Marquee Clock Code Demo

It’s been a long time since I have been able to get back to this project but this week I have spent some quality time working on the software drivers for the APA102 RGB LEDs.

I started developing code on my F5529LP and a strip of 144 APA102 LEDs I picked up from eBay.

Once I figured out how to generate the proper SPI signals, the LEDs just came to life. The challenge then became a matter of writing code to do something intelligent with the LEDs.

MarqueeClock - 09Mar2016

Here is a video of a pattern demonstration:

Marquee Clock Pattern Demonstrations

Symon NetBright Marquee Display

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So, I was cruising eBay one day and I noticed this interesting display. It’s a Symon NetBright 32×120 Marquee display.



I wonder what I can do with it?

Have you been able to get one of these displays working?
Got any tips and tricks that you would like to share?
Send me a message and let me know.

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Marquee Clock Design – Step 1

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So, I says to myself

What does this silly Marquee Clock look like, Son?

Well, I figure that the clock ought to look like a real clock.  And what better way is there to look like something real than to rip the guts out of something real and put your own in it?

Hey! I’ve got some of these Ikea RUSCH clocks already hanging on my wall. They’re cost only $2 a piece. No loss beating on them, eh?

What does the new clock face look like?

I took some measurements of the white paper clock face that I carefully took off the clock. The diameter is 7.25 inches.  So I whipped something together in Altium to see what it looks like.

Now I am going to have to make a list of questions so that I can come up with a proper design spec.

Questions:

  1. LEDs
    1. What kind of LEDs will be needed?
    2. How many LEDs will be needed?
    3. Should it have 12 LEDs?
    4. Should it have 60 LEDs around the outer rim of the clock?
  2. Power
    1. What is the current consumption?
    2. Should the main source of power be a wall wart?
    3. Should the main source be a battery?
    4. What voltage do the LEDs operate at?
    5. How much current do the LEDs eat?
    6. Should the battery be:
      1. LiPoly,
      2. 18650 LiPo,
      3. 18650 LiFePO4 or
      4. 26650  LiFePO4?
    7. How will the battery get charged?
  3. Brains
    1. What microprocessor should be used?
    2. How many IO pins are required?
    3. Can the LEDs be driven by the SPI port alone?
    4. Will voltage level translation be required to talk to the LEDs?
    5. How much RAM is required?
    6. How much FLASH is required?
    7. Should the system have a battery backup for the RTC?
  4. Operation
    1. How will the time be set up?
      1. Buttons
      2. IR remote control
      3. WiFi
    2. Will the User want to animate the LEDs with custom patterns?
      1. How do you input the patterns?
      2. How do you activate the patterns?
      3. How do you automate the patterns?
    3. How will the User debug to the Unit?
      1. USB serial port?
      2. Wifi terminal session?
    4. What Communication protocol is used to talk to the Unit?
      1. 7-bit ASCII?
      2. 8-bit Binary?
      3. XML?

The circuit design will commence once the majority of these questions are answered.

 

In the meantime, I am going to hack something together as a proof of concept using a TI LaunchPad and some of these babies:


Let me know what you think. Send me your feedback.

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Introducing the Marquee Clock

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I was looking at my shiney new strip of WS2801B LEDs flashing away and I starting wondering

Would this make a cool clock?

So I grabbed my $2 Ikea wall clock, ripped the guts out of it and slapped the strip of LEDs around the backside of the plastic housing.

So, to answer the question, would this be a cool clock?

In my opinion, yes it would.

And thus was born …

The Marquee Clock!

Let me know what you think. Send me your feedback.

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The Rules of Debugging

As a Farmboy, an Electronics Engineering Technologist and an Electrical Engineer, I’ve been debugging things almost my entire life. It now seems like it is a way of life!

I can recall many times having this internal conversation:

What is wrong with this thing? What’s it supposed to do? Why isn’t it do that now?!

 

I’ve always known there was a thought pattern that I followed instinctually as I troubleshooted whatever I was working on. Whether it was a farm implement, a circuit board or a embedded software program, I followed the same pattern and methods every time. I accredit this process to Dad, to my training in school and to all practical experience troubleshooting busted things I encountered on the farm, in the lab or on the job.

So now, in the spirit of sharing knowledge, here is a list of debugging rules (as compiled by David Agans) that you can follow as you make yourself into a first class troubleshooter.

  1. Understand the system
  2. Make it fail
  3. Quit thinking and loo
  4. Divide and conquer
  5. Change one thing at a time
  6. Keep an audit trail
  7. Check the plug
  8. Get a fresh view
  9. If you didn’t fix it, it ain’t fixed!

 

Everybody likes a good story, right?  I will get to work and put my thoughts and experiences into words and iterate this article in public for you.

In the meantime, check out the debugging war stories that David Carney shared over at the Macroware Technology Blog.