Roofline Update

The weekend before last I posted that we had started working on the rooflines. (It’s happening…) Well, besides all of the strips being too long, which caused installation and configuration issues, I discovered that WiFi was woefully inadequate for it. Unfortunately because of my design- I had controllers on both ends of the roof, and was unable to get a strong enough WiFi signal on one side, without it being too weak on the other. Just too much “house” to go through, regardless of where I put the WiFi antenna. It doesn’t help that we have very-thick plaster walls and …

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Creality LD002R vs. Anycubic Photon

I posted a “first impressions” review of the Photon last week- Another 3D Printer…– and wanted to actually set up a “race” between them with the exact same print. I started with this .STL:https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:869645 I’ve printed this multiple times with limited success, mostly because I attempted to hollow it out, put drain holes in the base, and print at a 45-degree angle with lots of supports. This is generally preferred as it reduces the time and amount of resin used. The problem is where the cats connect to the base- the hole has to be pretty small, and it keeps …

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It’s happening…

Quick gallery post. We started putting the light strips up on the roof… They are actually all up, but I need to perform surgery on several and I only have power/power-injection wired to 2/3s of them. Ran out of time last weekend, and the weather isn’t cooperating this week. Unfortunately we had carefully measured all of the runs, and I pre-built the strips in the basement based on those measurements. The strips aren’t “exactly” 1″ per hole. They are slightly longer, which adds up after 200-300 pixels. All of the strips were too long. I can eliminate some of the …

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New FPP (FalconPlayer) Software Released

Just in case anyone missed it- there is a new release of FPP! The official release announcement: FPP 4.3 Released! Images can be download from: https://github.com/FalconChristmas/fpp/releases/tag/4.3 Enhancements VirtualMatrix updates to allow 1:1 pixel perfect output VirtualMatrix can now display multiple matrices on one framebuffer in 1:1 mode Optimized memory usage for BBB48String and BBBMatrix for lower CPU usage Add volume control on remotes Bridge mode timeout – if no data received, blank the data BBB Matrix – Support for newer 1:2 scan P10’s Disallow empty IP and Netmask if using Static IP Add interface names associated with IP in title area …

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New Kulp K16A-B Controller!

My wife gave me an early birthday/Christmas present this year. I’ve run into a number of problems using NodeMCUs exclusively to run my light display. I blogged previously about Multicast Hell, and there are issues running more than about a dozen NodeMCUs via WiFi, regardless of how you do it. I know some people, in particular Shelby Merrick who developed the ESPixelStick and wrote the firmware that so many of us use, have been able to successfully run large display using them, but based on my own experience and those on several holiday light forums I’m on- they are a …

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Another 3D Printer…

So, I’m still pissed-off about this, but I have to say that so far I’m impressed with the printer… As I said in a previous post- Anycubic’s store took my order and my money for an Anycubic Photon printer back in mid-August. It was supposed to arrive in mid-September, and didn’t. I sent them emails asking for the shipment status- and got nothing. Finally, I decided to buy a competing product (with overnight delivery) from Amazon. I sent them an email to cancel the order and refund my money. Again- no response. I contacted the payment processor they use (“Shop”), …

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Pixel Columns

My house has three columns on the front porch, and I decided to light them up with pixels this year. My original plan was to use pixel strips, but the strips themselves have been backordered and I wasn’t able to figure out a good way of mounting them, so I decided to go a different route. Of course- I’m using my favorite construction material- PVC pipe! In this case- I’m using 1/2″ thin-walled PVC, although after building one- I will likely switch to Sched. 40. The thin-wall stuff is just too flimsy, and I’m concerned about any kind of longevity …

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Redneck Matrix Mark II

As my holiday lighting plans continue to get bigger and bigger, I decided I should just go ahead and get an FM transmitter for music, which then requires a “Tune In” sign. Still not sure if I will actually do musical sequences (they are a lot of work and I’m running low on time), but at least I will be ready. At any rate- I needed a matrix. I looked at P5 and P10 panels, and at pre-made plastic grid made just for this, but why go that expensive? I’m literally planning on putting this on the tailgate of my …

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New 3D Printer (SLA-Like)

