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nixie clock using adafruit GPS
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nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by linuxworks on Mon Jun 16, 2014 10:05 am

yet another nixie clock. built from scratch, the old school way (since I have not done a pcb layout yet).

some photos of the progress:


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it uses an arduino nano v3, a ds1307 realtime battery backed clock module, a 170v dc/dc converter for the nixies and an adafruit gps module to auto-set the exact time.

the design is very conventional. using 2 philips port expanders to get me 4 bits of bcd encoding per 74141 driver chip, then on to each nixie. I spared one PE chip by finding 8 free digital lines on the arduino.

the whole thing is simply powered by 5v from usb and while I have not tested it yet, I estimate it to be well below the 500ma usb limit.

the usb port is going to be a remote control point and if you connect a linux pc to the port, you can talk to the clock and do various things. you can force-set the time to the clock from the pc (the pc might have gotton exact time from NTP or another network protocol), you can pull the gps or battery time from the clock to the pc, you can pause the clock, resume the clock and display arbitrary digits (all you get is 0-9, sorry, its nixie...) to the clock from the pc. or, any 9600 baud serial source.

I will post the source when its complete. I'm also considering getting some green boards made for this project. PM me if you are interested and if I get enough together for a board run, I'll let everyone know.

cost is fairly low. nano chip is $10 or so. gps (optional) is probably the costliest module at $40, but its truly optional. dc/dc upverter is just bought from ebay (by a good designer) and that was $10. 74141 chips are from russia (with love, lol) and so are the tubes (usually russia or ukraine). tubes tend to be in the $10 each range, roughly, and the chips are a few dollars for the set of 6. clock module was a few dollars.

the case is just a first attempt at getting something going. I kind of like its minimal design, but I plan to evolve it a bit more over time. all done on a laser cutter that I have access to, at 'tech shop' in san carlos, ca.

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by adafruit_support_bill on Mon Jun 16, 2014 10:11 am

Nice looking clock!

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by druxx on Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:56 pm

Hello

I start doing some stuff with Nixies and i have to say, your clock is awesome!!!
Can i have the source code to build a clock for me?
Sorry for my bad english :)

Greets druxx

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by linuxworks on Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:34 pm

druxx wrote:Hello

I start doing some stuff with Nixies and i have to say, your clock is awesome!!!
Can i have the source code to build a clock for me?
Sorry for my bad english :)

Greets druxx


I do plan to release the source; I just added myself to github and I'll post a location for the source once its uploaded.

thanks

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by linuxworks on Mon Mar 02, 2015 2:37 pm

updated photo with new changes to the acrylic case:

Image

when I upload the code, I'll also upload some pdf's of the plastic layers so that folks who have laser cutter access can make the case.

eventually, I do plan to make a pcb for this, but I hate doing pcb layout.... if there are any pcb layout gurus here who would like to help, please contact me. else, I'll get around to the pcb work someday (but it might be a long time from now).

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by wildtang3nt on Wed May 27, 2015 7:05 am

Any word of an update on the code/schematics availability? Sorry to resurrect this, but I love clocks :P

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by linux_works on Thu Jun 11, 2015 1:19 pm

its still in the works; I'm trying to finalize some design details and the world keeps changing around me ;) I want to allow for multiple footprints (brand/model) of various plugins so that the main board is as flexible to diy'ers as possible. and I want to allow for many interesting options, to make it fun. recently, I started playing with the wtv020 sound module (affordable audio playback, track-selectable, using uSD cards) and I'm planning on having that be on the main board as a user installable option. having triggerable sound playback and a clock with a notion of events and alarms - I think you can see there can be some fun and utility in that. I'm still working out the bugs in that hacky sound 'chip' and the sd-card compat is a bit of a head-scratcher, as not every 1 or 2gb card is 'seen' by this player. anyway, that's one option.

edit: pic of the module: Image

another option is being connected to an IoT (sigh, sorry) style network - completely cloud-free (I hate clouds) - and being able to send other info to various 'displays'. I see this clock as just a player in a network of devices and this can consume data and display it (to a limited degree, you only have 6 numerals, lol). but this means a network framework has to be baked-in from the start and I'm working on that part, too, now.

edit: pic of another version of the clock that has some 'IoT' stuff baked in (xbee module instead of local gps):

Image

it gets its time over xbee 'time beacons' from a central rasp pi timeserver. THAT is now the box that has the single gps module and all other clocks in the house can simply have an xbee to get the time for 'free')

Image

also, I'm looking into some kind of single rgb settable light as part of the controllable aspects. there are lots of expensive solutions for this but I'm looking for low cost and diy friendly. the rgb light color can add context to the numbers that are being displayed and that's an important part of the design, too.

I will definitely post a github link once its up there. thanks for asking; it will help push this project up a bit in prio over all the other ones that I still have yet to fully finish ;)

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by druxx on Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:27 pm

Hello,

Fuuuu... still hot!
I would be happy to have the first Version :D
i tried for myself to programm it... no chance.
So i´m still waiting ;)

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by linux_works on Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:36 pm

I have finalized the design and am now starting the pcb design phase. will post once I have some sample boards.

