Fail Of The Week: Epic 312 Weeks Of Fixing A Broken Project

Fail Of The Week: Epic 312 Weeks Of Fixing A Broken Project

If a hacker guardian angel exists, then we’re sure he or she was definitely AWOL for six lengthy yrs from [Aaron Eiche]’s life as he labored on perfecting and generating his Christmas Countdown clock. [Aaron] began this binary clock venture in 2016, and only managed to make it work as envisioned in 2022 after a string of failures.

In situation you’d like to test out his finished task first, then minimize the chase and head over to his Github repository for his final, functioning model. The hardware is quite simple, and not distinct from quite a few related jobs that we have found prior to. A microcontroller drives a established of LED’s to present the time remaining until eventually Christmas Working day in binary format. The LEDs demonstrate the quantity of days, hours, minutes and seconds till Xmas and it makes use of two buttons for adjustments and modes. An RTC segment was not included in the initial variation, but it appeared and disappeared along the six yr journey, before finding a place in the final version.

The price of this challenge does not lie in the remaining version, but instead in the lessons other hackers, specifically people still in the shallow end of the pool, can discover from [Aaron]’s blunders. Fortunately, the clock ornament is not pretty expensive to create, so [Aaron] could persevere in bettering it despite his yearly facepalm moments.

Lesson 1 : Normally verify circuit operation and verify Schematic / PCB structure prior to fabrication

The Xmas ornament is not actually a “binary” clock, but somewhat a binary-coded-decimal clock using 6 bits alternatively of the a lot more normal four or 8 bits for BCD encoding. [Aaron] would will need four banking institutions of six LEDs every single to screen variety of days, hrs, minutes and seconds. Including a pair of buttons for manage introduced his GPIO depend to 26. To make factors easier, he determined to use just two banking companies of 6 LEDs each and every, with an extra pair of LEDs to point out if the exhibit was exhibiting days and several hours or minutes and seconds. This brought down his GPIO rely to a extra acceptable quantity. With this feature record, [Aaron] laid out the initially model of his PCB, consisting of an ATmega328, the LEDs, a coin battery for backup power, and a pair of capacitive contact buttons. And this is in which his troubles began. The connections in between microcontroller and programming header had been incorrect. And the capacitive buttons under no circumstances worked for the reason that capacitive pickup signals have been under no circumstances steady. Further than this, his memory is a little bit fuzzy to tell us if the rest of the circuit truly labored or not.

Lesson 2 : Generally check out manufacturer’s knowledge sheets and confirm schematic symbols and footprints

For variation 2, he ditched capacitive buttons for bodily types, applied an I2C based mostly LED driver to decrease GPIO rely, and included a RTC chip with battery backup. This version would’ve labored if he hadn’t messed up the connections to the four pin crystal related to the microcontroller.

Annoyed with his prior makes an attempt, [Aaron] resolved to layout a proof-of-principle prototype board based on model 2, just to take a look at all of the operation. But in this attempt too, he unsuccessful miserably with quite a few new concerns cropping up. He managed to repair a minor keep track of routing challenge for the ATmega328 with a bodge wire.

Because the LED driver and the RTC chip both of those utilised the I2C bus, the number of GPIO pins needed was decreased to a substantial extent. To take a look at if he could use a scaled-down controller instead of the ATmega328, he included an option for mounting an ATtiny45 microcontroller. But all of this effort was pretty a lot laid to squander owing to the wrong footprint made use of for the LED driver which prevented him from having any useful exam final results. On hindsight, he may have experienced a bigger possibility of accomplishment if he experienced only fastened the incorrect crystal footprint from the preceding model.

Lesson 3 : Always continue to keep notes of your development

An upgraded model 3 was supposed to have preset the previous issues, but regrettably, additional some new types during the approach of modification. [Aaron] didn’t sustain any notes or information, and in the couple decades considering the fact that then, he has neglected what labored and what did not.

Lesson 4 : See Lesson 2

Model 4 was a big improve. The discrete LEDs and I2C LED driver have been changed with WS2812 RGB LEDs, and the ATmega was replaced with an ESP8266 module. Also, the RTC section was taken off, in anticipation that the ESP8266 could get time around NTP. A buzzer was thrown in to perform tinny christmas tunes. But [Aaron] unsuccessful once additional when he applied WS2812 footprints in the style and design, but soldered SK6812 LEDs which he had lying all over. Though the two units are equivalent, the mapping between their pin quantities and pin capabilities is rotated by 180 levels, which essentially resulted in a ability source small and a super sizzling PCB. An intermediate edition 4.5 was attempted, but like edition 3, he does not have any created notes or recollection of what went completely wrong.

 Lesson 5 : See all of the above

For the upcoming iteration, [Aaron] changed the ESP8266 with an ESP32 module but skipped adding the car-reset circuit generating it hard to method the machine. Programming was more hampered because of to two of the programming pins currently being shorted in the course of assembly. He also included the RTC section at the time yet again, just in situation it was not not possible for the ESP32 to get hold of time around NTP. Because of to the international pandemic and the resultant chip shortage, he experienced difficulties sourcing a voltage regulator in the identical footprint that was on the PCB. And in model 5, he once yet again designed the rookie oversight of applying the wrong footprint for the RTC chip. To increase to his woes, he applied some ‘cool’ small thrust buttons, but they turned out to be so small as to be almost not possible to use.

Lesson 6 : Persevere, and you will realize success

Getting repeated all of his mistakes at minimum two times around his 5 previous makes an attempt, [Aaron] last but not least wizened up more than enough to acquire care though building and assembling his very last model. And was rewarded with a totally working Christmas Countdown Binary Clock.

Binary clocks seem to be to be a favorite amongst hackers, perhaps because muggles can not study them, and we routinely finish up that includes some wonderful jobs in this article on Hackaday. But it would be attention-grabbing to know if any of our readers had a venture that went by way of a lot more iterations or took lengthier than [Aaron]’s monumental job. Enable us know in the responses.