Budget Blink(1)

Production blink(1) units

About a month ago I spotted Kickstarter project for a device called a Blink(1). This was a little USB device that acts like Ambient Orb and it made by the same folk that make the BlinkM 3 colour LED board that is used in them. I had loads of ideas with what to do with one.

The project had already reached it’s funding target and it had actually delivered. The devices where available to order directly from ThinkM here. I was all set to buy one except for 1 thing, the price. While I don’t really have a problem with ThinkM wanting $30 each for them, the problem is not even with the fact that HMRC will want to charge me VAT (at 20% on anything imported with a price of more than £15) on this when it is imported the real issue is that which ever courier handles the UK end of the delivery will charge me at least £8 in “handling” fee for the privileged.

Digispark and RGB Shield

I put the idea to the back of my mind for a while with the hope that the price would come down or a UK supplier would be found. While waiting I came across another Kickstarter project for a really tiny Arduino called a Digispark from the Digistump team. As well as the digispark boards themselves they where doing a range of shield, one of which was a RGB LED shield. Being a miniature arduino means I should be able to add the odd sensor or two to the board which I can use to influence the colour shown by the LED.

And to top it off I could order 2 Digisparks and 2 RGB LED shields + shipping for $26 which comes in just under the import limit for VAT.

The package was waiting for me when I got back from a weekend away and I managed to grab 5 mins today at the office to use the soldering iron to put one of the shields together and add the headers to the first digispark.

I plugged it into my laptop and the standard blink sketch seamed to be running fine. I started to follow the instructions on the wiki to set up the development environment under Linux and I think I followed it all properly but I could not get the tools to upload a new sketch to the device. I have added a comment to a similar question on the forum. In the mean time I have managed to get it all to work on my Windows machine.

EDIT: Following a comment on the forum suggesting I try plugging the digispark into a powered hub to program it I have managed to get my second digispark programmed from Linux.

Along with the RGB shield there is some sample code that makes the digispark behave as a HID device and some python code that allows you to send it RGB values to set the colour shown much the same way the Blink(1) works. When I get 5 mins I will be doing the obvious MQTT hack to allow RGB values to be posted to a topic to set the colour then look at hooking it up to some of the data feeds available.

6 thoughts on “Budget Blink(1)”

  1. Did you get the digispark to run with the Blink(1) software? I have a rgb shield that I would like to get working with ifttt.

    1. No, The digispark won’t work with the Blink(1) software.

      And unfortunately it looks like the ifttt api is only open to companies that want to partner with them, not individual hackers wanting to just do cool stuff.

      I have (with a few colleagues) something a bit similar to a private version of ifft using pub/sub messaging and a little wiring app that allows you to run functions on messages. It just means you need to write adapters to bridge in things like twitter or RSS/ATOM feeds for it to work on.

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