Try to write cool software; settle for functionality

Friday morning I started working on the bit modulation. I needed to have some kind of indirect addressing to access the three colors on each of the 22 LED's and convert each one to bit patterns to output. I looked through the documentation for the processor and they had functions for accessing tables, but after looking closer, I found that it was designed to access the flash memory and I don't really want to wreck the flash memory reading-and-writing it over and over again.

I looked into the macro features of the assembler but the only flow control is "while" and "if/else" statements. I hacked together some stuff to access arrays in macros, but it's crap, gobbling up both program space and CPU time

I finally found information on the "FSR" ("file select register") that does exactly what I want: you load one of the three FSR's with a RAM ("file") address and then use INDFx as an operand (in place of, say, an absolute register address) and it'll use the FSRx pointer.

I got the confidence to plug in one of the shift registers. I had to fix the code so it'd load the shift register properly and to latch the output, and also to turn on the output for a color LED. That was awesome: apparently my hardware was wired correctly and worked on the first try. I added in the other two shift registers and it all worked great.

On Saturday I got up around 4 a.m. and got going. I cranked out code to convert 8-bit color values into bit-modulated registers ready for shifting-out to the hardware. I got the whole bit modulation system partially working. I ran through the code several times and picked out and fixed a bunch of little bugs. I was worried that I was getting some kind of race condition that was causing things to flicker randomly instead of actually work, but timing adjustments had no effect at all. I finally found a huge logic error with the way the bit modulation was loaded. I rewrote it much better but it still didn't work.

I stripped things down a bit to do some tests. I tried to use the code I had to output to the shift chips by making a simple alternating-light blink pattern. It worked fine, and even changing colors in software worked. I tried the same thing only using the "fast" clock rate and also switching colors from red to blue and that worked fine too.

Sunday I got up around 4 a.m. again. I wrote the code to control the MP3 player real quick and got it working in no time. I added code to check light levels and got that working: the circuit is just a 100K resistor from +5V to a CdS cell to ground. When it's light, the CdS cell's resistance is much lower than 10K so the voltage present is a logic "0" at 0.5 volts; when it's dark, the CdS cell's resistance is higher than 1M, so the voltage present is a logic "1" at 4.5 volts.

I went through the rest of the code looking for misspelled op-codes (that is, MOVFW and MOVWF do very different things) but no luck. I changed the code at the beginning to initialize things better and set up the test case to be very simple: 2 LED's on, red #10 at 100% and blue #11 at 25%. I got two greens on: #7 and #10.

I'm not sure what the deal is there … it doesn't seem like there's a good explanation why it isn't going to the right place. I checked the wiring and found that the latches are wired so the first LED is output #8 on the MIC5822, so I reversed the rotation order in the bit shifting algorithm.

Ok, I finally gave up and went with a simple pulse-width modulated output. The idea is to slowly cycle through the spectrum from red-to-green, green-to-blue, and blue-to-red. I set up the code to modulate between "color 1" and "color 2" slowly shifting the duty cycle from 0% to 100% on "color 1" and from 100% to 0% on "color 2" along with an off-cycle to make it dimmer and use less power.

I got it all done and running on the battery pack — the whole thing, lights and audio included, runs at about 2 watts.

Here's the finished computer circuit board.

Rewrite demo program with interrupts, get clocks set up, build lighting connectivity

Ok, so now it's 2 days left. It took a while, but I got the program working using the built-in timers and interrupts. Basically I created a main program polling loop that waits for the "fast" clock (which is programmable through macros in Hertz based in the assembly language program) to run "fast" events (like light animation) and a slow clock derived from that for pushing buttons on the MP3 player. For some reason the internal clock runs at 3x the crystal frequency. Who knew?

I also got to wire up all the connections for the socketed chips: I got the latches in place on the board and wired everything up: I'm going to try using the master synchronous serial port (MSSP) to run the latches. I've got three inputs set up that drive PNP transistors with a common emitter to +5V and the collector tied to the anodes of the respective colors.

Get demo program working on computer

I figured with about 3 days before I leave, it's about time that I program the computer and hook it all up. I downloaded the software and a demo program, compiled … er … assembled it, installed it on the board, and got it running. Whew.

Get electronic components

I ordered resistors, transistors, capacitors, and an analog switch chip from Mouser on the 19th and they arrived today.

Select microcontroller

I ordered a PIC 18F252 8-bit microcontroller made by Microchip from along with a development kit. It arrived a few days later. The whole thing is smaller than it looks in the pictures on the Internet … I'm looking forward to playing with it.