This now means a lot of work, - every single light or string of lights will have to be controlled by the computer and the interface. So that means I'll have to build lots of opto-isolators & triac/thyristor interfaces. Errr "opto-isolators & triac interfaces". Don't worry, if you know what they are that's okay, if you don't - it just means a lot of work for me and makes things a bit safer.
Oh, did I mention I also managed to get a load of rope
light at a good price with the idea of having three different colours
around each of the windows, front door, under the
eaves & outlining the roof of the canopy.
Okay, yes, the work load is getting
bigger. Just the rope lights alone is 15 interfaces with
three channels in each !
Okay, so how am I going to build this interface ?
A lot of thinking was done & I decided to build
it using a prototyping board - no
soldering - just push the components &
wires into the board in the right places, and the connections
When we came back from our holiday I added the RJ45
connectors and the links to the interface. - Another bit of
( Opto-isolators separate the mains voltage from the interface and the computer so that it is safe. ) On the right is the opto-isolators for some of the rope lights. Three channels in each box, one for each blue, yellow & red rope light. Boxes similar to these are deployed throughout the display to interface the mains voltage to the lights. They are also used for the lo-voltage lights simply as a means of controlling them in a similar way.
In previous years, putting rope light up took some time. So, now that I had a lot more rope lights, I had to find an easy way of fixing it up. The idea I came up with was to secure the three colours of rope lights in square section rain water down pipe, cut in half length ways and using cable ties to attach the rope light. What's more, it's all waterproof and doesn't go rusty ! They are attached to the guttering using gutter mounting brackets in reverse. This makes it easier when putting it up and taking it down.
Told you this was a big change, - keep reading. . . . . .
Okay, I mentioned a computer just
above, so what's a computer got to do with Christmas lights
going on and off? Well it's like this.
The software ( Vixen ) is available FREE from the Doityourselfchristmas website so I downloaded and installed it on a computer running WindowsXP. I read the instructions on how to configure the software, add music and program lighting sequences, then got on and did it.
I programmed a small test sequence first, plugged it all together, ( the interface plugs into the parallel port on the PC ), and; Yes It works ! How do I know this? Each of the outputs on the interface has an LED on it for monitoring. (picture)
It took most of the year to build the interface and the opto-isolator boxes/triac drivers, doing a little bit at a time. I also programmed the lighting display to two pieces of music, one is the well known piece for Christmas lighting displays, Wizards in Winter by the Trans Siberian Orchestra, and the other piece I chose was a favourite of mine Silent Night played on an organ by Klaus Wunderlich.
Okay ! It's time to jump in with two feet. . . . . .
The programmes are written, the interface is built and
tested, the opto-isolator boxes/triac drivers are done, oh - the
conical tree got re-built with lo-voltage lights as well. - More
The Grinch (2011)
Trees Grow !
Planning for 2008 !
Here we go !
The Big Change !!!
The Night Before
Light-up (Dec. 2006)
The Tungsten Tree
(Feb - Nov. 2006)
The Second move
Who put that there ?
Back in business
Click Click Click
More Silicon Chips
The Next Few Years
The Bug was biting
Early Married Life
A logical development
(Dec. 1973 ish)
In the Beginning