arduino Light Animation library to handle the animations.

[Wpqrek] says the result is too big for his tree, so he uses it as a stand-alone ornament. Perhaps using lighter materials would help — or getting a bigger tree! Check out the Arduino lighting controller or the Trompe-l’oeil Menorah for more holiday hacks.

Filed under: Holiday Hacks

Arduino Lighting Controller With Remote Twist

The time for putting up festive lights all around your house is nigh, and this is a very popular time for those of us who use the holiday season as an excuse to buy a few WiFi chips and Arduinos to automate all of our decorations. The latest in this great tradition is [Real Time Logic]’s cloud-based Christmas light setup.

In order to give public access to the Christmas light setup, a ESP8266 WiFi Four Relay board was configured with NodeMCU. This allows for four channels for lights, which are controlled through the Light Controller Server software. Once this is setup through a domain, all anyone has to do to change the lighting display is open up a web browser and head to the website. The creators had homeowners, restaurants, and church displays in mind, but it’s not too big of a leap to see how this could get some non-holiday use as well.

The holidays are a great time to get into the hacking spirit. From laser-projected lighting displays to drunk, animatronic Santas, there’s almost no end to the holiday fun, and you’ve still got a week! (Or 53!)

Filed under: Holiday Hacks
Hack a Day 16 Dec 03:00

More Blinky = More Better – The WS2812FX Library

The WS2812 is an amazing piece of technology. 30 years ago, high brightness LEDs didn’t even exist yet. Now, you can score RGB LEDs that even take all the hard work out of controlling and addressing them! But as ever, we can do better.

Riffing on the ever popular Adafruit NeoPixel library, [Harm] created the WS2812FX library. The library has a whole laundry list of effects to run on your blinkenlights – from the exciting Hyper Sparkle to the calming Breathe inspired by Apple devices. The fantastic thing about this library is that it can greatly shorten development time of your garden-variety blinkables – hook up your WS2812s, pick your effect, and you’re done.

[Harm]’s gone and done the hard yards, porting this to a bevy of platforms – testing it on the Arduino Nano, Uno, Micro and ESP8266. As a proof of concept, they’ve also put together a great demonstration of the software – building some cute and stylish Christmas decorations from wood, aluminium, and hacked up Christmas light housings. Combining it with an ESP8266 & an app, the effects can be controlled from a smartphone over WiFi. The assembly video on YouTube shows the build process, using screws and nails to create an attractive frame using aluminium sheet.

This project is a great example of how libraries and modern hardware allow us to stand on the shoulders of giants. It’s quicker than ever to build amazingly capable projects with more LEDs than ever. Over the years we’ve seen plenty great WS2812 projects, like this sunrise alarm clock or this portable rave staff.
As always, blink hard, or go home. Video after the break.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Holiday Hacks, led hacks

Halloween Doorbell Prop in Rube-Goldberg Overdrive

[Conor] wired up his 3D-printed coffin doorbell to an array of RGB LEDs, a screaming speaker, and a spinning skull on a cordless screw driver to make a “quick” Halloween scare. Along the way, he included half of the Adafruit module catalog, a relay circuit board, and ESP8266 WiFi module, a Banana Pi, and more Arduinos of varying shapes and sizes than you could shake a stick at.

Our head spins, not unlike [Conor]’s screaming skull, just reading through this Rube Goldbergy arrangement. (We’re sure that’s half the fun for the builder!) Smoke ’em if ya got ’em!

Start with the RGB LEDs; rather than control them directly, [Conor] connected them to a WiFi-enabled strip controller. Great, now he can control the strip over the airwaves. But the control protocol was closed, so he spent a week learning Wireshark to sniff the network data, and then wrote a Bash script to send the relevant UDP packets to turn on the lights. But that was not fancy-schmancy enough, so [Conor] re-wrote the script in Go.

Yes, that’s right — a Go routine on a Banana Pi sends out custom UDP packets over WiFi to a WiFi-to-LED-driver bridge. To make lights blink. Wait until you see the skull.

