If you’ve been a regular user of the Interactive LED Sign here at operation 9—and there have been many thousands of you since the beginning of 2009—you may be wondering what happened; it’s been down for a couple of months now, after all. Well, there’s a story to that.
After moving from Windows XP Pro (SP3) to Windows 7 Ultimate x64, things started getting hairy given the control 7 likes to have over its ports. Not only that, the “upgrade” path—or rather, the lack of one—wiped the server environment. While I was able to get all that patched up, something else inevitably happened early last month: the PC’s motherboard up and died a few days after being laid off from my job of nearly 5 years, rendering the machine inoperative for a few weeks. Unfortunately, the replacement motherboard doesn’t have a serial port on-board, which means I need to shell out a few bucks to buy one to occupy an open card slot. Not a big deal, really, but I’ve been concentrating my efforts on gainful employment in the meantime.
So, to make it short and sweet, it’ll be back sooner or later. Don’t fret.
If you’re interested in setting up your own interactive LED sign, don’t forget to check out Alphabrite. Not only is it being used by nerdy enthusiasts like myself, several have written to let me know they’ve integrated it into their internal corporate environment. Not bad for an application whose 1.0 release was written in the span of a week.
Donations to fund further development are, as always, graciously accepted.
One of the more useful shields for the Arduino I picked up in the last month has to be Seeed Studio’s Solar Charger Shield. Costing $10.50, I couldn’t pass it up. I put together a quick demonstration using a solar panel I parted out of some sub-$10 solar chargers I bought on eBay and a 2000mAh Lithium-Ion battery pack I received as part of Sparkfun’s Free Day.
Do pardon the intermittent squeaking; granite countertops and header pins don’t mix.
Version 1.0 of Alphabrite LED Display Control Center—or, simply enough, Alphabrite v1.0—is ready for download. This application allows remote or local administration of your Alpha or Betabrite LED Display using PHP4 and 5 with the cURL extension. The application supports every sign that adheres to the Alpha 1.0 Protocol. (See README for more details.)
Hardware Functions Provided:
* See the README for important details and security caveats involved with the utilization of these modules.
Download: Alphabrite v1.0 (97kb, zip)
If you use and/or like what you see, consider clicking here to help fund further development.
With my other LED reverse-engineering project waiting on a cable, I picked up an Alpha PPD220 (Personal Priority Display) LED Sign—probably the most basic model there is in their product line—off eBay at about 15% of the MSRP. (I’d prefer a Alpha 4160C, but I’m pretty sure the WAF (wife acceptance factor) wouldn’t permit it.)
Telling by the message that was still in its memory when I powered it on, this particular LED sign used to serve as a display at a lottery terminal somewhere in South Carolina. Within an hour or so of hacking away on some code from these guys, however, I was able to interface it using PHP and Perl—the latter posing as the messenger with the RS-232 serial interface—to accept messages from the public at large.
So, with that done, it was time to improve upon it. In between moments of helping my wife recover from all four of her wisdom teeth being pulled, I decided to build a library (from scratch) for the sign. Because of the shared protocol, the library I have in development should work with most, if not all Alpha and Betabrite models from Adaptive Displays, but I really can’t test that to verify beyond this basic little unit.
Here’s a bit of what it does in its current state:
There’s still a lot of work to be done to maximize its utility (and for me to be comfortable enough to release it), but I’ll get to it as time permits. As it is, it’s become something far more useful than displaying lottery numbers and jackpot totals.
Want to give it a whirl? Feel free to check the sign out over here and drop a note while you’re at it.