Twilight Eclipse Globes: macetech on the silver screen

Our latest project with Tangible Interaction involves decorative programmable lighting for a party scene in the new movie Twilight: Eclipse. Well,'s a pretty old project, started back in September '09 and completed in October. However, we've had to keep most of it under wraps until the movie was released today. Here's a photo from the set, it's been floating around the internet for a few weeks:

Over 100 glowing globes are scattered midair near the walls of a large room. They smoothly cycle through colors and patterns behind major characters during pivotal plot points. Each globe is brightly lit with an individually controlled 30-bit color. The system is controlled with several Arduino microcontrollers receiving DMX commands.

This project nearly overshadows our Olypmic involvement, in terms of worldwide exposure of products we have developed. Unlike the Zygote project we helped Tangible Interaction build for the 2010 Olympic closing ceremony, these globes use macetech products that are available in our store for purchase.

 Read more»

Submitted by Garrett on Tue, 06/29/2010 - 21:34.

Shifty VU Problem

Just a notice to anyone who purchased a Shifty VU Shield in the past few weeks or at Maker Faire: our supplier mixed up some diodes and it's very possible your shield will not work. If you're seeing no response on analog 2 and 3, this is probably why. Please contact us so we can determine if you have a faulty shield, we will repair any with incorrect diodes.

Submitted by Garrett on Thu, 06/03/2010 - 11:49.

Sneak preview of Maker Faire

Here's a video of a project nearing completion...uses a bunch of LEDs and it'll be a fun challenge to play.

We'll also be one of a select few Makers running a mini-Faire after the Wednesday conference at Google I/O!

Submitted by Garrett on Tue, 05/18/2010 - 14:36.

SparkFun Free Day Consolation Prize

A quick heads up...for everyone who was disappointed by the huge traffic at SparkFun day, we're running a 10% discount in the store to make you feel a little better. Just place an order and type in the coupon code FREEDAY and you'll get 10% off.

The code is valid today and tomorrow only!

Submitted by Garrett on Thu, 01/07/2010 - 13:33.


We've been selling the ChronoDot for a while over in the macetech store. It's a very accurate realtime clock module with integrated battery, based on the DS3231. It will maintain time within a minute per year, in varying temperatures. Instead of using an external source (GPS, WWVB, internet), it measures the temperature of the internal crystal and switches a bank of capacitors to pull the frequency back to 32KHz.

Our original stock of 100 pieces was getting low, so we decided to order 200 more. However, there were some staff changes at our pcb manufacturer and assembler, and they didn't get the memo that we wanted the header pins soldered on the bottom of the device. I can sort of understand, since the silkscreen does appear on the top of the PCB...but they did make 100 correctly before.
In any case, we got stuck with 200 less-than-ideal modules. You can still put them on a breadboard, but you can't see the handy signal names. Other than that, they work just the same as the original ChronoDot.

We tried to think up a few possible solutions. Desoldering and resoldering the headers would be the obvious solution, but we didn't like the idea of subjecting all the parts to another process. Desoldering can be pretty damaging to a PCB and components.

We tried to use them as snacks during one of our friend Karly's photoshoots, but even though the ChronoDOH is lead-free, model reviews were poor. Some thought it was "too crunchy" and others were concerned that it had "too many calories."

So in the end, it looked like we were stuck with 200 of these unless we could unload them somehow. We decided to drastically cut the price, and give a chance for anyone willing to use a soldering iron to get a really good deal! The ChronoDOH is $7.99 instead of $14.99 for the original ChronoDot.

It's not always going to be this cheap...we just want to get rid of these and have more ChronoDots built with the correct header configuration. And we'll sell those at the original price...we're running a business. So if you want to get a great deal on an extremely accurate RTC module, time is running out. They are selling steadily so far.

Now, keep in mind that if you just want to buy a chip from Digikey, it costs $7.42 plus shipping unless you buy 25 or more, and only comes in surface mount. For a few cents more, the ChronoDOH gives you a PCB with the surface mount chip already soldered, and a lithium battery good for years of timekeeping. It'll work with DS1307 code, which already exists for pretty much any microcontroller out there.

Basically, it's an incredible deal...if you have a project that involves timekeeping, get one now!

Submitted by Garrett on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 00:51.

New macetech distributors

Just in case this slipped past anyone, I'd like to introduce two new distributors of macetech products. Both have been great examples of self-starting electronics businesses in the post-bubble economy. Both owners are active in electronics development and applications, and sell their own designs in addition to products they believe are useful to their customers.

