Investing in the lights

A few days later after ordering a few things off of eBay, there’s now more to come. I did a little experimenting on the fountains yesterday and, well, I broke things.

IMG_0001One of the things I’m changing with the fountains is the power supply. I’m upping it to a 9v power supply. To make it easier to move around the project or to swap the power supply again, I’m using these 9v clip connectors. IMG_0003I started taking apart the fountains to set up my experiment. I will move the current-limiting resistors for the fountain LEDs from the mini-breadboard to a soldered perfboard. I’m also planning on soldering the shift register boards directly to the perfboard since these LEDs will be running off of shift registers the next time you see them. I still need to draw up a plan to confirm the number of pins I need and things like that.

IMG_0001Anyways, on to that experiment! There were a few of things I wanted to test. I had some ideas on new nozzle designs, as well as “piping” designs where the pump would be placed away from the actual nozzle outlet. The last thing was to see if the 9v power supply would play nice with my current setup.

The picture above is of a new nozzle design that takes cues from the experiment I did with the last light show. The opening is slightly larger this time and the flow is pretty decent. The flow gets a little rough as the height is increased or if the water is aimed directly straight up. Those are the limits to using the cheap materials and pumps I’m using. The easy work around is to not aim it directly up, which looks good enough for me.IMG_0002About the “piping” design… I was thinking about trying to isolate the pumps from the turbulent water caused from the water falling pretty much directly onto the water going into the pump, which does cause the pumps to fail at times. I started playing around with the straws I have and I think this is something I’ll be trying out the next time. Of course, the picture above is literally just playing around with water. You’re not going to see random straws sticking up from the pool in the show. 😛IMG_0003This was the aftermath of those piping experiments. I’m pretty satisfied with my short experiments. To sum up, the pumps will be at the back of the pool and the nozzles positioned away from the pumps using the straws. They’ll sport that new nozzle design (though I’m still working on being able to reproduce them consistently). Now about that 9v power supply…IMG_0004It seems as though I’ve burned out three of the 5 transistor circuits. I used 2N4401 transistors because I already had them when I was building the circuit for the fountains. I’ll be moving to mosfets as I’ve always wanted to.

Those mosfets have been ordered on eBay. I also ordered some more of these 5x7cm perfboards, and five more water pumps. I’m not so sure we’ll see all 10 water fountains in the next show (but anything is possible, right?). I mostly ordered them as spares.

So that’s it for now. The project is again on the backburner as I wait for things to come in. Thanks for reading!

What’s in my cart?

Whenever I buy things on eBay, I tend to buy in waves, ordering a few things at a time. I was looking to get some new tweezers since I’ve been working with SMD components recently and wanted one with larger grips on the component. I ended up picking up four things in total last night.


I have two tools for picking up components. One is a needle nose pliers and the other is a tweezers with sharp pointy ends (cannot compute plural dilemma with “pliers” and “tweezers” :/). I find them both difficult to use when soldering small SMD components so I found this type of tweezers that has a better size and form for handling those small components. I hope that it’ll make SMD soldering a little more pleasant.

minibMy Canon point-and-shoot camera had pretty budget packaging. It didn’t include a data cable so I’ve been borrowing one all this time. I decided to finally get one for dedicating to the camera. You can’t go wrong for $0.99!

microusbI decided to also pick up a new cable for my phone. I don’t know about you, but I hate those USB cables that come with phones nowadays that are thing, have glossy ends, and no tension/strain support. The one that came with my Samsung phone stopped working so I stripped it and started using it for powering projects through via USB power. I have a couple other USB cables that I can use with my phone, though one is too long (for my Logitech mouse) and the other is a bit too short (came with a USB battery, I think). This one looks like it will be just right at 1 meter and I like the grippy ends.

ledsAnd here’s the relevant segue! I did a little tinkering with my Light Show project and showed off a little show snippet that I posted on Instagram. In that one, I was playing around with my new 74HC595 Shift Register boards that allow some PWM control using the Output Enable pins. I’ve never used these WS2812B LEDs before because I’m cheap and have been using “dumb” 5mm LEDs for the Light Shows up to now. The plan is to replace the LEDs on the “towers” of the current light show with these new WS2812 LEDs.