The plastic skull has Neopixels in each ping-pong ball eye, controlled by an Arduino Nano and battery taped to the skull’s head. The skull is cemented to a driver bit that’s chucked in a cordless drill. A relay board and another Arduino make it trigger for 10 seconds at a time when the doorbell rings. Finally (wait for it!) an Arduino connected to the doorbell gives the signal, and sets a wire high that all the other Arduini and the Banana Pi are connected to.

Gentle Hackaday reader, now is not the time for “I could do that with a 555 and some chewing gum.” Now is the time to revel in the sheer hackery of it all. Because Halloween’s over, and we’re sure that [Conor] has unplugged all of the breadboards and Arduini and put them to use in his next project. And now he knows a thing or two about sniffing UDP packets.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Holiday Hacks, misc hacks

HC-SR04 Isn’t the Same as Parallax PING))) But It Can Pretend to Be!

“It’s only software!” A sentence that strikes terror in the heart of an embedded systems software developer. That sentence is often uttered when the software person finds a bug in the hardware and others assume it’s going to be easier for fix in software rather than spin a new hardware revision. No wonder software is always late.

[Clint Stevenson] is his own hardware and software guy, as are most of us. He wanted to use the less expensive HC-SR04 ultrasonic rangefinder in a prototype. Longer term he wanted to have the choice of either a Parallax PING or MaxBotix ultrasonic sensor for their better performance outdoors. His hardware hack of the SR04 made this a software problem which he also managed to solve!

[Clint] was working with the Arduino library, based on the Parallax PING, which uses a single pin for trigger and echo. The HC-SR04 uses separate pins. Originally he modified the Arduino library to accept the two pin approach. But with his long term goal in mind, he also modified the HC-SR04 sensor by removing the on-board pull-up resistor and adding a new one on the connector side to combine the signals. That gave him an SR04 that worked with the single-pin based library.

We’ve seen Parallax PING projects for sensing water depth and to generate music. These could be hacked to use the HC-SR04 using [Clint’s] techniques.

[Arduino and HC-SR04 photo from

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Holiday Hacks, software hacks

Display Your City’s Emotional State with Illuminated Snow

[Hunter] wanted to do something a bit more interesting for his holiday lights display last year. Rather than just animated lights, he wanted something that was driven by data. In this case, his display was based on the mood of people in his city. We’ve seen a very similar project in the past, but this one has a few notable differences.

The display runs off of an Arduino. [Hunter] is using an Ethernet shield to connect the Arduino to the Internet. It then monitors all of the latest tweets from users within a 15 mile radius of his area. The tweets are then forwarded to the Alchemy Sentiment API for analysis. The API uses various algorithms and detection methods to identify the overall sentiment within a body of text. [Hunter] is using it to determine the general mood indicated by the text of a given tweet.

Next [Hunter] needed a way to somehow display this information. He opted to use an LED strip. Since the range of sentiments is rather small, [Hunter] didn’t want to display the overall average sentiment. This value doesn’t change much over short periods of time, so it’s not very interesting to see. Instead, he plots the change made since the last sample. This results in a more obvious change to the LED display.

Another interesting thing to note about this project is that [Hunter] is using the snow in his yard to diffuse the light from the LEDs. He’s actually buried the strip under a layer of snow. This has the result of hiding the electronics, but blurring the light enough so you can’t see the individual LEDs. The effect is rather nice, and it’s something different to add to your holiday lights display. Be sure to check out the video below for a demonstration.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Holiday Hacks

The Tale of Two Wearable Game Boys

We’re well past the time when Halloween costume submissions stop hitting the tip line, but like ever year we’re expecting a few to trickle in until at least Thanksgiving. Remember, kids: documentation is the worst part of any project.

[Troy] sent us a link to his wearable Game Boy costume. It’s exactly what you think it is: an old-school brick Game Boy that [Troy] wore around to a few parties last weekend. This one has a twist, though. There’s a laptop in there, making this Game Boy playable.

The build started off as a large cardboard box [Troy] covered with a scaled-up image of everyone’s favorite use of AA batteries. The D-pad and buttons were printed out at a local hackerspace, secured to a piece of plywood, and connected to an Arduino Due. The screen, in all its green and black glory, was taken from an old netbook. It was a widescreen display, but with a bezel around the display the only way to tell it’s not original is from the backlight.

