Easy and Cheap DIY LED RGB Garden Glowies

In a few weeks, we’ll have a new patio.  Like any new project I get into, I have to introduce a flavour of something DIY and electronic into the mix.  Like most guys, I’m planning for sound.  However, I’m also adding custom LED lighting to light up the armour stones, deck and pergola areas.  As part of the patio job, we are also planning on having a variety of plants and shrubs around the patio.  I figured it would be neat, for when we are entertaining, to have LED RGB glowies that I could place in each of the shrubs/plants and have a RGB glowing garden as an entertainment piece. Read More >>

BT Bot Control & IPCam Bot – Android App to control Arduino Robots

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BT Bot Control is an Android application that allows you to remotely control a micro controller-based robot using Bluetooth (i.e. Arduino).  It also allows you to (optionally) view a video stream from an IPCamera mounted to your robot.  This could be any type wireless IP camera or phone that has the ability to broadcast a video stream/images to the web.  Example Foscam, Ai-Cam etc.  If you are looking to control your robot over WiFi, check out WiFi Bot Control.

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Remote Shutdown using a Foscam FI8918W

As a parent of 2 children and an obsession with cramming my hobbies in whenever I can, I decided to devise a means to remotely monitor my CNC (a ShapeOko) and also CNCControl1provide the ability for me to remotely shut it down if things go arwy during a milling session.   I picked up a Foscam FI8918W IPCam at a ‘car boot’ sale (I love that name) when I was visting in England this past summer.  For 5 quid nonetheless!  I don’t think the folks selling it had any idea what it was worth.  When asking the woman the standard “does it work” question, I knew I was going to get it regardless of my knowing that there was a good chance it would not work.  Well, my luck prevailed, as the unit worked flawlessly with the exception that the smell of smoke was embedded in the plastic (would hate to see the previous owners lungs!). Yuk.   Oh, and I also had to pickup a North American plug adapter – for all about$2 from DX.

My original plan was to pickup up an Arduino Network shield and use the camera to watch the CNC via custom webpage using streaming video and then, with some buttons, call the Arduino to trigger a servo to hit the Esc key on the CNC keyboard (which in turn would trigger Mach3 to shut down the CNC).  There were a few problems with this. 1) I have to wait for the Network shield to come from China (about a month or so), and I did not want to run a lengthy network cable from my router in the basement into the garage.  An Arduino WiFi shield was also out of the question as they are costly.

Then it hit me..  The Foscam has the ability to remotely trigger the IR LEDs to go on or off.    I managed to trace the signal wire to a wire on the mainboard that goes HI (1.5V) when the IR LEDs are on, and LOW (0v) when off.  Voila!  Tapping this signal then bringing it out to an ATTiny85 with a bit of simple code, I could control a servo connected to the keyboard..  So, onto the Arduino IDE, and out came the soldering iron.  A few hours later, here we are.

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Juke – Custom Paddle Shifters – Phase 1

Not satisfied leaving well enough alone, I decided to add custom paddle shifters to my 2012 Nissan Juke.  For those that aren’t in the know, the Juke has a sport shift mode where you can ‘bump’ the auto shift unit up or down to up/down shift.  ..but that’s no fun…   I wanted paddle shifters, and since there is no stock option, I decided to go the custom route.  Before jumping into the project, the main hurdle to overcome was to figure out how to add the paddles to the steering wheel.  In this case, the custom milled paddles I’m making would be mounted to the backside of the steering wheel and had to be wireless (for obvious reasons).  I am aware that this is not conventional and that many paddles are mounted to the steering column, but I wanted them on the steering wheel.  A suggestion led me to a RF wireless remote (pic) that fit the ticket.  The plan is to embed the remote into the backside of the steering wheel, mod the buttons for ‘A’ and ‘B’ by adding wires out to the individual custom made paddle units.

Phase 1 – enable functionality for controlling manual mode shifting using an RF remote.  This will be discussed here.

