No more painful toes

This evening I wrote a sketch to protect my toes better. The sketch switches the LED strip on and off based on motion detection by 2 PIRs. It works 😉

The blue LED on the Protoshield indicates when there is motion detected by the PIR. The motion detection turns the LED strip on and it will stay on until a period of 15 seconds with no motion has passed – only then, the LED strip is turned off again.

The sketch takes care of the “soft on/off” feature, by gently raising or lowering the brightness during a configurable time-span.

All that’s left to do is cleaning up the code, solder some wires, wait for the enclosure to arrive and give the LED strip, PIRs and Arduino enclosure a place under the bed.

Simple, yet very convenient automation 🙂

Bedroom floor lighting

Last week I had some trouble getting out of bed during the night without hurting myself. So this evening I decided to do something about that; I need something that can light the floor while someone is walking through the bedroom at night. So I made a list of things with which I could make something useful for that:

  • An Arduino Duemilanove;
  • a Protoshield;
  • 2 PIR motion sensors;
  • a LDR;
  • a  IRLZ34N MOSFET to drive the LED strip;
  • a 12V power adapter;
  • about 2 m. of white LED strip;
  • 2 LEDs (one for power and the other for motion detection);
  • an Arduino enclosure.


Automatic Bed light for the night

There it is… our automatic bedroom floor lighting is being tested at this moment. The 2 PIR motion sensors will be mounted under the bed in a way that they will only be able to detect motion caused by moving legs, the LDR will be used to detect whether it’s dark in the bedroom or not and the white LED strips will be glued to the bottom side of the bed and will light the floor when motion is detected.

The fun thing is that this floor lighting is almost completely built from spare parts (except the enclosure). The 2 PIR motion sensors were the first motion sensors I ever bought, but the lenses were too big for my taste to actually use them. Under the bed the size of those lenses doesn’t matter. The Duemilanove is one of the many Duemilanoves I have laying around for testing/experimenting, so I can easily do with one less – I could also have picked an RBBB, Teensy or JeeNode. The number of unused protoshields made me decide for an Arduino. And all the other parts were all purchased in the past with the thought they’d be handy to have around for when you suddenly need them 😉

No RF, Zigbee or Ethernet this time – this will be a solution that doesn’t need any other external input, nor do I think I’ll use the fact that someone’s walking through the bedroom in the rest of my system. Nevertheless, I’ll reserve some space on the Protoshield for a XBee Breakout board cause this would actually be a very good place for a Zigbee router on the 2nd floor!

The sketch will be a collection of code  from other sketches I’m already using, so I hope that at the end of this week I can finish this and never hurt my toes again 😉

Success and failure

Today I continued with my “RGB LEDs for the gazebo” job; what would those 6 LED spotlights bring, in terms of light? How would it look? Well, here some images:













I wanted to see the result before I would start digging holes, laying cables under the pavement etcetera. Based on what I saw after sunset, the conclusion can only be: we have a Go! It’s exactly what I had in mind; which is a big relief actually, cause those 6 LED spotlights were quite an investment. But the result is wonderful, these LED spotlights light up the gazebo just the way I want.

I did have a big issue with controlling those LEDs though.. All the tests I did in my office with the LEDs on the desk next to me never failed. But today, with the LEDs, DMX decoder, Arduino+Ethernet shield+DMX shield outside it didn’t work anymore!? Everything was set up and ready to go, but I couldn’t even ping my Arduino anymore!

My first thought was that the new CAT5 cable of 20m length was broken, or the RJ45 connectors didn’t make good contact; but this was not the case, the cable was OK. Maybe it was the new Gigabit switch I received 2 days ago which hadn’t been used until now? Nope. What is this??

I took the Arduino back to the office, connected it to my PC for power and to the switch. And it worked again, just like it always did… although I did see the LEDs on the Ethernet Shield behave differently. Well, I won’t go into all the details, but eventually I found out that it was the USB connection that made the difference! Without a USB connection, I had to push the reset button on the Ethernet shield to make the shield work. With USB, the Ethernet shield worked immediately. Go figure..

