Pixel Strand Light Show

With all the snow we got last night I had plenty of time to write some code in peace. I just received my RGB LED strand with the WS2811 drivers built right in and I just had to play with them.


I gotta say, these LEDs with the drivers built in them are way cool. The circuitry and programming is way easier. And it’s very economic. I got this strand of 60 LEDs for $20 including shipping.


Circuity is dead simple. All the strand needs is 5V, Gnd, and Data. Since the strand isn’t too long, I just used the 5v from my arduino. If I had a longer strand or more strands I would have used a separate power source. IMG_3842

After I had some fun playing with the NeoPixel Library from adafruit making rainbows and such, I needed to take it to the next step: music controlled.

The circuit required for music control isn’t as simple, but it’s still not a heck of a lot when it comes to component count or cost.

  • 33 pF cap
  • 100 nF cap (2)
  • 10 nF cap
  • 200 K resistor
  • MSGEQ7 Chip


From there it’s all programming. I made a few different modes, and I currently have it so it cycles through all the modes. The code is here, free to download.

I won’t go into the specifics of the program , but the basics of the code is reading in the values of the MSGEQ7 chip in the readAudio() method and then using that data to create fancy blinking lights on the strand.

Videos of it in action are at the bottom. I apologize for the horrendous quality: I used that particular speaker since it didn’t need any amplification or additional circuitry, and who would have guessed phone camera’s aren’t particularly good at capturing blinking LEDs.  Guess you’ll have to build one yourself to see how it looks!


Good Old Fashioned Mixtape


This is something I think my generation is missing: mixtapes made by friends. You can show friends new music, or show someone you care. Anyhow, my girlfriend and I are really big fans of Perks of Being a Flower, and in there Ponytale Derek gives a mixtape, so I thought I would make a modern version of this.

IMG_2026[1] IMG_2027[1]

Hardware for this one was pretty easy. Components include an old cassette tape and an old flash drive. Remove the flash drive from its housing. Measure it, and file away a spot for it on the cassette tape. Taking apart the cassette tape is easy, its just four screws located on each corner, and one screw in the middle. Just be careful, there’s a lot of little parts that you can accidentally lose and the cassette tape won’t look right upon reassembly.

Bonus points for adding a personal engraved message. I wrote it backwards on the inside so it looks nicer and feels smooth on the outside.


As for making an actual mixtape, I used Audacity and imported some of my favorite songs and recorded some commentary from me. And since a flash drive (mine was a 4gb) can hold a lot more than a cassette tape, I included the original audio files, some pictures, and a movie.

New Life to Old Radio

My mother recently recovered her father’s old radio. It’s from either the 40’s or even prior to that. It’s beauty inspired me to bring new life to it.


Being that I’m an electronics novice, I didn’t know how to repair the old electronics. It looked like the plug had disintegrated and at least one of the vacuum tubes looked shot. On top of that, the inners of it looks like a mess of electronic components. I gave up on trying to revive the old, and gutted it for the new. I didn’t want to make a whole large project, so I took the easy way out on all of the electronics.

IMG_2041[1] IMG_2042[1] IMG_2043[1]

After removing the old electronics, I installed a car speaker from my old car, which fit rather well. For an amplifier, I used a car amp, which also fit snug. Add a switch and an old DC adapter and I have sound! It supplies pretty good sound quality, allows me to easily hook up an iPod or other device, and there is plenty of extra space in the case for modification (possible rasPi with pandora and NPR player?). Hopefully this is only the first chapter in this project.


The video quality does a poor job showing how it actually sounds.