A Small Detour

I had every intention of working on the remaining Ren24s tonight, but a pleasant surprised arrived in the mail today. Let’s rewind a bit. I may or may not have mentioned that I ordered two Grinches. Once was for me to control individual super bright LEDs, directly off the Grinch. The other was to control the lights at the store should I decide to do so. I am hoping to use the LEDs as DIY strobes, that I am planning to put in the hedges out front. The initial issue I was having was that the Grinch is run off the parallel port, and the maximum run on a parallel port is like 25′. So I couldn’t get the grinch out by the hedges, so the only alternative was to run 16 CAT5 cables out to the hedges from the Grinch that would be kept nearby the computer. I didn’t really like this idea either, seemed like a waste of CAT5 and would be unwieldy.

I started researching what my options were to extend the Grinch outside. There appeared to be only two: The RenT/RenC combo or a DMX converter. I thought hard about it and decided to go DMX because ultimately I would like everything to run DMX eventually. I initially found RJ’s DMX converter which was only on/off no dimming. This was perfect for the strobes because they would just be on/off. Turns out RJ had only made a couple of boards and had no plans to make any more. I then found RPMs Grinch Dimmer which I ended up building and it works great, but still seemed overkill for the LED strobe project and it would be perfect for at the store (I would need another DMX dongle, but luckily I ordered two PCBs, just need to get the parts if I go that route). Anyhow, while poking around at DLA, I found someone who had an extra board of RJs original design. He said he would give it to me for the cost of postage if I promised to “pay it forward”. Seemed like a good concept to me. He warned me though that he thought there was a mod that needed to be made to make the board work. I asked RJ and the others and no one seemed to remember the mod. I figured I would give it a go anyhow, so I told him to send the board.

That was a few weeks ago, and I hadn’t heard anything from him, so I figured he got tied up and forgot about it. I didn’t want to bug him because he was basically going to give it to me, and I don’t like to pester about free things. Today the board arrived in the mail. I looked it over and couldn’t see anything glaringly wrong with it, so tonight I populated it (I already had the parts from a previous Mouser order). The only thing I could find that was close to being mod like, was the BOM didn’t include fuse holders or a fuse on it. So I did what any man would do, I said “We don’t need no stinkin fuses”, and I soldered a wire across the fuse pads on the PCB. I hooked it up to my DMX dongle and the grinch with a test SSR, and it worked, first time. I think I’m getting better at this soldering thing!

So now I have the ability to control my strobes, I just need to figure out how I’m going to configure them and wire them. I’m leaning towards putting 4 LEDs in some sort of epoxy, and they would be controlled from 1 CAT5 cable, so I would have 16 strobes, each with 4 individually controlled LEDs within it. We’ll see how that pans out later.

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