Monopoly in Lights

Enriching the Electric Company

Philosopher World

Well, I finally made the time to solder up one of the boards I ordered and, not too surprisingly, it didn’t work off the bat.  I noticed a flaw in the schematic as I was looking to see how everything should be wired up, and was able to fix that, but the overall fact remains that even with the fix, the board didn’t do its job.  So now, I have the long troubleshooting process to look forward to.  This will probably tell the tale of whether I actually finish this project.  This is the kind of setback that can really sap the desire to move forward, because you feel like you’re so close to a breakthrough, but suddenly get a roadblock set before you that may take weeks to clear.  It’s not like I’ve had a lot of time to devote to the project at all lately, so it’ll be interesting to see whether I can manage to solder on. (See what I did there?)

September 29, 2012 Posted by | Electronics | Leave a Comment


Got the PCBs in, but before playing with those, I finally had a chance to test some of the wireless communication bits.  Seemed like the XBees were set up to be as easy to use as possible, and that’s the experience I ended up having.  Did a little bit of digging to confirm what chunks of code I needed, but pretty quickly got it up and running.

The Netduino that I’ve been using all this time is still running the LED driver, and now has a countdown cycle that I can trigger with the on-board button which lights a number of LEDs, then turns one off each 1/4 second. I then added an XBee Series 1 to it using an Arduino shield, and put in a bit of code to also trigger the countdown cycle any time the XBee receives data.

That meant it was time to break out the Netduino Plus, hook up an XBee, and have it transmit a single character when its on-board button is pressed.  At first I worried it hadn’t worked, because it didn’t seem to respond to my first button press, but later presses worked exactly as desired.  Press button on one board, watch LEDs controlled by other board light up then die down.  Pretty dang cool.

Side note here is that this is the first time I’ve run the LED board off battery power.  Got a lot of flicker on them in this configuration, unfortunately.  That being said, it’s working on 4 AA cells, whereas the final is probably going to be running 4 D cells.  Hopefully that difference will help even out the power and make things shinier.  If not, I’ll have to spend more time figuring out the power solution than I’d hoped.

September 20, 2012 Posted by | Electronics, Microcontroller | Leave a Comment

A Waity Conversation

Well, waiting on the PCBs to come in.  Should be in by the time I get back from a trip over the next several days, so hopefully I can try playing with some things. I’ve also ordered up a few more components in an audacious plan I’ve come up with.  After looking into the wireless stuff more, I think that’s the way I want to go, so I now have some tiny transmitters and receivers, along with another microcontroller board.  I ended up getting a Netduino Plus for this half of the project since it already has an SD card slot built in.  I got a cheap SD card shield for use otherwise, but I don’t want to add too many external components to the system, as that uses up valuable I/O pins.  I’m optimistic that this will work out pretty well, but I’m also back into an area that I haven’t planned out quite as well as the previous bit.   I may need to spend some time sitting down again and planning things out a little more firmly.

Bah, planning.  Who needs that anyway?

September 8, 2012 Posted by | Microcontroller | Leave a Comment

I Don’t Want to Go on the Cart!

Things have been a little slow of late, but finally making a tiny bit more progress.  Finally figured out an issue I was having with the LED driver chips, namely that I was running them on 5V source but giving them 3.3V signals.  That caused the serial communication to work sometimes, but not always.  After adjusting the source voltage down to the 3.3V rail, it started working properly with multiple chips.  Given that, I’ve ordered some PCBs to see how I can do on actually wiring everything up.  If this goes well, I’ll have to start looking at the actual board and control housings, and figure out how to connect them.  My initial plan was a simple Cat-5 connection, but I’ve started looking at some wireless communication stuff that’s intriguing.  It’d be quite nice to not have the controls tethered to the board itself, and would really free the thing up to be set up however works best.  Will keep looking into possibilities.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Electronics | Leave a Comment