Creative wrapping

Every year I wrap my Christmas presents in plain brown paper and then try to decorate them in a creative way. Last year I illustrated them with a silver sharpie, the year before it was stick on googly eyes for everyone.

This year I came across a really cool idea at using a print out a font as a stencil they show how to use pages from old books as lettering for gifts. Since I tend to have lots of “book guts” lying around from my Etsy store projects I decided to give this one a shot.

I used ManMadeDIY’s suggestion to use your turn table cover as a lightbox, this worked great! The only change I made was the flip the stencil so I was tracing the letters backwards. This way any pencil lines that remain after cutting will be on the side that is glued down to the box. One glue stick and two sticky hands later I had some pretty great looking gifts.

Arduino powered Haunted Mansion Halloween

As I posted previously I wanted to put together a Halloween display emulating my favorite Disneyland/world ride of all time. Originally this was just going to be four heads on a table with the Haunted Mansion’s “Grim Grinning Ghosts” playing on a loop.

After I started learning to program my Ardunio this evolved into a photocell actuated video on demand Halloween display. I used an example I found on to control a Dell Mini 9 laptop using AutoHotKey. When the photocell switch it tripped the Arduino sends a serial signal to the Dell laptop which is converted to a keystroke by AAC Keys which in turn triggers the below AutoHotKey Script and finally plays back using VLC.

I had access to a industrial photocell switch (just like at Disneyworld!) which required an additional 12v power supply but I imagine this could be modified to work with a cheap ultrasonic or IR range finder.

This AutoHotKey script is running on the PC waiting for the “a” key to be pressed. When the key is pressed VLC launches full screen and ignores input for the duration of the video (60 seconds). It then closes VLC and waits to be triggered again.

Run, c:Program FilesVideoLANVLCvlc.exe -I rc "VIDEO_FILE_NAME"
Sleep, 61000 ; Pause for video to play, prevents triggering multiple times.
Process, close, vlc.exe ; Kill vlc and make sure it stays dead.

This Arduino sketch waits until the Photocell switch on pin 2 is tripped, then sends a serial character to the Dell laptop it’s connected to. It also ignores any input during video playback to avoid confusing the computer.

Serial Keyboard
Used to send keystrokes to a Windows PC running AACKeys.exe which
turns serial data into keystrokes. Best used in conjunction with
Examples and idea based on the work of and
information from
TheNewHobbyist 2010 
// Initialize variables
const int buttonPin = 2;
const int ledPin =  13;
int buttonState = 0;
// Set inpout/output and start serial
void setup() {
pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);      
pinMode(buttonPin, INPUT);
// Main code loop
void loop(){
buttonState = digitalRead(buttonPin);
if (buttonState == HIGH) {     
digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);
Serial.print("a"); // send key to PC to start video playback
delay(61000); // ignore input until video ends
else {
// turn LED off:
digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW); 

Here are the installation photos and video compilation (note: the audio is a little out of sync after uploading to youtube).

While we didn’t get too many trick-or-treaters this year the ones that stopped by after dark really enjoyed it. I’m really happy with the way this turned out and I recommend anyone new to Arduino give it a shot. It really wasn’t hard to put together and they payoff was great.