On a whim, I decided to try something different. I ordered an LCD resin printer. A lot of people call them “SLA”, although SLA is a completely different technology, but they are both resin printers. These printers use a UV activated plastic resin and some form of UV light manipulation to harden the resin into a 3D print/part. I ordered one from AnyCubic over a month ago. They charged my card, but have not shipped it yet, and even if/when they do- it will be slow boat from China, so it likely won’t get here until a month later. I …

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FrankenPower v.2

Well, I couldn’t come up with anything else to call it. I also didn’t post anything about v.1 so I cover it a bit below. Earlier this year, I decided to buy an 8 channel relay board for Arduino/Raspberry Pi. My plan was to use it to power our inflatables and other “dumb” yard decorations. The thought was I can turn off the inflatables and maybe add the dumb light decorations to the show somehow. In more recent discussions with my boss (my wonderful wife), we are thinking of moving a lot of that stuff to our large side yard …

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NodeMCU/ESP32 Builds

While working through WiFi issues and playing with WLED32 (See Multicast Hell and WLED), I started working with the full-sized NodeMCU v2 sticks as well as experimenting with ESP32 modules. I know the ESP32 modules have much better WiFi radios on them, but the V2 sticks use essentially the same radio as the D1 Mini, so there is no improvement there, unfortunately. Sometimes it’s nice to work with different hardware though. None seem to support 5Ghz, which is what I would really love to see. I thought I would share really quickly how I build my controllers out of these …

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Mini Mega-Tree

While I had no intention of getting into any kind of “Mega-Tree” this year, I had some pixel strips and pixels left over, so I came up with this. I planned to make it out of nothing but spare parts. The only things I actually had to buy were the chrome cleanout plug cover I bought to use as the topper, and a PVC cap to mount it to. The rest is “scrap” plumbing parts and extra pixels and strips. Some of the pixel strands are actually made up of several small 3-5 count ones soldered together. The whole thing …

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WLED

Really-quick if you haven’t looked at WLED in a while- give it another look. I was experimenting with ESP32 NodeMCUs and had to find an alternative to the venerable ESPixelStick firmware, which simply doesn’t run on ESP32. A few online forum members suggested WLED as an alternative. I had “played” with WLED a long time ago, and while it worked- I wasn’t very impressed with it, and at the time it didn’t support SACN/E1.31. Well- it does now. So far- here are the advantages: Compiles on almost any MCU hardware. Several pre-compiled binaries available if you don’t want to compile …

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Multicast Hell

I wanted to write about this in case it helps anyone else… On one of the Holiday Lights forums I’m on, there was a big discussion about Unicast vs. Multicast for WiFi NodeMCU controllers. A group of “in the know” people insist that the only way you can run a large display with NodeMCU-based WiFi controllers is to use Multicast. So- even though Unicast was working perfectly fine for me, I decided to future-proof my display by switching to “recommended” WiFi hardware and moving everything to Multicast. This resulted in a hellishly frustrating weekend whereby I watched my display completely …

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Jumping Arches

These are a staple in holiday light shows, and I wanted some smaller ones that were versatile, CHEAP, and easy to build. I did a bunch of experimentation (and went through a lot of scrap wood and plumbing supplies, and several 3D printed holder designs) and eventually came up with these… These are 39″ long, approx. 21.5″ high, and have 20 pixels each. I figure they can be scaled up quite a bit, although they may need more bracing or larger pipe at some point. They are made out of:36″ 1″ Thin-Wall PVC (you can use Sched. 40, but it’s …

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Peace (Pixel) Stakes

Well, my variation of them, anyways. Cheap and durable, but quite a bit larger than the original. Peace Stakes are named after the Peace Family Light Show, which was featured on ABC’s Great Christmas Light Fight in 2018. They seem to have originated using small stakes with relatively few pixels on them as a decorative element. I thought they would be great for using up odds-and-ends pixel strings, and at least initially planned on using them along some edges of our yard, although my wife has other ideas now. 😀 We aren’t 100% sure what we will use them for …

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Solder-Seal Connectors

These things are a godsend to anyone who tinkers with electronics or repairs low-voltage systems in cars, boats, etc. I can’t imagine working with pixels without them. Sure- you can solder connections and shrink tube them, but when you have to do dozens or hundreds- it’s very tedious and slow. These things make it EASY! You can find them on Amazon.com, ebay.com, and aliexpress.com, among others. I’m not sharing direct links just because they can expire and I don’t currently do affiliate links. Just search for “solder seal connectors”, or “heat shrink solder connectors” and you will find lots of …

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Dawn Simulator

I was waiting for parts to continue to work on my Holiday Lights, and had some odds-and-ends extra pixels, so I did a little side-project. I love it for the few months each year in the middle of Summer when I can wake up to dawn/sunrise with light shining in our bedroom window. This sort of thing also helps to prevent S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is a form of depression caused by the overall darkening of the colder months. We have some of those fancy “smart bulbs” that can “Simulate Dawn” as a wake-up routine, but we found they …

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3D Printer Upgrade- Update: It’s gone.

