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Ice Tube clock flashes on power up
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Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by terranjerry on Thu Jan 21, 2016 2:46 pm

I enjoyed building my Ice Tube clock and it works great. However, I have noticed when I first power it up the time blinks. The settings seem to be remembered correctly (time, date, region all fine) but it always comes up blinking until I use the menu to set something.

Any ideas?
Thanks,
Jerry

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by jarchie on Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:35 pm

I think that's the normal behavior to let you know that there was a power outage. Once you set the time through the menus, the clock stops blinking.

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by adafruit_support_bill on Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:53 pm

Yup. That is normal behavior.

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by terranjerry on Fri Jan 22, 2016 1:37 am

Ok, thank you very much for the replies. I guess I was surprised I would have to set the time again since it is maintained by the battery backup. Is it exactly setting the time that clears the blinking mode or will setting any other item clear it too?

Is there any way to read about system behaviors such as this? I didn't see it mentioned in the online user'so manual.

One last question if I may... I noticed that all the digits in my tube are roughly the same brightness except for the seconds' one's digit which appears to be a bit weaker in brightness; especially the right side of its seven segments. Does that sound like a soldering issue or something else? It lights ok but is just faintly weaker.

Thanks!
Jerry

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by jarchie on Fri Jan 22, 2016 4:08 am

TerranJerry wrote:I guess I was surprised I would have to set the time again since it is maintained by the battery backup.

As fellow end user, I understand your surprise. You might also be surprised to learn that the clock will occasionally lose a second or so when sleeping and waking.

But in defense of the Adafruit firmware, implementing a more typical sleep mode is surprisingly difficult. I posted a full (and rather technical) explanation a while back.

If you ever feel like hacking your clock, you might try my alternative firmware. It has more typical sleep behavior--no beeping, flashing, or time loss after sleep--in addition to many other features.

TerranJerry wrote:Is it exactly setting the time that clears the blinking mode or will setting any other item clear it too?

With the Adafruit firmware, I believe that setting the time is the only way to clear the blinking mode. But it's also been quite a while since I've used a clock with the official firmware.

TerranJerry wrote:Is there any way to read about system behaviors such as this? I didn't see it mentioned in the online user'so manual.

A lot of stuff like this is buried in the forums. But I'm not aware of any other resource.

TerranJerry wrote:One last question if I may... I noticed that all the digits in my tube are roughly the same brightness except for the seconds' one's digit which appears to be a bit weaker in brightness; especially the right side of its seven segments. Does that sound like a soldering issue or something else? It lights ok but is just faintly weaker.

A dim final digit is almost invariably due to insufficient VFD filament current. Increasing filament current usually produces better results, but increasing current may also introduce a brightness gradient across the display when the menu-configured brightness level is low. To find the optimal current for a given clock, a good approach is to gradually increase current across the filament until all digits have consistent brightness at the highest menu-configured brightness setting:

If your kit came with the older ZVP3306A, first try upgrading Q3/Q4 to a FET capable of supplying more current. Adafruit will provide a free ZVP2110A to resolve the issue: viewtopic.php?p=340772#p340772

If the digit remains dim after upgrading Q3/Q4, replace R3 with an 11 ohm resistor to further increase current. And if the digit is still dim, replace R3 with a jumper.

Note that Q3/Q4 provides power to both the filament and VFD driver chip. Replacing R3 with a jumper or smaller resistor without first upgrading Q3 will increase filament current, but might also result in an insufficient logic supply voltage to the VFD driver chip. That, in turn, could cause faulty display operation.

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by terranjerry on Fri Jan 22, 2016 3:29 pm

Hi jarchie and thank you so much for the excellent reply! I must say, you really know the ice tube clock well !
Thank you too for the shared links. I would indeed enjoy customizing my software some just for the learning experience.

My kit did indeed come with the older 3306 so perhaps I will take them up on their offer to replace it. I find the lower brightness on the seconds one's digit to be noticeable but it doesn't really bother me too much but I may try some of your suggestions to even them up. I just don't want to shorten my tube life though. I get the impression that the tubes are getting hard to find.

I was sorry to see them discontinue this kit as it is great fun to build and looks super!

I have the Chronclock too and enjoy creating new displays for it. I derived a Marvin Marian clock off the Mario clock source that was shared.

Thanks again so much for the SUPER reply!

Kind regards,
Jerry

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by adafruit_support_bill on Fri Jan 22, 2016 3:39 pm

We're sorry to have to retire the kit also. But NOS tubes are impossible to source reliably in reasonable quantities anymore.

If you contact support@adafruit.com with a link to this thread, we can send you a replacement Q3.

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by jarchie on Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:17 pm

TerranJerry wrote:I would indeed enjoy customizing my software some just for the learning experience.

