Monthly Archives: October 2014

Word Clock v2

Of all of the clocks that I’ve designed and made, the WORD CLOCK is by far the one that gets the most attention.

Wall Clock v2

Wall Clock Version2 including the words JUST, BEFORE and AFTER, and AM and PM

While the original design had a complex arrangement of an LED driver board and many (one for each word) custom LED boards, I decided to simplify the design and use hybrid driver/ RGB LED “strips”.These LED strips (cut into strips for a total of 118 LEDs) are housed on the face-side of a double-sided enclosure made out of copper-clad laminate (see below). The face-side contains the LED strips and the baffles to cut out light bleed from one word to the next, while the back-side is used to house the electronics and power connections.

Bare enclosure

Bare enclosure

Enclosure with some LED strips installed

Enclosure with some LED strips installed

LED strip testing






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MTK3339 chipset GPS module

I have recently been intrigued by some really innovative geo-caching and GPS-enabled Arduino projects, and it got the creative juices flowing. I read up on various GPS modules on the market and settled on a GPS module called the “Ultimate GPS Breakout v.3″ that sported the highest receiver sensitivity (-165 dBm), and the fastest read data rate (10 Hz), all packaged in an Arduino-friendly (5V interface) module. Adafruit has a GPS library for this chipset and a whole suite of example code to get you going quickly.

GPS module

“Ultimate GPS Breakout”

The module just arrived and it’s up and running… Way to go!

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MIT App Inventor 2…

In order to remove all of the mechanical methods to set the time, colours and light intensities of my clocks, I’ve been playing with Bluetooth as a simple wireless interface to my Android phone or, indeed, any laptop. So far, I have been using the BlueTerm terminal emulator app to simply read status and write settings. However, I wanted something a little flashier and came across the MIT App Inventor 2 software development environment.

Woo hoo!  What a neat tool!

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Bluetooth – perfect for setting clocks!

Over the past couple of months I have been playing with a Bluetooth module that I purchased some time ago from eBay. I purchased the small 3.3V Bluetooth module and a carrier interface (with level shifters) to make it easier to use on a breadboard and interface to the 5V Arduino boards.

HC-05 BlueTooth module

HC-05 Bluetooth module

HC-05 BlueTooth Carrier Interface

HC-05 Carrier Interface






After soldering the units together, rather than just play with the unit, I started to mess with the AT-command interface and appear to have set it to some weird and unresponsive state. Finally, my patience got the better of me and I put it aside.

Last night, I decided to play with it again and got it working, sending data to and receiving data from an Arduino Nano. Bing!  A light went off. I would use Bluetooth to allow me to use my Android cell phone to  control all of the functions of my wall clock, including setting its time. Yeah, baby!

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Wood finishes?

If you are wondering why this topic is here, remember that half of “WoodUino” contains wood!

There have been several recent posts about the choice of the “right” wood finish for projects – in particular, for an interesting clock project that sports an inlayed image of a rooster on a walnut veneer background. Here are some of my comments regarding the use of Danish oil, my preferred finish.  I thought that having these together in one post may be useful.

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The right RTC battery…

As someone who loves to create new ways to show and tell the time, maintaining accurate time is a necessity. In the world of Arduino-based designs, small battery-backed up Real-Time Clock (RTC) modules that keep accurate time and date have become plentiful, cheap and are now sold by countless vendors on eBay. Over the past couple of years, one design and form-factor appears to have won out – this is the combo board with the DS3231 RTC and 24C32 32kb (4kx8) EEPROM memory. This module has a simple IIC interface to read and write time and date registers and access the on-board memory. The module also features a battery holder for a 2032-type battery to provide the small amount of power necessary to keep the clock running when there is no external voltage. A quick look at the reference design – taken from the DS3231 datasheet – shows the battery connected directly to the RTC… Fine and dandy, I hear you say!

Real Time Clock

Popular DS3231 RTC module

DS3231 reference design

DS3231 reference design

But all is not well in RTC land… (da da da duh!)

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Windows 7 will not go to sleep…

One of those days when stuff just needs fixing. Arrg!

While I usually use my laptop with an external keyboard and mouse, I realized that my laptop keyboard didn’t work at all – Nothing – Dead. And no amount of pounding, prodding and blowing made any difference!

I checked and I could get a $30 replacement on eBay but I was not convinced that the keyboard itself was dead. So, with manual in hand (and yes, sometimes I do read manuals), I removed the keyboard to find the very fragile keyboard connector loose. Several layers of carefully placed duct-tape strips and all’s well again… EXCEPT… each time I put the Windows 7 machine to sleep, it woke up again. Huh?

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