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About this blog

No real rhyme or reason to what I post here. But expect a lot of tech project type stuff.

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Pixel controller

Ok so I have had a couple things finally get delivered over here and I have time for a quick update. 


So the first thing that has come in are the snow flake frames (still waiting on the pixels for them) 


The quality is very high and I'm impressed with how small they break down...basically the arms all disconnect from the center and stack on each other. Matt Johnson of www.johnsonlightshow.com has been really helpful providing me some tips on how he wires up the pixels ect.

The Next thing that I have recived is the pixel controller. Below the pictures you can find all the specs on the board.....but in general how it works is you hook it into the network then the computer that is running your light show will send the data for the pixels on how they need to sequence. Like I said before its a bit overkill for what I need this year. but its easy to upgrade and expandable Oh and I purchased it at pixelcontroller.com.  I did end up ordering one more thing from pixelcontroller.com they released a raspberry pi hat board that can do 2 strings from an PI....maybe if it comes in before Halloween I will do a little something for Tunk or Treat at my kids school out of the back of the car.


Description F16v2

 The controller receives 64 universes of E131 data no problem. The DMX outputs all are working. 

Board current specs

Board can be powered from pixel power or external power. Both inputs can be 5-24VDC.
Power output port to power switches. 
An additional optional 5-24V switched regulator can be added to give an additional 1.5A of power if needed on a 2-pin connector.
Two independent sides of power. Each one can be a different voltage. 
(Expansion board also has two independent pixel power inputs giving 4 independent ports of input power when using 32 string mode and expansion board)
16 - Fused outputs for main board and expansion board. 

Number of strings
16 strings or 32 with expansion board.
All strings can use any of the 32768 channels this controller can receive as a start address.
Each string can be independently configured for null nodes, zigzag, forward/reverse, node type, pixel count , grouping etc...

Pixel per string
680 pixels per string in 16 string mode or 340 pixels per string with additional expansion board ($50US) using 32 string mode.

String Types
All string ports can be any of the following string types. They all can be independently set. 

WS2801 / WS2803
WS2811 / WS2812 / TM1804 / TM1803 / TM1809 / TM1812 / SM16715 / INK1003
TLS3001 / TLS3002 / CY3005
LPD6803 / D705 / LPD1101 / USC6909 / UCS6912
GE Color Effects (GECE)
APA 102

String Types to be added in near future
SM16716, MBI6020, P981x
(We can fit two more in current image. Additional formats will be added to an additional image which will be held in flash making switching images as easy as selecting image in user webpage interface.) 

DMX/Renard/Pixelnet Outputs
4 - Dedicated RS-485 outputs

LCD Display,Push Buttons and Indicators
.96" OLED 128x64 matrix display for setup and status.
5 - Push buttons to control display. Up, Down, Right, Left and Select
Power LED for main fuse/pixel board
Power LED for FPGA/Controller Board
Two multi purpose LEDS for status.
16 - Optional Blown Fuse LED Indicators (User must source LEDS)
Temperature Sensors
1 - Processor temperature sensor.
2 - Additional Sensors 
(The sensors are like a little 2" two core wire. One is provided the other can be purchased from Mouser. Additional wire can be added to move sensor out of enclosure to give ambient temperature outside.)

Voltage sensors
The incoming pixel voltages of main board are detected and displayed in user interface. (The webpage interface and OLED displays the voltages and temperatures.)

Raspberry PI Interface for running Falcon Player (FPP)
The controller in near future will have ability to connect directly to a RPi running FPP. In this configuration the controller can operate as a standalone controller with audio and video making it one of the most powerful platforms for driving RGB lights, music and video. All configuration of controller will be embedded into the standard FPP user interface.

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Christmas Lights

Christmas light sequence:

I have wanted to do a Christmas light sequence for a few years but I haven't gotten my stuff together to make it happen. This coming holiday season 2016 my goal is to have some type of a show synced to music. 


Here is what I lights I had up for 2015:



The Dots on the the building are a bit hard to see on camera because of the street lights. But they are Laser lights they actually cover the entire front of the building with red and green dots. I used 3 units to get full coverage. 

What I would like to add for 2016 


So I'm not looking to add a bunch more lights this year nothing over the top anyway. 

Blue lines: Strands of pixel lights 

Red lines: I will be adding some more led icicle lights 

Snow Flakes: I have 2 frames on the way that will be setup with pixels (addressable LEDs http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/100pcs-DC12V-12mm-WS2811-led-smart-pixel-node-with-all-black-wire-20AWG-IP68-rated/701799_1932863171.html)




I'm going to try and locally source the LED's from a mall called Dragonmart a huge mall with mostly stuff like this from China.....My backup plan is to just use standard LED lights strings if I have issues with getting the pixels or getting them to talk with a controller. 

How I will drive all the dumb LED's:

I will still have a light sequence if the pixel route falls through. I will use a network relay controller like what could be used for home automation. I have 2 one the way ( will post better images when I get them)  they each have 16 relays so I can control up to 32 different stands of light by using a script to send network commands I will use a raspberry pi and at least one of these boards connected to and old router. So im guessing next week sometime I will have the relays to start playing with. 




Home network

So I haven't post to this blog like I said I would......But I have some time off from work and I think I will do some follow up post about my home network.

