Illuminating Innovation: A Journey of Light, Learning, and LEDs

The Spark of Inspiration

Ten years ago, standing on the corner of my property, I envisioned a project that would not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of my fence but also challenge my engineering skills. The idea was simple yet ambitious: to adorn each of the fence posts along the 600-foot boundary with clusters of WS2812B LEDs. The concept was to create a mesmerizing light display that could be seen from the two roads hugging our corner lot. However, I quickly encountered a significant hurdle—the signal stability of these LEDs over the 10-foot distance between each post.

Tinkering and Troubleshooting

Undeterred by the limitations of WS2812B LEDs, I turned to RS485 chips, hoping their robust signaling capabilities could bridge the distances I was dealing with. The journey from prototyping boards at my kitchen table to designing and ordering custom PCBs was filled with soldering, testing, and more soldering. Yet, despite my efforts and enthusiasm, the results were far from what I had envisioned. Life, with its myriad distractions, eventually led me to shelf the project, leaving behind a trail of unfinished PCBs and unresolved challenges.

A Renaissance of Innovation

Fast forward to a December not long ago, a breakthrough in design software rekindled my passion for the project. This new tool not only allowed me to visualize my designs with ease but also offered PCB manufacturing and component assembly services. Suddenly, the daunting tasks of building and soldering were no longer barriers to progress. The ability to quickly iterate designs without the manual labor previously required was a game-changer. My project was back on track, evolving from its initial version to the more refined iterations of versions 2.0 through 2.3.

Refinements and Revelations

With each new version, my understanding of the project and its requirements deepened. The transition from a 10-pin RS485 chip to an 8-pin MAX490 marked a significant turning point, optimizing signal transmission without sacrificing speed. The addition of a switch for external LED connections and improvements in copper routing reflected my growing confidence and competence.

However, this journey was not without its setbacks. A lack of polarity and over-voltage protection led to several boards meeting their untimely demise—a stark reminder of the importance of incorporating protective measures in circuit design.

Looking Ahead: Version 2.4 and Beyond

As I await the arrival of version 2.3, with its enhanced power section and anticipation for the introduction of polarity protection in version 2.4, I reflect on the journey thus far. The path from a dream to a tangible, functional project has been fraught with challenges, learning opportunities, and moments of triumph.

This project, born from a desire to light up a fence line, has illuminated much more than that. It has been a journey of persistence, innovation, and continuous learning. As I look forward to further iterations and improvements, I am reminded that the process—the tinkering, troubleshooting, and iterating—is just as important as the final product.

To those embarking on their own DIY projects, remember that every setback is a setup for a comeback. Embrace the challenges, learn from your mistakes, and never underestimate the power of innovation and persistence.

Version 2.2 Onboard LEDs with off board capabilities (reb/white/black wires)
Top sode of version 2.2. Switch to change LEDs to On or Off board. Power input/Injector connection. Labled off board LED Start and End. Direct data (TTL) input when first board in the chain.

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It looks like your HDMI cable or connection doesn’t support HDCP, which is required to play this type of video. Try reconnecting the HDMI cable from Apple TV to your TV, and play this video again.


Yeah, not fun. Older TVs don’t know about the encryption stuff that’s happening now to help prevent us from recording the output, say from Apple TV of a BlueRay. Well don’t go buy a new TV unless you need to. Instead get this gizmo to solve the problem until you do. It’s a simple splitter and you don’t NEED a splitter but it has the HDCP decoder in it. Just get this and another short HDMI cable and your shows will play all day long. Bonus if you wanted your shows output to 2 TVs you can do that not too!

This worked for older equipment – DOES NOT WORK ON APPLE TV. Ordering a different part and will update if there is success.

Can’t connect your Trezor One?

Deposits are simple you just send to the address and crypto comes in. However if you need to open the hard wallet and you have a new MAC, yer stuck without one of these little gems. On the theme of everything seems to be USB-C these days this converter is cheap and simple to just leave connected. Turns that Trezor One into a USB-C capable device.

USB-C console cable

As you know we are geeks here @ McYork. So when we needed to get work from home all ramped up – our kit had to include console cables. Everyone (of the geeks) has these. However, most are now on new laptops and such where the older style USB is not native. Well simply grab one of these – we got 5 of them now.

2020 shopping list

For the next, while I will be posting products we’ve bought and used with links to the sites (mostly Amazon – thank you 2020!) These are “affiliate links” and so I’ll be clear – when you use these links I do get some type of a kickback. However, you may or may not know that I’d never steer you wrong just for my own gain. Every product listed I have bought in the past, probably in 2020, or have personally used (through a friend or work). As we get more “stuff” this site will grow.

What about all the other amazing McYork projects and blogs from the past? These exist and will be reorganized into a new section. Don’t panic.

A perfect read/listen

For the sci-fi lover or not, this is a fun book. Trust me if you like sci-fi you can buy this book without reading anything about it in advance. Go get it is all I can say. Go in blind it really will be one of the best ways to experience it. The audio version is very well produced.

Sound Great on Zoom

It is clearly getting better out there. We’ve endured the heart of the storm. Regardless you will want to up your Zoom game as that’s never going to end. This is what I use now and have for most of 2020. Simple plugs in USB-C and if I recall came with a selection of cables for other USB options. I use it on Windows 10 so that’s my experience. I expect it will work on MacBooks too.

A great garden hose

With Summer here I wanted to cover two producst which have proven particularily usesful.

This hose is just a great hose. On the “farm” we use a lot of hoses in different locations. One problem we have is the hose bibs are not all exactly where you’d like them to be. We run a 25-foot section of this hose to the valve and then this 10-foot section. This setup lets us keep the tap on, as this hose bib is deep in a bush and just the other side of a fence. Not easy to turn on or off – so we leave it on (not the best thing to do, and it works for us).

What makes it so great? It’s out in the Sun all day – remains soft and flexible and does not get hard kinks. If you do loop it on itself it will fix when the water is turned on most of the time and it is soft enough to never “remember” to kink up in the same place and ruin the hose over time.

Now we can use the easy leaver on the valve to turn on/off the water as needed out by the chicken coop.

Flexzilla Garden Hose with SwivelGrip, 5/8 in. x 10 ft., Heavy Duty, Lightweight, Drinking Water Safe - HFZG510YWS

In fact, we just bought 2 more of these hoses.

What could you possibly use 8 relays on a board for?

I’ll be honest, today is payday and, I’ve been thinking about improvements to existing projects, surf’n the web looking to buy!  Then I thought of my binary Christmas tree display.  I remember seeing an 8 relay board on the web a long time ago, and thinking what could I use THAT for?  I had to come up with an excuse to buy it of course.  I convinced myself I could build a holiday light display with a twist.  I decided I’d flash the lights in binary.  Check it out if you have not watched it yet.

Now that was a fun project.  How do I expand on that in the context of “the farm”.  There’s a solar array in the field  – ideas?

I can’t say I bought this one below – but they all look about the same.  When you are just having fun with an Arduino you can afford the 8 pins to drive these things.  I suspect some have a BCD to relay decoder chip built in.  That would reduce the number of pins you need to dedicate.  Or you can use a shift register (those are fun. Look em up if you have not considered them in your project yet).

5V Eight 8 Channel DC 5V Relay Switch Module for Arduino Raspberry Pi Arm AVR | eBay

So now you’ve got a project for yourself to figure out.  The code for an Arduino to do the above binary tree display was fairly simple.  You can get fancy if you want.  Where you’ll want to be careful is how you wire up the high voltage side of the system.  I took a lot of care modifying a power strip.  This had the advantage of 8 sockets ready to plug into.  Go for it – be safe.