UPDATE (January 2021):Unfortunately something went wrong and the printer almost caught fire. I’m not sure if it was a firmware or thermistor failure, or bad connection to the thermistor- but the hot end erupted into a cloud of smoke one afternoon. Fortunately I was in the room and the smoke alarm I had mounted to the top went off, so I quickly shut the printer down. From what I could tell- the firmware DID NOT detect an issue as the display still indicated normal operation. It was in the process of stepping through an auto-level routine for a new print …

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WiFi AP and FalconPlayer (FPP) Ammo Box

For a light show using WiFi- you need a dedicated WiFi AP (Access Point) and you SHOULD use FalconPlayer (FPP), which runs on a Raspberry Pi (and other platforms). You want whatever computer you are running your show from directly connected via Ethernet to the WiFi AP/Router. Don’t use WiFi for your show computer! I had a surplus MicroTik WiFi router and have a small pile of Raspberry Pis, so I just needed to find the best way to mount them in a weather-tight enclosure so I could put them as close as possible to my display elements (for the …

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3D Printing

I’ve mentioned in at least a couple of posts that I 3D print some of the things I need. This is great for custom things (like D1 Mini boxes) I can’t just buy, or for one-offs that I can buy, but in larger quantities or it may take too long for shipping. I thought I would share a few pics of my printer, which is a fairly heavily-modified Anet A6 kit printer… Among other things- I use a Raspberry Pi with a touch screen running Octoprint and Octodash to manage it. It has a 3D-printed X-axis, belt tighteners (with high-quality …

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Newer Ammo Box PSU Builds

The PSUs most of us use for LED/Pixel displays are barely human-proof, much less water/weather-proof. While some people buy fairly expensive weather-tight electrical enclosures, many of us use plastic ammo boxes. They aren’t submersible, but are good enough for this job. Most of my current builds use Harbor Freight “Bunker Hill” plastic ammo boxes. I more-recently discovered that Menards has their own “Tool Shop” brand that is actually slightly larger and seems to have a much more robust build quality and seal. They are about $1 more than HF, of course one or the other may be on-sale or have …

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D1 Mini Controller Boxes

Update (January 2021):I’m no-longer using these as they ultimately failed. I don’t believe there is anything inherently “wrong” with controllers like this, and many people do use them successfully for shows of varying sizes. For me, as noted in later blog posts, WIFI seems to have been the Achilles Heal of these. Unless you have almost-ideal conditions- WIFI just can’t handle the traffic needed to run a lot of these. I would love to see wired options along these lines, or maybe 5Ghz WIFI would fix some of the problems. I do still use variations of these to run AC …

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Ferrule Crimper

Screw terminal blocks got you down? Sick of twisting wires and trying to make sure all those strands made it? Having problems with stranded electrical cables working their way loose? There is a solution, and it works great! Ferrules! You can buy these ferrule crimping kits on Amazon, eBay, or from Chinese suppliers like Alibaba/AliExpress. You can buy the ferrules separately once you have gone through what comes in the assortment. Using is really easy- strip your wire, select the right size ferrule, slide the wire in, and crimp. The crimper automatically adjusts. Of course- a great alternative is to …

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D1 Mini E1.31 (DMX) Relay Controller

I wasn’t content to just be able to run RGB pixels, I also wanted to be able to programmatically turn the system on and off. I could use some off-the-shelf home automation gear, but it seemed overly-complicated to try to drive it from FalconPlayer (FPP). Of course I could also use old-school programmable timers, but that wasn’t a very elegant solution. What I really wanted was the ability to have my light show turn itself on and off. So- turn the system on just before playing my playlist, and then turn if off after the playlist (or scheduler) is done. …

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