Sunday, March 27, 2011

Weekend in Paris...

I wish.

This was another well spent weekend, inside, soldering. Lots of soldering, mostly LEDs.
I never built a LED matrix myself from discrete LEDs. (I actually started one for the "Word clock" on, but never finished it.) I always took "for granted" (not literally; I paid for them) the 8x8 LED matrices or the LED displays from Sure Electronics. But this weekend I truly understood why the German-made (?) QlockTWO is as expensive as it is. Not only because of the design but also because of the amount of labor involved.

To cut through the chase, I started assembling the ClockTHREE. It's got 160 RGB LEDs organized in a matrix of 16x10. For those not familiar, ClockTHREE is an initiative by Justin and Anool to develop a better (multicolor, programmable) and open-source version of the above-mentioned QlockTWO.

This is how it looks so far (not finished yet, still waiting for a few components to arrive).

A few first impressions on the hardware:
  • This is not your average project. Even though it may look like the "LOL shield" from a distance :), it is more than just soldering LEDs. Each RGB LED requires a bit of preparation (with the special wedge tool), then careful insertion and double checking with the multimeter. It is absolutely necessary to read the assembly instructions before starting soldering the LEDs.
  • The PCB, one of the biggest I have seen offered in a kit, looks very professional. It's nice to see the component values (for example, "10K" for resistor) in the silkscreen. The layout is very well balanced, with parts placed around the LED matrix display area, buttons and connectors accessible at the bottom.
  • There are a couple of surface-mounted ICs (the shift registers), which would require non-novice soldering skills. Note (from Justin): the actual kit will come with the SMDs pre-soldered on breakouts, which will allow for easy removal in case of testing/debugging.
  • The rtcBOB, compatible with the ChronoDot, could be used in other projects as well, since it is removable (and connected through headers).
As shown in the photo, the board is missing the last two rows of LEDs. They will be populated with single color 10mm white (or blue) LEDs.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Just bragging

This is in return to my more-than-modest contribution to ClockTHREE project on

Thank you, Justin and Anool! Keep up the great work!

And here are some parts for my next project, guess what it is.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Complete "Wise Clock 3" kit now available

The "Complete Wise Clock 3 kit", shown in the photo below, includes:

The main clock mode, "Quote" (hence the name "Wise Clock"), is shown in the video below.

Here is Wise Clock 3 running Pong as another clock mode:

Besides being an alarm clock, Wise Clock 3 has the following features:
  • ability to set the time, date and day from the buttons, in an intuitive and user-friendly way;
  • display a user-editable, personalized message (e.g. Happy Birthday John);
  • display the current date and the current temperature.
The software is published (open source) and available for anyone to modify and improve.

The hardware is compatible with Arduino IDE, and more accurately, is a clone of the Sanguino platform, using the same microcontroller (ATmega644P) and Arduino files.

  (US$120, free regular shipping to North America)

Related posts:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wise Clock 2 with Pong and other features

The latest release of the Wise Clock 2 software is now available for download.

It includes the following new features:
  • "Pong clock" (adapted to 16x24 display from Nick's version for 16x48 display);
  • ability to set the date (year/month/day) and day-of-week from the buttons (the "old" way of setting the clock through the file time.txt on the SD card is still there);
  • "Big clock", courtesy of Ruud;
  • display the temperature (for Duino644+ boards using the DS3231 real time clock).

The following animation (click on the photo) shows all menu options (displayed by pressing the button "Menu").

The existing attempt to a "user manual" still has valid information, so please browse through that too.

The software was compiled with Arduino IDE 21. After downloading it, the file should be unzipped in the folder "arduino21/libraries/". It is confirmed that both WiseClock2 and WiseClock3 software cannot co-exist in the same "libraries" folder.

In order to build, you will need the Sanguino files. Please refer to this post on the environment setup for the build/upload.

The code can handle both the red and the green 24x16 LED displays from Sure Electronics. The current default setting is for the green display. If you have the red display, comment out this line


in file HT1632.cpp.

Regarding setting the date, this is performed through the "DATE" menu option. The bottom half will show the date in the format YYMMDD. Move between the three by pressing the "Set" (middle) button. The flickering number indicates the current selection that gets incremented by pressing the "Plus" button. Note that the year (first 2 digits) will rollback after 50, so if you accidentally passed the current year (11), you will need to go all the way to 50, then back to 0, then to 11 again.

The day-of-week can be set through the menu "DAY". After the menu was selected (button "Set", the middle one), scan through the days by pressing button "Plus".

To save the settings, wait for the menu to timeout (after about 4 seconds after the last button press).

The display of the temperature is enabled/disabled from the menu options "TMP+" / "TMP-" respectively.

Other nice-to-have features on the TODO list:
- indicate special dates (e.g. friends' or family birthdays, anniversaries, holidays);
- automatic daylight-saving-time adjustment;
- chime at top and bottom of the hour.

Related posts:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

From the inbox

Nicole from "wg buettgen childrenhome" in Germany, emailed these photos of their projects inspired from this blog.

"we use y bookclock as a wall clock, in the morning we turn it and it shows the "todo rules" for the kids........great !!! only thing is we must write in a special type because in english they don't know the letters ä,ö,ü (ae,oe,ue)"

Impressive is the fact that these projects are not made from the kits. The "kids" used the schematics, explanations ans sketches found on this blog. So I am not really wasting my time after all :)

Nicole and kids, keep up the great work!