With the attention back on the Light Show, I also want to do more experimenting with the fountain pumps. For starters, I will be swapping out the current 5v power supply with a 9v power supply. The pumps are rated at 6v so we’ll see what happens. I also want to work on a better nozzle design. I believe I was getting somewhere with the secondary nozzle design on the holiday light show, so for the next try I will make the openings slightly bigger and see where that takes me. With these changes, I don’t expect to rush into an actual choreographed show as I have in the past. The focus will be on one thing at a time. Stay tuned!

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Moving on

It’s kind of depressing when you think about it, but my ESP8266 project is held up by two little switches I need that are somewhere in the mail. It’s going to sit off to the side until those switches come, so I thought I’d shift gears and give you a quick preview of what’s coming up.

RF Transmitter and Receiver

IMG_0001I’ve never been much of a communications guy. Protocols and accommodating for noise and interference and all that has always been confusing/boring to me, but I seem to be tip-toeing toward it these days. I received two RF transmitter and receiver pairs in the mail today. I didn’t have a project idea in mind when I ordered them, but they’re so cheap that I figured it would be would be nice to have lying around if I did come up with something one day. I’m still drawing up a plan, though I think it’s only natural that I try to use that temperature sensor that was originally destined for the ESP8266 project. I haven’t done enough research to see what is and what is not doable with this pair so I can’t confirm anything just yet.

bbIn the ESP8266 project, I have three mini-breadboards that each have a main purpose on them: One for my AMS1117 power regulator, one with the sensors, and one with the ESP8266 module. I decided to try and combine two of them so I could free up one so I could use it to play with the RF pair. I managed to cram the AMS1117 and ESP8266 onto one mini-breadboard… As long as it still works, it’s fine. I hope that this project will be on a perfboard soon anyway.

74HC595 Shift Register Boards Rev B / Light Show 7

I hadn’t mentioned it before but I sent the next revision of my 74HC595 boards to get manufactured and they are on their way to me right now. I’m pretty excited to see how they turn out because they are my first manually routed board.

I’m also excited because it’s part of some upgrades I want done to the Light Show Project before I start programming a new show. These new shift register boards break out the Output Enable pin which allows for some PWM control. The backdrop will definitely have that, but I’m also considering having all LEDs in the project controlled by shift registers, including the fountain LEDs which have always been controlled directly from the Arduino. There are advantages and disadvantages to that but, either way, I plan on taking a close look at how everything is wired.

In addition to working on the wiring, I’m still looking for ways to make it even bigger. For every version of the show, I watch the show and pick out things that I want to focus on. What I realized with Light Show 7 is that it’s not designed very well to watch on a widescreen… We’ll see what comes of that.


Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more!

I found a bug!

IMG_0415I needed some shrink tube for the Light Show and I’m running low on solid core wire so I bought both this past Monday from RobotShop. I don’t normally buy from them unless I need a servo motor or some other Arduino peripheral ASAP. Since my deadline for the Light Show is coming up very quickly, I needed the shrink tube in hand so it’s there when I need it. I could always go to Sayal (big box electronics parts store) but transit fares is about the same as the shipping fee, and this bulk of shrink tube is a couple cents cheaper per foot so I went for it.

Anyways, being Cyber Monday when I ordered it, they threw in a Hexbug.IMG_0416It’s basically the consumer version of those toothbrush bots you attach a vibrator to. It’s more powerful than I was expecting.IMG_0418I’m not sure if I’d ever have a use for a vibrator motor in a project but I’d love to repurpose this thing eventually in a project.

That’s it for this package. I’m working on a Light Show update that should be out in the coming days so stay tuned!

More RGB LEDs!

As I mentioned in my last post, I ordered some things off of eBay from China. I ordered most of the things around the same time so they should all be coming in this week if there’s no delay through customs. Today, I got my RGB LEDs.IMG_0329I suppose you could build “1 Lamp” out of 100 RGB LEDs… 😉
IMG_0333I ordered 50 clear and 50 diffused RGB LEDs which were bagged separately and placed in a little blue box. The diffused LEDs will be used in the upcoming light show.

