Introducing the DICE CLOCK, shown here displaying the time in several different modes.
The time is displayed as pips on a dice; a pair of which are used for hours, minutes and optionally, seconds.
Simple, elegant, cheap and, above all, HACKABLE!
I have been playing with a new WiFi module that has recently come onto the market – the ESP8266 Serial WIFI Wireless Transceiver Module – that I found on eBay for about $4. This unit promises a lot and at this price is clearly a bargain if it delivers!
For those of you familiar with buying Arduino-related products on eBay, you probably would have seen a slew of cheap Arduino Nano boards (specifically the V3.0 ATmega328 16M 5V) being sold ($4 vs. $7.50).
So, what’s the catch?
Well, instead of the more common FTDI (FT232) chip, these modules include a CH340G USB interface chip, which is apparently much cheaper. Now, while the FT232, and specifically the FT232R, can throw driver errors (see this post for discussion), the CH340G requires a specific driver. I found the driver online although there were only Chinese instructions. However, installation is very straight-forward (on a Windows 7 (64 bit) machine, at least.
HERE’S MY DISCLAIMER…
I cannot attest to the quality of the download files. I have tried it, successfully run a Microsoft Security Essentials scan and it does not trigger any issues with virus protection. Please proceed at your own risk!
Click here for the driver software
Before connecting the Nano to your USB port:
That’s it… Cheap Nanos for all!
If you’ve been following some of my most recent posts (and I hope you have!) you will have seen several different clock designs. While they are quire different, they share several things in common – namely being built on an Arduino platform, incorporating a DS3231 Real Time Clock (with battery backup) and driving some number of addressable LEDs.
While I have built prototypes using the UNO, Nano and Pro Mini Arduino boards, I needed a more cost-effective solution. I designed a PCB to take an Atmega328 and its associated components, the RTC module and a 6-pin header for a removable FTDI USB interface module (only required to download software). While this is a very simple design I added headers for all analog and digital pins. I created the schematic and PCB routing using the free Fritzing software. The software is pretty intuitive and comes with a large library of pre-defined components, although I did find it challenging to create and edit new components. Nevertheless, I’ll use it again and recommend it to others.
I read a message on a local bulletin board that mentioned Dirty Boards, a Hong-Kong based low-cost, no-frills PCB manufacturer. I uploaded the boards’ design files (more on that later) and 3 weeks later (and $24 lighter) I received 12 (not the 10 promised) boards. Excellent!
A couple of weeks ago I received an “FT232R driver installation failure” notification when connecting a USB cable to one of my FTDI boards (see below) that I use with Arduino Pro Mini boards and discrete Atmega328 chips. As this had been working previously, not surprisingly, I immediately concluded that the hardware had failed and put the unit aside. Later the same day, I tried to upload some new software onto one of my Arduino Nano boards and received the same message that the “FT232R” USB drivers for the board had failed to load. Ah ha! Something was afoot!