What has USB got to do with a (dis)functioning Ethernet shield?? A lot, so it seems. What is this, a hidden feature? By design? I must have missed the addendum to the manual that says “This shield will only function with your Arduino USB port connected”… After I knew what was causing this problem, it didn’t take long before I found a solution – phew, this issue could have been a real party pooper! I haven’t tried the workaround yet, but I will. Very soon, as in tomorrow first thing!

Here you see me testing some colors, sitting behind my laptop under the gazebo:


Arduino DMX encoder on the test bench

Today I started testing my DMX project. The ingredients:

  • Arduino Duemilanove with Ethernet shield and DMX shield;
  • DMX decoder PX24500;
  • 24V PSU;
  • 6 x Artecta RGB LED;
  • some wires;
  • a sketch running on the Arduino;
  • UTP cable;
  • software tools.

After connecting all the wires, switching on the PSU, starting the Arduino and checking if the Arduino was succesfully connected to my LAN by pinging it, I was ready. I opened the Arduino IDE Serial Monitor so I could see what my sketch was doing and sent a “command” to the Arduino. For that I used wget, a non-interactive network retriever; most people who know Unix-like OS-es will probably know about its existence but it’s less known among the Windows folks. Well, in just a few words it’s a tool with which you can store the results of a HTTP call into a file and do all kinds of other handy stuff .

I started carefully; the first command sent to the Arduino was:


What this should do is change the R-value from its current value to 10 in 0.5 (5*0.1) seconds. G and B values are set to 0 immediately.

What the  Arduino webserver will receive is the following:

 GET /10,0,0,5,0,0 HTTP 1.1

 ....etc, the rest is all standard HTTP headers

After parsing the request and figuring out what to do, the Arduino starts changing the LED colour by issuing DmxSimple commands according to the values received in the HTTP call.

Ok, the moment of truth is here… will the LEDs start producing light or not? Yeah, they did! Tadaa…

This is not Red (nor is it a pipe)

The moment I saw this working, I felt the need for a more sophisticated way to control the RGB values, so I wrote a small tool in Delphi to help me pick the right color:


With a mouse click I can now select the color; the rest is done automatically: calculating the R-, G- and B-value and performing the HTTP call. And all it took was 10 lines of code (with the help of Indy and a very nice Color Lib made by Marco Binic). This allows me to choose a color much quicker and more precise than by editing numeric values on a command line 😉

I did find some issues during my first DMX adventure, so I haven’t reached the phase yet where I can start digging holes in the ground; I’m not totally satisfied yet – more on those issues later, when I’ve hopefully fixed them.


Stacked stock

Stacked shieldsHere you see an Arduino Duemilanove, an Ethernet shield and a DMX shield. Well to be honest, the top shield is 1 day old; the rest has been on the shelf for more than a year. I wanted to start using some of the stuff I bought in the past but never used, so with the need for a DMX encoder to control 6 RGB LED spotlights, I decided to do it this way.

It was a bit annoying that I had to deal with how the Arduino platform works with shields and that you have to find out whether you can stack more than 1 of them on top of the Arduino and not have pin conflicts between the shields you want to use; this can happen so it’s always good to have a look at the pins all the shields use and see if there are any conflicts. In my opinion, the JeeNode concept is much smarter and easier in this perspective – and documentation is much better too!

Now back on topic again… as I said, this combination of boards is going to be used as an Ethernet enabled DMX encoder with integrated web server. Sounds difficult? It’s not, actually…

The DMX shield (from the Arduino store, made by uses the DMXSimple library and indeed, it’s very simple. All the hard work is hidden and all you have to do is use 2 or 3 simple functions to get DMX encoding working.

The same goes for the Web server part; the Ethernet library makes it as simple as it possibly can.

So all I had to do was write some code to parse the values I wanted to send to this DMX encoder (R-, G- and B-values and some time values to soften color changes); and now I’m waiting for the LED spotlights to arrive, cause I’m ready for it! Yep, that’s the other side of the story; you can build cool stuff in a matter of minutes, add your own code for some extras and it works!

LED lighting for our gazebo

GazeboDespite all the Domotica stuff going on every day, I was able to find the time to build a gazebo in our garden this summer. I finished this gazebo in late June. Well, not quite; I still have to take care of the lighting. And somehow, everything I build or do in my spare time just has to have a Domotica touch 🙂 This time, it’s the lighting. I could have chosen the easy way and just put a big bright light bulb in the middle for when it gets too dark outside, but that’s too ugly, easy and no fun at all.