IMG_0336This was a quick test to see how they look against the material I will be using in the next light show. The one of the left is the clear lens LED and the one on the right is the diffused LED. It’s hard to get a good picture, but I can say that I’m satisfied with how bright they are.IMG_0338Here’s an updated picture of my LED container. I’ll eventually move out those 620Ω resistors to make room for more of the 220Ω resistors since I’ve pretty much transitioned to use 220Ω exclusively for LEDs. (The first ever batch of LEDs I ever ordered from China came with those 620Ω resistors so it was a while before I started using 220Ω.)

So that’s it! The rest of the things coming in are just some resistors, capacitors, and oscillators. They will be used to finish up my ATmeag328p Breakout Boards. I’ll probably make another New Parts post with all of the packages together. (New Parts refers to the blog category – Check it out on the sidebar!) I personally enjoy seeing components unpacked so I hope you like these posts. Thanks for reading!

The doctor is in

The USB Charger Doctor, that is.IMG_20141028_152728I went on a small eBay shopping spree, though it was mostly restocking some components like resistors, capacitors, and some RGB LEDs. The only interesting item in the mix was this USB Charger Doctor which reads out the voltage and current through a USB connection. I bought it because I’ve always been curious to see exactly how much current my devices were drawing. I tested the stock charger for my Nexus 7 (2012), the stock charger for my Samsung Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, and that battery pack I got from China. The results are all over the place, and I like that.
IMG_20141028_152420The voltage regulation of the two chargers and battery are not bad. It seems as though all three test subjects can sway +/-200mV with or without a load.

A bonus test was with my Powerocks 2600mAh battery. It’s of much better quality than the China battery pack in build quality, and as gives a very nice regulated 5V compared to the 5.08V (no load) output of the China battery pack.
IMG_20141028_152600 The current tests were what I was really interested in. I got some pretty fascinating notes out of it.

The picture above is my Skyrocket (phone) being charged. When I was doing this test, it would actually pull that 910mA only when the screen was on. It would drop down to around 400mA when I turned the screen off. I suspect it’s a current limit for the battery when it’s already charged to >90% which is what it was during that test. As I test it now with my phone around 70%, it draws a consistent 960mA regardless of whether the screen is on or not. The Samsung charger for my phone is rated at 1A so the charger is perfect.

As for the Nexus 7 charge test, it was pulling 910mA. I find that curious since the included charger is rated for 2A. Perhaps it’s a software limitation, or a change in the Nexus 7 hardware after the charger was already designed?

The current test for my China battery pack was the one I was most interested in because I wanted to know how much current it draws so I could use an appropriate charger to charge it. There’s no label for the input current, unlike the Powerocks battery, but it’s not like I’d put much trust in it if it was labeled anyway. Using the Doctor, I see it pulls a constant 700mA so any one of my 1A chargers would suffice.IMG_20141028_185028It was pretty neat to see what was going in with the batteries and chargers I’ve been using for years. I’ll still have to play around with it more as my tests have been pretty quick and not very practical. I would totally recommend one of these USB Charger Doctors if you’re interested in seeing what your devices are drawing. Thanks for reading!

Mailbag: Stocking up for the future!

I put in an order last week at Dipmicro because they were having a sale. Some of the sale items were things that will be used on my second board design so I decided to pick them up now. Here’s what I got:IMG_20140806_155026The next board will be a voltage regulator that has two fixed output voltage levels: 5v and 3.3v. It will be using the AMS1117 voltage regulator. The board will also need a diode for reverse polarity protection on the input and some capacitors to filter the input and output voltages. I’ll have more on this PCB soon.

I also picked up a couple shift registers, an Attiny85, some male-female jumper wires, some right angle headers, some 100K potentiometers, and some small signal diodes. I like to stock up on these kinds of things, just in case…

IMG_20140806_211530~2They included a business card which is something new. They opened a physical store in Niagara Falls, Ontario not too long ago. Too bad I don’t live near there.