2011

07-10-2011: Finished soldering up the boards for my new lights this year. Channel count is going to explode this year, from 132 to 772.
06-20-2011: Hi All, Sorry for the incredibly long time since my last post, work has been a big distraction. Also spent some time working on some Android apps that kinda flopped. (I still think they are cool, check out www.yellatyourtv.com and www.yourlivepoll.com and download the corresponding android apps from the market. These apps allow for real time polling of any live event from potentially 100,000+ people.) While these haven't gone anywhere yet, it has provided some valuable experience that will help me expand my Christmas Light Show finder app. All of these apps are free. Anyways, so I am finally getting the itch for Christmas Lights again. The Smart String controllers finally came in. Still have to purchase the actual lights, here is a video of them in action. Also needed a fairly large power supply. (Each 128 count strand can pull 3.9 amps at 12V and I have 3 strands) Which leads me to a nice simple hack I did tonight to save a few bucks. My father in law was nice enough to give me a 13.8V fixed power supply to drive these LEDs. Problem was, the controller and lights were designed for 12V. After asking around on the forums I was directed to not run the lights over 12V, so I kept trying to figure out how to lower the voltage. A ham radio guy at work told me these types of power supplies typically have a trim pot inside. So I decided to carefully open it up. Found the trim pot, but unfortunately it was only able to lower the voltage to 12.88V. After some looking around on the internet I could not find a schematic for the exact model, but did find a webpage saying these types of power supplies are fairly typical and all have the same general schematic. It also had an example schematic. After looking at this schematic for a while I realized that if I can change the range of the trim pot I could change the output voltage and not negatively impact the circuit. Also checked the data sheet on my specific supply to confirm it was rated to output 12V. (It actually had a very wide rating of 2V to 37V.) So using this and proding around with a multimeter I figured out that all I needed to do was add one resistor. Thankfully I had to raise the resistance to achieve a lower output voltage, if it had been the other way around this would not have worked as you cannot have a resistance lower than zero. So once I figured this out I realized that I didn't even have to remove the control board. All I did was de-solder one leg of the trim pot, bend it back, and free style solder in a 330 ohm resistor. Wallah a 12V power supply capable of powering 5 strands of Smart Strings. In the end this hack had one other good side effect... When I opened up the power supply I found a loose paper clip floating around inside. YIKES!! Now that could have caused a real fun spark on that big capacitor board, lots of area to contact.
03-19-2011: Star is finally off the roof, next year I am totally redesigning the base. 03-08-2011: Hi All 2011 already here. It will be an interesting year for us. We have to move towards the Stewartstown/Shrewsbury area. I got a new job down near Aberdeen. Good job, really horrible commute right now. (Leaves little time to get that darn star off the roof.) So with the new job this year, selling a house, buying a house and still getting distracted with other projects, I am not sure exactly how big a show I will have in 2011, much less where that show will even be. But here is the thinking right now. Rebuild the star base for the new house. (I have a much better idea this time, so that the base is smaller and will fit on any roof. Really wish I had thought this thru last year.) Build at least a minimal front end for the Christmas Light Controller and Christmas Light Finder apps. (I had high dreams, but then reality set in and I am just not sure I can maintain the required interest level and time requirement.) I will be purchasing 3 X 128 RGB LED Smart Strings this year. For those that don't know, these strands consist of 128 Reg Green Blue LEDs and are individually addressable, AKA I can make any node any color. These strands are mega cool but really expensive (for what they are, the Smart Strings are really cheap, but Really cheap RGB LEDs are way over the cost of my typical incandescent. RJ has done a great job getting the price down.) (Katrina stop reading now!) Total cost to drive 3 strands will probably be $400 bucks, yikes. So I am just going to get a few strands to play with this year. Maybe wrap a white tree with them! These 3 strands alone will be over triple my entire channel count for 2010. Other than this I don't see myself doing much, honestly I don't know how big the show will even be. But that is one good thing about moving, a fresh neighborhood where people will be mega excited to even see 16 channels.