So I contacted Marco Versluis of Mood LedLight and he offered to come over and have a look at the gazebo and discuss some options for some nice and good lighting. Although I’m not the type of guy who decorates the entire home inside and outside with flashing lights at Christmas time, I do like to have nice lighting in the garden during the time that it’s dark and we’re still downstairs; an example of this is a previous garden lighting project.

This time we chose to do the lighting with 6 RGB LED spotlights.RGB LED spotlight

At each of the 6 poles of the gazebo there will be a RGB LED spotlight which will light the pole and the inside of the roof. That should be sufficient to give good lighting while sitting under the gazebo on warm nights as well as a nice view from the living room when we’re inside.

OK.. I admit it, I just couldn’t resist buying a DMX decoder for those 6 RGB LED spotlights – so I can produce 256 x 256 x 256 colors, who wouldn’t want that in his back yard? 😉 And of course, these LED spotlights need to be controlled from my Domotica system, otherwise it wouldn’t be much fun, right?

I’m not worried about accomplishing this. I found a Arduino DMX shield that should take care of the DMX encoding. And since it’s an Arduino shield and I have some unused Arduinos here, this will be plug & play, hardware-wise. Developing a sketch to control it all from my domotica system shouldn’t be that hard either.

No, the thing that I’m thinking about most of the time is: what color should these LED spotlights produce? Just pick a color I (ehh, we) like? Neh, too easy. And I certainly don’t like some predictable color scenario that repeats itself every x minutes. Yuck!

Come on, my Domotica system has almost 900 device values, why can’t I create some RGB values out of all that constantly changing data and produce a real geeky lighting? (ah, that reminds me: I need a motion sensor for the gazebo and/or a button to override the geek-lighting scheme with something that’s more moderate and acceptable for non-geeks … 🙂

So basically, I’m looking for “something” that should produce a smooth changing, unpredictable RGB value based on device values originating from our house… There’s enough to choose from I guess… like using door/window open/closed status as bits for one of the 3 RGB bytes, or on/off statuses,  motion detection, total power usage for the R value, water usage for the B value…  well, I’m still thinking what to choose – suggestions are welcome!


A new challenge

First a follow-up on yesterday’s TV LED strips; here’s what it looks like a few hour later, around 22:30, while I was watching “24”. One of the few things left that make me sit down, watch and enjoy live TV.

LED strips in the evening

I know; I’m not much of a photographer, but I tried to make it look as best as I could. In real life it looks even better 🙂 OK, this one is finished; on to the next challenge!

Which means back to the motion sensor, the ELV PIR13 i bought recently.

Testing ELV PIR13

After i cleaned the desks, I connected a PIR13 to a JeeNode and uploaded a sketch i used for the Panasonic PIR before. No luck this time; nothing but garbage coming from the PIR.

A digitalRead() produced nothing useful and i didn’t understand why. I tried adding resistors between GND and the PIR output, but that wasn’t succesful either. But somehow i knew i was close…then I remembered reading about internal pullup concerning the PIR13 somewhere, so I added an additional digitalWrite() in the setup routine to enable them. Bingo, now i get the right results!

Now the digitalRead calls produce a ‘low’ when motion is detected and ‘high’ when not. That’s something I can work with. For now this ELV PIR13 will remain on my desk for a while untill I can find some time to solder a new JeeNode, buy some more XBee modules and enclosures, plugs and stuff, cause I’m running out of stock…

Lamp replaced by "DIY Ambilight"

LED strips

Even in full daylight and the LED strips @ 50%, this already looks VERY OK to me! Can’t wait till it’s dark outside..

After some small tests during the last couple of weeks, it was time to finish replacing a lamp near the TV with LED lighting. It’s still a big cable mess in the corner where the TV is located, but you can’t start cleaning up when you’re not finished, right? A lamp, holding 2 energy saving light bulbs, consuming 11W, has now been replaced by LED strips attached to the back of the TV. I call it my “DIY ambilight” project 🙂

The following components were used:

  • 1 x JeeNode v4;
  • 2 x MOSFET Plug;
  • 3 meters of warm white LED strip;
  • XBee series 2 module;
  • XBee breakout board;
  • 3.5 mm mono plugs;
  • 12V power supply.