Loaded up with Pokemon Blue, the large-scale Game Boy works like it should, enthralling guests at wherever [Troy] ended up last Friday. It also looks like a rather quick build, and something we could easily put together when we remember it next October 30th.

[Troy] wasn’t the only person with this idea. A few hours before he sent in a link to his wearable Game Boy costume, [Shawn] sent in his completely unrelated but extremely similar project. It’s a wearable brick Game Boy, a bit bigger, playing Tetris instead of Pokemon.

[Shawn]‘s build uses a cardboard box overlaid with a printout of a scaled-up Game Boy. Again, a laptop serves as the emulator and screen, input is handled by a ‘duino clone, and the buttons are slightly similar, but made out of cardboard.

Both are brilliant builds, adding a huge Game Boy to next year’s list of possible Halloween costume ideas. Videos of both below.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Holiday Hacks, nintendo gameboy hacks

Laser Projected Christmas Lights


It’s August, and of course that means that it’s time for retail stores to put up their Christmas decorations! But seriously, if you’re going to do better than the neighbors you need to start now. [Joey] already has his early start on the decorations, with a house-sized light show using LED strips and a laser projector that he built last Christmas.

What started off as a thought that it would be nice to hang a wreath over the garage soon turned into a laser projector that shows holiday-themed animations on the front of the house. The project also includes a few RGB LED strips which can match the colors displayed by the projector. The LEDs are powered from a custom-built supply that is controlled by a laptop, and the program that runs on the computer averages the colors from the video signal going to the projector which lights up the LED strips to match the projected image. This creates an interesting effect similar to some projects that feature home theater ambient lighting.

The only major problem [Joey] came across was having to account for the lasers’ motion in the projected patterns, which was causing the computer to read false values. This and a few other laser-related quirks were taken care of with a bit of programming to make sure the system was functioning properly. After that it was a simple matter of attaching the projector to the roof and zip-tying the LED strips to the eaves of the house.

The projector is weatherproof, has survived one harsh winter already, and can be up and running for any holiday. With Halloween right around the corner, this could be a great way to spice up some trick-or-treating. Check out the video after the break to see this setup in action.

Filed under: Holiday Hacks

Infrared Controlled Remote Firework Igniter

With Independence Day just around the corner, American hackers are likely to find themselves blowing things up in the name of Independence. It’s all great fun but it can also be dangerous. The standard ignition method of “use a lighter and run away really fast” is not exactly safe. Instead of lighting your fireworks the old-fashioned way, why not follow [Facelesstech's] example and build your own infrared controlled remote igniter?

The first step was to decide how to actually ignite the firework fuse. [Facelesstech] had seen others use a car cigarette lighter for this purpose and he decided to follow in their footsteps. He started by removing the cigarette lighter from his own car and pulling it apart. Only one component was needed for this hack. The main heating element is a small disk with a “stem” on the end. If you apply 12V to the stem and attach the outer edge of the disk to ground, the igniter will quickly become hot.

[Facelesstech] originally thought he could just solder some wires to the device. However, the heating element gets so hot that the solder just melts every time it’s turned on. He then got creative and drilled a hole in a small block of wood that fits the heating element. The element is bolted into the wood and the bolt is used as a conductor for the electrical power.

The heating element is powered via a 12V relay. The relay is controlled by an Arduino Nano. The Nano allows two modes of operation. With the first mode, you simply press a button and the Nano will start a five second timer. The idea is to give you enough time to run to a safe distance before the firework is ignited. This isn’t much different from the old-fashioned method, but it does give you a slightly extended fuse. The second mode is where the project really shines. The Nano is also hooked up to an infrared receiver. This allows [Facelesstech] to press a button on an old television infrared remote control to active the igniter. This is a clever solution because it allows you to get to a safe distance without having to run a long wire. It’s also simple and inexpensive. Be sure to watch the video test of the system below.

[Thanks Dale]

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, Holiday Hacks