Yay! I wrote a couple tutorials for installing my firmware from OS X and Windows. They are a bit basic for someone who has already done a Monochron firmware of their own, but they might be worth a quick skim. Anyway, there is an Adafruit thread for my firmware if you have any questions.

TerranJerry wrote:My kit did indeed come with the older 3306

In that case, upgrading to the ZVP2110A should be all that's needed to even out the display. Resistor adjustment is rarely necessary.

TerranJerry wrote:I just don't want to shorten my tube life though.

The IV-18 filament/cathode was meant to be driven at 5v, but the ZVP3306A(Q3)/22ohm(R3) combo only provides about half that. With such a low voltage, sometimes the filament does not heat up enough at the ends, which in turn causes the dim final digit (and/or initial digit).

Running the filament at too low a voltage can accelerate the gradual process of cathode poisoning. So bumping up the voltage slightly by switching to the ZVP2110A is more likely to extend tube life than the other way around.

But the primary mode of failure for VFDs is phosphor degradation, which causes brightness to become gradually dimmer over time. Phosphor degradation can be slowed by running the tube at a lower brightness, so the automatic dimmer mod, which my firmware supports, is worth considering.

TerranJerry wrote:I have the Chronclock too and enjoy creating new displays for it. I derived a Marvin Marian clock off the Mario clock source that was shared.

I still remember your post. Awesome work!

TerranJerry wrote:Thanks again so much for the SUPER reply!

You're very welcome! Glad I could help.

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by terranjerry on Sun Jan 24, 2016 7:55 pm

John,

One other question - I am trying to understand the difference between the FTDI interface I have for the Monochron clock (which I see is a serial interface) and the USB tiny ISP AVR programmer interface (whose connection to the PC is of course serial as well but I am guessing the connection to the target is not serial?). Can you tell me briefly what the differences would be in these interfaces in terms of how they function and how they are used ?

I use the FTDI Friend interface to download my Monochron but I am guessing it would not suffice for downloading my IceTube clock. Is that right? I assume I need to purchase a UsbTinyIsp programmer for that.

Just wondering what the differences might be and why designers seem to prefer one over the other.
I am going to give some of your software changes a go once I get the interface. I wanted to try your Xmas IceTube firmware as well!! :)

Thank you,
Jerry

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by phild13 on Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:34 pm

The icetube clock does not have or use a bootloader and so you will need to use the usbtinyisp to reprogram it.

AVR programmers can program new (blank) AVR processors or reprogram any AVR processor such as the one contained in the icetube clock.
FTDI adapters send serial data back and forth and can update AVRs with a bootloader installed on them.

The usbtinyisp is pretty cheap in cost and works good.
https://www.adafruit.com/products/46

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by terranjerry on Sun Jan 24, 2016 8:45 pm

Thank you Phil for the reply! One additional question if I may... I guess I thought all processors utilized a boot loader of some form - just to initialize the processor and jump to the main code if nothing else (but perhaps that's just a BSP that sets up the registers, interrupts, etc, and then jumps to the main code???).

I am wondering what influences a developer to set up a processor as is used in the Monochron with a boot loader vs. deciding not to use one in the Ice Tube Clock?

Thanks for the reply!

Kind regards,
Jerry

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by adafruit_support_bill on Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:04 pm

A bootloader is just a program that knows how to load other programs. In the case of the Arduino platform, the bootloader uses the serial port. A raw Atmega 328 processor by default will come up running whatever program is at address 0 in Flash. That could be a bootloader, or whatever else you decide to put there.

The Monochron is a more recent design than the Ice Tube. Based on all the interest in hacking the Ice Tube, the Monochron was designed with a bootloader to make it a little more accessible.

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by terranjerry on Mon Jan 25, 2016 1:29 am

Ah, ok, thanks Bill !
That makes sense to me now. I was just trying to understand a little bit more about why a boot loader might be preferred (or not).

Thanks guys for all this great information. I really appreciate it. Have a good week ahead!

Jerry

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by jarchie on Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:11 am

I can't add much to what Phil and Bill have written, except to provide a couple of links:

In the Adafruit FTDI Friend documentation, there's an excellent comparison between the protocols. But in spite of these differences, the FTDI chip can be used as an AVR programmer, with some fussing. Even so, the Adafruit USBtinyISP Phil mentioned is much nicer for basic AVR programming.

By the way, PhilD13 is the same Phil mentioned in the xmas README. :-)

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Re: Ice Tube clock flashes on power up

by terranjerry on Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:11 pm

Thanks John - for the additional links and the clarification regarding Phil. :)

I appreciate the kind replies from each of you and the helpful information - this is a great community and I feel privileged to be part of it.
Adafruit is an amazing company - I just wish we had this kind of stuff when I was a young kid delving into electronics for the first time! Man what a start that would have given me.

Kind regards,
Jerry

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Please be positive and constructive with your questions and comments.