And 3 x software; 1 for my Home Automation system, 1 for the JeeNode and 1 for the Touchscreen. The Pronto will follow soon.

From my Home Automation system i can control each of the 4 segments individually; i created a new device type and when i send a “L=30” command to this device, the LED strip on the left of the TV goes to 30%. When i send a “B=0“, the bottom LED strip goes to 0%. A “*=10” will result in all 4 LED strips to go to 10%.

The hardware (power supply, JeeNode, LED strips) is controlled by a PLCBUS appliance module, so when it’s time to go to bed, i don’t have to worry about additional standby power usage.

On the Touchscreen i added a popup form so i can change the settings of the LED strips:

TV LED control

Although I’m technically able to, i didn’t put 4 trackbar controls on this form to control each LED segment individually. The reason for that is that I don’t think it will ever be used by anyone else but myself. I think, in daily practice, these 4 LED strips will only be switched on and off, once a brightness level has been set that suits the ligthing in the rest of the living room.

The sketch that is running on the JeeNode is pretty straight forward, once you’ve seen Jean Claude Wipplers sketch to control RGB strips. I think it’s needless to say that without his hardware, software and sharing of knowledge, i would probably still be watching blinking LEDs… well, sort of 🙂

Well, anyway, here it is.

Curious about how the back side of the TV looks right now? Here you can see where the LED strips are attached to the back side of the TV and where i placed the 12V adapter and the enclosure that holds the MOSFET plugs, JeeNode and XBee.

Once i had it all (more or less) figured out, it took me 2 afternoons to go from a cardboard test setup to what it is now. Based on the response from wife and children, this is the best thing that has happened since the introduction of the touchscreen. Which I implemented 18 months ago… 😕 And what has happened to that $$$ Roomba???


Power consumption? The LED strips provide enough light @ 16%, resulting in a total of 2W power usage. Not bad!


Making a video takes too much time; I do have a DV cam, but in my opinion it takes to long to rewind, connect the firewire cable, transfer the clip to the PC etc. etc. My Nikon D90 also has video capabilities, but I’ve used it maybe once or twice in the beginning. The D90 can shoot 1280×720@24 fps MJPEG movies. I used it a couple of times again while we were on holiday and the results were quite good; although i still prefer my DV cam: focusing is slow and a bit difficult with the D90.

Here’s a small clip of my test with a JeeNode and 4 LED strip remainders i still had from my kitchen LED adventure.

JeeNode+12V = Oops!!!

Last weekend i was working on one of those things where i started collecting components a long time ago but that still wasn’t finished. Time to finally use these 4 meters of LED strip!

Warm white LED strip

With this warm white LED strip i want to create my own lighting in the corner where our TV is mounted to the wall. The strips will be put on the back side of the TV, shining on the (white) wall. I’m not really into RGB strips; it’s nice to see (for a while), but it’s to colorful for my taste.

I’m going to use a JeeNode with 2 MOSFET plugs to control the 4 segments:

JeeNode and MOSFET plugs

All wirelessly controllable by the use of an XBee module of course; a new page on my Pronto TSU 9600 with a couple of sliders (like on the picture below) to control these 4 segments individually will do the rest:

Pronto sliders

But while i was trying to create some sort of experimental setup with 4 small pieces of LED strip on a piece of cardboard, something went  terribly wrong; somehow the wires of the 12V LED adapter made contact with something that couldn’t handle this amount of power: Poofff !! One voltage regulator blown to pieces. I don’t know how this could go wrong, cause I didn’t do this, it just happened!

VR fried

Well, this JeeNode doesn’t work anymore…

OK. Fortunately I had another unused JeeNode laying around so i could finish the test (it works brilliantly), but what to do with this JeeNode? Replace the VR (the only component with visual damage) or discard the whole JeeNode cause there will probably be more components that suffered from this? I don’t know; I’m the type of guy that didn’t even know what a pull-up resistor was a year ago, so I’ve got no clue 🙁

First I’ll finish this TV LED project and when I’m almost running out of JeeNodes in the future, I’ll give this damaged one a try…