I hope the software features will be worth waiting for. I've tried to create some novel approaches toward this project and the new version should support both a local gps OR an xbee which would allow you to 'remote' the GPS to a better reception area and have that 2nd GPS sender box be a time-master for anything else in the house that can have an xbee attached.

stay tuned - and thanks for waiting ;)

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by druxx on Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:27 pm

Hy,

Okok :)
So much gadgeds !!
XD i would jump around for getting some time out of the arduino.
From where are you? I am from Austria, there we can use the DCF77 signal
Maybe this will also be a option for you?

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by linux_works on Sun Jul 26, 2015 3:55 pm

I'm in the US. there are also low frequency time signals and they take about a minute of slow-speed i/o to get the time. they usually only work (here) at night and so I didn't bother trying to use that method for time-setting.

this is one advantage of the xbee method. this separates the time-getting from the time-setting ;) to get time, you could use quite a lot of things (including the network, via NTP or even web GET requests and capturing the http header, looking for 'Date:' field). you could use a rasp pi box and an xbee transmitter. lots of ways to 'get' time. then that getter will be responsible for sending updates every so often over the xbee. that does mean you'd need a pair of xbees.

on the clock side, my preferred config is to have an xbee there and it simply sits in listen mode (Serial.available()) and when a properly formated packet comes in, it parses it and sets its local software-based (millis()) clock. the display would then be refreshed from the millis() clock and the gps (or other) sender would broadcast updates every, say, 10 minutes and you'd only be 10 minutes away from the most accurate clock you can get hold of. all that is configurable, of course.

I know that xbees are not cheap and its almost a strange world that the gps modules I'm using lately (ublox) are $15 and about $4 cheaper than the xbee module, itself. and the xbee still needs at least sockets for its funky pin type and level converter, plus possible regulator. the true cost of a single xbee is closer to $30 after you add in some kind of break-out .1-friendly board, but I'm hoping to integrate that stuff directly on the main pcb.

my plan is also to have spare proto holes littered around (where possible) so that other modules could at least be mounted to them like a perf board and green-wired to the cpu pins as needed, thus making it very hacker and experimenter friendly.

I hope that the gps-remote option is something people like. the freedom to put a gps (or ntp) 'receiver' in a separate location from the clock is one of the novel features I'm designing in and it totally separates the display device (this 'clock') from the data source, so you could use any data source you want.

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by druxx on Sun Jul 26, 2015 5:37 pm

Oh this sounds like the egg-laying, milk-bearing woolly sow :)
You can be happy, here in Europe the parts much more expensiver :(
I tried to rebuild a nixielyzer from instructables, half of the parts i couldnt get here.

So i am still hungry and waiting for more of your watch :-D

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by linux_works on Sun Jul 26, 2015 5:50 pm

one of the reasons I like proto holes is that you could use a cheaper serial RF module (like the nordic semi NRF series) and adapt the software so that it uses that instead of the xbee. that will save a lot of money and still function mostly the same. someday I may look into it myself, but I have had good luck with xbees, in general, and they are part of a total network solution for me (the multicast feature is something I depend on but its not strictly necessary just for the clock function).

also, you COULD put a RTC module into the proto holes, like a 1307, and just rely on that. its simple i2c and I'll have a driver for it, integrated. so, if you really want to save money, you could build it with the local RTC module and no network connections at all, no xbee, no gps, just all local RTC time keeping.

and if you were willing to have a wired TTL connection from the clock to some pc (via an ftdi or usb/serial dongle) then that pc could format the right messages that the serial listener on the clock will be expecting, and THAT could set your time and keep it accurate.

lots of ways to make this work, so don't worry ;)

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by linuxworks on Fri Aug 14, 2015 5:40 pm

making some progress in the project; the nixie part is still in-progress, but I proto'd the sender part of the solution and so far its been working well enough to prove the concept.

Image

currently using a ublox gps module, but any that works over 9600 serial will do. rtc chip is a rasp pi ds3231 tiny little board that has to be run at 3.3v (!). I'm feeding it from the nano's 3.3v line.

it sends time in ascii over the xbee and so the nixie (and any other client) can receive the periodic polls and set their local software-based clocks on that. any newly booted client that wants to get time 'now' and not wait for the next update can do a GET request (in ascii) and the gps box replies as if it was a regular beacon interval; so everyone who listens to the same PAN id will 'benefit' from impromptu updates.

I will probably do both boards at the same time, as, to me, its really a set of things that work together. however, the cool part is that you only need one gps sender per location (house) and any clocks that are close enough to get the signal will all stay accurate to that one time source.

a future version may have the option to use an nRF style packet radio module pair instead of the (admittedly expensive) xbee pair.

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Re: nixie clock using adafruit GPS

by druxx on Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:29 am

Hello,
whats going on? Something new?
I´m moving at the moment to an other city, and then i should have more time... hoho :D
Do you know replacement type for nixie drivers? i can´t find any at the moment where the price-performance are good.

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