Here is a picture of my final layout 


It includes: 

  • pfsense router/firewall
  • Free NAS (the big computer on the bottom rack. I just swapped out the drives today) 
  • Nettalk VOIP appliance 
  • Netgear switch 
  • Not pictured a new personal web server 
    • Owncloud storage
    • Maybe image gallery 

I replaced the drives in my FreeNAS setup which I had two 1TB Seagate Barracuda drives.....one failed and needed to be replaced so an upgrade was in order, as I have been limping my one drive along for the last couple of months. So I bought the new hotness two 8TB Western digital Red NAS hard drives. 


This is a huge upgrade of the FreeNAS that I have.

Things I run on FreNAS:

  • SABnzbdb
  • Sick Beard

My NAS supplies my Kodi install that run from my amazon fire TV(which runs amazing.....interesting fact this NAS used to be my media PC. But I have added way more ram)


NAS Specifications: 

  • Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-3570K CPU @ 3.40GHz
  • 32636MB RAM
  • 8TB storage



So one thing that I have noticed over the last couple of years using VPN on my router is that it has limitations.....its significantly slows your internet speed at a minimum by half depending on the VPN server demand. I live in a brand new subdivision so all of the villas have new  fiber lines. My ISP offers packages with speeds up to 1gbps I went with the 100mbps package to keep the price down and that is plenty fast for my needs. So I did some speedtest.net connecting to VPN servers using both my desktop and router with a significant advantage going to the desktop over the router. So I started looking at the possibilities of adding a router with desktop hardware....which lead me to pfsense.org. I didn't have any old computers to run pfsense So I started looking for something that would make sense for what I wanted to do.

My Villa has two Ethernet drops on every wall in the place but I currently only have a need for 4 of them. So I thought I would need a card with 4 Ethernet ports, until I looked at the price for them. It seems that once you step past dual port cards you are in the enterprise sector and the price goes up at they are built to higher quality standards. My solution was the following hardware.



  1. Shuttle DS81 barebone system with dual NIC built in
  2. 8GB of Ram ( I didn't want to have to repurchase if I re-purposed this machine)
  3. i5 core (again I didn't want to have to repurchase)
  4. 128GB kingston SSD (I know I can run off of a USB) 
  5. Netgear  GSS108E switch (pictured below) Link to specs




The Next steps I took was to download pfsense and create a bootable USB I accomplished this but doing the following.


Rufus Rufus is a simple but powerful utility that helps format and create bootable USB flash drives, such as USB keys/pendrives, memory sticks

  • Download Memstick pfSense image
  • Extract the .img file from the .gz archive first
  • Download Rufus from https://rufus.akeo.ie/
  • Select your USB under Device
  • Under “Create bootable disk using” click on CD-ROM icon
  • Select extracted pfSense .img that you downloaded as described above
  • Click Start and wait for image to be copied to USB.

That’s all!

Once I had my Bootable pfsense USB installer created I connected my soon to be router to my desktop monitor and keyboad. The install was very straight forward I just followed the on screen instructions and it took only a few minutes. Open a web browser and navigate to, using the default username admin and password pfsense to login. The first visit to the WebGUI will be redirected to the setup wizard, which is also accessible at System > Setup Wizard. Proceed through the wizard and configure things as desired. I choose to configure the LAN IP via the command line because i wanted to change the default IP before I started messing with the WebGUI I went with 

Next post I will cover setup of OpenVPN client setup, addition of a FreeNAS and pictures of my Rack 



Home networking

So up until now I have always just run my home network like most people. 

  1. Cable/Fiber modem
  2. Wireless router

The one thing that I do different than most is run a custom firmware on my router. More specifically I run http://dd-wrt.com/, Its a firmware that runs on a lot of consumer based routers adding some enterprise functionality.

Some alternatives to that

  1. https://openwrt.org/
  2. http://tomato.groov.pl/ 
  3. http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato 


That you run some risk in flashing your router with a custom firmware. There is a slight possibility that you could brick your router so its not usable with out the assistance of additional hardware. To fix most bad flashes you need what is know as a TTL cable it will allow you to write directly to the device.  I recommend this one https://www.sparkfun.com/products/12977 I know there are cheaper alternatives on amazon...but be careful with counterfeits as they just wont work with windows.

It really just depends on the manufacture of your router and if one of the projects support it yet. I have a Netgear Nighthawk r7000 http://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-routers/R7000.aspx  It is currently running sock firmware and in access point mode only more on that later on. 



So as I said at the beginning that I was running DD-WRT firmware on my router, this was so I could use the router as a OpenVPN client. When I bought the router it had some of the best commercially available specs processing power being the main one I cared about. You might be wondering why I cared how much processing power my router has, well it all has to do with the OpenVPN client running on it. What a VPN is, is a secure encrypted connection between two systems/networks. When you connect to the internet with your ISP you receive an IP address that is associated with you because you had to verify your identity with your ISP. So that makes it very easy for your ISP and anyone else for that matter to track you ( I may sound paranoid but websites are tacking you). So when you connect to a VPN you create an encrypted tunnel between your device (computer, phone, or router) and their server. So if you request www.google.com your device will encrypt that request and send it to the VPN server, then the server will use its IP address encrypt the results and send it back to your computer. This encryption uses processing power so lower end hardware wont be as efficient at encrypting and decrypting OpenVPN packets.


So for the last two years I have been using this setup (not with the same router) and I have found some bottle necks and limitations with this setup so I looking to upgrade my network situation. The next few blog post will be about the steps I took to upgrade my home network to preform better and add more features. 



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