Phase 2 – Custom CNC milled aluminum paddle shifter units mounted to the steering wheel. Stay tuned

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Red Light Camera Alerter

I had the chance to play with some new components – namely the Adafruit Monochrome 128×32 OLED display and the Adafruit UP501 66 channel GPS receiver. As I was pondering ideas of what to build, I thought that it would be neat to be alerted when approaching a red light camera.  In my local area (Southern Ontario), there are currently about a hundred or so of these cameras around the GTA.  However, it appears that new legislation may see this number grow much larger.   This is more of a proof of concept project to me than it is useful as, a) I don’t intend on trying to run any red lights, and b) there are only about 1 or 2 of them within the area.   However, it was fun to build and tweak to make it useful.  Read on…

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Arduino Temperature / Humidity Sensor

The projects I do tend to fall in one of two buckets – either proof-of-concept (so I can learn new stuff) or items that have some sort of functional use.   The need for this project came about when my wife was prodding me about the humidity in the house and whether our humidifier was doing it’s job correctly.  Most people would just go out and buy a temp / humidity sensor and be done with it.  However, if you have a look around here, you will see that I don’t fit that mold.  Instead, I decided to build an accurate temp / humidity sensor with a Sensiron SHT11 to read the values, a RBBB Arduino kit to process everything and an Adafruit 128×32 OLED to display the results – all wrapped up in… LEGO!   Read on for more…

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Adafruit Monochrome 128×32 OLED graphic display

I recently got my hands on the Adafruit Monochrome 128×32 OLED graphic display for my next project.  This is a 128×32 OLED B+W graphics chip and it’s tiny!  Don’t let its size fool you however. Being an OLED display,  text/graphics contrasts well against the black background.  My initial intent for this display was to use it to provide information to you GPS Red Light Camera project.  It’s job would be to provide key information such as; the distance to the next red light camera location, the direction of the vehicle (and possibly direction of the camera later on), speed, # of satellites, as well as Lat and Log.  However, after some dry runs, I found that reading the information was too difficult if it was sunny out.  Of course the obvious holds true that I should not be taking the time to read this sort of info while driving anyhow.  The intent was more of an info display for viewing while stopped etc.   However, the purpose of this write-up is not to discuss the merits of these things, but rather the quality of this display. More info on the project will come soon.

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Review – AVAGO – ASMT-LW60 – LED Fibre Optic Strip

I’d say that LEDs have  been one of the fastest spreading new technologies in the last 10 years.   Consider now that most cars are being manufactured with LED lighting for all the turn/marker/brake/DRL lights.  They have even made an impact with home lighting – even though people are being gouged with inflated pricing (IMHO) from places like Home Depot, Rona, Lowes etc..  This will change as LEDs become mainstream… Just wish I had invested in those companies who first got on the bandwagon!

Anyway, I decided to go away from the typical LED strip and try something new.  The Avago ASMT-LW60’s are classified as LED strips, but I am not sure I agree.  They are unique in that they use fibre optics to provide the illumination while a tiny SMD LED is buried inside each end of the light unit.

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Review – OPTEK – Warm White LED Strip

Lately, I’ve been toying around with different LED strips for my projects.   I’ve had the chance to use a variety of LED strips (both RGB, and single colour types).  They come in many flavours – water proof, 3m-backed, silcone encased, sealed, non-sealed, exposed etc.   All have their advantages / disadvantages.

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Review – Optek LED Strip

After completing my Juke footwell / glove box LED mod, I decided that the footwell LEDs just were not bright enough.   I came across these Optek 3 LED white lights from Newark that have just the right white light and luminosity.  These LED bars are built tough.  The LEDs appear to be set in a hardened liquid plastic.  Wires run in one end and out the other – it seems that these strips were built as a series set of 3x LED bars and cut to order.  I ordered 2 and both were joined together.  Before installing them above the footwell area, I had to do something about the white.   After masking off the LEDs,  I gave them a few coats of Plastidip to make them black.


I am impressed with the end result.  I was after something that would provide nice white light when I am looking for something down in the footwell area during the dark…  They cast a bright wide swath of light to illuminate the entire footwell area.  They also cast enough light to see under the seats as well.

Illumination with the Optek 3x LED Bar:



The original LED illumination:

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