Pololu now carries ShiftBrites. You can find them in the LEDs category. Pololu provides a wide range of useful products, especially strong in the area of sensors and motor control for robots. I've used their products before in a couple of serious applications (one was converting an electric car's rack and pinion steering to servo drive, for a drive-by-wire application). I appreciate the quality and support of their products and welcome them as a distributor. Pololu is located in Las Vegas.

Spikenzie Labs now carries ShiftBrites, MegaBrites, and other related products. You can find them in the ShiftBrite category. Spikenzie Labs has a history of popping up with really creative projects, and some of them turn into new original products. They also have a knack for finding unique gadgets and making them available, like brightly colored breadboards and surface-mount adapters. Spikenzie Labs should be especially interesting to our Canadian customers; they're located in Montreal, so you can avoid the expense and delay of international shipping.

Thanks again to these two great business, and we're looking forward to our future business with them!

Submitted by Garrett on Mon, 07/13/2009 - 21:40.

Maker Faire 2009

It's been a while since I made an update here, but things have been really busy. Had some supplier issues with a bunch of new products, lots of work to do on Maker Faire projects, random other daily crises. Oh...a day job too.

But the Maker Faire is only a few days away, and things are finally shaping up. The giant VU meters and front sign/desk are working, the coffee table is working, the giant MegaBrite wall requires only a few more steps to completion. Didn't help that we had none of the electronics until late last week, when we were supposed to have them no later than the 15th. But John at OurPCB really stepped up and fixed the assembly scheduling issue, getting us what we needed on time and worrying about the other stuff later.

Here's a photo of the stuff we've got running so far (not counting some smaller tabletop projects):

Valerie gave us a booth in a darker area of the main Expo Hall. This is great, our LEDs won't look as amazing as they would in the Dark Room (a building with no lights on), but the lights in this section are typically dimmed. The reason is a little's where they set up the pair of 20 foot Tesla coils, shooting 20 foot arcs of lightning between them every hour. Last year, I wasn't alone in having my electronics negatively affected by Tesla coils, and those were only a couple feet tall. It will definitely be...interesting.

 Read more»

Submitted by Garrett on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 02:03.

Front driveway snail



Submitted by Garrett on Sun, 02/22/2009 - 03:15.

ShiftBrite Roundup Megapost

A lot of ShiftBrite modules are out there now, and occasionally someone will post a few pictures on their website or some videos of their latest project. Here's some of the projects I ran across that I thought were pretty awesome:

Altoona Lights:

Nick over at thought that ShiftBrites might be an interesting addition to the DoItYourselfChrismas community. He has been rigging his house with computer-controlled Christmas lights, synchronized to music. One of the more popular pieces of control software for home displays is called Vixen Lights, and Nick decided to jump into C# programming to create a ShiftBrite plugin for Vixen. His code currently uses a parallel port to output the serial data and control lines. His ShiftBrite page includes lots of protocol analysis, pinouts, source code, and demo videos (I should probably take a hint from this). LED technology is becoming increasingly popular with animated display builders, since they are straightforward to control and dim, have a long life, and in some installations don't require dangerous voltages.  Read more»

Submitted by Garrett on Tue, 01/27/2009 - 21:59.

Phantom CapsLock...<cough> Keystroker V2

ThinkGeek just released this little gem of a device...the Phantom Keystroker V2. Smaller, easier to use, only $14.99. And...notice in the picture above, right next to the Time Delay you see what I see? Caps Lock. I would put good money on the possibility that my Stealth CapsLocker influenced both the new size and the extra Caps Lock feature here.

And this is actually a pretty good deal. For $15...with a fancy looks a lot better than what I was planning if I ever made the CapsLocker available. It's still pretty large in comparison..the CapsLocker is only as wide as the USB port and would extend out to the end of the word "Delay" on the Keystroker. However, this has spurred me to develop a CapsLocker V2. I'm not going to invest in injection molds for a fancy case, but I think I'll make the device accessible for hacking. The firmware I used is no secret anyway. And there's a way to make this even more stealthy.

So, ThinkGeek, I salute you. A much better product than the huge, cabled, Keystroker V1. But in the computer-annoyance-device war, I think I can stay a few steps ahead. Beware the Insert Monster! Or the Volume Maxer! Or the Muting Maddener! Or the Sleeping Puter! Just a few of the many possibilites. :)

Submitted by Garrett on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 13:07.